5/13/22  FA Cup Final Liverpool vs Chelsea Sat 11:30 am/Indy 11 8 pm ESPN+, Seattle wins CCL

MLS Finally Wins CONCACAF Champions League – Seattle Wins !!!

It was a huge night last week when Seattle finally lifted the CCL Trophy for the first time in the 17 years by becoming the first ever MLS squad to win it – 3-0 at home (5-2 on Aggregate) over Mexican La Liga side Pumas UNAM. (Relive the Final Here)  and YES I CRIED!!  (check out this fans video from the stands) Now, first things first, since Seattle came into MLS in 2009 – they have been the model of consistency since they entered the league 13 years ago as they have won the MLS Cup twice, the Supporters Shield, and the US Open Cup multiple times.  They entered the league and immediately shattered attendance records regularly averaging 35K plus for their regular season home games. On this night they broke the CCL Record for Attendance with 68,972 fans on hand to see history made. I became a fan when I saw those huge AMERICAN CROWDS for soccer and it just grew as they signed Deuce (American Superstar Clint Dempsey).  Someday I will stand in that glorious stadium and root on my Ganggreen!!  Just as important though is the culture of the Sounders fans – and feel of the crowd around the city and around the stadium pregame. It is the penultimate setting in the US for game – especially a big game like this one.  The TV Coverage by Fox Sports 1 was spot on check it out with the goals– treating this game with the respect it deserved – listen to that crowd!  Oh and just in case you wondered – 1.5 million watched the CCL final at 10 pm EST on FS1 & in Spanish in the US almost 1 million more than watched the CCL Real Madrid vs Man City game the same day on CBS and Univision. 

Indy 11 Ladies Win 6-1 on Road after 3-1 inaugural win

Braces by Soderstrom & Bulatovic, 3 assists by Lynch fuel offensive outburst in first @USLWLeague away contest at Flint City AFC 6-1.  Indy Eleven captured a 3-1 victory over Kings Hammer FC in the Inaugural Match of the USL W League, the new 44-team women’s pre-professional league under the United Soccer League umbrella. The historic triumph for Indy Eleven was played in front of a sold out, standing room-only crowd of 1,571 fans at the Grand Park Events Center. Rachel McCarthy’s pair of goals early in the first half lifted Indiana’s Team to a comfortable cushion, and Carmel Dads Club, Carmel High School alum and current Butler standout Katie Soderstrom’s 78th minute finish sealed the win after the KHFC cut the deficit back to one just before halftime. Read all about it !!   The Indy 11 men head to Memphis Sat night at 8 pm on ESPN plus

Big Games this weekend

Saturday we get the FA Cup Final  Liverpool vs Chelsea at 11:45 am on ESPN plus as Liverpool is still alive for the Quad – 4 Cups – if they can beat Chelsea on Saturday.  (Don’t ask me why this game is not on ESPN or ESPN2 – but I for one will be watching at Liverpool Bill’s house!!  Here’s a Preview.  Of course Pulisic started his 3rd straight game with Lukaku up top playing the #10 spot where he thrived again.  Pulisic Scores for Chelsea.  I see Liverpool being just too much for Chelsea to keep up with so I am calling for a 3-2 Liverpool win – with Pulisic scoring a goal – if he starts in the 10 spot again – if he doesn’t start 3-1 Liverpool.  (Interesting Pulisic Rumors to Juventus).  In other EPL action – Leeds United and US coach Jesse Marsch are begging for a win at home vs Brighton.  Leeds has had a player red carded out the last 2 games – against top level teams in Chelsea and Tottenham.  They still need to make up points on Burnley who are 1 spot above the relegation line with Leeds on the wrong side.   EPL table  They play Sunday at 9 am on Peacock while,  Tottenham host Burnley at 7 am and West Ham hosts Man City at 9 am both on USA. 

Good Luck to our Carmel FC teams playing in Challenge Cup/State Cup and President Cup games coming up this weekend and next – we’ll have GK Training Mon at RR 5-6:15 pm and Thurs at Badger 6:15-8:15 and Tues/Wed at Shelbourne.  Former Carmel FC GK Coach and Indy 11 Goal Keeper Jordan Farr of San Antonio was voted at the Top USL Player as voted in the USL for April.  Speaking of Farr – here’s a nice interview he did in San Antonio.  Man this Superfan is a god also huge news that  EA Sports ends partnership with FIFA, will rename iconic video game.

BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri, May 13                        

10:30 pm Para+                 Portland Thorns vs Seattle Reign (NWSL)    

Sat May 14                         Germany last day

9:30 am ESPN+                  Wolfsburg (Brooks) va Bayern Munich

9:30 am ESPN+                  Dortmund vs Hertha

9:30 am ESPN+                  MGladbach (Joe Scally) vs Hoffenheim

10 am  ESPN+                   Sheffield United vs Nottingham Forrest (Horvath) 

11:45 am ESPN+         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Liverpool FA CUP FINAL

2:45 pm Para+                   Roma vs Venezia

3 pm TUDN                         Charlotte vs Inter Miami
3 pm ESPN+                        Real Bettis vs Barcelona

7 pm Univision                   America vs Puebla

7 pm Para+                         NY/NJ Gothem vs NC Courage NWSL

8 pm ESPN+                Memphis 901 vs Indy 11

8 pm ESPN+                      Chicago Fire vs Cincy

8 pm Para +                        Racing Louisville vs Houston Dash NWSL

10:30pm ESPN+                 LA Galaxy vs Dallas 

Sun,  May 15

7 am USA                            Tottenham v Burnley

9 am USA                            West Ham vs Man City

9 am Peacock                     Aston Villa v Crystal Palace

9 am CBS SN                       Napoli vs Genoa

9 am Peacock                     Leeds United (Jesse Marsch) vs Brighton

9 am Peacock                     Wolves vs Norwich City (Stewart)

11:30 am  USA                   Everton vs Brentford

12 noon CPBSN                  Milan vs Atalanta

1:30 pm ESPN                    Atlanta United vs New England

12:30 pm ESPN+                Atletico Madrid vs Seviila

5 pm Para+                         San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL

4 pm ESPN                          Seattle vs Min United 

Mon,  May 16

3 pm USA                            New Castle vs Arsenal

2:45 pm Para+                   Juventus vs Lazio

Tues,  May 17

2:45 pm USA                      South Hampton vs Liverpool 

Weds,  May 18

3 pm CBS SN                       Europa League finals-Frankfurt vs Rangers (Sands)

7:30 pm Para+                   Racing Louisville vs Sand Diego Wave (Morgan)

7:30 pm ESPN+                  NY Redbulls vs Chicago Fire

8:30 pm ESPJN=                 Nashville vs CF Montreal

Thurs,  May 19

2:45 pm USA                      Everton vs Crystal Palace

3 pm Peacock                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leicester City 

Sat,  May 21

2 pm ESPN+, Desp             Freiburg vs RB Leipzig (German Cup Final)

3:30 pm Unimas                Columbus crew vs LAFC

6 pm ESPN+                        Cincy vs New England

6 pm para +                        Portland Thorns vs Houston Dash NWSL

7 pm TV 8                   Indy 11 vs NY RB 2 @ the Mike

7:30 pm FOX                      Nashville SC vs Atlanta United

10:30 pm Para+                 Angel City vs KC NWSL

Sun,  May 20  Final day EPL/Italy/Spain

11 am USA                          Arenal vs Everton

11 am USA                          Brentford vs Leeds United 

11 am Peacock                   Burnely vs New Castle

11 am Peacock                   Liverpool vs Wolverhampton 

9 am Peacock                     Brentford vs Leeds United (Jesse Marsch)

11 am Peacock                   Norwich City (Stewart) vs Tottenham

11 am Peacock                   Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Watford

12:30 pm ESPN+               Barcelona vs Villareal

5 pm Para+                         NY/NJ Gotham vs Racing Louisville NWSL

6 pm Para+                         Portlant Reign vs Washington Spirit NWSL

10 pm FS1                           Portand Timbers vs Philly

Weds,  May 25

3 pm CBS SN                       Europa Conf finals-Roma vs Feynoord 

10 pm Para+                      Portland Reign vs KC  NWSL

Sat,  May 28                       Champions League Final

3 pm CBS, TUDN         Liverpool vs Real Madrid  Final

Indy 11 Schedule

Indy 11 Women’s Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

Soccer Saturday’s are every Sat 9-10 am on 93.5 and 107.5 FM with Greg Rakestraw

MLS

Seattle Sounders made CCL history… Which MLS team wins it next?

Next stop, FIFA Club World Cup: Seattle Sounders achieve “immortality” after CCL title

Record-breaking crowd lifts Seattle Sounders to CCL glory on “special” night

Seattle Sounders “hit on all levels”, reach Concacaf

Eight MLS players named to 2022 Concacaf Champions League Best XI

Seattle Sounders Deserve Every Bit of Praise for Winning CCL – Demarcus Beasely MLS.com

How Seattle Won the CCL in the Most Sounders Way Possible – BackHeeled.com  Joseph Lowery

How Seattle have Built and Maintain A Contender – Matt Doyle – MLS.com

Its Fitting Seattle Wins it All – Brian Straus SI 

Seattle Goes Continental – Grant Wahl

Seattle’s Win is Huge – what’s Next for Sounders –  Seattle Times

Seattle Ends Mexico’s Reign over soccer.  

Week 10 Wrap-up

WORLD

EA Sports ends partnership with FIFA, will rename iconic video game

Inter Milan see off Juventus to win Italian Cup after penalty drama


Atletico’s UCL expectations illustrate growth under Simeone

USA

Pulisic Scores for Chelsea

USA MLS Player Played Well  

Miles Robinson Lost for World Cup

EPL

FA Cup Liverpool vs Chelsea Preview

Liverpool vs Chelsea Preview
Arsenal’s leadership woes exposed by Tottenham, and could cost them a Champions League spot
hMark Ogden

Jesse Marsch’s hopes of rescuing Leeds are unraveling after brutal Chelsea loss  Mark Ogden

3 Things We Learned – Tottenham over Arsenal 3-0

Man  City agree to Eriling Halland Deal

Briston Rovers score 7 goals to get Promoted

GK

The sunset over the fields at Badger where I trained a couple of High School quality Goalkeepers really hard Thursday night. Man I love training GKs who want to get better and possibly play high school ball. Sure do wish we had more show up for training though. Can’t make em better if they don’t show up.

Saves of the Week USL

Jordan Farr former CFC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK was voted at the Top USL Player in April

Saves of the Week MLS

Indy 11

Indy 11 Preview vs Memphis

Indy 11 W Win Opener  Nuvo News 

15 Players To Watch – USL Women

Liverpool vs. Chelsea: Men’s FA Cup final talking points: Who will win at Wembley? Which players are key?

Top Premier League teams may only have to win six matches to lift the men’s FA Cup, but Saturday’s final (11:45 a.m. ET; stream live on ESPN+, U.S. only) will still feel like a marathon more than a sprint for Chelsea and Liverpool. This weekend’s fixture concludes the 150th edition of the world’s oldest cup competition, a milestone that the Royal Mint have deemed suitably grand to create a special £2 coin in celebration.The outcome feels like a coin flip, too. Chelsea and Liverpool contested a hugely entertaining Carabao Cup final at Wembley just 76 days earlier, goalless at the end of 120 minutes and decided by the finest of margins — a penalty shootout ending 11-10 as Blues goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga skied his spot-kick over the crossbar.

For Chelsea, this will be the 61st game of a grueling season that started with a UEFA Super Cup triumph in Belfast, continued with Club World Cup success in Abu Dhabi, and is now ending under sanction amid a dramatic takeover following the U,K, government’s decision to punish current owner Roman Abramovich for alleged ties to Russia President Vladimir Putin.

Blues head coach Thomas Tuchel has admitted his players are showing signs of fatigue after such a demanding campaign, and Jurgen Klopp can empathize; Saturday will be Liverpool’s 60th game of 2021-22, and both clubs will end on 63 matches as the Reds’ season ends in Paris with a Champions League final against Real Madrid on May 28.

Although Liverpool’s Premier League title hopes are beginning to fade as Manchester City continue winning in relentless fashion, Klopp’s side still have a chance of pulling off an unprecedented quadruple. The next leg can be secured at Wembley.

Who needs this more?

Given the history at stake, probably Liverpool. Klopp has sought to deflect any quadruple talk, but success in four competitions would elevate this Liverpool team to indisputable status as one of the greatest in English football history. It is, however, the prize they covet least given the Premier League and Champions League titles are still in play.

Tuchel will feel his players deserve something to show for the professionalism they have displayed while the club’s existence has felt uncertain. Abramovich issued his first statement attempting to distance himself from the club the night before the Carabao Cup final on Feb. 23. Ever since, Tuchel has had to field questions on everything from war to morality while maintaining morale among a group of players and staff facing restrictions over day-to-day operations resulting from the terms of a special government licence granted to keep fulfilling fixtures.

A consortium led by Los Angeles Dodgers part-owner Todd Boehly is now seeking U.K. government and Premier League approval to complete a takeover. Boehly is likely to be at Wembley on Saturday as Chelsea prepare for a new era. What better way to start than with the club’s ninth FA Cup win? For their part, Liverpool would move level with Chelsea on eight wins should they triumph.

Any injury issues to consider?

Saturday will be the fourth meeting between these sides this season, with the previous three encounters technically ending in draws, and Chelsea’s ability to compete with Liverpool has been based upon a high-pressing game housed in a 3-4-2-1 formation. It is for this reason, more than any other, that Tuchel will be tempted to restore Kai Havertz to lead the attack at the expense of Romelu Lukaku, who has started the past two Premier League games, scoring three times.

Lukaku caused Liverpool problems off the bench in the Carabao Cup final, and that “impact substitute” role could prove effective once again. Tuchel must decide whether Christian PulisicTimo Werner, or Hakim Ziyech play alongside Mount. Werner’s finishing is often in doubt, but his pace is not, and that speed will be a useful weapon against Liverpool’s high line.

The probable absence of Mateo Kovacic is a significant blow as Tuchel views his intelligence in possession as vital to Chelsea’s ability to dictate games. Kovacic spent Friday attempting to rejoin training following an ankle problem in a last-ditch attempt to be fit alongside N’Golo Kante, who has suffered a series of nagging muscular problems. There is a little more optimism surrounding Kante, and he is more likely to partner Jorginho in central midfield. If both Kovacic and Kante are deemed unavailable, Ruben Loftus-Cheek — who scored in Chelsea’s semifinal win over Crystal Palace — will be drafted in.

Jurgen Klopp made five changes for Tuesday’s win at Aston Villa and left-back Andrew Robertson is certain to be recalled, as is Mohamed Salah following his 18-minute cameo at Villa Park. No Liverpool player has scored more goals than Sadio Mane (12) since the beginning of February and so he will surely start, leaving Klopp with the decision of whether to pick livewire Luis DiazDiogo Jota, or Roberto Firmino as his third forward. In midfield, Fabinho will be a big miss after suffering a hamstring injury against Aston Villa on Tuesday, but he should be fit for the Champions League final at least.

Who are the key players?

Salah, Mane, and Diaz are all obvious threats for Liverpool but looking a little deeper, Chelsea’s Mason Mount will feel he has a particular point to prove. The 23-year-old was guilty of two bad misses in the Carabao Cup final either side of half-time, which would have turned a goalless game in the Blues’ favour.

Mount was in fine form with a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Leeds and although Tuchel will make changes to that XI, Mount is expected to retain his place. He’ll be looking for space in an area of the pitch that looks certain to be vacated by Fabinho.

Jordan Henderson replaced Fabinho at Villa Park and the England international will have a key role in stopping the supply line to Chelsea’s forwards while also helping Liverpool break the Blues’ press. Thiago Alcantara was one of those initially rested at Villa Park before coming on for Curtis Jones with the scores level against Villa and it was the Spaniard’s pass which launched the attack that led to Mane’s winning goal.Thiago produced arguably his best performance for Liverpool in last month’s FA Cup semifinal win over Manchester City and will be desperate to play, having missed the Carabao Cup final after picking up a hamstring injury in the warm-up.Ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup final between Liverpool and Chelsea, take a look back the EFL Cup final which ended with an unforgettable 22-kick penalty shootout.

Manager watch

This is the first time two German managers have contested an FA Cup final. It is the 19th meeting between the pair, with Klopp firmly in the ascendancy having won 10 and drawn five. Both are establishing themselves among the greats at their respective clubs, with Klopp becoming only the second Liverpool manager to lead a team into four major finals (League Cup, Europa League, Champions League and FA Cup) while Tuchel has achieved the same feat at Chelsea, something only previously done by Jose Mourinho.Impressively, Tuchel’s success comes after just one year and 108 days as head coach. Chelsea have lost the past two FA Cup finals but only one of those came under Tuchel, as his predecessor Frank Lampard was beaten by Arsenal in an empty Wembley due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Klopp’s status as one of the game’s great modern-day managers is assured no matter the outcome, but for Tuchel, a victory would be a validation of his methods and a reminder ahead of what will be a busy transfer window at Stamford Bridge that Chelsea can still rival the best despite a change of ownership and a somewhat disappointing Premier League campaign.

Prediction: Chelsea 1-2 Liverpool

It is difficult to see how this will lack goals like the Carabao Cup final did. Although Chelsea beat Leeds comfortably in midweek, their recent form is something of a concern. Liverpool’s superior options in attack should give them the advantage.

Havertz, Mane and what a Chelsea vs Liverpool FA Cup final says about modern strikers

Michael Cox  May 13, 2022 The Athleitc

The last time Chelsea and Liverpool met in the FA Cup final, the story was all about proper No 9s.The main character in the backstory didn’t actually play, but this match in 2012 came less than 18 months after Fernando Torres’ shock £50 million transfer from Liverpool to Chelsea, which initially left Liverpool reeling but eventually caused Chelsea more problems.By this point, Roberto Di Matteo — Chelsea’s third manager in Torres’ time at the club — had given up trying to integrate the Spaniard, and reverted to playing Didier Drogba up front instead. We all know the story with Drogba and cup finals, and after Ramires opened the scoring, Drogba put Chelsea 2-0 up.Two minutes later, Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish sacrificed midfielder Jay Spearing and turned to Andy Carroll, the striker who had been desperately signed on the night of the Torres transfer. Carroll soon scored, and with the wind in Liverpool’s sails, they relentlessly knocked hopeful crosses into the box towards him. Eventually, he met one with a powerful header, and ran off celebrating.Unfortunately for Carroll, the ball hadn’t actually gone in — Petr Cech had made a remarkable save, and Chelsea hung on for a 2-1 win. save (Getty Images)

All this seems remarkably long ago, and come Saturday’s final Jordan Henderson will be the only survivor from that day. But really, what dates this story is that it was a cup final based almost entirely around No 9s. It was about Torres moving from red to blue, about Drogba being the cup final hero, about Carroll nearly being Liverpool’s saviour. A decade on, it all feels a bit Roy of the Rovers.This weekend, it’s unlikely that the starting line-ups will feature a striker.Jurgen Klopp seems likely to continue with Sadio Mane through the middle. Mane arrived at the club and played excellently on the right, then after Mohamed Salah’s arrival switched seamlessly to the left, and now after Luis Diaz’s instant impact has again been redeployed, this time through the middle. It’s arguably rejuvenated Mane’s Liverpool career, and suddenly the club have a new look in the final third.Thomas Tuchel could field Romelu Lukaku, who has scored in back-to-back games to put himself in contention. But it’s more likely that Tuchel will field a front three selected from Mason MountTimo WernerChristian Pulisic and Kai Havertz, probably with Havertz leading the line. Comparing Drogba and Carroll with Havertz and Mane demonstrates how much football has evolved over the past decade.The idea that players deployed as a centre-forward might not be natural, old-school No 9s is hardly new — we’ve been talking about false nines for more than a decade — but this season has been particularly notable for it. From Manchester City being likely to win the league without a recognised centre-forward and Arsenal happily ditching Pierre-Emerick Aubemeyang because he offered little outside the box, to Manchester United signing the world’s highest international goalscorer of all time but regressing as a team, this has not been a vintage season for pure finishers.But whereas Mane and Havertz might have been grouped a decade ago as false forwards, more accustomed to playing elsewhere but shoved up top through circumstances rather than design, the reality is that they’re actually entirely different players.While Mane is primarily considered a quick player adept at running in behind the opposition defence — in keeping with Liverpool’s preferred style of full-throttle attacking football — he’s actually, in another way, a natural centre-forward. Few other players in the Premier League (and surely no one else who is around the 5ft 9in mark) are as adept at dropping short to receive the ball with their back to goal and using their body to shield it. Mane is so dangerous in those situations in part because he’s happy spinning either way, comfortable shooting or passing with either foot. He’s also good at winning free kicks from defenders in tight situations.On paper, Havertz is the opposite — more of a natural centre-forward at 6ft 3in but more comfortable at arriving late in the box rather than being permanently stationed there. At times he’s shown an eye for goal, including in last year’s Champions League final. Eleven Premier League goals since signing nearly two years ago isn’t a particularly impressive return, although he hit 17 and then 12 in his final two Bundesliga campaigns, suggesting he can find the net on a more consistent basis.Maybe the most significant thing, though, is that even the players over whom Mane and Havertz are likely to be favoured are not, arguably, traditional No 9s either. For Liverpool, Diogo Jota briefly felt like a penalty box No 9 because he scored several headed goals, but is a small, quick attacker who played a wider role at WolvesRoberto Firmino was originally considered a false nine who played as a No 9 so frequently he increasingly felt like a conventional centre-forward. Divock Origi is the closest thing to a target man, and is fielded there as a Plan B, but from the start has often played from the left as Klopp wants a better link man through the middle.From Tuchel’s perspective, Werner — who could start here if Chelsea want to exploit the space between Liverpool’s defensive line — has managed just 10 goals from 56 Premier League appearances and increasingly feels like a useful decoy runner rather than a genuine goal threat himself.Even Romelu Lukaku, the £100-million man intended to be a prolific goalscorer, has suffered badly in his second stint at Chelsea, in part because of his mid-season interview with Italian television where he complained about his role at Chelsea, presumably wishing to play a more mobile role running inside from an inside-right position, as he did at Inter. Lukaku does not consider himself a Diego Costa, an Olivier Giroud, a Drogba or even a Torres.We don’t have to go back 10 years to find the last Liverpool v Chelsea meeting at Wembley, however. That came three months ago in the League Cup final, an absolutely belting end-to-end game that created 4.4 xG worth of chances, but precisely zero goals. If something similar happens this weekend it will feel somehow fitting.

It’s Only Fitting That Seattle Breaks MLS’s CCL Glass Ceiling

For all the jokes about what Seattle has invented as it relates to American soccer, the Sounders have been a model MLS franchise and make for a worthy trailblazer.

going to strike somewhere in MLS territory, then Seattle was the perfect place. It’s a city that embraced domestic pro soccer through multiple leagues and decades with a rare, sustained fervor. And it’s home to a club that then set a standard of ambition, consistency and success in a league designed to suppress it. The Sounders have always put pressure on themselves to raise the bar and win, even when the surrounding structure doesn’t. So they have, and that ethos and championship culture paved the way for Wednesday’s historic victory before yet another raucous, record crowd at Lumen Field.Where MLS teams had stumbled and failed for two decades, the Sounders now stand triumphant. After overcoming two early injuries, they easily defeated Mexico’s UNAM Pumas, 3–0, in the second and deciding leg of the Concacaf Champions League finals (last week’s opener ended 2–2). Seattle became the first MLS club since 2001, and the first in the tournament’s home-and-away era, to claim the continental title. Raúl Ruidíaz, the Peruvian striker who has been one of many big-ticket signings the Sounders nailed, tallied goals on either side of halftime. Playmaker Nicolás Lodeiro, an Uruguayan veteran who has been the creative inspiration behind the club’s recent success, potted Seattle’s third. U.S. national team winger Jordan Morris, an Emerald City native and the son of the club doctor, set the table for his side’s two second-half strikes. The stars shone brightly.Along with the coveted CCL trophy comes an invitation to the next FIFA Club World Cup, which will feature an MLS squad for the first time. Then there’s the eternal pride and long-term bragging rights that come with being the first to do something so significant (D.C. United and the LA Galaxy won regional crowns before MLS teams were forced to travel). The annual CCL faceplant by MLS entrants was excruciating. Meanwhile, a Liga MX club had been Concacaf champion every year since 2006. There’s never been a streak like that anywhere in the world, and the Sounders will forever be the team that ended it. For those outside the city annoyed by Seattle supporters accused of behaving like they “invented soccer,” it’s about to get worse.“The first thing only happens once—making history,” said Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the CCL MVP who made a tremendous save on a second-half Pumas header when the score was still 1–0. “There will be many more Concacaf Champions League winners, but there’s only one that does it for the first time from MLS. And so we wrote ourselves into the history books today, and I’m so proud of my team.”It takes time to make history, and Wednesday’s climactic 90 minutes represented the final steps of a lengthy journey that began when the Sounders, a four-time champion in American soccer’s second tier, entered MLS in 2009. They immediately set attendance records and established an on-field standard, finishing third in the Western Conference and winning the U.S. Open Cup. An unprecedented run of success followed. Across the ensuing dozen seasons, the Sounders won two MLS Cups, four conference titles, three more Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield. Their streak of 13 consecutive playoff appearances is a league record. And in each of those 13 seasons, they finished among the top four in the West. The Sounders are just about the only safe MLS bet.It’s popular to break MLS history down into eras. The league’s 1.0 era was defined by caution and contraction, NFL stadiums, incomprehensible team names and the D.C. United dynasty. MLS 2.0 was anchored by the construction of soccer-specific stadiums and the Designated Player rule, and at its peak it was dominated by Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, David Beckham and the LA Galaxy. Then came rapid league expansion, the next generation of arenas, the growth of the academy system and an increase in roster spending. That’s MLS 3.0. The Sounders are its flagship club.General manager Garth Lagerwey, who helped build small-market Real Salt Lake’s mini-dynasty in the early 2010s, and coach Brian Schmetzer, a Seattle soccer lifer who worked under the late Sigi Schmid before taking the helm, have come close to solving a notoriously inscrutable league. They’ve hit on numerous high-profile signings and become a desired destination for established MLS vets. They’ve also developed several homegrown stars, from the likes of Morris and U.S. workhorse Cristian Roldan to 16-year-old Obed Vargas, who bravely stepped in for the injured João Paulo midway through Wednesday’s first half.Seattle hasn’t been content to tread water, see its club valuation increase and hope to maybe make a splash in the transfer market. It’s played to win since day one and it’s learned to do so en route. It took eight years to break down the MLS Cup door. And it took seven CCL appearances and six CCL failures, the most in MLS since ’09, to solve the continental puzzle. The Sounders aren’t the highest-spending team in MLS but they’re typically near the top, and they’re likely the best at constructing a competitive roster under the league’s complex and sometimes stifling rules.“Since ’18, we’ve really had this [core] and we’ve tried to add one piece a year without subtracting,” Lagerwey said before the match. “We really do feel like this is the best group that we’ve had and we’ve been very methodical about it, very strategic to build to this moment. I can’t say the last five years is all about winning the 2022 Champions League. It wasn’t that specific. But it was, ‘Can we get better every single year before we get too old and take a shot at something like this, something really cool like this?’”

With Champions League breakthrough, Seattle Sounders stake their claim to title of best club in MLS history

Sam Stejskal  May 5, 2022 = the Athletic

The noise began with a low murmur from a smattering of the 68,741 fans in attendance at Lumen Field for the Seattle Sounders’ historic CONCACAF Champions League victory against Pumas on Wednesday night, but quickly grew to encompass the entire stadium, getting louder and louder with every measured, celebratory step taken by Nicolas Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz and Jordan Morris. At that point, midway through second-half stoppage time, the result was all but official. Lodeiro had put the game and series completely out of reach minutes earlier, tapping home a rebound after Morris caromed a shot off the post to give Seattle a 3-0 lead in the second leg and 5-2 advantage on aggregate. The wide margin afforded head coach Brian Schmetzer the luxury of subbing off his three attacking stars for a curtain call.As they made their way toward the sideline, Lodeiro and Ruidiaz in lockstep, Morris trailing closely behind, the crowd built into a deafening crescendo, saluting their captain, their ruthless striker and their hometown hero as their Sounders marched toward becoming the first MLS team to ever win the CCL.From the moment they joined the league back in 2009, the Sounders have, in one way or another, consistently raised the bar for MLS. When the final whistle blew on Wednesday, as Lodeiro sprinted onto the field in a jubilant celebration and the crowd erupted in one last moment of rapture, they raised that bar to an unprecedented new level. Even before they won the CCL, the Sounders were the most successful MLS organization of the last decade. It’s only fitting that they became the first to take the continental crown. “It’s an amazing club, an amazing fan base. We do a lot of things right, here in Seattle,” Morris said afterwards. “Going into the year, this was such a huge goal for us, to be the first MLS team to win this. And to have done it now, to have made history, it’s incredibly special.” It’s easy to look at the club’s 13 playoff appearances in 13 seasons, two MLS Cups, four U.S. Open Cups and one Supporters’ Shield and think that a night like Wednesday was in some way preordained for the Sounders.So easy, in fact, that the narrative heading into the second leg felt almost unnervingly confident. Fans and media (this writer included) who were so used to seeing MLS teams fall short in this competition over the years seemed convinced that the Sounders would take care of business after they drew 2-2 in Mexico City in the first leg last week. It was as if the league’s collective CCL scar tissue had been removed and the long, mostly sad history of Seattle sports had been forgotten, replaced by a rare, rave green-tinged sense of optimism.But there are no guarantees in no professional sports, no teams of destiny. And nothing about the Sounders’ journey to the CCL title was inexorable. That was made abundantly clear on Wednesday. The final score didn’t indicate as much, but the second leg was difficult for Seattle, which was dealt two serious blows early in the first half. Starting left back Nouhou was subbed off due to a thigh contusion in the 11th minute and star midfielder Joao Paulo, an MLS MVP finalist in 2021, was taken off in the 29th after suffering what Seattle fears is a torn ACL. The injuries threw a dark cloud over an otherwise picture-perfect evening in the Pacific Northwest, but Seattle beat it back.  At the end of a relatively ugly first-half, after looking like they’d head into the locker room without creating a single clear opportunity, they took the lead through a deflected Ruidiaz effort.As soon as his shot hit the back of the net, Ruidiaz wheeled off toward the north stand of Lumen Field, flying over the advertising boards and sprinting to Seattle’s reserves and academy players, who were watching the match from a field-level suite. His Sounders teammates raced to catch him, joining the broader, organization-wide party as one straggling player picked up the ball and punted it high into the seats. The crowd became so loud that the press box began to vibrate, the first of a few moments during the match in which it seemed as if the fans were causing the stadium to shake.“I told them after the game that (they were) freaking awesome. They’re awesome,” Schmetzer, another Seattle native, Sounders lifer and card-carrying member of the Emerald City Supporters group, said of the fans. “The connection between the fans and the players is the spirit of this club. You heard it when the teams walked out tonight, you heard it during the game, it was awesome, really awesome. You felt the energy in the building, the players felt it. It was spectacular.” 

Pumas responded well to Seattle’s goal, nearly equalizing in the 65th. Winger Washington Corozo got to the endline and lofted a cross to the back post, where 6-foot-4 attacker Diogo de Olivera rose over Kelyn Rowe, another native Seattlite who was only playing because Nouhou had been forced out, and directed a powerful header on frame. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who had arrived at Lumen Field just like any other fan and left it having been named player of the tournament, quickly got down to his right for a massive save. Fifteen minutes later, Ruidiaz called game, finishing off a beautiful counterattack to effectively secure the trophy for Seattle. Midfielder Albert Rusnak, a calming influence throughout the match and an architect of the first goal, was once again at the heart of the play. He shimmied past several Pumas players in the Sounders half before finding an escape valve in 16-year-old midfielder Obed Vargas, who had come on for the injured Joao Paulo in the first-half. The Alaska native, who signed a homegrown deal with the Sounders in December, continued the impressive start to his professional career on Wednesday, not shirking from the moment and sliding in well for Joao Paulo despite his age and inexperience. After receiving the pass from Rusnak, he quickly found Alex Roldan, with the ball eventually making its way to Ruidiaz for an emphatic strike.It was a classic Sounders goal, the exact type of transition opportunity that they feast on. It also iced the match. The fans certainly sensed that, with most of them turning on the flashlights on their phones in the moments after the goal, waving them back and forth as if they were at a rock concert. “I got a little choked up,” said Frei, who, as the longest tenured Sounder, has been in the middle of so many of the biggest moments in club history. “I had to tell myself, ‘Hey, there’s still some game left, like relax, take it easy.’ But it’s special, very special. As a little kid, this is what you dream of. You close your eyes and you envision a stadium full of people like this, chanting you on, this is it. To have the opportunity to live out that dream is precious. I cherish it.” Ruidiaz’s second strike set the table for Lodeiro to finish things off in the 88th. It was a simple goal, a close-range finish into an empty net, but it was full of meaning — and it was appropriate that Lodeiro was the scorer. The driving force behind the Sounders’ MLS Cup titles in 2016 and 2019, the 33-year-old has probably done more than any other player to construct a championship culture in Seattle, starring in the midfield, setting a high standard in the locker room and helping players like Cristian Roldan grow into leading figures on and off the field. As Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey said after the match, ‘Lodeiro is the best Sounder of all-time. Period.” The ovation he received when he exited with Ruidiaz and Morris in the final moments was exceedingly well-deserved. But he’s far from the only one that contributed to this title. It’s true that Sounders benefitted from the fact that the biggest Liga MX teams didn’t qualify for this edition of the CCL, but they are absolutely worthy champions. And their journey to this point extended well beyond the start of the round of 16 in February. Unlike many other teams in MLS that are now using their resources on signing young players with the idea of developing and transferring them for profit, the Sounders have constructed themselves over a number of years precisely and exclusively for moments like Wednesday. They’ve hit on their biggest signings in Lodeiro and Ruidiaz; they’ve plucked players like Nouhou and the Roldan brothers from disparate developmental paths and helped them mature into massive contributors; they’ve acquired experienced, valuable players from within MLS in Rusnak (who probably played the best match of his young Sounders career on Wednesday), Frei, Rowe, Fredy Montero and Will Bruin; they’ve gotten good-to-great returns on international signings like Joao Paulo, Arreaga and Yeimar Andrade; they’ve even had production from their academy through Morris and, more recently, Vargas and Josh Atencio. And in Schmetzer, they have a coach who keeps the operation running smoothly. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve found a way to keep their core together. Lodeiro, Morris, Frei and Cristian Roldan have each been around for all four of the club’s MLS Cup appearances. Everyone in the starting lineup on Wednesday other than Rusnak, who joined the team this winter via MLS free agency, has played in at least one MLS Cup for Seattle. Most of the current players got further championship match experience last summer, when Seattle lost the Leagues Cup final to Mexican club León.There isn’t any one explanation for how they’ve done this. An ability to successfully manage the salary budget and legally manipulate the MLS roster rules, a patient scouting process, an increased emphasis on youth, a willingness to be proactive with succession planning, a healthy locker room environment, a little bit of luck and some smart behind-the-scenes investments (Seattle was quick to add a second team, and was one of the first clubs in MLS to hire a data analyst on the sporting side), have all played a role in the Sounders’ success. It’s led to a virtuous cycle in Seattle, which, despite the fact that it isn’t really viewed as a sexy market in the other North American pro sports leagues, has only grown into a more attractive destination for soccer players, coaches and staffers over the years. “Because we have the continuity, the standard that we hold ourselves to is quickly absorbed by our new players,” Frei said. “They’re integrated very quickly. That’s maybe why players want to come here. You want to play your precious few years hopefully for trophies, and we’ve proven and shown that we generally speaking have the opportunity to get into those positions.”Seattle’s extensive experience in huge elimination matches — not all of which have ended well — helped significantly in the CCL. The Sounders are an extremely talented team, boasting perhaps the top front six in all of MLS and one of the more robust defensive groups in the league. But they needed more than just skill to survive in the Champions League. Whether in the second leg of the semifinal against New York City FC, when they were down 2-0 deep into the second half of the first leg of the final or after the injuries upset their plans on Wednesday, the Sounders repeatedly met obstacles in their run through the the competition that might have derailed a less experienced team. Every time, they cleared them.

“This is the most special one. I think this one means more to me than past trophies that I’ve won,” said Cristian Roldan. “When you’re the first one to do it, that puts you in the history books forever. No one can take that away from you.” 

As Lagerwey and owner Adrian Hanauer spoke about in the buildup to the match, this win has the potential to serve as a jumping off point not just for Seattle, but for the entire league. Winning the CCL one time doesn’t mean that MLS is now on par or better than Liga MX, but the Sounders’ victory is an important symbol of the narrowing gap between the two circuits. The victory should make at least some U.S.-based Liga MX fans take MLS a bit more seriously, an important consideration for a league that could always use a larger audience. It will likely add some additional meaning to the CCL, as well, raising the level of intrigue in a competition that has struggled to create much momentum after years of Mexican dominance. The result could even add some extra juice to the reformatted Leagues Cup, which will see every team in MLS and Liga MX compete against each other in a standalone, month-long tournament that will be held for the first time in 2023. MLS still has plenty of work to do, but this was a needed first step. The win also secures a place for the Sounders at the next FIFA Club World Cup. The date, location and format of that competition have not yet been determined, as the November/December World Cup in Qatar has thrown off the global soccer calendar, though Lagerwey said that Seattle has been told that it will likely be held next February in the Middle East. Whenever and wherever it takes place, Lagerwey giddily noted that it could include a date for the Sounders against Liverpool or Real Madrid, who will face off in the UEFA Champions League final in a few weeks in Paris. “It’s not for giggles against their reserves, we’re gonna play them for a trophy,” he said. “I mean, this is what you do it for, right? That’s just amazing. It just is. I’d love to be real cool and calm and be like, ‘Ah, it’s no big deal,’ but it’s a big deal.” Winning the CCL is a big deal in its own right. The result is a fantastic achievement for the entire club, but it holds special meaning for Lagerwey, who lost the 2011 final when he was GM of Real Salt Lake. That defeat was particularly painful. RSL drew 2-2 at Monterrey in the first leg before losing 1-0 in the return leg — their first home loss in nearly two years — to drop the series. He’s been chasing the CCL ever since, talking about his desire to win it from the moment he arrived in Seattle in January 2015.“I warned everybody, I said look, this is all or nothing,” Lagerwey said. “This could be incredibly bitter. If we lose this game tonight, we would just be the third (MLS) finalist in five years to get beat. Nobody cares. You get consigned to the dustbin of history. But our guys stepped up. They won it. We were indomitable. We kept hanging in, showed the fortitude in Mexico to equalize and then to come here and to put on the show we did, I mean, it’s just a special group of guys. It’s the best Sounders team we’ve had.” On Wednesday, the best team the Sounders have ever had created perhaps the best moment the club has ever had. In doing so, they gave Seattle a legitimate claim to the title of best club in MLS history. That was never inevitable, but, considering their path to this historic CCL title, it’s certainly fitting. 

HOW SEATTLE WON THE CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE IN THE MOST SOUNDERS WAY POSSIBLE

MAY 4, 2022  BYJOSEPH LOWERY

By beating Pumas 3-0 on Wednesday night, the Seattle Sounders became the first MLS team to win the Concacaf Champions League

  • With smart movement in central midfield, effective defending, and quick transitions, the Sounders were deserved winners
  • Pumas’ desperation played directly into Brian Schmetzer’s hands and helped Seattle close out the game

© Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The crowd at Lumen Field on Wednesday night wouldn’t let up. 

They cheered relentlessly for over a minute while three of the Seattle Sounders’ stalwarts, Nico Lodeiro, Raul Ruidiaz, and Jordan Morris, left the field and swapped places with their substitutes. Up by multiple goals in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League Final, the game was over. Those three players – along with the rest of their teammates, the coaching staff, and other members of the club – certainly earned that ovation. 

For the first time in the tournament’s modern era, a Major League Soccer team had officially won the CCL.

The Seattle Sounders beat Pumas UNAM 3-0 on Wednesday night in the second leg of the final, giving them a 5-2 aggregate win over their opponents from Liga MX. MLS teams have played in the final before, but none of them could clear the last hurdle. Real Salt Lake fell to Monterrey in 2011, the Montreal Impact (RIP) lost to Club América in 2015, Toronto couldn’t get past Chivas in 2018, and LAFC dropped out against Tigres in 2020.

Becoming the first MLS team to win this region’s Champions League is a historic achievement. With that in mind, it’s difficult to think of a team that deserves it more than the Seattle Sounders. Since joining MLS in 2009, the Sounders have qualified for the playoffs every single year. They’ve also won the Supporters’ Shield and lifted two MLS Cups since 2014. With on-field consistency and impressive roster builds, they have become the model MLS franchise. 

Still, plenty of impressive MLS teams have tried and failed to add the CCL trophy to their cases in the past. So how did Seattle do it? How did they take down Pumas on Wednesday? Well, they did it the Sounders way.

Let’s dive into some of the key pieces of that second leg.

LODEIRO’S OFF-BALL MOVEMENT

Against Pumas, Brian Schmetzer set up his Sounders team in the same formation that he’s used for so much of his MLS coaching career. He used a 4-2-3-1, complete with a double pivot behind Nico Lodeiro, who played as a No. 10. Pumas, on the other hand, started the game in a 4-3-3 shape with a lone No. 6 behind two No. 8s. On paper, those two midfield shapes cancel each other out. One team’s defensive midfielder overlaps with the other’s attacking midfielder and the double pivot in the 4-2-3-1 overlaps with the eights in the 4-3-3. 

For stretches of Wednesday night’s game, those two midfield shapes really did cancel each other out. In particular Higor Meritao, Pumas’ defensive midfielder, carefully monitored Lodeiro and denied him any real breathing room between the lines. 

What do you do when you can’t find space in one part of the field? Wait, actually, let me rephrase that. What does a No. 10 do when they can’t find space in one part of the field? They move. And then they move some more. That’s exactly what Lodeiro did to free himself from Meritao. 

In one moment, Lodeiro would drop deep and to one side to ditch Pumas’ midfield.

In the next moment, he would drop deep and to the other side, far enough away from Meritao that the Brazilian didn’t dare follow him.

And in yet another moment, Lodeiro would move into one of the halfspaces as part of a midfield-wide shift for Seattle. That’s exactly what happened in the buildup to the Sounders’ first goal. Lodeiro relocated to the left halfspace while Obed Vargas pulled Meritao forward. With Meritao out of the picture, Lodeiro received the ball and went on to earn the free kick that led to Ruidiaz’s goal in the 45th minute.

As that clip shows, Lodeiro was just one part of Seattle’s midfield machine. Albert Rusnak provided a calming touch and had the MLS assist for the first goal. Vargas wasn’t as comfortable, but the 16-year-old subbed on for an injured Joao Paulo in the first half and ate up some valuable minutes. Vargas wasn’t the only substitute to come on for an injured starter early in the game, either: Kelyn Rowe stepped in for Nouhou, who left the field with a right quad injury in the 11th minute.

Seattle didn’t create many obvious chances until later in the game, but their midfield and their depth certainly gave them an edge.

KEEPING JUAN DINENNO AT BAY

Juan Dinenno, Pumas’ striker and the Concacaf Champions League’s leading scorer, is a dangerous man. He scored twice against the Sounders in the first leg of the final, even while dealing with an injury, and was looking to do more damage on Wednesday. 

When in possession, Pumas had one primary directive: find Dinenno via direct forward passes into the channels and via crosses into the box. After targeting him multiple times in the first five minutes, it was clear that the Argentine striker was the key piece in their attack. 

Seattle, to their credit, didn’t let Dinenno have anywhere near as much influence on this game as they did in the away leg. Center backs Yeimar Gomez Andrade and Xavier Arreaga generally did a good job of staying with Dinenno. The Sounders’ center backs weren’t perfect – Yeimar failed to clear a cross that resulted in Dinenno’s first and best look of the game and Arreaga put in a needless challenge on Dinenno in the 60th minute that gave the forward a free kick in Zone 14 – but they did enough.

With effective defending in their own third and some strong counter pressing higher up the field, the Sounders kept Pumas at bay for the vast majority of the game. Down 1-0 with roughly 10 minutes remaining, Pumas started to throw numbers forward in hopes that providing their No. 9 with a little extra help would change things. 

It did. Just not for Pumas.

IT’S IN SEATTLE’S DNA

One of the things that makes the Seattle Sounders a consistent threat to win trophies in MLS (and now in regional competitions, too) is that they’re built to blitz you as soon as you take one too many risks in possession. With players who thrive in attacking transition like Morris and the Roldan brothers, the Sounders love to run.

There were plenty of moments on Wednesday night for the Sounders to run, but the best ones came as a direct result of Pumas’ desperation. They needed to score and were willing to push plenty of players forward to do so. Putting a group of four or five guys in the box and another group in the final third became the new normal for Pumas towards the end of the match. 

If that was Pumas’ new normal, Seattle’s was breaking the game wide open in the space left behind by their opponent’s aggressive, disorganized positioning. The Sounders’ second and third goals didn’t come from any sort of crazy tactical innovation. No, they simply came from classic Seattle transition attacks.

Here’s a look at the second goal, where Jordan Morris moved behind Pumas’ backline.

And here’s a screenshot of Pumas’ scattered defensive shape less than 15 seconds before Seattle’s third and final goal.

With dangerous transition attacks, a strong defensive performance, quality midfield play, and their depth on full display, the Seattle Sounders lifted the CCL trophy in the most Seattle Sounders way possible. It just felt right. 

They’re MLS’s first CCL winner – and that feels pretty right, too.

Seattle Sounders made CCL history… Which MLS team wins it next?

By Matthew Doyle @MattDoyle76  Wednesday, May 11, 2022, 10:06 AM

Last week I wrote a column titled “The Blueprint” in which I went through Seattle’s methodology in building a roster that has, for 13 straight years, competed at or near the top of MLS, and that had left them uniquely positioned to break the Concacaf Champions League curse and actually bring home the first CCL title for MLS since that competition had been remade.

Twelve hours after that column was published, the Sounders obliged by going out there and winning the damn thing over Pumas. It was a huge day for Seattle, and it was a huge day for MLS.

It is not likely to be the last huge day for MLS. As I pointed out in that column, smart teams around the league are following the same sort of best practices the Sounders have laid down in terms of roster building – putting resources into the core, being agnostic about talent acquisition, veering toward proven, high-end commodities, etc. Teams that do that, and have the right combination of coaching and ambitious ownership, give themselves a chance to be next through the regional tape and into the Club World Cup.

That is what the blueprint is for, right? Not only to be good and win stuff in MLS, but to continue to grow into the types of teams that can consistently compete internationally. The Sounders showed it can be done. Twenty-seven other teams definitely noticed.

So who’ll be next? Let’s dive in:

Los Angeles Football Club logo

Los Angeles Football Club

Why they’ll do it

The Black & Gold check damn near every box. They have been ambitious in their DP acquisitions over the years, and have been just as ambitious with their U22 Initiative shopping. They have brought contributors in from the USL Championship, and found value via the SuperDraft. They have sold guys on for GAM when they needed to have more flexibility to make moves within the league, and have been clear-eyed, in the last window, about spots they need to upgrade.

That last window, with the additions of Kellyn AcostaRyan Hollingshead and Ilie Sanchez, gave them the type of veteran core that had been culled out of the team over the previous couple of years. But it’s worth remembering the guys who are holdovers from the previous couple of years not only have title-winning experience (I still think the 2019 Supporters’ Shield-winning LAFC side is the best I’ve seen in MLS) but actual CCL experience.

Remember this?

That goal’s pretty as a picture, and it came in the actual CCL final against a Tigres side that, no disrespect intended, is a damn sight better than the Pumas team Seattle manhandled last week.

So they have the pedigree, they have the core, they have the structure, and under new head coach Steve Cherundolo they look a lot like the type of team that’s going to get their next CCL chance as soon as next year.

Why they won’t

Two reasons: DPs and depth.

LAFC have been ambitious with their DP signings, but they’ve missed on a couple. Andre Horta was here and gone in an instant, while Brian Rodriguez has all the talent in the world, but has yet to turn that into productivity. Carlos Vela, meanwhile, is just not the guy he was in 2019, and probably never will be again.

LAFC have the chance to make another big DP signing this summer given there’s an open slot with the departure of Diego Rossi. My guess is it will end up being a midfield playmaker (spending on DP 10s is almost always a good idea), which brings us to the depth part: there are good reasons to think one or both of Jose Cifuentes and Latif Blessing could end up in Europe before the summer’s over.

That’s a lot of moving pieces to juggle in some of the most important spots on the pitch. Seattle had to deal with the same, and they coped by getting at least some of the answers from academy products. LAFC can’t replicate that yet – their Homegrown pipeline has promise, but it’s yet to produce an Obed Vargas or Josh Atencio type of contributor.

New York City FC

Why they’ll do it

Primarily because the Soccer Gods have a great sense of humor and it would be funny if the Pigeons won a continental title before Man City did. Even Red Bulls fans have to admit that would be hilarious.

Beyond that, though, the best arguments are that NYCFC have a veteran, winning core, a reliably excellent Homegrown pipeline to build depth (as well as occasional high-end starters), and are breaking new ground with their recruitment and integration of top U22 talent, primarily from South America.

It all culminated with a team that, last month, beat the ever-loving hell out of Seattle in the second leg of the CCL semis and forced an all-time performance out of Stef Frei to put the Sounders through. The fact NYCFC did that without some key contributors, and have subsequently played the best ball in MLS without some key contributors, is at least a little bit frightening.

I mean, Talles Magno was one of the very best players in CCL of any age. Full stop. He, Thiago Andrade and Gabriel Pereira could all end up being in the top 10 of this year’s 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR list, and Santi Rodriguez would be there as well if he wasn’t just a few months too old. Only LAFC are in the same ballpark as NYCFC (heh) when it comes to leveraging the potential of the U22 Initiative.

Why they won’t

They have zero home-field advantage in CCL play, and it’s fair to question their DP situation. Plus it’s very likely Taty Castellanos is gone this summer.

Let’s go in reverse order: I’m not sure Taty is irreplaceable, and they’re certainly going to get a lot of money for him (though reports say it’ll be less than the $20 million they’d hoped for). But he will be very, very very difficult to replace, and even if they spend their entire windfall on the next No. 9, there is zero guarantee that guy will be as good as Taty has been.

And bear in mind he’s been this good despite the fact he’s not a DP! Which brings us to the other issue… NYCFC’s DPs aren’t great in the same way that Seattle’s are. Magno, as mentioned, is excellent, but Maxi Moralez is 35 years old and has clearly lost a step, while new center back Thiago Martins has been… less than convincing thus far.

Now think about Seattle’s DP triumvirate of Raul RuidiazNico Lodeiro and Albert Rusnak, and how significant they were in getting that team to the top of the mountain. It’s a different kind of player profile, and if NYCFC want to win the CCL next year (I think it’s very possible they’ll qualify once again), they probably need a rethink on how to use those slots.

The final issue is the home-field advantage bit. You probably remember the fact Concacaf does not certify Yankee Stadium for CCL play, but you might already have forgotten NYCFC played home matches at three different venues (Banc of California Stadium; Rentschler Field; Red Bull Arena) during their 2022 CCL run.

I am of the opinion an MLS team needs every advantage possible if they’re going to win this thing – just look at how the Sounders maximized their home-field advantage throughout their run. NYCFC doesn’t have anything like that.

Philadelphia Union

Why they’ll do it

The Union have a well-defined system of play that got them all the way to the CCL semifinals literally last year, and has them atop the East this year. They are a club that’s used to winning now, and that was built via repetition and excellence in the type of core the Sounders have boasted since 2009 (rotating pieces in and out).

They also have a pipeline of depth thanks both to their excellent academy as well as Ernst Tanner’s eye for undervalued overseas talent. Add in Jim Curtin’s developmental chops, and… honestly, do you remember last year’s Eastern Conference Final? They were without 11 players due to health & safety protocols, and they still gave NYCFC hell. I don’t think even the Sounders could’ve been down so many contributors and run the Pigeons so close.

What ultimately proved fatal for the Union in that game, as well as last year’s CCL final and previous playoff and US Open Cup runs, was a lack of top-end, final third quality. And so this offseason they went out and brought in two new DP center forwards to go with playmaker Daniel Gazdag (who was essentially a DP last year and is not classified as one this year).

They have very clearly tried to address what they very clearly needed to address.

Why they won’t

I like what I’ve seen of Uhre so far, and love how Carranza has taken his chance with the Union. I remain lukewarm on Gazdag, though I’ll happily admit he’s been much better over two months of the 2022 season than he was at any point in his five months of work last year.

Are those guys as good as Ruidiaz/Lodeiro/Jordan Morris/Cristian Roldan in the final third? Or Castellanos/Magno/Andrade/Rodriguez/Moralez? I don’t think you’re a gimlet-eyed cynic if you say they’re not.

The other issue for the Union could be their nature as a club regarding player sales. It’s part of who they are, so if someone comes calling for Jose Martinez or Kai Wagner (it seems likely in both cases), or Carranza or Gazdag or, I don’t know, Jack Elliott, then those players will be sold. And while the Union have the pipeline to replace them, there is a difference between “replace them and continue to be a good MLS team” and “replace them and continue to be a team that could conceivably win CCL.”

LA Galaxy logo

LA Galaxy

Why they’ll do it

Yeah, this one might tick some folks off, but the Galaxy have in Greg Vanney a coach who’s been there before (you remember Toronto FC’s 2018 run, right?) and a history of spending like they really, really mean it. If you have a proven coach and proven ambition, and patience to let that coach build, you’re going to be successful.

And so what we’re seeing now is a Galaxy team that, with a third of the season done, is third in the West and is tied for first overall in goals allowed. They have allowed just a single goal from open play all season, and my god does that represent a massive departure from the past eight years of Galaxy soccer.

Beyond that, just look at their roster balance. The vast majority of these guys are in their prime, and many of them have international experience (that includes Mark Delgado’s CCL experience, and damn would it be a nice story if he was able to get redemption for his late miss in the second leg of the 2018 final).

There’s still a ton of work that needs to be done on this roster, and much of that is continued internal development of many of the young players on the team, but you don’t have to look too hard to see a foundation that could make LA matter again.

Why they won’t

For all their spending, their DP situation is dire. Chicharito has been excellent since the start of last year, but he’s weeks away from his 34th birthday. Douglas Costa, who they signed this offseason, has been a cipher, while Kevin Cabral profiles (and produces) more like a U22 Initiative signing – a toolsy kid who can be compelling, but is frustrating much, much more often than not.

Beyond that, there’s just been significant calcification in the front office, as profiled by Paul Tenorio in the Athletic. The tl;dr is the reason the Galaxy have been bad for so long is that since Bruce Arena left, there was never any sort of blueprint followed on how to be good.

So Vanney is trying to drag them kicking and screaming into the TAM era, while trying to be the first coach to make any sort of dent in terms of Homegrown development, while fixing the defense, and adding veteran pieces, and is doing all this with two massively underperforming DPs. It’s a lot.

I think the above three teams (LAFC, NYCFC and Philly), as well as the Sounders, could plausibly win CCL next year. I don’t think the Galaxy could do that. But if Vanney gets the type of support he needs in continuing to retool the whole organization, and gets a mulligan on one of Costa or Cabral, there is a pretty obvious path for them to get it done in 2024. And that might be (probably would be) soon enough for them to be next.

Toronto FC

Why they’ll do it

It’s the same argument as for the Galaxy – a proven coach and ambitious, high-spending ownership. The difference is Toronto are 12 to 18 months behind in their development, so the core the Galaxy have developed does not yet really exist for the Reds.

And so Bob Bradley is throwing the children to the wolves right now. In part it’s because he has no choice, since the roster was gutted this winter, but in part it’s because Bradley is building something for the future, and guys like Ralph PrisoKosi ThompsonLuca PetrassoJayden Nelson and Jahkeele Marshall-Rutty are expected to be part of it. Given their talent and Bradley’s history of developing kids with potential into high-level pros, I am not doubting the outcome here.

The other thing to factor in here is TFC have historically dominated the Canadian Championship, winning seven of 10 tournaments from 2009 to 2018 (they could make it technically eight of 12 if they win the 2020 final which – and I am not kidding here – has not yet been played, and is scheduled for June 4. North American soccer is weird, y’all), so they usually have the clearest shot directly into the tournament.

Also, the same argument as the Galaxy is I don’t think there’s any legit chance they will get it done for the 2023 version of the CCL. But if no MLS team gets it done next year, I don’t think it’s crazy to think that TFC could climb the mountain by 2024 or 2025.

At the very least, this is fun as hell:

Why they won’t

There’s no actual guarantee any/all of those kids will turn into core pieces of a good team, and my god are TFC’s underlying numbers brutal this year. This does not, right now, look like an “Insigne will arrive and put them over the top” situation. This looks like an “Insigne will get here and despair at how broken things are” situation. I’m not sure they have more than two players who would be starters on good MLS teams, and that’s not great!

So there’s just so much rubble to clear. The best thing possible would be to get out of Bradley’s way and let him get to work clearing it, but even that is no guarantee – remember, when things went bad for LAFC, that was a mess of their own making. While it’s never been public as to who called the shots on things like trading Walker Zimmerman, I think it’s fair to assume Bradley had some say in how that team’s roster management went.

The other issue is in goal. I think all the other possibilities I’ve mentioned, including the Sounders, are in a better spot at that position than TFC are.

The Next Group

CF Montréal

They’ve got the pedigree, a great youth pipeline and Wilfried Nancy sure seems like a great coach thus far. But they’re likely to sell their best player (Djordje Mihailovic) in this window or the next, and ownership doesn’t seem too likely to go out there and spend big to replace him. On top of that, there has been a decades-long lack of stability with regard to front office vision and a lack of patience with the coach.

What happens, for example, if they run into a prolonged patch of bad form? The Union had patience with Curtin when that happened in 2015 and ‘16. Will Montréal show Nancy the same faith?

Atlanta United logo

Atlanta United

Just based upon spend and ambition they should be at the top of this list, but Atlanta’s acquisition approach has often just been asset collection rather than having some guiding principle with regard to how the pieces actually fit, and so since Tata Martino left they have been collectively less than the sum of their parts.

That could change – it feels like it is changing under Gonzalo Pineda. But he’s trying to reorient an aircraft carrier there, and isn’t the only one with a hand on the tiller, so it’s going to take some time.

Plus there’s the Josef issue. Will he ever be the same again?

FC Cincinnati logo

FC Cincinnati

I’m not even kidding. They’ve already got one killer DP in Lucho Acosta, and it looks like they’ve got another in Obinna Nwobodo. Both those guys are the right age to keep doing this for years, and aside from them, they are rapidly building out a foundation of MLS veterans this team had previously lacked, so it’s not entirely shocking they’re finally winning, is it? Plus they just crushed their SuperDraft class, and in Brandon Vazquez have a center forward who certainly seems to check all the right boxes.

As some of the previous regime’s contracts come off the books, Chris Albright and Pat Noonan are going to have all sorts of room to maneuver and keep adding quality, and if there’s one thing Cincy’s ownership has shown, it’s that they’ll open the checkbook. Now that said checkbook is being given to folks who seem to know how to use it…

Obviously 2023 is way too early to think about Cincy in these terms, but the title of this column isn’t “which MLS team wins it next year?” it’s “which MLS team wins it next?” If the door stays open in 2023 and 2024, Cincy might be the ones to walk through it in 2025.

The odds are against them, of course, but that’s true of any MLS team. That includes Cincy, now that they’re finally playing like one.

Tottenham vs Arsenal: Top-four race takes another crazy turn

Andy EdwardsThu, May 12, 2022, 4:37 PM·3 min read

Tottenham vs Arsenal: The Premier League’s top-four race took another crazy turn on Thursday, as Spurs hammered the Gunners 3-0 in the 191st north London derby.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in USA ]

Harry Kane scored the first and second goals (his 14th and 15th of the Premier League season), with Rob Holding earning a pair of yellow cards for fouls against Son Heung-min, who added goal no. 3 just seconds into the second half (his 21st, one behind Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the Golden Boot race).

The result leaves Tottenham (65 points) one point behind Arsenal (66 points) in the race for a top-four finish in the Premier League. With two games left for each side, it’s all to play for and looking likely to go all the way to Championship Sunday (May 22).

Tottenham will face relegation-battling Burnley (home) and already-relegated Norwich City (away), while Arsenal have 14th-place Newcastle United (away) and relegation-battling Everton (home) still to come.

Latest Premier League news

Tottenham vs Arsenal, live! Score, updates, how to watch, analysis Tottenham vs Arsenal player ratings Tottenham vs Arsenal: Projected starting lineups, team news

Tottenham vs Arsenal final score, stats, results

Final score: Tottenham 3, Arsenal 0

Goal scorers: Tottenham (Kane 22′ – PK, 37, Son 47′), Arsenal (None)

Shots: Tottenham 16, Arsenal 8

Shots on target: Tottenham 6, Arsenal 4

Possession: Tottenham 58%, Arsenal 42%

3 things we learned – Tottenham vs Arsenal

1. Tottenham players believe in Conte, and vice versa: In the early days of Antonio Conte’s reign, it was unclear whether the manager thought that all but a select few players were woefully unqualified to play for him, or if he was conditioning a squad of players, long criticized for being mentally weak, to take the next step in their progression. Six months later, it is quite clear that Conte has made a massive impact on the Tottenham players — both as individuals and collectively — to the point that they can just about flawlessly execute his game plan against the likes of Liverpool (no matter what Jurgen Klopp thinks of it) and Arsenal, in the biggest games of their season, with their entire season riding on the results. Now, imagine a world in which Daniel Levy hired Conte this first time he had the chance, rather than appointing Nuno Espirito Santo for 10 games.

2. Indiscipline in  the big game: Speaking of big games, it’s not at all an exaggeration to say that Thursday’s north London derby was the biggest game Arsenal have played since celebrating their last St. Totteringham’s Day, in 2016. The chance to clinch their return to the Champions League, after four seasons in the Europa League and, shockingly, no European qualification whatsoever this season (despite the creation of a third-tier competition), proved too big of an occasion not just for the young Gunners, but most notably for one of the longtime veterans in the squad, Rob Holding. From the opening whistle, Holding appeared intent on targeting and riling up Son Heung-min with cleverly disguised cheap shots from behind. The home fans quickly got on his case and were utterly delighted when Holding was shown a second yellow card for delivering an elbow to the face of — you guessed it — Son in the 33rd minute.

3. And yet, Arsenal still hold all the cards: As euphoric as Thursday’s derby drubbing will have felt for Tottenham and their fans, it is still Arsenal who, should they take care of business in the final two games of the season, will qualify for the Champions League.

US Coach -Jesse Marsch’s hopes of rescuing Leeds are unraveling after brutal Chelsea loss

May 11, 2022Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

LEEDS, England — Jesse Marsch walked into an impossible job when he became Leeds United manager at the end of February — he just didn’t know it at the time. But as Chelsea sent his team closer to relegation from the Premier League with a 3-0 win at Elland Road on Wednesday, the brutal reality of the challenge that Marsch accepted has surely set in.

Despite having an FA Cup final against Liverpool to play on Saturday, less than 72 hours after kick-off in this game, Chelsea were still too strong for Marsch’s wilting side as goals from Mason MountChristian Pulisic and Romelu Lukaku ended a three-game winless streak and edged Thomas Tuchel’s team to the brink of Champions League qualification.

For Leeds, though, this was another damaging blow. They have now lost three on the bounce, conceding 9 goals along the way, and it won’t get any easier: the first-half red card earned by Dan James for a shocking tackle on Mateo Kovacic means Leeds’ £25 million record-signing will be suspended for the remaining games of the season. James will join 

2dAustin Lindberg

“Two tackles in the last two games that are a little bit crossing the line and hurting the team,” Marsch said. “I’m not going to blame or finger-point any of our players, they’ve given everything they can, but we have to stay within boundaries in not jeopardising ourselves.”Throughout their recent tailspin, which has sent Leeds into the bottom three, Marsch has watched on from the sidelines, unable to stem the tide.Leeds, promoted back to the top-flight in 2020 under Marcelo Bielsa after a 16-year absence, have been unravelling for much longer than Marsch has been in his position at the club. Bielsa was fired on Feb. 27 after a run of nine defeats 12 games, with his team’s defensive inadequacies exposed by conceding 14 goals in his final three games in charge.But while the rot had clearly already set in, Marsch has seen his chances of halting Leeds’ slide hit by injuries to key players, indiscipline and his unhelpful habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.The former New York Red Bulls coach, who lasted less than six months in his post as RB Leipzig coach before leaving last December, has publicly questioned Bielsa’s training methods, complained about American coaches being compared to comedy character Ted Lasso and, prior to this game, admitted to motivating his players with quotes by historical figures including Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa.In response, one English newspaper compared Marsch to David Brent, the Ricky Gervais character from The Office, while Ted Lasso began to trend on Twitter in the UK as Chelsea began to overrun Leeds on Wednesday.It is unfair to use the Lasso comparison on Marsch, a coach who built a strong reputation during his two-year stint as FC Salzburg coach, but with Bob Bradley also suffering from ridicule during his brief — and unsuccessful — spell in charge of Swansea City in 2016, Marsch’s difficulties at Leeds are unlikely to help other American coaches land a Premier League job anytime soon.But although he walked into a much tougher job than he could have imagined when agreeing to replace Bielsa, Marsch could have done better with Leeds.They were 16th in the table when he arrived, two points above the bottom three, with Everton and Burnley both beneath them. Bielsa had taken 23 points from 26 games, but although Marsch’s return of 11 points from 11 games is better than that of his predecessor, it is not enough to suggest he has made a meaningful difference.”None of us have lived this,” Marsch said. “In big games we make the exact same mistakes.”When Marsch walked through the door at Elland Road, Newcastle were two points ahead of Leeds. They are now 9 points clear of Leeds and safe from relegation thanks to the impact made by Eddie Howe since his midseason appointment as manager.Under Marsch, Leeds have shown glimpses of a revival — fighting back from 2-0 to win 3-2 at Wolves in March was a highpoint — but it has generally been the same story as under Bielsa in terms of too many bookings and too many goals conceded.Only bottom team Norwich, with 78 goals allowed, have conceded more than the 77 shipped by Leeds. Meanwhile the 97 yellow cards issued to Leeds players this season is a Premier League record — they have hit 100 cards when you count the three reds they have received.With two games left to play, at home to Brighton and away at Brentford, Leeds can still escape the relegation zone with Burnley on the same number of points and Everton only two points clear.But Leeds have to show they can escape their nightmare, without key players and with a coach who is still struggling to get to grips with the Premier League. It’s not a good combination.”I believe we can still fight for every point left,” Marsch said. “Until the red card there were a lot of good things. But now, our focus is totally on recovering and preparing for Sunday. We have six points to play for and we have to do everything we can to get them.”

Manchester City and their Champions League odyssey: when will it end?

Oliver KayMay 6, 2022  

It was a baptism of fire. One moment Manchester City’s players were walking out into the cauldron that is the Allianz Arena. The next, they were listening to the Champions League anthem, that jaunty sample of Zadok The Priest. Then, after a blast of the referee’s whistle, it felt as if hell had been unleashed.

“Oh my god, we got absolutely battered,” Micah Richards tells The Athletic, recalling the evening of September 27, 2011. “Our first away game in the Champions League and we were playing Bayern Munich. (Arjen) Robben and (Franck) Ribery, honestly. They kept switching. I couldn’t get anywhere near Ribery. Then you had (Philipp) Lahm overlapping on that left side. Honestly, we got battered.

“You listen to that music as a kid. Me and Joleon (Lescott) used to laugh about it. You walk out and hear it, ‘We’ve arrived!’. But then the game starts and… oh my god, these guys aren’t just elite — they are elite elite. It was a step up and I didn’t appreciate how special it was until Ribery gave me a hiding.”City struggled in their early Champions League campaigns (Photo: Sandra Montanez/Bongarts/Getty Images)

It is best remembered as the night that Carlos Tevez, a disillusioned substitute, refused to resume warming up in the second half. Roberto Mancini was furious and the club fined Tevez two weeks’ wages and suspended him for two weeks, accusing him of a breach of contract. Tevez, indignant, returned to Argentina and stayed there for months before returning to play an important role in that season’s dramatic finale.

But away from the Mancini-Tevez bust-up, City’s difficulties that night offered portents of what was to follow. They were left with one point from their first two matches in the Champions League, having drawn 1-1 at home to Napoli a fortnight earlier. They beat Villarreal home and away, but then came a 2-1 defeat away to Napoli, another of those nights when their midfield was swamped and their back line overrun in a raucous atmosphere on foreign fields. They took 10 points but failed to get through the knockout stage. Ignominy followed the next season: three draws and three defeats from a group containing Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.

“Bayern beat us, Napoli beat us, Borussia Dortmund beat us, Ajax battered us,” Richards says. “We didn’t get through the group under Mancini. We were still getting used to it. It was a different level; a whole different thing. Every time we made a mistake, we were punished.”

It was easy for City to play the “inexperience” card in those days, particularly when as Champions League newbies their low coefficient ranking threw up some unforgiving draws (Napoli, Bayern and Villarreal in 2011-12 when Manchester United were knocked out of a group containing Benfica, Basel and Otelul Galati; Real, Dortmund and Ajax when United were drawn with Galatasaray, Braga and CFR Cluj a year later). “The reason we have not qualified yet is that we were in the toughest group in the Champions League, simple as that,” Vincent Kompany said back in 2011.


More than a decade has passed, though. This season was City’s 11th campaign in the Champions League. They have made the knockout stage in each of the past nine seasons, reached their first semi-final in 2016, the quarter-finals in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the final last year and the semi-finals this year.

Over the past five years they have been, by any analysis, one of the best teams in Europe. That is probably an understatement; for long periods, while setting an incredible standard in winning three Premier League titles in the past four seasons (and still on course for a fourth in five seasons), they could very reasonably claim to have been the best.

But there is still no European Cup. Since taking over from Manuel Pellegrini in 2016, Guardiola has elevated their football and their domestic performance to an extraordinarily high level, while repeatedly taking them to the later stages of the Champions League, but it is as if there is some fatal flaw in his team: the chaotic 6-6 draw with Monaco in 2017, which saw them knocked out on the away goals rule; the way they were overwhelmed by three Liverpool goals in 19 minutes in the quarter-final first leg at Anfield in 2018; another chaotic tie and away-goals defeat by Tottenham in the quarter-finals in 2019 (albeit with last-minute VAR heartbreak); the error-strewn display in losing to Lyon in 2020; the weirdly passive performance in last season’s final against Chelsea; and now this, going into the 90th minute of the semi-final second leg with a 5-3 aggregate lead over Real, only somehow to snatch defeat from the jaws of what felt like it should have been an emphatic victory.

Even upon second viewing, it is hard to make any sense of Wednesday night. City were in total control, 5-3 up on aggregate, twice threatening on the counter-attack through Jack Grealish in the closing stages.

As Guardiola said, “It’s not like the last 10 minutes (Real) attack and attack and attack and you suffer.” Real’s threat was largely notional until Eduardo Camavinga’s pass was turned towards the six-yard box by Karim Benzema and swept in by Rodrygo. And then, with Real smelling blood like a great white shark, City just seemed to succumb to the inevitable.

The goal came from nothing. But how and why did City allow themselves to be overwhelmed? Even at that point, they were still 5-4 up on aggregate. Why did Ederson, whose distribution is often immaculate, boot the ball long, surrendering possession at a time when City just needed to stay calm and take the wind out of their opponents’ sails? Even with six minutes’ stoppage time indicated, what did they have to fear but fear itself?

Yes, they were playing against the great Real Madrid, but for all the justifiable lauding of the way they overcame adversity to defeat Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea in the previous two rounds, City had seemed to have the beating of them — just as they did when beating them home and away in 2020.

The Real team that won four out of five Champions League titles between 2014 and 2018 has largely been replaced. Of those who remain, Casemiro, Toni Kroos and Luka Modric had all been hooked by the time Real forced their way back into the tie. That left only Dani Carvajal and Benzema (and, more remotely, Nacho and Marco Asensio) as players who had contributed to the Spanish club’s glorious past in this competition. And yet suddenly Real’s young players grew in stature as their City counterparts, many of them more experienced than their opponents, froze.

Is that something innate? Is it, to use that popular term, something in the DNA of both clubs? Is it something that stems from Guardiola, given that so many of his Champions League defeats over the past 11 years (and they include those against Real and Barcelona when he was in charge of Bayern) have involved at least two goals conceded in quick succession? Is this is a coach who is so fixated on possession and control that, when a match suddenly takes an unexpected twist, with momentum lost and the pressure ramped up, their Achilles’ heel is so exposed and they don’t know how to cope?

The mind goes back to something Guardiola said in April 2018 when City, having barely dropped a point all season in the Premier League, were preparing for that fateful quarter-final first leg at Anfield. “In the bad moments, you have to remain calm,” he said, certain there would be a storm to be weathered at some point the following evening. “Madrid, Barcelona, they are taking a cup of coffee (in those difficult moments) because they know their chance is coming. That’s the big difference.”

For so much of the past few years, in the Champions League as well as domestically, City have looked like the perfect illustration of how a top-class team should perform under pressure. Their Premier League record has been phenomenal. But against Monaco, against Liverpool, against Tottenham, against Lyon, against Chelsea and now against Real, control and composure have been lost suddenly and they have paid the price.

Yes, there has been misfortune too — questionable refereeing decisions, most recently Daniele Orsati’s failure to punish Casemiro for either of two bookable offences in the first half on Wednesday — as well as individual errors in defence and glaring misses like Raheem Sterling’s against Lyon in 2020. But increasingly the hard-luck stories have been outweighed by the sense of opportunities not taken.


We come back to the familiar question of whether a team needs to win the Champions League to be considered truly great. A personal view, vehemently held, is that the City teams of the past five seasons (perhaps more the 2017-19 period than this season or last) will certainly go down as one of the best club sides we have seen in this country, just like Arsenal’s “Invincibles” of 2004, who also fell well short on the European stage — as did the Chelsea team of the mid-2000s, who were highly unfortunate in that regard.

But there will always be naysayers and sometimes only a European Cup or two can bring something irrefutable to the argument, as it did for the great Liverpool teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s and the great Manchester United sides of 1999 and 2008.

Winning the Champions League is not, on its own, a badge that confers greatness upon a team, just as falling narrowly short on the European front does not necessarily mean a dominant and at times mesmerising team like Guardiola’s City — or early Wenger-era Arsenal — should be casually dismissed from such conversations. It is a knockout tournament in which unpredictable things can happen; Chelsea were arguably the best team in Europe under Jose Mourinho in the mid-2000s, but certainly not when they finally won the Champions League under Roberto Di Matteo in 2012 (or when they won it again under Thomas Tuchel last season).

The mention of Chelsea is apposite, though. Chelsea started out from a much stronger position after Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, but they reached the semi-finals in their first, second and fourth seasons under the Russian’s ownership, reached the final in year five (losing on penalties to Manchester United) and reached the semi-finals again in year six, performing heroically against Guardiola’s wonderful Barcelona team, only to be frustrated by some bizarre refereeing decisions and then by Andres Iniesta’s spectacular stoppage-time goal, which levelled the tie and sent Barcelona through on aggregate.

Long before Chelsea finally won it in 2012 — with, it is worth spelling out, a patched-up team which had just finished sixth in the Premier League under a caretaker manager — it had assumed the feeling of an odyssey. With City, too, it has become an odyssey, but it is one that has often been felt to lack a certain… ardour, if that is the right word. Since those early years under Mancini, they have tended to progress serenely through the group stage, playing free-flowing football, only to crack when the pressure is on in the later stages of the tournament.

Does this club and this fanbase really feel the Champions League the way, for example, Real or Bayern or Liverpool do? It has often felt not. European nights at the Etihad Stadium have at times been a hard sell. The club has frequently been at war with UEFA, European football’s governing body, over Financial Fair Play regulations, which have presented obstacles of a type that early Abramovich-era Chelsea did not face, and other disciplinary issues. City’s supporters make great play of booing the Champions League anthem. That is their right, but perhaps it doesn’t add to a sense of occasion.

But anyone who was at their quarter-final second leg against Liverpool in 2018 or that dramatic night against Tottenham in 2019 would dispute the notion that City were handicapped by their home crowd. The same goes for the semi-final first leg against Real last week, when City, in a raucous atmosphere, produced a performance of the highest intensity and technical quality, only to end up with a mere 4-3 advantage to show for a game they dominated.

And no amount of ambivalence or anti-UEFA feeling among the City fanbase could explain the collapse against Lyon in an empty stadium in Lisbon in 2020or the unusually flat performance in last season’s final (this time with a restricted crowd) or indeed the disintegration in the final minutes at a rowdy Bernabeu on Wednesday night. These defeats were on Guardiola and his players. No excuses this time.


Whatever any of us might think of the ownership model, the motivation behind it or the vast sums that have been spent to transform City beyond recognition, it is a club run by smart people. They always recognised it was going to take time to develop a mid-table club into one that could win the Premier League and, from there, to compete for — and, ultimately, win — the Champions League.

The mind goes back to an interview City chairman Khaldoon al-Mubarak did in 2012, in which he spelt out the step-by-step approach, “year one was to learn the ropes and manage change, year two to up it a notch and compete for a Champions League position while improving the infrastructure and culture of the club” and so on. They had just won the Premier League title in year four, which was bang on schedule, and year five was going to be about trying to maintain that level domestically while challenging in Europe.

Both publicly and privately, it has been measured — far more so than at Paris Saint-Germain, whose takeover by Qatar Sports Investments has warped French football so much that even winning an eighth Ligue 1 title in 10 seasons, by a huge margin, has left an air of disillusion and a growing sense of futility. Their president Nasser Al-Khelaifi declared as far as back as January 2014 that they had to win the Champions League “within the next four years at most”. (They, like City, are still waiting, having at times shown that same penchant for implosion when the stakes have been highest.)

At City, there has always been a recognition that European glory is not a divine right and that there are more variables in a knockout tournament. But it is correct to say there was an expectation, internally as well as externally, that a club winning five Premier League titles in the first 13 seasons of Sheikh Mansour’s ownership (which is as many as Chelsea have won in 19 seasons under Abramovich) would by now have won the Champions League at least once.

It is not as straightforward as suggesting that Guardiola was hired to win the Champions League, but it was certainly a significant part of his brief. Over the past six years, it is the one area in which he has fallen short (although there would be greater appreciation of his work in moulding Phil Foden into such a high-class performer if he had done more to integrate others from an excellent youth academy into the first-team squad).

The interesting question is whether, having not yet been able to steer City to Champions League glory, he has become part of the reason why they are falling short. Speaking personally, the instinctive answer has long been a firm “no”. But there was also a feeling, watching him address his players on the pitch at the end of normal time on Wednesday and then the way they started extra time so nervously, that perhaps on this particular occasion they needed a simple message rather than whatever tactical instructions he was trying to impart in such a manic, feverish manner. 

There were no “overthinking” accusations here. Tactics didn’t lose that game for City. Events — and City’s inability to come to terms with them — did. More and more, these matches in the latter stages of the Champions League are coming down to teams’ ability or otherwise to adapt to dramatic changes in the dynamics of a high-stakes encounter. City and PSG, the new kids without the Champions League pedigree, have fallen victim to that, but so too at various times have Barcelona (against Liverpool in 2019, Bayern in 2020 and PSG in 2021), Liverpool (against Atletico Madrid in 2020) and indeed Real (against Ajax in 2019, City in 2020 and, very nearly, Chelsea in 2022).

It is a phenomenon of modern football that doesn’t seem to play to Guardiola’s undoubted strengths as a coach. But would City wish to sacrifice those strengths for a more pragmatic coach like Jose Mourinho or Antonio Conte, who last won a Champions League knockout tie in 2014 and 2013 respectively? Of course not.

Or even a coach like Zinedine Zidane or Carlo Ancelotti, whose calm air of detachment has brought better results in the Champions League in recent years? No. If Guardiola wishes to stay in Manchester beyond next season, the City hierarchy will be delighted to extend the arrangement, as indeed they should be.

But if success in the Champions League is self-perpetuating in the case of Real in particular — and not just from a financial perspective — it certainly feels as if repeated failure can weigh heavily on a group of players when the pressure is at its most intense. A kind of fear seemed to take hold of City the moment Rodrygo reduced the aggregate deficit to 5-4. Would that fear have been so intense had City done themselves justice and beaten Chelsea in last season’s final? We can only hypothesise, but very feasibly not.

It is the kind of thing that City, so faultless in the Premier League for much of the past five years, just haven’t done in the Champions League.

Even some of the praise for holding firm away to Atletico Madrid in the previous round felt — like some of that directed at Real for their supposed resilience in restricting City to a mere 4-3 victory in the semi-final first leg — a little excessive. Against Atletico, City performed nervously in the second half but survived. Against Real, they were in control for 89 minutes but then Real scored and it was as if the roof had fallen in. The team has evolved beyond recognition, and has been one of the best in Europe over a sustained period of time, but in some ways it was reminiscent of those Mancini-era capitulations in Munich, Naples and Amsterdam.


It was just the kind of scenario that Richards, who left City in 2015, was dreading when we spoke on Wednesday afternoon before he headed for the NBC Sports studio. He talked about how far City have come since those naive, early days in the Champions League, but there was also a nagging fear that their profligacy might be punished by a team with Real’s killer instinct.

Richards was asked whether, given their excellence in the Premier League, City truly need to win the Champions League. “I get asked this all the time,” he said. “Sometimes I play it down because of how well they’ve done in the Premier League; what they’ve done in the Premier League is nothing short of sensational, especially with how good this Liverpool side is. 

“But the Champions League is a different thing. They do need to win this competition. The majority of people would say City are one of the best teams in Europe, if not the best. But you’ve got to show that. You’ve got to win the European Cup because it propels a club to a different level.

“Me personally, I would rather win the Premier League. But for the club, for where Manchester City are and where they want to go and for people to put them in that top bracket, globally, that is what they need. So I’m not going to play it down. They do need it. And it’s about time they did. To take the club to the next level, it’s got to happen. So come on, please, I need it. We need it.”Spool forward a few hours and another eagerly anticipated Champions League night had ended in chaos and anguish for City and their supporters — just like an occasion back in September 2012 when, on their first visit to the Bernabeu for a group match, they went into the closing stages 2-1 up only to be pegged back by an 85th-minute equaliser from that man Benzema and beaten by a last-minute goal from Cristiano Ronaldo. The day before that particular game, Mancini had told reporters he believed City were now in a position to challenge for the Champions League. “If you drive a Ferrari, you can win,” he told us with a laugh. “We used to drive a Fiat, maybe a Cinquecento, and it is not so easy. But now we drive a Ferrari.”Maybe so. And one day, as Al Mubarak said in 2020, they will surely crack it. But the longer this journey goes on, the more those unexpected bumps in the road seem to leave them in a tailspin.

US National Team News
We are gearing up for an exciting summer! The Men’s and Women’s Para team are kicking things off in May at the IFCPF World Cup in Spain. Then the U.S. Men’s National Team opens June with two friendlies and two Concacaf Nations League matches and the U.S. Women’s National Team will close out June with two friendlies before heading to Monterrey, Mexico in July for the Concacaf W Championship. All this, plus our Youth National Teams are back in action and there is a new Insiders perk, check it all out below! World Cup Hype and What the Team is doing to prepare Now that the U.S. Men’s National Team has qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the team will kick off its preparation for the world’s biggest stage against Morocco on June 1 at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio, before USA-Uruguay, presented by Allstate on June 5 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan.. The USMNT will then play its final home match prior to the World Cup as it begins its Concacaf Nations League title defense against Grenada on June 10 at Q2 Stadium in Austin, Texas. The team will close out the summer international window with a visit to El Salvador in its second Nations League group stage match on June 14. Tickets for the three home matches are available now at ussoccer.com/tickets. With the youngest team to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the time is now to get behind the USMNT. During the seven-month qualifying gauntlet, Gregg Berhalter’s side set a number of unprecedented records, read up on all the facts and figures around the team’s successful road to Qatar and check out ussoccer.com’s World Cup Hub for info leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

More than a debut: Angel City FC’s home opener felt like the start of a new NWSL era

Meg Linehan  May 4, 2022

4,634 days.

That’s how long it took for women’s professional soccer to return to Los Angeles. The last time an LA team featured in a domestic league, it was the Sol back at the start of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). After winning the shield in that inaugural 2009 season, their final match at the Home Depot Center (now Dignity Health Sports Park) in Carson was the WPS Championship. The LA Sol lost to Sky Blue FC thanks to a Heather O’Reilly goal in the 16th minute, in front of only 7,218 spectators.They didn’t know it at the time, but the Sol were a fleeting dream, dissolved before the league’s second season.

On Friday night, almost 13 years later, women’s soccer finally returned to the City of Angels. This time, at the Banc of California Stadium, as Nina Simone promised a new dawn and a new day over the speakers before first kick, the long-awaited return took place in front of a loud, joyous sell-out crowd of 22,000. From the stands full of supporters to minority owner Jennifer Garner, captured by cameras, they celebrated wildly, hitting triple digits on the decibel scale. First, it was Vanessa Gilles in the third minute, heading in a goal, before the expansion side struck again via Jun Endo only 10 minutes later.A dream start, a story so good it could only happen in Hollywood. But maybe it was the dream returning for good, in all the right ways — and maybe some new ones too.Angel City’s founding owner and president Julie Uhrman isn’t hard to spot as she moves through the pregame fan fest outside the stadium. The Angel City shirt and scarf combo help, but as she makes her entrance a few hours before the game, there are surprised looks of recognition on fans’ faces as she passes. Her family is in the crowd, and her twin sister Amy is by her side for most of the day. (Their resemblance fools me the first time; but by the end of the night I’m pointing out to folks that they’re about to try to talk to the wrong sister.)Being trailed by the team’s head of communications and a video crew (and The Athletic) helps up the conspicuous factor, but it’s clear that Uhrman doesn’t really mind the attention. She poses for selfies, checks in on fans waiting in line for various activities to make sure they’re enjoying themselves.Uhrman’s kids find her in the crowd, holding hand-written signs. The theme is very clear and very cute: “You did it, Mom!!!” They’re not without a little gentle parental heckling, though. Her son’s sign asks how many magazine covers she’s been on, noting that he’s lost count.She swings out to where the supporters’ groups are gathering, where her fellow founding owner Alexis Ohanian is already deep in a conversation with some folks from Rebellion 99, before one final walk through. Based on conversations with both the club and the supporters, this is one of the areas that could still use some improvement: for all of Angel City’s focus on community building and their stated appreciation of the supporters’ groups, there’s a sense that the front office still doesn’t quite grasp how a “supporter” is different from a “fan.” The team is still learning about the supporter infrastructure, and how independence from the front office is important. Angel City’s built an infrastructure around community in a way no other team has, but still needs to figure out how to truly value the external accountability supporters can provide.But even that challenge is progress in its own way.The fan fest brings back memories of WUSA, the first pro league started after the success of the 1999 World Cup — of my walking through a whole block of sponsor activations heading into Nickerson Field in Boston before a Boston Breakers game, of the pomp around the first-ever league match between Mia Hamm’s Washington Freedom and Brandi Chastain’s Bay Area CyberRays. It’s not the only time it feels like the past and present are colliding, especially considering Hamm is now an investor in Angel City.Reading back a report of that first WUSA match, the crowd is described as being “dominated by soccer moms and dads and screaming kids by the thousands.” That’s not the case at Banc of California Stadium at all. There are, of course, families and kids everywhere, but there’s also a full bar in the fan fest, along with a booth from whiskey brand Jane Walker, a sponsor. It’s still a family friendly event, but it feels far removed from those days of WUSA, or even the earlier years of the NWSL.“I was thinking of that (WUSA-opening) Washington game, actually,” Julie Foudy says a little later on, back inside the stadium. She reminisces that, for the players after the 1999 World Cup, the formation of WUSA was like “giving birth to a baby.” And when the league folded in 2003, the players who had spent so much time, and were willing to take pay cuts to keep the lights on, were crushed.“Now we’re sitting in on the ownership side as (former) players,” she says, “to be able to give in that sense meant so much to us. It’s really going to be emotional.”For Uhrman, the defining emotion of Friday night is pride, as feelings run high for most of the afternoon into evening. Long hugs, the threat of tears, a pause just to look around and take it all in — she’s not the only one experiencing the emotional release of the long journey to the first regular season game, but she is at the center of it all.“Proud of the team, proud of the club, proud of this community,” she says shortly before taking the field with the rest of her fellow owners. “Proud of everyone that believed in us and then those who came along after. There were people who didn’t believe in us, and then they’ve been converted.”It’s been almost two years since The Athletic (slightly) ruined a vacation Uhrman was on in the summer of 2020 by reporting that the ownership group and the NWSL were in advanced talks to bring a team to Los Angeles, longer still since the first conversations around the potential of such an idea. But even now, only moments before their first regular-season game, it still feels like the start of it all for Uhrman. There’s a whole season ahead. Now, maybe, they’ll finally learn what the normal day-to-day of a NWSL club is like.

“That’s the part that’s incredible,” she says, “knowing that this is the beginning.”There’s a lot that happened on Friday night that I’ve never really seen at a NWSL game before in my 10 years around the league, but the best exampleof “only Angel City would do this” is a pink carpet for the many team owners to walk for pregame interviews with media.For the owners who do roll through, it’s an interesting mix of those with deep ties to women’s soccer and women’s sports, and those who are relatively new to the landscape. When Billie Jean King shows up, she beelines down the carpet to Ohanian for a giant hug (made slightly hilarious thanks to their height difference) as she declares him an ally to everyone watching.Ohanian’s in a good mood himself. He made it a priority to show up early and head out into the fan fest to talk to as many people as he could manage before the game. While he didn’t even know the NWSL existed when he first started tweeting about women’s soccer during the 2019 World Cup, he’s now one of the most intriguing examples of this new class of NWSL owner: fully bought in, but in some ways, free of what came before.

“What’s exciting is that it’s still such a young league,” he says. “From the jump, that was one of the things that made this such an interesting opportunity for me. There was not this long precedent of decades of, ‘This is how we do things.’ There were lots of reasons why that was a disadvantage, but one key reason why that was, and I think will continue to be an advantage, is because we can dictate a different way of doing things.”

At the complete other end of the spectrum when it comes to women’s soccer experience, Mia Hamm frames the night in the greater historical context.

“With WUSA, we had no idea what was gonna happen. It was like, ‘We live for today, and then tomorrow we wake up and we do it all over again,’” she says. The fact that the NWSL is entering its 10th year helps assuage some of those carpe diem vibes, but Hamm doesn’t want anyone taking the night for granted.

“We use this energy to continue to build tomorrow, on the days after, because it can’t just be one day. It’s like anything in life, it’s a constant renewal and reinvestment.”

Angel City investor Abby Wambach, who played in WUSA, WPS and the NWSL, speaks to the shift that’s happening within the league right now, being driven by the players at multiple levels — from the negotiation of the collective bargaining agreement by the NWSL PA to players forcing change at the ownership level.

“When you’ve been given crumbs for so long, when you get crumbs plus a little more crumbs, you’re super grateful,” she says. “That’s what it felt like to be a part of the early stages of the NWSL — ‘Wow, we have a league, we should be grateful, we should just not ask questions, we should be fine with being on crappy buses and in crappy hotels.’

“What you see here (with Angel City) is a combination of so many people getting together and going, ‘No. It can be different. It can be this, don’t do that.’ We can make this whatever we want.”

That’s a huge part of the appeal of Angel City: that the team is free of the fear that has driven decision-making in women’s soccer for so long, that there’s no worry about proving the value of the team or the game — it’s taken as a foundational fact. As freeing as this is, however, that doesn’t mean it works out perfectly. The team still has to follow the new CBA; Angel City’s rightfully been criticized for building a brand first, roster second and many NWSL supporters are not willingly embracing the club’s use of NFTs.

There’s not just room for growth, but improvement. It’s not a bad problem to have on day one.

“This isn’t just about this year, right?” Wambach asks. “We’re still a new club. There’s going to be growing pains.” The important part for her as an owner is that she feels the club has opened the doors to everyone, that there are so many different voices in the mix at the ownership level.“It’s not just about even the women here, the owners, the team. It’s about the Billie Jeans, it’s about Title IX, it’s about all of the big steps and little steps that needed to be taken in order for us to get here and to be here with pride,” she says. She takes one of those long pauses, glancing at her fellow owners to her left and right, a hallway full of video crews and media, an area already jam-packed with people long before the game kicks off.“You know, this is really awesome. Here’s a pink carpet. We’re out in this freaking huge stadium, brand new stadium. It’s just a good day. It’s a really good day.”That good day only gets better. There’s an endless parade of owners out onto the field for pregame ceremonies — though the club finds out the hard way what happens when you have fireworks launch from the field, as the smoke lingers through the lower bowl. Brittany Howard and Tia P. are in front of the supporters’ safe standing section with a full brass band, launching into the club’s anthem before the players enter. Julie Foudy leads the full stadium in a clapping pattern in the way only she can, with an absurd amount of enthusiasm and zero shame about being over the top. A giant tifo is raised overhead across multiple sections of the safe standing sections — it promises Un Nuevo Amanecer; a new dawn.Nina Simone starts to serenade us all as the players shake out their legs, exchange high fives and quick words before the whistle. The wait, after all this build-up, feels infinite.Not every game is going to have a lead-in like this, but with 15,000+ season tickets sold, the team isn’t going to need to hit the high of this moment for every single game either.Angel City holds on for dear life against the North Carolina Courage for a 2-1 win to start the regular season. Walking the Banc during the game, everywhere feels like a party. The lines for merch and beer are long at every stand in the concourse. Most surprisingly, I only spot two USWNT jerseys the entire night. Mostly, the crowd is a sea of Angel City jerseys or black T-shirts — an impressive saturation level for a new team.At one point, I end up right behind one of the goals, sitting with a friend for a few minutes — which happened to be the very moment when Debinha clawed one back for the Courage, watching one of the game’s best from only a few yards away. My friend tells me later that the folks sitting in front of them bought season tickets as a family — their kids don’t play soccer, but they wanted to show them what was possible up close. We think for a moment about how many kids in that crowd were getting their first taste of women’s pro soccer, about how many lives it’s going to change, and it’s a little overwhelming.Finally, after what feels like an endless amount of stoppage time and a masterclass from Angel City goalkeeper DiDi Haračić in clock management, the final whistle presents another perfect, dream moment on the field. Los Angeles-born captain Ali Riley doesn’t hold back her tears, and there are hugs everywhere, players soaking in every single second of celebration from the sell-out crowd.“I’m gonna start crying again,” Riley says after the game, in front of a full press conference. “I have waited for a moment like this for 12 years. I hoped to get drafted to the LA Sol, but they folded before I had a chance. I’ve been all over the world. To be here, with my parents watching this game, for us to win, to feel the love, the support, I think we proved that anything is possible in women’s sports.”Watching from the press box, the celebration on Friday night is truly understandable — not just because of the upset, but because the first game, despite being the first, is the end of one part of the team’s journey.“I know it was just game one,” Riley continues. “It’s a moment I’ll never forget. No matter what happens this season, no one can ever take tonight away from us and this crowd. To feel that was unbelievable. I’ll never forget this.”

5/11/22  Big Games Midweek/US Open Cup Wed Night/FA Cup Final Sat/Indy 11 Ladies sellout sees first win 

Indy 11 Ladies Win 3-1

More than seven months after announcing its first foray into the women’s game, Indy Eleven ensured the wait was well worth it by capturing a 3-1 victory over Kings Hammer FC in the Inaugural Match of the USL W League, the new 44-team women’s pre-professional league under the United Soccer League umbrella. The historic triumph for Indy Eleven was played in front of a sold out, standing room-only crowd of 1,571 fans at the Grand Park Events Center. Rachel McCarthy’s pair of goals early in the first half lifted Indiana’s Team to a comfortable cushion, and Carmel Dads Club, Carmel High School alum and current Butler standout Katie Soderstrom’s 78th minute finish sealed the win after the KHFC cut the deficit back to one just before halftime. Read all about it !!  

Sold Out Crowd was on hand for this first ladies game Win !

US Open Cup Play Tonight ESPN+

Huge games this week as US Open Cup play is underway on ESPN + and the Special ESPN+ Goalazo Show with a boucearound from game to game feature tonight from 7 until 10 pm at least.   Big games tonight for the underdogs are former Carmel fC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr (who was voted GK of the month and is up for player of the month in the USL) and his San Antonio Scorpions traveling to face the Houston Dynamo at 8:30 pm on ESPN+.  Also the California Strikers will host the LA Galaxy at 10:30 pm along with USL squads Sacramento and Phoenix Rising battling it out at 10:30 as well al on ESPN+.  While the US Open Cup is not the FA Cup – it has been played for since 1914 and it would be cool to see one of these lower division teams surprise the MLS squads that have won the last 20 versions, hopefully Farr’s San Antonio stays alive! 

Big Games this week

Lets start today with Leeds United v Chelsea, 2:30p on Peacock: A pivotal match for both sides: Christian Pulisic and Chelsea need to hold onto top-four position. Jesse Marsch and Leeds desperately need to pick up points to jump ahead of Everton or Burnley to avoid relegation.   I do expect American Christian Pulisic – fresh of fhis assist last weekend to get the start perhaps in his favored #10 slot even?  He sure looked good on Saturday. Midweek play for the Americans.  Other games to catch today include Juventus vs Inter in the Italian Cup Final on Paramount plus at 3 pm.   Of course tomorrow it’s a huge battle for 4th in the EPL as Tontenham host Arsenal at 3 pm on USA Network.  Saturday we get the FA Cup Final  Liverpool vs Chelsea at 11:45 am on ESPN plus as Liverpool is still alive for the Triple or the Quad – 4 Cups – if they can beat

Good Luck to our Carmel FC teams playing in Challenge Cup/State Cup and President Cup games coming up this weekend and next!!  Carmel FC GKs be sure to get those trainings in this week – Wed at Shelbourne with Coach Noelle and Thurs with me at Badger  6:15-8:15 pm. 

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Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Wed May 11                       US Open Cup

2:30 pm USA                      Leeds United (Marsch) v Chelsea (Puliisic)

3 pm Para+                         Juventus vs Inter  Italian Cup

7 pm ESPN+                        New England vs Cincy 

8 pm EPSN+                        Atlanta vs Nashville

8:30 pm ESPN+           Houston Dynamo vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr)

10 pm ESPN+                      Seattle v San Jose 

10:30 pm ESPN+                Sacramento vs Phoenix Rising

10:30 pm ESPN+                California Strikers vs LA Galaxy

Thur May 12                        

3 pm USA                            Tottenham vs Arsenal

Sat May 14         

11:45 am ESPN+         Chelsea vs Liverpool FA CUP FINAL

Indy 11 Schedule

Indy 11 Women’s Schedule

USA


Christian Pulisic Watch: How did USMNT star perform for Chelsea at Leeds?

USA MLS Player Played Well  

Miles Robinson Lost for World Cup
Robinson injury blow for US World Cup plans

EPL & World

Liverpool vs Chelsea Preview


PL Update: Man City roll; Chelsea clinch top-four

De Bruyne’s four-goal game for Man City v. Wolves

Man  City agree to Eriling Halland Deal


Haaland will make Man City even more prolific, says Guardiola
NBC Sports

Top five PL goals and saves from Matchweek 36

Briston Rovers score 7 goals to get Promoted

Atletico edge past weakened Real Madrid, Sevilla peg back Villarreal

MLS

Is New York City FC’s stay at Yankee Stadium really an insult to soccer?

5/6/22  Indy 11 Women Start Fri Night 7 pm Grand Park Events Center (indoors), NWSL Challenge Cup Final Sat 1 pm on CBS, Seattle wins CONCACAF Champions League, Liverpool vs Real Madrid in UCL Final, Liverpool v Spurs Sat 2:45 pm USA

Indy 11 Win Again, Indy Women’s Team 1st Game Fri 7 pm Grand Park 

Our Boys in Blue Win again (highlights) 1-0 over the Hartford Athletic and the weather – as they started 45 minutes late and had a 90 minute delay – but found a way to win it 1-0 in the end.  That’s 4 wins in a row and 6 unbeaten at our 11 jump to 4th in the East.   The Indy 11 USL Women’s League kicks off this FRIDAY NIGHT at WestField Grand Park Events Center Field 2 vs Kings Hammer (Tix are just $8 click here) – and the vote for best Crest is on – make your vote for our Indy 11 by 12 noon on Wed.  The inaugural roster of the first Indy 11 Women’s team – includes local standouts Cassidy Lindley from Carmel, Katie Soderstrom from Carmel High and Butler,  Abby Isger of Indy and Butler, Selena Barnett MF from Carmel, Rachel Dewey MF from Indy, Heather McNabb MF from Carmel, IN, GK Nona Reason from Noblesville, Jenna Chatterton DF from Noblesville.  Plan to head out and catch a game this Friday night – as they will be on the road until June 3rdFull schedule

NWSL Challenge Cup Final Sat 1 pm CBS

The NWSL Challenge Cup has reached its final stage, and the North Carolina Courage will host the Washington Spirit on Saturday, to see who will take away the title. North Carolina and Washington ended their last meetup in the group stage on April 23 of the Challenge Cup with a 2-2 draw. Now they each play on a quick turnaround from playing their semifinal matches on Wednesday. North Carolina defeated the Kansas City Current 2-1 and Washington ending its match with the OL Reign in a scoreless draw. For North Carolina Courage vs. Washington Spirit, Herrera is backing North Carolina to win the title match by a score of 2-1. The expert notes Washington’s power trio of Ashley Hatch, Ashley Sanchez and Trinity Rodman were slowed down in their semifinal match against the OL Reign, being outshot 21-12. They could be in bigger trouble on Saturday facing a sturdy North Carolina defense including Merritt Mathias and Carson Pickett.”Heading into the final on a short week could mean the game comes down to impact off the bench, with North Carolina having the edge with more options at the fullback position, as they battle it out for the Challenge Cup,” Herrera told SportsLine.

An MLS Team my Seattle Sounders won the CONCACAF Champions League Title Thursday night at home – in front of a record 67,000 crowd and a national Fox Sports 1 Audience on board. 

======================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 

Heading over to the Field House at Badger Field for Training?  Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat May 7

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

9:30 am ESPN+                  Furth vs Dortmund

10 am USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Wolverhampton

12:30 pm NBC                    Brighton vs Man United

1 pm CBS                            NWSL Challenge Cup Final

2:45 pm USA                      Liverpool vs Tottenham

3 pm TUDN                         Charlotte vs Inter Miami
3 pm ESPN+                        Real Bettis vs Barcelona (Dest)

7 pm Para+                         NC Courage vs Portland Thorns NWSL

7 pm Para +                        Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit

10 pm Para+                       San Diego Wave vs NY/NJ Gothem

11 pm ESPN+                      LAFC vs Philly Union

Sun,  May 8

9 am USA                            Arsenal vs Leeds United (Jesse Marsch)

9:30 am ESPN+                  Frankfurt vs MGladbach (Joe Scally)

11:30 am USA                    Man City vs New Castle United

1:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Ausburg

3 pm ESPN+                        Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid – Madrid Derby

6 pm Para+                         OL Reign vs Racing Louisville

7 pm FS1                             Austin vs LA Galaxy

9 pm Para+                         Angel City vs Orlando Pride

Indy 11 Schedule

Indy 11 Women’s Schedule

EPL

 EPL predictions this weekend
Man City refocus after loss  
Conte urges Spurs to be ‘brave’ against fearsome Liverpool

us on Premier League title push as Leeds sweat

Champions League


Real Madrid and Liverpool set for Paris rematch

Man City suffer most painful Champions League meltdown in Madrid

Real Madrid’s ‘history keeps us going’, says Ancelotti

Real Madrid stuns Man City with unreal rally, advances to Champions League final

Liverpool survive scare to beat Villarreal en route to Champions League final
Villarreal vs Liverpool final score: Reds reach 10th European Cup final

‘We never make it easy,’ says relieved Alexander-Arnold

Champions League Semifinals Leg 2 Highlights: Real Madrid vs. 

Liverpool’s Salah wants ‘revenge’ in Real Madrid rematch

Another stunning comeback brings Real Madrid’s next generation to the fore

Three things we learned from Real Madrid v Manchester City

Guardiola says ‘no words can help’ ease pain of Man City Euro exit

European wrap: Leicester, West Ham fall but Rangers reach final

West Ham see red as Frankfurt reach Europa League final

Conte praises Liverpool model as he mulls Spurs future

MLS 


Seattle defeat Pumas UNAM to win CONCACAF Champions League

My 3 Thoughts on Real Madrid-Manchester City

Real Madrid Defies Belief Yet Again, Scores Three Times Late to Reach the Men’s UEFA Champions League Final

 Grant Wahl May 4

Karim Benzema and Real Madrid did it again, scoring three goals late and miraculously advancing to the men’s UEFA Champions League final (Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images)

Real Madrid’s Rodrygo scored goals in the 90th and 91st minutes and Karim Benzema fired home the decisive penalty in extra-time to carry the Spanish giants to a miraculous comeback against Manchester City, winning 6-5 on aggregate, and advance to the men’s UEFA Champions League final against Liverpool. Here are my three thoughts on the game:


GrantWahl.com is a reader-supported soccer newsletter. Quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now. Free 7-day trials are available.


• God, this really is the best sport. What other sport gives you moments like the one we just witnessed? Not one. Real Madrid looked dead and buried, down by two goals in the 90th minute after Riyad Mahrez had put City up by two in the 73rd minute. People were openly talking about a City-Liverpool Champions League final. But in the dying moments of the game, not long after City’s Jack Grealish had seen one shot cleared off the line by Ferland Mendy and another saved gorgeously by Thibaut Courtois, Rodrygo directed in a Karim Benzema pass to give Real Madrid life. And then, less than 90 seconds later, Rodrygo somehow did it again, heading home past Ederson to level the scoreline. Then Benzema did what Benzema does, earning a penalty early in extra-time and converting the spot kick to make the difference. You cannot deny that Real Madrid as a club has created a culture of winning in this tournament that showed itself again today—or that Man City now has created a culture that continually comes up short in the biggest moments of the Champions League. I used to think that wasn’t a thing. After seeing what happened with Real Madrid against PSG and now City this season, it’s a real thing.

• It was more than just Rodrygo and Benzema for Real Madrid. So many Madrid players made a difference in the end of a game that was rather uneventful until the 70th minute before going completely haywire. Courtois was absolutely massive, making giant saves on Grealish and Phil Foden to save the day. Midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, all of 19 years old, came on in the 75th minute for Luka Modric and made Real Madrid instantly better, more dangerous, more alive. And Mendy’s goal-line clearance will become a permanent part of Real Madrid club lore. Give the preternaturally unflappable Carlo Ancelotti plenty of credit for the changes he made that helped his team the chance to survive in the most unlikely circumstances possible. And what can you say about Pep Guardiola? He just seems to have a block in this competition. No fewer than 11 seasons have now passed since he last won the Champions League, with Barcelona, despite the several times that Guardiola has had the tournament’s best team on paper during that time (including, quite possibly, this season). City’s defending just crumbled in the final minutes of regulation to the point that it’s hard not to think there was something mental in play, something close to a choke.

• Real Madrid-Liverpool is going to be a fantastic final. In the rematch of the 2017-18 final won by Real Madrid, at least we won’t have to see Sergio Ramos injuring Mohamed Salah or, if you’re a Liverpool fan, Loris Karius in goal. On paper, Liverpool will be the favorite, having been the best team in Europe and in England during the 2022 calendar year so far. But this game will not be played on paper, and the intangible “winning-time” exploits that we have seen from Real Madrid during this incredible Champions League run figure to come into play again. Benzema (at 34) and Modric (at 36) have played like they were 10 years younger this entire tournament, and you can be certain that they will be ready to go on May 28 in Paris. One suspects that Jürgen Klopp will have learned his lesson from not starting Luis Díaz against Villarreal on Tuesday and will deploy Días, Salah and Sadio Mané up top and hope that Virgil van Dijk continues anchoring Liverpool’s spine the way he has all season. The crazy thing is I sense that Liverpool would have preferred to play City instead of this cosmically charmed Real Madrid squad that now appears like a team of destiny.

5/2/22  Champ League Semis Tue/Wed 3 pm CBS, Indy 11 Win Again!, Seattle hosts Champ League Final Wed Night 10 pm FS1, Indy 11 Women start Fri 7 pm Grand Park

CONCACAF Champions League Final Wed Night 10 pm FS1

An MLS Team goes for First Ever CONCACAF Champions League Title tonight at 10 pm at home with a record 67,000 crowd and a national Fox Sports 1 Audience on board.  You could argue Seattle should be the first MLS team to break the decade long streak of disappointment vs Liga MX teams that has haunted MLS.  Seattle is the MLS’ top franchise over the last 10 years so becoming the first MLS team to lift the CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Trophy would be fitting.  Here’s Marshawn Lynch – Pitching tonights game! Seattle can make history as MLS spending rivals Liga MX

Champions League Semi-Final Spectacular Tues/Wed on CBS

OK if you are here in Indy – the dam game was not on CBS Local – it is being re-played on CBS Sports Network at 9:30 pm tonight.  I was assured by the local station that Wed’s Real Madrid vs Man City will indeed be on CBS local tomorrow/Wed 3 pm!  Check this out if you are desperate to see before then. Now on to the Game – I love Champions League – it rarely disappoints !!   Here’s the Spanish Version highlights – Here’s English highlights – man Villarreal had me worried when they scored the 2nd goal to tie it all up at 2-2 on Aggregate. The little Yellow Submarine Villarreal –with a packed house of 23K sounding like 100K was on a role until Liverpool recovered in the 2nd half. Thank Goodness Villarreal’s GK struggled in the 2nd half  Rulli mistake 1  Bad Goal 2

My goodness do we have a dosey this Wednesday afternoon at 3 pm on CBS as the Champions League Semi-finals finish up with Man City leading just 4-3 traveling to the Bernabéu to face Real Madrid and perhaps the world’s hottest striker Karim Benzema.  The Game at City was an instant Classic as Man City got our front 2-0 then 4-1 before Real Madrid scored 2 to make it 4-3.  Benzema’s hat trick was timely.   (highlights).   Tuesday at 3 pm on CBS we start with Liverpool back home vs Villareal – up 2-0 coming in- I look for Liverpool to cruise to a 2-1 or 1-1 game and advance to the finals.  Here’s predictions and video predictions – for me I like Real Madrid with a hot Benzema to win this one 3-1 at home to advance to the finals vs Liverpool.   

Of course now we have Women’s Champions League as well – here are highlights from Lyon who is led by American youngster Catarina Macario win over PSG.  Here are her goals from last week’s first leg. Barcelona, on a 48 game unbeaten streak gave up more than normal and lost at Wolfsburg 2-0 but they advance with a 5-3 aggregate to the finals in Turin where they will face Lyon and Macario on May 21st.   

Around the World

Real Madrid’s Carlo Ancelotti completed the Cinco – as his Real Madrid won Spain’s La Liga on Saturday.  The Italian became the first Manager to win titles in 5 leagues

NWSL 10th Season Kicksoff

The NWSL kicked-off its 10th Anniversary Season this past weekend –I know the NWSL Challenge Cup has been going on for a month – but this is the regular season and the preview for the season is here.  Great to see Angel City FC get off to a good start with a 2-1 win in Los Angeles with a packed house at Banc of California – my daughter is a season ticket holder.

Indy 11 Win Again 1-0, Indy 11 Women’s Team 1st Game Fr 7 pm @ Grand Park

Our Boys in Blue Win again (highlights) 1-0 over the Hartford Athletic and the weather – as they started 45 minutes late and had a 90 minute delay – but found a way to win it 1-0 in the end.  That’s 4 wins in a row and 6 unbeaten as we jump to 4th in the East.   The Indy 11 USL Women’s League kicks off this FRIDAY NIGHT 7 pm at Westfield Grand Park Events Center Field 2 vs Kings Hammer (Tix are just $8 click here) – and the vote for best Crest is on – make your vote for our Indy 11 by 12 noon on Wed. The inaugural roster of the first Indy 11 Women’s team – includes local standouts Cassidy Lindley from Carmel, Katie Soderstrom from Carmel High and Butler,  Abby Isger of Indy and Butler, Selena Barnett MF from Carmel, Rachel Dewey MF from Indy, Heather McNabb MF from Carmel, IN, GK Nona Reason from Noblesville, and Jenna Chatterton DF from Noblesville.  Plan to head out and catch a game this Friday night – as they will be on the road until June 3rdFull schedule.  

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 BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Mon,  May 2

3 pm USA                            Man United vs Brentford

Tue May 3 – Champs League

3 pm CBS                            Villareal vs Liverpool 

9:30 pm CBSNSN Replay Villareal vs Liverpool

Wed May 4  – Champs League

3 pm CBS                            Man City vs Real Madrid

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy vs Toronto FC

8 pm CBSSN                        NWSL OL Reign (Seattle)  vs Washington Spirit (Rodman)  

10 pm Para+                       Semi’s – KC Current vs North Carolina Courage

10 pm FS1                           Seattle Sounders vs Pumas (2-2)  

Thurs, May 5 – Europa League

3 pm CBSSN                        Galazo Show – Europa League Final 4

3 Para+                                RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Rangers

3 Para +                               West Ham United vs Frankfurt (Chandler)

3 pm Para+                         Roma vs Leicester City

Fri May 6

7 pm Indy 11 W League first game at Grand Park

Sat May 7

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

9:30 am ESPN+                  Furth vs Dortmund

10 am USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Wolverhampton

12:30 pm NBC                    Brighton vs Man United

1 pm CBS                            NWSL Challenge Cup Final

2:45 pm USA                      Liverpool vs Tottenham

3 pm TUDN                         Charlotte vs Inter Miami
3 pm ESPN+                        Real Bettis vs Barcelona (Dest)

7 pm Para+                         NC Courage vs Portland Thorns NWSL

7 pm Para +                        Chicago Red Stars vs Washington Spirit

10 pm Para+                       San Diego Wave vs NY/NJ Gothem

11 pm ESPN+                      LAFC vs Philly Union

Sun,  May 8

9 am USA                            Arsenal vs Leeds United (Jesse Marsch)

9:30 am ESPN+                  Frankfurt vs MGladbach (Joe Scally)

11:30 am USA                    Man City vs New Castle United

1:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Ausburg

3 pm ESPN+                        Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid – Madrid Derby

6 pm Para+                         OL Reign vs Racing Louisville

7 pm FS1                             Austin vs LA Galaxy

9 pm Para+                         Angel City vs Orlando Pride

Tue May 10                        US Open Cup

3 pm USA                            Aston Villa vs Liverpool

7 pm ESPN+                        Orlando City vs Philly

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Detroit City vs Louisville City

8 pm ESPN+                        Inter Miami vs Tormenta

10:30 pm ESPN+ LAFC vs Portland

Wed May 11                       US Open Cup

3 pm USA                            Leeds United (Marsch) v Chelsea (Puliisic)

3 pm Para+                         Juventus vs Inter  Italian Cup

7 pm ESPN+                        New England vs Cincy  

8 pm EPSN+                        Atlanta vs Nashville

8:30 pm ESPN+           Houston Dynamo vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr)

10 pm ESPN+                      Seattle v San Jose  

10:30 pm ESPN+                Sacramento vs Phoenix Rising

10:30 pm ESPN+                California Strikers vs LA Galaxy

Thur May 12                        

3 pm USA                            Tottenham vs Arsenal

Sat May 14         

11:45 am ESPN+         Chelsea vs Liverpool FA CUP FINAL

Champions League

Liverpool survive scare to beat Villarreal en route to Champions League final
Villarreal vs Liverpool final score: Reds reach 10th European Cup final

‘We never make it easy,’ says relieved Alexander-Arnold

Benzema: We’ll ‘do something magical’ in Madrid

City must ‘raise their level’ to reach final – Pep

Benzema’s Champions League heroics for Real Madrid are nothing new

Manchester City’s lapses against Real Madrid could lead to more Champions League disappointment

Man City vs. Real Madrid: De Bruyne’s fast start, Benzema’s brilliance and sloppy mistakes

Man City edge Madrid in seven-goal thriller

Liverpool dominated Villarreal but Klopp’s side fully aware Champions League comebacks can happen

Liverpool ease past Villarreal in dominant win

Villarreal, Atletico Madrid prove that strong defensive soccer has a place in modern game

https://gaming.uefa.com/en/uelbracket

Liverpool survive scare to beat Villarreal en route to Champions League final


USMNT to host Uruguay in World Cup prep
 ESPN
Jeff Carlisle

EPL


Arsenal’s fresh legs have them with one foot in next season’s Champions League
James Olley
Jesse Marsch hopeful Leeds can stay up, feels support ‘in the streets’

Ten Hag tells Man United: Leave me alone!
Chelsea captain Azpilicueta’s costly error leads to defeat at Everton

World


Ancelotti becomes first coach to win all of Europe’s top five leagues
 
Chris Wright
Mission accomplished for Ancelotti as Real Madrid reunion pays off

Real Madrid’s La Liga title rivals prove incapable of keeping pace

Ancelotti in class of his own as Real Madrid win 35th Liga title

Why Real Madrid’s 35th LaLiga title might be their grittiest win yet

Women’s

Womens Soccer Boom Hits Angel City in First Game a Win
Hope Solo will enter alcohol treatment program; requests delay in National Soccer Hall of Fame induction

Lyon and holders Barcelona set up Women’s Champions League final clash

Lyon see off PSG to join Barcelona in Women’s Champions League final

Holders Barcelona into women’s Champions League final

Seattle can make CONCACAF Champions League history as MLS spending begins to rival Liga MX

May 3, 2022Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

For Garth Lagerwey, the flashbacks are unavoidable.Eleven years ago, the Seattle Sounders GM and president of soccer had a similar role with Real Salt Lake, and in 2011 the squad he put together was on the cusp of history. The final of that year’s CONCACAF Champions League pitted RSL against Monterrey, and an 89th-minute goal from Javier Morales secured a 2-2 away draw and put Salt Lake in the driver’s seat. Alas, it wasn’t to be. RSL squandered some glorious chances in the return leg, while then-Chile international Humberto Suazo netted the game-winner in first-half stoppage time, pouncing on a loose ball in the box.On Wednesday, Seattle will find itself in an almost identical scenario to Real Salt Lake when it squares off against Pumas in the second leg of this year’s CCL final. A stoppage-time penalty from Nicolas Lodeiro helped the Sounders secure a 2-2 draw in the first leg. Now it is the Sounders who are in a position to make history, and become the first MLS team to win the CCL since 2002, when the format changed to involve home and away fixtures in the knockout rounds.”It’s a little sense of deja vu,” Lagerwey told ESPN. “Obviously we want a happy ending to this movie.”He added, “It’s our chance at immortality, doing something that no one’s ever done before that will be remembered forever.”There have been close calls since RSL’s near miss. CF Montreal reached the final in 2015. Toronto FC was a penalty-kick shootout away from triumphing in 2018. LAFC came close in 2020, although the pandemic meant those games were played on U.S. soil.But as much as CCL futility has remained, much has changed in MLS throughout the years, namely the roster composition and spending by the league’s teams. According to data provided by the MLS Players Association, in 2011, RSL’s total guaranteed compensation for that season was $3.32 million. While it’s easy to write that off as being a symptom of a team that skewed towards the frugal side, Seattle that season wasn’t much better, at $3.4m. In 2021, the most recent year for which data is available, Seattle’s total guaranteed compensation is $13.59m, more than four times RSL’s 2011 amount. That is by no means the highest mark either, with teams like Toronto exceeding $20m some seasons. All of this has allowed MLS sides to creep closer to their Liga MX counterparts.ESPN television analyst Herculez Gomez made a habit of tormenting MLS sides in the CCL when playing for Santos Laguna and Tijuana in the early- to mid-2010s. He notes that the depth in MLS teams is much different than when he played.”There was, in that moment, a huge difference between players,” he said. “Players one through eight, you’re like, ‘Hey, these guys are very competent. They’re very good.’ Nine through 16, back then, you’re like, ‘They’ve never played in a big game. They’ve never won anything in their life. They don’t make money.’ You can tell there’s a stark contrast. And it was a deer in the headlights look from a lot of these players. And you knew it was over.”Now, I think that’s changed. You can dig into the bench and it’s a 12th, 13th, 14th guy, and you’re like, ‘These are very good players.'”The era of targeted allocation money (TAM) has had a significant impact on what teams can spend, and on what part of the roster. But for Seattle, the influx of graduates of the team’s academy has helped improve the quality of depth as well. That includes on-field contributions from homegrowns like Jackson Ragen and Obed Vargas, who have each played in multiple CCL games. Their impact also changes the calculus of the salary cap.”If you have a consistent pipeline of players, you can build a more economically efficient team under the salary cap,” Lagerwey said.He points out that Seattle has 12 players on the roster age 23 or under, half of those are age 20 or under, and these are individuals who can legitimately contribute. That has a ripple effect throughout the roster, with Lagerwey estimating that academy graduates are “saving” the team about $1 million in cap space.”It allows you to take your budget and spend more money on the top players. A lot of that rise in salary is those top players are making more money now,” he said about the academy’s impact. “And that was always the disparity, right? It was Mexican clubs could pay more to their starting lineups. And now we’re really able to go toe to toe on depth as well, because those kids when they come through, they’ve all played multiple years in your system.”These investments have been made for years now. It’s just a matter of when — or if — that steady drip will accumulate to the extent that it will finally make its way over the dam in the form of a CCL title. And the reality is that until it does, there will always be questions. Even now, Liga MX sides still have rung up a sizable advantage. Since the CCL began using a home-and-away format in 2002, Mexican clubs have prevailed over their MLS counterparts 42 times in 53 attempts.Since the advent of TAM, the record for MLS sides is better — nine wins in 31 tries — but still sizably in Liga MX’s favor. This time, however, there is a sense that Wednesday’s matchup favors Seattle. Pumas doesn’t have the funding that it once had, with the likes of Club America and Tigres still well on top in that category. It instead has had to rely on its academy and picking out the occasional diamond on the transfer market.

All of which makes Wednesday’s second leg an opportunity that goes beyond just making history. There is the impact a capacity crowd — as of this writing there are less than 1,000 tickets left — could have on Seattle’s bit to host games at the 2026 World Cup. The effect on the Sounders organization would be immense as well.”I think it’s an absolute game-changer,” Lagerwey said. “If we’re able to win this thing, and we’re able to then go play meaningful games against European champions [in the World Club Cup] and things like that … I think when you think about player recruitment, and how you build the team and the staff going forward, it’s pretty hard to conclude anything other than being on that global stage will help the Sounders and will help the community of Seattle.”Lagerwey described preparing for a Club World Cup as a “champagne problem,” but first things first. The Sounders are hoping there will be some conspicuous consumption come Wednesday.

Champions League bold predictions: Manchester City tame chaotic Real Madrid; Liverpool cruise to final

Liverpool will finish the job while Man City look to keep Real’s Karim Benzema from exploiting any lack of control

By James Benge

 9 hrs ago•9 min readThe finish line is in sight. In the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League (catch all the action on CBS and Paramount+) a place in a major final is just 90 minutes away. Let’s look ahead to Villarreal vs. Liverpool and Real Madrid vs. Manchester City before diving into the Europa League.

Villarreal vs. Liverpool: Emery’s first leg approach is vindicated

Villarreal’s first leg tactics were the subject of some degree of consternation in the British media after last week’s 2-0 defeat at Anfield. To which Unai Emery might reasonably ask, “what more did you want from me?” By no stretch of the imagination did they execute their conservative brand of knockout football to perfection, but it is at least true that they made Liverpool work for their win. As Jurgen Klopp said after the game, “It was the challenge — I think how it is for all human beings — you try and you fail, you try and you fail and you try and you fail and at one point you think, ‘Come on, it’s not my day anymore!'”

Even if Villarreal had brought it on themselves with their caution, they also had to contend with a fair slice of bad luck. Just at the moment when Liverpool looked to be growing frustrated, a crossed ball reared up off Pervis Estupinan’s outstretched left leg, looping over keeper Geronimo Rulli and into the net. A mistake, a freak deflection or the moment of searing quality that brought Sadio Mane his side’s second goal soon after might well have come anyway, that is the nature of flooding your own box with defenders, but at some stage when you are so outmatched you have to pick your poison.

After all, Villarreal are a team that pay their squad only slightly more than Liverpool gave Porto for Luis Diaz in January. Their wage bill sits firmly in La Liga’s mid table while their opponents are one of the biggest spenders in a vastly richer competition. The disparity Anfield saw on the pitch is only representative of that off it. Indeed, one might argue that in dragging Klopp’s side into such a fiddly match for an hour Villarreal achieved more than should be reasonably expected from a team of their means. Though going into their quarterfinal match against Bayern Munich you might have argued the same, and in that instance Emery’s side pulled out a deserved result.

Still, Emery wanted more, and he knows his side will have to adjust their approach for the second leg. That may be their undoing even if home supporters at El Madrigal match the fervor with which visiting fans backed their team at Anfield. This is a team that looked ill at ease chasing the lead at Alaves this weekend. Villarreal will have to attack, leaving the sort of spaces in behind on the flanks that Liverpool already spotted were a weak point. Trent Alexander-Arnold’s rapid switches of play and balls down the line were a key feature of the Reds’ first leg success, how much more successful might they be if he is not having to thread the needle between a full back and the nominal winger who is stationed a few feet ahead of him. The same would be true of Thiago; if play is anymore broken in the second leg he will be able to play more passes that push the tempo. Pushing forward at Alaves, Villarreal had five losses of possession that led to opponent shots, only slightly fewer than in the Liverpool match where they did not even have 30 percent of the ball.

Villarreal are not a team that deals well with the pressure of being behind, indeed in the 20 La Liga and Champions League matches in which they have been losing this season their record reads one win, six draws and 13 defeats. In those games their expected goal (xG) difference is scarcely over one after going behind. In the smaller sample size of European matches it is 0.02 and they had not come up against a team like Liverpool before last week. Tuesday’s game may ultimately prove that all they could have realistically hoped for in the first leg was to keep the score down.

Real Madrid vs. Manchester City: Full backs quell the chaos

Featured Game|Real Madrid vs. Manchester City

It was curious that in the aftermath of Manchester City’s 4-3 first leg win Ruben Dias was promising what amounted to a mad team for a mad stadium and a mad occasion. If sanity were to have prevailed in a Champions League knockout tie involving Real Madrid this season they would have been out of the competition. Every one of Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and even a victorious City have been baffled at how the score looks quite how it does when the final whistle blows.

Across the knockout stages of this competition Madrid have allowed the most xG, have the third worst xG difference, and the sixth worst xG difference per game. They also have Karim Benzema. He is this team writ large. Even when they are struggling, the world’s best player produces a moment of magic to turn the game. They relish games that get stretched and play like the apex version of Europe’s most successful team when there is chaos in the air. Last Tuesday the visitors had no answer for City’s sustained possession play but put Fernandinho in front of Vinicius Junior and they could find a devastating moment.

Pep Guardiola will be racking his brains in the pursuit of control. It is in such moments that he can be guilty of overcomplicating matters but on this occasion there does seem to be a simple solution ahead of him. Though Kyle Walker may be out for the season, his full back corps should be greatly strengthened by the return of Joao Cancelo from suspension in the first leg. There are few players quite as capable of keeping the City machine ticking along. Only Rodri and Aymeric Laporte receive more passes per 90 minutes than the Portuguese full back, those two and John Stones are also the only players to carry the ball further than Cancelo.

With the 27 year old in the team, presumably at right back with Oleksandr Zinchenko (though it’s impossible to rule out a Guardiola lineup curveball like, say, Nathan Ake at left fullback) on the other flank after an impressive first leg display, City will be in a position to really assert themselves on the Santiago Bernabeu, to control possession for lengthy spells before applying the finishing touch. Madrid might just allow them to do that. According to Wyscout, Carlo Ancelotti’s team allow opponents to make an average of 14.2 passes per defensive action, one of the highest tallies in the competition and far more than City. Cancelo drifting in midfield will also give his side the midfield superiority to overcome a Madrid side that may not be as shaky at shielding the back four now with a healthy Casemiro back in the anchoring role rather than Toni Kroos. On the opposite flank Zinchenko can do much the same. Though that does run the risk of giving Vinicius space to attack on rapid counters, City have proven throughout recent years that they have the defensive qualities to counteract that, particularly if Ruben Dias is on the pitch.

If City are going to win this tie they won’t do so by embracing the chaos, but by playing the game on their terms, something which they clearly have the quality to do. Cancelo will only make it easier for them to express that.

Eintracht Frankfurt vs. West Ham: Set pieces undo Moyes’ side

Onto the Europa League, where last week’s suggestion that English clubs are about to sweep the board in every competition is looking more than a bit dicey. West Ham had the chances to swing the first leg of their semifinal against Eintracht Frankfurt but travel to Germany 2-1 down with work to do. It was notable in the aftermath of that game that David Moyes bemoaned “the worst [set pieces] for two years”, a refrain he would return to when Rob Holding and Gabriel scored off dead balls to earn Arsenal a 2-1 win at the London Stadium on Sunday.

It is no great surprise Moyes puts such a premium on set pieces. West Ham are devastating at them. Nine of their Premier League assists have come from dead balls, the most in the top flight along with Manchester City. They have four in the Europa League. No other team has scored more than two. It could be where they win the tie.

It might also be where they lose it. Eintracht Frankfurt are one of Germany’s better set piece teams with seven goals scored and it is notable that West Ham are not quite the same defensive force off dead balls that they are in offensive terms. Moyes’ side have now conceded 10 such goals in the Premier League this season, firmly in the middle of the pack, with four of them coming since the start of April. Not so coincidentally this has coincided with the period where the Hammers have been forced to chop and change their back line on the fly thanks to a myriad of injuries. Sunday’s brace were put down to West Ham sacrificing some height in their team selection but Arsenal’s second was a somewhat familiar goal for this team to concede. Martinelli races to claim the second ball from an Arsenal corner that West Ham have cleared. It is not so much the initial delivery into the box that they have had an issue with but winning the second ball. Bukayo Saka’s ball in is flicked away but there is no one in a West Ham shirt on hand to claim possession as the ball bounces inside the box. Gabriel Martinelli has time to take a touch, get the ball out from under his feet and clip a delivery to the back post for Gabriel to head in.

The same happened when Mason Holgate scored for Everton last month. On this occasion, West Ham have players in position to win the ball when Lukasz Fabianski punches it up in the air, but Said Benrahma does nothing but watch the ball bounce (as was the case in Arsenal’s goal) while Pablo Fornals has precious little chance of winning a 50:50 against Michael Keane. Holgate eventually hits the ball on the volley under very little pressure, the ball skewing through bodies and into the net.West Ham fail to clear the ball under pressure from Everton, who will ultimately score in the chaos Wyscout/Sky Sports

Perhaps the explanation for West Ham’s recent run of set piece struggles defensively is nothing more than Benrahma’s diffident effort in getting rid of the ball, though it should have been apparent for long enough now that he is not reliable enough off the ball to be trusted with such a role. It should also be noted that without Benrahma in the side all three of the corners Filip Kostic took for Frankfurt were only cleared as far as a different player in white.

It might just be that in the Waldstadion Craig Dawson repeats his recent heroics from dead balls, that Tomas Soucek rises highest once more or Michail Antonio imposes himself on the Frankfurt center backs. But if West Ham cannot improve their work in winning second balls of defensive set pieces they may find this particular passage of play to be a cause for adversity as much as opportunity.

USMNT to play World Cup-bound Uruguay in friendly in Kansas City

Apr 27, 2022  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

The United States men’s national team will play fellow World Cup participant Uruguay in a friendly on June 5 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kansas.The exhibition at the home venue of Major League Soccer club Sporting Kansas City is the second of a four-game stretch that includes two friendlies and two matches in the CONCACAF Nations League. The U.S. will play Morocco in a friendly on June 1 in Cincinnati followed by the Uruguay match.The U.S. will then open defense of its CNL crown when it faces Grenada in Austin, Texas on June 10, followed by an away game against El Salvador four days later.”We’re looking forward to facing another high-level opponent that is also preparing for the World Cup. Uruguay has some world-class talent and is one of the top teams in South America,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said. “These are th kinds of opportunities we need to continue to grow as a group and set ourselves up to be successful in Qatar. Once again we’ll have the benefit of outstanding facilities in Kansas City and a venue that has shown tremendous support for the National Team.”The U.S. has faced La Celeste sevn times previously, with a record of 2-2-3. The most recent match took place in 2019, with Jordan Morris‘ goal canceling out a tally by Brian Rodriguez in a 1-1 draw.Back in the World Cup for the first time since 2014, the U.S. opens Group B against Scotland, Wales or Ukraine on Nov. 21. The Americans face No. 5 England four days later and meet 21st-ranked Iran on Nov. 29.Uruguay finished third in World Cup qualifying out of CONMEBOL, and were drawn into Group H with PortugalGhana and South Korea.

Women’s soccer boom hits Angel City opener: ‘Best environment I’ve ever coached in’

https://vplayer.nbcsports.com/p/BxmELC/nbcsports_embed/select/media/xL6sCNpGo6Cv

Andy Deossa  Sun, May 1, 2022, 3:11 PM

LOS ANGELES — April 29 seems to be a good day in Banc of California Stadium lore.On that date in 2018, Major League Soccer expansion side LAFC played their first home game there and defeated the Seattle Sounders. Four years later, the Banc was ready for yet another inaugural home match. This time it was new National Women’s Soccer League team Angel City FC flying high in a 2-1 victory over North Carolina Courage.What made Friday night so special? It started at LAFC home matches over the years, where the raucous North End supporters’ section included a banner with a forthright message: “Bring NWSL to LA.”

The proposition ignited a movement, and has now turned into a reality. That same section where the banner used to apear is home to members of the six official Angel City supporter groups, and they were rocking the drums, chanting and orchestrating the atmosphere for the sold-out crowd on Friday.22,000 people, on a Friday night in Los Angeles, to support a women’s soccer team.“It was unbelievable. Everything that we’d hoped that the club would deliver, they delivered in abundance and with more,” said head coach Freya Coombe. “The crowd was unreal tonight — their energy, enthusiasm, and support for the players and for the coaching staff was felt throughout the night.“It’s the best environment that I’ve ever coached in.”If Angel City can keep up the enthusiasm, it might become the best-attended NWSL club on a consistent basis. The Portland Thorns held that honor in 2021, with over 14,000 fans on average.Women’s soccer is rising fast in popularity around the globe, too, with Barcelona setting the world attendance record for an official match twice in the past month.A glance around the stadium Friday and you’d see World Cup legends like Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach (both part of Angel City’s celebrity-packed ownership group), current professional soccer players, actresses, celebrities and much more. It was as Los Angeles as it gets.

And Los Angeles didn’t wait long to celebrate. Three minutes into the contest, Vanessa Gilles scored the first official goal in franchise history:

Endo, who assisted the opener with a filthy move and cross, found the back of the net 10 minutes later and doubled the score. North Carolina eventually got on the board in the second half and was knocking on the door for the equalizer, but Angel City held on. They weren’t going to let the perfect night have a lousy ending.“ My teammates were screaming and crying tears of joy and it meant the world to me,” said ACFC midfielder Dani Weatherholt. “This organization is just more than a sport and I think that’s the moment when it felt so much bigger than the game. Angel City has incorporated a 10% sponsorship model, where the club reallocates a portion of all sponsorships directly back into the community. The club has also established grassroots outreach to get women involved on all levels.“Everything we do at Angel City, the hope is we’re pushing things in a way that other people can see, replicate, build on and make it better,” said Head of Community Catherine Davila. “I think it’s something that’s going to help build the culture across the NWSL.”As she walked into the stadium Friday, Davila couldn’t help but get emotional seeing years of work come to fruition. The same emotions were prevalent postgame. Captain Ali Riley, a Los Angeles native, was in tears on the field after the match. She’s kicked a ball in many places — Sweden, England, Russia — but being able to finally do so in her hometown meant more.“I have waited for a moment like this for 12 years. I hoped to get drafted to the (now-defunct) L.A. Sol, the team folded before I had the chance,” she said. “I have been all over the world, and to be here with my parents watching this game, for us to win, to feel the love and support, I think we proved that anything is possible in women’s sports.“I went to the ‘99 [Women’s] World Cup final and that was what put this idea in my head,” Riley added. “I had no idea how it would happen but it planted the seed that maybe one day I could play soccer on a stage like that. So now for us to be here and for those little girls to see that, just that kind of visibility and how we are in the field with all different skin colors, experiences, backgrounds — such a diverse and inclusive group, that’s really important.”The team’s makeup reflected the crowd, a wide range of families, young kids and older adults filling the seats.“The point is that women’s soccer belongs,” Riley said, “and it belongs in this city.”Like the banner said, the NWSL has been brought to L.A. What L.A. can bring to the NWSL is just as big.

Stu Holden and family live at the Angel City Game

After six weeks of preseason and 36 Challenge Cup matches, the NWSL’s 2022 regular season has arrived -Preview

In chaotic NWSL fashion, the season kicks off Friday night between Angel City FC and the North Carolina Courage while the Challenge Cup knockout stage is still ongoing. The game, aired on CBS Sports, is followed by an opening weekend in which every team will compete.

A longer Challenge Cup, two expansion teams and a new commissioner have certainly given the NWSL a new look this year. Jessica Berman will be in just her ninth day on the job as commissioner when the league opens play Friday. Almost every team has undergone change on the field, too, after an expansion draft and numerous offseason trades.

Let’s take a look at the league structure, storylines and rivalries to follow as the NWSL’s 10th season gets underway.

FORMAT

The NWSL’s 12 teams will each compete in 22 matches during the regular season — 11 home and 11 away. Starting this year, the league has scheduled fewer games during the FIFA windows so that national team players can avoid scheduling conflicts between club and country. That change, however, did not account for a few major contests, such as the Women’s Euros this summer.

The regular season concludes Oct. 2, followed by a six-team playoff with the top two seeds receiving first-round byes. My top-six predictions for the 2022 playoffs closely reflect my preseason power rankings: OL Reign, North Carolina Courage, Kansas City Current, NJ/NY Gotham FC, defending Challenge Cup champions Portland Thorns and 2021 NWSL champions Washington Spirit.

The championship takes place on Oct. 29, with the playoff bonus pool once again financed by Ally’s Player Impact Fund.

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM THE CHALLENGE CUP

The Spring of quick goals and yellow cards

The record for the three fastest goals in NWSL history was set twice over three days. The Reign netted each of theirs by the 11th minute in a 3-1 win over San Diego Wave FC on April 14, only to be bested by the Courage scoring three by the ninth minute on April 16 against the Orlando Pride. Four of the other five matches that week featured goals scored in six minutes or fewer.

When not scoring, players have also been setting records without the ball. Across five and a half weeks, NWSL referees have already handed out over a hundred yellow cards. To put that in perspective, there were 43 doled out in the 2021 Challenge Cup and 34 in 2020.

Kansas City ready for a breakout season

In just their second year since relocating from Utah and rebranding as the Current, Kansas City is in the Challenge Cup semifinals. They have the fourth-most amount of goals in the tournament, led by Kristen Hamilton’s four goals and Elyse Bennett’s four assists. And with four wins through six matches, they already have more victories than they had all of last year.

North Carolina back in the game

The Courage dropped down the standings into sixth place last season after their head coach, Paul Riley, was fired following bombshell allegations of sexual coercion and emotional abuse. Led this year by former assistant coach Sean Nahas, and feature new talent such as Brianna Pinto and Kerolin Nicoli, North Carolina has gone undefeated in the Challenge Cup. The Courage could be on their way to rediscovering the dominance they became known for during their run to three consecutive NWSL Shields from 2017-19.

OL, once again, on the brink of reigning

A consistently solid team that has never won a trophy, OL Reign has lost in the NWSL semifinals the past three seasons. In 2014 and 2015, they advanced to the championship game, losing by one goal in each contest. This year, their sneaky assists across the box in the attack and standout goaltending from Phallon Tullis-Joyce give them a strong case for championship contention. Finishing ahead of rival Portland in the standings for the just the second time since 2015, they’re off to a promising start. TOP RIVALRIES

Angel City FC vs. San Diego Wave FC

When two expansion teams based in southern California debut the same year, of course there’s going to be a rivalry. The Wave had the slight edge over Angel City coming out of the Challenge Cup, going 1-3-2 compared to Angel City’s 1-4-1. Head to head, they tied in their first matchup, and San Diego won 4-2 in the second.

OL Reign vs. Portland Thorns

The original West Coast rivalry has been highly anticipated this year after strong showings from both sides in 2021. Though Portland won the NWSL Shield, the Reign got the better of the Thorns in two of their three matchups, the last one being a draw. The Reign were also the stronger side in the 2022 Challenge Cup, defeating Portland 1-0 after a 1-1 draw in their opener.

Kansas City Current vs. Racing Louisville FC

The two new clubs last season, Kansas City and Louisville are coming out stronger this year. The Current look like the stronger team coming out of the Challenge Cup, but when they play each other, it’s anyone’s game. They drew 1-1 in their first matchup of the Challenge Cup before Louisville rolled over Kansas City 3-0 in the Current’s only loss of the tournament.

North Carolina Courage vs. Washington Spirit

If the East Division proved anything in the 2022 Challenge Cup, it’s that a Courage-Spirit matchup is as entertaining as they come. Each of their meetings resulted in 2-2 draws, a contrast from the three wins and a draw that Washington grabbed from North Carolina last season. The Courage, though, are a different team this year, and neither club has lost an NWSL match yet in 2022.

HOW TO WATCH

CBS will air two regular season matches and the championship game. Those games are also viewable on Paramount+. CBS Sports will broadcast 11 regular season games, one quarterfinal and both semifinals. The other 96 regular season matches can be streamed exclusively on Paramount+, and all games can be accessed internationally on Twitch.

CBS (all times ET)

June 19 – NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. San Diego Wave FC at 4 p.m.
Sept. 10 – Washington Spirit vs. San Diego Wave FC at 1 p.m.
Oct. 29 – NWSL Championship

CBS Sports (all times ET)

April 29 – Angel City vs. North Carolina Courage at 10:30 p.m.
May 13 – Portland Thorns FC vs. OL Reign at 10:30 p.m.
May 27 – Orlando Pride vs. Washington Spirit at 7 p.m.
June 8 – San Diego Wave FC vs. Portland Thorns FC at 10 p.m.
July 2 – Orlando Pride vs. Racing Louisville FC at 7 p.m.
Aug. 5 – Portland Thorns FC vs. North Carolina Courage at 10:30 p.m.
Aug. 14 – Angel City FC vs. Chicago Red Stars at 8 p.m.
Aug. 17 – Houston Dash vs. NJ/NY Gotham FC at 8:30 p.m.
Aug. 19 – Kansas City Current vs. Angel City FC at 8 p.m.
Sept. 11 – NJ/NY Gotham FC vs. Kansas City Current at 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 – Angel City FC vs. Washington Spirit at 10:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 – Quarterfinal
Oct. 23 — Semifinal 1 and 2

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

The scene was crazy on TV for Nashville’s Stadium Home Opener !!

Nashville SC opens new stadium with tie vs. Union

Randall Leal converted a penalty kick in the 85th minute to help host Nashville SC salvage a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday in the opening of GEODIS Park.

The 30,000-seat venue is the largest soccer-specific stadium in the United States or Canada.Joe Willis made four saves to help Nashville SC (3-3-3, 12 points) extend their home unbeaten streak to 20 matches dating back to a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas on Nov. 4, 2020.

Mikael Uhre scored in the 66th minute and Andre Blake turned aside five shots for the Union (5-1-3, 18 points), who surrendered 13 corner kicks en route to seeing their winless stretch extend to three matches (0-1-2).

Nashville SC pressed for the equalizer in the late stages before Philadelphia’s Jose Martinez was whistled for a hand ball in the penalty area. Blake, who was shown a yellow card for refusing to stay on the line, guessed right on the penalty kick but was unable to deny Leal’s blast inside the left post.

The goal was Leal’s first of the season. An apparent miscommunication by Nashville SC’s Sean Davis and Hany Mukhtar led to an opportunity on the counterattack for Philadelphia in the 66th minute. Uhre chased down a through ball from Daniel Gazdag and sidestepped Nashville SC defender Walker Zimmerman before cutting back and sending a shot in the net. Nashville appeared to feed off the emotion of the crowd and nearly opened the scoring on a number of occasions. Dax McCarty‘s blast from outside the box caromed off the left post in the fifth minute. From there, Blake stood tall to keep the match scoreless. The two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year extended his leg to make a save on Alex Muyl from in close in the 23rd minute before making a two-handed stop on Mukhtar in the 30th.

Indy 11 Win again !!

Indy 11 held on for the 1-0 win in the late night rain delayed battle!!
Eleven Defeat Athletic & Mother Nature for Fourth Straight Win

Indy Eleven braved the elements tonight, defeating Hartford Athletic by a score of 1-0 despite multiple rain delays at IUPUI Carroll Stadium. The game kicked off nearly 45 minutes late due to a severe weather alert, and halftime lasted almost 90 minutes due to a second stoppage, but night’s irregularities didn’t seem to be an issue for the Boys in Blue. Captain Ayoze’s goal in the 40th minute proved to be the deciding one thanks to Indy’s first clean sheet of the 2022 season, the result pushing the Eleven’s win streak to four games and its undefeated run to six.

The win keeps Indiana’s Team moving up the Eastern Conference, as the squad’s 14 points from a 4W-2L-2D record has them within three points of second-place Detroit City FC (17 pts) and third-place Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC (16 pts). The squad’s six-game unbeaten stand marks the longest such streak for the Boys in Blue since a seven-game run between the 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Indy Eleven had to manage a change even before kickoff, as defender Bryam Rebellon sustained an injury during warm-ups, elevating Alex McQueen into the starting lineup. Despite this, Indiana’s Team got things going early, as Raul Aguilera’s corner in the 8th found the head of Manuel Arteaga, who nearly knocked in an early goal in his first start of the season. However, Hartford remained competitive themselves, nearly connecting on a header of their own in the 20th minute of play through Ariel Martinez.

While conditions weren’t conducive for much offense, there was no shortage of physicality in the first half. Pushes, tackles, aerial duels and matching yellows wrote the story on both sides for the first half, with neither team able to create many quality chances. That narrative would change in the 40th minute, as Stefano Pinho’s flick found a streaking Ayoze, whose low shot snuck inside the far left post to open his 2022 account and give the Boys in Blue a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

Unfortunately for fans in attendance, the start of the second half was just as tumultuous as the first. Lightning, rain, and hail fell over Indianapolis, and a subsequent severe weather alert was implemented. The second half finally began at 10:00 pm sharp, and when the whistle blew Indy Eleven began with a bang as Pinho found himself alone galloping towards the attacking zone, but his shot was belted into the face of Hartford goaltender Jimmy Slayton.

Ayoze got another chance in the 57th minute, as he danced through four Hartford defenders and booted a shot from 12 yards into the chest of Slayton. Hartford responded swiftly with a few chances of their own, including a close shot off a corner from fresh substitute Rashawn Dally in the 62nd minute that flew over the crossbar. Dally got another chance in the 70th, but his deflected shot was stopped by a recovering Elliot Panicco at his near post.

The Boys in Blue were unlucky to not double the lead in the 74th minute, as an incredible rebound chance by substitute Nicky Law couldn’t be steered on goal after his initial effort went off the heads of two Hartford defenders inside the six-yard box. Another shot wouldn’t take place until the 84th minute when Hartford defender Joel Johnson’s redirect off a corner was saved up close by Panicco. Hartford again earned a chance late off of Modou Jadama’s free kick in the 89th minute, but his shot too sailed over the head of Panicco. Four minutes of added time elapsed without note, and Indy Eleven finally managed to hold off both Hartford and mother nature.

Indy Eleven will enjoy a rare bye week next weekend and return to action on Saturday, May 14, when Indiana’s Team travels south to take on Memphis 901 FC (8:00 p.m. ET kick, live on ESPN+). The Boys in Blue return home on Saturday, May 21, when New York Red Bulls II invades Carroll Stadium for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff. Tickets for that 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff – and all Indy Eleven regular season contests – are available starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets.

Details on that evening’s Gone to the Dogs Night and other future promotions at Carroll Stadium can be found at indyeleven.com/promotions. Fans who cannot make it to The Mike can follow the action on MyINDY-TV 23, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.

2022 USL Championship Regular Season – Matchday 8
Indy Eleven  1 : 0  Hartford Athletic
Saturday, April 30, 2022
IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:
IND – Ayoze (Stefano Pinho) 40’

Disciplinary Summary:
IND – Raul Aguilera (yellow card) 21’
HFD – Joel Johnson (yellow card) 38’
HFD – Younes Boudadi (yellow card) 50’
IND – A.J. Cochran (yellow card) 74’
IND – Jonas Fjeldberg (yellow card) 90+1’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2): Elliot Panicco; Neveal Hackshaw, A.J. Cochran, Jared Timmer, Alex McQueen; Ayoze (Jonas Fjeldberg 63’), Justin Ingram, Raul Aguilera (Aris Briggs 87’), Noah Powder (Nicky Law 63’); Manuel Arteaga, Stefano Pinho

IND substitutes: Tim Trilk (GK), Bryce Warhaft, Rodney Michael

Hartford Athletic lineup (4-4-2): Jimmy Slayton; Tom Brewitt, Younes Boudadi, Modou Jadama, Joel Johnson; Ashton Appollon, Conor McGlynn, Andre Lewis, Ariel Martinez (Peter-Lee Vassell 32’, Rashawn Dally 61’); Corey Hertzog (Mitchell Curry 81’), Danny Barrera

HFD Substitutes: Austin Pack (GK), Walid Yacoubou, Jeciel Cedeno, Luka Prpa

Hello, AO Fam. If you’re looking into traveling to Qatar to cheer on the USMNT in the World Cup, you’ll want to read the following info carefully.

Neither AO nor other unofficial supporters’ groups of U.S. Soccer will have a dedicated ticket allotment for the 2022 World Cup. The U.S. Soccer Federation will allot tickets to fans in a weighted random draw similar to many of our home World Cup qualifiers.

You’ll find further information on this in the infographic below as well as U.S. Soccer’s World Cup 2022 Ticketing FAQs page (we strongly suggest you read that carefully, too).

In short: To apply for tickets within U.S. Soccer’s allotment, you must sign up for the U.S. Soccer Insiders program (standard insider membership is free) by Wednesday, April 27.

The portal for Insiders will open tomorrow (Friday, April 8) and close Thursday, April 28. Upon logging in, you’ll be prompted to enter an access code. You’ll be instructed on how to proceed from there.

Applicants will be notified around the end of May whether they will receive tickets through the draw. Winners will then be contacted by FIFA with instructions for completing payment.

4/24/22  Indy 11 home today on ESPND, Champ League Semis Tue/Wed, MLS Trio today on TV

Indy 11 on ESPN Desportes & TV 23 Today/Sunday at 5 pm vs Orange County SC

Indy Eleven extended its winning streak to two games and unbeaten streak to four tonight with a 2-1 win over Atlanta United 2 at IUPUI Carroll Stadium. The Blues were hot early and late, going ahead on a Nicky Law goal in the 12th minute before finishing the job in dramatic fashion in stoppage time on Aris Briggs’ 92nd minute game-winner. The first home win of 2022 kicked off a five-of-six game home stint for the Boys in Blue that will run through the end of May. That run continues TODAY against defending USL Championship title-winner Orange County SC on Faith & Family Night. The match-up at “The Mike” will mark Indy Eleven’s lone USL on ESPN appearance of 2022, with the 5:30 p.m. kickoff airing live on ESPN Desportes. Tix available starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets. In other USL News former CFC GK Coach and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr was voted to the had the Save of the Week in all of US Soccer with this spectacular double save to help San Antonio beat MLS side Austin FC to advance to the next round of the US Open Cup where they face Houston.  

LAW EARNS USLC TEAM OF THE WEEK NOD

Indy 11 wins again 2-1 vs Atlanta 2

Faith & Family Night

Former GK Jordan Farr with Double Save

Farr save from behind goal

USMNT Hosts Morocco in Cincy June 5th

The US returns to The Queen City on Wed, June 5th as the US will host fellow World Cup team Morocco – these were the scenes last time Cincy hosted a US Game. The US GK discussion goes full alert mode after Zach Steffan’s howler vs Liverpool in the FA Cup last weekend.  I still think Matt Turner is our #1 GK – he’s our top shot-stopper and in World Cup play that is what matters.  Of course the news that Poland is looking to woo the the US GK of the future, the 17 year-old who leads the MLS in clean sheets, GAGA Gabriel Slonina of the Chicago Fire is alarming. If I am Berhalter – I have him on the roster for Nations League play this summer and get him some playing time against weaker foes.  Pulisic’s late winner saves Chelsea

Starting a New Thing this week – I like to call AH REFFING 

As as ref – I get to see some strange things on the field sometimes from idiots arguing their dogs sitting 3 feet from the field with U12 kids playing, to coaches questioning throw-ins like its life or death.  I thought I would start this at least once a month AH REFFING Segment where I could feature some reffing around the world things. Lets start with this no no – Yellow Card followed by selfie ,  here the ref blows the call in the Arsenal vs Chelsea. 

Champions League Final 4 Tues/Wed on CBS

The Champions League Semi-finals kickoff this week – with Man City hosting Real Madrid on Tues at 3 pm on CBS. Gotta love this celebration from Villareal now they host perhaps the hottest team in the World Liverpool on Wed at 3 pm on CBS.  Preview.  Read all about it below in the OBC. 

Around the World

Manchester United forward Cristiano Ronaldo thanked Liverpool supporters for their display of support in Tuesday’s Premier League meeting between the teams, which he missed due to the death of his newborn son. Ronaldo and his partner, Georgina Rodriguez, had announced in October they were expecting twins, but said on Monday that one of the two babies had died. Ronaldo was given a standing ovation by fans in the seventh minute of the match at Anfield, with Liverpool fans singing: “You’ll Never Walk Alone” while their United counterparts applauded. I TRULY LOVE THIS GAME – ESPECIALLY WHEN IT TRANSENDS SPORT! Look at this spectacular pass by Liverpool’s Mo Salah to Mane

Big Games to Watch

Gotta hate this double flop from last weekend but MLS will feature bigtime on Sunday with a triple header on National TV.  Inter Miami hosts Atlanta United at 1 pm on ESPN, followed by Orlando vs NY Red bull at 3:30 pm.  Finally Cincy hosts LAFC at 5 pm of FS1.  The NWSL wraps up the final weekend of the Challenge Cup with Racing Louisville traveling to Houston on CBS Sports Network before Angel City hosts Portland at 9 pm on Paramount plus. Here the Family and I enjoyed our first NWSL game at the San Diego Wave stadium as Alex Morgan scored right in front of us.   Monday gives us Leeds United and US coach Jesse Marsch trying to keep them up as they travel to Crystal Palace – currently they stand 3 pts clear of the last 3 Everton.  Tuesday the CONCACAF Champions League has Seattle looking to become the first MLS team to win the competition as they travel to PUMAS.  Seattle Sounders v Pumas Match Preview,

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BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sun,  Apr 24

1 pm  ESPN                             Inter Miami vs Atlanta United              

3:30 pm ESPN                         Orlando SF vs NY Red Bulls

5 pm FS1                                 Cincy vs LAFC

5 pm My TV 23                        Indy 11 vs Orange Co. @ the Mike

6 pm CBSSN                           Racing Louisville vs Houston Dash NWSL

9 pm Para+                              Angel City vs Portland Thorns

Mon,  Apr 25

3 pm USA                                Crystal Palace vs Leeds United (Jesse Marsch)    

Tue Apr 26 – Champs League

3 pm CBS                               Man City vs Real Madrid

Wed Apr 27 – Champs League

3 pm CBS                               Villareal vs Liverpool  

7:30 pm FS1                         Pumas vs Seattle Sounders

Thurs, Apr 28  – Europa League

8:45 am USA                           Man United vs Chelsea(Pulisic)

3 Para+                                    RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Rangers (Carter Vickers )

3 Para +                                   West Ham United vs Frankfurt (Chandler)

3 pm Pata+                             Leicester City vs Roma

USA

Pulisic’s late winner saves Chelsea

Pep Defends US GK Zack Steffan after howler

Zach Steffan the Discussion – Lalas

The US is Returning to Cincy June 5 vs Morroco

US has its Work Cut out for it – The 18

US Goalkeeper MLS Chicago Star being courted by Poland

Scenes from Azteca

Why can’t more American soccer coaches get hired in Europe?  ESPN Noah Davis

US Ladies learn draw for WCQ this summer  

The Best Family at our first NWSL Game in San Diego – had a blast and Alex scored! Me repping our Indy 11! More Pics

Champions League

3 biggest keys to victory for Real Madrid vs. Manchester City in the first leg

Real Madrid Starting XI Prediction vs. Manchester City for Champions League semifinal first leg

Real Madrid Suffer Major Injury Blow Ahead of Manchester …

Preview: Manchester City vs. Real Madrid – Sports Mole

Villareal are demanding respect from ‘humble’ Liverpool ahead of European

Any smug Liverpool fans should read the small print on Unai Emery – he was born

Champions League talking points: Is Liverpool-Man City final inevitable?

Simeone proud after Atletico’s UCL exit to City

Reffing

Yellow Card followed by selfie

ref blows the call in the Arsenal vs Chelsea. 

You Make the Call

You make the call – Sporting KC vs Columbus Crew

World

Look at this spectacular pass by Liverpool’s Mo Salah to Mane – wow. 

ESPN’s Watchability Rankings: Europe’s most fun teams, from Barcelona to Liverpool

Goalkeeping

Carmel FC Goalkeeper training up right – a little diving on Thursday afternoon at Badger Field ! The Oleballcoach and Coach Noelle Wolfson coaching up the GKs for Carmel FC each week.

Zach Steffan’s howler vs Liverpool

GAGA US 17 Year Old Sensation is MLS Clean Sheet leader for Chicago Fire

Best Premier League Saves March 2022

Best Saves 2022

Saves of the Week NWSL

Crazy GK Mistakes

Aris Briggs’ Dramatic Winner in Stoppage Time Pushes Indy’s Unbeaten Run to Four Games, Win Streak to Two

INDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, April 16, 2022) – Indy Eleven extended its winning streak to two games and unbeaten streak to four tonight with a 2-1 win over Atlanta United 2 at IUPUI Carroll Stadium. Indiana’s Team was hot early and late, going ahead on a Nicky Law goal in the 12th minute before finishing the job in dramatic fashion in stoppage time on Aris Briggs’ 92nd minute game-winner.The first home win of 2022 kicked off a five-of-six game home stint for the Boys in Blue that will run through the end of May. That run continues next Sunday, April 24, against defending USL Championship title-winner Orange County SC on Faith & Family Night, presented by He Gets Us.The Boys in Blue started the match firing on all cylinders, their first prime scoring chance coming in the 10th minute. Forward Stefano Pinho, who netted three of the team’s four goals leading up to the match, was fouled towards the top of the area by Atlanta’s Nelson Orji, who was awarded a yellow card for the act. It would be midfielder Law who took the free kick from roughly 20 yards away, knocking it into the right side of goal to put Indy up in the 12th minute. Atlanta generated its first scoring chance soon after, with midfielder Erik Centeno’s shot sailing wide left of the net. Indy kept its foot on the gas, with a slew of chances around the 20-minute mark that got the Brickyard Battalion on their feet, including a beautiful delivery from Bryam Rebellon to Pinho that sailed just right of the goal. Late chances by Pinho and Raul Aguilera would narrowly go over the crossbar, and the score remained 1-0 in favor of Indy heading into the halftime break.The Boys in Blue picked up right where they left off to start the second half, with Law delivering a pass to Pinho to create a chance and an ensuing corner kick. Atlanta responded with a chance of its own, as Centeno nearly caught Indy goaltender Elliot Panicco off-guard on a tough-angled shot that caught the wind and forced the netminder to spike the ball over the bar to keep it out of goal. Indy’s next chance came on a 50-yard dash down the field from Fjeldberg in the 60th minute, but his impressive run and central cut ended with a wide effort.Atlanta’s attack came to life in the middle of the second half, and the persistence soon paid off. Forward Jackson Conway scored the equalizing goal in the 68th minute on a feed from substitute Grant Howard, evening the score at 1-1. Indy responded strongly by generating several chances, including a pretty shot from Fjeldberg that Atlanta goaltender Justin Garces just got his fingertips on to make the save. Following a questionable penalty no-call when Rebellon went to ground under heavy contact in the area, head coach Mark Lowry made a slew of changes, inserting Ayoze, Manuel Arteaga, and Alex McQueen into the lineup in hopes of generating a late offensive push.Lowry’s substitutions did exactly that, as 11 of Indy’s 21 shots came after those 78th minute line change. In his first action at “The Mike” this season, Ayoze got things started by booting a corner kick towards the net in the 81st minute, with several shots resulting from his kick. It was Arteaga’s home debut as well, and he got the fans on their feet with two shots on goal in the 86th minute. The flurry of activity continued into the final minutes of regulation, with Pinho and Law both seeing shots ricochet off the post and out, while Arteaga’s fourth shot in just 12 minutes went awry. Five minutes of stoppage time would be added, and Indy quickly continued its offensive barrage. A give-and-go from Law and Arteaga in the 92nd minute gave Briggs an open lane, and he converted on Law’s pass from 10 yards out to give the Eleven a hard-earned lead. Briggs nearly put the nail in the coffin with a second two minutes later, only to see his 1-v-1 chance saved, but no insurance was necessary to allow the Boys in Blue a win in their second consecutive game. The first home win for Indy Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry marked the first game of a three-game homestand, which continues with next Sunday’s 5:30 p.m. ET kickoff against Orange County SC. Tickets for all Indy Eleven regular season contests at IUPUI Carroll Stadium are available starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets. Fans who cannot make it to The Mike can follow the action on ESPN Deportes, MyINDY-TV 23, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/943exitos.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.

2022 USL Championship Regular Season – Matchday 6
Indy Eleven  2 : 1  Atlanta United 2
Saturday, April 16, 2022
IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:
IND – Nicky Law (unassisted) 12’
ATL – Jackson Conway (Grant Howard) 68’
IND – Aris Briggs (Nicky Law) 90’+2’

Disciplinary Summary:
ATL – Nelson Orji (yellow card) 10’
IND – A.J. Cochran (yellow card) 14’
IND – Sam Brown (yellow card) 27’
IND – Jonas Fjeldberg (yellow card) 29’
ATL – Howard Grant (yellow card) 90’+5’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2): Elliot Panicco; Jared Timmer, A.J. Cochran (captain), Mechack Jerome, Bryam Rebellon (Alex McQueen 78’); Sam Brown (Justin Ingram 45’), Raul Aguilera, Noah Powder (Ayoze 78’), Nicky Law; Jonas Fjeldberg (Miguel Arteaga 78’), Stefano Pinho (Aris Briggs 88’IND substitutes: Tim Trilk (GK), Karl Ouimette

USWNT Learns Its Group Stage Opponents For World Cup And Olympic Qualifying

CONNOR FLEMINGAPRIL 20, 2022

IT’S MEXICO, JAMAICA AND HAITI FOR THE DEFENDING WORLD CHAMPIONS. The draw is complete and we now know the USWNT schedule for the 2022 Concacaf W Championship in Monterrey, Mexico, which serves as the qualifying tournament for both the 2023 World Cup in Australia/New Zealand and the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. 

This will be the 10th edition of the competition with the USWNT winning it on eight occasions, including the last two. In 2018, the U.S. won all five of its matches by a combined scoreline of 26-0. Canada is the only nation to disrupt the American’s dominance, winning it in 1998 and 2010. The only other Concacaf nations to reach the final are Mexico and Costa Rica (Brazil and New Zealand previously made it as guests). As the reigning Olympic gold medalist, Canada again serves as the USWNT’s main rival. However, the U.S. heads Group A and Canada leads Group B, meaning the two nations couldn’t possibly meet until the knockout rounds with World Cup qualification already secure.

The top two finishers from each group qualify for the World Cup while the third-place teams advance to the inter-confederation playoffs. However, only the tournament winner qualifies directly for the Summer Olympics. The loser of the final faces the winner of the third place playoff for a spot in Paris, although that match won’t be contested until September. 

USWNT Schedule 2022 Concacaf W Championship

The tournament will be played between July 4-18 at Estadio BBVA (home of Monterrey) and Estadio Universitario (home of Tigres). CBS Sports has the broadcast rights to the tournament, so expect a lot of these matches to be on Paramount+. Kickoff times are TBD.

Group A

USWNT (FIFA Ranking: 1st) 

Mexico (FIFA Ranking: 27th) 

Opponent Breakdown: Mexico is attempting to qualify for its fourth World Cup and first since 2015. La Tri was bounced at the group stage in 2018 after losing to the U.S. (6-0) and Panama (2-0). The side is captained by Real Madrid defender Kenti Robles. 

Jamaica (FIFA Ranking: 51st)

Opponent Breakdown: Jamaica qualified for its first World Cup in 2019 after finishing third at the 2018 tournament. The Reggae Girlz beat Costa Rica and Cuba in the group stage and rebounded from a 6-0 loss to the USWNT in the semifinals by beating Panama in a dramatic penalty shootout in the third-place playoff. The team is captained by Manchester City forward Khadija “Bunny” Shaw. 

Haiti (FIFA Ranking: 61st)

Opponent Breakdown: Haiti has never qualified for the World Cup and is back at the W Championship after failing to qualify for the 2018 tournament. Les Grenadières have never advanced beyond the group stage. The side is captained by Montpellier forward Nérilia Mondésir. 

USWNT Concacaf W Championship Schedule

Monday, July 4: USWNT vs. Haiti (Estadio Universitario) 

Thursday, July 7: USWNT vs. Jamaica (Estadio BBVA)

Monday, July 11: USWNT vs. Mexico (Estadio Universitario) 

Thursday, July 14: Semifinals (Estadio Universitario)

Monday, July 18: Final and Third Place (Estadio BBVA)

USA GAMES COMING THIS SUMMER

  • June 1: JUST ANNOUNCED: USMNT vs. Morocco in Cincy’s beautiful TQL Stadium. Expect ticket details soon. Another friendly (likely Sunday, June 5) may be announced soon, too.
  • June 10: USMNT vs. Grenada in CONCACAF Nations League play. Home venue TBD.
  • June 14: USMNT @ El Salvador in CONCACAF Nations League play.
  • Late June: The USWNT will likely play two home friendlies ahead of the CONCACAF W Championship. We’ll keep you posted.
  • July 4: USWNT vs. Haiti in Monterrey, Mexico (W Championship group stage)
  • July 7: USWNT vs. Jamaica in Monterrey, Mexico (W Championship group stage)
  • July 11: USWNT vs. Mexico in Monterrey, Mexico (W Championship group stage)
  • July 14: W Championship semifinal
  • July 18: W Championship final/third place match
Pulisic scores game winner in 88th minute just 12 minutes after finally coming on for that Dummy coach Tuchel!!

Pulisic settles Chelsea’s top four nerves, Burnley out of relegation zone

London (AFP) – Christian Pulisic settled Chelsea’s top four nerves as his late goal sealed a dramatic 1-0 win against West Ham, while Burnley climbed out of the Premier League relegation zone with a 1-0 victory against Wolves on Sunday.

With Liverpool looking to close the gap on leaders Manchester City to one point with a win against Merseyside rivals Everton later on Sunday, the focus in the early games was on the top four race and the relegation battle.

At Stamford Bridge, Thomas Tuchel’s side looked set to endure more angst on home turf when Jorginho’s penalty was saved by Lukasz Fabianski in the final minutes.

But Pulisic came off the bench to inspire third placed Chelsea, lifting them seven points clear of fifth placed Tottenham in the fight to qualify for next season’s Champions League via a top four finish.

A 4-2 defeat against Arsenal on Wednesday condemned Chelsea to three successive losses at the Bridge for the first time since 1993.

Tuchel admitted he had “no solution” for the “fragile” Chelsea defending that saw them concede 11 goals in their last three home games.

Concerned about Chelsea’s ability to hold onto their top four berth, Tuchel made three changes from the Arsenal game as Thiago Silva replaced Malang Sarr in that creaky defence. 

Silva helped solidify Chelsea’s rearguard and Pulisic’s last-gasp strike should ensure they hold onto a top four place.

West Ham boss David Moyes left Declan Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Michail Antonio on the bench as he prioritised the club’s first European semi-final since 1976, against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League on Thursday.

Referencing the swathes of empty seats around the Bridge due to ticket restrictions imposed as part of the sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, West Ham fans chanted “just like the old days, there’s nobody here”.

– Pulisic late show –

Following a tepid first half, Chelsea were more dynamic after the break.

Fabianski clutched N’Golo Kante’s deflected effort and the West Ham keeper plunged to his left to turn away Trevoh Chalobah’s long-range rocket.

Timo Werner twice went close as he fired into the side-netting, then stretched to poke his shot straight at Fabianski.

In the 87th minute, Silva flicked a header towards Romelu Lukaku, prompting Craig Dawson to concede a penalty with a pull on the substitute.

Dawson was initially booked before being sent off after a VAR check, but West Ham avoided further punishment as Jorginho’s weak spot-kick was easily saved by Fabianski. 

But Pulisic sparred Jorginho’s blushes in the 90th minute as the United States forward met Marcos Alonso’s cross with a clinical low finish from 10 yards.

Burnley boosted their bid for a remarkable escape act as they moved into 17th place thanks to Matej Vydra’s second half strike.

Since Sean Dyche’s surprise sacking after 10 years in charge, Burnley’s caretaker boss Mike Jackson has taken seven points from three games to revive their hopes of beating the drop.

Vydra had a second half goal disallowed for offside, but he didn’t have to wait long to celebrate as he netted in the 62nd minute with a composed close-range finish from Wout Weghorst’s cross.

Burnley moved two points above third bottom Everton, who have two games in hand as they look to avoid playing outside the top tier since 1954

James Ward-Prowse scored twice as Southampton came from two goals down to draw 2-2 at Brighton.

Danny Welbeck put Brighton ahead with a close-range finish after just two minutes and Mohammed Salisu turned Leandro Trossard’s cross into his own net for a 44th minute own goal.

Ward-Prowse reduced the deficit on the stroke of half-time with his 14th successful Premier League free-kick, just four behind David Beckham’s record of 18.

He struck again nine minutes later, this time producing a clinical finish from the edge of the area.

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

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Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

4/15/22  Indy 11 win home Sat 7 pm, Champ League Final 4 set, FA Cup Semi’s Sat

Indy 11 Sign  USL Leading Scorer Solomon Asante – home Sat at 7 pm

Indy Eleven’s new signing Solomon Asante has delivered in the attacking third beyond any other player since arriving in the league in 2018 Watch Solomon Asante’s Top Five Goals in the USL Championship so far

Fresh off their first win of the season a 2-1 win over Rio Grande the 11 return home to the Mike to play Atlanta United 2 on Saturday at 7 pm as they host Easter Egg Night. Tixavailable starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets. In other USL News former CFC GK Coach and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr was voted to the USL Save of the Week list for a second consecutive week last week for San Antonio.

Champions League – Final 4 – Liverpool, Man City, Real Madrid, Villareal

Wow do I love Champions League!!  – who would have thought the Atletico Madrid vs Man City would almost match the fantastic Real Madrid vs Chelsea and Bayern losing to Villareal the day before.  After Chelsea’s masterful comeback vs Real Madrid – scoring 3 goals to take the lead on aggregate 4-3 overall –they lose it when Real Madrid scored the final 2 goals to win it in extra time.  Pulisic had 2 chances to win it in extra time – but missed both as a 70th minute substitute.  I thought he was hugely active –and should have been on 10 minutes earlier – he was the most dangerious player on the fieild for Chelsea once he came in.  (Chelsea vs Real Hilights)  Of course the German Champs also laid an egg vs Villareal as a last minute goal put the Spanish thru 2-1 on Aggregate in Munich. (Bayern vs Villareal highlights)  Atletico vs Man City was classic Atleti – as Simieone’s men battled and fought and certainly should have scored late to tie it vs Man City – but City held on with great late saves from Ederson to hold the 0-0 tie – advancing 1-0 on aggregate to a Semi-Final match-up with Real Madrid.  (Man City vs Atleti video). The Atleti Crowd was spectacular even 20 minutes after the game – why I fell in love with Atletico when I visited 5 years ago and got to take in the Caldron.  For the first night in the new Metropolitan Stadium – it sounded and felt like the Caldron – and this is good for Atleti – despite the heartbreaking loss to Man City who spends 3 times what Atleti does on salariers.  Liverpool who held on to take it 5-3 on Aggregate vs Benefica will face Villareal. 

FA Cup Semi’s, US Open Cup

Sat we get a rerun of last weekends Supermatch as Man City faces Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi’s at 10:30 am on ESPN+ I expect to see US GK Steffan between the pipes.  Sunday gives us Pulisic and Chelsea  vs West Ham United at 11:30 am.  I look for Pulisic to possibly start in this one..  FA Cup Video Preview  For You coaches out there Love this Chelea’s Tuchel’s Master Class on the 3-5-2   

Games to Watch this Weekend/Week

Funny Fans from this past week – Europa League Games!! Honestly not much this weekend other than FA Cup Semi’s – Man United vs Norwich 10 am Sat on USA – but Man City vs Liverpool is on same time. Now Tues we get Liverpool vs Man United at 3 pm on USA – with Inter vs Milan on same time on Para+ in the Copa Italia Finals. Wed gives us RB Leipzig and Adams vs Union Berlin in the German Cup final – a chance for hardware for American Adams at 2:45 pm on ESPNU while at 3pm Chelsea and Pulisic host Arsenal. Also Wed we get US Open Cup games between USL clubs and MSL – (while its not the FA Cup – the US Open Cup has allowed some underdog teams thru – hopefully San Antonio with former Carmel FC GK Coach and former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr hosting MLS Austin FC at 8:30 pm on ESPN+. Louisville City will host the team that beat our Indy 11 St Louis City 2 at 7:30 pm on ESPN+ (see full schedule below.)

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BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri, Apri 15

3 pm ESPN+                            Real Sociadad vs Real Betis 

3  pm Paramount+                  Milan vs Genoa 

3 pm ESPN+                            Derby Cty vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)

8 pm  CBS SN                          KC vs Houston Dash NWSL

Sat, Apr 16

7:30 am USA                           Tottenham vs Brighton

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

10 am USA                              Man United vs Norwich (Stewart)

10 am CNBC                            Southampton vs Aresenal

10:30 am ESPN+                Man  City (Steffan) vs Livepool FA Cup Semi

12:30 pm Para +                     Juventus vs Bologna 

3:30 pm ESPN+, Univision      San Jose vs Nashville SC MLS

7:30 pm My TV 23                   Indy 11 vs Atlanta United 2 @ the Mike

7:30 pm Para+                              Racing Louisville vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL

10 pm FS 1                                    Seattle Sounders vs Inter Miami

Sun,  Apr17

9 am USA                                 Leicester City vs New Castle  

11:30 am ESPN+                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Crystal Palace  FA Cup Semi

1:30 pm ESPN+                       Leverkusen vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

2:$5 pm beIN Sport                PSG vs Marsiele

3:30 pm ESPN+                       Sevilla vs Real Madrid

4 pm ESPN                              LAFC vs Sporting KC 

Tue Apr 19

2:45 pm ESPNU                      Hamburger vs Freiburg 

3 pm USA                              Liverpool vs Man United

3 pm Para +                          Inter vs Milan (Coppa Italia)

US OPEN CUP = MLS vs USL

7 pm ESPN+                            Miami FC vs Inter Miami  

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Detroit City FC vs Columbus Crew

7:30 pm ESON+                      FC Cincy vs Pittsburg Riverhounds SC  

8:30 pm ESPN+                       Chicago Fire FC  vs Union Omaha

10:30 pm ESPN+                     LA Galaxy vs San Diego Loyal SC

Wed Apr 20

2:45 pm ESPNU                      RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Union Berlin German Cup 

2:45 pm USA                        Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Arsenal 

3 pm Para +                          Inter vs Milan (Coppa Italia)

US OPEN CUP = MLS vs USL

7 pm ESPN+                            Orlando City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Louisville City vs St Louis City 2

7:30 pm ESON+                      Atlanta United vs Chatanooga

8:30 pm ESPN+                       San Antonio (Jordan Farr) vs Austin FC

10:30 pm ESPN+                     LAFC vs Orange County

Thur Apr 21

2:45 pm USA                           Burnely vs Southampton

3:30 pm ESPN+                       Real Sociadad vs Barcelona

Sat, Apr 23

7:30 am USA                           Arsenal vs Man United 

10 am USA                          Man  City (Steffan) vs Watford

12:30 pm  ESPN+                    Bayern Munich vs Dortmund

Indy 11 Season Schedule

Indy 11

 Indy 11 Sign Solomon Asante

Indy 11 Win first game of the SEason Sat 2-1

Indy 11 Schedule

Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

FA Cup

Klopp wants ‘a different level’ in FA Cup semifinal

Champions League & Europa

Champions League talking points: Is Liverpool-Man City final inevitable? dESPN

 Manchester City stood up as Atletico Madrid tried to bully them in Champions League quarterfinal

Firmino brace as Liverpool cruise into UCL semis

Klopp wary of ‘king of cups’ Emery in UCL semis

 Villarreal show that smaller is beautiful in the Champions League
Bayern pick up the pieces after ‘bitter’ Champions League defeat

Villarreal fuelled to Bayern win by Nagelsmann remark, says Moreno

Liverpool survive late collapse to book Villarreal semi-final clash

‘Players only human,’ says Klopp as Liverpool survive collapse to reach semi-finals

Man City see off Atletico to set up Real Madrid clash

Stones praises City performance against ‘hostile’ Atletico as brawl mars tie

Tuchel ‘proud’ of Chelsea despite Champions League heartbreak

Tuchel praises Chelsea’s comeback even after it falls short in extra time

Chelsea showed their spirit and potential despite heartbreaking Champions League exit to Real Madrid  James Olley

Villarreal’s Champions League run sinks another top side as Bayern waste key chances  Mark Ogden
Real Madrid’s veteran thoroughbreds keeping European Cup dream alive

‘Hammer blow’ as Frankfurt stun Barcelona to reach Europa League semis

EPL

Top five PL goals and saves from Matchweek 32

10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 32
Manchester City vs Liverpool player ratings

Klopp thrilled by ‘wild’ City-Liverpool draw

Three things we learned from the Premier League

Man Utd boss Rangnick ‘understands’ disappointment as fans protest

Video Interview with Chelsea’s Tuchel – Masterclass on his System

US Ladies & Men 

Trinity Rodman Scored her first USWNT Goal in 9-0 Rout

What’s next in the fight for equitability for USWNT?
USWNT’s young players thrash Uzbekistan but it leaves more questions than answers
  ESPN 
Julie Foudy

USWNT 2022 April Friendlies: USA 9-0 Uzbekistan – there were, once again, a lot of goals S&S By Parker Cleveland

USWNT wins 9-0 as Rodman scores first goal
USWNT extends home-soil unbeaten streak with victory over Uzbekistan

US wins 9-0 S&S

USWNTwin 9-1 over Uzbekistan – S&S 

Americans abroad analysis Reyna’s season is over, Musah injured, Haji remains hot in another tough weekend for Americans
Mexico plans pre-World Cup friendly tour in U.S.
dCesar Hernandez

MLS

Seattle Advances to CCL Final vs Pumas after beating NYCFC

MLS Power Rankings  

Galaxy Win EL Traffico Again !

Texas turnaround: What has Austin, Dallas & Houston looking up in 2022?

MLS Schedule

Untold Stories About Leed’s American Coach Jesse Marsch – while he as an MLS Coach  

GK

Former CFC GK Coach and Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr – USL Save of the Week list

Seattles Steffan Frie Stood on his Head vs NYCFC in CCL Cup Play Thur

Again by Frei  and Again by Frei

Great GK Saves – Sweet 16 UCL
Top five PL goals and saves from Matchweek 32

Electric Ghanaian Forward Asante Brings Added Punch to Eleven Attacking Corps

INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, April 11, 2022) – In one of the biggest signings in club history, Indy Eleven added to its attacking firepower with today’s addition of two-time USL Championship Most Valuable Player Solomon Asante.Per club policy, details of the contract that brings the influential Ghanian forward to the Circle City will not be released. Asante is currently undergoing the immigration process necessary for his arrival in the United States, and while no exact timeline is available the club expects him to commence training in Indiana in approximately the next three weeks.“The USL Championship has always been a great place to play. For me, the challenge never ends and that’s why I chose this great club in Indy Eleven for a new challenge in my career,” said Asante. “With Coach [Mark] Lowry’s remarkable experience, I believe together with my teammates that history will be made. I look forward to meeting the great fans in Indianapolis and especially gaining the support of the Brickyard Battalion.”Asante joins Indiana’s Team after an accomplished four-year span with Phoenix Rising FC that included three All-USL Championship First Team nods from 2018-20 and back-to-back league MVP honors in 2019 and 2020, making him only the second player in league history to win the award twice alongside Kevin Molino. The 5’2” dynamo was simply the most productive player in the Championship during his run in the desert, scoring 54 goals and contributing 42 assists in 113 regular season (103) and playoff (10) contests.“To be able to add a player of Solomon Asante’s quality and caliber to our club shows the ambition we have,” said Indy Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry. “Building a winning team and a club that consistently competes for championships requires having strong characters and winning mentalities in the locker room, and Solo definitely checks those boxes for us.”Asante’s resulting 0.87 goals + assists per 90 minutes figure outranks any player in league history, and he is the only player in the USL Championship’s 40 goal/40 assist club during regular season play. His 41 career assists in regular season action are currently the fourth most in league history and place only six behind category leader Kenardo Forbes.A jaw-dropping 2019 campaign saw Asante record a league-record 17 assists while scoring 22 goals, itself ranking as the third highest in a single season. Those numbers contributed to team success as well, as Phoenix shattered Championship records in goals scored (89) and consecutive wins (20) en route to finishing the campaign with 78 points – one more than FC Cincinnati’s historic haul the season prior.“Solomon’s individual numbers speak for themselves, but it’s his ability to make his teammates better and raise the level of a squad that makes him a truly gifted player and one we sought highly,” said Indy Eleven President & CEO Greg Stremlaw. “We are thrilled to have him be an important contributor to the winning culture we are building under Coach Lowry moving forward.”Asante put the USL Championship on notice in 2018, when his 14 goals and nine assists helped Phoenix capture its first Western Conference title. The following season his streak of seven straight games with a goal tied him for the second-longest stretch in league annals, contributing mightily to Rising FC’s record form. In 2020, Asante again led the Championship with nine assists during the truncated season and helped Phoenix to a second Western Conference championship in what would be his second consecutive MVP season.Asante represented his native Ghana on the senior international level on 21 occasions between 2012-15, including six appearances in the African Cup of Nations continental championship and a trio in FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Asante was an accomplished player in a trio of African leagues prior to jumping stateside, suiting up for Ghanaian sides Feyenoord Ghana (2007-09) and Berekum Chelsea (2011-13), ASFA Yennenga in Burkina Faso (2009-11), and Congolese club TP Mazembe from 2013-17. Asante thrived with Mazembe, helping the squad to three league titles in four seasons as well as African Champions League (2015) and African Super League (2016) crowns. He ended his playing days in Africa by being named the Ghana Player of the Year in 2017.

On the heels of last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Rio Grande Valley FC, Indy Eleven will bring a three-game unbeaten streak home to IUPUI Carroll Stadium this Saturday, April 16, when it takes on Atlanta United 2. The 7:00 p.m. ET kick can be followed on MyINDY-TV 23, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/943exitos.com, and ESPN+. Tikets for all Indy Eleven home contests are available starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets.

USWNT’s young players thrashed Uzbekistan but are they ready for tougher teams? It’s hard to tell

1:42 PM ET  Julie FoudyContributor, espnW.com

Ahhh, Uzbekistan. I must admit, as I was calling the second of two friendlies the U.S. women’s national team played against Uzbekistan for ESPN, I did start to wonder 30 minutes in — after the U.S. had scored six goals — why Uzbekistan said yes to this two-game drubbing.Growth mindset, I get it. You’ve got to play the best to be the best. Yep. It just seems that you can sometimes extract a lesson less emphatically and in a less psychologically damaging way, no? Uzbekistan, at No. 48 in the world, is the lowest-ranked team the USWNT has faced in seven months. The U.S. is ranked No. 1.As I try to summarize what we learned over this April international match window as it relates to the USWNT, I keep finding myself saying “Yes, but …”The U.S. team scored 18 goals over two games vs. Uzbekistan. Impressive, indeed.

Yes, but …

The U.S. had nine different players score those 18 goals.

Yes, but …

That front three of Mal PughCatarina Macario and Sophia Smith are creative, dynamic, and fun as hell to watch. The U.S. starting front five often looked silky smooth.

Yes, but …

he outside backs, Emily Fox and Sofia Huerta, looked impactful and confident getting forward. The subs came in and made an impact.

Yes, but … it was Uzbekistan. Herein lies the problem. You do not want to be taking 38 shots to your opponent’s zero (as in goose egg, nada, not one shot at all — not even off target), as was the case in the second game, a 9-0 win for the USWNT.

You need to get these younger U.S. players time, minutes, confidence, chemistry — all the above — but when it involves teams like UzbekistanIcelandNew Zealand and the Czech Republic (the USWNT’s opponents so far in 2022), it is hard to assess how much growth is even happening.

You can, for sure, check the confidence and chemistry boxes, but this level of opponent does not expose you enough to fully appreciate what needs to be tightened up technically and tactically. It doesn’t expose these young players to those critical moments of adversity that require you to slog your way through, find a way, lean on each other, eventually realize you can survive and most importantly, thrive, in those moments.And yes, to be fair to U.S. Soccer, I appreciate how hard it is to schedule teams right now. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc with long quarantines required upon return for some countries. World Cup qualifiers in April meant all competitive European teams were not available in this window. The Euros in early July mean the June FIFA window will be tough to schedule as well.But all I know is that these opponents must be stronger (there, I solved world peace) to fully assess how these players are doing. It is why Vlatko Andonovski and his staff will be so intently watching the National Women’s Soccer League and other professional leagues across the globe this April, May and June. That is what will give them their best read on where these players are.Now to the younger players vs. veteran players debate: It is difficult to predict what that mix will look like for the summer. If anyone tries to, I ain’t buying what they are selling because of the rant above and because we haven’t seen the rest of April, May and June — all huge months for the veterans trying to get back into the fold.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Cup clashes

Man City take on Liverpool while Celtic and Rangers also face off again, this time in the Cup semi’s

By jcksnftsn  Apr 15, 2022, 11:01am PDT   Stars and Stripes

Injuries to key USMNT contributors are putting a damper on the end of the season, as there are fewer premier games to watch this weekend. However, Zack Steffen could get a chance for Manchester City and others look to avoid relegation or make an impression for a potential summer transfer.

Friday

Derby County v Fulham FC – 3p on ESPN+

Things are a bit slow on Friday afternoon, so if you’re looking for some action, head over to the English Championship and catch Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson in action as Fulham take on Wayne Rooney and Derby County. On paper, this one looks like a mismatch. Fulham are running away with the title, up 10 points with six matches to play, and they are all but mathematically guaranteed promotion to the EPL next season. Meanwhile, Rooney and Derby County are almost certainly going to be relegated as they trail Reading by 9 points for safety. It remains to be seen whether Ream and Robinson will continue the yo-yo process with Fulham. Ream has started every match for Fulham this season, including wearing the captain’s armband in most of those fixtures. But, he is also 35 years old and his contract with Fulham runs out in June. Robinson has also started the majority of matches for Fulham, but has repeatedly been the subject of rumors to move elsewhere.

Saturday

Manchester City v Liverpool – 10:30a on ESPN+

Zack Steffen has again been the keeper for Manchester City’s FA Cup matches this season, and with the team still alive in Champions League action and in a fight with their opponent this weekend for the league title, it seems a good bet that Pep Guardiola will stick to his approach. If he does this, it should give Steffen a chance to go against one of the world’s top sides, though they may also feature a rotated side. It’s not all been smooth sailing for Steffen recently, so it would be good to see him show well this weekend.

Broadcast action:

  • Josh Sargent and Norwich City get an opportunity to play spoiler against Manchester United this weekend. Norwich are all but relegated, but Man U still have a shot to qualify for European play next season. This match will be at 10a on USA.
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  • The San Jose Earthquakes face Walker Zimmerman and Nashville SC at 3:30p on Univision and Twitter.
  • Cristian Roldan, Jordan Morris and the Seattle Sounders face DeAndre Yedlin and Inter Miami at 10p on FS1 in Saturday’s nightcap.

Streaming overseas:

  • John Brooks, Kevin Paredes, and Wolfsburg will look to stretch the gap between themselves and relegation when they face Borussia Dortmund at 9:30a on ESPN+. BVB’s Giovanni Reyna has been shut down for the season so will be unavailable for this matchup.
  • Pellegrino Matarazzo and Stuttgart currently sit one point ahead of Arminia Bielefeld for the relegation playoff position. This weekend the club faces Mainz at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Augsburg have a six point gap between themselves and relegation and can do themselves a real favor this weekend by defeating relegation-threatened Hertha Berlin when the clubs meet at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Matt Miazga seems likely to move again this summer, but for now his Deportivo Alavés side face Rayo Vallencano at 10:15a on ESPN+. Alaves are seven points back of safety with seven matches yet to play.
  • Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and Venezia also look headed for a drop. They are three points back of safety though at least they have a game in hand. They’ll face a tough Fiorentina side that still has a shot at Europa League. The match will be played at 10:30a on Paramount+.
  • Joe Scally and Borussia Mönchengladbach look like they have secured their position in the Bundesliga next season, and Scally has been getting more minutes again lately. They face a Köln side that still has a chance to qualify for Europa league. The match can be seen at 12:30p on ESPN+.
  • Yunus Musah and Valencia are solidly middle of the La Liga table, as is their opponent this weekend Osasuna. This match will be at 12:30p on ESPN+.
  • Tim Weah returns from his two match red card suspension as Lille face Lens at 3p on beIN Sports. Lille are three points back of Europa Conference League qualifying with seven matches to play.

MLS Matchups (all on ESPN+):

Sunday

Celtic FC v Rangers FC – 9a on ESPN+

Cameron Carter-Vickers scored the match winner two weeks ago for Celtic in their 2-1 Old Firm victory over Rangers and now the two clubs will go at it again, this time in Scottish FA Cup action. The win over Rangers gave Celtic a six point lead for the title race as they head into the final five matches, all against the top six in the league as the Scottish Premiership enters its “second phase.” It was a huge victory for Celtic, and CCV’s goal silencing the home crowd will be one he remembers for a very long time. The Cup match this weekend is the semifinal, but you can bet that the two sides will treat it as though it were for the silverware.

Chelsea face Crystal Palace in FA Cup action this weekend 10:30 am on ESPN+ 

. Christian Pulisic was a second half sub midweek as Chelsea were bounced from Champions League play by Real Madrid.

Broadcast action:

  • Kellyn Acosta and LAFC take on Sporting Kansas City at 4p on ESPN. LAFC lead the Western Conference but are coming off a 2-1 loss to the LA Galaxy, while Kansas City have lost five of their last six.

Streaming overseas:

  • Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes face Strasbourg at 9a on beIN Sports. Troyes are currently six points out of relegation, while their opponent Strasbourg is in fourth place and fighting for a place in the European competitions.
  • George Bello and Arminia Bielefeld have a tough matchup against Bayern Munich this weekend at 9:30a on ESPN+, which will make their attempts to stave off relegation more difficult, currently they sit in the relegation playoff position and trail Stuttgart by one point for safety.
  • Chris Richards and Hoffenheim face Julian Green and Greuther Fürth at 11:30a on ESPN+. Fürth are as good as relegated, while Richards and Hoffenheim are clinging to sixth place and Europa Conference League qualifying.
  • Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig meet up in top four clash Sunday afternoon at 1:30p on ESPN+. Tyler Adams unfortunately has just one start since January.

MLS Matches (on ESPN+):

  • NYCFC and Real Salt Lake meet at 1p. NYCFC have won just one game so far this season while RSL currently sit third in the West.

Hit the comments section below and let us know what you think of Steffen’s performance, the relegation races, or who you think should be showing off for a summer move.

Champions League talking points: Liverpool-Man City final? Should Simeone go? Greatest Cinderella story?

Apr 14, 2022  ESPN

The Champions League semifinals are set after LiverpoolManchester CityReal Madrid and Villarreal made it through following a set of quarterfinal second legs that featured thrills, upsets, brawls and plenty of goals.

Julien Laurens, Alex Kirkland and Tom Hamilton give their views on the big questions as just four clubs remain on the road to Paris.

What caught your eye from the quarterfinal second legs?

Laurens: I love how Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann got taught a lesson by Unai Emery and Villarreal, who beat them 2-1 on aggregate in one of the biggest upsets of recent years. Tactically, he was outsmarted by the Spanish manager. Just because you field five forwards doesn’t mean you will inevitably create a lot of chances and score many goals. And if you neglect your defensive transitions because you take the game for granted then you will get punished, and he did. Talking of punishment, Nagelsmann got it totally wrong as well with his comments after the quarterfinal draw was made and again before the match: He disrespected Villarreal and didn’t take them seriously. He is still a young manager, so let’s hope he learns from the mistakes he made this time around.

The other big one for me, of course, is another special moment from Karim Benzema, who scored the decisive goal that sent Real Madrid to the semifinals. It is his 12th goal in nine Champions League games so far this season. At 34 years old.

Kirkland: Two LaLiga teams in the semifinals: not bad for a league that’s supposedly in decline. It could have been three if Atletico Madrid had been a bit more clinical in the last 15 minutes against Manchester City at the Wanda Metropolitano, before the match descended into chaos with Felipe‘s red card. Atletico were on top at that point, and if they’d managed to score and level the tie you would have fancied their chances in extra time. But the brawl that followed the sending off (and reignited after the final whistle) robbed the game of any momentum, allowing City to progress 1-0 on aggregate.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s inexplicable run in this competition continues. They were comprehensively outplayed by Chelsea for 75 minutes at the Bernabeu — just as they had been for an hour by Paris Saint-Germain in the round of 16 — before digging deep once again to go through 5-4 on aggregate after extra time. There are plenty of things to criticise about this team, but you can’t fault their character and mentality. With the quality of Luka Modric and Benzema, there’s always a chance.

Hamilton: Hands down, the moment of the round was Modric’s assist for Rodrygo‘s goal. The Croatian magician was exceptional against Chelsea and that ball with the outside of his foot to tee up the Brazilian’s volley was an incredible piece of skill.

Liverpool’s strength in depth is also paying dividends. Jurgen Klopp has built a formidable squad, and he was able to rotate for their second leg against Benfica with one eye on their FA Cup semifinal against City at the weekend. Having taken the first leg 3-1 in Lisbon, he was able shuffle his pack for the return leg as they went through with a 3-3 draw at Anfield. The ability to rotate will prove to be absolutely essential as they are still chasing three trophies, but it also reinforced (again) what a brilliant job they’ve done in the recruitment department. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson were both rested against Benfica, while Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane were second-half substitutes. Klopp’s judgment on rotation will be key in the run-in.

At the other end of the scale, Bayern Munich’s wastefulness against Villarreal was alarming. Nagelsmann is a wonderful manager, but you feel like one way or another, there will be some change at the Bundesliga champions this summer amid reports Barcelona are keen on their star man Robert Lewandowski. I agree with Juls: They don’t look as settled as they did under Hansi Flick, their midfield was picked apart on Tuesday, and the aggressively high line was a recipe for disaster against Villarreal — the masters of football frugality. Despite having a lethal attack, just four of their 23 shots were on target. Villarreal managed one and scored from it. Under-pressure sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic chuckled when interviewed about the quarterfinal draw on German TV. He’s not laughing now.

Is it time for Diego Simeone to leave Atletico? If so, which club would suit him?

Kirkland: We’ve often asked this question during Simeone’s decade in charge — in 2016 after a second Champions League final defeat in three seasons, in 2020 when they looked like dropping out of LaLiga’s top four — and the answer is always “no.” This is a manager who won the league last year ahead of Real Madrid and Barcelona, has inspired famous away victories over Liverpool and Manchester United in recent seasons, and had them in this tie with Manchester City — arguably the best team in the world — until the very end. Simeone has become so identified with Atletico now that it’s impossible to picture how one would look without the other. For example: can you begin to imagine how it might have gone for Simeone if he’d taken the Manchester United job in 2016? Simeone is Atletico, and Atletico is Simeone. He should stay as long as he wants to, and leave on his own terms, when he sees fit.

Hamilton: Well they certainly still love him at the Wanda Metropolitano. The last few moments of that second leg were affirmation of how much they still adore Simeone, as he stood on the sideline clapping away with the fans (at least that’s how it looked, much to the bemusement/frustration of the much-maligned officials). But his football does grate on the European stage. The potential is frightening in that squad. While it managed to secure him LaLiga last term, watching Joao Felix chase down blind alleys all evening against Man City was frustrating. But it’s certainly a team built in his own image, and whoever takes over would take several seasons to shift the philosophy to how they’d want the team to play. It is time to shift away from the street-fighting mentality — their loss of discipline was shocking in the final stages, and was a poor look for the club.

Laurens: His time was up a while ago. Atletico are paying him a fortune, they are backing him up hugely on the transfer market and this is how they are rewarded! The two games against Manchester City were embarrassing. Koke & Co. showed they could play if they wanted, and they put City under pressure in the last 30 minutes of the game, but the rest of the time, they were so defensive, so anti-football that it hurt to watch them. Simeone is stuck in the past. With the squad that he has, his team could and should play in a more attacking way, with swagger and class. Instead, it’s street battles, ultra-defensive tactics and the negation of football. He is such a guru at Atletico that they are too scared to sack him. So he will stay until he decides to leave. Where could he go next? I don’t know and I don’t care (although I hope nowhere). The less I see his prehistoric tactics, the better!

Now that the final four is set, who will reach the final, and who will lift the trophy?

Hamilton: It’s going to be an all-English final, with Pep Guardiola up against Klopp, Salah against Kevin De Bruyne and a repeat of that brilliant 2-2 draw we saw at the weekend. Klopp won’t underestimate Villarreal like Bayern Munich did, while Guardiola has the nous to contain Benzema and knock over Real Madrid. It’s been a long time coming for Guardiola — this will be his second semifinal as City boss, and if he gets through that, then it’ll be his second chance at winning the trophy at this club. Klopp has already won the trophy with Liverpool back in 2019. And I have a feeling that whoever wins the league won’t win the Champions League. So for that reason: It’s Liverpool’s Champions League this year.

Laurens: I know mainland Europe will not like it, but I am betting again on a full English. For the third time in the past four seasons, we will have a final with two English clubs. After Liverpool beat Tottenham Hotspur in 2019 and Chelsea defeated Manchester City last season, it will be Man City vs. Liverpool on May 28 at the Stade de France. It is the dream final: the two best teams in the world right now, the two best managers, the two best attacks, the two best defences, Salah against Kevin De Bruyne, eight goals in two amazing Premier League matches this season, and surely more when they meet at Wembley in Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal (stream LIVE at 10:30 a.m. ET on ESPN+ in the U.S.). The final between these two might not be as open, but I feel it will be City’s triumph this time. They have learnt a lot from the disappointment of losing to Chelsea last season and will get their first, long-awaited Champions League trophy.

Kirkland: I’d love to make the case for an all-Spanish, Real Madrid vs. Villarreal final … but I don’t think I can. Madrid’s luck will surely run out at some point, and Manchester City are a better, more reliable team than PSG or Chelsea. As for Villarreal, anything is possible — who would have backed them to eliminate Juventus or Bayern Munich, and Unai Emery’s European record is exceptional — but I would worry about their defence up against Liverpool’s stacked forward line. I think we’re in for yet another all-English final, and City to win it.

After Villarreal, a team from a town of 50,000 people, reached the semifinals, what is your favourite Champions League Cinderella story?

Laurens: Monaco reaching the semifinals in 2016-17. What a team, and what a journey! They also won Ligue 1 that season but, maybe more impressively, they defied all the odds in the Champions League. We got to see the making of a new star in Kylian Mbappe who, at only 17, blew away everyone. He scored against Manchester City at the Etihad in the first leg of the round of 16, his first-ever start in the competition. He did it again in the second leg, and in the two quarterfinal matches against Borussia Dortmund, and in the semifinal second leg in Turin against Juventus. Mbappe was on fire alongside Radamel FalcaoFabinhoBernardo SilvaJoao Moutinho and Thomas Lemar. It was a golden generation and manager Leonardo Jardim made the most of the incredible talent at his disposal. They were a bit naive and unlucky against Juventus in the semifinals and fell short, but nevertheless it was a beautiful Cinderella story.

Kirkland: How about the last time Villarreal reached the Champions League semifinals? Their 2005-06 team was packed full of gifted, must-watch players — Juan Roman Riquelme, Diego Forlan, Marcos Senna — and came within a missed Riquelme penalty of making the final. Staying on the LaLiga theme, the Isco-inspired Malaga of 2012-13 is another personal favourite. They reached the quarterfinals on their debut in the competition and were only eliminated thanks to a baffling double-offside call in added time that went the way of Klopp’s Dortmund. The best, though, has to be 2003-04 semifinalists Deportivo La Coruna. Depor eliminated both of the previous year’s finalists — Juventus and AC Milan — before being cruelly beaten by Jose Mourinho’s Porto (the ugly sister to Depor’s Cinderella, if you will). The win over Milan was one for the ages, following a 4-1 loss at San Siro with a legendary 4-0 second-leg comeback at Riazor.

Hamilton: If I can shoehorn them in as a Cinderella story (perhaps they’re more like Jack and the Beanstalk), then it has to be Ajax’s run to the 2019 semifinals. They were a matter of seconds away from a spot in the final, until Lucas Moura broke Amsterdam hearts with that perfectly placed shot from the edge of the box to seal his hat trick put Tottenham through at the expense of Erik ten Hag’s side. That team was wonderful to watch, playing ambitious football with that young Dutch core of Matthijs de LigtFrenkie de Jong and Donny van de Beek. They were brought together on a comparatively tiny budget to their European rivals, but a squad brimming with homegrown talent managed to knock out Real Madrid and Juventus en route to the semifinals. That run then (inevitably) triggered a mass dismantlement of that generation, but they were a joy to watch.

Chelsea debate: Thomas Tuchel costly Christian Pulisic Real Madrid call prompts FA Cup question

CHELSEAOPINION

Did Thomas Tuchel get it wrong with his decision to sub Christian Pulisic on against Real Madrid?

Did Thomas Tuchel get it wrong with his decision to sub Christian Pulisic on against Real Madrid? (Image: Getty Images | Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images)

With under 15 minutes to play, it appeared Thomas Tuchel’s Madrid miracle was actually going to happen. Timo Werner’s mazy solo run had unravelled Carlo Ancelotti’s already rocked defence to give Chelsea a 3-0 lead.

Then Tuchel opted to take the confident Werner off for Christian Pulisic to add fresh legs to Chelsea’s intense attack. The move altered the game, with the American missing two guilt-edged chances in added time after Rodrygo had levelled the tie on aggregate.

Pulisic’s display was disappointing, losing the ball too easily and failing to offer the same dynamic movement the German had before coming off.

READ MORE: Timo Werner Real Madrid heartbreak sends Chelsea message to Christian Pulisic after Tuchel call

Football. london’s esteemed panel of Chelsea writers combine to give you their take on the sub, if it was the one wrong and what Tuchel should do heading into this weekend’s huge FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace, and you can voice your thoughts as well.

Adam Newson

As the ball dropped into the path of Pulisic, it felt like the American star’s moment. Hit the target, and Chelsea would almost certainly secure their place in the Champions League semi-finals. Unfortunately, the winger put his effort from close range over the crossbar and repeated that unfortunate trick moments later.

They were two huge misses from the only substitute Tuchel made in normal time. Pulisic replaced Werner, who had scored Chelsea’s third and been a general nuisance throughout. It didn’t pay off, but that wasn’t for want of trying. And it’s very easy to deride the change after the fact. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

However, I wouldn’t start Pulisic in the FA Cup semi-final against Crystal Palace at the weekend. In the past two games, we’ve seen the return of last season’s front three – Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Werner – and it has clicked straight into gear. The movement, the rotation, the interplay, it just seems to come together with that trio. It’s why I’d go with Werner on the left of the Chelsea attack against Palace. It’s another chance for him to impress and save what appeared to be a Chelsea career drifting toward a disappointing end.

Anita Abayomi

It probably wasn’t the best move to make in hindsight. However, I understand why Tuchel had made the call. Chelsea needed something different, and looking onto the bench, Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech were the only game-changers to call upon.

At the time, I agreed with the switch, but Pulisic did not have that Captain America moment to bring Chelsea to the win. I cannot in a good mind blame him for the result at all. He did what he could do. We can only leave the game saying, “if only he had buried one of the two chances presented to him.

Scott Trotter

It’s always tempting to look at the outcome over the process. Pulisic has shown some lethal finishing in the past, and you don’t have to look further away than the Champions League last 16 to see the injection of pace he can bring and Tuchel would have expected the US international to have an impact on tiring legs.

Pulisic may have missed the opportunities that fell to him, but his introduction was always likely to come as one of few game-changers on the bench. The question is if Timo Werner needed to come off at the moment. The German international was a goal to the good and had tactically troubled Carlo Ancelotti’s backline throughout the evening at the Bernabeu.

There may be a question of ‘what if?’ but on the whole, Chelsea were brilliant bar some finishing and still managed three goals. Crashing out of the competition comes from the first leg failures. Nevertheless, Werner has done enough to earn another start if he is in condition to play at the weekend.

Jake Stokes

Pulisic always seems to be on the verge of something great at Chelsea, and then something happens that rains on his parade. Though I think he could be a great asset for the Blues moving forward, and he certainly has the potential to be such, it’s so hard to deny Werner a start ahead of the American international now.

As Scott said, there may be a question of ‘what if?’ but football is about performing and stepping up in the big moment, and unfortunately, the game was swept by Pulisic at the Santiago Bernabeu. This is by no means the end of him, but should he want to cement a role in Tuchel’s side, then he must become a consistent seven out of ten performer at the very least, with a sprinkle of magic.

Football is a game of fine margins, and I think we are too quick to blame a coach for a decision purely on its result. In 2021, Pulisic was a devastating sub against Real Madrid’s tiring backline in the second half. Here, he wasn’t, but that came down to the American’s poor finishing in added time.

American coaches (not Ted Lasso) trying to make it in Europe: ‘It’s almost impossible for us to get you hired’

Apr 6, 2022 Noah Davis ESPN

Mike Keeney embodies a certain type of American soccer story. You know the one: a young man packs a bag with some clothes and a dream, stuffs a couple hundred dollars into his pockets, hops a plane to Europe and dives into football on the continent. He struggles and works, embracing any opportunity while battling negative perceptions and reality. Eventually, he finds a place, making himself indispensable and building a career.”Those first few years, I was scraping by trying to make make a living,” Keeney told ESPN over Zoom. “I was sacrificing a lot of time and energy to train three, four or five teams. I joke around, if two kids were kicking a bottle in the carpark I probably went over there and tried to make them better. Why? Because I wanted to show my ability, and I think in a country like Finland, they reward you for this.”Keeney is nearly 15 years into this journey, a veteran with experience at a dozen clubs including HIFK Helsinki and FC Samorin, and a Finnish passport to boot. He’s built a reputation, a good one, with connections throughout Europe. Keeney’s story is one of success, but the Antioch, California, native isn’t a player. The 48-year-old is a manager, one of a small but growing number of Americans who are making it in the European coaching ranks, forging paths not just for themselves but for the people who will come after them.The American-in-Europe coaching fraternity includes some big names. U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter previously managed Sweden’s Hammarby IF, while Bob Bradley had stints at Swansea City and Le Havre. Jesse March is with Leeds United after a successful run at FC Salzburg and less successful one at RB Leipzig. Pellegrino Matarazzo and David Wagner boast Bundesliga experience, with LAFC‘s Steve Cherundolo previously working in an assistant capacity at Hannover. Others, such as Kenney, Enochs and former University of Connecticut and Temple assistant Brian Clarhaut — now with GIF Sundsvall in Sweden, which just signed MLS stalwart and former U.S. international midfielder Joe Corona on loan — don’t have the name recognition, but are forging a path others can follow. In football, success begets success, and a chance taken creates another opportunity for someone else.That said, just as American players had to (and continue to) deal with prejudice and prevailing perception about the quality of soccer in the United States, coaches do, too. Bradley drew the ire of the fans for saying “PK” and “road games,” and mispronouncing Premier League. Marsch caused a collective commentator meltdown after holding a postmatch team huddle on the pitch, while Manchester United assistant Chris Armas can’t get away from the Ted Lasso comparisons. (We’ll get to the Richmond FC boss in a bit.)But while there’s a negative connotation of the U.S. as a backwater football culture, leaning into the stereotype of being “an American” can have its benefits.”I didn’t try to downplay it — I tried to embrace it,” said Clarhaut, a brash and proud 35-year-old New Jersey native. “That type of leadership, that type of aggression is one of my biggest strengths. It’s like, ‘OK, who is this kind of crazy American guy?'”American managers might be crazy (at least some), but are they any good? It’s a decidedly mixed bag.Twenty First Group pulled together a list of how American coaches had fared during their tenures, using their World Soccer League ratings to determine how much better or worse a coach’s team got during his first 30 matches in charge. Matarazzo and Marsch made their teams “much better.” (In fact, Matarazzo’s time at Stuttgart rated as the most improvement of any of the 771 manager tenures tracked.) Enochs, Wagner (at Young Boys) and Bradley (at Le Havre) rated between “slightly better” and “slightly worse.” Berhalter, Bradley (at Swansea City) and Wagner (at Schalke and Huddersfield) checked in as “materially worse.”Not horrible, but not exactly Ted Lasso, either.

Speaking of that streaming phenomenon, while Americans coaching in Europe mostly have similar stories about their paths, they have vastly different opinions regarding everyone’s favorite affable football-turned-football coach.”They did a great job,” Cherundolo said. “It’s a great show.””We just got sort of hooked on it,” said Enochs, who binged both seasons with his wife. “It was funny. I enjoy it. I know it’s only entertainment, though.” He also said that none of his assistants in Germany know anything about it — a boon when it comes to avoiding the dopey-American-coach stereotype.Keeney, on the other hand, isn’t a fan. “The little bit I’ve seen, I don’t think it does favors for the image of an American abroad,” he said. “It undermines some of the work that myself and some of the other guys have been doing, the guys who actually come over to Europe and work and battle.”One issue not covered in a fictional show that’s very real for flesh-and-blood Americans is the fact that U.S. Soccer coaching licenses are not valid in Europe. Without a UEFA Pro License, one cannot manage a team in a top-tier league for more than 12 weeks. Getting one requires successfully completing the B and A Licenses, and getting approved for a Pro course, which happens at the discretion of national federations.”These are very selective spots,” Clarhaut said. “So that’s a huge, huge disadvantage for American coaches. It’s a problem.”While this wrinkle isn’t unique to Americans as all non-European managers can have difficulty earning their UEFA badges, it dramatically limits the opportunities available for coaches coming from the United States. (And, perhaps, the lack of reciprocity indicates the low standards in which the European governing body holds the USSF coaching-licensing program.) Before moving to Europe, Keeney worked at Hoover Soccer Club in Birmingham, Alabama, which had a coaching- and player-exchange program with Celtic. While he impressed the Scottish club’s coaching staff, getting a job with them was a nonstarter.”They told me, ‘You’re an American guy with no UEFA badges, no coaching licenses,'” Keeney said. “‘It’s almost impossible for us to get you hired, let alone get you the work permit.'”When an opportunity presented itself in Finland, Keeney jumped at it, and even then, constantly applying and reapplying for visas and work permits took a good deal of his time.In the future, more American coaches will find their way to Europe, but it’s not happening yet. In his capacity as chief intelligence officer at Twenty First Group, Omar Chaudhuri helps teams perform due diligence on lists of coaching prospects and also creates lists of potential coaching candidates for clubs. He said there’s never really been an American on the shortlists, although he did note Marsch’s hiring at Leeds. While he (and others interviewed for this piece) have noticed an improved perception of American players in Europe, the same isn’t true of coaches.”If a coach is doing very well in MLS, I think in Europe, it’d be dismissed more readily than if a player was doing well in MLS,” he said.Conversely, American managers are on short leashes when they do get top jobs. The masses turned against “Soccer Bob” Bradley almost immediately — perhaps before he even fielded his first starting lineup. Marsch and Leipzig parted ways just four months into his first season, with both parties admitting that it was the wrong person in the wrong situation.This isn’t an unknown phenomenon. In the recent past, American players wouldn’t get the benefit of the doubt, pulled from the lineup or buried on the bench after a few mistakes, whereas their counterparts from more “respected” soccer cultures would earn more chances. As more Americans succeed on the field, that reality is changing.”The dialogue is much different today,” said Cherundolo, who has experience both as a player and a manager helping to change the perception. “It’s: ‘No, he’s good. Let’s give him some time and get to know the team.’ Respect and credit has certainly grown over the years. It’s only a matter of time before that happens for coaches. But there are always going to have to be some trailblazers who go through difficult stretches first.””We have to prove ourselves first,” he said. “We have to go through that. It’s just a lengthy process, but it will happen.”The goal, of course, is to get to a place where Americans aren’t “American coaches” and just “coaches.” The best way to do that is to win.”They don’t look at your passport, they look at your ability,” Keeney said. “If you’re not winning games, if you’re not developing players, if, on a professional side, you’re not selling guys for profit, they don’t care who you are or where you’re from. It’s a business.”eeney continued: “It’s an interesting pathway. If you would have asked me 15 years ago, when I first left, would I be down this road, I would say, ‘You’re crazy.’ But you know, the journey has been fantastic.”

The Making of American Coach Jesse Marsch – From his MLS Days to the EPL 

The making of Jesse Marsch in MLS predates the league’s inception. It goes back to when he was in college.

Marsch, a boy from a small Wisconsin city called Racine, was recruited to play soccer at Princeton University under head coach Bob Bradley, among the country’s most decorated male soccer coaching minds and someone who would become a trailblazer. He’d spend the better part of the next quarter-century with Bradley – from Princeton to D.C. United, then Chicago Fire FC and Chivas USA before getting his first coaching job as an assistant under Bradley with the US men’s national team.

Along the way, Marsch learned and developed his own ideas, made his own connections and a ton of his own memories, as a hugely successful MLS player and then a Supporters’ Shield-winning head coach with the New York Red Bulls. From there, he embarked on a coaching career in Europe with RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig.

Now at Leeds United, Marsch follows a path first forged by Bradley, who was the first American-born head coach of a Premier League team when he (briefly) was in charge at Swansea City. Marsch inherited a sinking ship at Leeds but has steered it immediately, doing things his way and leading the group away from the relegation zone. They are currently on a four-game unbeaten run after a commanding 3-0 win over Watford last weekend.

MLSsoccer.com spoke with a number of folks who knew Marsch best at various stops in MLS, from his playing days to his first coaching job with the Montréal Impact (now CF Montréal) and then becoming a household name with the New York Red Bulls.

Chicago Fire competitiveness and scuffles

Jesse Marsch’s professional career began with D.C. United during MLS’s inaugural 1996 season, but he made his name in Chicago with the Fire. Bob Bradley was an assistant under Bruce Arena at D.C. United for the league’s first two seasons, then was named head coach of Chicago for their expansion season in 1998. He brought Marsch there.

Marsch would go on to make 200 appearances for the Fire, in an atmosphere that suited his fiery, competitive nature.

“We got under each other’s skin,” Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin said. Curtin joined the Fire in 2001, where he was Marsch’s teammate until 2005, then again in 2008-09 with Chivas USA. “There were fistfights all the time, that was a common occurrence. Jesse had a way of competing, it wasn’t uncommon that punches were thrown. Let’s just say we’ll leave out some details, but, yeah, that wasn’t uncommon.”Austin FC head coach osh Wolff, a fellow original member of the Fire with Marsch and his first roommate, recalled those details, including a one-punch knockout by Ante Razov.

“Yeah, plenty of good stories,” Wolff said. Wolff played for Chicago from 1998-2002. “Jesse got knocked out by Ante in training in one punch; He got thrown out of a training because he took a cheap shot. There was plenty of animosity between players. Jesse didn’t back down, other players didn’t back down either.”

Training altercations were left between the white lines of the pitch, quickly forgotten and moved on from in that ultra-competitive group. In fact, the morning after that fight with Razov and Marsch, the pair were in the same car heading to training together.

“In hindsight, it was a good thing,” Curtin said. “It made us all so competitive, it was a really cool locker room to be part of.”

It was like that from Curtin’s first day.Curtin arrived with the team in 2001 fresh out of college, after the Fire’s three-year run of two US Open Cup titles and one MLS Cup. It was a bit of a jump in quality and pace for the former Villanova star, and his first training session didn’t quite go to plan.

“You get thrown off a plane off that, and you might be a good college player, but you learn pretty quickly you’re not at their level,” Curtin said. “And it was probably the beers I had the night before, but I timed a challenge – let’s just say very poorly – on Piotr Nowak. It was so bad, Bob ended the session. I walked away with Jesse, sat in the van and I turned to him – and I didn’t know Jesse at all – and said, ‘Well, at least I can say I fouled Piotr Novak before my career ended.’ I’m thinking that was the end of things. He laughed and appreciated I was self-deprecating, and a friendship was born from that.”Curtin and Marsch carpooled together during their time in Chicago and Chivas. They remain close to this day, with a lifetime of memories on and off the field.

“Thank god there were no cell phones in those days,” Curtin said with a laugh.

Marsch remained that way through the twilight of his career. It’s just who he is; you can’t really turn that off.

From Chicago he went to Chivas USA, as did Curtin, where they played with rising rookie Sacha Kljestan. Kljestan was taken fifth overall at the 2006 MLS SuperDraft, was a finalist for 2006 MLS Rookie of the Year and would be destined for a successful career in MLS, Europe and with the USMNT. His first stop was as Marsch’s midfield partner with Chivas.

“I’d say for the majority of my rookie year, I didn’t really like Jesse that much,” Kljestan said. “He was always on me. He was the old guy who had been around the block and I was the rookie who thought I knew better.”

The pair spent four years playing together, with Kljestan crediting Marsch for aiding his development.

Kljestan would go on to Anderlecht, becoming a fan favorite as an integral part of Belgian league-winning sides, then join up with Marsch as a centerpiece of those New York Red Bulls teams he coached.

Bob Bradley’s impact

To say that Bob Bradley’s coaching tree was plentiful, particularly in those Chicago days, might be an understatement. In different variations of that team with Marsch a centerpiece – including after Bradley had departed – the culture he laid lived on. It was a perfect breeding ground for future coaches and sporting executives.

Bradley was at the helm, regarded as one of the best American coaches of all time, and has since cycled through the USMNT, Egypt men’s national team, Swansea, LAFC and now Toronto FC. Denis Hamlett was an assistant on that staff and he’s now the sporting director at the New York Red Bulls.

The playing rosters featured:

  • Current MLS head coaches Curtin and Wolff
  • Former MLS head coach and current Manchester United assistant coach Chris Armas
  • Current MLS assistant coaches Razov, CJ Brown, Frank Klopas and Zach Thornton
  • Current MLS front-office executives John Thorrington, Carlos Bocanegra and Amos McGee
  • Former MLS manager Piotr Nowak
  • Former Bulgaria international manager (and Barcelona star) Hristo Stoichkov

“The film session arguments, sharing of information,” Curtin said. “I’m 21 years old, my head is spinning in this locker room with Bob, Stoichkov, Piotr, Jesse and Chris all disagreeing and giving points of view. You couldn’t help but learn. I was lucky to be in that environment.”

“Landing in Chicago was very instrumental in my development,” Wolff added. “Those were good players and every player held each other accountable. That’s Bob as well. Nobody got away with anything, the competing was real. There were plenty of scrappy days, the feistiness. It was a very connected group. Bob Bradley’s ability to keep connecting to players and families, to keep them together, I take away those things from that group.”

Given how long Marsch spent with Bradley from college through the pros and even his first coaching job as an assistant with the national team, it’s easy to lump them together, particularly now with Marsch at Leeds six years after Bradley went to Swansea.

“They share ideas, no question. But the great thing about soccer, you can learn from the best and evolve with your own ideas,” Curtin said. “They’re their own people, they’re both appreciative of each other and both incredible at what they do. As someone who learned from both of them and owes a career to both of them, I can step back and say they’re different, and that’s okay. Both are incredible leaders. Maybe the best way to put it, they’re both incredibly brave and didn’t stay in their comfort zone. Bob took Egypt, Bob took Swansea. Jesse, same thing. He’s coached all over the world and has had success. They both find ways to win because they’re both winners.”

 Playing against Marsch? “A lot of whining, pissing and moaning”

Between D.C. and Chicago, Marsch won nine major trophies in the league’s first eight seasons: Three MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields and four US Open Cups. His teams won, simply put.

A tenacious defensive midfielder, Marsch was no stranger to contact, the type of player all successful teams need. He committed 450 fouls over his career and picked up 57 yellow cards.

“When you talk to people about Jesse outside of his teammates, they say ‘I hated him on the field,’” Curtin said. “No kidding, because his teams always won!”

Wolff spent five seasons with Marsch and the Fire before being traded to the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City). He got Marsch as a teammate, then had extensive experience playing against him for the better part of the next seven years, too.

“A lot of whining, a lot of pissing and moaning,” Wolff said with a laugh about playing against Marsch. “But again, there are these players who want to antagonize. … When he did something well he let everybody and anybody who could hear him know. This is Jesse, you see it, it’s right on his sleeve every single day. It’d be a boring world if we didn’t have personalities.”

Marsch didn’t win any trophies in the final act of his career at Chivas USA, but the correlation between the club being competitive and not with or without him is remarkable.

Chivas missed the playoffs in 2005, their inaugural season. Marsch joined ahead of 2006 and the club made the playoffs each of those four years from 2006-09. He retired after the 2009 season. From 2010 until the club’s final season in 2014 before ceasing operations, Chivas missed the playoffs each year.

Kljestan departed the club during the 2010 season, signing for Anderlecht. Marsch’s impact on the way he trained every day stayed with him throughout his career, still thriving with the LA Galaxy today.

“When you saw Jesse train, he wasn’t the best player but his team always won,” Kljestan said. “He always had the guys ready to play. I took a lot of that with me when I went and played with him at Red Bulls.”

Off the field, “the most humble, down-to-earth, family guy”

While Marsch wears his heart on his sleeve both as a player and coach, he’s a different human outside of the game. Most people are, anyway.

“Of course he was a different person off the field,” Curtin said. “He’s the most humble, down-to-earth, family guy from Wisconsin. He’s a great person, his mom and dad are amazing people. There’s no coincidence he’s developed into this leader.”“He’s fun off the field. We’re all self-deprecating and take shots at ourselves – he’s as open as anyone,” Wolff said. “He’s a good dude, a smart guy. He’s comfortable being uncomfortable, you’ve seen that over his career. He and his family have done things to experience life, that’s an incredible quality.”

Marsch coached in the United States, Canada, Austria, Germany and now England. In the years between Montréal and the Red Bulls, he took his kids out of school so he and his family could go on a six-month trip around the world to experience the globe’s different cultures together.Most people wouldn’t take that sort of leap.“To have a beer with Jesse, he’s one of the best storytellers,” Curtin said. “He makes everyone feel welcome. I’ve had many nights where you’re just laughing. I got to see the other side of Jesse. He’s very serious about his soccer, but he’s a down-to-earth guy.

“He’s actually hilarious, but don’t tell him I said that part,” Curtin continued. “Well, he can get repetitive with his stories, you can write that. He has five or six amazing ones where he’s like a world-class storyteller, but I’ve heard them a lot. His wife will back me up on this. I say that in the nicest way.”“You know all coaches, they think they’re funny. He’s got a few terrible jokes,” Bradley Wright-Phillips said. Wright-Phillips was the star forward for the New York Red Bulls during Marsch’s entire tenure. “But, nah man, I honestly don’t have a bad word to say about Jesse. He was quality, especially for me.”When Kljestan joined the Red Bulls in 2015, as pushed and orchestrated by Marsch, Kljestan played one more game with Anderlecht on a Tuesday night as a sendoff to a successful run at the club whose fans affectionately called “Mr. USA”. He took an overnight flight to New Jersey to complete his medical, then at the end of the day hopped on another plane to Florida to join up with his new teammates in preseason camp.In the middle of the night, as Kljestan stumbles into the hotel in a jetlagged fog, he sees a familiar, smiling face.“I got into the hotel at like 1 in the morning and Jesse is just standing in the lobby waiting for me to give me a big hug,” Kljestan said. “That meant a lot to me. It made me feel so welcomed to the group.”

“Lived and learned” in a season with the Montréal Impact

It’s easy to forget Jesse Marsch’s one year as manager of CF Montréal, then still known as the Impact. It was his first foray as a head coach.

Montréal were set to begin play in MLS in 2012. Canadian international Patrice Bernier, who began his career in 2000 with Montréal when they played in the A-League, was enjoying a successful period in Europe, currently in Denmark.

Marsch helped convince him to come home for his hometown’s inaugural season in MLS.

“I had no plans of coming back to Montréal already when the team was announced,” Bernier said. “Then Jesse came to Europe to watch players and wanted to see me. He was able to convey his philosophy and guided me to say, okay, I might come back home. He was a guy who had ideas, wanted to bring his flavor to MLS. That message conveyed.”

Bernier played for Montréal until retirement following the 2017 season. He is second all-time in MLS matches played in the club’s history.

​​“Jesse is someone who works hard,” Bernier said. “Even though me and him had our rough patches, he always communicated. Some coaches when you’re out of the mix, you never talk. He was at least honest. He took a decision, you might not like it, but the communication line was always open.”

Marsch lasted just the 2012 season with Montréal before moving on due to “differences in coaching philosophies with management.”

“When he was at Montréal, he lived and learned,” Wolff said. “He got a new pathway, got introduced in different ways. He was comfortable knowing he needs to learn. It’s a life of learning until the day you die and he knows that.”

“This guy is f—king crazy”: Marsch’s RBNY revolution

Jesse Marsch became a national name while with the New York Red Bulls from 2015-18. Expectations were low at the onset. In fact, things were hostile.

The Red Bulls were transitioning out of the Thierry Henry era with a plan to revamp the playing and recruitment styles. Mike Petke, a former player with RBNY and then their head coach, was a fan favorite and enjoyed success at the club. He was surprisingly let go in favor of Marsch that offseason.

Leaders at RBNY held a town hall for fans to voice their opinions in that first offseason and it went very poorly. The fan base was still firmly behind Petke and angry at how things played out. Marsch was there fielding questions and angry comments, taking the criticism and ill-will in stride, saying he loved the passion.

Though preseason was rocky, it didn’t take long for Marsch to win them over.

“That first game at home we played D.C. United,” Kljestan said. “I remember the fans were not happy. They did a thing where they weren’t going to cheer in the first half. But Bradley scored two goals and they started cheering again. Winning is all that matters, and we won a lot, so the fans came around very quickly.”

They did it with the now-standard Red Bull high-pressing way. While it’s a hugely popular system today, it wasn’t quite so normal around the globe and that rang true for MLS.

The players were in for a shock that preseason.

“That was tough, that was crazy, oh my god,” Wright-Phillips said. “We’re out in Florida (for preseason), even just the warmup was so difficult. I was like what the hell, I’m not the fittest guy. If you’re asking me to run at training, I’m going to struggle. It was tough, man. I remember Roy Miller looking at me like what the hell is going on. The first week of preseason was tough.”

Kljestan missed that first week of preseason as he was still playing for Anderlecht and finalizing his transfer to RBNY. The first morning at the hotel, after arriving at 1 a.m. the night before, he’s having breakfast. Marsch comes over to start to familiarize Kljestan with the tactics.“I’m still all jetlagged, but at breakfast he pulls me over and he’s drawing on a piece of paper how we’re going to play and how we’re going to press,” Kljestan said. “He’s explaining it to me, how our outside backs will press their outside backs. No one ever pressed that way. I was like: ‘This guy is f–king crazy.’”

Kljestan didn’t mind that Marsch saw him as a No. 10 after he played mostly as a box-to-box midfielder with Anderlecht. Wright-Phillips didn’t mind that a lot of the transition tactics had the players looking quickly for “Option A” when possession was recovered. Wright-Phillips was “Option A”.“He told us we were going to be the fittest team. I was thinking: ‘Me? I think you got the wrong guy, man,’” Wright-Phillips said. “He had to teach us the style in the beginning, it was like Pressing for Dummies.”

“If this doesn’t work, we’re going to be bad,” Kljestan said.

It did work out, for the team and most individuals. Wright-Phillips and Kljestan were two of the three finalists for the 2016 Landon Donovan MLS MVP award. Kljestan had 16g/51a in his three seasons under Marsch, BWP had 78g/21a in four seasons under Marsch (well, technically three-and-a-half seasons).

In Marsch’s first year in charge, 2015, the Red Bulls won the Supporters’ Shield and he was named Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year.

“​​When he went over to the Red Bulls, I joke, but it was like the Montréal Impact 2.0 for Jesse Marsch,” Bernier said. “He had a younger team, he had clearer ideas from what worked and what didn’t in Montréal. He had his convictions. I’m sure they didn’t change, but he took an approach to the Red Bulls that worked so well. It was not a surprise the success he got.”

Meanwhile, Marsch’s former teammates and friends were embarking on their own coaching careers. Wolff was an assistant under Gregg Berhalter at the Columbus Crew, Razov an assistant under Sigi Schmid in Seattle and Curtin the head coach of his hometown Philadelphia Union, to name a few.

“It was strange coaching against him,” Curtin said. “You look across the sidelines, there’s Chris Armas, who you had a great relationship with too, and there’s Jesse. There’s always something extra in those games, you want to do well against your peers. You care about what they think of your team. It was like when we were players, we wanted to win every day in training sessions against each other. That’s normal. Afterward, we’d have a drink and joke about the old times, tell the same 10 stories, and we’ll laugh.”

The Red Bulls never did win MLS Cup during Marsch’s reign, though they were probably the best team in the league over that period.

“Jesse is my favorite manager I had,” Wright-Phillips said. “I had coaches who liked me, but I never had a manager before him who taught me how to play well. Just the way he spoke to me, even the first phone call. He told me he wanted me to be a leader, but I wasn’t that kind of person, I’m more of a soldier. Tell me what to do and I’ll get it done. He said no, you have to change that. That responsibility really helped me.”

The Red Bulls won another Supporters’ Shield in 2018, the year Marsch left midseason for Germany’s RB Leipzig. Armas – Marsch’s former teammate and assistant coach – took the team the rest of the way, though stalwarts from the previous Shield-winning team like Kljestan and Dax McCarty had already left the club. Those exits, and lack of MLS Cup silverware, are the only real blemishes to Marsch’s time with the Red Bulls.

McCarty has publicly said he didn’t love how Marsch handled his exit after the 2016 season, while Kljestan said he felt shocked at his departure after 2017 as well.

“I know Dax went through the same thing,” Kljestan said. “It’s been no secret what’s happened with bigger players at the Red Bulls over the years, like Bradley going to play elsewhere is just sh*y to see. Luis Robles, Sean Davis. It is what it is, the Red Bulls have their way.”

“It was tough, it was the Red Bulls putting in place their vision,” Wright-Phillips said. “We know they want to go younger. But to hear you’re getting traded by someone you respected and played every week, it’s not easy to take. I understand their frustration, it happened to me too a couple years later.”

Marsch moved on during 2018, taking a leap of faith to move midseason from head coach of the Red Bulls to become assistant at RB Leipzig. A year later, he was named manager of Austria’s RB Salzburg, where he enjoyed tremendous success both domestically and in European competitions.

That success gave him a chance with Leipzig last summer, but he didn’t last long as Marsch was gone from that job by December. He didn’t have to wait long for Leeds to come calling.

Handling pressure, breaking American stereotypes at LeedsMarsch has had a few viral moments at press conferences since taking over at Leeds, dealing with the infamous English media that is dubious of Americans. He’s only the third American manager in the Premier League (Bradley at Swansea, David Wagner at Huddersfield Town) and only the second to have made his name in MLS following Bradley.

Bradley lasted at Swansea City for less than two months.

“They are unfairly tough on Americans, they disrespect MLS a bit,” said Wright-Phillips, an Englishman himself. “It just takes time. They’re going to have their little jokes. But me knowing Jesse, I don’t think it bothers him very much. If they’re going to try to wind him, they’ve got to be prepared to take what comes back.”

Marsch grappled with jokes about his American accent and “Ted Lasso” references, the Jason Sudeikis-led show about an American college football head coach taking charge of a Premier League team. He also took a shot back at the media.

“Knowing Jesse like I do, I know that laugh that he did,” Curtin said. “He took time to eyeball certain guys in the room. He commands respect because he deserves respect.”

It seemed like a press conference version of a late challenge that might result in one of his 57 career yellow cards or spark one of those training ground altercations in Chicago.

Marsch has currently got Leeds flying, moving further away from the relegation zone with each passing match.

;

“Jesse Marsch is a winner… and always will be.”  

Marsch took over at Leeds following the hugely respected Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentine manager who brought Leeds back to the Premier League and is a coaching icon. Stepping in for that type of figure in the middle of a season, with the team hemorrhaging results and staring down relegation, isn’t quite the ideal job to take over.

“You know with Jesse, he’ll do it his way and a way the players embrace,” Curtin said. “You’ve seen that already, they fight to the very last second for him. I’m not surprised. It’s not surprising he’s found ways to get results even with a team that was struggling.”

Leeds have pulled nine points clear of the relegation zone at time of writing, with six matches left to play. The teams behind them have two games in hand, though, so they’re not out of the wood just yet.

But three wins and a draw from their last four games have given them ample and unexpected breathing room. A big part of their squad is former NYCFC winger Jack Harrison.

“You can see his players will fight for him,” Wolff said. “That’s a real good starting point.”

Anything can happen in the last six games; Leeds still have to face powerhouses Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal in succession. But Marsch is already turning heads and proving naysayers wrong about his decision to take the gig and Leeds’ decision to entrust their top-flight survival to an American from a small city in Wisconsin.

“I can say with confidence: Leeds fans should know they’re in the hands of someone who wants nothing more than to win,” Curtin said. “He wants nothing more than to improve the players. I have no doubt he can keep them up and I have full confidence he’ll do it. The biggest compliment I can give is that Jesse Marsch is a winner, he has been from day one, and always will be.”

“It’s going to be massive”: Seattle Sounders look ahead to CCL final vs. Pumas

By Charles Boehm @cboehm  Thursday, Apr 14, 2022, 02:36 PM

With Wednesday’s 1-1 semifinal second-leg draw vs. New York City FC, the Seattle Sounders have qualified for the Concacaf Champions League final for the first time ever.

There they will face Liga MX’s Pumas UNAM in a two-legged series on April 27 and May 4, with the first leg set for Estadio Olímpico Universitario in Mexico City and the second leg at Seattle’s Lumen Field, thanks to the MLSers’ superior record thus far in the competition.

“It’s a trophy that the club certainly covets,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer after Wednesday’s result, which gave his team a 4-2 aggregate win over the defending MLS Cup champions. “I think that’s something that we have made public. I think Garth [Lagerwey, Seattle’s president], when he came here, said it was a goal of ours.

“The constant theme throughout this club, the culture of the club, is to win every game, every trophy, every competition. We take all the games seriously. We don’t buy the excuse where if you commit to one tournament, you can’t proceed or do well in the other. We don’t buy that.”

Here’s a breakdown of what’s gone before, and what lies ahead.

History

Though it’s become more common in recent years, the Sounders are in rarified air, historically speaking.

The Rave Green are just the fifth MLS club to reach the final in the tournament’s modern incarnation, which began in 2008, and none of their four predecessors in that regard won the title. D.C. United and the LA Galaxy do hold the honor of Concacaf champions, however, having won its forerunner, the CONCACAF Champions’ Cup, in 1998 and 2000, respectively.

While clubs from seven nations in all have earned that honor over the decades, Liga MX has long held CCL in a stranglehold, winning every single edition of the current format. Current champs CF Monterrey are the most decorated winners with five continental titles during that time.

It’s become something of a white whale for MLS, considering that the league’s dramatic growth and progress since 2008 have yet to be matched by a Concacaf championship, to say nothing of the high-profile berth in the FIFA Club World Cup that it grants. The awkward timing of the tournament kicking off during MLS preseason has sorely tested fitness, sharpness and depth, while the high concentrations of elite talent on top Liga MX rosters has been a trump card for its contenders. And there have also been some agonizing near misses.

Real Salt Lake looked like solid contenders to break the duck in 2011. Back then the tournament ran along a fall-spring schedule, with a group phase, then a knockout stage stretched across two MLS seasons. Powered by Jason Kreis’ tiki-taka 4-4-2 diamond, RSL outlasted the Columbus Crew and Saprissa in the quarterfinals and semifinals. But even with a 2-2 draw in Mexico heading into the final’s second leg at Rio Tinto Stadium, Monterrey proved a bridge too far, edging the Utah side 1-0 on the night and 3-2 on aggregate via Humberto “Chupete” Suazo’s winner.

In 2015 CF Montréal, then known as the Montréal Impact, played the Cinderella role with distinction. Despite finishing dead-last in the 2014 league table, the Quebecois club advanced out of the CCL group stage and upset Pachuca, then Alajuelense in the knockout rounds to face mighty Club América in the final. A 1-1 first-leg draw at the vaunted Estadio Azteca put IMFC in good position for the decisive second leg in front of a large, raucous home crowd at Stade Olympique, only for a second-half hat trick from Dario Benedetto to cruelly extinguish Montréal’s dreams.

Three years later, their fellow Canadians Toronto FC came even closer, vanquishing the Colorado Rapids, Tigres UANL and América en route to a final date with Matias Almeyda’s Chivas Guadalajara as Sebastian Giovinco’s stunning exploits earned him player of the tournament honors. A pulsating final clash across two legs ended 3-3 and had to be decided by a penalty-kick shootout, where Alan Pulido and the Goats triumphed 4-2 at Estadio Akron.

LAFC, too, felt like a team of destiny in 2020 as they dispatched three quality Liga MX adversaries – Club León, Cruz Azul and América – on their march to the final, with Carlos Vela playing some of the best soccer of his Black & Gold career. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that edition of the tournament was paused during the quarterfinal stage and completed in a bubble situation in Orlando, Florida that December, with the remaining ties streamlined to one-game series. LAFC carved out a 1-0 lead over a stacked Tigres squad via a Diego Rossi goal, only for Los Felinos to pull off a late comeback win via strikes from Hugo Ayala and Andre-Pierre Gignac.

The 2022 Matchup

Though Liga MX’s mastery has led some observers to conclude that a hex of some sort has been cast over MLSers in CCL, the current Sounders side have shown themselves eminently capable of breaking new ground. In fact, they’re already being tabbed as favorites by many on both sides of the Mexico-US border.

Lagerwey, who was instrumental in the construction of that 2011 RSL team, has built one of the most talent-rich rosters in MLS history. Designated Players Raul RuidiazNico Lodeiro and winter free-agent capture Albert Rusnak top a long list of proven performers that also includes Joao PauloJordan MorrisStefan FreiNouhou Tolo and brothers Cristian and Alex Roldan, augmented by a surging academy pipeline and impressive depth pieces like Fredy Montero and Kelyn Rowe stepping up at key moments in their run to this point.

They’ve been flexible and intelligent in tactical terms, often soaking up pressure for long periods and striking with precision and menace on the counterattack. The club’s culture of ambition and success has also been evident, and they’ve taken seriously the chance to be CCL pioneers, even when it required fielding young, rotated lineups in league play.

“We want to be part of history. We want to be the first team to win Champions League, the first MLS team,” said Cristian Roldan after Seattle’s quarterfinal defeat of Club León. “Look, one way or another, there’s going to be an MLS team in the final and for us to be potentially one of them, that just makes us really proud and hopefully we get a lot of support from our people in the States.”

Some would say they’re fortunate to be facing a Liga MX opponent from outside Mexico’s traditional elite. While they can boast seven league titles, Pumas’ last such achievement was over a decade ago and they’ve scaled back spending in recent seasons, prompting a number of value-oriented acquisitions from across Latin America. But that risks slighting the outstanding work of their Argentine manager Andres Lillini and his players, who are thriving in CCL while treading water in the league this spring.

UNAM held off a spirited challenge from Saprissa in the round of 16 to advance 6-3 on aggregate. Then they mounted an incredible comeback to stun the New England Revolution, who won the first leg of their quarterfinal in snowy Massachusetts 3-0 only for Pumas to match that scoreline in Ciudad Universitaria before besting the Revs on PKs.

Lillini got his tactics spot-on to top a talented Cruz Azul side in the semifinals, goosing the throttle to win 2-1 at home, then battling La Maquina to a 0-0 stalemate with tenacious pressing and box defending in Tuesday’s second leg. Striker Juan Ignacio Dinenno has terrorized opposing defenses to the tune of a CCL-best seven goals, while veteran goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, marauding fullback Alan Mozo, RSL academy product Sebastian Saucedo and other contributors have made them a tough proposition across the pitch.

As rock-solid as they’ve been in CCL, Seattle will probably have to find another level to take this final, particularly in a treacherous first leg at CDMX’s lung-searingly high altitude.

“One thing that we know is that we cannot play a second half that we played today, in Mexico,” said Frei after Wednesday night’s wild draw with NYCFC at Red Bull Arena. “We’re going to run out of juice very quickly.

“I think we put in a lot of effort, but if we’re going put ourselves under so much pressure in Mexico City, it’s going to be very, very difficult. So they have a good side and we’re going look at what makes them tick, and also maybe what we can exploit or what we want to target. But it’ll be a good final.”

Perennial trophy hunters under Schmetzer, the Sounders understand what will be required, and even after all their domestic success, sound hungry to gain one-of-a-kind bragging rights via Champions League glory.

“Since 2016, I think there’s been one year that we were not participating in a final of some sorts. So that’s what you play for. That’s, I think, why players come to this organization, because ultimately you want to play for trophies,” said Frei.

“The fact that I was able to be part of [Seattle’s first MLS Cup in] 2016 is a historic moment in the franchise,” he added. “There’s very select few opportunities to make history, alright? That one is gone. There’s still one elusive one for the MLS. If you can be that one, it’s going to be massive for your career, for the franchise, for everybody involved. And what a massive opportunity.”

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

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4/11/22  Champs League Tue/Wed CBS 3 pm, Indy 11 win-home Sat 7 pm, US Women win 9-1 play Tues 7 pm

Champions League Elite 8 Tues/Wed

Wed gives us Man City and Atletico on CBS along with Liverpool hosting Benefica at 3 pm on Para+, while Chelsea and Pulisic will travel to Real Madrid on Tues at 3 pm on CBS along with Villarreal going to Bayern Munich.  Must watch TV – last week Real Madrid’s Benzema was electric in scoring a hat trick at Chelsea while Courtois Spectacular Save – and Spanish side Villarreal stunned Bayern Munich at home 1-0, while Atletico’s Simeon helped craft a masterclass in defense as they only lost 1-0 at Man City.   

EPL Man City vs Liverpool Was a Classic !

Wow what a game – the showdown between the best 2 teams in the EPL – heck maybe the world – did not disappoint on Sunday.  The 2 squads battled to a 2-2 tie – that the home standing Man  City will probably think they should have won – but the resilient Liverpool and Klopp managed to hold onto the tie – and stand just 1 single point behind Man City with just 7 weeks left in the season. 

US Ladies win 9-1

Ok so I know I am supposed to be – yey the US ladies are playing a couple of young players and look how good they are – they won 9-1.  But who are we kidding here US Soccer? Is this Uzbekistan Crap team the best we can get to play on US soil seriously?  I  mean I bet the Columbus High School Girls team could have beaten that team 4-1.  Seriously why are playing these crap teams?   While Canada travels to play France and Spain?  Sure we are #1 yey but like Cincy in the College Football Playoff – if you don’t play anybody good – your gonna get WHACKED when you play a real team.  I know this is a team in transition but come on play someone in the top 50?  Oh yeah the US won 9-1 in Columbus – Mallory Pugh even scored a hat trick – but no one was there to see it – because honestly who wants to see the Yankees beat a high school team.   Oh yeah the #1 Ranked all powerful US Women play that same team on Tuesday night 7 pm live on ESPN2. (see stories below)

Indy 11 Win a Game!

Hey the Indy 11 went on the road and pulled off their first victory of the season with a 2-1 win over Rio Grande.  They return home to the Mike to play Atlanta United 2 on Saturday at 7 pm as they host Easter Egg Night. Tix available starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets.

CFC GK Training moves outdoors this week Tues at Shelboure 5:30-7:30 with coach Noelle and Thur 6:15-8:15 at Badger with Coach Shane. One final note – my favorite Cuban Shop in town – heck the only 1 I think is closing this Sat – The Cuban Shop @ 8329 Michigan Rd in Indy – tell him the ole ballcoach sent you.

BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Thurs, apr 14– Europa League

12:45 pm Para+                      Atalanta vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm Para +                            Barcelona vs Frankfurt (Chandler)

3  pm Paramount+                  Lyonnais vs West Ham United

3 pm Para +                            Rangers (Carter Vickers) vs Sporting Braga 

10 pm Para +                          OL Reign vs San Diego Wave NWSL 

Fri, Apri 15

3 pm ESPN+                            Real Sociadad vs Real Betis 

3  pm Paramount+                  Milan vs Genoa 

3 pm ESPN+                            Derby Cty vs Fulham (Ream, Jedi)

8 pm  CBS SN                          KC vs Houston Dash NWSL

Sat, Apr 16

7:30 am USA                           Tottenham vs Brighton

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

10 am USA                              Man United vs Norwich (Stewart)

10 am CNBC                            Southampton vs Aresenal

10:30 am ESPN+                Man  City (Steffan) vs Livepool FA Cup Semi

12:30 pm Para +                     Juventus vs Bologna 

3:30 pm ESPN+, Univision      San Jose vs Nashville SC MLS

7:30 pm My TV 23                             Indy 11 vs Atlana United 2 @ the Mike

7:30 pm Para+                                      Racing Louisville vs Chicago Red Stars NWSL

10 pm FS 1                                              Seattle Sounders vs Inter Miami

Sun,  Apr17

9 am USA                                 Leicester City vs New Castle  

11:30 am ESPN+                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Crystal Palace  FA Cup Semi

1:30 pm ESPN+                       Leverkusen ( ) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

2:$5 pm beIN Sport                PSG vs Marsiele

3:30 pm ESPN+                       Sevilla vs Real Madrid

4 pm ESPN                              LAFC vs Sporting KC 

Tue Apr 19

2:45 pm ESPNU                      Hamburger vs Freiburg 

3 pm USA                              Liverpool vs Man United

3 pm Para +                          Inter vs Milan (Coppa Italia)

Wed Apr 20

2:45 pm ESPNU                      RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Union Berlin German Cup 

2:45 pm USA                        Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Arsenal 

3 pm Para +                          Inter vs Milan (Coppa Italia)

US OPEN CUP = MLS vs USL

7 pm ESPN+                            Orlando City vs Tampa Bay Rowdies

7:30 pm ESPN+                       Louisville City vs St Louis City 2

7:30 pm ESON+                      Atlanta United vs Chatanooga

8:30 pm ESPN+                       San Antaonio (Jordan Farr) vs Austin FC

10:30 pm ESPN+                     LAFC vs Orange County

Thur Apr 21

2:45 pm USA                           Burnely vs Southampton

3:30 pm ESPN+                       Real Sociadad vs Barcelona

Sat, Apr 23

7:30 am USA                           Arsenal vs Man United 

10 am USA                          Man  City (Steffan) vs Watford

12:30 pm  ESPN+                    Bayern Munich vs Dortmund

Indy 11 Season Schedule

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Champions League

Emery’s Villarreal eye another giant-killing at Bayern Munich

Arnaut Danjuma gives Villarreal first-leg advantage over Bayern Munich  PA Media: Sport

Villarreal shock Bayern Munich to earn narrow first-leg lead in Champions League quarter-final  The Independent
Tuchel praises Chelsea for ruthless win ahead of season-defining trip to Real Madrid

Chelsea could get ‘hammered’ at Madrid – Tuchel

Ancelotti: Benzema ‘better every day, like wine’

When Man City met Atletico, Guardiola and Simeone did what they do best

Foden foils Simeone’s Atletico master class ahead of Man City’s pivotal week

Koke bites back at Guardiola defensive comments

Liverpool strike late to take control vs. Benfica

EPL

Was Premier League’s Super Bowl »
Man City control title race after Liverpool thriller
ESPN
Mark Ogden
Thrilling City-Liverpool draw leaves title race on knife edge

Classic Manchester City vs Liverpool clash truly delivers

Klopp thrilled by ‘wild’ City-Liverpool draw

Pep Guardiola: Jurgen Klopp is ‘the best,’ Liverpool quality is ‘so 

Spurs tighten grip on top-four spot as Arsenal, Man Utd lose

Police investigate Ronaldo over “assault” allegation

American Coach Jesse Marsch: Leeds United won ‘proper relegation fight’

Watford vs Leeds final score: Another huge win for Marsch’s men

US Ladies

USWNTwin 9-1 over Uzbekistan – S&S 

Smith hat trick as young USWNT scores 9 in win

USWNT’s Williams, Davidson suffer major injuries  hCaitlin Murray
USWNT, Kansas City forward Lynn Williams suffers season-ending injury

Tierna Davidson to miss 2022 season with ACL tear

MLS

Top 6 stories in the first 6 weeks: LA soccer is back, RBNY surprises, young players impress, & more ASJ

VAR controversy didn’t dull El Trafico as Chicharito, Galaxy get best of Vela’s LAFC 10hCesar Hernandez

Charlotte Wins on Olympico goal vs Atlanta United

Indy 11

Indy 11 Win first game of the SEason Sat 2-1

Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

One final note – my favorite Cuban Shop in town – heck the only 1 I think is closing this Sat – The Cuban Shop @ 8329 Michigan Rd in Indy – tell Jorge the ole ballcoach sent you.

The Premier League’s Super Bowl ends in a draw, and sets up 7 dramatic, do-or-die weeks

Henry Bushnell  Sun, April 10, 2022, 1:29 PM·6 min read

There was no confetti. No trophy. No commemorative caps, concerts or celebrities. In the end, at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday, in the closest thing the English Premier League will ever have to a Super Bowl, there wasn’t even a winner.Liverpool and Manchester City played 90 exhilarating, enthralling minutes that threatened to tip a title race, but didn’t.They ended 2-2, with Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane canceling out first-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus. City’s lead atop the table held at one solitary point. A decisive moment, and a definitive conclusion, never arrived.And in a way, that left tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of fans worldwide feeling unfulfilled.

Super Bowls, after all, aren’t supposed to end without elation and devastation.Super Bowls aren’t supposed to end with Riyad Mahrez, in the final minute of stoppage time, staring down Liverpool goalkeeper Alisson, a legendary match at the mercy of his magical left foot, but sailing his chipped shot several feet over the crossbar.Super Bowls aren’t supposed to end with businesslike hugs and respectful applause — from both sets of supporters, in recognition of the spectacle they’d just witnessed.They aren’t supposed to end with the two head coaches, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, joking with one another on an empty pitch 30 minutes after the final whistle.But this Super Bowl, instead, will give way to the Premier League’s version of an NCAA tournament, a seven-game, month-and-a-half-long sprint that might as well be a single elimination tournament.There won’t be a singular title game. If City and Liverpool each win out, the Citizens will be champions once again. But there will be weekly drama and crippling pressure. There’ll be a knowledge, which will double as an intense fear, that any one moment, any one decision, any one mistake could win or lose the title.And nobody knows when, or what, it will be.”I would like to know it,” Guardiola said postgame when asked about the deciding factor. “But I don’t.”That, for months and decades, is what has made the Premier League special. It’s the double-round-robin gift that keeps on giving. It doesn’t always produce a Super Bowl, or even late-season drama. But it amplifies every weekend, every match, every minute. It has conditioned fans and media to treat every contest between title contenders like an NBA Finals game, even if it happens in November.This season, though, delivered the best of both worlds. Thirty rounds of potentially decisive, incessantly compelling soccer built toward one titanic clash. It matched the two clubs responsible for the four most prolific seasons in Premier League history. It pitted City, which had claimed 338 points since August 2018, against Liverpool and its 337 — 69 more than the next closest challenger. It featured Guardiola and Klopp, the sport’s two most worshipped coaches who, in 22 meetings, had drawn eight and won six each.It generated Super Bowl-like media attention and anticipation. And on Sunday afternoon, it didn’t disappoint.Fifty thousand standing fans greeted its arrival, and some never sat. Four minutes in, they teetered on tip-toes, waiting to explode, as Alisson sprung off his line to deny Raheem Sterling. But 30 seconds later, City ambushed Liverpool with a quick free kick. De Bruyne charged forward, and watched his deflected shot ping in off the post. City players pumped their fists feverishly. A blue smoke bomb flew onto the field. The Etihad erupted as if this might be the decisive moment.There were, though, 85 frantic minutes still to endure.Liverpool responded eight minutes later. Klopp celebrated wildly, as if relieved, perhaps influenced by an acute awareness that City had not blown a lead all season. And the game, thereafter, rarely relented. The 50,000 fans roared or groaned at every change of possession. Their nerves clenched at every foray forward, every loose defensive-third touch, every penalty-area ricochet. Their hearts skipped beats as City goalkeeper Ederson very nearly walked the ball into his own net.City seized the game, commanded the ball, and broke Liverpool’s high defensive line again and again. But the Reds, despite the impossible stress imposed on them, constantly threatened to snatch control against the run of play. Mo Salah strode forward, and fright rippled through the Etihad. Trent Alexander-Arnold went for goal from midfield. City’s defenders, like Liverpool’s, tread carefully in the penalty area, petrified by a potentially costly mistake.

City’s quality grabbed the lead again in the 36th minute, and seemed likely to push them four points clear at the top of the league. “We deserved to win,” De Bruyne would later say, and he was probably right. He was the catalyst, pumping audacious passes side to side and back to front. Phil Foden was fearless. Joao Cancelo was magnificent. Jesus was the best version of himself.

But 45 seconds after halftime, Salah and Mane combined with peerless precision, and equalized.The hosts pushed for a winner. Raheem Sterling scored, but a video review revealed that his shoulder was inches offside. Jesus beat Alisson again, but not the four Liverpool defenders who’d congregated on the goal line. Virgil van Dijk stood tall. Mahrez, with one of the game’s last kicks, nearly punctured Liverpool’s resistance, but shrunk in the spotlight.The Reds, whom Guardiola recently called a “pain in the ass,” rode out the storm, and when a referee’s whistle finally brought calm, there they were, still standing.“They are so annoying, honestly,” Guardiola later said with a smile.He was proud of his players. Klopp, though, was more satisfied with the result.

“I would’ve loved to win,” he told NBC Sports. “But I’m happy that we didn’t lose.”He compared Sunday to a boxing match. He knew, with a draw, that Liverpool had earned a few more.He’ll need help from inferior fighters. City, he knows, must drop points against Brighton, Wolves, Watford, Leeds, Newcastle, West Ham or Aston Villa if Liverpool are to stand a chance.But he knows his team will push the defending champs.“We [have] pushed each other on insane levels in the last few years,” Klopp said earlier this season.With both still standing after Sunday, they’ll continue to push, and push back, and they’ll eventually arrive at a conclusion that the biggest EPL match in eight years didn’t quite bring.

Man City, Liverpool keep Premier League race open, but point more useful to Guardiola than Klopp

3:45 PM ET  Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

MANCHESTER, England — It was epic, frenetic and unpredictable until the end, when Riyad Mahrez had a chance not only to win the game, but almost certainly the Premier League title. Instead, the Manchester City substitute sent the ball high over the Liverpool crossbar and the 2-2 result means we are no nearer knowing which of England’s best two teams will be crowned champions.

What was certain, though, was that this had been a game with everything, including the intervention of VAR to correctly rule out Raheem Sterling‘s 63rd-minute goal for offside. By that stage, Liverpool had twice cancelled out a City lead to level the scores: Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus netted for the hosts, with Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane getting the away side back on terms.

The upshot of 90 end-to-end minutes is that, with both teams having seven league games to play — there is also the not insignificant matter of next Saturday’s FA Cup semifinal head-to-head at Wembley (Stream live: 10:30 a.m. ET, ESPN+) — just one point separates the clubs that have dominated the Premier League for the past five years.”It was like a boxing fight,” Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said. “You have your arms down for a second and get a massive knock and you shake a little. It was a great game and a result which we have to live with and can live with.”City retain the advantage and their remaining fixtures suggest that Liverpool need a surprise result to go in their favour to claim top spot. Aside from visits to Wolves and West Ham, there is little to worry Pep Guardiola’s players between now and their season finale at home to Aston Villa, who are managed by Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard.Liverpool have a tougher run-in. They should make easy work of troubled rivals Manchester United and Everton at Anfield, but those fixtures are always charged with emotion and unpredictability; a home game against Tottenham on May 7 may also be hazardous, while Klopp’s men must also face Gerrard’s Villa.As each side showed in this game, their top level is at a different stratosphere to every other team in the division, so City’s success in avoiding defeat and keeping hold of top spot could ensure that this turns out to be the decisive day in the title race.But although both teams displayed their incredible quality, there were also rare glimpses of nerves and mistakes from the likes of Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk, City keeper Ederson, Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah and City’s Raheem Sterling. On an occasion when they had to be at their absolute best, perhaps it was no surprise that top performers suffered the odd wobble.Jota’s persistence almost forced Ederson to concede an embarrassing own goal in the first half and Van Dijk uncharacteristically chopped down De Bruyne in the second period with a cynical foul, which was worth the booking that followed, given it halted the City midfielder’s charge toward goal.Salah was in and out of proceedings, his best moment coming 40 seconds after half-time when he created Mane’s goal, while Sterling made too many bad decisions in key positions before he was replaced by Mahrez with a quarter-hour remaining.Elsewhere, there were plenty of outstanding performances to make the occasion so absorbing. For City, Joao Cancelo was unbeatable and unstoppable at left back as he owned his side of the pitch, while Aymeric Laporte also produced a number of crucial blocks at the back.

Liverpool’s Joel Matip was flawless in central defence, as was his goalkeeper Alisson Becker, who pulled off big saves on Sterling and Jesus as City poured forward in the early stages.But the big winner, on a day when the teams shared the points, was Guardiola, with the City manager getting everything right, from his starting line-up, to energetic high-press tactics and substitutions; replacing Sterling with Mahrez was a key decision that increased the threat in the closing stages.t has become a bone of contention that Guardiola is deemed to over-think tactics and selection in the biggest games. Although he is a serial winner, recent examples in the Champions League — last season’s final against Chelsea, when he started without a defensive midfield and striker, being one obvious occasion — have seen him allow the opposition to get into his head.Selecting Jesus from the start was another surprise here, but Guardiola was rewarded with a rare goal and incredible work rate from the Brazil international, whose energy lifted the crowd and his teammates around him.

The pace in City’s front line of Jesus, Sterling and Phil Foden gave Liverpool countless problems and it was not until the second half, following Mane’s goal, that Klopp’s side steadied themselves and pulled themselves back into the game.

Even then, City always carried the greater threat and looked the most likely winners, to the extent that a draw was a good result for Liverpool, on the day at least. However, it probably was not within the wider context, as captain Jordan Henderson admitted.

“We’ll have to wait and see,” the Liverpool captain said. “They don’t drop many points, we know that. We have to concentrate on ourselves and win as many games as possible. If they slip up we have to be there right behind them. We’ll keep going until the end. It’s not the end of the world, we are still in the race.”Henderson was a young Liverpool player when a slip did tilt the balance of a title race, so perhaps a subconscious reference to Gerrard’s mistake against Chelsea in 2014 serves as a reminder that anything can happen in the season’s closing stages.But City are on course to win their fourth title in five season and midfielder De Bruyne knows that his side simply have to maintain their form to lift the trophy on May 15. “Today we played very well; I think we had the upper hand,” De Bruyne said. “This is the way we need to play the rest of the season. I know people said whoever wins gets the title, but it’s too hard, the schedule is too tough for both teams to win every game, but we will try.”There are 21 points to play for. If either side fails to claim them all, they will end up in second place.

Three things we learned from the Premier League

, April 10, 2022, 3:29 PM

The Premier League title race is on a knife-edge after Manchester City retained pole position with a pulsating 2-2 draw against their closest challengers Liverpool.Antonio Conte’s Tottenham revolution gathered pace with a 4-0 rout of Aston Villa that boosted their top four bid, while Leeds should be safe after an impressive win at Watford.AFP Sport looks at three things we learned from the Premier League this weekend:Prize fighters can’t land knockout blow.  Manchester City and Liverpool traded blows throughout an enthralling clash between the Premier League heavyweights, but neither could land the knockout punch that would have put them on course to clinch the title.- ADVERTISEMENT -Leaders City sit one point clear of second-placed Liverpool after goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus were cancelled out by Diogo Jota and Sadio Mane.It was the kind of high-quality contest that underlined why both sides can stake a claim to being the world’s best.Liverpool could cement that argument if they can pip City to the title, but Reds boss Jurgen Klopp knows the reigning champions will be tough to catch.

“It was an exceptional game of football. Two heavy-weights, chomping at each other. It’s crazy the intensity. A completely different level,” Klopp said.”Both arms down for a second and you get a massive knock. Now we have to be as close to perfection to win seven Premier League games. Insane!”Guardiola agreed with Klopp’s assessment that only perfection will be enough to take the title, and he admitted it was frustrating not to kill off their rivals.”He likes his punching games! No regrets, but I had the feeling that with this result we missed an opportunity, a feeling we leave them alive,” Guardiola said.Conte warms to task at SpursIt has been a curious season for Tottenham, who topped the Premier League table in late August before results nosedived and they parted ways with manager Nuno Espirito Santo.Antonio Conte, who arrived in November, often appeared grumpy in the early weeks of his reign, making no secret about his dissatisfaction with the club’s transfer policy.But now the former Chelsea and Inter Milan boss is re-energised and senses “blood” after Spurs beat Aston Villa 4-0 to close in on a Champions League place next season.

Tottenham have won six out of their past seven league games at a time when Arsenal and Manchester United have stumbled, with both losing on Saturday.Spurs boast more firepower than their main rivals, with Harry Kane, Son Heung-min and January signing Dejan Kulusevski dovetailing to devastating effect in recent weeks.Tottenham — three points clear of Arsenal and six ahead of United — are now favourites to return to Europe’s elite club competition for the first time since they 2019/20 season.”We had to show in this moment that you start to feel the blood of your opponent and it is important to not fail,” said Conte.”For this reason we are working a lot on the mentality. The players are giving me great satisfaction in many aspects.”Leeds pull away from dangerThe decision of the Leeds hierarchy to dispense with the services of much-loved manager Marcelo Bielsa was not a popular one, but their move now looks canny.Leeds, in their second season back in the Premier League, were just two points above the relegation when the Argentine was sacked in late February.There was not an immediate bounce under US coach Jesse Marsch but three wins in four games have lifted the club nine points above danger and they are nearing safety.Supporters sang Marsch’s name during Saturday’s 3-0 win at Watford, which included goals from Raphinha, Rodrigo and Jack Harrison.”So much of my emphasis is on the team and us as a group and what we’re about and how we’re going to achieve things together and any time that it draws attention to me, I don’t necessarily like it,” Marsch said.

When Man City met Atletico, Pep Guardiola and Diego Simeone did what they do best

Apr 6, 2022  Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

Pep Guardiola bristled twice at long-held cliches on Monday during Manchester City‘s news conference ahead of Tuesday night’s Champions League first-leg quarterfinal clash with Atletico Madrid. For a start, he got sarcastic when the familiar “overthinking in big games” accusation was launched in his direction: “In the Champions League, I always overthink … I always create new tactics and ideas, and tomorrow you will see a new one … we will play with 12 men.”Then, he became dismissive when asked about another tired theme: the contrast in style between himself and Diego Simeone, the Atletico boss, whose teams get typecast as defensive, unscrupulous and on the ethical edge of sports.”There is a misconception, wrong, about the way [Simeone] plays,” he said. “It’s more offensive than people believe … I’m not going to talk one second about this stupid debate. Everyone tries to win the game. If they win, they are right. If we win, we are right.”Guardiola, of course, is correct on both counts. The “overthinking” charge doesn’t come out of thin air — his critics will bring up dropping Yaya Toure against Monaco in 2016-17, deploying Aymeric Laporte at left-back against Liverpool in 2017-18, leaving out Kevin De Bruyne against Spurs in 2018-19, switching to a back three with two holding midfielders against Lyon in 2019-20 and even going without a defensive midfielder in last year’s final against Chelsea — but you also need to view it in context. He doesn’t do it because he’s on some tactical ego trip; he does it to gain an edge, often against weaker opponents who spent the buildup to the game studying every facet of City and how to neutralise them.When it works — like turning Oleksandr Zinchenko from a No.10 into a left-back, flipping Bernardo Silva from a winger to a midfielder (and sometimes even a striker) or showing the world he can win the Premier League without a recognized “traditional” center-forward — we don’t accuse him of overthinking, do we?Equally, the depiction of Atletico as purely defensive, grind-it-out, win-ugly-by-any-means-necessary is also somewhat tired. Anyone who has watched LaLiga over the past year or so will have seen Simeone try to wean Atleti off his “Cholista” roots in an effort to play more proactive, attacking football. He has tinkered and experimented to get the balance right; it hasn’t always worked, and at times they’ve reverted to type, but StatsBomb data has them in the top five in terms of shots and non-penalty xG and their disciplinary record is mid-table.The days when this side was defined by a Diego Godin snarl, a Diego Costa elbow and a Raul Garcia header are long gone as you’d expect from a team that has Joao Felix up front.

And yet here’s the thing about cliches: Often they contain more than a kernel of truth. Tuesday night’s game at the Etihad saw two managers who played up to their stereotype, as if they were professional wrestlers determined to stick to an accessible, easy-to-understand kayfabe.Guardiola overthinking? It’s not so much that with Joao Cancelo forced to play on the right due to Kyle Walker‘s suspension, he opted for Nathan Ake — more of a center-back throughout his career — at left-back instead of Zinchenko, City’s first choice over the past few seasons. That may have been down to the fact that Zinchenko, who was on the bench, had not started a game in nearly a month and, understandably, may be weighed down by the horrors unfolding in his native Ukraine.

It was more the choice of leaving Phil Foden on the bench, moving Bernardo Silva up front and sticking Ilkay Gundogan in midfield. Not something you expect at home from a side that sits deep and leaves you possession like Atletico. But where the blueprint was followed religiously, and the cliches confirmed convincingly, was in how the game unfolded and each manager lived up to the stereotype.Simeone’s side sat deep in a 5-3-2 formation with five defenders, three holding midfielders and two counterattacking forwards who spent much of the game as auxiliary fullbacks. They failed to make a single attempt at goal throughout the game. Guardiola’s men enjoyed 71% possession, and while they ended up with 15 shots, most were speculative hit-and-hopers and just two were on target, which is why Jan Oblak had to make just one save. It wasn’t a particularly dirty match, but right at the end, Atleti seemed to want to live up to their “cartoon villain” image: Rodrigo De Paul and Matheus Cunha clashed with Ederson, while Sime Vrsaljko smacked a ball off a prone Jack Grealish and later fondled his headband.

All of which is somewhat ironic, but fundaentally not unexpected.Teams play to their strengths. City’s are passing, movement and winning the ball back quickly after losing it (something they didn’t do often because they rarely lost the ball). Atletico’s — much as they’d like to become a bit more multifaceted — are ultimately stout defending and organization. Both were really effective at what they do, and what we got was immovable object besting unstoppable force for most of the game. Or offense vs. defense, as most had predicted.When this happens, there are three ways to break the stalemate: a defensive error, a refereeing mistake or some unscripted individual brilliance. In the end, it was the latter that turned the game, thanks to Phil Foden, who came on as a sub and conjured up that assist for De Bruyne.It’s knockout football. You expect teams to play their strengths, which is exactly what Simeone and Guardiola did. And when they adopt diametrically opposed game plans and are (mostly) flawless, this is what you get: a stalemate decided in the blink of an eye.Sometimes it’s OK to be exactly what others think you are. Sometimes it’s OK to be yourself.

USWNT 9-1 Uzbekistan: The Americans put on a Goal Scoring Feast

The USWNT faced off against Uzbekistan in Columbus, Ohio, and walked away with a stunning 9-1 win, featuring a hat-trick from Sophia Smith.

By Adnan Ilyas@Adnan7631  Apr 9, 2022, 5:31pm PDT  

In the opening minutes, Sophia Smith got in a cross into the six-yard box, but her cross was cleared away. After that, the USWNT got a set of corners, the second of which led to a header from Rose Lavelle that went off the crossbar, with Alana Cook’s attempt to clean the play up also going off the post. A few minutes later, Lindsey Horan latched onto a cutback from the left in a dangerous spot in the box, but her attempt was blocked. After that, the US only managed a few half chances for a period, but the Uzbeks did well to keep an organized defense and stifle the attack. The most dangerous chances came from Mallory Pugh. Pugh has once chance when she drifted inside and latched onto a good through ball from midfield, but the Uzbeki goalkeeper, Laylo Tilovova, did well to come out and smother the chance right at Pugh’s feet. And then, again, a chance for Pugh. This one started when Kelley O’Hara released Smith on the right, only for the right back to be cut down. The ref played advantage, allowing for a cross to be whipped in by Smith towards Pugh in the box, who just couldn’t latch onto it for the finish.Finally, the deadlock was broken in the 26th minute.Macario swung a corner in, which goes all the way to the backpost. Horan got the first header, and then Cook got a second before Andi Sullivan finally nodded it in. And from there, the goals came flooding in. Immediately off the restart, the USWNT recovered possession and Lavelle played in Pugh, who calmly slotted home the team’s second goal.Then, in the 33rd, Smith cleaned up a cross from Pugh that whizzed across goal past Lavelle. 3-0 For the fourth, Sullivan got on the end of a Uzbeki goal kick and plays in a one-time through ball to Smith, who’s in behind on the left. She scored her second with a clean finish.The USWNT got a few more chances, but that 4-0 scoreline held on until the half. But not by much. The announcer had scarcely announced the substitutions of Horan and Sullivan for Sam Mewis and Jaelin Howell before Macario rounded the goalkeeper for a 5th goal. The Sixth goal game after a long pass from Kristie Mewis found Mallory Pugh. Pugh crossed it over to give Sophia Smith a tap in, completing her hat-trick. The hat-trick hero came off in the 61st, along with Macario, replaced by Ashley Hatch and Midge Purce. Then, in the 64th, Jaelin Howell scored her first ever goal for the national team off of a side-footed volley. 7-0.Following substitutions for Emily Fox and Rose Lavelle for Sofia Huerta and Ashley Sanchez, respectively, the USWNT’s play fell into a little bit of a lull. Most notably, the USWNT switched off for a moment and allowed Uzbekistan to grab a goal off a corner through Aziza Norboeva in the 70th minute. Despite the more muddled play, there were still a few chances, and, of course, a few more goals. Once again, Pugh was able to find a few chances, but couldn’t quite finish. She ran the length of the field with in the 75th minute, but, when she got her shot off, the goalkeeper tipped it up over the crossbar. And then Pugh couldn’t turn a cross into a wide open goal just after the 80th minute mark.Finally, the USWNT got back on the scoresheet as Ashley Hatch made it 8 in the 86th minute, putting the ball into the net after the Uzbek goalkeeper made a mistake and missed an in-swinging ball. Then, Ashley Sanchez sealed the game off with a curling shot in the 89th, her first international goal. And that’s how the game ended, 9-1.Sophia Smith will, of course, get a lot of attention for the hat-trick, and deservedly so. But Mallory Pugh also particularly deserves attention for her trio of assists. All told, it was an excellent night for the USWNT.

Sounders impress in huge win, Chelsea & Pulisic outplayed, Ream nears another promotion, & more

it was a busy week in American soccer with a pair of Americans leading an impressive Seattle Sounders team, Pulisic and Chelsea getting outplayed by Real Madrid, Tim Ream on the cusp of anther promotion, and much more. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta breaks down the week’s top stories with his thoughts and analysis. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  APRIL 07, 20224:25 PM

IT WAS A BUSY WEEK for American soccer with a bunch of important games taking place – both domestically and abroad. The UEFA Champions League saw the best American player in action while arguably two of the biggest American teams squared off in the CONCACAF Champions. Elsewhere, there was a lot at stake in Europe’s domestic leagues.Here are some thoughts on the games as well as the top news stories

 SEATTLE TOPS NYCFC IN LEG 1

 The Seattle Sounders have found themselves to be in great shape in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League after defeating New York City 3-1 at home in the first leg. With away goals still serving as the tie breaker, New York City still has a chance but has a huge uphill climb returning to its “home” leg at Red Bull Arena.This game was wild in the first half as both teams came out firing. Seattle struck first in the 16th minute on a wonderful team goal that was finished by Albert Rusnak. Both Roldan brothers were involved in the build-up and it was Christian who played the ball into the box for Jordan Morris. Morris then displayed a lot of skill controlling the ball before playing Rusnak into a dangerous spot for a first-time finish. After an NYCFC equalizer, Seattle regained the lead thanks to a very well-taken goal from Jordan Morris after Christian Roldan got on the end of a long throw in and centered the ball to Morris who buried te shot.In the 68th minute Seattle gained a 3-1 lead after VAR awarded penalty after Thiago Martins was judged to have fouled Raul Ruidiaz. Nicholas Lodeiro then stepped up to easily convert the penalty.“My overall impression, right now, was that was an entertaining soccer game,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I hope our fans enjoyed that. I did. I enjoyed that. I hope the TV audience that tuned in enjoyed that. I thought it was a good game.”In the end, Seattle walked off with a commanding 3-1 lead returning to the second leg.Here are some thoughts.

 MORRIS AND ROLDAN

 Jordan Morris and Cristian Roldan both had extremely impressive performances. Thus far, Roldan has a strong case for being the player of the CCL tournament.For Morris, the performance was even more significant because this was, by far, the best he has looked since his return from the 2021 ACL injury. The form Morris had in 2019 and 2020 put him among the best Designated Players in the entire league. He was rusty in his return starting last November but this was as close to his previous form as he has ever been. If he is back it is great news for the Sounders.Obviously both players are in the mix for the national team. Roldan is largely a late sub off the bench who can fill a number of different positions for Gregg Berhalter. He works extremely hard and knows his role. Morris had fallen behind in the pecking order but if he can build off this outing, he can get back into an important position – particularly if players like Brenden Aaronson or Gio Reyna start to adopt more midfield roles.

 SEATTLE’S TOP PLAYERS DELIVERED

 In addition to Morris and Roldan, this was the first time Seattle had all of its front six playing and in form. The results were impressive. With Rusnak finally scoring for Seattle, Nico Lodeiro running the midfield with Joao Paulo and Rusnak and Raul Ruidiaz back up top, it was lethal. The quality of the goals and opportunities was something that other teams are going to have a tough time matching.”Every one of us gave it all today. I think there wasn’t a player that didn’t have a great performance,” Albert Rusnak said. “That’s what it takes in these kinds of games. We played against a good team, and we managed to win by two goals. We’re halfway there, but we’re expecting another tough game next week on Wednesday.”Seattle was shaky defensively at times in this game. That was to be expected with central defender Yeimar Gómez (injured) and left back Nouhou (suspended). When those players are back, Seattle should be in great shape.

 2ND LEG THOUGHTS

 The second leg is going to be very difficult for NYCFC. Yes, they have an away goal, but they are going to have to push forward for goals. In doing that, it is going to be very hard to keep Seattle off the board. With Seattle’s defense getting upgrades for the second leg, it will make the task that much harder.NYCFC really hasn’t played well this season and their Champions League run hasn’t been nearly as demanding as the other three teams. It is going to be a tall task to reverse all of that against a Seattle team that is desperate to go to the Final and win it.

 PULISIC STARTS IN CHELSEA LOSS

 The greatest moment in Christian Pulisic’s career came last year in the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid when he was arguably the best player over both legs as Chelsea advanced to the final against Manchester City – which it won.In 2022, Chelsea was set to face Real Madrid in the quarterfinal of the Champions League. The first leg was on Wednesday and Chelsea did not fare nearly as well. Playing home at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea dropped a 3-1 decision with Karim Benzema notching a hat trick. Chelsea was poor and at times careless – like on Real Madrid’s third goal when goalkeeper Edouard Mendy gave the ball away.Pulisic started and played 64 minutes. He wasn’t poor but rarely got the ball in dangerous positions. Chelsea opted to attack mostly down the right side opposite to Pulisic.When Thomas Tuchel was asked afterward if Chelsea was still alive in this tie, he responded: “No, not at the moment. No.”Chelsea was outclassed on the day. Karim Benzema might be the best player in the world at the moment while Chelsea continued to struggle getting offensive production from Romelu Lukaku – a player the club spent $100 million to acquire.Pulisic has played a lot for Chelsea in 2022 and has had a good couple of months. But things can change quickly at the elite levels of this game and Real Madrid is just better in 2022.

 REAM & FULHAM NEAR PROMOTION

 It’s a foregone conclusion that Fulham will secure promotion to the Premier League but it should become a reality very soon. Wednesday 1-0 win on the road against Middlesbrough now has the team six points away. Any combination of either points won by Fulham or lost by Nottingham Forest will see Fulham clinch.The win was a familiar formula. Aleksandar Mitrovic scored again – his 38th goal of the season – and the team played smart defense. The latter part was led by Tim Ream, who was excellent. USMNT left back Antonee Robinson played the final eight minutes to help see out the win.Ream may never stand out in the Premier League, but when you consider price paid by the owners of top Championship clubs to buy players push for promotion and then you consider Ream is a proven star defender in promotional efforts in the league, it makes you realize just how valuable he is. From a financial standpoint, he is a player who can be key to promotion to the Premier League.

 PEPI SUBS INTO BIG AUGSBURG WIN

 On Wednesday, with Augsburg up 2-1 on Mainz in an important match in the Bundesliga relegation race, Ricardo Pepi subbed into the game in the 71st minute to help Augsburg see out the win. He had just seven touches and completed just one pass. Augsburg won for the second consecutive game and is now six points clear of relegation and its prognosis to survive in the league this season is excellent.Pepi has not scored in six months for either FC Dallas, the United States national team, or Augsburg. Last weekend he played well in the win over Wolfsburg despite not scoring. The good news for him is that the team’s improved standing should take the pressure off him and the rest of the team. It bodes well for him getting more playing time but he does need to take advantage, sooner than later, to change the narrative of his recent expensive transfer.

 HORVATH ON THE BENCH

 After starting five games for Nottingham Forest where he played well, Ethan Horvath has been back on the bench for the club’s first two games after the international window. The first wasn’t surprising as Horvath was only just returning from time away with the U.S. team. But Horvath on the bench for Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Coventry City was surprising.The way to read this is that Forest manager Steve Cooper simply does not see a lot separating Brice Samba and Horvath as the team’s top keepers. He doesn’t want to make a change after one of the keepers has a solid effort and a win.To be fair, Samba has also played well. He made saves in the 4-1 away win over Blackpool on Saturday and then was solid again in the win over Coventry. It seems unlikely Cooper will make a change for the game against Birmingham City.It’s tough for Horvath right now because he has done enough to start but leaving for the U.S. team seems to have opened the door for Samba – who has taken advantage. But the real question will be who starts for Forest in the promotional playoffs, if they qualify.

 DE LA FUENTE INJURED

 Konrad de la Fuente season is likely over as it was announced that he will have to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery to repair cartilage.It was a mixed season for de la Fuente who made 16 Ligue 1 appearances for 786 minutes (he also made one appearance for 56 minutes in the Coupe de France and six appearance in the Europa/Conference league for 230 minutes). His only goal or assist was a goal in the Conference League against Qarabag.De la Fuente’s best performances were towards the beginning of the season and his minutes declined as the season progressed. Last month there was a French report that questioned his work ethic.The questions over his professionalism are a huge concern since he is still so unproven and should be completely focused on improving and securing his role on the team. He has the skill on the ball, but next year will need to see that translate into more offensive production.Once De la Fuente returns from his injury, he is going to have to have a big preseason and show a high level of dedication.

Pinho Braces Powers Indy Eleven to First Win of 2022, Mark Lowry Era in Indy

View Stats from #RGVvIND via the USLChampionship.com MatchCenter

EDINBURG, Texas (Saturday, April 9, 2022) – Indy Eleven capped a gritty away performance with a late game brace by forward Stefano Pinho before holding on to capture its first win of the 2022 season – and the first victory for head coach Mark Lowry on the Eleven sideline – via a 2-1 triumph at Rio Grande Valley FC. The win at H-E-B Park allows Indy Eleven to carry a three-game undefeated streak back to the Circle City, where it will play five of its next six contests through the end of May.The first half was an overly physical affair marked mostly by fouls and stingy play in the middle third. The best early chance for either side came in the 17th minute when Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco came up with an impressive low save on Isidro Martinez’s 20-yard blast. Indy managed to get into the game via some dangerous crosses over the final 15 minutes of the half, but good looks by Alex McQueen and Jared Timer were handled by RGV before they could find a teammate. Martinez and Eleven midfielder Justin Ingram both wound up from distance during the lone minute of stoppage time, but neither found frame and the match went to halftime as it started at 0-0.While Rio Grande Valley again held the bulk of the possession out of the locker rooms, all it really had to show for it was Frank Lopez’s effort from the top of the arc in the 56th minute that Panicco did well to parry over his crossbar. Indiana’s Team continued to find more of the ball as the half progressed, and the chances were soon to come, starting with Pinho’s opener in the 69th minute. The Brazilian did well to place defender Mechack Jerome’s ball from near the midfield stripe into the top of the area with his first touch before calmly finishing from near the penalty spot with his second to give Indy the advantage heading into the final 20 minutes.But Pinho wasn’t done, as he’d bag his third in as many games in the 78th minute on another play started by Jerome, this time with a timely tackle at midfield. Ingram collected and played quickly to substitute striker Aris Briggs, whose inch perfect through ball split two defenders and found Pinho at the top of the area, where he rounded onrushing RGV netminder Colin Miller and finished into the vacated goal to push the Eleven lead to 2-0.The FC Toros pressure on the final third mounted in the following minutes, and Indy could only hold the fort for so long. Lopez adjusted well to first-time Robert Coronado’s cross to the top of the six, his finish cutting the deficit in half in the  83rd minute to set up a nervy finish. A last gasp attempt at an RGV equalizer came in the final of four minutes of stoppage time via a free kick just outside the Indy penalty area, but the leaping four-man wall did it just, allowing the Eleven to secure its first victory of the Mark Lowry Era.Indiana’s Team returns home next Saturday, April 16, when it welcomes Atlanta United 2 for a 7:00 p.m. ET kick that can be followed on MyINDY-TV 23, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/943exitos.com, and ESPN+. Tickets for all Indy Eleven regular season contests at IUPUI Carroll Stadium are available starting at just $15 and can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets.

Match Notes:

  • Indy Eleven has now gone 21 consecutive league matches without a loss when scoring the game’s first goal, a stretch that dates back to July 2020.Defender/midfielder Noah Powder made his 100th appearance in USL Championship action at the opening whistle. The New Jersey native and Trinidad & Tobago international has appeared in four of Indy Eleven’s first five league matches, which combined with his 47 matches with Real Monarchs SLC and 49 with NY Red Bulls II add him to the USLC’s “Century Club”.Speaking of the Century Club, midfielder Ayoze made his 102nd appearance in an Eleven uniform – and first of 2022 – when he entered in the 86th minute. The Spaniard had been nursing a lower leg injury since the back half of preseason in February.Another member of Indiana’s Team, 2021 leading scorer Manuel Arteaga, also made his first appearance in 2022, coming on as a late-game cameo in the final minute of stoppage time. The Venezuelan forward bagged 10 goals to pace the squad in his first season in Indy last year but had been sidelined after suffering a knee injury in a preseason game in February.

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4/9/22  USWNT Sat 4/9 on Fox 5:30 pm/El Traffico LAFC vs LA Galaxy 7:30, Man City vs Liverpool Sun 11:30, Indy 11 8:30 pm

Sorry folks – busy at the Masters this week – late coverage coming for Champ League tomorrow online.   

Champions League Elite 8 Tues/Wed

Wed gives us Man City and Atletico on CBS along with Liverpool hosting Benefica at 3 pm on Para+, while Chelsea and Pulisic will travel to Real Madrid on Tues at 3 pm on CBS along with Villarreal going to Bayern Munich.  Must watch TV – I assume at least 1 game per day will be on CBS. 

BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Apr 9

10 am USA                              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Brentford

10 am CNBC                            Wolverhampton vs Aston Villa

10 am Peacock                        Leeds United vs Southampton

12:30 pm Peacock                  Man United vvs Leicester City 

5:30 pm FOX                       USA Women vs Ubekistan  

7;30 pm FOX                        LAFC vs LA Galaxy El Traffico

8:30 am ESPN+                                     Indy 11 @ Rio Grande  

Sun,  Apr10

9 am USA                                 Norwich (Stewart) vs Burnley

9 am Peakcokc                        Leicester City vs Crystal Palace                               

11:30 am  USA                   Liverpool vs Man City

1;30 pm Fox                            Charolotte FC vs Atlana United

4:30 pm Fox Sport 1               Atlanta United vs Charlotte 

Tues, apr 5– Champ League

3 pm CBS                                Chelsea (Pulisic) @ Real Madrid

3  pm Paramount+                  Villarreal @ Bayern Munich

Wed, apr 4–13 Champ League

3 pm CBS                                Man City  vs Atletico Madrid

4  pm Paramount+                  Benefica vs Liverpool

Indy 11 Season Schedule

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USMNT weekend viewing guide: Relegation battles galore

Across Europe, USMNT players in action look to make a push out of relegation zones

Saturday

Wolfsburg v Arminia Bielefeld – 9:30a on ESPN+

Currently sitting in the relegation playoff position, tied on points with 17th place Hertha Berlin and one point back of Stuttgart and safety, George Bello and Arminia Bielefeld will face John Brooks and a Wolfsburg side that are themselves just five points out of relegation. It’s been a rough season for Bielefeld who narrowly avoided relegation last year as well. The drop has been more precipitous for Wolfsburg who entered the season as one of the Bundesliga’s Champions League representatives and now are struggling to finish above the relegation fray. This season will be John Brooks’ final run with the club, but Kevin Paredes will be with the team next year if that impacts your rooting decisions for this one.

Broadcast matches:

  • Christian Pulisic and Chelsea FC look to bounce back from their midweek loss to Real Madrid in Champions League play when they face Southampton at 10a on USA Network. Chelsea also lost last weekend 4-1 to Brentford and need to avoid additional mistakes if they are going to hold of Tottenham and Arsenal FC for Champions League qualification.
  • Orlando City SC and the Chicago Fire face off at 1p on Univision and Twitter. Gaga Slonina will be in next for the Fire and has an outside shot at making the 2022 World Cup roster.
  • Inter Miami and DeAndre Yedlin face the New England Revolution and Matt Turner, who remains questionable due to injury. This match will kick off at 3p on ESPN.
  • The latest battle for LA kicks off at 7:30p on Fox with Kellyn Acosta and LAFC taking on the LA Galaxy.

Streaming overseas:

  • Ricardo Pepi and Augsburg have won four straight matches and now sit in 13th place, six points out of relegation. Things will be quite a bit tougher this weekend as they face Bayern Munich at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Julian Green, Timothy Tillman and Greuther Fürth face Joe Scally and Borussia Mönchengladbach at 9:30a on ESPN+. Fürth are all but mathematically relegated ,while ‘Gladbach currently sit in 12th place.
  • Jesse Marsch and Leeds United continue their push for safety when they face Watford at 10a on Peacock. Leeds have a six point lead over Burnley for 18th (and relegation), but Burnley and Everton both have two games in hand. Watford currently trail Everton by three points.

MLS matchups (all on ESPN+):

Sunday

Norwich City v Burnley – 9a on USA

Norwich City and Burnley kick things off Sunday morning in a relegation match that is probably one of the last chances you’ll have to catch Josh Sargent in the EPL for the next year and a half. Norwich sit bottom of the table with just 18 points and seven points out of safety with 8 matches to play, so relegation seems like a formality at this point. Perhaps this weekend’s match against Burnley will be an opportunity to see how Sargent will fare against Championship sides. Burnley are in 18th and also currently sit in the relegation zone. They are just one point back of Everton and, as was mentioned previously, they have two games in hand compared to Leeds, who they trail by five points. Burnley come into this one with quite a bit to play for, as a loss to Norwich would be devastating. This has all the makings of an ugly match. Enjoy!

Broadcast matches:

  • Charlotte FC take on Miles Robinson and Atlanta United 1:30p on ABC in what is already the second match between the two clubs just six games into the season. Atlanta won the first match just a month ago.
  • Austin FC take on Minnesota United at 7:30p on FS1 in the weekend finale.

Streaming Overseas:

  • Matt Miazga and Deportivo Alaves take on Osasuna at 8a on ESPN+. Miazga has not made it off the bench in the last five matches for the relegation bound Alaves side.
  • Eric Palmer-Brown and Troyes face Monaco at 9a on beIN Sports.
  • Timothy Weah’s Lille side take on Angers at 9a on beIN Sports as well. Weah missed last weekend’s draw with Bordeaux due to a suspension from a ridiculous red card he was shown.
  • Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and Venezia are three points back of safety as they go to face Udinese at 9a on Paramount+.
  • Timothy Chandler and Eintracht Frankfurt face Freiburg at 11:30a on ESPN+.
  • Tyler Adams has missed RB Leipzig’s past two matches, but has returned to the squad ahead of the matchup with Chris Richards and Hoffenheim at 1:30p on ESPN+. Leipzig have made a push back into the Champions League qualifying positions and lead Freiburg by three points and Hoffenheim by four.
  • Sergiño Dest did not travel with FC Barcelona for the Europa League matchup with Eintracht Frankfurt. The club now face Levante at 3p on ESPN+.

4/1/22  Indy 11 Home Opener Sat 7 pm, US WC Draw includes England/Iran, UCL Tue/Wed, USWNT Sat 4/9 in Columbus

Indy 11 Host Home Opener Sat Night 7 pm at the Mike

The Indy 11 finally arrive home after 3 straight on the road and a 0-1-2 mark to start the season.  New GK Elliot Paniccomade GK of the Week in the USL as he helped the Indy 11 take a 1-1 tie at Louisville last weekend (hi-lights).   The 11 will kickoff their home opener at 7 pm Saturday night vs LA Galaxy II visit

the Mike.  Visit indyeleven.com/tickets to get single game tickets for as low as $16 plus fees.  Word on the Street is they are close to a sell-out so make those plans early to attend!!  Arrive early as the tailgating area – including the BYB will start 3 hours before gametime.  Also of note Tuesday night the Indy 11 will host St. Louis in US Open Cup play at 7:30 pm at the Mike.  The Boys in Blue will need a good crowd on hand to pull them thru – so make plans today. 

US Qualifies for World Cup will Face England and Iran in Group B Play 

So the US got a decent draw for the World Cup in Qatar in late Nov/Dec with matches against top 10 England (overated) and Iran along with the winner of the European Playoff probably Wales or Ukraine.  While this is the not the group of death – if Wales or Ukraine advance – the aggregate rankings will have our group as the most difficult draw.  Stll I gotta love the chance to play “mighty” England, while looking for payback for our 1998 2-1 loss to Iran.  Games will be at 2 pm – ET – which is cool.  I’ll have much more next week in the OBC.

The 0-2 loss at Costa Rica

So it wasn’t pretty – losing to a Costa Rica team that NEVER loses at home – especially with World Class GK Keylor Navas between the pipes.  Like I said last week before Mexico – we had to a get a point at Mexico –because we could never beat a healthy Navas at home in Costa Rica – and wha la.  Now I” will admit I foolishly bought in and predicted here the US would find a way to win it 2-1 – but when Navas saves 6 shots just in the first half and 9 overall – well – fat chance finding a way to beat a great goalkeeper – especially when the US has a pretty lousy one.   On one side Navas was a god defending his net with grace – on the other the US had a clearly rusty and lackadaisical Zack Steffan who sucked big-time.  Hi GK has been questionable in all 3 games – and this time his stellar defense couldn’t cover up his glaring mistakes.  Sorry but I for one will be praying for Matt Turner to get healthy and get back in net for the US – his shot stopping ability is simply LIGHT YEARS in front of Steffan right now.  We’ll see if Steffan demands a loan from Man City to get more playing time – but its obvious the bench at Man City is only making Steffan worse.  I think Horvath and Matt Turner are better shotstoppers and I could honestly give a dang if my keeper has midfielder skills with his feet – if he can’t make a dang save with his hands or command his box on high balls and corners.  Time will tell – but I wouldn’t stake my job on Steffan right now unfortunately.   

Berhalter Was Spot On Again

I laugh at the people calling for Berhalter’s head – all he has done is take the youngest US team in history and one of the youngest in the world – and found a way to get us qualified despite never once having his best 4 players on the field at the same time due to injuries.  He has introduced tons of young players and found the likes of Brendan Aaronson, Musah, De La Torre, Busio, Pepi, Ferriera and more as he just finds a way to plug guys in and still make it all work – no matter who is out injured – he finds a way to balance the roster and get the result needed.  His true judgement will come in the World Cup this Nov/Dec but lets give credit where it is due – he’s he got us back in the World Cup with the youngest, most talented team the US has ever seen – he has turned us from a defensive – hold on for dear life counter attack team – to a possession based – dominate team.  Again we’ll find out more in the World Cup but for now –  Berhalter has succeeded (Lallas video).   Had a great time with the American Outlaws Indy at Union Jack’s Sports bar in Broadripple.  The power went off in the 2nd half – but we had our cell phones and we stuck together to watch it out.  At the end we celebrated  with a toast to our  young World Cup going team !! 

Champions League Elite 8 Tues/Wed

Tues gives us Man City and Atletico along with Liverpool traveling to Benefica at 3 pm on Para+, while Chelsea and Pulisic will host Real Madrid on Wed at 3 pm along with Villarreal hosting Bayern Munich.  Must watch TV – I assume at least 1 game per day will be on CBSSN. 

BIG GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Apr 2

10 am USA                              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Brentford

10 am CNBC                            Wolverhampton vs Aston Villa

10 am Peacock                        Leeds United vs Southampton

12:30 pm Peacock                  Man United vvs Leicester City  

12:30 pm ESPN+                     Dortmund (Reyna) vs RB Leipzig (Adams)  

3:30 pm Univision                   Chicago vs Dallas

7 pm TV 8                              Indy 11 vs LA Galaxy II @ the Mike

Sun,  Apr3

10 am Peacock                        Chelsea (Pulisic) vs New Castle

9 am USA                                West Ham vs Everton  

10 am Peacock                       Leeds United vs Norwich

2:45 pm  CBS SN                     Juventus vs Inter  

4:30 pm Fox Sport 1               Atlanta United vs Charlotte 

Mon,  Mar 14

4 pm  USA                               Cyrstal Palace vs Man City

Tues, apr 5– Champ League

3 pm CBS                                Man City  vs Atletico Madrid

4  pm Paramount+                  Benefica vs Liverpool

Wed, apr 4– Champ League

3 pm CBS                                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Real Madrid

3  pm Paramount+                  Villarreal vs Bayern Munich

4 pm Peacock                         Arsenal vs Liverpool

Indy 11 Season Schedule

Indy 11

Indy 11 Ties Louisville 1-1

Indy 11 GK Wins Team of Week Nod

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

USA

Berhalter: USMNT aiming to reach WC knockout
USMNT underwhelms vs. Costa Rica, but all eyes on World Cup now
Kyle Bonagura
USMNT player ratings from World Cup berth-clinching loss in Costa Rica

How players deal with World Cup Qualifying pressures and expectations  CHARLIE DAVIES

Grading Berhalter and the USMNT World Cup qualifying campaign  Matt Doyle

“I cried last time. I’m crying now”: USMNT players react to qualifying for 2022 FIFA World Cup  Matt Doyle
USA clinch spot at World Cup finals in Qatar despite Costa Rica defeat


In Punching Its Ticket to the 2022 World Cup, USMNT Saves Fox’s Bacon

Officially official: US men’s national soccer team clinch spot in 2022 World Cup in Qatar

Couva to Qatar: Tracing the 1,631-day USMNT trek to the 2022 World Cup

World Cup

World Cup Power Rankings
England’s World Cup hopefuls must fight for places: Southgate

England manager Gareth Southgate insists nobody can take their place in his World Cup 

US Ladies


USWNT’s Williams, Davidson suffer major injuries
 
hCaitlin Murray
USWNT, Kansas City forward Lynn Williams suffers season-ending injury

Tierna Davidson to miss 2022 season with ACL tear


The best photos from the most attended women’s soccer game in history

World


Real Madrid seek recovery against Celta after Barca loss, before Chelsea

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3/29/22  USMNT vs Costa Rica 9 pm CBSSN, Indy 11 Home Opener Sat 7 pm

US Qualifies for World Cup with W, Tie or 5 goal loss to Costa Rica Wed Night at 9 pm on CBSSN 

Ok so 4 years after the debacle in Cuovo (Trinidad & Tobago) the legendary loss that knocked the US men out of the World Cup for the first time in 28 Years, the US Men have all but qualified for this Winter’s World Cup in Qatar. Pulisic claimed his first ever Hat Trick for the US team with 2 Pks and this spectacular goal.  The US crowd  in Orlando – unbelievable – as the atmosphere was like the American Outlaws Section all over the stadium. (Game Hi-Lites ).  My 3 buddies at the game all said it was the BEST Atmosphere they have ever seen for a soccer game in the US.   The Bottom line is the US is in the World Cup this winter – if we don’t lose to Costa Rica Wednesday night 9 pm on CBS Sports Network & Paramount plus -by more than 5 goals.  It would take a 6 goal loss to a Costa Rica team that is likely to be resting at least 7 of their starters and 9 overall now on yellow cards.  The stupidest rule in all of sports -yellow card accumulation- (across 10 Qualifying games plus any playoff) means that since Costa Rica would need a major miracle (a 6 goal win over the US Wednesday night at home) that Costa Rica will most probably rest all of their starters who have 1 yellow card to make sure they don’t miss the 1 game playoff in June vs New Zealand (probably) to a trip to Qatar.  To expect a player – especially a Dmid or Defender to only get 1 yellow card in 10 friggin games is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!  It cost us Weah and Yedlin this past game – and almost cost us Adams the past 2 games.  Its the dumbest rule in all of sports – imagine suspending LaBron because he got 1 yellow card (flop foul) in game 2 of the playoffs and again in game 6 of the conference finals and having him miss Game 1 of the NBA Finals – that’s what soccer does and IT’S THE DUMBEST RULE IN ALL OF SPORTS!! 

Shane’s Starting Roster for Costa Rica Wed

Pulisic //Pfok//Weah

Musah//Reyna

Adams

Jedi Robinson//Robinson//Zimmerman//Yedlin

Steffan (should be Horvath)

I truly think Berhalter needs to see his best players on the field – if only for a half vs Costa Rica.  We still haven’t seen Pulisic, Reyna, & Weah on the field at the same time.  I would even consider putting Weah at the 9 slot – and putting Reyna on the right wing and adding De La Torre beside Musah just to see what that would look like (imagine when we add McKinney in the summer for De La Torre and Dest on the right back) – we have never seen our best players on the field at the same time since Berhalter became coach – mainly because of injuries.  Wow – we could really be good come World Cup time.  Wait – that’s right – we have to not lose by 6 goals Wed – before we can say World Cup.  I actually think Berhalter will put out a first team squad on Wed night – and we will find a way to actually win a game in Costa Rica for the first time EVER !!  We have tied before but never won in Costa Rica – I see the US winning 2-1 Wed night !! Go USA !!

ATMOSPHERE WAS ELECTRIC

Wow Orlando – what a magical night in the Mickey City – as the ENTIRE Stadium looked like an American’s Outlaw’s Section – the ENTIRE GAME.  They stood and jumped and screamed and sang – and JUST WOW !! Well Done Orlando !!  I had 2 buddies there who said it was the BEST Soccer Game they have ever been to.  Just Awesome !! The only complaint I had was how, just how could this game not have been on big Fox?  I mean what was on Fox Sun night  that the USA Men Qualifying for the Damn World Cup doesn’t slot a prime Time 7 pm start on Fox rather than Fox Sports 1 (The Simpsons and Ice Age).  Pre-game and Post Game on FS1 – sure but the dang Game should have been on FOX.  They host the Dang World Cup for Heaven’s Sake in just 8 months!

POG

Some controversy as the US blowout 5 to 1 win over Panama – was not quite enough to celebrate Qualification into the World Cup.  The team came out with a Qualified Banner – and then quickly replaced it with the thanks to the US Fans – but we are being critized for it  that and Pulisic’s goofy Worm Celebration after the 2nd PK goal.  the   I absolutely loved how Fiesty he was – he was Angry and Intense –  and his first ever Hat Trick was needed.  You could tell he was ticked-off about missing that goal in Mexico – and he took it out on Panama. 

Oh and here’s  Why – on the Worm Celebration

Christian Pulisic explains his worm celebration from Panamá game last night. “I met someone really special yesterday. His name was Mason, and his one request was that if I scored, he wanted to see a worm celebration. That’s what that was for,” Pulisic said.

Mason Ogle is a 17-year-old high school student from Omaha, Nebraska. He is currently receiving treatments for bone cancer and tumors in his lungs, but still managed to play high school soccer last fall. He was invited by USSF to be the game ambassador yesterday.

Man is the Pulisic guy something or what? Please note that while Pulisic was the undisputed POG – the tandem of Zimmerman and Robinson have not given up a goal in 7 WCQ Games when they play together.  The Goal on Sun was Zimmerman and Long – and they just don’t have the same chemistry as Zimmerman/Robinson do.  Zimmerman is a BOSS – he could well be the Breakout star of the World Cup in Dec! 

Berhalter Was Spot On Again

I laugh at the people calling for Berhalter’s head – all he has done is take the youngest US team in history and one of the youngest in the world – and found a way to get us qualified (almost) despite never once having his best 4 players on the field at the same time due to injuries.  He has introduced tons of young players and found the likes of Brendan Aaronson, Musah, De La Torre, Busio, Pepi, Ferriera and more as he just finds a way to plug guys in and still make it all work – no matter who is out injured – he finds a way to balance the roster and get the result needed.  His true judgement will come in the World Cup this Nov/Dec but lets give credit where it is due – he’s 1 game away from getting us back in the World Cup with the youngest, most talented team the US has ever seen – he has turned us from a defensive – hold on for dear life counter attack team – to a possession based – dominate teams we are better than squad.  Again we’ll find out more in the World Cup but for now –  Berhalter has succeeded (Lallas video)

Anyone looking for a place to watch the big game Wednesday Night – the American Outlaws Indy will be hosting at Union Jack’s Sports bar in Broadripple!!

Indy 11 Host Home Opener Sat Night 7 pm at the Mike

The Indy 11 finally arrive home after 3 straight on the road and a 0-1-2 mark to start the season.  New GK Elliot Paniccomade GK of the Week in the USL as he helped the Indy 11 take a 1-1 tie at Louisville last weekend (hi-lights).   The 11 will kickoff their home opener at 7 pm Saturday night vs LA Galaxy II visit

 indyeleven.com/tickets to get single game tickets for as low as $16 plus fees.  Word on the Street is they are close to a sell-out so make those plans early to attend!!

BIG GAMES ON TV

Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Indy 11 Season Schedule

======================RackZ BAR BQ ====Save 20% ====================== 

Heading over to the Field House at Badger Field for Training?  Try out the Best BarBQ in Town right across the street (131st) from Northview Church on the corner of Hazelldell & 131st. RackZ BBQ

Save 20% on your order 

(mention the ole ballcoach) 

Check out the BarBQ Ribs, pulled Pork and Chicken, Brisket and more.  Sweet, Tangy or Spicy sauce. Mention you heard about it from the Ole Ballcoach — and Ryan will give you 20% off your next mealhttps://www.rackzbbqindy.com/ Call ahead at 317-688-7290  M-Th 11-8 pm, 11-9 Fri/Sat, 12-8 pm on Sunday.  Pick some up after practice – Its good eatin! You won’t be disappointed and tell ’em the Ole Ballcoach Sent You!  

Save 20% on these Succulent Ribs at Rackz BarBQ when you mention the Ole Ballcoach – Corner of 131 & Hazelldell. – Call 317-688-7290.

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USA


USMNT looking to make history in Costa Rica
  23mKyle Bonagura

USA vs. Costa Rica, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for  By Rob Usry  S&S
Pulisic’s fiery Captain America display puts U.S. on cusp of World Cup
dSam Borden

Carlisle: Berhalter vindicated as U.S. thrash Panama
Report: U.S. 5-1 Panama
USMNT player ratings vs. Panama

Analysis & player ratings: Pulisic’s hat trick has USMNT on verge of World Cup ticket ASN

USA v. Panama, 2022 World Cup Qualifier; What We Learned By Adnan Ilyas
USMNT’s workmanlike reaction to win is understandable after 2018 World Cup disappointment | Opinion

Pulisics Hat Trick – has US at Edge of World Cup
USA all but seal place at World Cup as Pulisic hat-trick fuels rout of Panama

U.S. men’s national soccer team effectively clinch spot at World Cup in Qatar with one qualifier left to play

WATCH: Christian Pulisic’s 1st USMNT hat trick (That nutmeg-driven 3rd!)

Herc Gomez on US Win and W2 Look 4 – Video 13 min
Transfer news: Brenden Aaronson to Leeds, Cody Gakpo to Arsenal

CONCACAF 

2022 World Cup: How United States and Mexico can qualify 2dDale Johnson
Oh Canada! Larin and Buchanan lead team to first men’s World Cup since 1986

Canada clinches first World Cup berth since 1986 in front of raucous crowd

WORLD

World Cup contenders: France, Germany, Brazil the teams to beat  Mark Ogden

While Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski make World Cup, Qatar will miss peak talents Salah and Haaland  Mark Ogden

Mane’s Senegal beat Salah’s Egypt to reach WC

Top seeds confirmed for World Cup finals draw  Dale Johnson

World Cup: Who has qualified and who is still in contention? ESPN

Portugal are more than just Ronaldo, and stronger for it
Egypt loses World Cup playoff, Senegal fans fire laser pointers in pens

Lewandowski strikes as Poland punch World Cup ticket

US Ladies

USWNT’s Williams, Davidson suffer major injuries  hCaitlin Murray
USWNT, Kansas City forward Lynn Williams suffers season-ending injury

Tierna Davidson to miss 2022 season with ACL tear

Indy 11

Indy 11 Ties Louisville 1-1

Indy 11 GK Wins Team of Week Nod

Indy 11 Jerseys revealed

Full Ticket Offerings for 2022 Indy Eleven Games Now on Sale

BIG GAMES ON TV

Wed,  Mar 30

9 pm Para+                         USA @ Costa Rica

9 pm Para+                            Panama vs Canada

9 pm Para+                            Mexico vs El Salvador 

Indy 11 Season Schedule

How will USMNT lineup vs. Costa Rica?

Joe Prince-Wright Tue, March 29, 2022, 9:07 AM·3 min read

How will the USMNT lineup for their final World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica on Wednesday (watch live, 9:05pm ET)?

How do you lineup for a game which you can afford to lose by five goals and still qualify for the 2022 World Cup? 

It is an intriguing proposition for USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter because there are a plenty of things going on here:

1) you want to rest your star players. 2) you have to avoid a disastrous defeat which could knock you out of automatic qualification. 3) you need a certain amount of experience sprinkled throughout the team to avoid any kind of heavy defeat, but you want to give fringe players a chance.

Below is how I would line up the USMNT in Costa Rica, from the start, while remembering that you can make five subs and four of them would probably come on at half time to get the job done.

Latest USMNT news

Transfer news: Brenden Aaronson to Leeds, Cody Gakpo to Arsenal 2022 World Cup qualifying, live! Scores, how to watch, schedule, odds Costa Rica vs USMNT: How to watch live, stream link, team news

USMNT lineup vs Costa Rica (4-3-3 formation)

—– Horvath —–

— Moore — Robinson — Long — Yedlin —

— Acosta — Adams — Busio —-

—- Weah —- Pepi —- Reyna —-

Analysis

Okay, most USMNT fans would want to play Zack Steffen, Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic to start. But what is the point? The job is 99 percent done. Those players have put in heavy shifts in two big games over the last few days.  The big question for Berhalter is this: do you start with your strongest team and if say it’s 0-0 or you’re only 1-0 down at half time, you then sub off most of the starters? Or do you start with a weaker lineup and then bring on the big boys at half time to close out qualifying in style?

I’d actually go for the approach of starting most of the back-up players to give them a chance to show what they can do. They are fresher, hungry to prove they deserve to be in the World Cup squad (it’s happening, folks) and I’m not sure there’s that much drop-off across the squad outside of Pulisic, Adams and Reyna. It really is a very even player pool, but you still need to put out a starting lineup which has plenty of experience just to get to half time in a good situation.

I would start Horvath in goal because there’s no need to risk Steffen picking up an injury (he had recent back issues at Man City) and he already looked a little shaky against Panama. I would give Antonee Robinson a rest and play Yedlin at left back, which he has done before. I would also play Aaron Long and Miles Robinson together at center back, then bring on Erik Palmer-Brown for Robinson. There is no doubt that Miles Robinson and Zimmerman are the USMNT’s first-choice CB pairing, so you need to see Long and EPB in these situations.

In midfield, Tyler Adams will anchor things with his experience, at least for the first half, while Gianluca Busio and Kellyn Acosta have shown they can be very useful with their energy and precision in the engine room. Tyler Adams should be given a rest given the incredible workload he went through against Mexico and Panama but he makes this team tick and should play for the first half. Then, Luca de la Torre and Cristian Roldan should come on to play 45 minutes.

Up top, Jordan Pefok or Ricardo Pepi should start centrally, with Tim Weah and Gio Reyna (to continue his return to full fitness) either side to bring a spark to the attack. Christian Pulisic should only be used if desperately needed. He won’t be.

USA vs. Panama, 2022 World Cup qualifying: SSFC Man of the Match

Hat. Trick. Hero.

By jcksnftsn  Mar 29, 2022, 1:08pm PDT    S&S

The United States Men’s National Team is in spitting distance of clinching qualification for the 2022 World Cup thanks to an overwhelming 5-1 win over Panama in Orlando on Sunday night. The team has secured no worse than fourth place in the group which is enough to make the playoff match against Oceania’s group. However, the dominant score line means that they can qualify outright by doing no worse than a 5-0 loss to Costa Rica on Wednesday night. There were a number of good performances in this match, eight of the eleven players scored higher than a seven and only one player was lower than a six. Compare this to Thursday’s draw at the Azteca, which was one of the better performances of the Hex but only two players scored over a seven on the ratings scale and you start to get a sense for the joy coming out of the match with Panama and closing in on World Cup Qualification. Not surprisingly it was Christian Pulisic and his hat trick that shone brightest of all, Pulisic earned a 9.0 rating by the community and the SSFC Man of the Match.Pulisic buried both of his penalty kicks, the first to open the scoring and the second to put the game out of reach just before halftime, and then added a jaw dropping third in open play to cap off his hat trick.

The ratings for all the players, along with the referee and head coach Gregg Berhalter:

Christian Pulisic – 9.00

Antonne Robinson – 7.67

Paul Arriola – 7.60

Walker Zimmerman – 7.51

Tyler Adams – 7.43

Luca de la Torre – 7.32

Jesús Ferreira – 7.19

Miles Robinson – 7.02

Shaq Moore – 6.81

Yunus Musah – 6.34

Zack Steffen – 5.80

—Substitutes—

Giovanni Reyna – 7.04

Kellyn Acosta – 6.44

Aaron Long – 5.87

Gianluca Busio – 5.62

Jordan Morris – 5.62

Gregg Berhalter – 7.59

Referee Iván Arcides Barton Cisneros – 6.30

Pulisic, U.S. close to World Cup qualification thanks to his fiery Captain America performance

  • ORLANDO, Fla. — Tyler Adams has been the de facto captain for the U.S. men’s national team during this World Cup qualifying cycle, but when the U.S. players emerged from the tunnel on Sunday, Christian Pulisic was at the front, the armband wrapped tightly around his sleeve.

It was fitting, too. On the night the U.S. all but clinched its place in this winter’s tournament, Pulisic — one of the few links from the team that failed so spectacularly nearly five years ago — led from the start.Pulisic scored twice in the first half on penalty kicks. He scored again just past the hour with the sort of balletic footwork in front of goal that gives American fans fever dreams. He had to be restrained by Gregg Berhalter when he tried to run at a mob of Panamanian players during a minor scrape near the sideline. He got a yellow card for screaming at (and charging toward) the referee after the official called a fairly benign foul in midfield, even with the U.S. fully in control.In a game where the U.S. needed everything from its stars, Pulisic was a frothing ball of fire — exactly what Berhalter was thinking when he turned to Pulisic to be the captain.”I think because of the journey,” Berhalter said. “You have a guy that’s been there before. He was on the field when we didn’t qualify, and this was us saying to him, this is a new group, this is a new team, and you’re a leader. We wanted to show that.”Nothing could ever get back what was lost in Trinidad in 2017, but this match and this performance, from a player whose ebbs and flows so often drive the feeling about American soccer in general, was as sweet and special a salve on the scar as one could have imagined.”It was a huge honor to be captain tonight,” Pulisic said afterward. “Absolutely we can enjoy tonight, but the job’s not done yet. We have one more really important game, and we’re taking it very seriously.”Pulisic’s restraint was understandable: There is still some work to be done. The combination of results in other matches this weekend means that the U.S. can do no worse than fourth place in this CONCACAF qualifying table, which would put them into a one-game playoff for a World Cup spot. (If the USMNT goes this route, it will face either the Solomon Islands or New Zealand in June for a berth to Qatar.) The USMNT will assure itself one of the three automatic places with a win, a draw or even a loss that’s no worse than a five-goal margin against Costa Rica on Wednesday in San Jose. And while history tells us that the strangest things can (and sometimes do) happen, even by Couva standards, this would be a stretch.

Six years after making his national team debut as a 17-year-old wunderkind, Pulisic seems virtually certain to finally get the chance to represent the United States on his sport’s biggest stage. In many ways, Pulisic’s transformation from what he was in the last cycle to what he is now tells the story of this U.S. soccer team rebirth.

CONCACAF Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Canada1328+17
2 – USA1325+13
3 – Mexico1325+7
4 – Costa Rica1322+3
5 – Panama1318-3
6 – El Salvador1310-8
7 – Jamaica138-11
8 – Honduras134-18
1-3 qualify; 4 into playoff

Back then, he was a diamond in the rough, one of the only fresh lights among a group of veterans trying to push for a final turn in the arena. Now, he is a relative veteran (even at 23), surrounded by a slew of rising American talent who have turned the U.S. into the sort of team that that no one would want to face in a one-off match. Berhalter, of course, deserves praise for marshalling this group — which has perpetually put out some of the youngest starting lineups in U.S. World Cup qualifying history — and pushing it to the brink of reaching its first goal. But the players have risen to the moment throughout this cycle whenever they needed it most, and they did it again against Panama.Pulisic was the motor. Five years ago, in the match before the ill-fated trip to Trinidad, Pulisic scored eight minutes into a victory over Panama here, running toward the corner flag and sliding on his knees in celebration. On Sunday, facing Panama in the same stadium, he put the U.S. in front in the 17th minute, coolly stepping up to take the penalty kick after Anibal Godoy fouled Walker Zimmerman in the area. This time, his revelry took him more to the sideline where he was surrounded by his teammates as the packed stadium thrummed.Six minutes later, Pulisic’s slick pullback pass led to Antonee Robinson‘s perfect cross and Paul Arriola‘s header to put the U.S. two in front. A four-man passing sequence led to Jesus Ferreira scoring a third before a half-hour had been played. Pulisic then added his second from the spot in first-half stoppage time, after which he asked his teammates for a bit of space and dropped to the ground before attempting a (very, very) short rendition of “The Worm” dance move.The Panamanians were out on their feet by that point. The stadium was bedlam. And Pulisic’s face was one of joy and glee.”I rate it like a solid 8,” Ferreira said of Pulisic’s attempt at “The Worm.” “Can’t give it a 10 because he didn’t go back down.” Arriola, while appreciating the spirit of the choice, said, “I’d probably give him a 5 just for flexibility. He could have been a little more flexible.”In truth, the last goal of Pulisic’s hat trick was the real prize. A pillowed touch and spin move around two defenders led to a lashed shot past the goalkeeper and reminded everyone that for all the pressure laid upon Pulisic — whether playing for Chelsea or the U.S. — there’s incredible talent beneath it all. When he’s in form, Pulisic’s pure skill and dynamism is at the highest level.With about 20 minutes remaining, Berhalter sent Gianluca Busio to midfield and the fourth official raised his board with Pulisic’s No. 10 on it in red. Pulisic removed the captain’s armband and passed it to Tyler Adams, then started a slow trot to the sideline as applause — including from Jordan Morris, who was waiting to come into the game — poured down.It was an ovation for a star. For a force. For a player who may not be the team’s every-day leader, but remains its face all the same. In 2017, the tears streaming from Pulisic’s eyes after the final whistle in Trinidad stood in for those of so many U.S. fans.Now, five years later, all that remains is the finish he’s been dreaming about ever since.

All But Done

Pulisic’s Hat Trick Fuels USMNT’s Blowout of Panama, Leaving a Formality in Costa Rica to Qualify for the World Cup

 Grant Wahl  Mar 28

ORLANDO, Fla. — If you’re Christian Pulisic, your first touch is never an end in itself. “It’s knowing which direction to take your first touch, and not just receiving it,” he once told me. “It’s putting yourself in a good position for what you want to do with it.”During the U.S.’s 5-1 thrashing of Panama in Sunday’s World Cup qualifier, Pulisic produced the first hat trick of his international career. His opening two goals came on penalties as the U.S. built a stunning 4-0 halftime lead, but the lasting image of a triumphant night will be of Pulisic’s sublime first touch—actually, first two touches—on his third strike of the game. With his back to the goal, Pulisic received Jedi Robinson’s cross with a caressing left-footed touch. But it wasn’t just that Pulisic brought the ball down cleanly; he also pulled it toward the goal between his own legs, allowing him to turn and beat his first defender. Now facing the goal, Pulisic took a single deft touch with the outside of his right foot, nutmegging his second defender and creating space for what looked, in the end, like an easy finish.

But none of it was easy. The hardest thing in soccer is true simplicity, as the great Dutch striker Dennis Bergkamp showed us, and the most difficult place to do it is in front of the goal. When you watch the replay, it’s as if Pulisic is operating at a different speed from his opponents. The game slows down for him. Two touches. Shot. Goal. “What I like the most [about Pulisic] is his first touch,” his former teammate Nuri Sahin once explained to me. “When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”

Claudio Reyna on his son, Gio: “I remember when he was in the car and his team would lose when he was Under-11, Under-12, and he’d be crying after the game. And he’d get into the car and I would say, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay.’ And he felt like his teammates weren’t trying as hard as him. And I was like, ‘No, it’s probably they’re just not as good as you.’ And I was just trying to coach him through those moments. But he was so competitive.”…

We Beat Panama 5-1…But Was It Good Enough? Yanks Abroad

The USMNT needed a win on Sunday night, and they earned it in spades with a 5-1 drubbing of Panama. So why wasn’t that good enough? First let’s get the obvious accolades out of the way. More than any other game during qualifying, this was the one that Gregg Berhalter’s squad needed to win. Had the team taken anything less than three points, they would be at serious risk of not qualifying and setting up another nightmare scenario like what unfolded in 2017.Fortunately, the team won, and won by a lot. That means the game plan worked, and Berhalter and the boys all did their jobs well, and then some.Christian Pulisic scored a hat-trick, the attack generated had 15 shots, and we won 5-1! How then, could anyone other than the most jaded of obsessively pessimistic analysts be dissatisfied?  I am. I am dissatisfied. However, not because of the overall performance, but because of trends I see that could hurt the team in its attempt to perform in the big show in Qatar later this year.I’m walking away from this game with a sour taste in my mouth, and it all started brewing inside me during the last 20 minutes. The last 20 minutes of this game showed what kind of one-dimensional, conservative tactician Berhalter really is.For the second time in two games, this time with a five-goal advantage and with Panama running around like a bunch of headless chickens, Berhalter sent on substitutes with very obvious orders:Bunker. Completely.Now I know you’re going to say “We didn’t need goals, so bunkering is fine”. If you said this, you wouldn’t be wrong. Bunkering is “fine”. It’s sound. It’s defensible. It’s safe. But it’s not what we should be doing in this type of situation, and I’ll tell you why. When we see a team bunkering at the end of a game, it’s usually because they are the underdog and trying to hang on for dear life. They have scraped together a goal, and somehow managed to keep the ball out of their own net. They’re not feeling confident in attack, so they just put everyone behind the ball and hope to weather the storm while the opposition attacks.Whenever a defender can get a foot on the ball, it’s launched forward, knowing full-well there’s no one from their team who will be able to get it. With no attackers to receive the ball, the other team can push higher and higher.We did it at the end of the game against Mexico too, and still came out with a point. In that case, it was appropriate in the cauldron (even if the half-capacity cauldron) of Azteca.So what’s the problem this time around?The problem with bunkering is that it invites the other team to attack with everything they’ve got. It is a tactic that screams inferiority.  We were destroying Panama. We were the better technical team and we had a five-goal cushion. Realistically speaking, we could have done anything at all for those last 20 minutes, and Panama was not coming back under any fathomable circumstance.Berhalter has spent nearly four years “teaching” this team to play with a possession-based style, but for some reason he decided we weren’t good enough in possession to protect a five-goal lead for 20 minutes.Or alternatively, he chose the wrong time, and the wrong quality of opponent to practice this tactic…again…for the second time in 72 hours.To flip the well-known phrase on its head: the best defense is a good offense.If we have the ball, they can’t score goals. We needed cool heads, and to circulate and recycle passes ad nauseam. I’m not saying we needed to attack and push for a sixth or perhaps a seventh goal against Panama.In fact I’m saying we shouldn’t, but we should not have gifted possession to an entirely overwhelmed opponent.Tactically, it’s a simple drill: get the ball from the keeper to the center backs, who trade possession back and forth between each other before pushing up one side. When that side closes, go back again and switch to the other side. If Panama pushes up so high the CBs are smothered, they can play a mid-range pass to a midfielder who brings it forward to link up calmly. Then pass back and repeat.It’s an important drill, but in a rare opportunity against real opponents in a game situation.There’s no need to drive forward, and at a 5-1 advantage, there’s no need to score. But that doesn’t mean we should give up the ball and hope they can’t break us down. We need to know how to keep the ball, and we had a chance to practice doing just that. We ended up with lower pass completion and only 39% possession on the night, and a lot of that comes from the bunker-and-boot-it ineptitude of the at the end of the game. But in the end, we won. The target from the start (and since that horrible day in 2017) has been to qualify for the final tournament in Qatar, and we have essentially done that.We can straighten all of this out later, right? Maybe.Maybe Berhalter has just been playing down to the CONCACAF competition this whole time, and when the World Cup comes, he’s going to turn it on. Maybe he’ll select only the best talent and let them loose with those European tactics that wouldn’t work against chippy teams on the pitted fields of CONCACAF.Maybe we’ll see our players performing as well in the US jersey as they have in their Champions League games. I mean, Jordan Pefok didn’t shank any sitters against Manchester United or Atalanta.It’s possible, but I don’t believe it. I believe the way you practice is the way you play in real game situtions. I don’t think there’s a magical switch that gets flipped to suddenly change what’s been drilled.  And believe me, what has been drilled is not something that is going to be as successful against Argentina, France, England or Italy….er….not Italy, as it has been against Panama, El Salvador, and Jamaica. This game was an absolutely perfect opportunity to possess the ball against a desperate team.We needed to make Panama chase us. We needed the experience of stringing together 50 passes that accomplish nothing other than tiring out and frustrating the opposition. The possession-based team that Berhalter is trying to craft needs to be able to do this, but it’s not something that is ingrained enough in the historical fabric of the USMNT to ignore those rare low-risk chances when we can practice it in a competitive situation.This is a skill for a team, meaning it can be learned and repeated. So why hasn’t it been learned an repeated? Does Berhalter think we’re not good enough to keep the ball?He’s a vocal coach on the sidelines and he’s barking orders for 90+ minutes a game, so why not remind Zimmerman to keep a short and long option in mind before getting the ball from Steffen? Spread wide when Steffen has the ball in the back, and be ready to distribute. Don’t follow the attacker when he comes inside to pressure the goalie.

Instead, everything was launched 50 yards upfield in a seeming panic.It’s not insane to think that we could go up a goal or two against a top team during the World Cup. It’s happened, and could happen again in a few months.If that happens, do we simply sub out our attackers and bunker? Maybe we should just let Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, or Paul Pogba go to town, praying they don’t find a crack in our rock-solid defense? Does that sound like fun? We all endured the firing line against Belgium in 2014. It worked then, for 90 minutes, but that was a rare instance of individual heroism by a keeper having the best game of his career.Realistically speaking, we’ll need to recover after playing 25 minutes of a high press, and being able to control the game while recovering would be nice, and less exhausting.

After decades of waiting, following several generations of players, and enduring too many promises broken, we finally have a group of players that are good enough to take their game to the other team. I don’t want to curse them with any labels, but from top to bottom, this is the most skilled pool of players that any USMNT coach has ever had at his disposal.After four years of learning curve and possession, why won’t Berhalter let the players play, and let the football gods decide? This is basic. It’s not easy, but it’s simple. It’s what good head coaches of good teams do, and I believe we are a good team. But this is where we get to the crux of the problem.After watching the game against Panama, I don’t think that Berhalter believes we’re a good enough team to escape the bunker mentality.For USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter, only his tactics can save us. We’re well drilled in how to win in CONCACAF. We will almost certainly qualify on Wednesday, barring some force of god stopping the game from happening. On Friday is the draw when we will find out our World Cup opponents (oh, how I missed this 5 years ago), and that will begin a whole new journey.But just like Berhalter doesn’t trust his players to execute, I don’t trust Berhalter’s tactics against the best in the world.I don’t think a team like ours should put everyone behind the ball for the final 20 minutes, even in a close against a hypothetical team better than Panama. If Berhalter can’t trust Giovanni Reyna, Kellyn Acosta, Gianluca Busio, and Jordan Morris to keep the ball from Panama, what are we supposed to do against Germany or Brazil or Ital….Portugal? Why even show up?We won in Orlando. We’re all but qualified for the World Cup. The thing is, we’re going to have to actually PLAY in the world cup. We have the personnel to be able to do something special, but they’re being muzzled.The coach is blinded by his confidence in his own strategies. He has proven that he knows how to use the talent at hand. However, he doesn’t trust that the best generation of players we’ve ever had can get it done. I’m disappointed because it seems he won’t let our golden generation do what they do best…play the game.All I ask is for the coach to have the same confidence in our players’ ability to control a game as their collective skill dictates.

Gregg Berhalter’s selections justified with United States on brink of World Cup berth

ORLANDO, Fla. — It is a manager’s lot in life to be second-guessed. Decisions are analyzed to the smallest of details. Mistakes get highlighted. That’s especially true of international managers, with a country’s armchair coaches never holding back.Credit is due, then, to U.S. men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter. Over the past week he had some tricky choices to make, especially ahead of the World Cup qualifier Sunday against Panama. The U.S. was coming off an exhausting 0-0 draw with Mexico in the 7,200-foot altitude of Estadio Azteca. How much could the U.S. manager rely on the players who played the bulk of the minutes in Mexico City? There was also the injury bug that forced the U.S. to do without Weston McKennieBrenden Aaronson and Sergino Dest. The yellow card suspensions to DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Weah, as well as the positive COVID-19 test for Reggie Cannon, further limited Berhalter’s options further.

Even given those challenges, Berhalter’s personnel decisions on Sunday invited scrutiny. Was Paul Arriola really the best choice out wide ahead of Gio Reyna? What about Shaq Moore being an emergency call-up at right-back over the Bundesliga pedigree of Joe Scally? Then there was the decision to start Jesus Ferreira up top against Panama’s hulking back line.All of them came through in massive ways, not only delivering on Berhalter’s “next man up” mentality, but speaking to the team’s depth. Arriola scored a gorgeous goal with a glancing header. Ferreira troubled Panama with his movement and scored the kind of garbage goal that was thought to be the domain of Jordan Pefok or Ricardo Pepi. Moore barely put a foot wrong holding down the right side of the U.S. defense. And with Christian Pulisic delivering a hat trick — his first with the national team — the U.S. powered its way to a critical 5-1 victory over the Canaleros, putting the USMNT on the brink of qualification for the 2022 World Cup.”We wanted to be aggressive,” Berhalter said after the match. “We wanted to put them on their heels. We wanted to play with intensity and we also want to score goals. It’s great to see that output.”Granted, some of Berhalter’s decisions were made for him. The U.S. manager said that as many as 20 players and staff were laid low by a stomach bug after the Mexico game. Sources told ESPN that Reyna was among those impacted. But there was some internal logic to the decisions as well. Arriola’s work rate provided extra cover for Moore who last played for the U.S. back in October. It also allowed Moore to get into the attack where he was effective, helping to set up Ferreira’s goal. Arriola’s pressing helped on the attacking end as well. With Panama in desperation mode following its home draw against Honduras last Thursday, there was bound to be more space for Ferreira and his greater mobility to exploit.”We really had to call on our depth in this window, and it being the last window and an impactful window where qualifying takes place, it was something where guys needed to step up,” Berhalter said. “We talked early on about the ‘next man up’ mentality we have complete faith in anyone who’s called in. We don’t call players in unless we trust them and we think they can they can perform at a good level.”Berhalter pushed the right buttons in terms of playing time as well. A clearly fatigued Yunus Musah was pulled at half-time. Tyler Adams and Pulisic were substituted with the game well in hand, a move that prevented Adams picking up a caution that would have seen him suspended. The same was true of the team’s emotions. And the team’s depth pieces met the moment to make big contributions.

Keeping players engaged, especially when playing time drops, isn’t easy. It requires constant attention, keeping track of the pulse of the team and doling out playing time when the time is right. The performances throughout the entire team are proof that Berhalter is managing this aspect well.”The culture that Gregg and the staff have built for this group in this environment … we’re brothers,” Arriola said. “We really feel like that guys love coming into the national team getting together, on and off the field. I think we all click very, very well. And so we all understand that over time, number one is, in order to be a part of this team, you have to put the team first. And when I tell you everyone does that, everyone really, really does.”Of course, some decisions are no-brainers, namely penciling Pulisic into the starting lineup. Granted, the Chelsea attacker has endured an up and down qualifying campaign, coming through against Mexico at home, but also at times looking reluctant to push the tempo. But with Costa Rica’s 2-1 win in El Salvador preventing the U.S. from clinching qualification on the night, Pulisic delivered, scoring a pair of cold-blooded penalties in the first half — both off fouls by Panama’s Anibal Godoy — and polishing off his hat trick with a deft turn and finish from Antonee Robinson’s centering feed in the second.”We needed the three points bad to put us in a really good spot to qualify and we’re really happy with the performance,” Pulisic said through a team spokesperson after not being made available to reporters. “It feels great to get a hat trick, of course, my first one with the national team, but more importantly just to help the team to win and put us in a good spot with one game left.”The U.S. hasn’t completely wrapped up qualification just yet, despite the “Qualified” banner the players displayed after the final whistle that was then whisked away. It would take an unprecedented result in Costa Rica on Wednesday to slip out of one of the three automatic qualification spots. The Ticos would have to win by six goals to make up the edge the U.S. has in goal differential.Even with all of the tough results the U.S. has endured in Costa Rica over the years, the USMNT’s lead would appear to be safe. But the players, especially those that were on the field four-plus years ago when the U.S. failed to qualify, aren’t taking anything for granted.”I’m not celebrating anything,” said Arriola. “I was in this exact position, or very similar position four years ago, and we know how that qualification ended. So for me, I think it’s just maintaining focus, understanding that that we still have work to do and anything is possible. So for us, the mentality of this group is, and has to be to go down there to get a good result against Costa Rica.”Berhalter is of a similar mindset. There were enough sloppy moments on Sunday to make his radar perk up, and while the U.S. missed out on a chance to get a historic qualifying win at the Azteca, a win against the Ticos on Wednesday would make its own history.The final step is often the hardest. The U.S. has come far enough to be that close to qualifying. Wednesday is the time to break through and reach its goal.

 GB Flexes USMNT Depth Chart to keep 2022 World Cup Quest on Course

MLS – Charles Boehm  –  ORLANDO, Fla. – “Give the devil his due.”

The term is said to originate from William Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” written more than 400 years ago about the Hundred Years’ War. For those unfamiliar, it’s evolved into shorthand for showing a necessary respect for even the most despised figure.It’s a concept worth considering for even Gregg Berhalter’s most ardent critics, of which there is no small number, now that the coach has steered the youngest US men’s national team in history right to the doorstep of 2022 World Cup qualification. And the area in which he may deserve the most credit is the management and cultivation of a deep player pool that has enabled the program to weather the peaks and valleys of Concacaf qualifying.

Only two starters in the Octagonal-opening 0-0 draw at El Salvador almost seven months ago were in the XI for Sunday’s 5-1 rout of Panama. In fact, only four of those 11 starters in September were even on this month’s roster. Conversely, key contributors against Panama like Jesus FerreiraPaul Arriola, Shaq Moore and Luca de la Torre watched the beginning of the Ocho from home.

That’s what happens on the way to a World Cup, where injuries, suspensions, gains and drops in individual form, and other complications can render the concept of an “ideal XI” nothing more than, well, an idea, a hypothetical exercise. This cycle’s intensely compact three-match windows have only further exacerbated that – and destabilizing chaos can roll in at any moment, like the stomach bug that Berhalter said afflicted 20 members of the traveling party in Mexico last week.“We really had to call on our depth in this window, and it being the last window, an impactful window where qualifying takes place, it was something where guys needed to step up,” the coach said after the big win at Exploria Stadium. “We talked early on about the ‘next man up’ mentality. We have complete faith in anyone who’s called in. We don’t call people players in unless we trust them and we think they can they can perform at a good level.“The national team is difficult, because you don’t always have the guys that are in the best form or the guys that are most fit, because there’s injuries that happen. So I’m really pleased with guys like Luca stepping up, Gianluca Busio, Jordan Morris is involved now, a number of guys. But it makes a difference when you can call on these guys to perform.”

“‘Next man up’ mentality” has become one of Berhalter’s central talking points. According to U.S. Soccer, 29 players have made their first WCQ appearance on the road to Qatar, which ties the record set in the 1998 cycle. In all, more than three dozen players have seen the field, second-most in program history behind the 43 utilized on the road to South Africa 2010, which involved 18 qualifying matches compared to 14 total this time around.“We’re so fortunate that we have such a deep team with so many different qualities in the team,” said Tyler Adams last Monday. “It’s really, really exciting because a lot of guys can get different opportunities and we have so many different ways of breaking down opponents or structuring ourselves to be successful against opponents.”

As US players have filtered into big European clubs – most prominently, UEFA Champions League participants – with increasing frequency, it’s become common for pundits and supporters to frame the USMNT as far and away the most talent-rich side in the region, and thus a shoe-in for qualification, so long as Berhalter doesn’t fumble it away. But data gathered by MLSsoccer.com’s Jonathan Sigal shows how many of those top players have been available for only a fraction of the Octagonal.

Dortmund midfielder Gio Reyna has played just 14% of the total minutes in the Ocho to date. Barcelona fullback Sergino Dest has taken part in 36% of those minutes; for Manchester City goalkeeper Zack Steffen it’s just over 38%, Lille winger Tim Weah 45%. Even Chelsea attacker Christian Pulisic and Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie, this team’s spiritual leaders and tone-setters, have only respectively played 45% and 53% of the time. At one point Salzburg attacker Brenden Aaronson had appeared in every game, but a knee injury ruled him out on the eve of the current window.

Of the 11 Europe-based USMNTers (Bayern Munich defender Chris Richards on loan at Hoffenheim) whose clubs took part in this season’s Champions League, only the foundational Adams (83.5%) has logged more than 60% of the United States’ Octagonal campaign. (Some of these numbers reflect the coach’s discretion: Wolfsburg’s John Brooks was dropped after some uneven moments in September and has since plummeted down the depth chart.)

USA 2022 WCQ: Minutes for UEFA Champions League players

PlayerMinutes played (%)Games played/missed*
Tyler Adams (M, Leipzig)977 (83.50%)12/1
Brenden Aaronson (M, Salzburg)659 (56.32%)11/2
Weston McKennie (M, Juventus)624 (53.33%)7/6
Christian Pulisic (F, Chelsea)533 (45.45%)9/4
Tim Weah (F, Lille)527 (45.04%)8/5
Zack Steffen (GK, Manchester City)450 (38.46%)5/8
Sergino Dest (D, Barcelona)424 (36.24%)6/7
Gio Reyna (M, Dortmund)164 (14.02%)3/10
Jordan Pefok (F, Young Boys)139 (11.88%)3/10
John Brooks (D, Wolfsburg)135 (11.54%)2/11
* through 13 of 14 Concacaf Octagonal matchdays

“When you think about Weston, he’s probably one of the best midfielders in our region, right? I mean, you could make that argument,” said Berhalter before Thursday’s 0-0 draw at Mexico. “When you think about Sergino Dest, probably the best right back in our region; Brenden Aaronson, a top winger in our region; Chris Richards, big potential as a center back; Matt Turner, those guys that are missing.

“But really, when you look at it, we knew this was going to be the case. And I said it to you a long time before, you don’t have all your guys, and it’s how you respond when you don’t have your guys that’s important. And that’s what we have to do this window,” Berhalter continued. “It’s not about looking back. It’s about staying in the present, focusing on who’s here, who’s in camp, who’s ready to play, and go out and compete. Because one thing I’ll tell you is that these guys can compete. Everyone we have on this roster right now, all 26 of them can compete.”

Certainly, there have been blips and bumps along the way.

Berhalter’s bid to dig out a point with a rotated lineup during the October visit to Panama City fell flat, leading to a grisly 1-0 loss. An experimental lineup and formation at Honduras in the opening window put the Yanks on course for a similar setback, until some halftime adjustments helped prompt a dramatic comeback from 1-0 down to 4-1 winners in San Pedro Sula.

“It’s a grind,” said Arriola last week. “Every game presents different challenges, the different atmospheres. The World Cup is on the line and that intensifies the atmosphere, every single game.

“At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is winning.”

USA 2022 WCQ: Top minutes for MLS players

PlayerMinutes played (%)Games played/missed*
Miles Robinson (D, Atlanta)874 (74.70%)10/3
Walker Zimmerman (D, Nashville)723 (61.79%)9/4
Matt Turner (GK, New England)720 (61.54%)8/5
Kellyn Acosta (M, LAFC)581 (49.66%)12/1
DeAndre Yedlin (D, Miami)441 (37.69%)8/5
Sebastian Lletget (M, New England)229 (19.57%)4/9
Paul Arriola (F, Dallas)206 (17.61%)5/8
Jesus Ferreira (F, Dallas)196 (16.75%)5/8
Gyasi Zardes (F, Columbus)179 (15.30%)5/8
Jordan Morris (F, Seattle)128 (10.94%)5/8
_* through 13 of 14 Concacaf Octagonal matchdays

_

After the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic handicapped the preparations of the USMNT and national teams around the world, Berhalter had to make efficient use of his 2021 and late-2020 schedule. Calling in a litany of names and fielding two mostly distinct squads across Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup, he and his staff tried to balance the priorities of building chemistry, stoking competition, exposing as many players to his game model as possible and winning games.

It seems to have worked. He’s spoken more than once of his conversations with his predecessors Bruce Arena and Jurgen Klinsmann, and points to one of those as the source of a cardinal truth that has guided this process.

“The biggest thing that I’ve learned – and Bruce hammered this home with me – is you’re never going to have your best team,” said Berhalter. “You’re always going to be missing players. And as soon as I came to terms with that, we were just much more peaceful about it. We’re much more intentional about the ‘next man up’ mentality, because that’s literally what it is.”

Now, pending Wednesday’s result in Costa Rica (9:05 pm ET | Paramount+, CBS Sports Network, Universo, Peacock), that approach has a deep, youth-filled squad on the precipice of a World Cup return.

While Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski make World Cup, Qatar will miss peak talents Salah and Haaland

5:53 PM ET

Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC

PORTO, Portugal — Cristiano Ronaldo is heading to Qatar, but Mohamed Salah isn’t and neither is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose dream of becoming the first outfield player to bridge a 16-year gap between appearances at the World Cup fizzled out in a late, fruitless substitute rescue act for Sweden in Poland.

Every World Cup takes place with at least one leading player or major nation failing to qualify, but as the European and African sections came to a close (the conflict in Ukraine means that one spot is still to be assigned in the UEFA zone), the big names absentees are beginning to mount up.

Liverpool forward Salah, a potential Ballon d’Or winner this year, suffered his second penalty shoot-out heartbreak in less than two months as Egypt missed out on qualification by losing to Senegal — a repeat of their Africa Cup of Nations final loss to the same team.

And Ibrahimovic, who will be 41 when Qatar 2022 begins, can forget about returning to the World Cup stage for the first time — and probably last, but who knows with Zlatan? — since failing to score at Germany 2006 after his return from international retirement came to nothing. Robert Lewandowski‘s second-half penalty in Chorzow set Poland on the way to a 2-0 win and qualification for Qatar, ensuring that the Bayern Munich forward — for many observers, the best centre-forward in the game — will be at football’s biggest party when the World Cup is staged in November and December.

Salah and Ibrahimovic will join Norway’s Erling Haaland, who scored twice in a 9-0 win against Armenia on Tuesday, as World Cup absentees. Two of football’s biggest stars right now and a player who has been at the top of the game for over a decade, none of them will be in Qatar. And we haven’t even mentioned Italy, who have become the first European champions since Greece (winners in 2004) to fail to qualify for the World Cup.Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal booked their spot to the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday with a win over North Macedonia. Hugo Delgado/EPA

FIFA can be thankful that at least Ronaldo and his star-studded Portugal team will be in Qatar. Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Lewandowski will all bring their celebrity and class to the tournament, but none of them could be described as the next generation, or even players at their peak. All three have been superstars of the modern game, but Qatar will almost certainly be their last World Cup.

The new wave could have been led by Haaland had Norway qualified, but there are still enough stars heading for Qatar who can ensure that the spotlight doesn’t automatically fall on the old guard of Ronaldo, Messi and Lewandowski.

Sadio Mane‘s penalty against Egypt sealed qualification for Senegal, so the Liverpool forward will get the chance to do what Salah cannot by leading his country at the World Cup and potentially helping an African nation make it to the semifinals for the first time.Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench on Tuesday but could not help Sweden get past Poland in World Cup qualifying. PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Kylian Mbappe, who confirmed his superstar status with his performance in the 2018 World Cup final for France against Croatia, will see Qatar as his opportunity to knock Ronaldo and Messi off top spot in football’s elite rankings, while Harry KanePhil Foden and Raheem Sterling will also eye this World Cup as their chance to establish their global greatness.

Germany’s Kai HavertzChristopher Nkunku of France and Spain‘s Pedri are others who could emerge as World Cup stars in Qatar.

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But while all eyes will be on Ronaldo when Portugal play in Qatar, their performance in play-off wins against Turkey and North Macedonia highlighted the quality within Fernando Santos’s squad. Portugal are no longer a team solely reliant on Ronaldo.

Ronaldo’s Manchester United teammate, Bruno Fernandes, scored twice to seal victory in Porto against the North Macedonians, who had eliminated Italy in the play-off semifinal, and the World Cup will unquestionably be a better tournament for his presence and that of Bernardo SilvaDiogo Jota and the Porto winger Otavio.

Portugal can defend too and, while they have deep reserves of flair further forward, there is no shortage of quality at the back, where the 39-year-old Pepe still organises and defends brilliantly. He and Danilo were outstanding against North Macedonia.

But although Portugal will be one of leading nations in Qatar, the party would have been greater had Italy, Salah, Haaland and Ibrahimovic also made it to the World Cup.

In their absence, others will create the headlines, and one of them could be Ronaldo. Qatar 2022 just wouldn’t have been the same without him.

USA vs. Costa Rica, 2022 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: Scouting Costa Rica

The USMNT closes the Octagonal in Central America.

By Brendan Joseph  Mar 28, 2022, 1:34pm PDT  

The United States Men’s National Team has arrived at the end of the CONCACAF Octagonal, mere inches from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. The final match is against one of the region’s top programs, Costa Rica. Hosted at the Estadio Nacional in San José, the stakes are low provided Gregg Berhalter’s side can avoid surrendering handfuls of goals.Colombian manager Luis Fernando Suárez leads Costa Rica, assuming the role last June. He has extensive experience in charge of a variety of clubs and nations, including Atlético Nacional, Ecuador, and Honduras. After a slow start to qualifying, the 62-year-old has enjoyed a reversal of fortune, unbeaten in the last six matches.The last time these two teams met, the USMNT registered a 2-1 victory at Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, Costa Rica has risen to fourth place in the CONCACAF Octagonal table with 16 points from six matches. Los Ticos are churning through a successful window, reeling off 1-0 wins against Canada and El Salvador.“I know very well, we have done everything in the right way,” said the manager. “Then I have to highlight the work of the team, the commitment they gave for the country. I feel a great pride in directing a spectacular human group. Everything has been very stressful, but that makes us bigger. We have some limitations and even so, we are competing and that speaks well of the courage of the Costa Rican.”

¡ELLOS SON LOS ELEGIDOS!

Esta es la lista de convocados para los juegos eliminatorios ante , y

¡VAMOOOOOS SELEEEEE! pic.twitter.com/i46TGAdlR3

— FEDEFUTBOL Costa Rica (@fedefutbolcrc) March 18, 2022

Suárez initially named a 25-player roster but made several alterations, dropping Randall Leal and Aarón Suárez . There are 18 call-ups from domestic Primera División, including 13 from local powers Alajuelense and Herediano. Notable figures like Cristian Gamboa, Óscar Duarte, David Guzmán, and Allan Cruz were left out of camp.

***

GOALKEEPERS (3): Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain), Esteban Alvarado (Herediano), Leonel Moreira (Alajuelense)

DEFENDERS (9): Francisco Calvo (San Jose Earthquakes), Bryan Oviedo (Copenhagen), Kendall Waston (Saprissa), Rónald Matarrita (FC Cincinnati), Keysher Fuller (Herediano), Juan Pablo Vargas (Millonarios), Daniel Chacón (Cartaginés), Ian Lawrence (Alajuelense), Carlos Martínez (AD San Carlos)

MIDFIELDERS (11): Celso Borges (Alajuelense), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense), Yeltsin Tejeda (Herediano), Alonso Martínez (Lommel), Gerson Torres (Herediano), Orlando Galo (Herediano), Jewison Bennette (Herediano), Youstin Salas (Grecia), Douglas López (Santos de Guápiles), Brandon Aguilera (Guanacasteca), Carlos Mora (Alajuelense)

FORWARDS (4): Joel Campbell (Monterrey), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense), José Guillermo Ortiz (Herediano), Anthony Contreras (Guanacasteca)

***

At this late stage of qualifying, the first-choice lineup is largely established, although the formation sometimes shifts between a 4-2-3-1 and a 3-6-1. Over the past five matches, Costa Rica has completely ceded possession, with an average of 32.8% of the ball (stats via ESPN). From the run of play, inwardly cutting wingers are targeted with direct passes over the top of the back line. The attack has cause for concern with 11 goals in 13 matches, but the stingy defense surrendered a mere eight during the Octagonal round.

Projected Costa Rica Starting XI (via LineupBuilder.com)

Despite slowly being phased out of the starting role at Paris Saint-Germain, Keylor Navas is the undisputed number one for Costa Rica. He is an elite shot-stopper, setting himself up for a save with stellar footwork, sometimes a full second before the ball arrives. The three-time Champions League winner shows up in big moments, racking up dozens of saves in a single match as a routine. Perhaps indicative of this confidence is his preternatural ability to stop penalty attempts.

This is likely the last rodeo for elder statesman Kendall Waston, who competes for Saprissa in the domestic league. The 6’5” mountain is tasked with winning headers in the defensive and attacking thirds, at his best in close-range one-versus-one scenarios and preventing target strikers from turning. His partner has been the smaller and quicker Francisco Calvo of the San Jose Earthquakes, another threat on set pieces. The 29-year-old is a hard tackler that loves to go to ground and gamble on interceptions, making long solo runs after regaining possession.

Keysher Fuller should be familiar to USMNT fans from the busy home fixture, scoring in the first minute and misplaying a ball that led to the game-winner (or loser, from Costa Rica’s perspective). The Herediano winger-fullback is comfortable in the final third, often reaching the box before the striker. He is constantly running, whether on a charged dribbling run or to chase down an opponent. The left side of the field has been a back-and-forth lineup battle between Rónald Matarrita and Bryan Oviedo. With the former suffering a devastating injury against Canada, the more static veteran will be trusted to hang back and serve as a more stable presence in the build-up.

The defensive midfielder baton may have been passed from the captain Yeltsin Tejeda to 21-year-old Orlando Galo, unless the manager opts to deploy them together. The younger player is a converted right back that tackles hard and recovers quickly after errors. In the 15th year of his senior international career, Celso Borges is still patrolling the center of the formation. Costa Rica’s cap leader facilitates possession and swarms passing lanes, performing the necessary tasks of a box-to-box. Normally a winger, Herediano’s Gerson Torres has lined up in the number ten role. He makes long, slaloming dribbling runs and has the ability to score from distance.

GOAL COSTA RICA! Celso Borges strikes just before halftime and Los Ticos lead 10-man Canada. Another twist in the Concacaf table—and not a good one for the #USMNT

(via @TelemundoSportspic.twitter.com/AcmjP5BxRT

— SI Soccer (@si_soccer) March 25, 2022

Since making his senior debut during last summer’s CONCACAF Nations League Finals, Alonso Martínez has become a regular part of the starting lineup. The Lommel SK winger plays a high line in hopes of leading the counter attack and looks to cut inside on one-two/give-and-go combinations in the final third. The goals have to come from somewhere, with the manager hoping that Joel Campbell can either score or more likely set up teammates. On the right day, his dribbling and general technical ability make him the most dangerous person on the field, with the potential to bewilder opposing defenders.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/2mvc4TwpsGk?rel=0 A late addition to the roster, Anthony Contreras made his debut in November but has started the last two matches. The 22-year-old striker scored 13 goals this season on loan with AD Guanacasteca in the domestic league. His inclusion was considered a “great surprise,” but the developing talent acquitted himself well. Against Canada, he played an essential role pressing the back line and forcing turnovers.

Contreras rewarded the manager’s continued faith with the opener against El Salvador, a stupendous acrobatic effort. He took advantage of a misplayed clearance and hit a beautiful bicycle for his first international goal. This could be the genesis of the next great CONCACAF striker, having answered the door when destiny unexpectedly knocked.

Anthony Contreras gets on his bike!

Costa Rica are up! pic.twitter.com/JqHozcPNyP

— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 27, 2022

The USMNT appears free from the burden of securing points on the road against Costa Rica. Los Ticos have been in this spot before but needs a win. As the match progresses and pressure builds, there may be openings for the American attackers to break through on the counter.

The match is scheduled for Wednesday, March 30th at 9:05 p.m. Eastern, 6:05 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include Paramount+, UNIVERSO, and FUBO TV (free trial).

INDY 11 GK Panicco Earns Team of Week Nod iin USL 

March 29, 2022 5:37 pm  Squad’s New Netminder Made Five Saves in Helping Indy Earn Rivalry Draw on Saturday

TAMPA/INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, March 29, 2022) – The USL Championship announced its Team of the Week for Week 3 of the 2022 regular season this afternoon, a list that included Indy Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco. The 25-year-old netminder is the first member of Indiana’s Team to make the league’s weekly Best XI ledger during the young season.Panicco earned the nod by making five saves throughout Indy Eleven’s 1-1 draw at archrival and Eastern Conference leader Louisville City FC last Saturday night, helping the squad to a well-earned first point of the campaign.

The native of Paducah, Ky., who joined Indy Eleven on loan from MLS’ Nashville SC just prior to the start of the regular season on March 3, currently ranks tied for second across the USL Championship with 11 saves, which have contributed to his 73.3 save percentage and a 1.33 goals against average in his three starts thus far. 2022 marks Panicco’s second straight year in the Championship and comes on the heels of a standout 2021 campaign with Austin Bold FC, when he finished second in the league with 11 shutouts from his 28 appearances.

The Championship’s Player of the Week is selectedby the USL National Media Panel, which is made up of representatives from each media market in the Championship. Continue below to see the full Week 3 Team of the Week contingent.

Panicco and the rest of the Boys in Blue return to the Circle City for their 2022 Home Opener at IUPUI Michael A. Carroll Stadium this Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II. Fans can secure tickets for that 7:30 p.m. kickoff and all 2022 matches at “The Mike” via a plethora of ticketing avenues – including single-game tickets2022 Season Ticket Memberships, discounted group tickets for parties of 10 or more, and expanded Premium Hospitality options – by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.

USL Championship Team of the Week – Week 3

GK – Elliot Panicco, Indy Eleven: Panicco recorded five saves as Indy withstood strong pressure from LIPAFC rival Louisville City FC to earn a 1-1 draw on Saturday night at Lynn Family Stadium and the side’s first point of the season.

Stefan Pinho Tally Helps Indiana’s Team Earn First Point of 2022 Against Eastern Conference Leader

View #LOUvIND Stats at the USLChampionship.com MatchCenter

LOUISVILLE, KY (Saturday, March 26, 2022) – The Louisville-Indianapolis Proximity Association Football Contest rivalry again brought some of the best out of Indy Eleven, which picked up its first point of the 2022 USL Championship season courtesy of a draw 1-1 at Eastern Conference leading Louisville City FC. Forward Stefano Pinho opened his Indy Eleven account to give the Eleven a lead midway through the first half, but LouCity defender Sean Totsch’s 53rd minute finish brought the scoring to its eventual close, forcing a share of the spoils.

The road point allowed Indy to take a positive result away from its three-game road stint to start the season and gives Indiana’s Team some momentum leading into its home opener at IUPUI Carroll Stadium next Saturday, April 2, against LA Galaxy II. Fans can secure tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ET “Blue Out Blowout” kickoff via a plethora of options by visiting indyeleven.com/tickets or calling 317-685-1100 during regular business hours.While the rivalry game started off chippy, each team generated a chance within the first ten minutes, resulting in Eleven goalkeeper Elliot Panicco getting a mundane save opportunity and midfielder Justin Ingram pushing a header wide. LouCity forward Wilson Harris and Eleven midfielder Nicky Law each influenced the following minutes by generating chances, with Wilson’s shot just wide right of frame the most threatening but not enough to force Panicco into action.Louisville came into the contest without conceding a goal while Indy entered the game without a tally on the year, but things changed for both sides in the 22nd minute when Pinho made Law’s continued creative work pay off. After Law shook his defender in the left side of the area to gain space, his short, driven cross to the back post was nodded home by the Brazilian striker Pinho, allowing him to celebrate his account opener in front a sizeable contingent of Brickyard Battalion supporters who traveled down I-65 for the rivalry showdown.Louisville responded with a chance of their own in the 28th minute through Jorge Gonzalez, whose free kick was sent right to Panicco at the netminder’s right post. Indy nearly found its second through midfielder Jonas Fjeldberg’s shot in the 34th minute that forced a miraculous save out of Louisville goalkeeper Kyle Morton, his leaping tip at full stretch sending the ball off the crossbar and away from danger. Louisville’s Amadou Dia nearly duplicated Fjeldberg’s curling effort in the 41st minute, but his dipping shot couldn’t find frame, allowing the score to remain 1-0 in favor of Indy Eleven heading into the half.The field tilted the home side’s way in the second half, and initially it looked like Eleven midfielder Sam Brown’s sliding tackle in the 52nd minute deep inside the area would help keep Louisville off the board. However, the ensuing corner saw Totsch get on the end of the recycled set piece 10 yards from goal, and his first-time shot through traffic evened the score. Panicco made two consecutive stops in the 57th minute to keep things square, thwarting Louisville’s unrelenting attack.The pace of play slowed down on both sides as legs got heavier after the hour mark, but LCFC’s Enoch Mushagalusa did look to sneak one in from distance in the 66th minute only to see Panicco collect the driven chance easily. A skirmish between the two rival clubs just inside the final 10 minutes set up a tense finish, which only got more heated after a pivotal goalline clearance by Eleven forward Rodney Michael in the 83rd minute. Longtime LouCity nemesis Paolo DelPiccolo looked primed to put the home side ahead after redirecting another corner, but the debutant Michael snapped into action to clear the chance off the underside of the crossbar, keeping the score deadlocked despite vehement pleas from the home side to count the would-be goal. Nothing came from six minutes of stoppage time, allowing Indiana’s Team to go three straight games undefeated at Lynn Family Stadium dating back to last May.

USL Championship Regular Season
Louisville City FC  1 : 1  Indy Eleven
Saturday, March 26, 2022
Lynn Family Stadium – Louisville, Ky.

Scoring Summary:
IND – Stefano Pinho (Nicky Law) 22’
LOU – Sean Totsch (unassisted) 53

Disciplinary Summary:
IND – Jared Timmer (yellow) 35’
LOU – Brian Ownby (yellow) 85’
IND – Aris Briggs (yellow) 86’
LOU – Amadou Dia (yellow) 89’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-4-2): Elliot Panicco; Jared Timmer, Mechack Jerome, A.J. Cochran, Bryam Rebellon; Nicky Law, Sam Brown, Jonas Fjeldberg (Karl Ouimette 90’), Justin Ingram; Aris Briggs (Palmer Ault 90+6’), Stefano Pinho (Rodney Michael 72’)

IND Substitutes: Tim Trilk (GK), Ecris Revolorio, Bryce Warhaft, Luca Iaccino

Louisville City FC lineup (4-3-3): Kyle Morton; Ian Soler (Paolo DelPiccolo 45’), Wes Charpie, Sean Totsch; Amadou Dia, Napo Matsoso, Corben Bone, Manny Perez; Wilson Harris, Jorge Gonzalez (Enoch Mushagalusa 40’), Brian Ownby

LOU Substitutes: Parker Siegfried (GK), Jan-Erik Leinhos, Josh Wynder, Carlos Moguel Jr., Ray Serrano