2/26/21 USWNT Wins Cup, CBSAA adds US games to Soccer Coverage, Chelsea vs Man U Sun 11:30 AM NBCSN

Games to Watch on TV

Not a lot to watch on Sat this week – as EPLs top spot Man City hosting 4th place West Ham at 7:30 am on NBCSN and Sevilla vs Barcelona and American Sergio Dest battling for 3rd in La Liga on beIN Sport at 10:15 am, and RB Leipzig with Adams hosting Borussian Mgladbach at 12:30 pm provide the only top ranked games.  Sunday does give us some good ones though as Man United travel to Chelsea and seldom used American Pulisic (can you sense the anger in my typing with the Dang German Coach Tuchel) and 4th place Roma host Italian leaders Inter Milan at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.  Arsenal do travel to Leicester City in 3rd at 9 am on NBCSN.  

Wed gives us Cup games in Germany as RB Leipzig and Adams face Wolfsburg and John Brooks on ESPN+ at 2:45 pm and Barcelona and Dest play Sevilla and midfielder Mussala) at 3:15 pm.   Lots of rumors this week at Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic to Bayern Munich and Dortmund’s Gio Reyna to the EPL have both been making the rounds.  Good thing I didn’t buy that long sleeve Chelsea Jersey yet!

USWNT beats Brazil 2-0, Argentina 6-0 to Win She Believes Cup

Of course the US finished up the Cup with a solid 5-0 win over Argentina to wrap up as Champions of the She Believes Cup for the 4th time in 6 tries.  The Argentina game saw Rapinoe score 2 more goals, Kristie Mewis 1 and 1 by Morgan (finally) – and 1 by Lloyd who really runs her butt off at the #9 slot.  I thought Morgan or Press should be starting up top but honestly Lloyd outhustles them both –and while she doesn’t always score – her assists and disruption are both pretty solid.  That’s a tough call for Coach A – but Lloyd’s got to be on the team if healthy.  At this point I think Press has earned a starting slot along with either Rapinoe or Heath on the wings.  I just realized Williams is 31 years old and with her inability to finish and score it might leave her out in exchange for someone like 20 yo Sophie Smith or 21 yo Macario.  The midfield is wide open but Lavell and Sam Mewis and Julie Ertz are of course starters.  Tough decisions on everyone else but Horan and MaCario I would think – maybe Kristie Mewis.   In the back its Dunn on the left, Ohara on the right with Sauerbrunn and Dahlkemper in the middle – probably Sonnett as backup on the right side since she can play in the middle as well and perhaps 22 yo Tierna Davidson since she can play wing back, middle or Dmid?  Man cutting this roster to 18 is going to be tough. 

(Possible Olympic Roster assuming no injuries) 5 Mids/5 Forwards/6 Defenders – battling for spots in italics

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger -30/Tierna Davidson 22/Midge Purce  25 /Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Overall – I thought Brazil gave the US the most trouble.  They had 5 shots on goal – and just missed on 2 really good opportunities where they should have scored.  Still the US was dominant in a game that was wide open for most of the 90 minutes.  The US took the lead early when Christian Press received a good ball on the right wing and cut back on her left to score a solid goal.  After starting Press on the left, Morgan up top and Williams on the right I thought perhaps this is your starting line-up for the Olympics.  Morgan looked good up top but definitely rusty as she was just a step behind all night on scoring – but her passing was pretty spot on.  Williams was good but again just can’t score and at 31 years old she’s not better than those she’s battling for spots with.  When Rapino, and Lloyd came on – in the 70th minute – Rapinoe took advantage and had a solid goal off a cross where she just outfought the defender for the shot on goal to score in the 85th minute or so.  Again overall the US was better than Brazil – but Brazil should have scored to tie this game mid second half had a couple of shots where they could have scored if they hit the shot right.  The center of the US defense was exposed for its lack of speed as Brazil had some breaks thru the middle.  I thought Crystal Dunn at right back, who saved no fewer than 2 goals on the right side of the field from her right back spot, was perhaps the best player of the field.   Still looking at 1 or 2 more friendlies in April before the Olympics in late July.   

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Kasey Krueger, Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21) –out injured.

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Soccer on TV News  

So first huge news that CBS All Access (becoming Paramount+) next week has announced they have acquired the rights for Nations League games for CONCACAF which includes Men’s and Women’s US games when they are on the road.  They are also grabbing the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying for the US Men and Womens game and they are adding Brazil and Argentina Soccer League coverage.  So now CBSAA/Paramount will carry all of the US men’s and US ladies games the Nations League and for World Cup Qualifying games on the road.  Not sure how I feel about this – more games behind the firewall – I can only hope that they will at least show the big US road games on CBS or CBS Sports Network rather than just on the very poorly delivered online streaming.  (The streaming is live only until the next day – no pausing, or rewinding or forwarding the game like you can on ESPN+).  Yes it will be nice to have all the away games in one place.  I am still worried – we just have more games behind the paywall and less games on TV. Now even US games – normally picked up by Fox Sports 1 or ESPN or beIN Sport on TV – will now possibly be streaming only.  Not good for the sport in my mind but I guess if you have to pay to get Champions League and NWSL already then what the heck – give us everything.  I will say that CBS has done a good job with pregame and post game shows with Champs League and Europa League and NSWL coverage.  So I do think they will treat the games with respect – but man I hate to see more games not on normal TV.  

Speaking of Soccer on TV – over 600K watched the USA vs Brazil game on FS1 Sunday afternoon – somewhat disappointing in my mind – wonder what it would have done on Fox on Sunday at say 1 pm?   Oh well the 600K was the 3rd largest for a women’s game on FS1 other than World Cups.  I guess we see now why more soccer is not on Network TV – we American’s really don’t watch soccer do we?  Not even our Top Ranked US Ladies can draw 1 million fans to watch a game against a really good Brazil team on a cold Sunday afternoon at 3 pm.  Everyone was watching NASCAR I guess.  I was pleased with the FS1 Coverage with a studio show lead in for both the Brazil game and the Argentina game – and the post game for the past 2 games was solid and pre-empted the hoops games starting after them.  Nice to see respect for the US ladies on Fox Sports for change. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 27

7:30 am NBCSN               Man City vs West Ham United

9:30 am ESPN+                Beilfeld vs Dortmund (Reyna)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Sevilla vs Barcelona (Dest)

12:30 pm Peacock             Leeds vs Aston Villa  

12:30 pm ESPN+               RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Borussia Mgladbach

2:45 pm ESPN+                 Hallas Verona vs Juventus (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                Getafe vs Valencia (Mussah)

Sun   Feb 28

6:30 am ESPN2                  Sampdoria vs Atalanta

7:30 ESPN+                         Hoffenheim (Richards) vs Union Berlin

7 am Peacock                     Crystal Palace vs Fulham (Robinson)

9 am NBCSN                     Leicester City vs Arsenal

11:05 am beIN Sport         Lille (Weah) vs Stasbourg

11:30 am NBCSN             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man United

2:15 pm Peacock               Sheffield vs Liverpool

2:45 pm ESPN+                Roma vs Milan  

3 pm beIN Sport                Villareal vs Atletico Madrid

Mon Mar 1

3 pm NBCSN                      Southampton vs Everton

3 pm beIN Sport                Real Madrid vs Real Sociedad

Tues Mar2

3 pm NBCSN                      Man City vs Wolverhampton

Weds Mar 3  

1 pm NBCSN                      Burnley vs Leicester City

2:45pm ESPN+           RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Wolfsburg (Brooks) German Cup
  

3 pm ESPN+                      Barcelona (Dest) vs Sevilla Copa Del Rey

3:15 pm Peacock               Crystal Palace vs Man United

Thurs Mar 4

3 pm NBCSN                      Fulham vs Tottenham

1 pm Peacock                     West Brom vs Everton  

2:45 pm ESPN2                 Parma vs Inter Milan

3 pm Peacock                    Liverpool vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

 Sat,  Mar 6

7:30 am NBCSN               Burnley vs Arsenal  

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun,  Mar 7

9 am NBCSN                      Liverpool vs Fulham (Robinson)  

10:!5 am beIN Sport       Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid – Madrid Derby!

11:30 am NBCSN             Man City vs Man United

12:30 pm ESPN+               Bayern Munich vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Mon ,Mar 8

3 pm NBCSN                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

3 pm ESPN+                       Inter Milan vs Atalanta

Tues Mar 9

Juventus (McKinney) vs Porto, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Borussia Dortmund (Reyna) vs Sevilla, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Weds Mar 10

Liverpool vs RB Leipzig (Adams). 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

PSG vs Barcelona 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Thursday, Mar 18 –
5 pm FS 1                            USA vs Costa Rica (Olympic Qualifying)

US Ladies

USWNT starting to implement Vlatko’s ‘principles’
Alex Morgan Scores First Goal as a Mom
Stand or kneel? How Megan Rapinoe helped US Soccer change its tune
SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0
Megan Rapinoe, USWNT dominate Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

Rapinoe brace opens floodgates as USA rout Argentina to win SheBelieves Cup

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests
   Jeff Carlisle eSPN
Megan Rapinoe gives a nod to USWNT teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris with goal celebration
Christen Press and Megan Rapinoe lead U.S. past Brazil in SheBelieves Cup
Crystal Dunn had a ridiculous, goal-saving slide tackle to keep the USWNT ahead in its match against Brazil
Crystal Dunn on USWNT all standing for anthem: ‘Past the protesting phase’
Final Brazil Game Stats

US MEN

Is it time for Pulisic to leave Premier League?
WATCH: Is there any sense in a Christian Pulisic move away from Chelsea

USMNT’s Morris out for season with ACL blow

Tackle-assist from USMNT’s Adams helps Leipzig pull within two of Bayern

Will Efra pick US or Mexico for Olympics? Kreis talks qualifying roster

Herc Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efra is a game-changer

Doyle: Breaking down the US depth chart for Olympic qualifying

Two Years of Berhalter: Tactical Evolution By Adnan Ilyas

Paramount’s new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

2020 Men’s Olympic Qualifying Full Schedule (all times ET)

Group Stage

Group A: Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, and Dominican Republic
Group B: Honduras, Canada, El Salvador and Haiti   (top 2 teams from each group advance to semis – 2 teams in final advance to Olympics.)  

Thursday, March 18 – Jalisco Stadium
USA vs Costa Rica (5 pm)  FS1
Mexico vs Dominican Republic (7:30 pm)
Friday, March 19 – Jalisco Stadium
Honduras vs Haiti (3:30 pm)
Canada vs El Salvador (6 pm) 
Sunday, March 21 – Akron Stadium 
Dominican Republic vs USA (7 pm)  FS1
Costa Rica vs Mexico (9:30 pm)
Wednesday, March 24 – Jalisco Stadium
Costa Rica vs Dominican Republic (7 pm)
Mexico vs USA (9:30 pm) FS1
Thursday, March 25 – Jalisco Stadium
El Salvador vs Haiti (7 pm)
Honduras vs Canada (9:30 pm)
Semifinals

Sunday, March 28 – Jalisco Stadium
1B vs 2A (6 pm)
1A vs 2B (9 pm)
 Final

Tuesday, March 30 – Akron Stadium
Winner Semifinal 1 vs Winner Semifinal 2 (9 pm)  FS1

EPL

Premier League fight for fourth: Liverpool to miss out? Breaking down the battle, key men

Liverpool ‘zombies’ walking through ‘depressing’ season, says Gary Neville

 Man City’s relentless streak and the uncomfortable questions it raises
Premier League talking points

Premier League Power Rankings

 

WORLD
Manchester United face AC Milan in Europa League last 16

Manchester United and AC Milan will face off in the last 16 of the Europa League after being 
Inter on top, Bayern, Atletico and PSG all stumble: Talking points from around Europe

 

MLS
Thierry Henry steps down as Montreal head coach

Cincy: New West End Stadium almost complete, set for May opening

Doyle’s top 5 teams in MLS right now

Doyle: One big question for each East team as preseason begins

Doyle: One big question for every Western team as preseason begins

Paramount’s/CBS All Access- new streaming service just became a must-buy for U.S. Soccer fans

The streaming wars are heating all the way up.B/y Rob Usry@RobUsry    Feb 25, 2021, 5:00am PST

We should probably preface this blog post by saying this isn’t sponsored content, just an honest assessment of the current Soccer streaming landscape that just shifted dramatically for U.S. Soccer fans.The streaming service currently known as CBS All-Access will be rebranded to “Paramount Plus” next week. With its new look comes a massive acquisition of soccer streaming rights that will make it a must-buy for any hardcore soccer fan, especially those that follow the USWNT and USMNT.In addition to having every UEFA Champions League (men’s) and Europa League match and acquiring the rights for the Argentine and Brazilian first divisions, Paramount Plus has signed a deal with Concacaf for some very important rights that will affect you.  Here’s a detailed description of the agreement between the two parties announced by Paramount on Wednesday:

Concacaf – offering more than 200 Concacaf matches, starting with the Concacaf Nations League Finals in June of this year, which will feature the U.S. Men’s National Team. Coverage will feature all 41 national teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean across different competitions, including the qualifiers for the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, which will feature the defending champion U.S. Women’s National Team.The most important thing you need to know is that both the USWNT and USMNT will have World Cup qualifying matches streamed on this new platform in some fashion.  For the men’s side, the rights are split between away matches and home matches (plus Mexico away). During the last World Cup qualifying cycle the rights for away matches belonged to beIN sports, which to put as kindly as possible, did not go well. At least with this model, a modest monthly fee gets you access to every away men’s qualifier. When you consider that just ten years ago every single away qualifier (except against Mexico) was only available through closed-circuit pay-per-view, then this seems like an amazing step in the right direction.  The women’s World Cup qualifying tournament rights are included in the agreement in addition to being the home of NWSL.Paramount will also carry the men’s Nations League Finals this summer and the women’s Nations League beginning in 2023. In addition, they’ll offer plenty of other non-U.S. Soccer related events including the brand new UEFA Europa Conference League (third tier European club competition) beginning this fall.  While all the different streaming platforms that hold soccer rights in this country can be overwhelming, some are better bargains than others. Paramount Plus has jumped up near the top of the list of must-buys, for American soccer fans at least.

The network is expanding its soccer lineup with the addition of Concacaf men’s and women’s World Cup qualifying, the Argentine league and Brazilian league, according to Jonathan Tannenwald from The Philadelphia Inquirer.

CBS has English-language broadcasts rights to both the Concacaf men’s World Cup qualifying final stage games played outside of the U.S. and Mexico leading up to Qatar 2022, as well as the Concacaf women’s qualifying tournament that will send the nations to Australia 2023.CBS and Concacaf concluded their first-ever deal on Wednesday, expanding the network’s soccer portfolio that already has the National Women’s Soccer League, UEFA Champions League and Europa League.The men’s World Cup qualifying eight-team final round is scheduled to begin in September. However, only five nations – the USA, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Honduras – have qualified to the round, leaving 30 teams divided into six groups to fight for the last three vacant spots during March and June to complete the eight-team final round. The early-round games are not a part of the CBS deal.

USMNT 2022 World Cup qualifying schedule:

  • September 2021: Away game at team TBD, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Honduras
  • October 2021: Away game vs. Jamaica, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Costa Rica
  • November 2021: Home game vs. Mexico, home game vs. Jamaica
  • January 2022: Home game vs. team TBD, away game at team TBD, home game vs. Honduras
  • March 2022: Away game at Mexico, home game vs. team TBD, away game at Costa Rica

All the games CBS acquired the rights to will be available on CBS’s subscription streaming platform currently called CBS All Access. The rebrand to Paramount+ will take place on March 4.On the other hand, the Concacaf 2023 World Cup qualifying will begin in November with a new format. Thirty teams will be divided into six groups of five and the U.S and Canada will go directly into the eight-team-final-round tournament in July 2022. The U.S. and Canada earned the byes by being the top two teams in the region. CBS also acquired the rights to Concacaf’s men’s and women’s Nations League tournaments, starting with the men’s Nations League semifinals and final this summer. The U.S., Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica are the four sides that will battle for the title at a single site still not determined. The first-ever women’s Nations League will begin in September 2023, after the World Cup. The two teams that qualify for the 2024 Olympics will not take part in the Nations League until the final round, which is scheduled for June 2024.Additionally, Paramount+ will become the new home for English-language coverage of Argentina’s Primera Division and Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A. The service will include over 600 matches from the two leagues. Soccer fans in the U.S. will have a chance to watch the likes of South American giants Boca Juniors, River Plate, Santos, Internacional, Palmeiras and Flamengo.

USWNT lessons from SheBelieves Cup: Team can build on positive momentum

2:11 PM ET      Julie Foudy    Contributor, espnW.com

Few were surprised that the USWNT won its fourth SheBelieves Cup in six years on Wednesday, but the Stars and Stripes certainly made the march to the title more of a slog than anticipated.–  Their opponents — Canada (missing seven key players), Brazil and Argentina (a late replacement for Japan due to COVID-19 concerns) — were not the quality of teams of past SheBelieves Cups, so I thought the tournament would be fairly one sided for the U.S., only that wasn’t the case. Canada looked quite good against the U.S. under their new head coach, Bev Priestman, Brazil was more organized under former USWNT head coach, Pia Sundhage, and Argentina? Well, Argentina was what we predicted… underwhelming. With the Olympics still scheduled to begin less than five months from now, let’s reflect on what we’ve learned from this SheBelieves Cup:

A healthy reminder

For the U.S., not playing their best and still winning the title is always a good thing. Here’s why: These players will return to their clubs knowing that their world domination is not yet complete. In Orlando, they were sometimes exposed at the back, errors that better teams would punish. The U.S. were not clean in front of goal, either — that could be the difference in a tight game against a better opponent. These players know all of this, and that will gently haunt them. They will watch the games back and work on getting things right, understanding that the SheBelieves Cup was a subtle, yet important reminder for them to keep that fire burning bright.

Roster Roulette

Speaking about keeping that fire burning, when USWNT head coach, Vlatko Andonovski, is asked about how many spots on his 18-player Olympic roster remain open, he says 18. Obviously, he has many locked in, but I do think due to the limited games and access to players and training camps, this Olympic roster is understandably going to take longer to decipher.

Roster roulette is a fascinating game to play, so let’s give it a try. Based on the last six games (three in SheBelieves Cup, plus Colombia twice and the Netherlands), and assuming Andonovski and his staff are taking two goalkeepers, six defenders, five midfielders, and five forwards, here are some scenarios (and the player options for that final spot in italics):

GK: Alyssa Naeher, Ashlyn Harris/Jane Campbell
DF: Crystal Dunn, Becky Sauerbrunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Kelly O’Hara, Emily Sonnett, Casey Krueger/Tierna Davidson/Midge Purce/Ali Krieger
MF: Julie Ertz, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle, Catarina Macario/Kristie Mewis
FW: Christen Press, Tobin Heath, Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd/Lynn Williams/Sophia Smith

Questions still needing answers

Where is Carli Lloyd in her comeback after missing most of 2020 because of injury?

Lloyd had a goal and assist against Argentina and looked sharper than in her previous SheBelieves Cup game, but she missed a few excellent chances vs. Canada. Rapinoe’s comeback, after also missing most of 2020, seems clearer. She finished the SheBelieves Cup as the leading scorer and also leads the team with five goals in five games in 2021. Rapinoe has shown she can still impact games quickly and consistently. I think Lloyd will need to show that in the coming months as well.

How has Alex Morgan recovered from missing 2020 due to pregnancy, a knee injury and a COVID-19 diagnosis spilling into 2021?

I thought her performance against Brazil was a plus. Her touches were sharp, her movement good. She also scored a nice goal against Argentina.

Did Lynn Williams help or hurt her case for breaking into the final 18 Olympic roster based on her play in this SheBelieves Cup?

This is a tough question for me to answer because I love so much of what Lynn Williams does with her speed. She gets into great positions and turns defenders, which makes her a consistent threat to the opposition. She also does a ton of work on the defensive side of the ball. All great attributes, yes, but her final pass and her finishing are far too inconsistent, hurting her chances to become a regular starter.  If Williams finished some of those opportunities against Canada and Brazil, the games would have been less of a slog.

How many younger players can Andonovski afford to break in? Will they be ready for the Olympics?

Catarina Macario struggled in midfield vs. Canada, but excelled as a forward in both games against Colombia. Unfortunately, Macario did not get to see a lot of time in this SheBelieves Cup as she went back early to her club in Lyon.

Sophia Smith came into the game in the 65th minute against Brazil and while she didn’t make much of an impact, she played a beautiful ball for the assist on Alex Morgan’s goal vs. Argentina. I think this young player may be on the outside peeking in, but she is going to be fun to watch. She runs at players better than most.Then there’s Kristie Mewis. Not a young player — she’s 30 — but she is new to the mix (or, more aptly, newly back in the mix) and has looked consistently sharp, with a goal and assist against Argentina.

Also to ponder:

– Would Andonovski consider taking five defenders, instead of six, since Julie Ertz can also play center-back?

If he did that and he took Dunn, Sauerbrunn, Dahlkemper, O’Hara and Sonnett, the U.S. would have 3 natural outside-back options in Dunn, O’Hara and Sonnett. That seems thin for that position given the tight Olympic game schedule and how often O’Hara has been injured. That is why I think he takes six defenders and Ertz in midfield.  Since he does have the Ertz option at center-back, I think that sixth defender will have to be a player who can play outside back.

– How about the midfield mix?

If Vlatko felt strongly about both Macario and Kristie Mewis, Macario could go as a forward, but that means other forwards (like Lloyd, Williams and Smith) might not make the roster. I cannot see that happening. I think Lloyd is going. Her work on on both sides of the ball is still one of the best on the team. Add in her strong mentality and finishing ability in big moments, and even at 39 years old at the Olympics, she can help the team.

Their Superpower

With the Olympic rhythm being tighter than the World Cup schedule (two days rest at the Olympics, compared to three at a World Cup) and the Olympic roster being five players lighter than a World Cup roster, you can’t afford to bring players who may help the team or are not 100 percent fit. With only 16 field players and limited rest, EVERY SINGLE PLAYER must contribute, which is why the U.S. are the clear favorites to win the Gold Medal: their squad is much deeper than any team out there.That is their superpower. The U.S. can field two line-ups that are quite different, yet both strong, and we’ve seen Andonovski do this throughout his tenure with the national team. Who else in this Olympics pool could do that without losing much at all in that second group? Maybe Great Britain. For the U.S., it will be less about who is starting and more about managing the rhythm of minutes played per game so that whichever combination is on the field, they are aggressively dictating the tempo.Overall, I think the U.S. will take a big positive from this SheBelieves Cup because they remain undefeated under Andonovski, and let’s not forget: they did not concede a goal in this tournament, the first team to ever do that in the tournament’s history. (It just goes to show you the standard by which we judge this team’s performance, which I still think was far from their best.)Andonovski’s last chance to evaluate players against other international opponents comes in the April FIFA window (by the June window, the team will be set). It’s just the environment needed to make those final judgements and then start rallying the Olympic team of 18 together.Here’s to hoping an Olympics will indeed be played in July. Sending out my best YES-the-Olympics-will-be-played karma into the world right now. Do the same, please!

USWNT worked as a unit to unlock Argentina – Vlatko Andonovski

play Megan Rapinoe’s double vs. Argentina seals a fourth SheBelieves Cup title for the USWNT. (1:47)Feb 24, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Going up against an outmatched and tired opponent, the U.S. put the game away in the first half with a four-goal barrage in a 25-minute span. Megan Rapinoe scored twice during the spell with Carli Lloyd and Kristie Mewis padding the U.S. lead. Christen Press and Alex Morgan tallied in the second half. Morgan’s goal was her first for the U.S. since the 2019 World Cup semifinal against England.

While the result was expected, Andonovski was still assessing his team’s performance with a microscope as he attempts to identify the 18 players he will take to Tokyo for this summer’s Olympics.”It’s always hard to play against a team that sits low, it’s hard to break them down” he said after the match. “And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions and how we can do it. So that was one thing that we’re looking at. How quick can we do it? Who can who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team?”So, the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles and the execution individually, as a group, as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for. So, overall very happy with how we are performed and how we were able to unlock Argentina early in the game, and how we finished the game as well.”Rose Lavelle was voted the tournament MVP, and while her goal in the 1-0 win over Canada was critical to the U.S. winning the title, she felt that the award should have gone to someone else.”Honestly I don’t know how I won that. I don’t know who picks that,” she said. “I think there were a lot better options … but I guess it’s always it’s always nice to be recognized!”For Morgan, there was relief at scoring for the first time since 2019. Morgan had missed considerable time with the U.S. team after giving birth to her daughter Charlie in May of 2020 and then enduring a bout of COVID-19 earlier this year.”To say it’s been a long time would be an understatement. It’s been over 500 days,” said Morgan via a zoom call afterward. “You guys don’t have to sugarcoat it. But I’m very excited to get my first goal back with the national team.”Morgan added that she feels she’s almost back to full fitness, and expects that to come in time with club side the Orlando Pride.”I feel like I’m getting my legs underneath me,” she said. “Getting 70 or so minutes the other night, it was a transition game, and I felt like at times I was trying to catch my breath. But looking at the numbers, I had a lot of running in that game, and I was happy with kind of the way that I’ve progressed.”I still don’t feel like I’m 100 percent. I feel like I’m 99 or so. I’m getting there, my timing needs to get better, my instincts need to get better, but I think that will come with like a month straight of team training.”

SheBelieves: USA dispatches tired Argentina 6-0

 strong ending to a tournament that has had its rough spots for the USWNT.By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 24, 2021, 7:15pm PST

Starting XI: Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, Tierna Davidson, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Krueger, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Kristie Mewis, Christen Press, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe

It was indeed a game of roster rotation as Vlatko Andonovski rolled out his starting lineup against Argentina. Jane Campbell, Kelley O’Hara, and Tierna Davidson all got their first minutes, while Casey Krueger and Kristie Mewis got their first starts. There was also some tinkering with the forward line as Lynn Williams finally got some rest and Andonovski shifted Press to the right side.Right away the team looked much more fluid and mobile, although it can’t be discounted that they were facing a more tired, slower Argentina team at the end of the tournament. The US looked often for the direct ball over the back line or the wide play, staying away from Argentina’s attempts to compact the middle. Early on, there was an attempt by Argentina at defending in an orderly 4-2-4, facing up in compact lines particularly when Julie Ertz had the ball at feet and was looking to distribute. That fell off a bit as the US began to systematically, repeatedly tear the Argentina backline to shreds.Without Lynn Williams in the mix, it was mostly Rose Lavelle who was pulling the game wide on the right, with some crossing from Kelley O’Hara. O’Hara had a planned 30 minutes in the game before getting subbed out in the 32’ for Emily Sonnett.On the left, Casey Krueger had a very good first half, maintaining the high press while picking out Megan Rapinoe and Kristie Mewis in pockets. Rapinoe had the first goal in the 16’. Lavelle own the ball back in midfield and popped it over the back line. It was a nice enough service that Rapinoe didn’t even need to touch it, just got behind it and finished it nicely.The second goal was in the 26’, once again Rapinoe. Christen Press drifted out of her lane to check back and pick up a ball, then turned and cleverly threaded it for Carli Lloyd. Lloyd did the smart thing and dropped it off for Rapinoe to finish. Then Lloyd got her own goal in the 35’, this time finishing off her own quick little pass from Mewis, who did a good job in the first half with her dynamic runs and late timing into the box.The fourth goal was in the 41’, this one for Mewis herself. The Krueger – Mewis connection paid off again as poor Argentina’s back line got cooked by yet another player making the turn and facing up to goal.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1364739558072532993&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.starsandstripesfc.com%2F2021%2F2%2F24%2F22300052%2Fshebelieves-usa-dispatches-tired-argentina-6-0&siteScreenName=StarsStripesFC&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px The half ended at 4-0.The second half started with a triple sub, as Lavelle, Lloyd, and Krueger came off for Lindsey Horan, Alex Morgan, and Midge Purce. Horan’s presence shifted Mewis to the right side of midfield, while Morgan went in as the 9 and Purce filled in at RB. The chance creation slowed down a little bit with the change. The US still alternated between trying to drop the ball right over the back line, this time for Morgan to peel off her defender(s) with speed, and pulling wide to create chances with crosses. Purce was effective here again, winning a lot of 1-v-1s and sometimes managing to cook two players in a row.

Argentina pushed back a little bit in the middle of the half, surging with some lovely possession ball while switching the point of attack and trying to lure in the US, but the defense was on it and snuffed out attempts to play in their forwards. Davidson looked solid here, working well with Sauerbrunn, tracking players as well as distributing out of the back.The US made another two subs in the 62’ with Ertz and Rapinoe coming out, and Jaelin Howell and Sophia Smith coming in. Press was able to come left and Howell went in at DM, immediately bringing strong physical energy. Press continued to work well tucking into the halfspace to play quick one- and two-touch passing up the left and rotate into crossing and scoring positions.In the 77’ Mewis delivered a lovely cross that suckered the goalkeeper out; she whiffed it, but Morgan couldn’t quite finish it at the back post. Morgan got her goal eventually, though. Sophia Smith picked up the ball deep in midfield, ate up the space, drew in several players, and was able to feed an open Morgan sitting on the back line. Morgan turned and was gone, finishing the ball to make it 5-0.The last goal was in the 88’ Mewis served in a corner. Horan’s header got sent back across goal face, where Press was in good position to finish the second ball and make it 6-0, which was the score at full time.After the game, Andonovski said he was happy with the performance.“Even though they’re tired or we’re a better team, it’s always hard to play against the team that sits low,” he said. “It’s hard to break them down. And it’s hard to do it quick. So for us, it takes a little bit of time to figure out the angles, to figure out the area, to figure out the positions in how we can do it. So that was the one thing that we’re looking at, like, how quick can we do it? Who can figure that out and how we can unlock a team. So the the understanding of our principles, the implementation of our principles, and the execution individually as a group as a unit, and also as a team is what we’re looking for.”He also had praise for two of the defenders he gave starts for the first time this tournament in Casey Krueger and Tierna Davidson. “Early on [Krueger] had a couple of decisions that she made that I felt like she could have done a better job. But again, it was very early in the game. And once she started feeling the game and understanding the movement of the players ahead of her, I thought that she was very good. And on the other side defensively, there was nothing we can say. I mean, she was spot on in every action that she performed. On the other side, or next to her, Tierna, very calm, dictating the pace together with Becky and spraying balls left and right, I thought she did good.” Andonovski said that Krueger was a planned sub after 45 minutes, based on where she’s currently at in her fitness and recovery.When asked about his players rotating well through space, Andonovski said, “We work lots of different rotations, interchanging of positions. We work on players making different runs in different movements. And what we always say is, we give them tools, and they need to use them in different times in different ways.”That’s certainly what we got out of the team tonight. Once again, it’s important to remember this was against a tired team just getting their legs back under them after over a year out of the international game. But let’s not completely discount that this was a positive ending after two games where they struggled to execute, particularly given the player rotation, namely resting Crystal Dunn and Lynn Williams. It was a glimpse of what he clearly wants this team to be, with versatile players able to move quickly and creatively in and out of passing channels. There’s a couple of FIFA windows upcoming that are probably going to be further opportunities to winnow this roster to 18 and get everyone back from the NWSL clubs fitter and sharper. With everyone back in game shape, that should be a really fun, really watchable, really dangerous Olympic team. Now the Olympics just have to actually happen.

USWNT’s win less about perfection and more about passing crucial tests

Feb 21, 2021Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

Watching the United States women’s national team is an exercise akin to finding flaws in the Sistine Chapel. On most days, there is nary an imperfection to be found. But on the rare occasions when a defect is located in the Americans’ play, there’s a discussion to be had about whether it’s simple nitpicking or whether alarm bells should actually be going off.So what to make then of Sunday’s 2-0 win over Brazil, one that all but clinches the SheBelieves Cup?In many respects, the U.S. did what it normally does. It carried most of the play, and eventually broke through with goals by Christen Press and substitute Megan Rapinoe. The defense bent, but held firm. The result was less about perfection and more about efficiency, especially in both penalty areasThe triumph was the 15th consecutive victory under manager Vlatko Andonovski, who took over from Jill Ellis following the U.S. team’s second consecutive World Cup triumph in 2019. And it can’t be overlooked that the U.S. prevailed against a Brazil side that is currently ranked eighth in FIFA’s latest round of rankingsLooking beyond that metric, Brazil certainly has enough talent to threaten the U.S. There is longtime attacking lynchpin Marta, even as she plays in a wider role for manager Pia Sundhage. Forwards Debinha and Ludmila are skillful enough and mobile enough to threaten any team in the world, and did so on this day. Add in the fact that many of the U.S. players are still in preseason mode, and there’s every reason to think that the Americans’ are in solid shape as this summer’s Olympic Games come more into focus.

– Dunn explains why USWNT stood for national anthem
– Foudy: What the USWNT needs to do to stay on top

“It’s funny because I think every time I’m on this team, wearing this jersey, I feel like everyone expects us to never have a shot on goal against us, or no team to ever create a chance,” said defender Crystal Dunn. “And I can sit here and say I think we played a great game. I think Brazil is a talented group of players.”But part of the reason why the U.S. women have been dominant for so long is precisely because the team is held to high standards, even if at times the expectations border on the ridiculous. And there were enough flaws in Sunday’s match to think that there are some issues to keep an eye on as the departure for Tokyo gets closer.The U.S. delivered a more fluid performance against Brazil than it did in the tournament opener against Canada. That was due in part because Brazil was more adventurous in attack, leading to a more wide-open affair. But in both matches, the U.S. conceded some wide open chances in transition that weren’t converted. In some situations, the U.S. helped itself with some astute covering tackles, like when Dunn slid over in the 13th minute to block Ludmila’s shot, or when Julie Ertz’s recovery run just before halftime spoiled a Brazil counter. Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher contributed as well with a first half save from Ludmila.But on other occasions, it was poor finishing by opponents that kept the U.S. net from being breached. Debinha will still be thinking about the opportunity she squandered in the 82nd minute. That is something the U.S. can’t continue to rely on going forward.The play of right back Emily Sonnet was a concern as well, as she came out second best in a number of duels, though Andonovski defended the player given she was up against Marta for much of the day.”A couple of times that I thought she could have done a better job,” he said. “But overall she’s playing against one of the best players in the world right now, and she was able to step in front, deny some of those passes going to her. She was able to get the ball a few times so overall good performance.”To Andonovski’s credit, the transition opportunities that were apparent in the first half were largely kept in check after halftime thanks to a few tactical tweaks. This included dropping Ertz a bit deeper to limit space for Debinha and Ludmila, as well as provide additional cover for center backs Abby Dahlkemper and Becky Sauerbrunn. The U.S. also did a better job of getting pressure on the ball in midfield and slowing down Brazil’s attempts to play in transition.”We know that if we give them a lot of space as a unit that they’re going to expose it, and I thought in the first half, we didn’t do a good enough job in closing the space” said Andonovski. “After we adjusted the structure a little bit, I thought we did an incredible job in the defending their transition.”It’s worth mentioning however that in the prior game against Canada some transition opportunities were also conceded. It’s certainly no time to panic in terms of the U.S. defense, but there is reason to be wary of how teams look to exploit weaknesses.There seems to be a bit more patience attached to the team’s attack, with Lindsay Horan’s two assists the highlight, along with Rapinoe’s “Rock the Baby” celebration, an ode to teammates Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris adopting a baby last week. Horan’s performance was a reminder that the Andonovski has options behind the injured Sam Mewis. Press showed her quality as well with a well taken goal.The return of Alex Morgan was alsoplus, given that it was her first national team start since giving birth last year. She put in an active shift over 71 minutes.All of that said, the U.S. team needed to be tested in this tournament, and it has been, which for Andonovski was the point of these matches all along.”We want to play the best competition possible,” he said. “We want to play against different types of opponents, opponents that will present different challenges, for a reason. So we can go back in a room now, back in the office, and study, why is it that they were able to get 10 shots on goal? What is it that we could have done different? And we hopefully we can get better from it.”As for perfection, the U.S. is hoping that happens later this summer.

Herculez Gomez: US-Mexico race for “special” Efrain Alvarez is a game-changer

February 25, 20212:55PM ESTCharles BoehmNational Writer

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.6e189c4f2b6d88c453045806323cdcf3.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=cboehm&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1614353294045 To borrow a concept from 1980s cinema, the US men’s national team technical staff had a “Say Anything” moment this week.Maybe including Efrain Alvarez on their 48-player preliminary roster for next month’s Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament wasn’t quite as bold or moving as John Cusack hoisting that boombox over his head outside his high-school sweetheart’s house. But it’s not all that often that a national team underlines their appreciation for a young player by including them in such a list all while they’re already on the list of the rival country next door.That’s music to the ears of Herculez Gomez.“With Jonathan Gonzalez and past players this had happened to, it was like, ‘Well, yeah, but what happened? They weren’t very good.’ That always seems to be the mindset, or the excuse,” the ESPN pundit and retired USMNT striker told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday.“For the first time in its history, you’ve had something like this happen, you have two national teams who are openly fighting for [Alvarez]. You have Gregg Berhalter, who has mentioned him more than once, who invited him to camp for the December camp [and] El Salvador game. You have a Mexican national team that is openly recruiting players in your own country, who are very keen on retaining said player and future players like him. So this is a game-changer.”A Mexican-American who played club soccer on both sides of the border but proudly represented the country of his birth at the international level, Gomez is one of the most vocal critics of U.S. Soccer’s approach to Latinos in recent years.But he sees reasons for optimism as Berhalter and US Olympic coach Jason Kreis work to make their program attractive to players like Alvarez and Gonzalez, the California native and CF Monterrey midfielder who sparked recriminations when he switched allegiances to El Tri in 2018. It’s all occurring even if “Efra” remains somewhat unproven at the first-team level, with one goal and five assists in 1,236 MLS minutes over the past two seasons.“Whatever he does, he’s going to let somebody down,” Gomez said of Alvarez. “That’s the reality of things, I’m sure within his own household there are contrasting views. So it’s a difficult choice. That was my immediate reaction.“Now, where can he most likely play? That gets a little murkier,” he added. “You look at the amount of players in the US men’s national team or youth national team pools that are that are emigrating abroad, it’s going to be a little bit tougher for him to maybe get in some of those camps, maybe get noticed more over players who are playing in Europe. And maybe that’s not the same on the Mexico side. Why? Because Mexico quite frankly isn’t exporting as many U-23 players as the States is at this moment.”Alvarez also faces questions about his best positional fit at the international level and his ability to match the physical and defensive demands of the systems preferred by Berhalter and Mexico coach Tata Martino. Former Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto was quite measured with Alvarez’s playing time for similar reasons. But the Los Angeles native possesses rare levels of final-third creativity and Gomez finds the effusive praise of Efra’s former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic still ringing in his ears.“[Schelotto] was open about it, he needs to be a harder worker, he needs to take more responsibility. Tactically he needs to be more of a team player, all these different things,” said Gomez. “But I go back to Zlatan Ibrahimovic … they asked him about Efra and he blatantly says he’s the only one with the soccer brain. He’s the only one who understands how to play.“He’s talking about a kid who’s 16 years old [at the time]. So it’s got to blow your mind – if Zlatan, one of the greatest footballing talents of certainly my generation, and maybe in the world’s history of the game, has this kind of thought about a player who’s 16 years old, you’ve got to be asking yourself: What can you do to explode this talent? What can you do to make sure he’s on the right track to progress?”

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=cboehm&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1102062961084882944&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F25%2Fherculez-gomez-us-mexico-race-special-efrain-alvarez-game-changer&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px Herc warns that “there are going to be thousands more like Efra,” as both sides scramble to unearth and polish other dual-national gems among the Mexican-American diaspora. It’s the latest installment in a long-running competition, albeit one that may be charged with extra meaning as US-reared prospects become dramatically more attractive, and valuable, to big clubs across Europe.In 2019, the FMF (Mexican federation) hired USMNT icon and former US youth national team coach Hugo Perez to scout for El Tri-eligible talent in the United States. Gomez said they’ve reached out to him, too.“I have received phone calls from FMF asking me what they can do to openly recruit and help their cause within the States. I’ve been contacted by the Mexican federation before the US federation, which blows my mind,” he said.“I think finally both [national teams] are recognizing the importance of a certain type of player.”

2/20/21 USWNT vs Brazil 3 pm Sun FS1, Milan Derby Sun, UCL Tues/Wed

USWNT vs Brazil 3 pm Sun on FS1

She Believe’s Cup action was pretty good on Thursday night as the US ladies were really given a tough game by 8th ranked Canada as almost 1 million tuned in to view – the largest ever for a non World Cup women’s game on FS1 .  While the US had more shots (29-8) and more corners (13-5)  and more possession (65-35) it was honestly Canada who had the best chances at scoring until the US made subs in the 70th minute or so.  US GK Alyssa Naeher who had not faced a legit shot in like 3 games – had to come up with 2 solid saves to protect the US net.  While I thought Lynn Williams at right wing was a monster in the first half – almost scoring on 3 or 4 chances – the rest of the US offense just was not on cue.  Horan was decent – but with only 1 speedy forward in Williams – we just couldn’t break thru and get a good shot on net.  That all changed in the 70th minute when left winger Christen Press came on for Rapino, Alex Morgan came on for Lloyd and perhaps most importantly Rose Lavelle came on for Macario at midfield.  Rose showed her excellence immediately scoring 8 minutes later.  The offense just seemed to open up with the addition of these 3 stars and the US really coasted to the 1-0 win from there.   

Brazil destroyed Argentina 4-0 Thurs so the battle with Brazil on Sunday will probably be our most difficult game overall.  It will be interesting to see who Coach A – rotates in after he was clearly disappointed in the showing by his team vs Canada.  Interesting that Coach Andonovski will look to extend his record best 14-0 start vs the former US Coach Pia Sundhage now Brazil head coach – who of course lead the US to 2 World Cup wins. 

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Kasey Krueger, Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21) –out injured.

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Sun Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET FS1
Wed Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET

USA vs Argentina 7 pm ET on FS1

Games to Watch on TV

Christian Pulisic is reportedly unlikely to play due to injury when Chelsea takes the field against Southampton at 7:30a on NBCSN. Antonee Robinson has not started the last couple of matches for Fulham after leading the team in minutes since his introduction. The club face Sheffield United in a battle of relegation threatened teams.  Giovanni Reyna did not make it off the bench for Borussia Dortmund in their 3-2 win over Sevilla in Champions League play on Wednesday. But we look for him to return Sat at 12:30 on ESPN+ when Dormund face Schalke and American forward Hoope.  Reyna has started three straight league games for the club, though the personal and team results in those competitions have been uninspiring. This is the first full season for the young man, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he was running into some issues with fatigue, but the club has a good chance to pick up points when they face last place Schalke.

Sunday’s big games are all behind the firewalls – as ESPN+ has the Milan Derby at battle of 1st vs 2nd as AC Milan and Zlatan (who scored his 500th goal last week) take on Inter Milan Sunday at 9 am. Peacock has all the EPL games Sunday including West Ham hosting Tottenham at 7 am, Aston Villa vs Leicester City at 9 am and Arsenal vs Man City at 11:30 am.  It’s a US v US matchup in the Bundesliga, as Chris Richards and Hoffenheim face Josh Sargent and Werder Bremen on Sunday at noon on ESPN+. The two clubs have worked their way to middle of the table and are tied on 23 points, though they are only five points ahead of the relegation playoff position. Sargent has been a regular start for Bremen, while Richards has not started every match but has worked himself in very quickly since joining Hoffenheim from Bayern Munich.  Timothy Weah picked up the goal in Lille’s 2-1 loss to Ajax in Europa League play. The team will look to hold on to their first place Ligue 1 position when they face Lorient at 11:05am Sunday on beIN Sports  and Fanatiz. Finally 3rd place PSG will host 4th place Monaco at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  Of course Champions League is back Tues/Wed – Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid on Tuesday on CBS Sports Network along with Lazio vs holder’s Bayern Munich both at 3 pm on CBSAA.  While Wed gives us Borussia Monchengladback vs Man City and Italian’s Atalanta vs Real Madrid at 3 pm both on CBSAA.  Tough news for US forward Jordan Morris who was stretchered off his game Sat for Swansea.

 GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 20

7:30 am NBCSN               Southampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Atletico vs Levante

12:30 pm NBC                   Liverpool vs Everton  

12:30 pm ESPN+              Schalke (Hoppe)  vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun   Feb 21

7 am Peacock                     West Ham vs Tottenham

9 am ESPN+                       AC Milan vs Inter  1 vs 2 Italy

9 am Peacock                    Aston Villa vs Leicester City

11:30 am Peacock             Arsenal vs Man City

12 noon ESPN+                  Hoffenheim (Richards) vs Werder Bremen(Sargent)

3 pm beIn Sport                PSG vs Monaco

3 pm Fox Sports 1        USA Women vs Brazil She Believes Cup

6 pm FS1                             Canada vs Argentina women

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Lazio vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Pulisic), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atalanta vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

4 pm FS1                             Canada vs Brazil women

7 pm Fox Sports 1        USA Women vs Argentina She Believes Cup

US Ladies

U.S. women bracing for ‘unpredictable’ Brazil test  Jeff Carlisle ESPN  
U.S. women’s soccer team narrowly defeats Canada in SheBelieves Cup

Rose Lavelle delivers for USA women in SheBelieves Cup win over Canada

Lavelle’s late laser drives USWNT past Canada in SheBelieves Cup 

Black History Month: Christen Press, what did you do?!
Lynn Williams moves forward in quest to make U.S. Olympic team at SheBelieves Cup

Revealed: how the pay gap at US Soccer goes all the way up the ladder
Crystal Dunn looks to do more
US Players Getting Tired overseas?  

 US MEN

US Players on TV this Weekend S&S

Koeman: U.S.’s Dest switched off against Mbappe

American Youngsters Richards and Weah Shine in Europa League Action

Doyle: Current USMNT depth chart for midfielders & forwards

Tuchel: No decision made on Pulisic future  ESPNFC
Transfer news: American striker Hoppe on PL radars

Transfer news: USMNT’s U21 GK CJ Santos to Burnley


Is there reason to be worried about Christian Pulisic at Chelsea? (video)
Tuchel on Pulisic omission: He will be important
Tuchel defends latest Pulisic omission
US Men’s Olympic Qualifying Schedule Starts Mar 18

                                                     

UCL

Mbappe and Haaland show that their time is now

Pirlo’s ‘clueless’ Juve under-fire after Porto flop
Pirlo says lacklustre Juventus handed Porto victory ‘on silver platter’

Juve lay another first-leg egg in the Champions League with loss to Porto
Mbappe leads PSG to statement win as Barca malaise deepens
  Gabriele Marcotti
Mbappe hat-trick stuns Barca to put PSG in sight of quarter-finals

3 Things We Learned PSG Pound Barca 4-1
Liverpool seize control over RB Leipzig in Budapest

‘Salah, Jones 8/10 for superb showing in Liverpool’s win over RB Leipzig

Job only half done’, Henderson warns Liverpool
WORLD
Haaland strikes late as Dortmund and Leverkusen drop points

Serie A: Inter leapfrog AC Milan for top spot; Juventus fail to capitalize

Lukaku ‘firing on all cylinders’ as Inter go top of Serie A
Zlatan Scores 500th Goal

EPL 

MLS

Reports: Thierry Henry to Bournemouth? Here’s the latest
Seltzer: Top 10 Americans in MLS for the 2021 season

 

 .S. women preparing for ‘unpredictable’ Brazil test in SheBelieves Cup – Andonovski

Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States women’s manager Vlatko Andonovski said he is looking forward to playing an “unpredictable” Brazil side in the second match of the SheBelieves Cup for both teams.Brazil currently tops the tournament standings on goal difference over the U.S. following their 4-1 win over Argentina on Thursday and the Americans’ 1-0 win against Canada. With the U.S. facing Argentina in its final game of the tournament, Sunday’s match will likely decide who claims the top spot.– But the tournament is more about preparation for the Tokyo Olympics later this year, and Andonovski feels Brazil will provide a unique challenge for his team.”There is no certain pattern that we can say, ‘Okay, this is what they’re gonna do every time,'” he said on a Zoom call with reporters. “That’s what makes Brazil special, that they’re so unpredictable that we’re gonna have to overcome those challenges or come up with solutions in the split second. I’m actually looking forward to see how our team [will] react.”Marta remains one of Brazil’s main threats, with Andonovski noting that the scouting folder on six-time The Best FIFA Women’s Player award is “pretty thick” given the player’s longevity. She’s joined by North Carolina Courage forward Debinha in leading Brazil’s attack.”She’s an incredible player,” said Andonovski about Debinha. “Her creativity and ability to change and play in between the lines in the middle of the field, but also make runs behind the line and in the side games is incredible. I think she’s one of the best players in the world.”Andonovski had previously spoken of how disappointing the U.S. team’s performance was in its win over Canada on Thursday. That said, he highlighted how the U.S. took 29 shots and had 27 open play crosses. He also noted that many of his players are very much still in preseason mode given that the NWSL season won’t start until April 9 with the Challenge Cup.”They’ve not played, they haven’t had the touches with their teams. They haven’t had regular games on a weekly basis,” he said. “OK, once it all comes in play, I’m not worried about it. As long as we’re creating opportunities, we’re moving in the right direction, because the execution will come.”With the U.S. playing three games in seven days over the course of the tournament, Andonovski will have to juggle his lineup to a degree. One change he hinted at was that Rose Lavelle, scorer of the game-winner against Canada, will see more of the field.Lavelle does have a history of injury, but Andonovski said he’s not worried about the midfielder’s health based on what he’s seen.”We’re not worried at all,” said Andonovski about Lavelle. “She’s playing hard, she’s training hard, so we’re excited to have her here. And I think we’re going to see the best of Rose as we’re going forward.”

U.S. women’s soccer team narrowly defeats Canada in SheBelieves Cup

Kevin BaxterThu, February 18, 2021, 11:13 PM With one loss in the last five years, the women’s national team has grown accustomed to teaching whatever lessons are learned during its games. But Thursday in Orlando, Fla., it got schooled by Canada in a sloppy SheBelieves Cup match the U.S. was fortunate to escape with a 1-0 victory.“We’re going to go back and try to learn from this,” coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “That’s a good learning opportunity for us; that good teams are going to punish us.”The only goal came from second-half substitute Rose Lavelle, who latched onto a loose ball after a Christen Press free kick and pushed a shot through a crowd at the near post in the 79th minute. That spoiled an otherwise spectacular effort by Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé, who took over for injured starter Kailen Sheridan in the 11th minute and made nine saves.At least the U.S. got those shots on target. The Americans took 29 shots, but most of those either went over or around the goal or were deflected by Canadian defenders.“I don’t know if rusty is the right word,” Andonovski said. “When we create 10 opportunities to score and we score one, I’m disappointed.”Canada, ranked No. 8 in the world, hasn’t beaten the U.S. in 20 years, and with several starters unavailable because of injuries and club requirements, that streak seemed safe. But playing its first game under new coach Bev Priestman, Canada was not intimidated by the top-ranked Americans, testing U.S. keeper Alyssa Naeher three times.That’s as many saves as Naeher had made in her last three international games combinedThe tournament will continue Sunday with the U.S. playing Brazil, a 4-1 winner over Argentina in Thursday’s first game. Marta, who plays in the NWSL with Orlando, opened the scoring for Brazil with a penalty-kick goal in the 30th minute.Canada will play Argentina in Sunday’s second game. USA vs Brazil: what to watch for Solve that midfield chaos, don’t let Debinha do Debinha things to you. By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 20, 2021, 1:01pm PST So you started off your SheBelieves Cup having the weaknesses of your high press exposed. If you’re Vlatko Andnovoski, that’s a fantastic thing because that’s the whole point of this tournament before the Olympics: figure out the problems, tweak the tactics, test the personnel. Andonovski had this to say in a press call before the game against Brazil: In terms of Canada, something that jumps out is the lack of [our] execution. I mean, lack of finishing. We went through everything that we wanted to do. And I felt like we executed our principles very well, we were able to create 28 shots, 27 crosses in open play. So we created six goalscoring opportunities off of the process, we created the other seven or eight opportunities in open play that we could have scored a shot, but we didn’t. Yes, it was disappointing, maybe at the moment, but we got to know that these players are in the offseason still… They haven’t had touches with their teams. they haven’t had regular games on a weekly basis. And once that all comes into play, I’m not worried about it. As long as we’re creating opportunities, we’re moving in the right direction, because the execution will come pretty soon. And now he’s got Brazil to further break down his plans, and if he wanted someone to put pressure on his midfield in particular, he couldn’t have asked for a better suited team. Brazil is coming into this game with a relatively confident 4-1 win over Argentina. And as one might expect, Marta and Debinha both did plenty of heavy lifting for their country, with Debinha often the architect of their attack. Andonovski: We’re gonna have to solve their free flow in the middle. We know that Marta has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. Debinha, I said earlier, she has an ability to drop in the middle to create overload. So there’s going to be problems and challenges that they’re going to present that will create for us, that we’ll have to overcome. And there is no certain pattern that we can say, okay, this is what they’re going to do every time. On the US side, Andonovski will be looking for better challenges from his players and better connection with the ball. Perhaps we’ll have some starter rotation; it might be nice to see Christen Press start over Megan Rapinoe, who looked like she ran out of gas after about 30 minutes. Before the game, Press talked about complementing Crystal Dunn on the left and how Dunn winning her 1v1s both offensively and defensively frees Press to go forward, which the team needed against Canada.It might also be nice to see more time for Alex Morgan. Morgan looked like you’d expect for a player who hasn’t had consistent time, a half-step off on her timing. But she looked dangerous nonetheless, and with more minutes to dig in, she could get a real confidence-boosting goal under her belt to get her fully back into the swing of things for the NT.On the other side of the field, Andonvoski said that he wants Midge Purce to get used to right back. “With the national team, with her club team, if she has an opportunity to play there, that’s what she needs,” he said. “We could see in the game against Canada that she did an incredible job when she was in the attacking half or when we were in possession. I thought that she would help us advance forward, came up with some good crosses, combination with Lynn [Williams].” But Andonvoski also pointed out that one big difference in this game is that Purce will likely be pitted against Marta, making her lockdown ability much more crucial and an area in which he will be looking for growth from her.As for that midfield test, Lindsey Horan will absolutely need to bring more of her second-half energy from the game against Canada and crisp up distribution while not getting frustrated and involved in rough fouls. Catarina Macario may also be asked to really help pressure her own left side of the pitch, either bypassing Marta or forcing her out of position to add to Brazil’s numbers there, leaving some space for Purce to operate.Where Canada was slightly chaotic and plenty physical, the US will probably want this game to settle down a bit and rely more on good execution. USWNT vs. Brazil, 2021 SheBelieves Cup: Scouting Brazil Marta and Debinha are in Orlando, but who else makes the engine go?By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Feb 19, 2021, 10:00am PST The United States Women’s National Team will take on Brazil in their second match of the 2021 SheBelieves Cup on Sunday in Orlando. Both teams top the standings with 3 points, with both securing victories Thursday night. In looking at Brazil, they have some of their veteran players back along with some new faces that look to get into the rotation under coach Pia Sundhage. Their roster has had a few changes since it was announced in late January. Last week, Fabiana tested positive for COVID-19, so she was replaced by Kathellen, while Luana and Formiga were denied a release by their club, Paris Saint-Germain, last weekend. They were replaced by Geyse and Valéria. The 25-person roster for Brazil: Goalkeepers (3): Bárbara (Kindermann), Aline Reis (Granadilla), Letícia (Benfica) Defenders (8): Tamires (Corinthians), Camilinha (Palmeiras), Tainara (Palmeiras), Rafaelle (Changchun Zhuoyue), Bruna Benites (Internacional), Jucinara (Levante), Antônia (Madrid CFF), Kathellen (Inter Milan) Midfielders (7): Andressinha (Corinthians), Júlia Bianchi (Palmeiras), Andressa Alves (AS Roma), Marta (Orlando Pride), Adriana (Corinthians), Chú (Palmeiras), Ivana Fuso (Manchester United) Forwards (7): Ludmila (Atlético Madrid), Debinha (North Carolina Courage), Bia Zaneratto (Wuhan Xinjiyuan), Christiane (Santos), Giovana (FC Barcelona), Geyse (Madrid CFF), Valéria (Madrid CFF) A Seleção got off to a great start in the tournament yesterday by defeating archrivals Argentina 4-1. Marta and Debinha opened up the scoring for the Brazilians, while Adriana and Geyse both got their first international goal.  Brazil likes to get out into open space, where their players can create scoring opportunities with pace and agility. Brazil was able to create some chances in what was a physical game, and they tested the Argentine keeper with crosses into the box and trying to free Debinha and Marta on the break.When they do that, they are left open to the counter attack and there are huge holes created by players who move forward. A couple of times during the match, Brazilian goalkeeper Aline Reis came way off her line to clear balls back towards the offensive end because the defense had gaps from so many players moving forward.While they may be testing out some new players to the team (11 players have less than 10 caps), you have some players on their last cycle – like Marta, Christiane, and Tamires – that are looking to make one last Olympics roster. There is quite a bit of depth, but they will be missing Formiga and Luana against the United States. The depth becomes much younger, and it will be a tall task for Brazil to ask them to control the tempo against the best team in the world. Still, they have the pace, creativity, and passing to give any team fits. And, if they can string it together, they will get chances and test the American defense routinely in an effort to steal the win.Brazil takes on the USA Sunday at 3:00pm ET, with coverage on FS1 and TUDN. SheBelieves: USA beats Canada 1-0 in tight-ish game There were some real hold-your-breath moments in this one, but the US came good in the end.  By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Feb 18, 2021, 6:56pm PST  Stars and stripes Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Crystal Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Becky Sauerbrunn, Margaret Purce, Lindsey Horan, Julie Ertz, Catarina Macario, Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Lynn Williams It was a slightly clunky first half from the United States as they took on northern neighbors Canada. If the thought was that Canada would be easy pickings due to a depleted roster, the thought was quickly dispelled due to the US’ own occasionally plodding midfield and loosey-goosey crossing and set pieces.The US started out with their usual high pressing, gaining possession and position very early, looking really galvanized particularly through Crystal Dunn. Canada looked shaky, their goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan clearing a ball directly into Carli Lloyd’s legs, then Desiree Scott giving away an early foul right outside the 18-yard box for tackling Carli Lloyd. Megan Rapinoe’s free kick went into the Canadian wall, though.Midge Purce also got in on the action; she and Dunn put in a real shift trying to execute their wide responsibilities, with Dunn often setting the play from the left touchline looking for targets from the forwards. They certainly attacked with their usual relentlessness, but not with precision, though some of it was also Canada’s determined, physical defending.The US midfield wasn’t quite as mobile or involved in the play, kept at range by Canada, often containing Canada’s own midfield to keep them penned in, but not able to pressure Canada’s center into giving way or coming too far out of position.Canada’s goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan was forced to come off early with some kind of non-contact injury, but though her substitute Stephanie Labbé looked shaky in her first few touches, the US wasn’t able to capitalize on a wobbly keeper. The US had a great opportunity in the 20’ as Carli Lloyd cleverly rainbowed the ball over her head to Lynn Williams, who made a near no-look pass knowing that someone would be running into space. That was Catarina Macario arriving late and slipping past the defensive line punched up around Lloyd and Williams, but her showt was high and wide.The game began to descend into chippiness, with Canada physically sticking tight to US players as part of their concentrated defensive efforts. The US earned several set pieces through pressure, not letting Canada out of their third, but wasn’t able to convert any chances. The line of confrontation began shifting towards the midfield, with Lindsey Horan doing more on the defensive side of the ball. But as the US wasn’t able to neatly close down these midfield forays, Canada nearly scored a quick one in the 38’ as no one picked up Janine Beckie on the far post for a cross.The game really devolved near the end of the half, with Williams testing Labbé with shots at range, and a goalmouth scramble in stoppage after a bobbled shot that still didn’t yield a goal. The half ended at 0-0.The US started the second half with no changes. Things immediately got physical again as both sides threw their bodies into ball challenges. Julie Ertz pushed high to try and help press on Canada’s players turtled up in the center, but even when the US was able to slip their playmakers the ball, they were all defended very tightly.The fullbacks, often relied upon to win their 1-v-1 battles to create scoring chances, weren’t winning enough of them. Neither Purce nor Williams was finding much joy against Allysha Chapman. But conversely Lindsey Horan turned up the dial on her own physical intensity, playing ballwinner against all comers, cutting off players or simply tracking them down as they attempted to break away from her at speed. The US had a snafu in the 59’ as a Dunn giveaway let Nichelle Prince run freely at the center backs. Prince managed to angle her run to just about beat Dahlkemper and Sauerbrunn, but fluffed her final ball, making some kind of abortive pass instead of shooting, letting the US off the hook. Then another giveaway, this time with Prince trying to drop the ball off for late-arriving Janine Beckie, whose shot selection was subpar and denied by Alyssa Naeher.In the 63’ the US made a triple sub, pulling Rapinoe, Lloyd, and Macario for Christen Press, Alex Morgan, and Rose Lavelle. All three made a definite impact, Press able to help dominate the wide channel on and off with Dunn, Morgan providing an unpredictable and sometimes untrackable target in front of goal, and Lavelle opening up the midfield with her movement on and off the ball.In the 69’ Dunn toyed with her defender, got around her, and crossed the ball for a Morgan header that was just wide of the post. The game opened up nearing the 75’, the US making mistakes in midfield that allowed Canada to pick up turnovers and push back towards the US defensive end. But then in the 79’ Lavelle broke through with an extremely nice angled shot, picking up a loose ball that wasn’t cleared off of a free kick.It was to be the only goal of the night.In the 82, the US made their last three subs, pulling Dunn, Horan, and Purce for Casey Kreuger (nee Short), Kristie Mewis, and Emily Sonnett. Mewis had some nice pickups in midfield, looking to play direct to Press and Morgan. And why not, when the two of them were fresh and full of running.The game ended at 1-0. Still, there wasn’t necessarily sense that it was as close a game as the tight result might indicate. Yes, Canada had some heartstopping chances, but as Vlatko Andonovski emphasized after the game, these came from US mistakes and not necessarily from Canada tactics.“If you look at the chances that they created, the chances that they had, was after we lost the ball in the middle. It wasn’t because they broke us down, we lost the ball in the middle and they went straight down towards our goal,” said Andonovski after the game.“It’s a great learning opportunity,” he said. “Regardless of how we did, we’re going to go back and try to learn from this because I thought [Canada] were very disciplined, they were very aggressive in the middle of the field in the central channel, and they were able to create turnovers in regards to how we were trying to build. Obviously that’s a great learning opportunity for us to know that good teams are going to punish us or will create opportunity or make mistakes in that.”Next up: USA vs Brazil on February 21 at 3 PM ET. The game will air live on FS1 and TUDN. USMNT’s Morris stretchered off in Swansea match vs. Huddersfield 1:07 PM ETESPNUnited States international forward Jordan Morris was stretchered off with a leg injury in Swansea City‘s 4-1 loss to Huddersfield Town on Saturday.Morris, who came on as a substitute at half-time, left the game in the 66th minute after landing awkwardly.Swansea did not give any official details about the injury.”It does not look good, does it? I don’t know the extent of it but we have our fingers crossed for him,” Swansea manager Steve Cooper said after the match. “We will know more in the days to come, but it did not look a good one, that’s for sure.”He will travel back with us, he is currently in a knee brace and on crutches.”We will get the best attention to him as soon as possible.”Morris, 26, joined Championship club Swansea on loan from the Seattle Sounders in the January transfer window.He made his Swansea debut in a 3-1 win over Rotherham on Jan. 30.In better news for the U.S., American midfielder Duane Holmes scored his first two goals since his return to Huddersfield, helping his side to an important win as they seek to avoid relegation from the Championship. Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel on Christian Pulisic future: ‘No decisions’ made for summer James OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC Thomas Tuchel has said he wants Christian Pulisic to stay at Chelsea but admitted “no decisions” have yet been taken over the club’s summer plans.The USMNT international has started only in the FA Cup fifth-round win at Barnsley on Feb. 11 during Tuchel’s six-game tenure. Pulisic is a doubt for Saturday’s Premier League trip to Southampton, and although the 22-year-old has also recently missed Chelsea’s victory at Sheffield United due to personal reasons, a lack of game time has fuelled speculation he could leave the club this summer. However, when asked at a news conference whether the forward still had a future at Stamford Bridge, Tuchel replied: “Yes, today, clearly yes, but it is not only my point of view. We have to see. For me, clearly yes because Chelsea bought Christian for a reason, for his quality, for his potential, and it is our job to bring out the best in him.”He proved in many weeks that he has the level to be a Chelsea regular player, to have a big impact in this club. It’s a challenge now to hold this level, to improve and to maintain the level and keep improving.”Pulisic, who has a contract until 2024, has struggled with persistent injury problems since arriving at Chelsea in the summer of 2019 but particularly after a hamstring injury suffered in last August’s FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal.Former Chelsea head coach Frank Lampard revealed the club were exploring specific training programmes amid fears Pulisic was struggling to cope with the rigours of regular first-team football.Although Tuchel did not necessarily share that view, he said Pulisic is unlikely to be risked to avoid another “cycle” of fitness problems.”We are not concerned, we are not worried, but the physical, medical department is on that,” he added. “Now we have little issues in the calf. He stopped training yesterday before it becomes an injury.”So I would not say it is an injury; at the moment it is risk management to not be injured. That relies on his history of having injuries, so we do not want to enter the same cycle.”It is sometimes like this, and the main thing for Christian is to stay positive, keep the head up and, like I said before, be ready because he can have a big impact when he starts and he can have a big, big impact when he comes off the bench with his intensity.”There are absolutely no decisions made for the summer. There is simply no time for that at the moment, and this is not the moment now. There is today no need to think about it.”Thiago Silva has not recovered from a thigh problem and will miss the game against Southampton, but Tammy Abraham was expected to train on Friday afternoon despite limping off in Monday’s 2-0 win over Newcastle with an ankle problem. Kai Havertz is also fit after shaking off a knock.   The Unexpected Rise of Another U.S. Teen Abroad Matthew Hoppe was a relative unknown before a scoring binge in the Bundesliga. Now the 19-year-old American finds himself keeping company with a more heralded cast of prospects—all while trying to save his storied club from relegation. BRIAN STRAUS  FEB 16, 2021  SI    No. 43 isn’t really a conventional soccer number. It’s a free safety’s number, a NASCAR number, a number that looks slightly out of place in a sport where jerseys with lower digits predominate.That stems from the sport’s black-and-white days, when the 11 eligible players were numbered 1 to 11 and positions often had numerical designations. The center forward wore No. 9. Consider how far 43 is from 9, and you’ll have a sense of how far Matthew Hoppe once was from leading the line for a big German club—a club that’s counting on him to help deliver a miracle.Hoppe was unexpected, just another young, relatively unknown American toiling at the fringes of a European club. He was a project. But Schalke 04 was a team in crisis, falling to the foot of the Bundesliga and in need of fresh legs and a spark. When Hoppe was called up to the senior side for the first time in late November, having scored just one goal in 15 games for the reserves, he found the No. 43 shirt waiting for him. No one asked what number he preferred. He didn’t think to tell anyone. He was at the bottom of the roster. Expectations were modest.“I was brought up pretty abruptly,” Hoppe says. “I walked into the locker room for the game, and there was No. 43. It was 43. I had a few numbers growing up and I didn’t really care much at that point, because I’d had so many.”He might want to consider keeping this one. It’s been seen around the world and now is part of club lore, thanks to a stunning hat trick in January that helped Schalke avoid German soccer infamy. Hoppe, a 19-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., has risen from unheralded reserve to joint top on Schalke’s goal-scoring chart. Two weeks ago, he signed his first professional contract, tying him to the grateful club from Gelsenkirchen until the summer of 2023. Unwanted by his local MLS outfit and overlooked by junior U.S. national sides at every age group, Hoppe has provided his desperate, 116-year-old German team that spark.“I think after I got my first goal, I felt like I was about to cry,” he says. “I think it took me a few days and even a few weeks just to process the whole thing. I still look back and watch all the clips and it gives me a special feeling. … I think it changed my life.”Saturday is the 158th competitive Revierderby, the grudge match between Schalke and its eternal rival, Borussia Dortmund. Berlin is Germany’s capital and Munich hosts its top team, but the industrial Ruhr valley in the west is the spiritual home of German football. And the Ruhr revolves around the Revierderby, the coal (Schalke) vs. steel (Dortmund) turf war between clubs situated just 20 miles apart.There will be an American on each side. Dortmund has Gio Reyna, the son of two former U.S. national teamers. France’s renowned L’Equipe just named him one of the top five U-20 players in the world. Reyna, 18, was a U.S. U-15 international and the star of New York City FC’s academy teams while father, Claudio, a National Soccer Hall of Famer, was the MLS club’s sporting director. Gio made his senior U.S. debut the day before his 18th birthday. He has pedigree to spare and has been pegged for stardom for years.And Schalke has Hoppe, who was cut from the LA Galaxy academy after a single season and who, if not for his successful 2019 tryout in Gelsenkirchen, probably would’ve enrolled at San Diego State. The soccer team there has made a single NCAA tournament appearance in the past decade. Four months ago, only the most dedicated followers of U.S. prospects knew who Hoppe was.The odds that he might share a field with Reyna in 2021, and the odds that he’d catch the eye of U.S. national team coach Gregg Berhalter, were incalculable until recently. But that’s the beauty of the global game. One never knows where the next breakthrough player might be hiding.In Hoppe’s case, after being dismissed from the Galaxy academy, it was with the Irvine Strikers, a competitive youth club in Orange County, Calif. He got his first taste of German soccer during a two-week tour, and then at 16, he earned an invitation to play at Barcelona’s affiliate academy in Casa Grande, Ariz. There, Hoppe switched permanently from attacking midfielder to striker. Tall, aggressive and blessed with an appetite for thankless running, Hoppe developed into an elite target forward, and he was among the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s leading scorers. In the summer of 2019, Hoppe returned to Germany for a couple of trials. Schalke wouldn’t let him leave until he’d signed an academy contract. It was San Diego State’s loss.Gelsenkirchen once was the heart of European coal production. Schalke’s club culture is infused with mining, from the player tunnel at the Veltins-Arena, which is designed to resemble a mine shaft, to the Knappenschmiede academy, which has been one of the country’s most productive. “Knappenschmiede” translates very roughly into “where young miners are forged.” Schalke is accustomed to labor-intensive development. It fits the culture. Players are stars when they leave, not when they enter. Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Leroy Sané, Julian Draxler and U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie are among the graduates.“We are famous for hardworking men,” Schalke technical director Peter Knäbel says. “We love this attitude—the coal miners. Maybe you don’t fulfill every technical criteria when you come, but you invest. You go on. You are positive, natural, direct. We love these people in our region—to be open-minded, to be interested in learning. It really matches with the west part of Germany.”Hoppe fit in. He’s relentless and voracious, motivated by shortcomings rather than intimidated by them. After scoring five goals in 20 appearances for Schalke’s U-19 team, Hoppe was sent back to California at the onset of the pandemic.“I was expecting to be home two to three weeks, and then I ended up staying home for four months,” Hoppe says. “I would train every day, two to three times a day. I’d wake up at six in the morning every day to train with a small group of people. It was so my body would have some time to recover throughout the day. And yeah, I was able to come back [to Schalke] sharper than I’d ever been and fitter than I’d ever been. I don’t think I’ve worked harder in my whole life than those four months.”Upon his return, Hoppe earned a promotion to Schalke II, which plays in Germany’s regionalized fourth division. But there was something in the air over Gelsenkirchen last fall. While Hoppe struggled to score, the senior team nosedived. At the end of November 2019, Schalke was in third place in the Bundesliga. It finished the 2019–20 season in 12th. A year later, in November 2020, it was in 18th—dead last. Head coach David Wagner, a former U.S. national team forward, was fired after two games. His replacement, Manuel Baum, was let go in December. When Christian Gross was appointed two days after Christmas, Schalke was 0-9-4 and already facing the prospect of relegation.Schalke is a big club. It advanced as far as the UEFA Champions League round of 16 five times in the 2010s. On Deloitte’s most recent annual list of the top revenue-generating teams on the planet, Schalke ranked 16th. Relegation typically is an unthinkable impossibility at clubs like that. But circumstances have been unkind at Schalke, which was deep in debt and flirting with bankruptcy following the summer 2020 resignation of longtime chairman Clemens Tönnies and the deep impact of the pandemic, which eradicated match-day revenue. Several players, including McKennie, were sold or loaned out in an effort to boost the books. As the 2020–21 season unraveled, there were disciplinary issues with a few important senior players.It was into this storm that Hoppe was thrust. And it was because of this storm that he got his chance.“If the first team was winning all its games, I think Matthew would’ve never had the chance to go up,” says Schalke II GM Gerald Asamoah, a club icon who played for Germany in the 2002 World Cup final. “He had the chance to move to the first team to train with them, and he performed well. The situation with the first team is not good, so the young guys have a chance to move up when they do their best in my team.“Matthew is a player. You can put him on the field and he just runs,” Asamoah continues. “He’s a fighter. He was a fighter and he’s fast, and I think the position where we are with the first team, we needed such a striker who is fast, who will find space to run inside, and Matthew was the one who did it well. So that’s the reason why he got the chance, opening spaces for the other players.”Nobody expected goals. Schalke needed a player to stretch the field, someone who might make the opposition sweat a bit when the ball turned over, and Schalke looked to create a chance on the counter. That role requires immense fortitude, because a lot of those runs are for naught and because there’s often not a lot of help. It demands fitness and character.“This is a boy who has incredible ambition, a great commitment and clearly only has Schalke on his mind,” Gross said of Hoppe shortly after taking over. “He wants to do everything he can to get us out of this situation, really an exemplary professional. Although he is still young, he doesn’t shy away from doing a huge amount of work.”In a time of crisis, Schalke could live with Hoppe’s lack of experience and professional refinement. The club was impressed with his work rate and level of fitness and commitment, Knäbel said, and at its lowest point, it still could rely on what it had always done well—mining talent, polishing it and preparing it to flourish with the first team.Hoppe made his Bundesliga debut in the No. 43 jersey on Nov. 28 as Schalke lost, 4–1, to Borussia Mönchengladbach. He was on the bench for the next four matches (appearing in three) and then started again at Hertha Berlin on Jan. 2. That 3–0 defeat extended Schalke’s embarrassing Bundesliga winless streak to 30 games (0-20-10), dating back to the point when the wheels started to fall off toward the end of the 2019–20 campaign. The record, set in the mid-1960s, was 31, and it was held by a small club called Tasmania Berlin that now plays in Germany’s fifth tier. TSG Hoffenheim would visit the Veltins-Arena on Jan. 9. Ignominy awaited.“The biggest pressure that I ever had in my 30-year career is to be relegated, to have the knockout match for playing for relegation. There you play also for everybody who’s working in the club. This is the biggest negative pressure that you have. For sure there is a lot of pressure to play the final of a World Cup. But what can you lose? You can only win,” Knäbel explains.“But I never felt a pressure in the middle of the season like this day [against Hoffenheim],” he continues. “The word that I have in my head is ‘shame.’ It would have been the biggest shame [to match the record]. It made it a match where everybody was looking, and you could see it was really a lot of pressure.”Somehow, Hoppe avoided the worst of that pressure. He’d been informed, certainly, but the Bundesliga was new to him. German football was new to him. He hadn’t lived through that history. Had the club’s original plan been followed, he’d still be down with the reserves. Expectations remained modest. He was a Hail Mary. It was the winless streak that opened the door and so in a way, the Hoffenheim game was like a World Cup final. Hoppe could only win.“I think the pressure in our youth team was huge for Matthew, because we expected more from him. But now being in the first team, nobody’s expecting something from Matthew because everybody knows he’s from the second team,” Asamoah says. “Now he doesn’t have any pressure on him. He’s just doing what he loves, and he’s not putting any pressure on himself. He just goes out on the pitch and does his best.”Informed of Asamoah’s assessment, Hoppe said it rang true.“I think that does play a major role in it. When you’re given this opportunity, nobody expects anything out of me and I just do whatever I want to try to impress the fans and the coaches,” he says. “I think when I got the chance, my head was free and, not only that, I was able to just put all my focus and all my energy into training and into the games. And that was able to translate into goals.”They came quickly, before Hoppe or anyone else could really take a breath and assess the magnitude of what was happening. Schalke and Hoffenheim were scoreless in the 42nd minute when Moroccan midfielder Amine Harit, one of the players who’d been suspended in November, slipped a through ball to Hoppe in the left channel. The finish was exquisite—a first-time, left-footed chip over Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann that required immense composure and confidence.Hoppe had ignited. In the 57th minute, Harit and Hoppe connected again, this time on a pass that split Hoffenheim’s center backs. Hoppe timed his curling run perfectly, accelerated and rounded Baumann with ease. Schalke led by two. The best of the lot came six minutes later as Harit, again, found Hoppe, again, running smartly behind the Hoffenheim defense. Hoppe beat Baumann with the outside of his right foot as he raced by, then slid on his knees in celebration while flashing the ‘hang loose’ sign. The Californian had become the coal miners’ hero.The match ended, 4–0, the streak was snapped and Hoppe couldn’t suppress his smile as he conducted a short postgame interview. The Schalke staff played “California Dreamin’” over the stadium speakers.“I don’t know how to feel,” Hoppe said. “I’m excited. I am happy that the team got the win and that I was able to contribute to it.”Hoppe became the third U.S. player to score a hat trick in one of Europe’s big five leagues, following Clint Dempsey (Fulham) and Christian Pulisic (Chelsea). He was the youngest Schalke player to accomplish the feat in Bundesliga play and the third-youngest player ever to notch a hat trick in the top divisions in Germany, England, France, Italy or Spain, according to Diario AS.Hoppe took his uniform home, along with a match ball signed by his teammates. He received congratulatory messages from Berhalter and U.S. compatriots around Europe. In Turin, where he now plays for reigning Italian champ Juventus, McKennie uploaded a video showing him celebrating boisterously in his living room.“That was the day of Matthew Hoppe when he saved our asses, or however you can explain it,” Knäbel says. “He avoided this shame for the whole club.”Hoppe’s momentum continued through the next two games. At Eintracht Frankfurt on Jan. 17, he outran a defender to a looping ball and, from an acute angle, hammered a shot through the goalie’s legs. Three days later against Köln, he beat the goalkeeper to a loose ball in the penalty area and finished with his right foot.Both goals leveled the score. Schalke lost both matches.In under two weeks, Hoppe had surged to an unforeseen and startling level of renown. He was on the cover of kicker, Germany’s leading sports magazine, and was named the Bundesliga’s rookie of the month. Media requests were flooding a last-place club. Two weeks ago, Schalke rewarded him with that first pro contract.“I’m living my dream. It’s actually happening,” Hoppe says.But dreams don’t last, and Hoppe and Schalke have had to wake up to some stark reality. After he scored five goals in three games, opponents knew what was coming. Hoppe’s quick, alert and decisive play had been scouted and planned for. He’s continued to start but now hasn’t found the net in the past five matches. Since the Hoffenheim game, Schalke is 0-4-2 in league play, and it was eliminated from the DFB-Pokal by VfL Wolfsburg. Heading into Saturday’s Revierderby, Schalke is 1-14-6 and nine points out of 16th place and a berth in the season-ending relegation playoff. It needs a miracle. It may be unfair to the 19-year-old, but it’s tough to imagine how that miracle might happen if Hoppe doesn’t find another groove.“Everybody expects more from Matthew, because we now know he can score goals, but I think we still know he’s a young player,” Asamoah says. “He needs his time. We don’t want to put pressure on him. But we now know we’ve found a striker, a young guy, who maybe in the next years can help Schalke 04 to be what we were. We don’t put pressure on him, but we keep hoping he keeps doing what he did.”Knäbel adds, “Now the race has started, because you know the analysis departments of the other clubs, they are really big and they know everything about you. You are calculated. You are analyzed. And then you have to develop your game.”In a way, that will be the real test—to perform when everyone is watching. Hoppe took the world, and his own club, by surprise. But Dortmund and relegation loom, and Schalke has signed veteran center forward Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a Dutchman who played for the club during the Champions League years, to mentor and compete with Hoppe.”It’s not a fluke that he scored five goals recently,” Huntelaar told the club’s website. “He makes good runs. His mentality is great. He has a wonderful future ahead of him if he keeps it up.”If he keeps it up.That’s the measuring stick at the highest level. That’s the demand. And it’s what Berhalter is looking for as he plans for a busy 2021, when the U.S. will have Concacaf Nations League, Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying matches on the docket.“We don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” the U.S. manager said last month. “I think that a player establishes himself by continuing to perform at this level that he is at. So it’s great to see him reach these heights, and now he needs to maintain it. And if he does that, I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity with the national team.”Hoppe said his approach won’t change. His rise was fueled by focus, fitness and humility. He paid attention to what he wanted and not what he didn’t have. With the attention, the exposure and the contract come expectations. Under the shadow of relegation comes pressure. For Hoppe, the changes must remain external.“I notice it but I try not to think about it too much. I just try to stay under it,” he says. “That’s what everyone says: Keep everything the same and don’t do anything different. Don’t try and change anything too much.“There’s obviously that pressure there,” he adds. “But you can’t think about it. You just have to focus on what you have to do and that’s all you can do. If you start thinking too much and overthinking and your head’s not clear, you can’t do what you need to do. That happens sometimes in football. You just have to do your best to keep moving forward and not thinking about it.”In the end, this is what Hoppe wanted. His appetite whet on those tours with Irvine Strikers and the Barcelona academy, he dreamed of playing in Europe—with all the trappings, both positive and pressure-packed. He said he enjoys it when someone recognizes him at the grocery store, and he can’t wait until fans return and he can experience the legendary atmosphere surrounding Schalke’s games. The prospect of relegation is part of the package.“Even though it’s difficult and hard at times, it’s what every player kind of dreams of, you know? To be able to get an opportunity like I had and be able to just play,” Hoppe says.No matter how the season turns out, Hoppe likely will have provided its highlight. He’s not a Schalke legend. That comes with sustained excellence over time. But the club’s most dedicated fans will never forget him. He was the one who saved their asses, who with a bolt from the blue rescued them from suffering an historic indignity. Asamoah and Knäbel both struggled to come up with a coherent explanation for how such a modest player, who’d scored once for the reserves, delivered so spectacularly at that moment.Knäbel decided he was O.K. with that ambiguity. Even during this season of suffering, Hoppe’s outburst was something to savor.”Is it not the thing that makes this game so lovely and so interesting?” Knäbel asks. “It’s not about mathematics. It’s about emotions. We tried to explain it, but leave it like it is. Leave the player, leave the game, its little secrets. We want to analyze everything, to explain everything and how it works. But it works. I’m so happy for him. All members of the academy are so happy for him. We should leave it like this and not over-explain everything.” US men’s national team depth chart for midfielders and forwards | Armchair Analyst February 12, 20213:11PM EST    Matthew DoyleSenior Writer  MLS.com  https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.6e189c4f2b6d88c453045806323cdcf3.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=MattDoyle76&show_count=false&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1613752086999 Here’s Part 2 of the US men’s national team depth chart. As I wrote in Part 1 (defenders and goalkeepers), this is mostly my perception of how head coach Gregg Berhalter sees things, though with a few personal preferences thrown in. And I’ll reiterate this point: It’s my guess that every single player who gets on the field in World Cup qualifying over the next 16 months will come from the below list, because the time for experimentation is over. The door is not entirely shut — nobody would’ve had Matthew Hoppe on any list three months ago — because attackers are different than defenders and defensive midfielders, but it’s shutting. And if you’re going to burst through, it’s going to take something special on the level of what Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller pulled off last year. But even that might not be enough. The US roster is pretty stacked. Ok, enough preamble. Let’s go: Defensive Midfielders Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig)Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)Johnny Cardoso (Internacional) So it’s already complicated. Adams has played exclusively at right back and right wingback for Leipzig in 2021 — you’d have to be some sort of genius to have seen that coming — and has only played in the “quarterback” midfield role sparingly. I think there are obvious reasons for this, with the biggest being that he struggles to receive, turn and play forward, especially when in traffic. That is a crucial part of being a defensive midfielder in a modern, possession-heavy system, and it’s the weakest part of Adams’ game. The other parts of Adams’ game are so strong that he’s the clear No. 1 anyway. His ball-winning is elite, his athleticism is elite, his shielding is very good and his front-foot defending — basically, his defensive IQ and reading of the game — is world class. World Class. That both stops counterattacks and creates turnovers in good spots, and since the US have been more of a pressing team since the start of 2020, and since the US have gone from a 3-2-2-3 attacking shape to a 2-3-2-3, Adams is pretty clearly the choice here. Yueill‘s skillset is the polar opposite. He is brilliant at receiving the ball in traffic, with his back to goal, then turning and spotting the exact pass that the situation calls for. He does, however, lack the range and bite that Adams has, and while he’s improved a ton in terms of shielding the back-line, his front-foot defense is a work in progress: https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6226756860001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The improvement curve is good, though. And it’s worth noting that even against a team as poor as Trinidad & Tobago last month, the US build-up kind of fell apart once he came off. I used to joke that the US needed cloning technology so that we could start Adams at RB, DM and one of the CM positions, but I think now what we need is some sort of genetic fusing tech, because if we could combine Adams and Yueill into one player we’d have the world’s best d-mid. As it is, though, this is a very strong start to the depth chart. It drops off a bit with Cardoso, the 19-year-old Brazilian-American who’s battled injury and illness and has seen his role with Internacional reduced substantially since September. But he’s still very much in the rotation and looked competent as hell in his US debut in November, so I’m not particularly worried. THE NEXT GROUP: Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) Bradley looks cooked to me and he removed “US men’s national team” from his social media profiles — which is usually a tell — but it’s not out of the question that he’d play a part in qualifying given the schedule crunch. He can’t really move anymore, but is still a superb distributor of the ball. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: James Sands (NYCFC) If he could stay healthy, I’m pretty sure he’d have a couple of caps by now. Sands might not be Berhalter’s style, though, as he’s an old-fashioned destroyer who shies away from hitting line-breaking passes. If he takes that step this year for NYCFC, he could jump into the top three.Andres Perea (Orlando City SC) Perea struggled in his full international debut last month and might not be a true No. 6, but he’s young and full of upside, and Berhalter recruited him for a reason. I’m curious to see where he plays for Orlando this season.Owen Otasowie (Wolves) I almost included him on the center back depth chart since I think that’s his long-term spot. Otasowie’s reads are fairly slow and his body positioning is straight-up weird for a defensive midfielder, and while he’s not old (he just turned 20) he’s not precisely a kid anymore. He needs to find a spot and start getting minutes.  · Central Midfielders Weston McKennie (Juventus)Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy)Yunus Musah (Valencia)Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg)Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids)Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders) I used to break this list up into “central midfielders” and “attacking midfielders,” delineating between the responsibilities of a No. 8 and a No. 10. But that is pretty useless now, since it’s clear that Berhalter prefers to play with two advanced central midfielders who both attack and defend. How they split responsibilities has more to do with their individual proclivities and strengths, as well as who’s playing winger and fullback on their side of the field, than it does with anything structurally inherent to Berhalter’s system. So I’ve been thinking of them as “free 8s” or “8.5s.” Neither is a true 8, though either can be if the situation calls for it. Neither is a true 10, though both are expected to do No. 10 things when the US are on the front foot. I do have it in my head, though, that certain guys are better as a right-sided free 8 and other guys are better on the left. Lletget, for example, does well when inverted, while Aaronson is a much more linear player who’s at his best on the right side. Either one could play either position, which goes for the rest of the guys on this list as well, but when they’re paired together, it’s pretty clear who would function on which side. From where I sit, that would likely mean McKennie as the right-sided, box-arriving free 8 and Lletget becomes more of a tempo-setting, inverted free 8 on the left in the current first-choice XI. Musah was great for the US last autumn, but man has he struggled in La Liga: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-1&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1359316128896610305&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px He also hasn’t officially committed his future to the US, but I’m pretty certain he will. That will be a good thing no matter how brutal Valencia are to watch this season. Aaronson has hit the ground running for Jesse Marsch in Austria, though I will have questions about his ability to find and control the game until he shows an ability to find and control the game. You can’t be a low-usage player as a free 8 no matter how dynamic you happen to be in other areas. Acosta’s faced the same usage issues through his career, but he’s worked his way back into the picture thanks to a strong 2020 with Colorado. Roldan has looked tentative in his last few US caps and nowhere near as dynamic off the ball as he often does with the Sounders, and I suspect he’ll soon be below some of the other guys I’m about to mention. But it’s worth keeping him on the list here because 1) Berhalter’s kept him in the frame, 2) he can play multiple positions, and 3) he’s a beloved teammate. That matters a lot. THE NEXT GROUP: Alfredo Morales (Fortuna Dusseldorf) I maybe should’ve listed Morales as a d-mid instead, but he plays a more advanced role at the club level and has usually played a more advanced role in his caps under Berhalter. Even though it seems like he’s been around forever, he’s still just 30 years old.Julian Green (Greuther Furth) Speaking of having been around forever, Green is having his finest pro season at the age of 25 playing as a shuttler in the Clovers’ 4-4-2 diamond. He hasn’t been called in since Berhalter’s been in charge and I genuinely don’t think he will be any time soon, but Berhalter name-checked him in a recent press conference as a player they’re monitoring, so here he is. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas) If he can stay healthy, he will push into the depth chart, and eventually push into a starting role. He covers a ton of ground, wins duels at an absurd, Ozzie Alonso-esque clip, is super press-resistant and his passing vision is just… https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-2&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1161845929152045056&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px But the “if” part of staying healthy is huge, and he’s 21 now. He’s got to get healthy, get out there and stay out there. Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas) When Tessman came on against T&T he was in one of the more advanced roles, but he might be better-suited as a Yueill-type regista instead. Either way he has the talent to push up and into the gameday 18.Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids) Bassett is probably the best box-arriving, accent run central midfielder in the pool (other than maybe McKennie). His timing getting into the box is a weapon in Berhalter’s system, but he’s got to show he has the other pieces — comfort on the ball in traffic, availability in build-up, defensive awareness — nailed down before he rises up the ranks.Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers) I was genuinely surprised to see Williamson sent home from camp before the T&T game given how strong a season he had in Portland, and how multi-faceted his game is. He carries the ball exceptionally well, is smooth receiving in traffic, and works hard defensively. I am certain we will see him in a future camp.Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg II) I have generally avoided putting pure prospects on this list (sorry to all you Moses Nyeman stans) because I don’t think a pure prospect is going to push in over the next year, but I’m making an exception for Kayo. The 18-year-old has now been to two US camps and has been promoted up to Wolfsburg’s second team. He is gifted both technically and athletically, and if he pushes through to the Wolfsburg first team by the end of this season, I won’t be at all shocked to see him earn a role with the full USMNT.Caden Clark (RBNY) This one might be a reach since the 17-year-old Clark has barely figured for the US even at the youth levels, but he was dominant in the USL Championship and outstanding in MLS last year. If his 2021 is reminiscent of Aaronson’s 2020, into the pool he goes. Though it’s perhaps slightly more likely he’d end up going into the pool as an inverted right winger. · Left Wingers Christian Pulisic (Chelsea)Jordan Morris (Swansea City)Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids)Chris Mueller (Orlando City) You’ve probably noticed already that I made the executive decision to only list guys at one spot, even though the reality is they’re in play for at least two (or sometimes more) different positions. Sergino Dest, for example, is my current first choice at both right and left back. But in my prior column, he was only listed at right back. The same is true for Pulisic and Morris, who are Nos. 1 & 2 at both right and left wing. If there were a game tomorrow they would be the starters, and that’s been earned over a number of years via their play for club and country. And that means even during downturns in form — as Pulisic is now experiencing in West London — let’s not kid ourselves about whether he’s written on the team sheet in pen. He is. Morris isn’t, but I still think he’s got the inside track on the other starting winger job (I look forward to the avalanche of Gio Reyna stans in my mentions once this is published). The big surprise of last month’s camp was that Lewis beat out Mueller, who’d been so good over the course of 2020. Lewis scored damn near this exact same goal vs. the Soca Warriors: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-3&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1284308553507823617&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px He also has pretty close to the same skillset as Morris. Mueller is more well-rounded, and probably more comfortable and effective playing on the right (as he does for Orlando), but he made a compelling pitch as a left-winger vs. El Salvador. THE NEXT GROUP: Sebastian Saucedo (UNAM Pumas) Saucedo emerged for Pumas in a big way, but has struggled with injuries over the past six months. The 24-year-old is maybe less of a pure winger than Berhalter likes, but if he plays well in Liga MX he could be a factor.Djordje Mihailovic, CF Montreal) Mihailovic, like Saucedo, is less of a pure winger and more of a wing playmaker. He’s been in and out of US camps over the past two years, and it’s entirely conceivable that he could play a role for the US this cycle. I just think it’s unlikely to be a large one. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Uly Llanez (Heerenveen) It seems as if Llanez, who started and scored vs. Costa Rica last year, is on his way out of an unhappy and unproductive loan at Heerenveen, and due a return to the Wolfsburg reserves. He’s still just 19, but there has been zero professional progress (I think it’s fair to say there’s been professional regression, to be honest) over the past year.Richie Ledezma (PSV) One of my favorite players from that great 2019 US U-20 team, Ledezma was just breaking into the PSV first team and had just earned his first US appearance before doing his ACL. I like him better long-term as a No. 10, but given Berhalter’s system and Ledezma’s lack of defensive presence, it’s more likely that when he returns to fitness, he does so as an inverted winger. · Right Wingers Tim Weah (Lille)Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund)Paul Arriola (Swansea City) Weah is finally approaching full health after three hamstring tears over the course of 12 months, and that means he’s approaching the top of the depth chart as well. In all honesty, I think you could make a case for him as the starter at any of the spots* in the front five — he’s that smart and that talented. (*) Including forward, which is where he’s most often been deployed for Ligue 1-leading Lille. That’s right, folks, there’s an actual title race in France this year! But for the sake of this exercise, I’ve got him at the top of the right wing depth chart. I don’t think he’d start over Morris (or maybe even Reyna) if the US had a massive game tomorrow, but it wouldn’t shock me and I certainly wouldn’t hate it if he did. The dude is just so precise and unselfish in his movement: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-4&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1357077731498995713&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px One thing to understand here is that excellent off-ball movement is additive no matter the team, the scheme or the score. Weah is perhaps the best player in the entire pool off the ball, and he brings a ton of skill on it to boot. Reyna has hit a wall, as have Dortmund. After coming out of the gates with 2g/4a in his first five games, he’s registered just 2g/2a in the subsequent 24 while bouncing between central midfield and left wing, and struggled in his two US appearances in November. Growing pains happen to basically every teenager, so I don’t think folks should sweat it too much. I also don’t think anyone should have him atop any depth charts at the moment, though. Placing Arriola third is rough on him given how he’s performed under Berhalter, but good players get pushed down the ladder when the pool fills with more talent. THE NEXT GROUP: Tyler Boyd (Sivasspor) Remember when it seemed like Boyd would be the big recruiting win of Berhalter’s tenure? Things sure have changed quite a bit, and not really in a good way for Boyd. He moved to Besiktas ahead of the 2019/20 season and while it seemed like a dream move at first… nope. He just could not put the ball in the net, which eventually cost him both his starting job and his spot on the roster. He just started a loan at Sivasspor, and while it seems unlikely he’d work his way back into the US mix, it’s not impossible. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Konrad De La Fuente (FC Barcelona) The 19-year-old has made a trio of appearances for Barca, playing 26 minutes. He’s spending most of his time with Barca B, where he’s not exactly lighting it up — just 1g/0a in about 600 minutes. He seems pretty far away from any first-team role, but kids can level up out of the blue and he is still, in fact, a kid. If that happens and he’s suddenly getting regular Barca minutes, he’ll get regular USMNT minutes, too.Benji Michel (Orlando City SC) Michel is a lot like Morris in that he’s a forward who’s really learning to play winger, and has done so well enough to at least earn a camp. He didn’t get onto the field vs. T&T and he seems pretty far from the first-team, but he’s on the radar at the very least, and stranger things have happened. Center Forward Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew SC)Josh Sargent (Werder Bremen)Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC) You know and I know that if there was a must-win game tomorrow, Gyasi would start as the No. 9. That will bother a lot of people and I have certainly been guilty of some Gyasi slander in the past, but he has evolved: https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=MattDoyle76&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-5&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1283956196672712705&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.mlssoccer.com%2Fpost%2F2021%2F02%2F11%2Fus-mens-national-team-depth-chart-midfielders-and-forwards-armchair-analyst&theme=light&widgetsVersion=889aa01%3A1612811843556&width=550px The man is never going to be Berbatov in his link-up play — hell, he’ll never be Sargent or Altidore, for that matter — but he’s risen to functional levels, and in terms of just knowing the dance steps and timing of Berhalter’s system, no one in the pool is better. Put him out there with those wingers and those central midfielders, and he will score. And if he’s not scoring it’s because he’s making hard runs to drag defenders away from the top of the box which opens space for other guys to score. If Sargent did that — if he knew the steps that well — he’d already be No. 1 on the list. He’s the most naturally talented forward the US has produced since Jozy, but like Jozy he’s not particularly good off the ball. That goes a long way toward explaining his paltry finishing totals in the Bundesliga. How much longer will Jozy have a spot on this list? It’s likely down to fitness. He got the start in the most important game of the Berhalter tenure thus far (the Gold Cup final vs. Mexico) and was the best US player through 45 minutes. But by the hour mark, he was off. That was almost two years ago. He’s 31 now and spent the bulk of last season looking like a guy who’s logged a lot of miles and can’t go 90. Maybe that changes in 2021. THE NEXT GROUP: Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas) Is he a 9 or not? Berhalter clearly thinks so, and in two caps Ferreira’s given ample evidence that Berhalter is correct. I have questions about his athleticism at the international level, but for now the bigger questions will come at the club level. They are “what position does he play?” and “will he even get on the pitch?”Daryl Dike (Barnsley) The big man STRUGGLED in his US debut last month, but I’m giving him a mulligan. Like Sargent and Altidore he’s not particularly dynamic off the ball, which is something he’ll have to work on — be it in England, or in the US.Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers) Ebobisse was pretty obviously beaten out by Ferreira and Dike in the most recent camp. As with Ferreira there are questions about his best position long-term (though unlike the Ferreira situation, I think there’s a pretty clear answer with Ebobisse: He’s a center forward).Nico Gioacchini (SM Caen) Gioacchini’s a true target-man who is both physical and fearless. He hasn’t exactly lit up Ligue 2, but he’s getting regular playing time and looked solid for the US vs. Panama.Aron Johannsson (Lech Poznan [reportedly]) I don’t think there’s any chance Johannsson actually pushes his way into the picture, but as with Green I’m including him on the list since Berhalter name-checked him last month. YOUNGSTERS TO KEEP AN EYE ON: Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC) I wasn’t sure where to list Ayo since “we might lose him to Canada” isn’t a large group. So I’ll list him here since… we might lose him to Canada. I hope we don’t, as Akinola has thus far been the most clever and consistently goal-hungry in his movement of the youngsters (and almost all of these guys on the forward depth chart are really young) thus far.Matthew Hoppe (Schalke 04) Five goals in three games! The first American with a hat-trick in the Bundesliga! Hoppe did the damn thing, but now the challenge is to keep doing it. His goalscoring record for Schalke’s developmental sides was not good, and there is a reasonable amount of concern that his outburst was a flash in the pan. That said, his off-ball movement is sharp and I think it’s generally wise to trust forwards who make good runs.Sebastian Soto (Norwich City U-23s) Berhalter did Soto a solid and got him enough appearances to earn a work permit, which means he’s got a chance to earn his way up to the Norwich first team. Until that happens, I don’t really expect him to figure into Berhalter’s plans again.Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas) Pepi, who just turned 18, might have a higher upside than any other forward in the pool. And that’s why he’s here — there’s a part of the multiverse where he wins the starting job for Dallas, bangs in 20 goals, and pushes his way into the picture. He’s got that type of talent.

Whitley: For Florida soccer coach Becky Burleigh it was more than just about winning David Whitley  Gainesville Sun  

A letter was sent to a search committee at Florida in 1994. The school was starting a women’s soccer program and needed a coach. A longshot candidate wanted to make her case.”I am intrigued with the possibilities involved in creating a new program and would be committed to making the University of Florida one of the top programs in the country,” she wrote.Twenty-seven fast years later, Becky Burleigh can say “Mission accomplished.”Actually, she could have said that 20 years ago. Seemingly in a blink, the Gators were national champs.And seemingly in a blink, it’s about to end.Burleigh, 53, announced her retirement two weeks ago. She’ll step down after the spring season, which begins next week.The announcement was a surprise, but not a shock. After two decades of kicking butt, UF’s program has struggled lately.COVID-19 has split this season into halves, and the Gators went 2-7-1 in the fall. Discontent arose, but the grumbling was awkward. It’s hard to call for a beloved queen to be kicked off the throne she built.  I couldn’t tell you what went wrong or whether it could have been fixed. But Burleigh can tell you what one of the problems was: Emotional energy.”If you feel like you cannot consistently bring that every single day and do it enthusiastically, then it’s time to let somebody else do that,” she said. “That’s what a team deserves, especially at this level.” https://3912d23a357ba500a287f0a9c8da84ba.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html She’s been enthusiastically doing it since she was barely old enough to order a drink. Burleigh was 21 when she became head coach at Berry College.Coaching is all-consuming, especially when you do it the Burleigh Way. She doesn’t just concentrate on the X’s and O’s, she’s a mother, professor, counselor, confidant and cheerleader.”She means a lot more to us than just a coach,” midfielder Syd Kennedy said. That’s the difference between winning and success. Any successful coach has to win games. But winning games does not necessarily equate to success.That comes from making the people not just better players and coaches, but better people. It comes from giving countless Rotary speeches, helping charities and making your city a better community.Burleigh was raised in Tarpon Springs, but had never set foot on Florida’s campus until she showed up at the athletic offices for her interview.”The vibe was young and exciting and people were getting after it,” she said. “And then you see the resources.”Athletic Director Jeremy Foley offered the 26-year-old Burleigh the job. She said yes. He stuck out his hand and said, “Welcome to the Gators.”And the rest is women’s soccer history.In just four years, the Gators were hoisting the NCAA Championship trophy. They went 26-1 and beat North Carolina 1-0, snapping the mighty Tar Heels’ 70-match unbeaten streak.That’s the same North Carolina that pounded Florida 9-0 two years earlier. Burleigh knew the Gators weren’t ready, but they needed to learn from the best.hose early bumps forged relationships that went beyond the soccer pitch. Proof came when players told her they’d ordered her a birthday present.”I was thinking it was like a sweatshirt,” Burleigh said.It was a dog named Copa. He was eventually joined by another yellow Labrador named Cody. Then came Buddy, Rose, Large Marge and Lucy.”All rescues,” Burleigh said. “All mutts.”All loved their owner so much they hated to see her go to work in the morning. A lot of times, they went with her.The sight of a dog wearing goggles and sitting in the sidecar of Burleigh’s scooter became one of Gainesville’s charms.Ah, those scooters.Burleigh figured out early that parking was a problem on campus. She started scooting to work, only to discover there also was no scooter parking.In fact, you’d get a ticket for parking a scooter at a bike rack. Burleigh got her share.”I tried to befriend the parking people,” she said. “Didn’t work. Those people are hardcore.”She eventually ordered a sign she’d hang above her scooter.”Parking for Soccer Coach’s Scooter Only.”It was fake, but it worked for a couple of years. Somehow, it’s hard to imagine Urban Meyer appealing a ticket before the UF parking politburo.”They didn’t rescind any of the tickets,” Burleigh laughed, “but they at least appreciated the effort.”Burleigh’s always had an innate need to expand herself, to try new things. Even if the program was still winning like it’s 1996, the tug to move on would have been hard to ignore.So as she rides her Vespa into the sunset, how do we measure the only coach Florida women’s soccer has ever known? It’s partially by the 14 SEC titles and 22 NCAA tournament berths and 507 wins. But it’s also by the emotional energy Burleigh brought every day.It’s by the life problems she helped players work through. It’s by the bonds she forged. It’s by the smiles she spread.And it’s by all the misty-eyed people who’ve approached her the past couple of weeks.”It’s like you’re going to a funeral, but you’re not dead,” Burleigh said. “They’re going to say a lot of nice things about you.”There are a lot of reasons for that. Perhaps the biggest is that Burleigh wasn’t just a winner at Florida.She was a resounding success.— David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun’s sports columnist. Contact him at dwhitley@gannett.com.

Crystal Dunn’s time arrives to be one of American soccer’s top stars

Dunn has long been one of the U.S. team’s top players, but she has become especially marquee lately — perhaps because everyone knows she’s not going to move up from left back any time soon. Crystal Dunn on the ball during a U.S. women’s soccer team game against Colombia last month.John Raoux / AP by Jonathan TannenwaldPublished eb 13, 2021 It’s nothing new that Crystal Dunn is one of the U.S. women’s soccer team’s best and most popular players.But something about Dunn’s status right now feels a little more emphatic, a little more intentional. You see it in sponsors’ ads, in the national team’s social media posts, and in the many other ways an athlete is seen as a star these days. Her status will only grow in the coming months, as she gets ready for the Olympics and makes her club debut with the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, the league’s biggest team. It’s also nothing new that Dunn is one of the U.S. team’s most forthright players. But she hasn’t always been forthright on a subject she cares about a lot: her distaste for playing left back with the national team. Those who know her well, from her club coaches to teammates and media members, have long been aware of it. (That group includes this reporter, to whom Dunn called left back “my secondary position” in an interview after the 2019 World Cup.) Only recently has Dunn been willing to really put it out there — and the biggest breakthrough came just last month. In an interview with Forbes, she said she wants to be a midfield playmaker for her country “because it is a position that not a lot of Black women play.”“Playing at a 10 [creative role] means that I am now combating the stereotypes of being fast, physical, and strong,” Dunn said. “I am passionate about wanting the world to see more Black women, especially in the roles that don’t fit the stereotypes that have been placed on us.”Why did Dunn decide to finally let loose now? She reflected on that in a news conference Saturday ahead of Thursday’s SheBelieves Cup opener against Canada (7 p.m., FS1, TUDN) “I think I’ve always given the very soft answer of, ‘Yeah, I don’t like playing left back, you knw, but I’m a team player,’ and all of that is so true,” she said. “But I think it’s also important people realize what I deal with on a daily basis is very much different than most players, you know.”Dunn played an attacking midfield role for her former club, the North Carolina Courage. She is expected to have a similar job in Portland. She said she feels “more myself” in that position, “playing freely, getting involved in the attack, and just, you know, expressing myself in the way that I’ve always thought was the ay I should be expressing myself.”But she also wants to make sure she’s a role model as a team player.“As much as I am proud to represent my country, be on this team, you know — right now considering myself a starter, but always competing to stay on the field and remain a starter, I think people need to know that, you know, I’ll do what it takes to be on the field, even if that means that I am not particularly happy inside,” Dunn said. “But I do think of the bigger picture, and the bigger picture is winning an Olympic gold medal, wanting to be a part, and being impactful on the field. And if that’s at left back, then that’s at left back.” Crystal Dunn, center, on the ball during a U.S. game against England last March.John Raoux / AP She also knows the bigger picture includes the fact that attacking midfield is the national team’s most stacked position. Rose Lavelle, Sam Mewis, Lindsey Horan and now Catarina Macario are vying for starting jobs in the center; Megan Rapinoe, Tobin Heath and Christen Press are the leading wing creators.Then comes the biggest roadblock of all. Dunn is the best left back in the national team pool, and it’s not close. In fact, the competition is so far behind that there isn’t a clear No. 2.Casey Krueger (née Short and recently married) has come close to the status, but has never seized it. Emily Sonnett, a longtime centerback and right back, played some left back against Colombia last month. And while Emily Fox has a bright future, the No. 1 pick in this year’s NWSL draft hasn’t played a pro club game yet. Meanwhile, Dunn keeps excelling. In fact she has gotten even better in the role under current U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski, whose playbook gives her considerable latitude to join the attack. She even got to play left wing some last month, which got plenty of attention. (Andonovski said afterward he knew how happy she’d be.) Crystal Dunn (19) celebrates with Lindsay Horan (9) and Julie Ertz (8) after Horan scored a goal against Colombia on Jan. 22.Alex Menendez / Getty Images / TNS “I think he really understands that a lot of us do play slightly different roles sometimes in club [teams] and with the national team, and I think he’s allowed people to feel as free as possible in that role,” Dunn said. “For me, obviously being an outside back, I’m like, yeah, I get it, gotta defend, but I’m also like, I’m trying to get involved in that attack, like, you know? And I think he understands that.”However Dunn’s role evolves in the future, this much is certain: Her role as one of the U.S. national team’s most prominent players is only going to grow. And she will continue to not hold anything back.“I think I am the one to push those boundaries and say, you know, we need to change the narrative of only white women play this sport, only white people play this sport,” she said. “I want to be very clear that whether it is me who is ever considered a face of women’s soccer, that really isn’t my goal, but my goal is for the Black women coming after me to feel like they even have a chance to be the face of this sport.”

2/12/21 US Ladies She Believes Cup Thurs 2/18 FS1, Champs League Sweet 16, Bayern Munich wins FIFA World Club Cup, Big TV Games

Games to Watch this Weekend

The battle in the EPL continues Sat with a 3rd vs 4th place battle with Leicester City hosting Liverpool at 7:30 am on NBCSN followed by 1st place Man City hosting Tottenham at 12:30 on NBC.  Dortmund and US Mid Gio Reyna are desperate for wins to get back in the top 4 vs Hoffenhiem and new American loanee Chris Richards from Bayern Sat at 9:30 am on ESPN+.  Not much on Valentines Sunday maybe 3rd place Wolfsburg with American Defender John Brooks hosting 5th Borussia MGladbach at noon on ESPN+.  Of course Champions League Sweet 16 first legs are back and Barcelona vs PSG will take the feature spot at 3 pm on Tuesday on CBS Sports Network, while Liverpool will play US Mid Adams and RB Leipzig in Bucharest at 3 pm on CBSAA Tuesday.  Wed gives us Porto hosting Juventus and American McKinney at 3 pm on CBSAA while Dortmund and Gio Reyna will travel to Sevilla at 3 pm for the CBS Sports Network game I think.  Funny CBS bragging its going to show us the Champions League Final on CBS.  Whoa – we have to pay to watch the BEST GD 16 teams in the World play in the Round of 16 or 8 or 4 – behind a horrific firewall Pay Channel CBSAA without even the ability to re-wind – but they are going to bless us with the final on CBS network TV.  Thank you oh CBS Gods. 

Oh Wed at 3 pm Everton will host EPL League leader Man City on NBCSN  – weird timing.   Of course the US Ladies will host the She Believe’s Cup with a Thurs 7 pm matchup vs Canada on FS1 – right after Brazil faces Argentina at 4 pm on FS1 from Orlando. 

US Ladies – She Believes Cup Starts Thurs

The US will face Argentina first Thurs at 7 pm on FS1 live from Orlando.  Good to see both Alex Morgan and Christen Press return to the squad and it makes the She Believe’s Cup must see TV as coach tries to 1 stay undefeated and 2 try to figure out which 18 players will be headed to the Olympics this summer.  We hope! 

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21)

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Thur Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Argentina 4 PM ET
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada 7 PM ET  FS1
Sun Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET
Wed Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET
Feb. 24 USA vs. Argentina 7 PM ET  FS1

 World Notes

Congrats to Bayern Munich for winning their 6th cup this year – by winning the FIFA World Club Cup 2-0 vs Mexican Side Tigres.  This is the first time a North American team has advanced to the Finals of the World Club Cup – and speaks well of our own MLS Squad LAFC who lost in extra time after 2 legs to Tigres.  Imagine a MLS team at the FIFA World Club Cup vs a Liverpool or Bayern or Juve?  LAFC and Bob Bradley were just 1 lucky goal away from being there.  Also huge congrats to Juve Legendary GK Gigi Buffon who just turned 43 last week – as he kept a clean sheet for Juventus vs league leader Inter on Wednesday to help his team with Renaldo and McKinney advance to the Italian Cup Final. 

FA Cup – Final 8

If you didn’t see the FA Cup Cup game on ESPN+ between Everton vs Tottenham on Wed you missed 1 hell of a game – 9 goals scored 7 in the first 90 minutes. Kane, James, Son all scoring huge goals to swing the momentum – it was just fantastic soccer.  Premier League leaders Manchester City will take a trip to Everton and Manchester United travel to Leicester City in the FA Cup quarterfinals following the draw on Thursday.  Everton, who beat Tottenham Hotspur 5-4 in a thrilling match on Wednesday, will host Pep Guardiola’s City, who set a top-flight record with a 15th straight victory in all competitions when they beat Championship Swansea City and US Forward Jordan Morris 3-1.  Manchester United will take on fellow league title contenders Leicester. United, who last won the FA Cup in 2016, are bidding to win the trophy for the 13th time.  Second tier Bournemouth and American will host fellow south coast club Southampton, who beat Wolverhampton Wanderers 2-0 on Thursday to make the last eight.  Chelsea, who won 1-0 at Championship side Barnsley, will entertain the Premier League’s bottom club Sheffield United. The matches will be played on the weekend of March 20-21.

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri, Feb 12

2 pm NBCSN                     Man United (Press) vs Man City (Mewis, Levelle) Women’s EPL

Sat,  Feb 13

7:30 am NBCSN               Leicester City vs Liverpool

8 am beIN Sport                 Atletico vs Granada

9:30 am ESPN+                Dortmund (Reyna) vs Hoffenhiem (Richards)

12 ESPN+                           Juventus (McKinney) vs Napoli

12:30 pm NBC                   Man City vs Tottenham

12:30 pm ESPN+              Schalke (Hoppe)  vs Union Berlin

Sun, Feb 14

9 am ESPN2                       Cagliari vs Atalanta  Italy

9 am NBCSN                      West Brom vs Man United

10:!5 am beIN Sport         Real Madrid vs Valencia

11:30 am NBCSN              Arsenal vs Leeds United 

12 noon ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Borussia MGladbach

2:!5 Peacock                      Fulham (Robinson) vs Everton

2:45 pm ESPN+                Inter vs Lazio  Italy

3 pm beIn Sport                 Real Bettis vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Feb 15

1 pm NBCNS                      West Ham vs Sheffield United

3 pm NBCSN                      Chelsea (Pulisic) vs New Castle United

Tuesday, Feb. 16

RB Leipzig (Adams) vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Barcelona vs. PSG, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 17

1 pm NBCSN                      Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

Porto vs. Juventus (McKinney), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Sevilla vs. Borussia Dortmund (Reyna), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

3 pm NBCSN                     Everton vs Man City

Thurs  Feb 18

1 pm CBSAA                      Real Sociadad vs Man United

4 pm Fox Sports 1             Brazil vs Argentina  She Believes Cup 

7 pm Fox Sports 1            USA Women vs Canada She Believes Cup

Sat,  Feb 20

7:30 am NBCSN               Southampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

10:15 am beIN Sport         Atletico vs Levante

12:30 pm NBC                   Liverpool vs Everton  

12:30 pm ESPN+              Schalke (Hoppe)  vs Dortmund (Reyna)

Sun   Feb 21

7 am NBCSN                      West Ham vs Tottenham

9 am ESPN+                       AC Milan vs Inter  1 vs 2 Italy

9 am NBCSN                     Aston Villa vs Man City

3 pm Fox Sports 1            USA Women vs Brazil She Believes Cup

Tuesday, Feb. 23

Lazio vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Pulisic), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Atalanta vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Champions League Sweet 16 is Back

 Atletico-Chelsea UCL game moved to Bucharest
RB Leipzig-Liverpool to be played in Budapest
Neymar out vs. Barca; questions style of play
PSG’s Neymar injured ahead of big clash at Barca
CBS to Show Champ League final on CBS

Round of 16

Tuesday, Feb. 16

  • Leg 1: RB Leipzig (Adams) vs. Liverpool, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Barcelona vs. PSG, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 17

  • Leg 1: Porto vs. Juventus (McKinney), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Sevilla vs. Borussia Dortmund (Reyna), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

Tuesday, Feb. 23

  • Leg 1: Lazio vs. Bayern Munich, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Atletico Madrid vs. Chelsea (Pulisic), 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access/CBS Sports Network)

Wednesday, Feb. 24

  • Leg 1: Borussia Monchengladbach vs. Manchester City, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  
  • Leg 1: Atalanta vs. Real Madrid, 3 p.m. ET (CBS All Access)  

 US Men

USMNT, Northern Ireland announce March international friendly
USMNT, Barcelona defender Sergino Dest out injured

USMNT, Mexico battle for teenage star Munoz
WATCH: Brenden Aaronson’s first Red Bull Salzburg goal was a beauty
Americans at home: Yanks who need to bounce back in 2021
Gregg Berhalter confirms squad rotation for Gold Cup & Nations League

 US Ladies

Fully recovered from COVID-19, new mom Alex Morgan prepares for Tokyo Olympics  LA Times
Power couple: Rapinoe and Bird on cover of GQ
Black History Month: Couldn’t keep Shannon in a Boxx
Defender Casey Krueger Replaces Alana Cook On for the 2021 Shebelieves Cup
Heath ruled out of SheBelieves Cup with injury

US Women overseas

MLS 

MLS 2021 regular season to begin April 17!
MLS players ratify seven-year collective bargaining agreement with league

Concacaf history made as LAFC conquerors Tigres advance to Club World Cup final

New York Red Bulls sign youngest player in club history, turns 15 on Weds.
Bogert: What Brenner signing means for Cincy & what’s next
MLS ref Drew Fischer assigned to Club World Cup third-place match
Open Cup: Full details on restructured tournament for 2021

 WORLD

Bayern Munich beats Tigres, wins second Club World Cup
RB Leipzig emerge as Bayern’s biggest Bundesliga rivals
13hDerek Rae
‘Exceptional’ Ibrahimovic breaks 500-goal mark to keep AC Milan top

Morocco defeat Mali to become first back-to-back CHAN champions
 EPL
 FA Cup QFs: Leicester-Man Utd; Everton-Man City
Premier League Power Rankings

Chelsea issue update on Christian Pulisic

Pogba to be sidelined for a ‘few weeks’, says Solskjaer

Premier League referee contacts police after death threats

Mike Dean receives death threats; Soucek red card overturned

Klopp scrambles for answers as Liverpool’s season unravels

Alisson gifts leader Man City win at fading champ Liverpool

 INDY 11

DEFENDER NEDELJKO MALIĆ LATEST INTERNATIONAL SIGNING FOR INDY ELEVEN
INDY ELEVEN SIGNS MIDFIELDER ABOUBACAR SISSOKO
BACK HOME AGAIN! INDY ELEVEN RETURNING TO MICHAEL A. CARROLL STADIUM IN 2021
INDY ELEVEN PAIRS WITH PUMA ON NEW LOOK FOR INDIANA’S TEAM
INDY ELEVEN SIGNS VETERAN ENGLISH MIDFIELDER NICKY LAW
MLS’ VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC ACQUIRES GOALKEEPER EVAN NEWTON VIA TRANSFER

https://www.indyeleven.com/2021-season-tickets

 Morris, Arriola’s delayed moves to Europe show there’s more than one path to USMNT stardom

Feb 9, 2021ESPN

These days, the career path for young American players seems straightforward: Get your butt to Europe as early and as quickly as possible, and then progress from there. It’s an approach that, in the past six months alone, has seen the likes of Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas to Roma), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union to Genk), Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia to FC Salzburg), and Daryl Dike (Orlando City to Barnsley), each make moves abroad before their 22nd birthdays.The recent exodus continues an ever-growing trend for American stars, with the likes of Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Giovani Reyna having all previously crossed the Atlantic as youngsters.Jump to: A few minutes with Cannon | Stock watch: Brooks, Pulisic, Siebatcheu, De La Fuente

All of which makes the paths taken by Paul Arriola and Jordan Morris feel anachronistic by comparison. Both recently completed loan moves to English Championship high-flyers Swansea City — and could line up against Manchester City this Wednesday in the FA Cup (12:30 p.m. ET, ESPN+) — but did so at the relatively advanced age of 26. Not that it’s too late by any means.”My goal was always to grow as a player, and that continues to be my goal,” said Arriola. “How can I push myself? How can I take myself to the next level?”Granted, each career carries with it its own momentum. For some, the path is clear early on and resembles a beautifully paved road. Others can get stuck in blind alleys or turn down opportunities to move abroad, the path not taken haunting them at the end of their playing days. There is also a school of thought that starting out abroad and then returning to MLS is akin to forever turning one’s back on foreign opportunities. Yet that is what Arriola did, beginning his career with Liga MX side Club Tijuana, where he spent four years.

While Arriola made himself useful for Xolos, he never quite rose to the ranks of being indispensable. So when D.C. United came calling in 2017 with a $3 million transfer fee, he jumped at the chance, eschewing other opportunities overseas, and became a consistent presence for both the Black-and-Red and the United States men’s national team. All the while, the California native never closed the door on future opportunities abroad.”My thoughts were I can use MLS as a trampoline bounce, and then go further if I was successful,” he said. “I found some stability [with DCU], and I was able to establish myself. I continued to want that same type of career where you’re a constant impact player, you’re always involved in games.”As much as it’s become a cliche that there are myriad paths to a successful pro career, Morris seemed to violate even more tenets of how best to navigate that path. He turned down a homegrown deal with the Seattle Sounders when he was 18 in order to go the much-maligned college route and attend Stanford University. His reasoning was simple — with the likes of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Eddie Johnson on the team’s books, playing time would be hard to come by. Going to a high-level program like Stanford would still test him.”Going [to Stanford], I felt that my path was just going to be: play however many years there, hopefully, try to win a national championship and then come back to the Sounders because European teams aren’t scouting college kids,” he said.A scrimmage against the U.S. men’s national team ahead of the 2014 World Cup changed everything. Morris impressed then-U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann so much that he was called up to the senior team later that year, becoming the first college player in 15 years to play for the USMNT. Then in 2015, in his first international start, the forward scored in a friendly against rivals Mexico. When Morris decided to turn professional in early 2016 following his junior year at Stanford, he trained with and received an offer from Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. Seattle was also trying to land the forward, but it was clear what most observers thought he should do: Head to Germany. Morris disagreed, joining the hometown Sounders instead.”Going over to Bremen, I definitely felt that pressure, that people thought that was the best option for me,” Morris said. “But I knew myself. And I knew what I felt was going to be best for my career and where I felt I would develop the best and I felt that was going to be Seattle.”That decision was panned in some circles: then-U.S. international Jermaine Jones said at the time that Morris took “the easy way.” But Morris felt that being near home would help him adapt to the professional game, and time has shown the move clearly paid off with a pair of MLS Cups to his name. When Morris tore his ACL in 2018, being close to family aided his recovery. And like Arriola, Morris never felt like he was completely giving up on a European move.”I felt confident that that option would be there,” he said. “But again, at the time, and even now, if I played my whole career in Seattle, I think I would have been really, really happy and fulfilled and felt that I developed really well as a player.”

Americans in Europe

Could either player have developed quicker if they had pounced on overseas opportunities earlier in their careers? It’s impossible to say. One or both might have seen their stock skyrocket, but plenty of American careers have dried up in Europe as well. They certainly head to Europe now as more established, mature players.Timing was a factor as well in terms of making a move now. Morris said he had been feeling the itch in recent years to test himself overseas. With MLS not scheduled to start until April 3, Arriola spoke of not wanting to wait a few months for his next competitive match, especially as he continues to return to full strength following an ACL injury of his own. With a busy international calendar ahead, testing themselves and staying sharp will be paramount. And now they’ll have each other to lean on as well, on a club in the thick of the Premier League promotion race.”Paul and I are really close, [and have been] for a while now with the national team,” said Morris. “He’s one of my good friends, so it’s pretty surreal actually, that we ended up in the in the same spot.”Especially given the paths they took.— Jeff Carlisle

A few minutes with … Reggie Cannon

USMNT right-back Reggie Cannon joined Portuguese outfit Boavista in September after three-plus seasons in MLS with FC Dallas.The 20-year-old recently caught up with ESPN’s Tom Hamilton to discuss his decision to move to Europe, life in Portugal and what it is like at Boavista so far.

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

John Brooks, Wolfsburg — On the rise: Brooks has quietly been one of the top-performing Americans in Europe this season, commanding a Wolfsburg defence that has conceded just 19 goals in 19 Bundesliga games, the second-best mark in Germany’s top flight. In fact, Wolfsburg have not conceded a goal in five consecutive games over all competitions, with Brooks playing every minute during that span. The 28-year-old was reportedly available for transfer last summer, sources tell ESPN, but it would seem Wolfsburg are quite happy that they have held onto the American.According to one German journalist, Brooks has formed an “ideal partnership” with newcomer Maxence Lacroix due to Brooks’ experience and Lacroix’s speed. If Brooks’ can replicate his recent club form with the national team, it would be a huge boon for the USMNT, as inconsistency has defined his international career so far.

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea – Trending down Trending down: Thomas Tuchel confirmed after Chelsea’s win over Sheffield United on Sunday that Pulisic was omitted from the squad because of “family issues,” but the 22-year-old’s involvement under the new Blues boss has been limited to 84 minutes in four games.

Sources tell ESPN’s James Olley that the United States international’s diminished game time could be explained by a couple of reasons: the club’s medical staff are concerned that the United States international is at risk of suffering another hamstring injury, and Tuchel is keen to evaluate the squad at his disposal, already having a good understanding of what Pulisic offers after their time together at Borussia Dortmund.

Jordan Siebatcheu, Young Boys (on loan from Rennes) — On the rise: If Siebatcheu is an unfamiliar name to you, it’s perhaps because he has never played for the United States at any level. The Washington D.C.-born forward, who on loan at Swiss giants Young Boys from Ligue 1’s Rennes, bagged a hat-trick last week to take his tally for the season to seven goals in 17 games for the Swiss Super League leaders. While things didn’t work out for him initially at Rennes, sources tell ESPN that the French club remains quite positive about his future, expecting him to return and fight for a starting place next season.

The former France Under-21 international remains eligible for the United States and, in an interview with American Soccer Now last year, hinted he would be open to representing the Stars and Stripes. Given the USMNT’s uncertainty at striker, don’t be surprised if the in-form Siebatcheu receives a call-up from Gregg Berhalter soon.

Konrad de la Fuente, Barcelona — Holding steady: After surprisingly cracking Barca’s first-team out of preseason at the tender age of 19, De la Fuente has faded into the background a bit in recent months. The winger has managed just 26 minutes for Barca so far this campaign and thus has been turning out for Barca B recently to get playing time.With Ronald Koeman adamant that youngsters need to play and gain experience, sources tell ESPN that if Barca can keep players fit, the plan now is for him to train with the first team in the week, join up with the B team on Friday or Saturday and then play for them at the weekends. Breaking into a star-studded Barca team was always going to be a tall task for the youngster, and next season Barca will have to decide whether it is best for his development to stay around the first-team again or go out on loan and get minutes.

Scouting report: Bryan Reynolds

Bryan Reynolds has just 31 MLS appearances to his name and has yet to represent the United States above the Under-18 level, yet two of Italy’s biggest clubs, Juventus and AS Roma, were desperate to sign him during the winter transfer window. Why? Potential.

Roma ultimately won the tug-of-war for the 19-year-old right-back, the latest bright talent –Weston McKennie, Chris Richards, Reggie Cannon, etc. — to emerge from FC Dallas’ fruitful development pipeline. What they are getting is a player with huge upside, as Reynolds possesses great size (6’3″) and speed, and is an excellent crosser of the ball. Reynolds’ time as a winger earlier in his career also seems to have really benefitted him from an attacking perspective, particularly as a dribbler and in terms of his directness. This past season he picked up three assists for Dallas but with the number of chances he created (16 in 19 games), that figure could have easily been higher.Where Reynolds will need to continue to develop is as a defender. While far from a liability this past season, the youngster was inconsistent at times defensively, and he definitely has room to improve when it comes to tracking runners and not getting caught too far forward. This seems to be a common thread with most young full-backs, and given Reynolds’ recent position switch, this could simply be dismissed as inexperience at the position.Reynolds is not a player who will jump into Roma’s starting XI overnight but he does possess tremendous attacking potential as a full-back long-term, and that is what top clubs are shelling out the big bucks for these days.

Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan energized by return to USWNT

By JULIA POEORLANDO SENTINEL |FEB 11, 2021 AT 8:24 PM As Alex Morgan pushes to return to top form with the U.S. women’s national team, the star striker says she’s looking to Orlando Pride teammate Sydney Leroux for guidance and support balancing life as an elite athlete and a mother.Leroux and Morgan have played together and against one another for more than a decade — in the Pac-12, the NWSL and with the national team. But due to pregnancies and injuries, they have rarely shared the pitch in Orlando.This season will be different as the two forwards chase comebacks delayed by the pandemic.Morgan said she believes they can help each other achieve their goals.“I’m really happy to have Syd on the team just to be able to help guide me,” said Morgan, who is still early in her return from giving birth to her daughter, Charlie. “She has been here quite a few years with kids, and this is kind of really my first go-around into a full season. … I feel like having Syd on my team, having another mom to be able to lean on in certain times is really important for me.”https://www.instagram.com/p/CLIsO6yF6Zo/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=13&wp=658&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.orlandosentinel.com&rp=%2Fsports%2Forlando-pride-soccer%2Fos-sp-orlando-pride-alex-morgan-orlando-pride-20210212-2gzi5cqj5zdpdgtwcrh33j7s2u-story.html#%7B%22ci%22%3A0%2C%22os%22%3A3694.81999999698%7D The pair trained together for several weeks before preseason began. During early sessions, Morgan noted their immediate chemistry on and off the field.Morgan and Leroux offer each other an important link as stylistically unique strikers. Off the field, Morgan said they can talk about anything now — sleep schedules, favorite snacks, their favorite new pajamas for the kids.Leroux offers advice and support to Morgan, who joins a small group of mothers in the NWSL.“I think I’m being a mom of two and a woman, I think we can do it all,” Leroux said. “I hope that I prove that to girls and women and moms every single day.”Morgan said this support has become essential as she prepares for the 2021 NWSL season, which will be her first full season back since pregnancy after a short loan stint in Tottenham.

Morgan’s comeback always ran through Orlando. The striker said she never planned to remain in England with Tottenham long-term. At most, she considered staying for the remainder of the FA WSL season, then returning to the Pride for the NWSL regular season.But Morgan wanted a smoother transition into the regular season and the chance to be closer to family before the NWSL season began.Charliehas now become a common sight at the Pride’s training facility and the Americans’ hotel. Morgan said her presence only sharpens her desire to perform on the pitch.“Now also having Charlie, I feel like I’m making the most of it when I go to training,” Morgan said. “I don’t want to give 90%. I want to make sure I give 100% every time I go to training, because that’s pulling me away from Charlie.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/CLFIlSuhPRS/embed/captioned/?cr=1&v=13&wp=658&rd=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.orlandosentinel.com&rp=%2Fsports%2Forlando-pride-soccer%2Fos-sp-orlando-pride-alex-morgan-orlando-pride-20210212-2gzi5cqj5zdpdgtwcrh33j7s2u-story.html#%7B%22ci%22%3A1%2C%22os%22%3A4954.024999999092%7D Morgan’s return plan was delayed in January when she tested positive for COVID-19.

Charlie and Morgan’s husband, Servando Carrasco, got sick after flying from England to Los Angeles, where they shared photos celebrating the Christmas holiday with a group of family members.Morgan said the sickness was challenging for all three.

“I actually had a lot of symptoms from COVID,” Morgan said. “I was fairly sick.”Morgan said her family took two weeks to sleep and rest before she could begin to attempt training again. It took at least three weeks, she said, to return to feeling like herself.“It took a lot of patience as well on my end,” Morgan said.After fighting through COVID-19 symptoms, Morgan said she’s no longer feeling lingering effects from the virus. She’s now training at full speed with the national team as the U.S. prepares to host the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando later this month.Although the pandemic delayed Morgan’s return to the club and international stage, she said the extended recovery time was something of a “silver lining” throughout the last year.The striker said she’s refreshed and believes she’s at a similar point physically and mentally as her teammates.When asked how close she felt to a return of her tea-sipping goal celebration, Morgan said she nearly felt back to that caliber of play.“I’m kind of waiting for the tea to cool down right now to take a sip, you know,” Morgan said. “Not quite there, but it’s coming soon enough.”For Morgan, all of this preparation is happening with an understanding that her ultimate goal — the Tokyo Olympics — might not happen.The pandemic forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics and reports of a potential cancellation have swirled during the past month.Morgan said the Americans are continuing to train with the expectation of competing this summer, but adaptability has become key as she approaches the new year.“You have to prepare like it’s gonna happen, knowing that it could could be shut down with a moment’s notice,” Morgan said. “We’ve seen that in leagues all over the world and that’s just part of the world that we’re living in right now. It’s definitely a different mindset, because I never would have imagined that you would just be told that you’re not playing a game the next day and be like, ‘Okay.’ But that’s literally the mindset you have to take now.”

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.

Black History Month: Couldn’t keep USWNT mid Shannon in a Boxx

Shannon Boxx is one of America’s greatest soccer players ever, and she excelled while also living with lupus.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Feb 9, 2021, 9:00am PST

Shannon Boxx was a unique player for the United States Women’s National Team. She was a player that played the right style at the right position at the right time, and is known as one of the great players in U.S. Soccer history. But, it was a diagnosis late in her career that made her career even more unique.Boxx grew up in Torrance, California with her white single mother. Her father was black, but there wasn’t much interaction with him. One thing that Shannon latched onto early was soccer, and her talent was very evident even in her youth. She dominated youth soccer in California, leading her local team in Torrance to 4 state championships and 2 USYSA Final Fours. She was a Parade All American in 1995 for high school soccer, and she also excelled at volleyball, softball, and basketball during her high school days.

Boxx earned a scholarship to play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and as a freshman, she helped the team to its first national championship. She played for 4 years in South Bend, and was All-Big East 3 years in a row. She has the most appearances in Notre Dame history with 101 matches. It was at Notre Dame that Boxx began to discover more of her African American heritage.“For me, I really learned about my other half. I took African American studies. I majored in it. I think that was one of the best things I could have ever done. My mom couldn’t teach me those things. So I went and taught myself and learned those things when I was at Notre Dame.”

After Notre Dame, she played a couple seasons with the Boston enegades of the W-League and with 1. FC Saarbrücken in the Frauen-Bundesliga, but almost retired because of her unhappiness. She then came home to play in the new Women’s United Soccer Association, getting drafted in the first round by the San Diego Spirit. She played every match in her first year in 2001, but her minutes diminished over the course of 2002. She was traded to the New York Power, and in 2003 her career took off. She was named to the All-WUSA team in 2003. Tony DiCicco, the coach of the 1999 World Cup-winning United States Women’s National Team, had served as commissioner of the WUSA. He called Boxx “the best [defensive midfielder] in our league…physical, strong, technical…I was never that big of a Shannon Boxx fan. The league proved me wrong.’’Boxx also played for the Los Angeles Sol, Saint Louis Athletica, FC Gold Pride, and magicJack of Women’s Professional Soccer before finishing her career with the Chicago Red Stars of the National Women’s Soccer League in 2015. It was when her break came with the Power in 2003 that she finally broke through to the USWNT.Boxx had been a member of the United States U-21 player pool, but in August 2003, Shannon Boxx received her first USWNT call-up by then national team coach April Heinrichs. She became the oldest player to debut for the USWNT and the first uncapped player to ever make a Women’s World Cup roster for the team. She scored her first goal in a warmup match against Costa Rica, following up with another goal in the last warmup match against Mexico and again in the USWNT’s World Cup opener against Sweden. Boxx was the first American woman to score 3 goals in her first 3 matches with the national team.She was a major contributor for the team during the 2003 World Cup, starting 5 matches and scoring against Canada in the 3rd place match. She used that to vault into serving as the regular starter for the national team. She started 31 of 32 matches in 2004, including every match at the 2004 Olympics, helping the team secure a gold medal. She was 7th in FIFA World Player of the Year voting. In 2005, she only improved from there, playing well enough for the USWNT to finish 3rd in World Player of the Year voting, behind Birgit Prinz and Marta.Boxx was injured for almost all of 2006, but was able to return in 2007 in time to be named to the World Cup roster. She featured in every match except for the 3rd place match, which she sat out due to suspension after receiving 2 yellow cards in the semifinal against Brazil.It was in 2007, at the age of 30, that Shannon Boxx was diagnosed with lupus. She had been experiencing extreme fatigue and joint pain and excessive muscle soreness after training session. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, produces antibodies that destroy healthy tissue in the body because the immune system can’t tell the difference between healthy tissue and viruses.Boxx was diagnosed with lupus in 2007 when she was 30 years old. At the time she was playing for the U.S. National Team and had begun feeling extremely fatigued; regular training sessions left her with joint pain and muscle soreness. Still, Shannon was not to be deterred. She was an integral part of the 2008 Olympic team that secured its second straight gold medal in Beijing, China.Shannon continued to play, not revealing her lupus diagnosis publicly. It didn’t stop her from dominating on the field. She continued as a regular star for the USWNT in the 2011 World Cup, playing all but one match as the Americans lost to Japan on penalties in the final. She didn’t let lupus deter her from still being a regular contributor for the team. She was named to the 2012 Olympic roster, and the team went to England to win its 3rd straight gold medal. After that Olympics, Shannon Boxx revealed to the world that she had lupus, and that she had been managing it while still being able to play the game she loved at its highest level.Despite winning 3 Olympic gold medals, there was one goal that eluded her: a World Cup trophy. Boxx continued to play, and she earned a spot on the 2015 Women’s World Cup squad for the United States. She continued to feature where needed for the USWNT, as they won the title. Shannon Boxx, having turned 38 during the tournament, lifted her first World Cup trophy. She announced her retirement soon after the end of the tournament in Canada, playing her last match with the national team against Brazil in October 2015.Shannon’s last name may have been Boxx, but she couldn’t be kept in one. Not by lupus, injury, or people doubting her. She persevered through a national team career that spanned 12 years and 195 caps. Her unique style of play, combining grace with physicality and strength, was made even more distinctive by the fact she continued to play that way with a debilitating disease doing its absolute best to hold her back. She defeated that doubt, that injury, that fatigue, that soreness, and will forever live as one of the USWNT’s most decorated legends. 

Americans at home: Yanks who need to bounce back in 2021

Now that we’re going to have an MLS season, let’s talk about soccer

By Parker Cleveland@AekprrAcdeellnv  Feb 9, 2021, 6:00am PST

Since we’re going to have a 2021 MLS season, it’s time to focus yet again on the game on the pitch. With some high stakes games coming up for the USMNT this year, Gregg Berhalter will be narrowing down the roster ahead of the 2022 World Cup. There have been some big moves in recent months with players going from MLS abroad, however some players have dropped off the mark and will need a strong year to stay in the national team conversation. Let’s take a look at who can step up in the domestic league.

Paxton Pomykal – The Dallas midfielder jumped into the national picture of up and coming MLS players following a stellar 2019. That year he started 20 games across the midfield for FCD and logged 1876 minutes. 2020 was cut sadly short as Pomykal required season ending surgery. He certainly has “the look” of a solid midfielder and at 21 has a while to go before his talent is truly known, but a step forward this year will improve his prospects for playing with the USMNT at either the senior or U23 level.

Jesus Ferreira – His eye popping play in the friendly after January camp against Trinidad & Tobago was certainly a good sign. At 20, he has plenty of time to grow as a goal scorer, but he took a step back last year. An 8 goal/6 assist line in 2453 minutes in 2019 was followed by a lackluster 1 goal/1 assist line with 979 minutes last season. Dallas shuffled him across the field though and if he can find a consistent position it may help along his development. Still, he has obvious talent and if he can start to produce in 2021 he may be headed to Tokyo, Qatar, and beyond.

Mason Toye – The attacker looked like he was breaking through with Minnesota United in 2019. That year he had six goals and three assists in 820 minutes across nine starts and 17 appearances overall. 2020 was less productive. Last year Toye had just one goal in six starts for the Loons who traded to Montreal mid-season. In Canada, or wherever Montreal had to play home games, he did not score and played just 152 minutes. He has a huge opportunity this season as Thierry Henry looks to build a re-branded team. Toye might be fairly fringe when it comes to chances of being on the national team, but if he can prove he deserves to start to Henry, that will speak volumes about his future.

Jonathan Klinsmann – 2020 was something of a rollercoaster year for the son of legendary manager Jurgen Klinsmann. After testing himself at the highest level with Hertha Berlin, Klinsmann joined St. Gallen in Switzerland. He did not break through with the team and subsequently transferred to the LA Galaxy. The keeper didn’t exactly impress with the club and started four games with a clean sheet and 11 goals allowed. That’s not a good number of goals allowed in four games. MLS has been a proving ground for American keepers and a way for them to move abroad, see Zack Steffen for example. However, Klinsmann will first have to win the starting job as LA looks to bounce back after a poor 2020 campaign.

Miles Robinson – Joining Ferreira among players who stood out against Trinidad & Tobago, Robinson will look to somewhat bounce back in 2021. After seeming to breakout with Atlanta United in 2019, the defender seemed a bit off last year. That said, Atlanta spent most of the year struggling for any kind of identity or consistency under interim manager Stephen Glass. Robinson’s best strength has always been his one v. one defending, but he’ll need to add a few more clubs to his bag if he wants to be in the conversation for starting at centerback in Qatar. New manager Gabriel Heinze was a world class defender in his playing days and should help Robinson make a jump in his career and show what he can do in what should be a more competitive season for Atlanta in 2021.

Jozy Altidore – Finally, there’s Jozy Altidore. The third all-time leading scorer for the USMNT might not be the first choice starter going into the World Cup in 2022, but he still has something to offer the team in terms of leadership and coming off of the bench. That said, he needs to prove on the field that he belongs and will deserve a roster spot. Altidore has struggled with injuries throughout his time in MLS having never started more than 25 games or appeared in over 27 since coming back to the league in 2015. In his most recent relatively successful year, Altidore scored 11 goals with 7 assists in 18 starts for Toronto in 2019. A full off season with an extra month tacked on will give him extra time to be healthy for 2021, but he’ll need to stay on the field and keep his numbers up for Chris Armas’ team to stay in the USMNT picture.

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

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

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

 

2/5/21 US Men win 7-0, Indy 11 move back to the “Mike, FIFA World Club Cup, US Ladies Back in Camp

Indy 11 Move back to the “Mike” – Carroll stadium at IUPUI 

Count me among those who is happy to see our Indy 11 moving back to the Mike – sorry but as nice as Lucas Oil is – its simply too big for a USL soccer team.  Even 20K was just swallowed by the enormity of the 60K+ stadium.  The Mike while not as nice – seems full with 10-15K in attendance – and that’s important.  Plus when I walked around the Mike – I always saw someone I knew –never happened at Lucas Oil.  Now I would love to see a game or 2 at Lucas Oil – maybe the opener or Louisville?  But overall I am all in on the move back to the Mike and back into the BYB section behind the goal !!  Not sure how I feel about New jerseys with Puma – I just got last season’s jersey finally. 

US Men beat T&T 7-0

Well T&T is not good – but 7-0 is pretty impressive against anyone.  Man the US U23s really showed up today as FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira’s welcome party included a hand in 5 of the 7 goals – scoring 2 and assisting on 3 more from a tucked #9 slot. Jonathan Lewis was also super with 2 goals on the night from the left wing spot.  The backline included 3 U23s with Same Vines at left back and Atlanta center back Miles Robinson looking especially strong.  Even new GK Matt Turner got in the act  – saving a PK late – as he battles for the #2 spot behind Steffen.  Overall the US got lots of contributions from over 10 U23 players as we got to see what our Olympic qualifying team in March will probably look like.  Man I would love to see us get to the Olympics and then bring back our European players like Pulisic, Adams, McKinney, Reyna and more to try to bring home the gold.  Doubt that will happen but qualifying in Mexico next month would be huge. 

US Men Overseas

Good to see Barca right back Serginio Dest is back in the starting line-up after fighting injuries over the past few weeks.  Sad to see Pulisiic’s role change at Chelsea with the new coach there – a half time sub performance last game where he supplied an assist was follow with a 70th minute sub vs Tottenham where he had a couple of chances but couldn’t quite connect.  That has been Pulisics luck this year – close but no cigar.  The current formation doesn’t look to favor a player like Pulisic with literally 7 defensive minded players in a 5 – 2 – 2 – 1.  Perhaps he can snag that left mid slot but replacing Mount seems unlikely.  Jury is still out.  Exciting to see 2 American’s now on Swansea City in the Championship – Seattle’s Jordan Morris and DC United’s Paul Arriola as they push for promotion – currently in 2nd (games on ESPN+).  Also U20 Prospect Bryan Reynold’s signing with Italy’s Roma is huge!  I think after the success from Dest and especially McKinney dominating at Juve – that teams around the world now have their eyes on young prospects in the US.  Sad to see Center Back from NY Red Bulls Aaron Long not get the call from Liverpool and turned down on a flip to a Championship squad.  I know Long would have cleared that long ball on the goal they gave up to lose this week. 

US Ladies Back to Camp – She Believes Cup in 2 weeks

My is this US ladies team deep.  Good to see both Alex Morgan and Christen Press return to the squad and it makes the She Believe’s Cup coming up in 2 weeks vs Canada, Brazil and Argentina must see!  Just to try to figure out which 18 players will be headed to the Olympics this summer.  We hope! 

Full She Believes Cup squad:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 4), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars; 65)

DEFENDERS (8): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City, ENG; 63/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 27/1), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC; 107/24), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit; 133/2), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC; 4/1), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 179/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 48/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars; 105/20), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC;88/20), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG; 48/13), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyonnaise, FRA; 2/1), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 18/3), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG; 70/21)

FORWARDS (6): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC; 296/123), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride; 170/107), Christen Press (Manchester United, ENG; 139/58), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign; 170/54), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 1/0), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 31/10). (Tobin Heath out 12 wks)

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Argentina 4 PM ET
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada 7 PM ET  FS1
Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET
Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET
Feb. 24 USA vs. Argentina 7 PM ET  FS1

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Feb 7

7:30 am NBCSN               Aston Villa vs Arsenal

9:30 am ESPN+                  Schalke (Hoppe)  vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

12 ESPN+                           Juventus (McKinney) vs Roma

12:30 pm NBC                   Fulham (Robinson) vs West Ham United

3 pm NBCSN                     Man United vs Everton

Sun, Feb 7

6:30 am ESPN2                   Benevento vs Sampadoria

7 NBCSN                            Spurs vs West Brom

9 am NBCSN                      Wolverhampton vs Leicester City

9:30 am ESPN+                 Hoffenhiem (Richards) vs Frankfurt

11:30 am NBC                  Liverpool vs Man City

1 pm FS2                            Palmeiras (Brazil) vs Tigres (Mexico)  FIFA Club World Cup

2:!5 Peacock                      Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Sheffield U

3 pm beIn Sport                 Real Bettis vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Feb 8

1 pm Fox Sport 1              Al Ahly vs Bayern Munich (Europe) FIFA Club World Cup

3 pm beIN sport                 Atletico Madrid vs Celta de Vigo

Tues,  Feb 9

1 pm NBCSN                      Wolverhampton vs Arsenal

2:45 pm ESPN2 or +        Inter vs Juventus (McKinney)-  Coppa Italia

3:!5 pm ESPN+                  Man United vs West Ham FA Cup

Weds,  Feb 10

12:30 pm ESPN+              Swansea City (Morris, Arrialo) vs Man City FA Cup

3:!5 pm ESPN+                  Everton vs Tottenham  FA Cup

Thurs  Feb 11

10 am  pm FS2                   3rd place Fifa Club World Cup

1 pm Fox                            1st place FIFA CLUB WORLD CUP FINAL

3 pm ESPN+                      Barnsley vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

INDY 11

BACK HOME AGAIN! INDY ELEVEN RETURNING TO MICHAEL A. CARROLL STADIUM IN 2021
INDY ELEVEN PAIRS WITH PUMA ON NEW LOOK FOR INDIANA’S TEAM
INDY ELEVEN SIGNS VETERAN ENGLISH MIDFIELDER NICKY LAW
MLS’ VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC ACQUIRES GOALKEEPER EVAN NEWTON VIA TRANSFER
Indy Eleven Signs Ghanaian Midfielder Gershon Koffie
https://www.indyeleven.com/2021-season-tickets

USA Men beat T & T 7-0  

USA vs. Trinidad and Tobago, 2021 friendly: Man of the Match  S&S

US Pounds T&T with mostly U23s – SI Avi Creditor

Ferreira repays Berhalter’s faith as USMNT begins 2021 brightly  Jeff Carlisle
Gregg Berhalter’s talent search continues to richly reward USMNT

USA Men
Is Dest as good at Barca as USMNT fans hoped?
Bill Connelly

U.S. prospect Reynolds lands Roma move
USMNT defender Richards joins Hoffenheim
Source: NYRB turn down loan offer for Long
USMNT winger Arriola completes loan to Swansea City

McKinney, Adams, Hoppe,  leads 4 US players scoring goals last week in Europe

USMNT looks to capitalize on more swagger honed in Europe

Pulisic’s 2nd half leads to Assist

Pulisic Relishing False 9 for Chelsea
Hernández: Overnight sensation? How Matthew Hoppe went from underdog to Bundesliga standout

 

USA Ladies

Morgan, Press return to USWNT for SheBelieves
WSL: USWNT stars Lavelle, Press score goals for City, United
– Alex Morgan back with Orlando Pride after COVID-19 scare
– Japan withdraws from SheBelieves Cup, replaced by Argentina
– USWNT’s Tobin Heath out 10-12 weeks after suffering ankle injury

WORLD

 Club World Cup participants – can anyone stop Bayern Munich?

Bayern to play African champion Al Ahly at Club World Cup

Gignac double sends Mexico’s Tigres into Club World Cup semis


Serie A: Leaders AC Milan bounce back; Inter, Juventus still lurking

Inter seek Fiorentina lift, Juve and Roma battle for third spot
Three talking points from the Premier League

Liverpool sign center backs Davies, Kabak on deadline day
Premier League player Power Rankings

 Christian Pulisic relishing false nine role under new Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel

Christian Pulisic has revealed Thomas Tuchel’s plans to deploy him as a false nine in the German’s Chelsea revolution.Pulisic has been reunited with the man who kick-started his senior career at Borussia Dortmund as Tuchel has taken the Stamford Bridge helm.The USA forward stepped off the bench and conjured a cute assist for Marcos Alonso’s stunning volley as Chelsea drove past Burnley 2-0 in Sunday’s Premier League clash in west London.Tuchel must find a way to maximise Chelsea’s abundant attacking talent, with misfiring forward Timo Werner a continued concern.Pulisic impressed in his roving role off the bench against Burnley however, and has now lifted the lid on how Tuchel could look to blend him into the Blues’ heady attacking mix.“It’s a kind of a false striker,” Pulisic told Chelsea’s official website.“It’s been good so far. We’ve got a new outlook on things, we have had a really good win so it’s been a positive start.“It’s been some crazy times recently and just to get a win left all the guys in the changing room really excited.“We have had a lot of fun in training and there are smiles on faces which is good to see.”Tuchel swept into west London last week to replace the sacked Frank Lampard, with Chelsea’s record goalscorer dismissed after less than 18 months in charge.Former Paris St Germain and Dortmund boss Tuchel has linked back up with Pulisic, and his old PSG defender Thiago Silva with the Blues.Chelsea laboured to a goalless draw with Wolves last Wednesday, but Sunday’s 2-0 win over Burnley offered hope for a return to more positive and clinical attacking play.The Blues will take on bitter rivals Tottenham in north London on Thursday, bidding to push themselves closer towards the Premier League’s top four.And Pulisic insists Tuchel’s men are excited about taking on Jose Mourinho’s Spurs.“It’s a good time to play them coming off a good result for us,” Pulisic added.“We’re feeling confident. We’re really excited. It’s a good chance to make a statement and most importantly really build some momentum. We know what a good result against a good team could do for us.”

BACK HOME AGAIN! INDY ELEVEN RETURNING TO MICHAEL A. CARROLL STADIUM IN 2021

By Indy Eleven Communications, 02/03/21, 1:00PM EST   Indiana’s Team to Call IUPUI Venue Home Until Completion of Eleven Park Project

Indy Eleven is ready to go “Back Home Again” for the 2021 season, as Indiana’s Team today confirmed it will return to IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium for the squad’s fourth campaign in the USL Championship – and eighth year of play overall – beginning this spring.Indy Eleven will utilize Carroll Stadium as a short-term venue solution until its future home of Eleven Park is completed in the coming years. Indy Eleven recently announced the location for the transformative Eleven Park stadium and neighborhood development project will be revealed by the end of March.“Indy Eleven would like to thank IUPUI and Indiana University for their cooperation and partnership,” stated Greg Stremlaw, Indy Eleven President & Chief Executive Officer. “During our first tenure at Carroll Stadium, the environment our fans created gave their Boys in Blue one of the best home-field advantages in all of American soccer. We look forward to helping our supporters recreate that magic once again as we await the construction of the world-class home they deserve in Eleven Park.”A limited number of new Season Ticket Memberships for the 2021 season at Carroll Stadium are available now and start at only $170.  Learn more and purchase by visiting indyeleven.com or calling 317-695-1100.Season Ticket Members from Indy Eleven’s 2020 season are encouraged to check their email inboxes in the coming days for details on how they can renew their memberships for the upcoming season.Additional ticketing options will be made available in the coming weeks upon the release of the squad’s 2021 schedule. USL Championship confirmed last week that its 31 squads would launch their seasons around May 1, with “floating start dates” slated to occur between April 24 and May 15.

More information on Indy Eleven’s return to Carroll Stadium can be found via a new FAQ now live at IndyEleven.com. In addition, the organization is continuing to work on a comprehensive COVID-19 Safety Plan for events at Carroll Stadium that will be in accordance with all local, state, and national health and safety guidelines; because of the continuous nature of updates on this front, the plan will be announced closer to the season start date.“We knew late in 2020 that finding another venue for 2021 could become necessary because of pandemic-related scheduling flexibility needed at Lucas Oil Stadium throughout this year,” Stremlaw continued. “Carroll Stadium provides our club the best option for success both on the field and in the front office. We look forward to working with IUPUI again in the coming years and cannot wait to see the passion – and smoke – coming from the stands once the season kicks off.”Indy Eleven called Carroll Stadium home for its first four seasons of play from 2014-17, encompassing the team’s entire tenure in the North American Soccer League (NASL). Multiple current members of the “Boys in Blue” also familiarized themselves with “The Mike” during the fall of 2019, when Indy Eleven hosted a pair of games in the USL Championship Eastern Conference Playoffs, including the club’s first USL Conference Championship appearance.In all, more than 620,000 fans and supporters filed into Carroll Stadium for a combined 70 regular season, postseason, Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and exhibition contests between 2014-2019, adding a new and electric atmosphere to Indianapolis’ thriving sports scene along the way. Indy Eleven made history at the venue in 2014 when it became the first American professional American soccer team to sell out the entirety of its Inaugural Season. That year’s average attendance of 10,485 actually surpassed the team’s official venue capacity that season thanks to an overflow crowd of 11,048 at its Inaugural Match on April, 12, 2014 – a mark that also stands as the largest crowd for an Eleven game at “The Mike.”

Is Dest as good at Barcelona as USMNT fans had hoped? The numbers suggest the answer is ‘yes’

https://a.espncdn.com/photo/2021/0203/r809998_3_1296x864_3-2.jpg

The full-back position has typically been one of sturdy competence for the United States men’s national team. At right-back, you’ve been witness to the Steve Cherundolos and Timmy Chandlers of the world; the pickings have been a bit slimmer at times on the left, but players like DaMarcus Beasley and Fabian Johnson have still brought professionalism and occasionally exciting play to the position. There’s sturdy professional upside, and there’s Jordi Alba– or Dani Alves-level upside: In Sergino Dest, the USMNT now has a starting Barcelona full-back in its player pool.Dest’s rise from Ajax youth prospect to Barcelona starter took place in what felt like milliseconds. Let’s take a look at what kind of player he is becoming and what he might have to offer for the U.S. and manager Gregg Berhalter.

First, the timeline:

Born in the Netherlands to an American father and Dutch mother, Dest made his Ajax B-team (Jong Ajax) debut as a 17-year-old in October 2018, less than two months before Berhalter was hired to lead the USMNT. By the following July, Dest had been promoted to the senior squad; he would play in 20 of 25 Eredivisie matches for the Dutch powerhouse in 2019-20, plus 10 of 12 Champions League and Europa League matches.Having represented the United States at both the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in 2017 and the Under-20 World Cup in 2019, Dest officially committed to playing for the United States early in the 2019-20 season and has since made five appearances for his country. He played most of last fall’s friendlies against Wales and Panama, completing 86% of his passes with eight ball recoveries.By this point, you could say his status within America’s first-choice lineup had been fast-tracked. Having already played in the Champions League before his 19th birthday, he had moved to Barcelona before his 20th. Despite rampant budget issues, the Blaugrana acquired him on Oct. 1 for more than €20 million and quickly plugged him into the lineup. He’s played in 15 of 20 La Liga matches and played the full 90 minutes in five of six Champions League group-stage matches.

Although he has split his minutes between right- and left-back for the national team, Dest has been deployed primarily on the right at Barca, either because that’s where manager Ronald Koeman thinks he’s most capable or because Alba remains a mainstay at left-back. Dest has logged a goal and an assist, but his primary job has been to move the ball from the second level of the defense to the third. Turns out he’s quite good at it.

https://a.espncdn.com/photo/2021/0203/r809998_3_1296x864_3-2.jpg

(The above shows where he tends to make the most plays and progressions and, no surprise for a Barcelona player, he spends most of his time way up the pitch.)

The full-back position is a tricky one to evaluate in a statistical sense, as it depends so comprehensively on the system at hand. But comparing him to other full-backs and wing-backs in Europe’s big five leagues, we figure out both his strengths and his specific duties pretty quickly.Among the 150 big-five full-backs and wing-backs with at least 750 league minutes this season, Dest’s pass completion rate (90.4%) ranks first, as does his completion rate into the attacking third (90.0%). No, these have not been long-distance passes, and yes, a lot of these passes have gone to Lionel Messi, which is to say they are high-percentage opportunities. But his accuracy and his speed on the ball get the ball where it needs to be almost every time. He’s also in the 99th percentile in completion rate from the middle third (92.8%) and in the 93rd percentile from the defensive third (82.6%).Dest has been excellent at retaining possession — his 12.1 possessions lost per 90 minutes are in the 95th percentile — and he is more than willing to attempt one-on-ones (3.1 take-ons per 90, 55% success rate). Stylistically, he fits nicely with the Kyle Walker or Ferland Mendy type of full-back. Or yes, Alba himself.One major reason for his high completion rate in attacking positions: He doesn’t attempt crosses. He ranks in the 24th percentile in cross attempts (1.9 per 90) and in the 14th in cross completion rate (10.5%). This is part of Koeman’s general approach: Barcelona attempt only 14.6 crosses per 90 minutes, third lowest in La Liga. This promotes ball retention and through short passing patterns, take-ons and, yes, Messi, Barcelona still lead the league in chances created.

EDITOR’S PICKS

Ferreira repays Berhalter’s faith as USMNT begins 2021 brightly
Julian Green’s USMNT plan: ‘Keep kicking butt’ until he gets another call
How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help

For a possession-heavy team like Barcelona, the most direct effort in defense is not allowing the opponent to have the ball. Dest is brilliant in that regard, and that’s good, because he has room to grow in the actual defense department. He ranks in the first percentile — the very bottom, in other words — with 9.1 defensive interventions (defined as ball recoveries, tackles, interceptions, clearances, blocked shots and aerials won in the defensive third) per 90 minutes. He averages 5.1 ball recoveries per 90 (38th percentile), but only 0.4 pass interceptions (first percentile). He’s good for the occasional tactical foul, but he was not acquired for his tackling ability, which is still very much a work in progress.All of this fits with Barcelona’s defensive profile at the moment. Like plenty of possession teams, the Blaugrana get caught a decent amount on counterattacks; they are seventh in La Liga in shots allowed per possession (0.10), but they’re sixth worst in xG allowed per shot (0.13). Dest’s stats appear to very much be a product of the system, for better and worse. When asked to apply more pressure, it seems like he can — he averaged 11.2 defensive interventions per 90 last season with Ajax and 13.4 with Jong Ajax the season before.Still, Koeman wants to build from the back and hog the ball, and Dest is a lovely piece in this regard.

Berhalter wants to do these things, too. Since the start of 2020, the U.S. has played five friendlies, three against vastly overmatched CONCACAF opponents (Trinidad & Tobago, Panama, El Salvador) and two against more solid foes (Wales, Costa Rica). Against the former, they romped by a combined 19-2; they struggled offensively against the latter, beating Costa Rica 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with Wales.- The U.S. overwhelmed the three overmatched foes with pressure and possession. They possessed the ball 64% of the time, completed nearly 88% of their (mostly short) passes, made more than 50 ball recoveries in each match and allowed just 9.3 passes per defensive action. (For context, only three big-five teams have allowed fewer than 9.3 PPDA so far this season: Leeds UnitedParis Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.)- Against Wales and Costa Rica, the offense disappeared, but the principles remained: 61% possession, 88% completion rate, 49 ball recoveries per match and a frantic, Ajax-like 8.6 PPDA.

Berhalter is doing a solid job of establishing his intended principles — granted, against mostly sketchy competition — and he’s doing it despite having yet to really narrow down the player pool. In these five matches, for instance, he’s played 11 different full-backs for at least a handful of minutes — everyone from potential regulars like Dest, Boavista‘s Reggie Cannon and the Colorado Rapids‘ Sam Vines, to less-tested youngsters such as Atlanta United’s George Bello and the LA Galaxy‘s Julian Araujo.It’s exciting, then, to think about what might be possible with a stable, truly first-choice lineup. It’s also exciting to realize that, in addition to Dest, the possession-and-pressure theme is pretty constant with the teams a lot of the members of this potential first-choice lineup play for.

– Winger/attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic — Chelsea: The Blues’ possession rate has been more than 60% for Pulisic’s entire tenure, and new coach Thomas Tuchel, who worked with Pulisic at Borussia Dortmund, is a PPDA true believer.
– Winger Giovanni Reyna — Borussia Dortmund: BVB have the highest possession rate (62%) in the Bundesliga and are second in PPDA (10.3), and despite having just turned 18, Reyna has already logged more than 1,500 Bundesliga minutes with the club.
– Midfielder Weston McKennie — Juventus: McKennie arrived with new manager Andrea Pirlo, who is quickly turning Juve into a modern possession club: they’re second in Serie A in possession rate (58.6%) and first in PPDA (9.9).
– Defensive midfielder Tyler Adams — RB Leipzig: The Red Bull machine has quickly become an avatar for modern soccer, and flagship Leipzig are currently both excellent (Adams scored the winning goal to send them to the Champions League semifinals last season) and possession dominant.
– Goalkeeper Zack Steffen — Manchester City: Steffen played for Berhalter’s Columbus Crew SC and has now made eight appearances for Pep Guardiola’s Man City. Safe to say, he knows what’s required of the modern sweeper keeper and play-out-of-the-back intentions.

Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).Plenty of others in the player pool are employed by either heavy-possession or heavy-pressure sides: defenders like John Brooks (VfL Wolfsburg), Cannon (Boavista), Chris Richards (TSG Hoffenheim on loan from Bayern) and Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), midfielders like Julian Green (Greuther Furth) and Brenden Aaronson (FC Salzburg), attackers/wingers like Jordan Morris (Swansea on loan from Seattle Sounders FC), Timothy Weah (Lille), Konrad de la Fuente (Barca), etc.

The lineups the United States field when the real matches begin — Olympic qualifying in March, the CONCACAF Nations League finals in June, the Gold Cup (and perhaps the Olympics) in July, World Cup qualifying in the fall — will boast an increasing amount of not only young talent, but also tactical familiarity.

Dest will almost certainly be a huge part of Berhalter’s plans. When he signed with Barca, he told ESPN, “You want to play every game against the best opponents and see where you’re at right now with your development. I think there’s enough room for me to improve, but I am on a good [path] and I like these games.”

With each level he’s advanced — from the Dutch second division to the Dutch first division to La Liga — his pass completion rates have improved, and his expected assist totals have remained steady. He might not be Alba or Alves yet, but he’s meeting the challenge. That should be very good news for both his and the USMNT’s future.

1/29/21 US Men vs T&T Sun 7 pm FS1, US Players Scored 4 goals last week in Europe, US Ladies Win

Indy 11 GK Evan Newton to MLS Vancouver

Great news that Indy 11 Goal Keeper Evan Newton is getting his MLS shot with the White Caps this season.  Hopefully that means former Carmel FC GK coach and my friend Jordan Farr will get a shot at the starting slot this season for our Indy 11!  Indy 11 fans can tune in to the USA vs T&T game Sunday night at 7 pm on FS1 and see Indy 11 defender Neveal Hackshaw playing for his native T&T.

US Men vs T&T Sun 7 pm on FS1

Expect a fairly young and somewhat inexperienced team to take the field for the US this Sunday as they face Trinidad and Tabago Sunday eve on FS 1 at 7 pm from Orlando.  Of course at home even this US 3rd team with a bunch of U23s filling the sub spots should be ok vs T&T.  I expect to see a fairly experienced back line of Aaron Long and Walker Zimmerman (both battling for 1 starting spot on the A team alongside Brooks) in the middle along with Sam Vines on the left in front of 25 YO MLS New England stalwart but US newcomer Matt Turner between the pipes.  I suspect Altidore will start up front at the 9 along with Orlando’s Chris Mueller (Scorer of 2 goals last time out) I hope.  In the midfield, I expect Jackson Yueill to continue his quest for a spot at the #6 along with Sebastian Llleget, Seattle’s Roldan and hopefully a newcomer on the wing.  Will be interesting to see Orlando’s Dike up top presumably in the 2nd half as a #9 for Altidore. The average age of the roster will be 23 years, 302 days, while averaging just 10 caps. 

 Interesting that Liverpool might be looking at US defender Aaron Long – wow would that be cool.    Interesting story on Joe Biden and his love and support of the US Soccer Teams. 

USMNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (Club; Caps/Goals):

GOALKEEPERS (3): Matt Freese (Philadelphia Union; 0/0), JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 0/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy; 1/0), George Bello (Atlanta United FC; 0/0), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls; 1/0), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 18/3), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire FC; 0/0), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC; 2/0), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids; 2/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 13/2)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 24/2), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy; 17/4), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Andres Perea (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC; 19/0), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 8/0)

FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC/CAN; 115/42), Paul Arriola (D.C. United; 34/6), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC; 0/0), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 1/0), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids; 6/0), Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC; 1/2)

US Ladies beat Colombia – She Believes Cup in late Feb. 

My is this US ladies team deep.  The US ladies put up 6 goals this time vs an improved Colombia as the US made 6 changes including an entire change on the backline, including GK.  Megan Rapino lead the way with the brace – and 2 newcomers scored as 20 year old Catarina Macario,  and US defender allowed to play her natural forward spot Midge Purce scored their first goals in the Red, White and Blue.  It was also great to see Crystal Dunn allowed to move up to winger/forward rather than her recent right back in the 2nd half.  I honestly think Dunn could play any spot along with forward/midfield and either outside back spot on this team if needed.   Great to see the depth and it makes the She Believe’s Cup coming in late Feb vs Canada, Brazil and Argentina must see – just to try to figure out which 18 players will be headed to the Olympics this summer.  We hope!  

Updated schedule:  She Believes Cup

Feb. 18 Brazil vs. Argentina 4 PM ET
Feb. 18 USA vs. Canada 7 PM ET  FS1
Feb. 21 USA vs. Brazil 3 PM ET FS1
Feb. 21 Argentina vs. Canada 6 PM ET
Feb. 24 Canada vs. Brazil 4 PM ET
Feb. 24 USA vs. Argentina 7 PM ET  FS1

Games to Watch this Weekend

Saturday gives us the biggest game of the weekend at 12:30 pm on NBC as Arsenal will host 2nd place Manchester United. This after Everton vs New Castle United at 7:30 am on NBCSN and Man City vs Sheffield at 10 am.  A battle of US forwards in Germany Sat on ESPN+ at 9:30 am as Schalke and new wonder American Hoppe travel to Werder Bremen and Josh Stewart coming off his 2nd goal last weekend.  Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig look to bounce back from a loss to relegation fodder Mainz when they face Bayer Leverkusen in a top three matchup at 12:30p on ESPN+.  Magical Weston McKennie and Juventus look to continue their push up the Serie A table when they face Sampdoria at Noon on ESPN+.

West Ham (5th) hosts 4th place Liverpool Sunday on the dreaded Peacock at 11:30 am.  Chelsea and US Christian Pulisic play at 7 am Sunday on Peacock.  Christian Pulisic started on the bench but didn’t seem to bothered by the situation midweek in the teams draw with Wolverhampton. It was Thomas Tuchels first match in charge and the manager would come out after the match to give some pretty positive feedback for Pulisic and describe the decision as “unfair” to him. But he knew what Pulisic could do and needed to see some of the others on the pitch to see what they bring.  John Brooks and Wolfsburg face Freiburg at Noon on ESPN+ Sunday. Wolfsburg have won their past two matches and worked their way into fourth place in the Bundesliga standings.  Finally Barcelona will host Athletic Club at 3 pm on beIN Sport – Sergino Dest is still injured and not expected to play however. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Jan 30

7:30 NBCSN                      Everton vs New Castle

10 am NBCSN                    Man City vs Seffield United

10 am ESPN+                     Swansea City (Morris soon?) vs Nottingham Forest

9:30 am ESPN+                  Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

12:30 pm NBC                  Arsenal vs Man United  

3 pm beIn Sport                  Villarreal vs Real Sociedad

Sun, Jan 31

7 am Peacock                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Burnley  

9 am ESPN2                        Atlanta vs Lazio

11:30am Peacock            West Ham vs Liverpool

7 pm FS 1                           USA Men vs T&T

Tues,  Feb2

1 pm NBCSN                      Wolverhampton vs Arsenal

2:45 pm ESPN2 or +        Inter vs Juventus –  Coppa Italia

3:!5 pm NBCSN                 Man United vs Southampton

Weds,  Feb 3

1 pm NBCSN                      Burnley vs Man City

3:!5 pm NBCSN                 Liverpool vs Brighton

Thurs  Feb 4

12:30 pm                            TigresUNAL vs Ulsan Fifa Club World Cup

3 pm NBCSN                     Tottenham vs Chelsea

Mon, Feb 9

4 pm FS1                            Fifa Club World Cup Bayern Munich vs ?

USA Men vs T&T Sun 7 pm FS1

Altidore a highlight at USMNT camp – Berhalter

US Forward Altidore Still in the Running – SI Brian Straus

Scouting T&T

US Keeper Matt Turner Back Story – Yahoo soccer 

Matt Turner Happy to Be with US Team – MLS.com

Altidore Not Too Old – Gregg Doyle

Bogert: Liverpool monitoring RBNY’s Aaron Long?
VIDEO: McKennie goal adds to banner week for USMNT youngsters

VIDEO: USMNT’s Josh Sargent scores screamer for Werder

VIDEO: USMNT MF Tyler Adams scores his first Bundesliga goal

American’s Oversea’s Players of the Week  S&S  

Stats on US Players overseas last week S&S

Galatasaray and DeAndre Yedlin reportedly reach transfer deal

Around the World US Players
Bogert: Liverpool monitoring RBNY’s Aaron Long?

FIFA sets late-2021 target to pick 2026 World Cup cities

Biden Has Always Supported US Soccer and Still Does – SI Brian Straus

USA Ladies

USA vs. Colombia recap: double debut goals! Stars and Stripes
Catarina Macario fulfills a dream, scoring a goal in U.S. women’s win over Colombia

Megan Rapinoe Scores Twice as USWNT Beats Colombia, 6-0 SI  

Catarina Macario is on her way to becoming the USWNT’s next big star

Meet Catraina Macario – Philly Inquirer – The Goalkeeper

Crystal Dunn – should be a star on this US team

Argentina Replaces Japan in She Believes Cup Next Month

 EPL


Premier League status report on all 20 teams
  Mark Ogden
Pep ‘delighted’ by, ‘more than happy’ with USMNT’s Steffen at Man City
Everton denied as Pickford howler rescues Leicester
Liverpool end barren run as Tottenham lose Kane to injury
De Gea’s mistakes put dent in Man United’s title charge  21hMark Ogden
Swansea City unveils USMNT star Jordan Morris on loan with option to buy

How will Lampard being fired impact Pulisic at Chelsea?
Manchester United expose Liverpool’s urgent need to strengthen at centre-back

Thomas Tuchel: Meet the high-maintenance ‘mad genius’ Chelsea have turned to

Thomas Tuchel must be more than just a football brain to succeed in the Premier League
Ministry of silly walls: Why players lie down to defend free kicks
FA Cup draw: 5th round fixtures revealed

 

World
Atletico, Bayern surge clear but game on in France: European talking points

Milan wavering, unfinished business for Messi – what to watch in Europe this weekend
Bayern Munich Benefits From Bundesliga Challengers’ Blips
 Buffon pleased to be breaking stereotypes with NFL great Brady

MLS to Resume Apr 3

Gregg Berhalter weighs in on Jordan Morris to Swansea City
Chris Mueller says young Lions have chance to shine with USMNT
Neville ‘right man’ for Miami job: Beckham
Sounders sign Schmetzer to multiyear contract extension
Schmetzer ready to lead new-look Sounders following extension
New Five Stripes coach Gabriel Heinze arrives in Atlanta
Report: Caden Clark finalizing transfer to RB Leipzig
Why Phil Neville? Beckham, Mas on why he’s the right choice for Miami
Can Neville help Miami quieten those underwhelmed by the MLS franchise?
Jeff Carlisle
SuperDraft Grades: Rating every team’s picks
MLS players present proposal in hopes of avoiding lockout

INDY 11

MLS’ VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC ACQUIRES GOALKEEPER EVAN NEWTON VIA TRANSFER
NEVEAL HACKSHAW TO REPRESENT TRINIDAD & TOBAGO NATIONAL TEAM IN FRIENDLY AGAINST UNITED STATES
NEVEAL HACKSHAW TO REPRESENT TRINIDAD & TOBAGO NATIONAL TEAM IN FRIENDLY AGAINST UNITED STATES
Indy Eleven Signs Ghanaian Midfielder Gershon Koffie
https://www.indyeleven.com/2021-season-tickets

 

USMNT’s Berhalter praises Altidore, excited for Morris at Swansea

Jan 25, 2021c Jeff Carlisle U.S. soccer correspondent ESPNFC

United States manager Gregg Berhalter praised the play of forward Jozy Altidore, saying the Toronto FC striker has had a “great” January camp with the USMNT.

The U.S. is currently training in Orlando, Fla. after first training in nearby Bradenton at the IMG Academy. The U.S. will face off against Trinidad & Tobago this Sunday, with Altidore among those included in the 25-man roster.

– USMNT to-do list: Find striker, build depth behind stars
“For Jozy it’s been a great camp. He’s been participating really well. He’s been pushing hard,” the U.S. manager told reporters via a Zoom call. “We had to pull back a little bit in this last week, but we’re building him back up this week. You see that he has the experience, he has the maturity.”Altidore’s playing time at club level has been limited due to a variety of injuries over the course of the past three seasons, playing in 48 of 91 possible league matches. Earlier this month, Berhalter stated that “the consistency of [Altidore’s fitness] is going to be important,” in terms of what the forward will be able to contribute to the U.S. in 2021. On Monday, Berhalter added he appreciates the veteran presence that Altidore provides as well.”I think it’s nice to have veterans around because they know they can talk to the younger players,” Berhalter said. “But they also know what the national team is about and they know the history of the national team and that’s important. So, Jozy has been good, it’s been great having him in camp.”But Berhalter also said he wanted players that are motivated, and that applies to every player, including Altidore.”We want players that are striving to be starters. We don’t want players that are comfortable playing a substitute role,” Berhalter said. “We want them pushing to be starters but the competition is good for the team.”One player that won’t be available for selection against T&T is winger Jordan Morris, who left camp to complete his loan move to English Championship side Swansea City. Berhalter indicated he was in favor of the move, saying Morris is “going to be in good hands.””This is what Jordan was striving for,” said Berhalter about the loan. “And for Jordan, this is an opportunity now to help his team potentially get promoted and that’s a great achievement in soccer. The automatic promotion is one thing, and the [promotion] playoff game is the most expensive game in the world, right? So this will be a great challenge for Jordan, [and a] great challenge for the club of Swansea, to see if they can get into the Premier League this year.”One certainty to come out of Sunday’s match will be that a goalkeeper will make his international debut. All three keepers on the U.S. roster — the New England Revolution‘s Matt TurnerSan Jose Earthquakes keeper JT Marcinkowski, and the Philadelphia Union‘s Matt Freese — have yet to appear for the U.S. But based on Berhalter’s comments, Turner, who also was called up for the January camp in 2020, appears to have the inside track to start against the Soca Warriors.”Matt certainly has improved. I think it’s night and day, compared to him [in the] last January camp,” said Berhalter. “He had, I think, the reflexes last January, but now his whole game has imroved and you can see he’s gained confidence and that whole season behind him has really improved him. He’s looking sharp.”In the games, he’s made some big saves and that’s really a hallmark of what we know Matt to be able to do is the big save ability. And then he needs to continue to work with his feet, continue to improve the build up from the goalkeeper, but he’s doing a great job. We really happy with him.”

US men’s national team vs. Trinidad and Tobago: Three things to watch for | Armchair Analyst

January 28, 202110:54AM EST  Matthew DoyleSenior Writer

The US men’s national team host Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday (7 pm ET | FS1, UniMás, TUDN) in both teams’ first friendly of 2021. As is the tradition with these January camp games, neither side will be at full strength because this is not a FIFA-mandated international date. Teams are not required to release players, and thus if they’re in season, they don’t.That means there’s even less to learn than in the typical friendly. It does not mean, however, that there is nothing to learn. Just as in the final three friendlies of 2020 — a scoreless draw at Wales followed by complete stompings of Panama and El Salvador — we can get a sense of how head coach Gregg Berhalter wants his team to play, who’s showing an ability to play that way, who’s moving up the pecking order in the fight for sports and so on.

1. The midfield shape in possession

Since Berhalter’s taken over he’s tinkered with the US’ midfield shape a decent bit. Some of this is based upon the opponents, in that against weaker teams he’s had the US in what I’d consider to be a pretty aggressive 4-3-3 with dual attacking midfielders getting VERY advanced and one lone regista tasked with both shuttling the ball from back-to-front and shielding the backline. At other times — notably 12 months ago vs. Costa Rica — it was more of an asymmetrical 4-2-3-1 with something of a double pivot as one of the more attacking midfielders (Sebastian Lletget on that day) dropped deeper for extra dirty work. Three months ago vs. Wales it was the familiar 4-3-3, but also kind of different in that Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah seemed to have a more egalitarian sharing of responsibilities. Four days after that against Panama, Adams was something close to an old-fashioned destroyer while Musah and McKennie pushed higher.It is good and smart to be flexible. Berhalter’s come up with looks that are both distinctive yet similar while playing out of roughly the same shape. That portends a high level of in-game (and in-tournament) tactical flexibility.

2. Yueill pushing up

I’m assuming we’ll see the “regista” version of Berhalter’s 4-3-3, and I’m also assuming Jackson Yueill will get the start as the No. 6. He’s played that role a bunch over the past two years for club and country, and mostly been very good. He is a natural distributor and his work in shielding the backline has grown considerably.He is not yet, however, a natural presser. Berhalter asked him to do a lot of that in the win over El Salvador, to mixed results:

https://www.mlssoccer.com/iframe-video?brightcove_id=6226756860001&brightcove_player_id=default&brightcove_account_id=5530036772001 That compilation’s just from the first 20 minutes. You can see him winning the ball and winning fouls, and on the final clip, his pressing creates a goal. In between those, he was twice a half-step slow, which could have turned into breakout opportunities against better opponents.This is a very Adams-y way to use the defensive midfielder — Adams is the best pressing player in the pool and one of the best in the world. He creates turnovers, and even for teams heavily invested in positional play (as the USMNT under Berhalter are), turnovers are the lifeblood of the modern game.Yueill is never going to be Adams in that phase of the game, but he’s improved a bunch since early 2019. It seems like he’ll have to improve even more if he’s going to solidify his spot in the d-mid pecking order.

3. Daryl Dike, make your case

Berhalter said it last year: Jozy Altidore is still probably the most talented No. 9 in the pool. I do not think that assessment is wrong.

He also said Altidore’s fitness issues have held him back, and that’s clearly not wrong, either. Altidore is 31 now and spent most of 2020 looking like a shell of his former self to the point where it wasn’t just, “Is he going to be fit enough to play 90 minutes?” It was, “Is he going to be fit enough to make an actual run?” Quite often the answer was no.The good news from the US perspective is there’s suddenly a glut of young, high-upside center forwards vying for the job of Jozy’s successor*:Josh Sargent was the anointed one, and to be fair to him, his goals per 90 while with the US has been good (just don’t pay too much attention to who those goals have come against), but his goals per 90 for Werder Bremen has been abysmal.Nico Gioacchini debuted in that win over Panama with a brace, though he hasn’t exactly been lighting it up in Ligue 2.Sebastian Soto also debuted with a brace in that same game. He scored for fun in the Dutch second tier, but bear in mind it’s the Dutch second tier (he’s on his way to Norwich in the Championship now, for what it’s worth).Matthew Hoppe burst onto the scene this month with five goals in three games for Schalke. He’s yet to make an appearance for the US at any level, and it’s not exactly clear his hot streak will continue.Ayo Akinola burst onto the scene last summer with a hat-trick against D.C. United, then just kept scoring — including a goal in his debut for the US last month. This month he happens to be with the Canadian men’s national team.(*) Calling any of these guys “Jozy’s successor” is a bit of Gyasi Zardes erasure, but I do think it’s reasonable to hope one or more of these guys ends up being a better USMNT No. 9 than Zardes. The sixth member of this group is young Daryl Dike, who was superb for Orlando City last year and is in his maiden voyage as a national teamer. It’s a good bet he’ll get at least 30 minutes, though I would hit the “over” if you wanted to slap the line there. The other guys have all made compelling cases in one way or another, and now it’s Dike’s chance to do the same.

Jozy Altidore Is Still Here for the USMNT

Altidore hasn’t featured for the U.S. in 18 months, and the national team is trending younger, but he’ll be the first to remind you that 31 is still young and that he has plenty more to offer. Brian Straus – SI

Thirteen years—that’s a solid career. To overcome the competition, the distractions, the passage of time, injuries and so many other potential hurdles to play for that long at the very highest level requires a lot of talent, a ton of perseverance and a dose of good fortune. Few manage it. Those who do have every reason to feel content.We have an innate sense of an average athlete’s top-tier lifespan, of how long his or her biological clock should permit competing at a world-class level. It’s how coaches and GMs know when to start scouting for replacements. It’s why we marvel at the likes of Tom Brady and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who’ve each shattered that ceiling. And it’s why, in this era of emerging talent and fresh faces on the U.S. national team, it might seem to some like Jozy Altidore, who earned his first senior cap way back in 2007, should be moving on.It feels like he’s been around forever. Altidore has transcended eras, along with five head coaches. He’s the ninth-most-capped player in program history and if the USA had qualified for the 2018 World Cup, it would have been his third. As the generation that peaked in Brazil then fell three years later in Couva fades away, succeeded by a cohort that’s making unprecedented waves at the sport’s most prestigious clubs, Altidore remains the one who’s still hanging on, refusing to take his leave or cede his place to the passage of time.He’s doing it by sticking with what got him this far, while reminding us that being around forever doesn’t mean you’re old. Altidore got an early international start, earning his first cap a few days after turning 18. He’s still only 31 and believes he’s still very much in his prime. “I think this is interesting,” he said from Florida, where he’s the eldest member of the patchwork U.S. team preparing for Sunday’s friendly against Trinidad & Tobago. “In MLS and U.S. soccer, we love to call players like myself old. But if you look in Europe, some of the very best performers are older than me. And so, I just think that’s a very MLS and kind of a U.S. journalist’s mentality, this notion that I’m all of a sudden old, when [Robert] Lewandowski is 30-something.”Lewandowski, the FIFA player of the year, is 32. Ibrahimovic is 39 and Cristiano Ronaldo is 35. Indeed, it’s possible to play, and even dominate, at the highest level well into one’s 30s. But Altidore’s recent past hasn’t been dominant. He recovered well from the World Cup qualifying setback in 2017 and helped power Toronto FC to an unprecedented treble that was finished off by the club’s first MLS Cup title (he scored the game-winner). But there was hardship along the way, as he was booed and jeered by fans scapegoating him for the Couva disaster. A particularly ugly incident occurred at Red Bull Arena, the home of his first pro club and close to where he was born.“I’m a villain in my own country, and I accept it,” he told Sports Illustrated a couple of years ago.Altidore started only 12 MLS matches for TFC in 2018, and he didn’t play for the USA again until the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup. But he told Sports Illustrated this week that his commitment to the national team and his interest in representing his country never wavered, even if others’ confidence in him did.“It’s been the greatest joy of my career to put on the national team shirt,” he said. “There’s disappointment and tough moments, but it’s been the biggest pleasure for me. It remains that way, and those challenges happen. It’s how you bounce back from it, and how you respond as a soccer nation, as a federation and as individuals. It’s always been a great joy for me and that hasn’t changed today.”So after another difficult season with TFC, during which his club was forced to base itself in Connecticut for two months and he tallied only two goals in 14 total appearances, Altidore committed himself to the USA’s three-week camp. Most of the men called in were U-23 players preparing for Olympic qualifying, and on Sunday evening at Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium, Altidore will have almost as many caps as the rest of the 25-man roster combined. This exercise was not beneath him, however. He wants to play a key role in the busy international year ahead, and sees each and every chance to prove himself at this level as an opportunity that can’t be passed up.“It’s an invite into the national team,” he said of this month’s camp. “You don’t pick and choose when you play for the national team. So to have the opportunity to receive a call-up is an honor. I still get the same excitement I did when I was 18. January camps aren’t very easy, but like I said, it’s the national team and when the national team calls, if you’re able to go you want to go.”He wanted to go, and he’s clearly wanted. Injuries have been Altidore’s biggest issue. It’s never been a question of ability.

“What I would say is just looking at the striker position in general, I think you have Jozy Altidore, who is probably still the most talented that we have in that position, but he’s got fitness issues,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter told MLS’s Extratime podcast in October. “He’s still an amazingly talented player, so our goal there is to keep working with him.”Indeed, striker remains the primary spot at wch the national team’s next generation has yet to really break through. Gyasi Zardes is the only other experienced veteran, while the likes of Josh Sargent, Nicholas Gioacchini, Sebastian Soto and now Matthew Hoppe are trying to make their way abroad. Berhalter also has looked at Daryl Dike, Chris Mueller, Ayo Akinola and others over the past year, perhaps hoping one might eventually develop the skills and presence that Altidore has when he’s at his best. That version of Altidore, the one who’s the national team’s third all-time leading goal scorer, probably remains the USA’s brightest prospect at the position.Berhalter said this week that while it took a few days for Altidore to get fit, his work ethic, experience and maturity have been an asset during a camp featuring so many younger players. And as for Altidore’s hopes for the year ahead, Berhalter said, “In general we want players that are striving to be starters. We don’t want players that are comfortable playing a substitute role. We want them pushing to be starters. We think the competition is good for the team, and anyone we bring in hopefully has the potential to be a starter on this team. That’s why they’re included in the squad.”Ask Altidore to look ahead, however, and he’ll have none of it. He’s not thinking about a 2021 that’ll feature the inaugural Concacaf Nations League finals, a Gold Cup and then the start of World Cup qualifying. Playing in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, where he’ll be newly 33, remains more of an amorphous aspiration. His career, from his early start with the Red Bulls to his record-breaking transfer to Villarreal, and from that memorable Confederations Cup semifinal goal against Spain to the injury that knocked him out of the 2014 World Cup, shows that absolutely nothing is predictable. There is no pattern. He’s played just 264 national team minutes since Couva, the equivalent of about three games in three years. Yet he is in position to remain a vital part of Berhalter’s plans–not because of or despite his experience or age, but because he’s capable of deserving it that day. That’s how he’s approaching this camp and this year. “I don’t expect anything. There are no gimmes,” he said. “It’s not like you’re on the national team now and that means you’re on the team next year. It’s you’re on the team today, and you try to make the most of that opportunity. You try to give as much as you can to the team and the guys around you, and that’s what it is. For me, this year and going forward, I’m just living in the present and I’m taking it one day at a time, because nobody knows what’s going to happen now, in two weeks, in three months, in the next two years. It’s an honor to be here and I’m trying to give my best every single day.”

Why Swansea City is the right move at the right time for Jordan Morris | Steve Zakuani

January 23, 20211:04PM ESTSteve ZakuaniContributor

The reports became official Friday, with Jordan Morris joining English Championship side Swansea City on loan for the remainder of the 2020-21 season. The move certainly creates a hole in Seattle’s lineup, though there’s an exciting opportunity for the US men’s national team forward to prove himself overseas after thriving for his hometown club.From a selfish standpoint, I’d have loved to see Morris stay in Seattle so I could continue to enjoy watching him as a fan and covering him as an analyst. His growth in the last 18 months has been nothing short of extraordinary. Don’t get me wrong, he’s always been good. From the first time I saw him play at age 15 when he participated in a first-team training session during my days with the Sounders, I could see that he had some special qualities. Those qualities are still among his strong points today – raw pace and power – but he has added so much more to his game. What most stood out during the 2020 season was his composure in front of goal. He found himself in the same positions he’s always gotten himself into, but there was a different demeanor when he was 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper. He looked assured, relaxed and certain that he was going to find the back of the net. And more often than not, he did. Fans will talk about his goal against San Jose in the 7-1 win because of the great run from the halfway line, but I will always remember it for the finish. It was further evidence of a player that learned how to slow the game down in the final third and apply the right finish. San Jose’s unique defensive scheme also played a significant role, too.That wasn’t always the case with Morris, especially early on when he often looked rushed and short of confidence in front of goal. He has gotten better each year and that’s why I think the next logical step is to test himself abroad. There’s simply nothing left for him to do in Seattle. He knows he can run past any MLS defender he wants, lead the team to trophies, score and assist almost at will when he’s on top form and that he’s essentially guaranteed double-digit goals if he stays fit. He can do all of that on autopilot in MLS, and so the next challenge is leaving the comforts of home and trying to elevate himself to a new level. Had Morris stayed in Seattle for all of the 2021 season, I’d have had no problem with it. I’ve come to understand that every athlete is motivated by different things. Some want nothing more than to test themselves at the highest level possible, regardless of circumstance or situation, while others want their off-field life to be a certain way before they decide to look for new challenges. Neither way is better than the other, the only important thing is for the player to be comfortable in whatever they choose. That’s why I love this move for Jordan – it was his choice. Had he gone to Werder Bremen right out of Stanford, he’d have done it more to appease the “you have to test yourself in Europe” cowd than for any personal reason. As it turns out, the decision to stay home was the right one. He’s learned what it means to be a pro; how to win and lose; how to add tweaks to his game; and he’s done all of that while being physically close to family and friends who have supported him as he’s grown into his career. He’s also won two MLS Cups and totalled 35 goals and 20 assists in 105 games. Now, after achieving all of that, he’s going to Europe while playing the best soccer of his life and carrying a wealth of experience that he simply didn’t have when he left college. I fully expect him to be a success at Swansea. Of course it’s going to depend on the tactics, his role, what he’s asked to do, how his teammates connect with him and how quickly he can get up to speed. But in terms of ability, I have no doubt that he can succeed there. His skill set can translate to any league in the world as long as his team plays to his strengths. Playing alongside Nicolas Lodeiro and Raul Ruidiaz, he’s learned how to combine and play quick passes when he comes in from wide areas. It’s not enough to be a winger that can only go back and forth, you have to know when to come inside and connect passes to keep your opponents guessing. He has also learned how to be dangerous without the ball and how to find the balance between being direct and being more subtle in the final third — all traits that will serve him well in the Championship. The only way this move doesn’t work out is if he gets injured or if Swansea make no attempt to play to his strengths. Anything short of that and I expect Swansea fans to enjoy what we’ve been enjoying in Seattle for the past few years – a player who’s constantly improving and, when at his best, is almost always the most dangerous man on the pitch.

 

Catarina Macario, Megan Rapinoe star in USWNT’s 6-0 rout of Colombia

by Julia Poe, Orlando Sentinel, Posted: January 23, 202

ORLANDO, Fla. — A mix of veteran and young U.S. women’s national team stars combined for a blowout 6-0 victory over Colombia on Friday, capping January camp with two friendly wins for the Americans.

The match opened with a bang when 22-year-old Catarina Macario netted the first goal of her international career in the third minute. That goal was the payoff of years of work on and off the field for Macario. The Brazilian native became a U.S. citizen in the fall while formally applying to change her national team affiliation.

The switch was approved last week, allowing Macario to debut on Monday night and notch her first goal on Friday. Orlando Pride captain Ali Krieger assisted the goal with a high-arcing cross from outside the box, which Macario tapped into the net with her first touch.

Macario’s goal was followed by a brace from star Megan Rapinoe, who returned this week after nearly a year away from the pitch during the pandemic. Rapinoe netted her first goal with a backside shot that ricocheted off a defender, showcasing her signature flair with an air guitar celebration.

Catarina Macario is on her way to becoming the USWNT’s next big star

The veteran closed the half with a penalty kick to give the Americans a 3-0 lead. The U.S. continued to pour on the pressure in the second half, making way for Lynn Williams and Lindsey Horan to add goals.

Midge Purce closed the match by netting her first international goal, leaping to flick a header into the net to stretch the lead to six goals.

The U.S. previously beat Colombia 4-0 on Monday night. The Americans’ high press continued to overpower their opponent, forcing the Colombians onto their heels for most of the match. U.S. outshot Colombia 33-2, forcing keeper Sandra Sepulveda to make five saves to prevent a wider deficit.

The matches are the first step of gearing up for the rescheduled Tokyo Olympics. The Times of London cited an anonymous source stating Japanese government officials expected the games to be canceled, but numerous officials refuted the report Friday and the games are still scheduled to be staged despite the challenges presented by the difficult to contain coronavirus pandemic.

The Americans will return to Orlando to host the SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium in February.

USAWNT vs. Colombia recap: double debut goals!

Catarina Macario is everything you dreamed of and more, Midge Purce gets on the scoresheet, and this team is definitely hurtling towards more excellence.

By Stephanie Yang@thrace  Jan 22, 2021, 7:29pm

Starting XI: Jane Campbell, Emily Sonnett, Tierna Davidson, Alana Cook, Ali Krieger, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Rose Lavelle, Megan Rapinoe, Catarina Macario, Lynn Williams

It took Catarina Macario just under three minutes to score both the first goal of the night and her first career goal in a United State jersey. Ali Krieger made her run on the right, bounced in a nice cross, and Macario shook her defender to tap it in to make it 1-0. It wasn’t quite a forecast of things to come but it was close, as the United States continued what they started in game one, peppering the Colombia defensive third with plenty of crosses from the left and right and a handful of direct balls up the middle, with a sprinkling of Sam Mewis carrying the ball out of deep while the front line pushed ahead of her for good measure.The Macario show didn’t end there, particularly as Lavelle played and stayed high ahead of Mewis and formed an exciting and unpredictable duo at the top of the box. But there was also Macario dummying a run onto a pass, leaving it behind while she peeled defenders off the passing lane to allow Lynn Williams to run into free space, or her small unselfish touches in the box trying to set up her teammates, or her ability to hold the ball and put it onto her shooting foot with two or three players in her face.The US also continued their work on pressing out of possession, only having to drop quickly a few times off of lost one-v-one battles or intercepted passes. Colombia certainly kept their heads up, looking to close down those passing channels and try to pick out an errant ball and quick counter. But the US defended well as a group, and center backs Davidson and Cook did good jobs playing into the team’s strategy regrouping on the back line, then having a center back look for the play through the central channel, usually picking Mewis as their option to move things forward.The second goal came in the 35’ as Rapinoe picked up the ball in the box, took a shot, and had it deflect off a defender to skip inside the post, just past Sandra Sepulveda’s outstretched hands. Rapinoe would make it three in the 43’ as Colombia once again had a penalty called on them, this time for a tussle that brought down Sam Mewis in the box. Rapinoe buried it nicely low in the corner.To the very end of the half, Macario, Lavelle, and Williams were engaged in fast, fun interplay, moving off of the ball and one another to open up the Colombian defense and put each other either in crossing or shooting position.The second half started with no changes to the lineup. Colombia tried to up the pressure somewhat, but the US stuck tot heir plan, finding a nice opportunity through Cook playing a direct ball to Macario, who won her player battle and picked up Rapinoe in the wide channel. Rapinoe switched the field, where Krieger was waiting to set up yet another cross.Lynn Williams opened up the second half scoring in the 60’, heading in a nice little serve from Sam Mewis. Then came the first slew of subs in the 62’, with Rapinoe, Macario, and Lvaelle off, and Crystal Dunn, Carli Lloyd, and Lindsey Horan on. In an extremely exciting moment, Dunn went in as a forward and not a fullback and drifted between that position and center mid for the rest of the game.

Unfortunately, shortly thereafter Sam Mewis went down with what looked like a painful left ankle injury. She limped off the field by herself and was later seen icing her ankle, as well as walking after the game, but still with a limp. Kristie Mewis subbed in for her, with Midge Purce also coming on for Lynn Williams in the 76’. That made a forward line of Dunn – Lloyd – Purce, which absolutely did not help Colombia in feeling less wide pressure or having to defend fewer crosses.In the 79’ the United States used their last sub to take off Krieger and bring on Emily Fox at left back, switching Sonnett over to the right side. The game lost a little coherence mid-half, stopping and starting play with corner kicks and throw ins, but the team adjusted again, with Horan taking on box-to-box support and Dunn drifting central as needed. Kristie Mewis added to the crossing action when she wasn’t also crashing the box, adding to the pressure on Colombia’s defense. Purce in particular dug into her attacking role, taking the ball endline over and over on her end, and making nicely-timed runs as a target for crosses from the left side. Eventually, Purce made good on all those runs, scoring her first USWNT goal in the 86’ as she skipped in a header off a ball from Lloyd.The game ended at 6-0, another healthy reminder that the USWNT has an extremely versatile bench and that Vlatko Andonovski has a vision for each of his players and has them working together on a clear plan.After the game, Andonovski said that even though this was a lopsided game, they would be drawing information from both the defense and offense. “We can evaluate the defense when we’re in possession of the ball. How much are they helping in the build up, are they able to find our six, are they able to find our tens, penetrating passes, advancing forward. There’s so many things,” he said. “Working from the October camp on, we started tweaking the way that we’re defending a little bit. It seems like we’re moving in the right direction. The stats show that we’re moving in the right direction. I still feel like there are things we can get better at. But on the other side I feel like we’re able to create more opportunities.”He also complimented the performances of Dunn and Purce, saying that Dunn in particular was always a strong possibility to come in as a forward in one of these games, and that possibility got even bigger after the injuries to Mal Pugh and Sophia Smith. “The thought that Crystal may play forward started way back even when we selected the roster,” he said. “I had the idea and Crystal texted me as soon as the rosters came out with a little smiley face, that she saw that the roster is a little bit unbalanced, a little bit more defenders and less forwards.”He added, “We know that Midge is a good forward. There’s no doubt that she’s a good forward. obviously we saw something in her that may help us or help her become a good fullback and we’re going to continue working as we go forward but when we need a forward, obviously she’s good enough and showed that she can do a good job there.”Catarina Macario also spoke to media after the game. On the dynamism of her partnership with Lavelle, she said, “Rose and I were talking about this yesterday, how we really like playing with each other. I think the coaches know our characteristics and so they didn’t necessarily have to say anything out of the norm, like oh you guys play with each other. It was more a natural thing to happen. I know that she played me a few good balls – great balls, but my finishing wasn’t that well today, and so I hope that I can repay her the next time.”Macario also said that after her first cap, she was asked (Macario implied with a smile that it was a very strong ask) by her teammates to give a speech in the locker room. “I just told them how surreal it was, how unbelievable it was, the fact that I was actually playing with the people that I grew up watching,” she said.The United States is next scheduled to play in the SheBelieves Cup, starting on February 18 in Orlando, Florida.

What’s Soccer Pro Crystal Dunn’s Next Chapter? Fighting For The Recognition She Deserves

Alana GlassContributor   SportsMoney   I cover women in sports  FORBES C

Crystal Dunn is a recognized member of the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, but she is not the face of women’s soccer. After 105 caps and seven years as a professional athlete, Dunn is setting out to change that.“With my versatility and being one of the few Black women on the U.S. Women’s National Team, what I would have loved to see happen earlier, which I still hope will happen, is to be recognized as a face of women’s soccer,” said Dunn during a video interview from Portland where she signed a multi-year contract with the National Women’s Soccer League’s (NWLS) Thorns last October.“I am recognized as a player on the national team, which is great. But what I would like to see shift is the whole idea that this sport is predominantly White or that it is a White person’s face that is the face of women’s soccer. I have earned the right to be posterized and be a part of huge campaigns and lead the way for women’s soccer and not feel like I am just a player.”After narrowly missing the 2015 World Cup, a determined Dunn would not leave making a future roster up to chance. She responded to the snub by letting her performance on the pitch do the talking. That season, she was the NWSL’s top scorer and earned the league MVP honor.By 2019, Dunn secured a spot on the squad and solidified a starting role – a defensive one, that is.What largely gets overlooked is that her identity as an outside back – where she has mastered the art of defending and attacking – is not her natural position. Instead, Dunn’s instinct is to play as a midfielder where she has the freedom to be creative, technical and savvy.Playing and training for two different positions is physically and mentally draining, yet somehow Dunn manages to handle both roles with ease and grace. And for American football enthusiasts, her balancing act is the equivalent of asking someone to suit up as a defensive back and running back – that just does not happen! Still, Dunn has firmly accepted both challenges.“I never wanted to be a versatile player,” said Dunn. “Most people want to be great at something. If you are a striker, you want to be known for scoring goals, assisting and creating goals. For me, I did not get the luxury of working on one quality. I have to be good at scoring and creating goals and good at defending.”In the quarterfinal World Cup match against the French women’s national team, Dunn took on the career-defining assignment of defending Les Bleues most dangerous attacker, forward/winger Kadidiatou Diani.Before a sellout crowd in Paris’ Parc des Princes stadium, Diani, who is considered the “Neymar” of Paris Saint-Germain’s women’s club team, targeted Dunn. And France, believing that they could expose Dunn’s inexperience, soon discovered that her well-timed tackles, deflected crosses and swift recoveries would leave the Parisian striker scoreless.“I was nervous about playing a position that I did not deem my favorite or best position. I believed in myself, but of course, outside noise creeps,” Dunn explained while reflecting on the thrilling 2-1 victory.“I look back, and it is probably one of the best performances I have ever had as an outside back because Diani was killing the World Cup. She was scoring many goals. She was the perfect combination of what makes a dangerous striker, which is powerful, technical, savvy on the ball and ruthless.”Coming out of the tournament, Dunn’s stellar performance should have lifted her to stardom. She should have fielded lucrative endorsement deals or posed for magazine covers. Easily, the type of treatment one would expect after winning on the world’s biggest stage – right? Instead, her accomplishments on the pitch barely made a blip on the radar.“I did not feel the buzz that I thought I’d feel after coming off of winning a world championship. And that’s when I started to feel like I’m not branded the way I need to be branded. I’m not marketed the way I needed to be marketed,” Dunn said.“Then with everything that happened with George Floyd’s death due to police brutality is when I realized as a Black woman in this sport, I need to take back some control.”Dunn firmly grabbed the reins of her career late last year by requesting the Thorn’s trade and signing with the sports agency, Disrupt the Game. And so, in an hourlong conversation, Dunn explained that in her next chapter, she is betting on herself, unapologetically speaking her truth and setting out to crush the stereotype that Black women in soccer are just fast and strong athletes.This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Looking back at the 2019 World Cup victory, do you believe that you received ample recognition for your role on the team?

Absolutely not is the short answer. What was great, my teammate, Megan Rapinoe, speaking out [about me] in her interviews and being asked probably about her performance. She took the time to acknowledge my performance and said that we might not have won that game without me playing the way I played. It meant a lot to me, and more of that needs to happen. I know people get caught up talking about themselves, but soccer is a team sport. Not enough is spoken about the qualities of defenders.

You have mentioned wanting notoriety. What would more notoriety look like for you? What would it mean to be given more of the spotlight?

I would love for brands to feel like it is time to move forward towards more diversity in soccer. I hope that this sport, one day, does become everyone’s sport. There are more of us in this sport. There is a bit of diversity, but ultimately, it does not feel like it is everyone’s sport. It does feel predominantly White suburbia’s. People from the middle and upper-middle class can play this sport, but there is not much room and opportunity for those who do not fit that ticket.

When I look at my career, I have made strives. Every year I’m proving more and more that I am a top player every season. My stats are aligned with elite players every year, and then when I get to the end of the year, it does not translate into more endorsements, or it does not translate into how I am viewed on the National team. I am waiting for that shift. I am waiting to have a solid season, and then by the end of the year, all my hard work translates into more opportunities, more involvement with brands, more fans or more followers.

I can only imagine what your existence has been like – going from being the only Black girl on your team to now among a handful of women. All you’ve ever wanted to do is be a top performer. But you’ve endured challenges that others don’t have to go through. And for the rest of the world, soccer is everybody’s sport.

The French Women’s National Team is so diverse. Even the men’s national team is a mixed bag. There are so many Black men – and in midfielder positions – known for being creative and technical. They have the cognitive ability to solve problems, and it is a similar position to the quarterback in the NFL. For a long time, Black quarterbacks were an anomaly.That is why I’m so passionate about wanting to be seen as a ten because it is a position that not a lot of black women play it. Black women, I would say, are mostly center backs, outside backs, and wide forwards. Playing at a ten means that I am now combating the stereotypes of being fast, physical, and strong. I am passionate about wanting the world to see more Black women, especially in the roles that don’t fit the stereotypes that have been placed on us; that goes against everything that people have seen and use to describe Black athletes.

Let’s touch on the evolution of U.S. Soccer and the Black Lives Matter movement. Where does the relationship stand, and what is your role?

I fully believe that the world will not go back to what it was like before George Floyd. Unfortunately, this man had to lose his life in front of the world in a horrific way. People had to see that to believe and understand that this is the reality of Black people in America. We are stepping into another season, and I would love for people to wake up and say Black Lives still Matter. It is a new year, but it is the same until racism is completely taken out of society. We made progress, but how do we move forward?We started the Black Women’s Player Collective that started as a support group for the Black women in the league who feel like they do not have the support and representation on their teams. They can go to this group and share experiences and talk about things they might not feel comfortable

Catarina Macario is on her way to becoming the USWNT’s next big star (from October)

by Jonathan Tannenwald, Posted: October 9, 2020  

  •  

At 1:14 a.m. Friday morning, an earthquake struck American soccer.Just a few hours after Catarina Macario was called into her first senior U.S. women’s national team training camp, the Brazil-born Stanford playmaker made even bigger news. She had acquired U.S. citizenship, starting her on the path to officially join the team she has long dreamed about.The national team has been waiting to welcome her, too. Insiders and outsiders alike have rated her for years as one of the program’s elite prospects. But everyone had to wait for her to become a citizen.“We’re very happy and excited for her — for her to start a new chapter in her life, first and foremost, and then in her career,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said Friday afternoon.

Macario, 21, has lived in the United States since her family moved to San Diego in 2011. She was born in São Luís, Maranhão, a city on Brazil’s northern coast, and grew up in the nation’s capital Brasilia. She played the country’s national sport with as much flair as her male counterparts, but at age 12 was told she could no longer play on boys teams.

Knowing her potential, the family took a gamble. Catarina, her father and her brother went to California while her mother, a surgeon, stayed home to provide financial support. The language barrier and other issues made their new life difficult, but Catarina’s soccer skills shone through and caught the attention of college powerhouse Stanford. The school that produced Christen Press, Kelley O’Hara and Andi Sullivan wanted to make Macario its next star.

To say Macario took off is an understatement. With a skill set combining a playmaker’s touch and a striker’s finish, she racked up 63 goals and 47 assists in 68 games over three years. She won national championships in 2017 and 2019, and has won the last two MAC Hermann trophies — college soccer’s Heisman.

“Anyone who has seen Catarina play in college can tell that she’s a special talent,” Andonovski said. “She’s incredibly skillful, can score in many different ways, and is just fun to watch. She’s got a flair, she’s very creative, and she’s got the ability to create chances and score goals that anyone would welcome on a team.”

Macario has had plenty of big-time teammates. The 2017 squad featured Tierna Davidson, who won a World Cup two years later, plus Sullivan, Paris Saint-Germain’s Alana Cook, and the Washington Spirit’s Jordan DiBiasi and Tegan McGrady. Last year’s team had Sophia Smith, whom the Portland Thorns made this year’s No. 1 NWSL draft pick.

» READ MORE: How a Union assistant coach helped Stanford build the U.S. women’s soccer team dynasty

Davidson and Smith left college early, and Macario could have too. But she chose to stay to further her education. The NWSL would have to wait, and fans gave thanks that the league was stable enough to be able to.

While Macario was pursuing a degree, she was also pursuing U.S. citizenship. She got a green card six years ago, and was on track to become a citizen late this year or early next. The moment came this week, and fans erupted on Twitter as if they’d seen her score a goal.“I’m very excited about her personally, and I know that this means a lot because she has put a lot of effort individually” into getting citizenship, said Andonovski, who’s also a naturalized immigrant. He was born in North Macedonia in 1976 and came to this country in 2000 to play indoor soccer for a pro team in Wichita, Kanasas.“I know it is stressful at times, but it is very fulfilling,” Andonovski said. “The moment you apply for citizenship is the moment when you decide to say, ‘I want this to be my home, I want this to be my country, and I want to be American.’ The moment you get the papers is when you feel like you’ve been accepted, and you’re wanted to be part of this country.”A key piece of the process is a change in FIFA’s rules for players who move countries. The governing body used to require five years of residence beyond a player’s 18th birthday, which would have kept Macario waiting until October of 2022. to be precise. Now the rule simply requires five years of residence, period, for players 18 or older.Andonovski said Macario is in the process of getting a U.S. passport, and U.S. Soccer will soon ask FIFA to approve Macario’s eligibility. When that happens, she’ll immediately be in the race for a spot on next year’s Olympic team. And the notoriously small 18-player roster will become that much harder for everyone else to make.“Hopefully, what she has demonstrated in the college game, she can demonstrate on the national team level, because we know it takes a little bit more to be a special player at that level,” he said.A few minutes later, Andonovski said the words that U.S. fans have waited so long to hear: “I think that she will be ready for Tokyo.”As with any marquee prospect, it’s sometimes necessary to slow down the hype train. But everyone who has watched Macario up close believes she’s the real deal. And you can be sure that the earthquake felt by American soccer fans had aftershocks in the Netherlands, France, England and Australia — the nations that have the best shots at dethroning the U.S. in the coming years.

Biden and the Beautiful Game

Joe Biden has helped inaugurate an MLS club, been to three World Cups, had a say on equal pay and, as the new POTUS, will play a part in 2026 World Cup preparations. Here are the tales from his time around the highest levels of soccer.

BRIAN STRAUS  JAN 20, 2021For four years—through a World Cup in South Africa, a season in Germany, three years in Mexico and around two dozen national team matches across the U.S., Europe and Latin America—DaMarcus Beasley kept the coin in his toiletry kit.He placed it there after receiving it as a gift at the conclusion of a White House visit—it seemed as good a place as any to store it for a while—but then never had a reason to take it out. It remained mixed in with his grooming supplies, transported between hotel rooms and locker rooms and back, out of some mix of habit, superstition and inertia.“Every once in a while you clean out your bag, your toothpaste is done or whatever, but I always kept the coin in my bag,” Beasley said.In May 2010, Beasley was part of a U.S. national team delegation that was welcomed by President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President Bill Clinton to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., where they’d share a few words and take a few pictures before heading to South Africa for the World Cup. It was supposed to be a quick visit but the U.S. Soccer Federation went all out anyway, embroidering team jackets for the players and staff to wear and fitting everyone with brand new dress pants and shoes. “I told the team prior to that, ‘Guys, this doesn’t happen. You don’t usually go to the White House for a visit until you win something, and we’ve got two presidents and a VP,’ ” then U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said. “That doesn’t normally happen.”Photos were shot, pleasantries were exchanged and Obama and Clinton took their leave. The rest of the group was milling about, waiting for their bus when Biden, who was still hanging around, was approached by U.S. team trainer Jim Hashimoto and press officer Michael Kammarman. Like Biden, Hashimoto and Kammarman were University of Delaware alumni. Biden was happy to reminisce for a few minutes, and he then asked what the team was up to. The plan was to board the bus and head straight back to Philadelphia, where there was training that afternoon and then an exhibition game against Turkey two days later.No, Biden meant, what are they up to right now?Waiting for the bus.

There was Biden’s opening. Within moments, the national team was off on an impromptu tour of the West Wing that included the Oval Office, the Roosevelt Room and a once-in-a-lifetime group chat in Biden’s own office. As they left, Biden gave each member of the U.S. delegation a gold-and-blue vice presidential challenge coin as a memento of their unplanned time together.“He told the story about what the coin means. Just in layman’s terms, basically if you go into any bar—it started at military bars—and you put it in front of a higher rank, they have to buy you a drink,” said Beasley, the quick and skillful midfielder who was on his way to a third World Cup. “We thought that was so cool. That would probably never happen, because we don’t know if we’d ever be in position to even experience that, just putting the coin on the bar table in front of a general and have them buy you a drink. But just Biden telling the story about what it meant was pretty cool.”Biden had made the secret and exalted—these rooms that were the seat of such power and these traditions of people who represented the country in such serious and symbolic ways—seem accessible and familiar. That struck a chord with Beasley.“So that’s why I kept the coin. I just kept it because maybe it gave me luck,” he said. “I had it in my bag because of the story he told. You get a gift from the White House, from the vice president, you just keep it in your bag.”Beasley never intended to keep the coin among his toiletries for four years. He wasn’t planning on playing in a fourth World Cup—no American man ever had. And he certainly didn’t imagine that Biden would become such a familiar presence, someone whose path kept intersecting with U.S. soccer’s throughout his eight years as vice president and then again as he pursued the top job in 2019–20. It turned out that Beasley and Biden running into each other in a bar, so to speak, wasn’t that far-fetched.
Family was the catalyst for Biden’s first significant soccer moment as vice president. Beau, who died in 2015, was good friends with a local developer named Rob Buccini. Buccini’s company was involved in the construction of the Philadelphia Union’s stadium in Chester, Pa., and he became a minority investor in the new MLS club. While the arena was being finished, the Union’s first few home games in the spring of 2010 were scheduled to take place at the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field.“Beau actually was a fan of the game, God rest his soul, and he came to Philadelphia Union games. Beau and Rob were Delaware guys and grew up together and had a relationship,” recalls Union founder and former CEO Nick Sakiewicz. “Buccini’s suite was two doors down from mine, and whenever Beau was in Rob’s suite I’d go over and say hello to them. We’d have soccer conversations, and [Beau] was pretty knowledgeable.”Sakiewicz and his staff were busily preparing for their inaugural home game against D.C. United, for which they’d sold nearly 35,000 tickets, when he got a call from Buccini.“‘He said, ‘I think Beau can pull this off.’ And then we just kind of went into overdrive,” Sakiewicz says.The vice president was coming.The security logistics were significant, and that included the closure of exits off I-95. When Joe Biden took the field alongside Natalie, Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter and MLS commissioner Don Garber, there still were thousands of fans waiting to get inside.

By then, Sakiewicz had enjoyed the chance to chat a bit with the VP.“He was very talkative, like in the staging area before we went out to midfield,” Sakiewicz says. “He was very conversational about soccer. He knew the sport was exploding in the U.S. He said he watches the U.S. men and women, and we talked about the women’s national team, because they’re so successful. He said how great it was to have an MLS team playing in Chester. He knew all about the stadium, about the redevelopment that we were trying to spark on the riverfront. I was really surprised how knowledgeable he was about the project. He called it the stadium in his backyard.”Biden wasn’t as comfortable, however, with actually kicking a soccer ball. The idea was to have him join Philadelphia soccer legend Walter Bahr, a member of the famous 1950 U.S. World Cup team, at midfield, and then pass the ball to Union captain Danny Califf. “He was like, ‘I don’t know. I’m not used to kicking things. I’m usually throwing things,’ ” Sakiewicz says. “So we were showing him. ‘Use the side of your foot. Don’t use your toe’—kind of giving him some advice about how not to make a fool of himself.”In the end, as comfortable as he is in the spotlight, Biden deferred to Natalie. His five-year-old granddaughter did the honors. Sakiewicz, now the commissioner of the National Lacrosse League, has the ball she kicked on a shelf in his office.Biden didn’t stay for the game, and even though the fans waiting outside missed the Union’s first home goal, which Sébastien Le Toux scored in the fourth minute, the Frenchman obliged by scoring two more in a 3–2 win.“[Biden] was awesome. When he came into the stadium, he shook hands and gave everyone big congratulatory hugs. He was awesome, and his family was awesome,” Sakiewicz says. “We were honored to have him there. It was absolutely the cherry on top of the cake. It was a long slog, bringing that team to Philadelphia.”Just six weeks later, Biden was chatting with Hashimoto and Kammarman and inviting the U.S. World Cup squad to take its improvised West Wing tour. There, he was much more in his element. If you want to put Biden at ease, don’t ask him to kick a ball—ask him to hold court. He’s clearly someone who’s energized by being around others. He’s comfortable talking to just about anybody, and it should come as no surprise that he’s interested in athletes. Football and baseball helped shape and embolden Biden as a young man growing up with a stutter.“As much as I lacked confidence in my ability to communicate verbally, I always had confidence in my athletic ability,” he wrote in his 2007 memoir, Promises to Keep. “Sports were as natural to me as speaking was unnatural. And sports turned out to be my ticket to acceptance—and more. I wasn’t easily intimidated in a game, so even when I stuttered, I was always the kid who said, ‘Give me the ball.’ ”

So on that day in May 2010, Biden had a couple dozen world-class athletes at his disposal, and he was going to make the most of it. He invited the team into his office, asked them all to take a seat and proceeded to engage them for what Gulati estimated was about 30 minutes. Photos show the players bunched together in the room, standing along the edges or crammed onto one of the two sofas in the center. Assistant coach Mike Sorber somehow wound up in Biden’s desk chair.“We just chitchatted. We just talked. We talked about the World Cup,” Beasley says. “I think a couple guys asked him a couple questions. He was very personable, very warm, very open, and very cool. You could tell why him and Obama are very good friends. They kind of have that same personality with people—with people they don’t even know.”Biden asked a couple of his guests where they went to college before realizing that by then, gifted young players were turning pro before heading off to school. He told the team all about how the West Wing functions and what the vice president does. He referenced the U.S.’s rough go at the 2006 World Cup and expressed hope that 2010 would be better. Then he sent them on their way with the coins, telling them he’d be seeing them again soon.“When you go to the White House, everybody’s excited. You don’t want to make a mistake. You don’t know how to act. You’re in a historic place, not just in America but in the world,” Beasley says. “So to be there and for him to take his time and really be a normal—not the vice president of the United States but just be a normal human being and sit down and talk to us—that was memorable.”Soon they all were off to Africa—the World Cup team to its base camp in Irene, just south of Pretoria, where it would prepare for its tournament debut against England, and Biden to meetings in Egypt and Kenya before heading to Johannesburg. There, Biden visited the U.S. Consulate and met with South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, with whom he joked about the prospect of a South Africa–U.S. World Cup final. Biden attended the opening match between the hosts and Mexico. And then the next morning—the day of U.S.-England—he joined Gulati for a meeting with FIFA president Sepp Blatter.“A big part of the reason he came over was to help us pitch for the [2022] World Cup,” Gulati says.Obama had been planning to go himself, but he stayed behind to deal with the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that April. So Biden went to South Africa instead and found himself face to face with Blatter, who in some ways was as powerful as a head of state. FIFA’s Executive Committee would vote for the 2018 and 2022 hosts six months later.“We talked at length about what the United States had to offer the World Cup and what the World Cup had to offer the United States,” Biden said in a video produced by the White House. “I’m hopeful that we have a real clear shot that by the end of this year, getting picked as the site of one of the next two World Cups.”Blatter, Gulati and Biden convened in Blatter’s room at the Michelangelo Hotel in Sandton, a ritzy suburb of Johannesburg.“None of Blatter’s people came. So it was just the three of us up in his suite,” Gulati says. “And Biden was pitching the World Cup for us. He was fantastic at doing it. All the little things when you’re trying to be friends with someone—you touch them on the knee. Blatter said, ‘Well, I have only one vote.’ [Biden] basically said, ‘Yeah, but the referee is very important in all of this.’ ”Biden was just as quick on his feet once the meeting was over.“We’re leaving, and we’re running into a few people along the way. [Franz] Beckenbauer, we run into on the elevator,” Gulati recollects. “And then we get to the lobby, and there’s people in the lobby, and [Biden is] just phenomenal. He stops. He starts talking to people. Everything you hear about him and the way he is, he starts talking to people he doesn’t know. He goes over and talks to the woman at the registration desk. ‘So where are you from?’ Just engaging in a way that politicians can if they’re warm and personable.”That evening in Rustenburg, a small city about 75 miles northwest of Johannesburg, Biden asked if he could meet with the national team ahead of its match against England. That typically isn’t done. Locker room visits are for postgame. But Biden was a friend, so coach Bob Bradley made an exception. Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, made their way down to the depths of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, and the vice president delivered a few words to the team. The Bidens then returned to their seats and watched the Americans tie the favored English, 1–1, before going on to win their first-round group for the first time in 80 years.Biden would miss out on the next two significant American soccer events. He intended to go to Zurich in December 2010 to help Clinton make the U.S.’s final case to host the 2022 World Cup, but he was unable to make the trip. Biden’s ability to work a room probably wouldn’t have mattered, as Qatar won a vote that remains shrouded in suspicion. FIFA has since overhauled its system for awarding World Cup hosting rights, the Executive Committee was disbanded and, in 2015, Blatter himself was suspended from all FIFA activities for six years for offenses unrelated to the 2022 bid.The U.S. suffered another wrenching defeat in Biden’s absence in the summer of 2011, when the women’s national team blew two leads to Japan and then fell on penalty kicks in the Women’s World Cup final in Frankfurt, Germany. Jill Biden and Chelsea Clinton were there, however, and the future first lady said a few words to the devastated American players back at the team hotel that evening. “Vice President Joe Biden,” Gulati yelled over the din of the celebrating locker room inside the Arenas das Dunas.Thanks to a resolute defensive performance and a stunning, 86th-minute header from 21-year-old defender John Brooks, the U.S. defeated Ghana, 2–1, in its 2014 World Cup opener. That victory in Natal, Brazil, not only put the Americans on course to reach the second round, it cleansed the palate of devastating losses to the Black Stars at the 2006 and 2010 tournaments. The nemesis was defeated. Spirits were soaring.“We’d beaten Ghana. The team’s excited, and you’ve got the vice president of the United States there, so it’s pretty cool,” Gulati says.Biden and his entourage—including granddaughter Maisy—entered the locker room and congratulated the team. Biden saw coach Jürgen Klinsmann standing nearby and immediately joked that when Clint Dempsey scored the U.S.’s first goal shortly after kickoff, Klinsmann seemed happier than Biden was after the 2008 election.Biden began to make his way around the room. Beasley, who’d just played 90 minutes at left back, had to think fast. The players hadn’t known Biden was coming. Beasley rifled through his toiletry kit.“Mr. Vice President,” he said.Biden turned.“I want to show you—I still have the coin from last time.”It was Beasley’s second moment of triumph that day.“I had the coin in my hand, and I was kind of nervous. I was trying to get his attention,” he recalls. “It was so surreal. He was right in front of me, and I didn’t know how to interrupt him from talking. I didn’t know how to approach the vice president of the U.S. How do you do that? It made it easier because it wasn’t a formal setting. He was talking, going around, shaking hands and this and that, and then he finally got to my area.”Biden seemed overjoyed.“Well, I owe the drink,” Biden exclaimed, before putting his arm around Beasley for a photo.“He wasn’t thrown off by it. He has a quick wit. It was great. It was really great,” Beasley says. “You couldn’t have written a better script for that moment for me, how I had the coin and how it happened and winning the game and how it all ended—a really cool moment.”As Biden left, he turned toward Beasley.“Hey man, any time you want to collect,” he said. “I owe you!” https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/G8pBqsYPZjE ***

There were more celebrations the following summer as the U.S. women exorcised their World Cup final demons and thrashed the Japanese, 5–2, in Vancouver.Biden was there at BC Place with his wife, several grandchildren, Sasha Obama and National Soccer Hall of Fame members Mia Hamm and Cobi Jones, among others. Although the Bidens were brought down to the field following the game, interaction with the team was postponed until October, when the USWNT and U.S. Soccer officials visited the White House. Obama was the primary MC that day, but Biden was in attendance. He greeted the players privately and was presented with a national team jersey.Biden’s tenure as VP was coming to a close, but his relationship with the world champion women would strengthen during his subsequent run for president. Meanwhile, Jill Biden had one more unplanned run-in with the American men in the fall of 2016, when her trip to Cuba coincided with a historic friendly staged in Havana. Hurricane Matthew had devastated parts of the Caribbean in early October, and, although the players and coaches could travel, Gulati’s flight was canceled. He was able to improvise, however, thanks to U.S. Soccer’s connections at the White House. A few phone calls were made, and Gulati was on his way to Andrews Air Force Base for a flight to Cuba aboard Air Force Two.Jill Biden visited the team at its Havana hotel, said a few words and then attended the USA’s 2–0 win over Cuba.***

Between Biden’s visit to Vancouver and the start of the 2020 presidential primaries, Megan Rapinoe had evolved from women’s national team star to FIFA Player of the Year and social justice icon. She was the 2019 Women’s World Cup Golden Ball winner, and, as an outspoken advocate for racial and gender equity, she became the most recognizable face of the WNT’s equal pay crusade.In April 2020, Rapinoe hosted Joe and Jill Biden in a lengthy Instagram Live conversation, during which Jill Biden showed off her partially-dyed purple hair “in solidarity with pay equity,” and Joe Biden said, “You made me a hero,” with a signed WNT jersey he could present to his granddaughter.The men’s national team is the vehicle through which a president or VP can relate to more of the world. But the women’s national team possesses the star power at home.Rapinoe offered to be considered as Biden’s eventual VP nominee, to which Biden responded, “You would have to take a pay cut to become vice president.”Rapinoe answered, “You know I’m not into that!”Biden said, “You should get the same pay your colleagues, that men get. Not a joke. We’ve been hollering about that for a long time.”A few days later, a U.S. federal judge dealt a massive blow to the WNT’s year-long pursuit of relief, declaring via summary judgment that the U.S. women didn’t face discrimination from U.S. Soccer and by some measures had been paid more than the men. In addition, in dismissing a significant part of the lawsuit, the judge found that the WNT had rejected a contract similar to the one signed by the MNT.Left with only a dispute over select working conditions to litigate, the WNT began the process to be able to appeal and vowed to keep fighting.Then Joe Biden emerged with a stunning show of support.U.S. Soccer didn’t respond at the time. Gulati’s successor as president, Carlos Cordeiro, had resigned in March because of sexist language used by attorneys working for the Federation. The new president, former WNT star Cindy Parlow Cone, along with new CEO Will Wilson, pledged to overhaul the governing body’s relationship with its most successful team and work harder to find common ground.There wasn’t much teeth to Biden’s threat. U.S. Soccer doesn’t receive federal funding for its national teams or other programs, and any public money that might support the staging of the 2026 World Cup would be related to the sort of spending that any big event would require, like local security. FIFA and U.S. Soccer executives met several times with members of President Donald Trump’s administration during the bidding process to secure the required visa and tax guarantees.But the power of Biden’s message contributed to a public relations battle that U.S. Soccer knew it was losing, regardless of what happened in court. Parlow Cone and her colleagues are well aware that making things right isn’t just about the letter of the law.“We want President Biden and all Americans to know that we are committed to equal pay and working together with our women’s national team players,” Parlow Cone said in a statement. “We’ve offered them the same compensation as the men’s national team for the games that we control, but haven’t been able to come to an agreement due to their requirement for us to pay the difference in FIFA World Cup prize money, which we don’t control.“We’re doing everything we can to find a new way forward with our women’s national team players,” she added. “We truly want to work together, and our hope is we can meet soon to find a final resolution on this litigation. If we can come together and collaborate, we can have a much bigger impact in growing women’s soccer not only here in the United States, but across the world.”Having a friend in the White House also means having someone who’s going to call you out and keep you honest.”It feels good to know we have a supporter of soccer and our team in the White House,” Rapinoe said in a statement. “From the interactions I’ve had with him, I can tell he’s a man of great empathy and has an innate drive to help people and do his best to try to heal this country. From the World Cups in 2015 to 2019 and his continued support of our fight for equality, we feel his support for our game and I’m hoping we can win something big so we can visit the White House.”Preparation for the 2026 World Cup, which will take place in 16 cities across North America (including 10 in the U.S.), has been delayed by the pandemic. FIFA visits to potential host markets were postponed last year. Most of the help required from the federal government will be logistical, and Gulati, who still sits on the FIFA Council (the larger Executive Committee replacement), says most of it likely will be handled via an interagency coordinator—someone who can get the right person from Treasury or Homeland Security on the phone. Someone from Biden’s administration will fill that role.“It’s not Biden sitting and negotiating what the tax rules are going to be,” Gulati explains. “That means him saying to the right people, ‘Hey, let’s get this done but don’t go overboard,’ or ‘Let’s get this done no matter what.’ ”A number of people involved with the incoming administration have some connection to soccer, starting with chief of staff Ron Klain, who’s a friend of Gulati’s, a fan and the father of a former Harvard player. There’s confidence that World Cup organizers will have a sympathetic ear at the highest level.“Ever since the bidding process for the FIFA World Cup 2026 began, the governments and member associations of Canada, Mexico and the USA have been extremely supportive in their eagerness to host what will be an amazing event for the whole world,” FIFA said in a written statement.“The FIFA President would like to express his sincere congratulations to President-elect Joe Biden and would be honored to meet him at the earliest possible opportunity. As Mr. Biden is a soccer fan himself and someone who believes in the unique power of sport to bring people together, FIFA is greatly looking forward to a fruitful cooperation with Mr. Biden’s administration and to continue the excellent working relationship with the governments, member associations and local organizers of all three host countries.”

Beasley won’t be on the field in 2026. He finally retired at the end of the Houston Dynamo’s 2019 MLS campaign and now, at 38, he’s working on bringing a USL League One (third tier) pro team to his hometown of Fort Wayne, Ind.The coin is on a shelf at his home in Houston.“After that, I put it in my house so I wouldn’t lose it. I stopped carrying it, now that I met Joe,” he says. “It had served its purpose. I don’t need to wait until I meet another official or military person. It served its purpose. Now it’s with my other memorabilia, safe and sound.”He’s right. He doesn’t need the coin. Biden’s promise is right there on video. The only potential problem is that Biden is going to be pretty busy for at least the next four years, and Beasley isn’t yet sure how he’s going to collect the drink he’s owed.“I’ve got to win something so I can get to the White House,” he says. “I like tequila, so hopefully there’s some tequila in the Oval Office.”

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

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

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

1/22/20 USWNT vs Colombia Tonight 7 pm ESPN2, US Men next Sun 7 pm, McKinney wins Trophy with Juventus, FA Cup Weekend

Games to Watch this Weekend

With FA Cup this weekend –not a ton of big games to watch this weekend – most of them will be next week.  Of course Man United and Liverpool do battle again – after their disappointing 0-0 draw last week  – this time in FA Cup Action on Sunday at 12 noon on ESPN+.   We also get Genoa traveling to Juventus and American MF Weston McKinney (fresh off winning his first major trophy – the Italia Supercup Wed) on Sunday morning on ESPN2 at 6:30 am.  (Set that recorder).  Sunday also gives us a chance to see new 19 yo American forward Hoppe (scorer of 5 goals in 3 games) as Schalke will host Bayern Munich on Sunday at 9:30 am on ESPN+.   Weekday action in the EPL next Wed has Everton vs Leicster City at 3 pm on NBCSN, and Tottenham vs Liverpool Thurs 3:15 pm on NBCSN.  (see full schedule in the OBC)

US Ladies vs Colombia Tonight 7 pm ESPN2

The US ladies finally took the field again for the first time in forever.  It was nice to have Rapino and Llyod back on the forward line as both had assists to Sam Mewis helping her to her first hat-trick for the US.  In fact it was an all Mewis affair as her sister Kristie – came off the bench to score – giving the Mewis’s 4 goals on the night.   Colombia certainly had a young squad and did not put up much of a fight  – especially on the offensive end.  But Colombian veteran GK Sepulveda was spectacular in holding what could have been 8-0 to just a 4-0 scoreline for the US.  The ladies should face a stronger team tonight, Friday, Jan 22 at 7 pm on ESPN2.  It was great to see Catarina Macario – the Brazilian who flipped to the US this week.  Having come to the US at 12 and playing for Stanford for 3 season’s  (where she was player of the year last year) she’s on her way to Lyon in France where she’s headed to one of the top teams in the world.  She looked good and will certainly have an increasing role for this US team and could become its next superstar.  I look forward to seeing her perhaps start Friday night in the middle as I suspect coach will play a lot of new players in this second game.   Last time to enjoy before the She Believe’s Cup coming in late-Feb.   

US Men – play next Sun 7 pm on FS1.

So maybe the US does have a new Hoppe after 19 year-old American forward Matthew Hoppe became the first American to score a hat trick in the German Bundesliga for Schalke in just his 5th game?   Then the next game he scored again, the following game again – that’s 5 goals in 3 games and ties him for the goal lead in Jan with Bayern’s World Player of the Year Robert Lewandowski.  I think its time for a call up to the US team for him like soon!!  Interesting to see Seattle and US winger Jordan Morris is evidently going on loan to Swansea who is in the running for advancement in the Championship in England (2nd division).  I would like to think with starters now at Chelsea, Juventus, and Barcelona that someone in the EPL or Germany would take a flyer on one of the best wingers on the US National team.  Perhaps he can help Swansea get back in the EPL – and at least be seen by bigger European teams.  Cool story here on American’s in Europe.  The US Men and U23s are still training and will face Trinidad and Tabago on Sunday, Jan 31 at 7 pm on FS1.  

FA Cup on ESPN+

The  FA Cup is back and Chorley from the 6th division will host EPL squad Wolverhampton TODAY at 2:45 pm on ESPN plus.  Other giant killer games include Crawley Town of the 4th division traveling to Bournemouth at 10 am on Saturday and 4th tier Cheltenham Town hosting the mighty Manchester City assumably with US GK Zach Steffan in Goal at 12:30 Sat.  and 4th Tier Wycombe Wanderers hosting Tottenham on Monday at 2:45 pm.  Of course the big game is Man United vs Liverpool at 12 noon on ESPN+ Sunday.  Me I will be rooting for the little guys vs the EPL squads – Yes Gotta love the FA Cup!

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 22

2:45 ESPN+                       Chorley vs Wolverhampton FA Cup

2:30 pm ESPN+                 Dortmund (Reyna) vs M’Gladbach

3 pm beIN Sport                PSG vs Montipellier

7 pm ESPN2 USA Ladies vs Colombia

Sat,  Jan 23

                              (FA Cup Games on ESPN+)

7:15 ESPN+                         Southampton vs Arsenal FA Cup

10 am ESPN+                      Bournemouth vs Crawley Town

10 am ESPN+                      Swansea City (Morris soon?) vs Nottingham Forest

9:30 am ESPN+                   Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

12:30 pm ESPN+               Cheltenham Town vs Man City

3 pm Peacock                       Aston Villa vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

3 pm beIn Sport                     Alaves vs Real Madrid

Sun, Jan 24

6:30 am ESPN2                    Juve vs Bologna 

7 am EPSN+                         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Luton Town FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                   Schalke (Hoope) vs Bayern Munich

12 noon ESPN+                  Man United vs Liverpool FA Cup

3 pm EPSN+                         Everton vs Sheffield Wednesday

3 pm beIn Sport                   Atletico Madrid vs Valencia 

Mon,  Jan 25

2:45 ESPN+                         Wycombe Wanderers vs Tottenham FA Cup

Tues,  Jan 26

2:45 pm ESPN2 or +         Inter Milan vs AC Milan  Coppa Italia

Weds,  Jan 27

1 pm NBCSN                      Chelsea (Pulisic ) vs Wolverhampton

2:45 pm ESPN2 or +         SPAL vs Juventus –  Coppa Italia

3:!5 pm NBCSN                Everton vs Leicester City

Thurs  Jan 28

3 pm NBCSN                     Tottenham vs Liverpool

Sun, Jan 31

7 pm FS1                            US Men vs Trinidad and Tobago

USA Women


Secret to U.S. women’s soccer team’s success? Intense internal competition
LA Times
Sam Mewis hat trick helps USWNT past Colombia
USWNT vs. Colombia, 2021 friendly: What we learned  By Donald Wine II
Mewis Sisters Power USWNT’s 2021-Opening Rout of Colombia  BY MOLLY GEARY SI

– Sauerbrunn named new USWNT captain
– USWNT’s Dahlkemper completes move to Man City
– Macario files FIFA switch to rep USWNT

Trinity Rodman is ready to make her own Rodman legacy in pro soccer   Kathleen McNamee

USA MEN

SSFC Spotlight: Matthew Hoppe an overnight sensation in Schalke  By Brendan Joseph S&S
How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help
dESPN
USMNT to play Trinidad & Tobago to conclude January Camp Jan 31 7 pm FS1
Americans at home: The pros and cons of Jordan Morris moving to Swansea City
USMNT 2021 to-do list: Find a striker, build depth behind stars
USMNT’s Aaronson scores in FC Salzburg debut
U.S., Mexico set for Olympic qualifying in March
Orlando’s Perea flips to USMNT from Colombia
A few minutes with Aaronson |
 Stock watch: Hoppe, Musah, Yedlin, Green | 
Scouting report: Otasowie

WORLD

FA Cup: How to watch Manchester United – Liverpool, 15 other ties
Liverpool’s 68-game unbeaten home run ended by Burnley

Surging Man City to be without De Bruyne for 4-6 weeks

Why Chelsea aren’t Giving up on Lampard Yet
What’s wrong with Liverpool? Maybe not as much as you think

Title-chasing Leicester suffer Vardy blow

Borussia Dortmund face a critical month, yet another rebuild. How did they fall behind?
 
5hStephan Uersfeld and Tom Hamilton

Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey conquerors have budget under $1m a year  12hChris Wright
Milan and Inter continue duel for top spot, Roma set for Spezia rematch

King size: keeper sets world record for long-range goal

USWNT could win Olympic gold if they can balance experience with next generation – Julie Foudy ESPNFC

:46 PM ET. Thankfully, eventually, we found a way.

– Sauerbrunn named new USWNT captain
– USWNT’s Dahlkemper completes move to Man City
– Macario files FIFA switch to rep USWNT

I can’t even imagine how many times in 2020, the current national team must have yelled, building character! or, perhaps, something more colorful. With the pandemic came the shut-down of leagues and, then, the shut-down of sports, the closure of fields, parks, gyms… all the things you need in your profession to help maintain your game. So the players did what any motivated athlete does… they figured out a way to make it work, safely. They went overseas to play, they played in an NWSL bubble, they picked up games and training where they could.Thankfully, eventually, they found a way.If you need any further proof on if they passed the test of adjusting and adapting to 2020, look no further than their game in the Netherlands on Nov. 27 last year. It was a replay of the 2019 World Cup final and, it’s worth noting, against a very good Dutch team that had many players in professional leagues who had continued to keep playing (more consistently than the US, that’s for sure) in Europe after much of the continent brought sports back.I thought the U.S. team would understandably look rusty and tire quickly, having very few players who were fit enough to last 90 minutes. Instead, we saw the USWNT run the Dutch off the pitch. And now, as 2021 greets us with a huge Faustian laugh (wait, that is not how it was scripted), the big question — WHERE IS THE TEAM? in the continuum of growth given the challenges of 2020 — has been answered.

The bigger question, in my opinion, leading into the Olympics in July is: how do you sprinkle in some youth into this veteran group? Or maybe you don’t. But I would argue that it’s the most important decision that coach Vlatko Andonovski has to weigh in these coming months.Carli Lloyd turns 39 at the start of the Olympics. Megan Rapinoe and Becky Sauerbrunn will turn 36 right before the Olympics. But it is not their ages that matter, of course; it’s always what accompanies the number in terms of the training environment and conditions they’re in.Carli Lloyd has missed much of 2020 from a playing perspective due to injury. Megan Rapinoe has also barely played in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns, and as she said recently, “I was not ready for competitive games because I did not have a consistent training environment with teammates.” She spoke of “needing a longer runway”. And equally important, her body just needed a rest.There is a reason why no Women’s National Team has ever won the World Cup and then won the Olympics the very next year. It is super-tough turn. The players are exhausted. Maybe, dare I say, this Olympic delay allows for rest that actually makes the team better because two of their biggest superstars were allowed to physically & mentally recharge. Or, maybe not because the time off was too long. These next three months will tell us everything.Can Lloyd and Rapinoe come back after such a long layoff with the same force and game-changing ability? With only 18 players on an Olympic roster (compared to 23 for a World Cup), it’s hard to make the argument that you would take them at less than full fitness. And if you don’t take them, which young players can fill the void? Are these younger players ready for the big stage? How does that affect the dynamic of this team? So many questions to be answered.The great news is the fact there are some very talented young players who have the potential to break into that 18 player Olympic roster. Just to name a few…

– Catarina Macario, the Stanford superstar who moved from Brazil to the United States when she was 12 years old, was told on Jan. 13 that she is now eligible, as a U.S. citizen, to play for the United States of America.This is a player who scored at will at Stanford (she led the nation in goals and assists in 2019), led them to a national title in 2017 and 2019, and was twice the Mac Hermann Trophy winner for best collegiate soccer player. She will not conclude her senior season at Stanford as she just signed with Olympique Lyonnais in France.

– Sophia Smith, also from Stanford University, was drafted as the top pick by the NWSL’s Portland Thorns in 2020 and dominated the youth national teams. A broken ankle her freshman year at Stanford in 2018 slowed her career a beat, but Sophia made it known she was back and healthy after being named the 2019 College Cup MVP.  

Also clearly in the mix of younger players still in college or fresh out …

– Emily Fox of UNC, who just got drafted as the #1 NWSL pick by expansion team, Racing Louisville
– Jaeline Howell, a junior from Florida State, who helped lead her FSU team to a national title in 2018
– Naomi Girma, a junior at Stanford, who was recently voted US Soccer Young Player of the Year

It’s a great problem to have if you are Coach Andonovski, but hard decisions await. Buckle up!

USWNT vs Colombia, 2021 friendly: What we learned

The Mewii are unstoppable ! Stars and Stripes By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Jan 19, 2021, 8:29am PST

The United States Women’s National Team opened 2021 the way they played throughout 2020: breezing to victory. Their 4-0 victory over Colombia at Exploria Stadium last night was an expected result for the best team on the planet, but it was how they played (and a standout performance on the Colombian side) that gave us something to take and hopefully see how they improve when the two teams meet again on Friday.

The Mewii are on fire.

The last 5 goals for the USWNT have gone like this: Kristie Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Samantha Mewis, Kristie Mewis. Samantha Mewis followed up her incredible 2020 campaign, where she was U.S. Soccer’s Women’s Player of the Year, by nabbing a hat trick against Colombia. It was a natural and perfect hat trick, scoring the first goal with her left, the second with her head, and the third with her right foot (We here don’t care that the 3rd was via penalty). Mewis has somehow improved from the final part of 2020, where for Manchester City and the USWNT she has starred.However, the other person on the team that has been on fire lately has been Kristie Mewis, who came on as a substitute last night to score the 4th and final goal of the night. Since she was called up to the USWNT for their friendly against The Netherlands back in November, she’s been terrific off the bench. She scored the 2nd goal against the Dutch, starting the Mewii connection of power.In a year that’s super important to determine who will be a part of the 18 players and 2 alternates that head to Tokyo for the Olympics this summer, Kristie Mewis has given every reason why she should be on that plane. And, the love between the two has, in a way, made them both play loose on the field. It’s a joy to watch, and I hope we get a lot more of both Kristie and Samantha on the field in 2021.

The high pressure is suffocating and exciting.

USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski said before the match that the team intended to play with a high pressure, and golly did they do just that. Samantha Mewis scoring inside the first 5 minutes of the match was a testament to the relentless high pressure that the team had on both offense and defense. It was suffocating to Colombia’s attack, and their defense couldn’t handle the pressure. It also made it so the American defense and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher needed other ways to entertain themselves for the vast majority of the match.The U.S. outshot Colombia 22-0 (11 on target). The USWNT controlled possession 64% of the time, and the only reason it wasn’t higher was because they were taking all those shots. They had 80% pass accuracy while limiting Colombia to only 62% pass accuracy. The pressure never let up, and it created a ton of scoring chances for the Americans. They could be crisper in the attacking third with those shots, and they probably can’t be as aggressive against a better team. Still, it’s clear that the team will be effective at putting incredible pressure on a defense with success.

Sandra Sepúlveda was the player of the match.

No offense to Samantha Mewis, but Colombian goalkeeper Sandra Sepúlveda was the MVP of the entire match. She made some incredible saves on the night to keep her team in it as long as possible, and he was dazzling on the night. The relentless pressure that the USWNT placed on Colombia made Sepúlveda incredibly busy on the night. She had 7 saves in total, and her play caused more shots to go just wide or over the bar that didn’t necessarily count in the save column.The USWNT wasn’t as sharp on the offensive end as they could have been, but their frustration was assisted by Sepúlveda’s performance. She stood up to the high pressure relatively well compared to the rest of her teammates, and the USWNT will have to figure out how to finish against Sepúlveda should she remain in goal for the Colombians on Friday night.

We are right to be excited about Catarina Macario’s debut.

The most exciting moment of the evening, outside of the goals, was the debut of Catarina Macario. Macario debuted at the start of the second half, coming on as a substitute for Megan Rapinoe. She was employed as the 11, which is something that Vlatko Andonovski admitted was not a part of his game plan. A knock picked up by Sophia Smith in warmups caused Andonovski to switch up his plans and place Macario in that spot. But, you could see why everyone has been highly anticipating the debut of the first naturalized American to play for the USWNT.Her creativity at times leaves you breathless, as if you know she’s about to do something special. She may not have scored, but you can see the talent and the potential in her, and she belonged on the field. We will see how she continues to integrate with the team on the field, but it’s clear already that she could become the next superstar for the best team on the planet.The next match for the USWNT will be a rematch against Colombia on Friday. Coverage begins at 7:00pm ET on ESPN2.

Sam Mewis’ hat trick, Catarina Macario’s debut highlight USWNT’s 4-0 win over Colombia

by The Associated Press, Updated: January 19, 2021

  •  

ORLANDO, Fla. — Having collected her first career hat trick, the celebration continued for Samantha Mewis as she cheered on her big sister Kristie.

Samantha Mewis scored three goals and Kristie added another to give the United States a 4-0 exhibition victory over short-handed Colombia on Monday.

“I’m just so proud of Kristie. I think it’s so cool to watch her success here and to have her here,” said Samantha Mewis, the reigning U.S. Soccer Player of the Year. “I feel so lucky that we both get to be here and it’s just been so much fun.”

The U.S. extended its unbeaten streak to 33 matches. The defending World Cup champions have a 49-game undefeated streak on home soil.

The teams were set to play at Exploria Stadium again on Friday.Rapinoe served up a perfectly placed cross to Samantha Mewis in front of the goal in the fourth minute. The younger Mewis, who plays for Manchester City of the FA Women’s Super League, scored again in the 33rd minute. She converted a penalty kick early in the second half to complete the hat trick before subbing out.

Kristie Mewis, who came in as a sub in the second half, scored in the 86th minute. It was her third international goal.

The television broadcast caught Samantha’s enthusiastic applause in the stands after her sister’s goal. Kristie has earned call-ups to the national team recently following her standout play for the Houston Dash.

“It’s the first game of 2021, we wanted to start the year off on the right foot. We definitely had been preparing hard for this game so it feels good to come away with a win as a team,” Samantha said. “Then to have some individual success and then to see Kristie score a goal as well, it was just so much fun and I really am just so proud of her.”

Catarina Macario came off the bench for the second half, making her first appearance for the national team. Macario, who was born in Brazil, became a U.S. citizen last fall and recently received approval from FIFA to play for the Americans.

Macario decided to forgo her senior season at Stanford and sign with French powerhouse Lyon.

» READ MORE: NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird faces heat over complex draft rules and Catarina Macario joining Lyon

Catarina Macario, left, made her long-awaited U.S. national team debut.

Colombia was without three players — midfielders Daniela Montoya, Diana Carolina Ospina and defender Carolina Arias — who were in isolation because of COVID-19 tracing protocols. A fourth player, midfielder Ana Gabriela Huertas, had inconclusive test results and was ruled out of the match. Those players could be available on Friday.

“I thought we did a good job but at the same time I want to give credit to the Colombian players for doing a great job in the one-v-one duels,” U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “When we were putting pressures on individual duels I thought that was the only area we could have done a little bit better.” Andonovski announced before the game that defender Becky Sauerbrunn would take over as team captain. In recent years, the captain’s armband was passed among a group of veterans, including Rapinoe and Lloyd.Andonovski, who replaced Jill Ellis after she stepped down following the 2019 World Cup victory, is 12-0-0 as the U.S coach.

How USMNT prospects adapt to life in Europe and what their clubs do to help

  • ESPN

Joe Scally is one of three young Americans to make the move from the U.S. to Europe this January. Brenden Aaronson went from the Philadelphia Union to FC Salzburg, his former teammate Mark McKenzie signed for Genk, and Scally completed his move to Borussia Monchengladbach having signed for them just over a year ago. Scally packed five suitcases for his move from New York to the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. He had everything covered, from his XBox One to clothes for all seasons, along with various keepsakes, but he forgot one key item: pancake mix. Meanwhile, McKenzie is still trying to work out how to get his prodigious shoe collection (100 pairs and counting) over to Belgium.

Jump to: A few minutes with Aaronson | Stock watch: Hoppe, Musah, Yedlin, Green | Scouting report: Otasowie

United States youth international right-back Scally signed for Borussia Monchengladbach from New York City FC more than a year ago, in December 2019, but he had to wait until this month to join them following his 18th birthday on New Year’s Eve. On Jan. 3, he waited until the last possible moment to wave goodbye to his family and girlfriend at the departure gates of John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens and flew to Monchengladbach to complete the move that had been a year in the making.Scally had never lived away from home before — he discovered early on that he could master eggs for breakfast, but struggled to put together lunch and dinner. His current specialty is sausage and pasta, cooked in an air fryer. “I throw in some sauce as well,” he told ESPN.For now, Scally is living on the Borussia Monchengladbach campus, which houses their stadium and training ground. They have four apartments in the on-site hotel for new players; from there, the club’s player liaison officers will help them find permanent accommodation. Scally plans to live alone, but find somewhere in the city center big enough to welcome his family and partner once COVID-19 lockdown regulations are eased.

Mark McKenzie was introduced as a Genk player last week after joining from the Philadelphia Union. YORICK JANSENS/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images

An hour away across the Belgian border to the west, McKenzie is settling into life at Genk. He FaceTimed his family as he picked out his apartment and has picked up a car — a Mercedes C-Class. “It’s definitely a step up from my old Honda Accord,” McKenzie told ESPN. He has a photographic memory, meaning he’s comfortable in navigating his new home city, but he still leans on his team manager Wout Maris for some essential local knowledge.

“I’m trying to understand the rules of driving out here and what those are, I think that’s been the biggest adjustment in trying to navigate the speed,” McKenzie says. “Wout was very explicit in stating they have speed sensors everywhere! Watch your speed so you don’t get hit with tickets.”

For Scally, the move to Gladbach was a long time coming. As he played out his final season at NYCFC with his transfer confirmed, his teammates called him “Monchengladbach” in training.

“My focus was on NYCFC, but at the back of my mind I had a little thing, like there was a bigger year coming,” Scally told ESPN. His training plan was tweaked slightly to align it closer with Gladbach’s — he’d do more hang cleans in the gym. And as the months until his move ticked away, he kept in close contact with one of his best friends: Giovanni Reyna at Borussia Dortmund.

“I’ve been talking to him a lot about the living, the play, all this type of stuff,” Scally says. “Especially now as I’m only an hour away from him, I’m able to see him so it makes it a lot easier. He told me in the beginning it’ll be hard, but it gets better … and it’s great.”

Americans in Europe

ESPN highlights the biggest stories around United States stars plying their trade overseas, bringing inside information to their successes and struggles, sitting down with some of the national team’s top players, and scouting the next generation of Americans breaking through across Europe.

Scally has enjoyed the adjustment period, telling ESPN that introduction to life at Gladbach has been “very, very welcoming. The players have taken me under their wing and helped me a lot.” He’s spoken most to Oscar Wendt, the Sweden defender who’s friends with NYCFC full-back Anton Tinnerholm, and 18-year-old midfielder Rocco Reitz. Then comes the training: it’s a higher intensity than what he’s used to, but he’s relishing the chance to get stuck in.

Over at Gent in the Belgian First Division A, center-back McKenzie has found that the intensity of training naturally forces him to take his game to the next level. “I’m trying to ultimately push myself, but also push my teammates, make their jobs, make their lives harder,” McKenzie says. “The thing here is, the processing has to be fast, you’ve got to know what you’ve got to do before you get the ball. Your awareness, where you’re at on the pitch.

“As center-backs, the runs and the interchange between the attackers, and the positions, I think in all those areas, the tempo and the intensity has climbed up a notch.”

Scally has two immediate things on his to-do list. First, he needs to learn German. “It’s tough… I’m starting lessons as I need to learn the language. Most of the guys on the team speak English so it hasn’t been hard but the coach, when he does practice, speaks in German.” And second? He needs to source a different video game console. “Everyone here has PlayStation… the guys on the team were like, ‘We don’t play XBox.’ It’s all FIFA, Fortnite, Call of Duty … I’m good at FIFA.”

Scally is just one of 50 U.S.-qualified players in Germany‘s top three divisions and has followed the path many others have taken from the States to the Continent, or from other countries, to settle in the Bundesliga. At German side TSG Hoffenheim, 16- to 18-year-olds can choose between boarding school and host families. “We like pairing them with host families as it helps them stay grounded and adjust,” says Hoffenheim’s head of international operations, Tony Mamodaly. “But every player is different. Some guys are 16 and are like 25, and others are 22 and have never cooked in their life before.”

Scally turned 18 on New Year’s Eve and was able to complete his move from NYCFC to Borussia Monchengladbach, where he’s already settling in nicely. Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Once the player goes through into the senior setup — or for those new arrivals signed as first-team players — the club has two player liaison officers available alongside the team manager, including one who’s there for the Brazilian players they sign.

“They take care of apartments, logistics and help them settle in,” Mamodaly says. “They give [new signings] recommendations on the best areas to live and also take care of their health insurance. One of the most important things is communication: We want them to be part of the team so they need to speak the language.” Hoffenheim have in-house teachers and a collaboration with Anpfiff ins Leben — an organization that helps young people prepare for the future, both professionally and personally — to help the players adjust.

“We try to help the kids develop as athletes, but also human beings and use sports as a tool to access life,” Mamodaly says.

Hoffenheim are also home to 16-year-old Las Vegas-born midfielder Lucas Tamarez, as well as 19-year-old winger Quincy Butler from Sacramento, California. “We really try to be there for our guys 24/7,” Mamodaly says. In the words of our team manager, we can give them the wings but they need to learn to fly themselves.”

Scally’s still waiting for his cooking to round out, but he’s settled into life at Gladbach, with a steady routine of training and then FaceTiming his family and girlfriend every day. He’s loving life in Germany and is looking forward to his debut, but he’s missing his pancakes. “I can’t find the mix anywhere,” Scally says. “I asked Gio about it and he actually made the same mistake, so he brought it back from home. So I need to find that.”

And while McKenzie has a few pairs of his 100-strong shoe collection with him, he’s trying to work out how to get the rest over. “It’s definitely going to be quite interesting in trying to get my precious cargo from home sent out here,” McKenzie says. “But I got a few of my ‘gem’ pieces with me, just to make my next place feel a little bit like home.” — Tom Hamilton, with additional reporting by Jeff Carlisle and Stephan Uersfeld

A few minutes with … Brenden Aaronson

Aaronson moved to Salzburg with arguably the most hype of any MLS player moving overseas since Alphonso Davies left the Vancouver Whitecaps for Bayern Munich, where he’s gone on to become one of the best left-backs in the world, if not the best. There’s no doubt about it: There is a large contingent of fans in the U.S. more interested than ever in the Austrian Bundesliga.

So, fresh off scoring on his Salzburg debut in a 6-0 friendly win over second-division side Vorwarts Steyr, Aaronson sat down with ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar to talk about his move to Europe.

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

Matthew HoppeSchalke 04 — On the rise: Hoppe’s breakout has been a curious one. The 19-year-old Californian had never been a particularly proficient scorer in Schalke’s junior ranks, to the point that some at the club were unsure whether he’d make it at senior level, sources told ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld, but he had a reputation for his hunger and his ferocious training. Injuries in the forward line gave him his shot, and in addition to the height and speed he brings to Schalke’s front line, Hoppe has demonstrated clinical finishing to net four goals in six Bundesliga appearances.

Now that he’s a known quantity, he won’t be able to take opponents by surprise anymore, increasing the pressure on his shoulders, which will only grow following the arrival of club-legend striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Yunus MusahValencia — Trending down: After lighting up La Liga in the opening months of the 2020-21 season, Musah has fallen back to earth. But as he is just 18 years old, “falling back to earth” is only relative to his prodigious beginnings — starting just two of Valencia’s past eight games. According to ESPN’s Sid Lowe, that has little to do with any regression from the New York-born midfielder and everything to do with the return to form and fitness of Goncalo Guedes and Denis Cheryshev, along with the emergence of Thierry Correia pushing Daniel Wass back into midfield.

The circumstances of a thinned squad gave Musah the platform to take off, and the circumstances of teammates now fit and in form has taken it away — for the time being, anyway.

DeAndre YedlinNewcastle United — On the rise: In the first three months of Newcastle’s season, Yedlin had played just 180 minutes, all in the Carabao Cup. In 10 games since the start of December, he’s started six and come off the bench in two more. Steve Bruce seems to be taking a right-back-by-committee approach this season, but at present, the former Seattle Sounders FC standout has the hot hand. Ultimately he may still leave the club when his contract expires this summer — this run of form will only increase the number of interested parties — but his departure may no longer be the foregone conclusion it once appeared to be if he keeps getting minutes for the mid-table Magpies.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth — On the rise: When fit, Green has always been a starter for Furth, but this season has seen him hit new heights, with sources telling ESPN’s Stephan Uersfeld that the team’s shift from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2 — which has meant Green moving from a wing position to a No. 8 role — and fully grasping manager Stefan Leitl’s methods in his second season in charge of the 2. Bundesliga club firmly in the race for promotion.

Green, who made his U.S. debut six-and-a-half years ago, is still only 25 — and has never given up hope of returning to the national team.

Scouting report: Owen Otasowie

One year and a week after making his senior debut for Wolves in a 4-0 Europa League win against Besiktas, the 20-year-old made his full Premier League appearance against Burnley on Dec. 21. Although he was taken off by Nuno Espirito Santo after an hour, Otasowie displayed some good runs, showed off his deft first touch and was not short of confidence.On the evidence of the night at Turf Moor, the American may still need some matches to deal with the pace of the traffic in the centre of a Premier League midfield, as he was caught in possession on a number of occasions. But since then, Otasowie has been given a few more minutes coming off the bench: in fact, he could’ve marked the new year as an unlikely hero had he managed to direct his injury time header under the bar against Brighton right before the final whistle in the 3-3 draw.

The New York City-born midfielder, who collected his first USMNT cap with a late substitute appearance against Wales in November, is easily recognised by his imposing physique and neat ball control. Whether he’ll end up as a holding midfielder or a box-to-box No. 8 is still a subject of discussion, but he clearly has the characteristics to make a career in both roles: he usually has a measured and precise passing game, takes up intelligent positions and is hard to knock off the ball when he sets off on forward runs, though he’s still prone to overdo this aspect, and can end up running into blind alleys. — Tor-Kristian Karlsen

1/15/20 USWNT vs Colombia Mon/Fri 7 pm, USMNT New Hoppe?, Chelsea vs Fulham 12:30 Sat NBC, Man U vs Liverpool Sun 11:30, Inter vs Juve Sun 2:45

Games to Watch this Weekend

Big games this weekend in the EPL mostly on Peacock unfortunately as 1 & 2 Man United and Liverpool do battle Sunday at 11:30 am with Aston Villa facing Everton at 7 am on the Peacock. We also get Inter hosting Juve and US mid Weston McKinney Sun at 2:45 pm on ESPN+.   Sat gives us Dortmund and US mid Reyna hosting Mainz in Germany at 9:30 am on ESPN+ while Wolfsburg and US defender host RB Leipzig and middy Tyler Adams also at 9:30 on ESPN+, while Pulisic and Chelsea travel to Fulhum America and US defender Robinson at 12:30 pm this time on NBC .   

USA

The US ladies have 2 games this week vs Colombia from Orlando Monday night at 7 pm on FS 1 and Friday, Jan 22 at 7 pm on ESPN2.  It will be interesting to see the mix of new vs old players – assuming this is a tune-up for the She Believe’s Cup coming in mid-Feb.    So does the US have new Hoppe after 19 year-old American forward Matthew Hoppe became the first American to score a hat trick in the German Bundesliga for Schalke in just his 5th game?   While its wonderful –obviously the kid needs to find the net consistently for club before he will be called up to the US team – still great to see! 

FA Cup

Enjoyed watching the FA Cup last weekend – especially Chorley from the 6th division taking out the youth team of Derby County to advance to the next round where they will host Wolverhampton next Sat.  My favorite was probably the people sitting in their Gardens and on their front porches watch Mourino and Tottenham as they played at Marine near Liverpool.  Pretty surreal scene –with no fans in the park – but watching from their yards instead.  Gotta love the FA Cup!

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Jan 16

9:30 am ESPN+                    Wolfsburg (Jones) vs RB Liepzig (Adams)

9:30 ESPN+                          Dortmund (Reyna) vs Mainz

10 am NBCNS                     Leeds vs Brighton

12:30 pm NBC                     Fulham (Robinson)  vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

3 pm Peacock                       Leicester City vs Southampton 

Sun, Jan 17

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                  Napoli vs Fiorentina 

7  am Peacock                      Aston Villa vs Everton 

9  am NBCSN                       Sheffield United vs Tottenham 

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

12:30 am Peacock               Liverpool vs Man United

2:45 pm ESPN+                Inter vs Juve (Mckinney)

2:45 pm ESPN2                Barca (Dest) vs Athletic Bilbao SuperCup Final

Mon, Jan 18

3 pm NBCSN                       Arsenal vs New Castle (Yedlin)

7 pm FS1                              US Women vs Colombia  

Tues, Jan 19

2:30 pm ESPN+                    Dortmund (Reyna) vs Bayern Leverkusen

3:15 pm NBCSN                  Leicester City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

Wed, Jan 20

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Man City vs Aston Villa

3:15 pm ?                             Fulham vs Man United

2:45 pm ESPN2                    Juventus (McKinney) vs Napoli Coppa Italia 

5:15 pm beIN Sport             Santos vs Boca Juniors – Copa Libertadores

Fri, Jan 22

2:30 pm ESPN+                    M’gladbach vs Dortmund (Reyna)

7 pm ESPN2                         US Women vs Colombia  

Sat,  Jan 23

                              (FA Cup Games in England 10 am ESPN+)

10 am ESPN+                      Chorley vs Wolverhampton FA Cup

10 am ESPN+                      Man United vs Liverpool FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg (Jones)

Sun, Jan 24

6:30 am ESPN2                    Juve vs Bologna 

9:30 am ESPN+                    Schalke vs Bayern Munich

3 pm beIn Sport                    Atletico Madrid vs Valencia 

USA

Americans Abroad – SI Avi creditor

Schalke’s Hoppe becomes first American to score Bundesliga hat trick
Meet the Bundesliga’s next U.S. sensation: Schalke’s Hoppe
  or-Kristian Karlsen

Megan Rapinoe: Capitol Siege Showed America’s ‘True Colors’BY JENNA WEST
For USMNT, National Upheaval Makes Representing the Country Complex BY BRIAN STRAUS

Klinsmann: Young USMNT stars’ UCL experience can boost World Cup hopes

Berhalter: We’ll have to get “creative” with rosters in “jammed” 2021

What’s Jozy Altidore’s future with the USMNT?

Orlando’s Perea USMNT eligible after FIFA approves switch from Colombia

USMNT legend Cherundolo says he’s talked to MLS teams about coaching role

Guardiola praises Steffen after another start, clean sheet for Man City

EPL


Manchester United-Liverpool Preview

Why Man United’s rise to Premier League summit under Solskjaer is a big deal
  Gabriele Marcotti
Liverpool vs. United title race is box office but Man City are team to watch

Are Chelsea’s summer signings to blame for club’s woes?

Spurs too reliant on Kane, Son to be considered contenders
Chelsea-Fulham Preview

Wayne Rooney retires to become permanent Derby manager

World

How PSG plan on reuniting Messi with Neymar
Ter Stegen 10/10 as Messi-less Barca reach Supercopa final

Bilbao to face Barca in Super Cup final after ousting Real Madrid

Athletic knocks out Madrid to reach Super Cup final vs Barça

Barcelona presidential elections postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions, club confirm

MLS

Indy 11 forward Tyler Pasher signs with MLS Houston Dynamo

Official: Toronto name Chris Armas head coach

Extratime: Are Portland strong enough to compete for CCL?

Jordan Morris: I’m open to “the right opportunity” for European move

Man United top the Premier League under Solskjaer, the ‘company man,’ and it’s a big deal

play

Jan 11, 2021Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

It was ugly, cold, wearying, full of incidents and ultimately resolved by a piece of individual brilliance, but when referee Kevin Friend blew his whistle after seven minutes of injury time (including three minutes of time added on to the time added on), there was one over-arching takeaway. Manchester United were top of the Premier League in January.Not joint-top, not pretend-top, not goal-difference top, not top-if-they-win-their-games-in-hand-top, but top-top.You have to go back all the way to 2013 (and the end of the Sir Alex Ferguson Era) to find the last time United were this high at this stage of the season. That’s a long time ago. Seven-and-a-half seasons without being top after the turn of the year… the last time the club suffered a longer drought of that kind was in the 1970s — which, you may recall, was also when they were relegated.What does it mean?Here, you drift into psychology and intangibles. It’s easy to define what it does not mean. It does not mean they will win the Premier League, or even that they’re first or second favourites to do so. (That would be Man City and Liverpool.) It does not mean they’re particularly good, or they will be particularly good in years to come, or that the successful title-winning side that United fans dream of will look much like this one. But it does mean that a psychological barrier has been broken, and it’s something Ole Gunnar Solskjaer can leverage to his — and United’s — advantage.It’s also, to some degree, a vindication of the club’s decision to turn to him to replace Jose Mourinho and, effectively, bringing things in-house by hiring a former player who “understands” the culture at Man United rather than another pedigreed coach from elsewhere, And, in that sense, it’s not dissimilar to the choices big corporations make when their boards turn to new leadership.When a multinational needs to replace its CEO, it has two options, broadly speaking. It either promotes from within, doubling down on its corporate culture, or it brings in a fresh approach, turning to a proven executive who can act as a disruptor and shake things up for the better.The club’s four managerial appointments post-Sir Alex fall fairly neatly into either category. While David Moyes had no formal United connection, he was very much a “continuity candidate.” He was hand-picked by Sir Alex, he had spent the previous 11 years coaching 30 miles away at Everton, and he included club stalwarts Ryan Giggs and Phil Neville in his coaching staff.Mourinho and Louis Van Gaal (who came after Moyes) had won a combined 15 league titles and three Champions Leagues when they were appointed. They were brand names, and they were proven; they were “disruptors” in the good sense, the tech startup sense. They were there to change a culture for the better. It’s no coincidence that after being sacked, both did what superstar CEOs do when they’re brought in with great fanfare to turn a company around, only to be shown the door a few years later: they complained about an unwillingness to change, a lack of support internally and entrenched structures that made progress impossible.Whether they were right or wrong isn’t the point of this column and, in any case, has been endlessly debated elsewhere. The point is that after hiring back-to-back bosses with fancy résumés who were brought in to tell the club what they didn’t necessarily want (but maybe needed) to hear, United did a 180 with Solskjaer. After the “disruptor,” enter the “company man.”

Match-winner Pogba sends United top ahead of Liverpool showdown

Burnley vs. Man United VAR drama! Premier League controversies rated

It’s not a knock, by the way. Carlo Ancelotti, with his three Champions League crowns, freely and proudly describes himself as a “company man” too. And that’s how Jan Aage Fjortoft, who played with him at international level and has known him for a quarter of a century, described Solskjaer when we had him as a guest on the Gab + Juls show this Monday.

Solskjaer’s public persona — earnest, unfailingly polite, avoiding confrontation — is that of an on-message corporate suit. Behind the scenes, no doubt, he can crack the whip — nobody sticks around in coaching if they don’t occasionally play the bad cop — but more than anybody, he has “toed the party line.”Take United’s transfer business. Goodness knows he’d have plenty to moan about there. Take Paul Pogba‘s future (undecided) in the last 18 months of his contract, Jadon Sancho still playing for Borussia DortmundBruno Fernandes arriving six months late, losing a center-forward like Romelu Lukaku without bringing in a replacement until January (and then, when the replacement arrives, it’s Odion Ighalo) … the list goes on and on. But he doesn’t. And it suits the club’s powers-that-be (Ed Woodward and his close-knit advisers, as well as the Glazer family) just fine.y

If you’re a cynic, and many were at the time, you might have read Solskjaer’s appointment and subsequent long-term contract as the club taking the easy way out. Liverpool and Manchester City were in the ascendancy; trying to close the gap quickly would have been expensive, stressful and probably futile. So you peddle some tropes about United DNA and hire a guy whom everybody likes (or, at least, nobody dislikes), is fully invested in club culture and won’t create headaches or controversy.

is that overly cynical? Maybe. But as Fjortoft himself hinted, Solskjaer is under no illusion about why he got the job and that it wasn’t his body of work as a coach that secured it. The most important thing is that now that he’s there, it doesn’t matter why he was chosen: he will rise or fall based on results, and because results have been mixed, he’s endured the weekly spin cycle. United DNA! #OleOut! Top of the league! PE Teacher!The best Solskjaer can do is keep going. He’s not a “big idea” coach like Jurgen Klopp or Pep Guardiola — if he is, we haven’t seen it — and he’s not as charismatic as Mourinho or Diego Simeone. He’s a man-manager who executes schemes that are basic, but effective, when executed properly and who looks to put his most talented players in situations where they can do the most damage. Zinedine Zidane won three Champions Leagues and two La Liga titles doing just that at Real Madrid.Of course, Zidane had more charisma, a better-run club with a more recent history of success and, crucially, better players at his disposal. But that’s the model Solskjaer’s United seems to be pursuing, whether it’s because it’s the path of least resistance after Van Gaal and Mourinho or whether they truly believe it’s the best option.That sort of model is built upon sporting capital and credibility.By restoring United — even if it turns out be only for a short while — to the top perch, Solskjaer has taken a big step forward, taking pressure off himself (and off those who appointed him) and buying himself time. Time to work and make a difference. It’s one of the most precious commodities a manager can have.

Meet Schalke’s Matthew Hoppe: The Bundesliga’s next U.S. striking sensation

Jan 12, 2021

  • Tor-Kristian Karlsen

It was always going to take something special for Schalke 04 to avoid equalling an embarrassing record at the weekend. The club had not won in the Bundesliga for almost a year, a total of 30 matches, and failure to beat Hoffenheim would have seen them equal Tasmania Berlin’s league record (set back in 1965-66) of 31 games without a win. Thanks to Matthew Hoppe, they avoided such ignominy.

Hitherto a relative unknown, the 19-year-old American scored an astonishing hat trick (the first by a U.S. player in the Bundesliga), which gave Schalke a 4-0 win over Hoffenheim and even lifted them off the foot of the table.

In only his third start for the club, the striker became an overnight sensation, so here’s the lowdown on the Bundesliga’s newest star.

Where has he come from?

Having just turned 18, Hoppe sealed his move to Schalke on July 1, 2019 following two prolific years playing with the Arizona-based U.S. Barcelona Residency Academy in the (now defunct) U.S. Soccer Development Academy league.

fter joining up with U.S. international midfielder Weston McKennie (who has since moved on loan to Juventus) in Germany, Hoppe spent his first year playing for Schalke’s U-19s, for whom he scored three goals in 17 games, before being promoted to the club’s second team, which plays in the fourth level of German league football, ahead of the current campaign.

Though he only had one goal in 16 games in the Regionalliga West for Schalke II before making the step up to the first team, Hoppe has since amassed 302 minutes across six games in the Bundesliga and DfB Pokal. And, of course, he has three goals.

play

1:58

Will this be a flash in the pan for Matthew Hoppe?

Kasey Keller and Steve Cherundolo debate whether or not his hat trick is a sign of things to come for Matthew Hoppe.

Position

Given his physical profile and skillset — Hoppe is 6-foot-2 tall, athletic and powerful — he moulded into an out-and-out centre-forward once he reached his mid-teenage years and after scoring nearly 60 goals in two seasons prior to leaving the U.S., it was clear that position was his best chance of making a career as a professional, on either side of the Atlantic.

That said, he was occasionally utilised on either side of midfield for Schalke II and, while his performances in Schalke’s youth and second team showed promise, his form gave no indication of the incredible impact to come against Hoffenheim.

play

1:28

Matthew Hoppe recounts ‘amazing’ La Masia experience

American Matthew Hoppe explains what it was like to train with Ansu Fati and Konrad de la Fuente at La Masia.

Strengths

With such little first team experience — or even any meaningful record from high-level youth football, and no appearances to date for the U.S. national teams at youth level — it’s still early to make any strong predictions about where Hoppe’s career is ultimately heading.

However, while a memorable hat trick (and all the media attention it brings) could heap pressure on some young players, the California-born youngster seems to have the mental side of his game in order. New Schalke coach Christian Gross was quick to point out his excellent attitude after his stunning performance against Hoffenheim. Indeed, it was precisely that mentality which made Gross opt for Hoppe to start such an important game.

Tor-Kristian Karlsen

Tor-Kristian Karlsen is a Norwegian football scout and executive and is the former chief executive and sporting director at AS Monaco. He will write regularly for ESPN on the business of soccer and the process of scouting.

That praise is echoed by those who have kept a close eye on Hoppe throughout his early career; his dedication, humility and willingness to learn are second to none and those qualities translate into industry and graft on the pitch.

Hoppe’s enthusiasm is contagious; no ball ever seems lost and his off-the-ball running is executed with conviction that, along with his ability to time runs on the right side of the offside line, proved vital against Hoffenheim. Unlike many strikers, he’s happy to close down opponents, tackle and do his pressing duties.

Whereas many 19-year-olds appear gangly and skinny, Hoppe is neither. His body strength appears well-developed, though it will be interesting to see if his potential to dominate in the air can be backed up with good heading technique.

On the evidence of the Hoffenheim game, Hoppe looks to have rediscovered his finishing skills from youth football. The opening goal — a delightful chip with his weaker left foot (he also scored another with his left) — was not only exquisite in its execution, but a bold and confident way for a teenager to finish off an attack.

play

1:17

Klinsmann: Matthew Hoppe’s heroics are a fairytale story

Jurgen Klinsmann heaps praise on Matthew Hoppe after the American teenager’s heroic hat trick for Schalke.

Weaknesses

It goes without saying that Hope needs time to develop the facets that can help him become a well-rounded, complete centre-forward. His timing in the air is still a work in progress, while his first touch will also improve as the Schalke coaching staff teach him the value of holding the ball up, helping the team and causing a nuisance even when he’s not facing the goal

What’s next?

Having cited Tottenham’s Harry Kane as his earliest inspiration and becoming an admirer of Bayern Munich‘s Robert Lewandowski and, especially, Borussia Dortmund‘s Erling Haaland since arriving in Germany, Hoppe models himself on these talented, industrious stars.

With size and power, his fearless approach and startling impact mean it is inevitable he will be compared to Haaland especially. And if he can continue to show the work ethic and level-headedness of the Norwegian striker, despite his new-found celebrity, Hoppe has a chance of going on to achieve great things.

Jurgen Klinsmann: Champions League challenges USMNT young stars and boosts World Cup hopes

  • Jurgen Klinsmann

Jurgen Klinsmann won the World Cup and European Championship with Germany during a glittering career in which he played for InterTottenham and Bayern, among others. As a coach, he led Germany to a third-place finish at the 2006 World Cup and managed the U.S. men’s national team from 2011-16. In addition to a column for ESPN.com, he appears as a pundit on FC Daily.

With the World Cup less than two years away, it is an exciting time to be a fan of the U.S. men’s national team, which is developing the core of a team that can make a run in the tournament’s knockout stage.

In the last 12 months, several players moved to clubs at the very top level in Europe and the experience they will get, playing in the best leagues and in the best competition in the world — the Champions League — is good news for the national team.

Christian Pulisic was at Dortmund and then joined Chelsea last year; since then, Giovanni Reyna has followed in his footsteps in GermanyWeston McKennie has moved to JuventusSergino Dest is at Barcelona and Tyler Adams plays for RB Leipzig.

None of these players is older than 22 and that is another major change from past generations of American players, who went to Europe after establishing themselves in Major League Soccer or playing at college. It is wonderful to see a lot of youngsters being courageous and giving it a shot at an earlier age than before.

– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– FC 100: Pulisic, Dest make the cut in 2020

Youth systems, academies and MLS deserve credit for their work with young players in this country. They learn a new culture in Europe, but Pulisic and Reyna, for example, have skillsets that were developed in America at 10, 11, 12, 13 years old. The success of U.S. U-17s and U-20s, which consistently get to youth World Cup knockout games, shows the talent that exists.

And the path to Europe continues to appeal; we hear good things about Bayern Munich‘s Chris Richards, who moved from FC Dallas, while this week Joe Scally signed for Borussia Moenchengladbach from New York City FC.

Germany is a good destination because there is open-mindedness to give youngsters playing time, but opportunities exist across Europe. Brenden Aaronson, for example, has gone from Philadelphia Union to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria, where he finds huge support from his coach — and fellow American — Jesse Marsch.

So how do you make the best chance to succeed at the top level? It is important to have good people surrounding you to help adapt to a new environment; Reyna is a good example, as his dad, Claudio, played in Europe and his mother — Danielle Egan — represented the U.S. women’s national team.

You have to be open-minded, ready to learn and fight for a spot every day and understand that, sooner or later, “I have to kick someone in front of me out.” If you have a setback, like an injury or a coaching change, understand that you have the ability to prove yourself all over again. It is natural for players to think about their own situation, which is why that support network is super important.When you get a chance, take it! Reyna got his first Bundesliga minutes less than one year ago and has made himself a key player for Dortmund. Like Pulisic, he can play in different positions and that is a good thing because the chance increases to influence games; instead of being expected to score, there is opportunity to assist, pass well and create chances.

With young attacking players, change of pace is always an important characteristic. I saw it with Christian the first time I watched him when he was 15 or 16 and said this kid not only has very good technique, but he can ‘jump’ players in a split-second. Giovanni is very similar, though he is taller and has a different flow to his movement. Dest can also go by players in the first few yards.

Klinsmann: Matthew Hoppe’s heroics are a fairytale story

Jurgen Klinsmann heaps praise on Matthew Hoppe after the American teenager’s heroic hat trick for Schalke.

The Champions League restarts next month and is almost like a feeder system for a successful World Cup, which is why the big European countries, plus Argentina and Brazil, are contenders every four years.

Being involved in tactically advanced games will test their abilities, but also teach leadership and character qualities needed to negotiate the late rounds of a tournament. Without sustained competition in CONCACAF, American players must figure out a way to deal with World Cup knockout games, to reach and go beyond the fifth game, into semifinals and finals.

Playing every year in the Champions League will give you that knowhow, and that is why what I have seen developing over the last couple of years is so exciting. You are a child of your environment and if your environment is Barcelona, every year it is about titles; it is the same with Chelsea, Dortmund and others. At Juventus, McKennie plays for a team that has won the league nine seasons in a row!

At big clubs, expectations are clear and you live them every day. Now they must be transferred to the national team, so it is not enough to settle for getting out of a World Cup group and having everyone tell you that that is a success.

For USMNT, Representing the Country Amid Upheaval Remains a Complex Endeavor

With recent events thrusting the U.S. into the world’s spotlight for the wrong reasons again, the USMNT confronts what it means to represent the country at a time of upheaval.

BRIAN STRAUSJAN 12, 2021

  •  

It’s a new year, but not much has changed. The coronavirus shows no signs of abating despite the advent of a vaccine. There’s scandal and chaos at the highest levels of government. And the U.S. men’s national team, still incomplete and unable to gather in full, trains under the shadow of it all, saddled with both the honor and complexity of representing the USA in 2020 and now 2021.

In November, when coach Gregg Berhalter convened a camp of players based in European leagues, it marked the national team’s first time together since the pandemic pause and the social justice reckoning sparked by George Floyd’s death. There had been long discussions about what it meant to represent a country in upheaval, especially on a squad that’s so diverse.

Together, they came up with a message and a commitment: “Be The Change.” It was emblazoned on anthem jackets for the friendlies against Wales and Panama, and it was adopted as a sort of team credo. It was not only a call to action. It was a reminder that as an extension of their country, national team players could take it upon themselves to set the example. That credo didn’t expire once they returned to their clubs, Berhalter said Monday, and it remains relevant as the annual January camp kicks off in Bradenton, Fla.

This is a different group of players, just like the December camp in South Florida was a different group players. It’s been 14 months since Berhalter had access to his entire player pool at once, and that pool now looks quite different. This time, he’s invited 12 senior-squad players based at MLS clubs along with 27 candidates for the U.S. U-23 national team that’ll contest the Concacaf Olympic qualifying tournament in March. In the meantime, they’ll all keep one eye on the friendly that’ll conclude the camp at the end of the month. An announcement—the opponent is likely to be Serbia—is expected in the coming days.

John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

It’s a complex setup for a complex time, both on the soccer calendar and in real life. Berhalter and his players are thinking about representing the USA at the Olympics, the Concacaf Nations League finals, the Gold Cup and in World Cup qualifying, and they’re also thinking about representing a country that’s just experienced a contested presidential election and the shocking assault and riot at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.

When addressing the issue Monday, Berhalter stressed the importance of continuing the conversations and commitment that started last fall.

“I think there is a conversation to be had. We haven’t had it yet. But I think [like] with anything, our efforts don’t stop when the year ticks over. The efforts need to be consistent and they need to keep going, and the way I see this is, this is a low point for us. There’s a lot of room to improve as a country,” he said.

“It’s something where we can all be better examples,” he continued. “We can all be better citizens, and when you’re watching that, it doesn’t jive at all with what we know America to be. It’s not who we are as a country, and it’s disappointing to see, but all we can do is be good examples and continue our efforts in trying to be change and trying to make change. I think that’s the important message to the team, is that our work isn’t done just because the year changed. We need to keep going and persevere with all of our efforts.”

It remains to be seen whether the team will make a statement on game day. There are still two and a half weeks of training to go. But veteran forward Jordan Morris said Monday that the team is already talking about the bigger picture.

“Obviously we all realize how horrific those events were, and we all understand that there’s a need for change in this country in a lot of ways. And I think the big thing for us, and I’ve talked to the guys about it a little bit, is hopefully our goal as a national team is to be a positive representation of what that change can be and how we need to move forward,” Morris said.

“I think it’s also, in these hard times, we hope to be as a team, hopefully a positive light. Because I know that these times are super challenging and there’s so much going on, so much stress with those events—like I said, just absolutely horrific. So we’re hoping that as a group this year we can be a positive light.”

One way to be a positive light is to be successful on the field. Such is the nature of sports. Negotiating the 2021 schedule will require cohesion on multiple levels, as Berhalter and his staff seek to make up for lost time while building multiple squads—a U-23 team for the Olympics, senior sides for the Nations League and Gold Cup and then, ultimately, the first-choice team that’ll set out on the road to Qatar in September. The first big month on the calendar is March, when the senior team will play friendlies inside a FIFA international window while the U-23s head to Mexico (most likely) for the Olympic qualifiers.

ADVERTISING

After failing to qualify for the previous two Olympics, U.S. Soccer is doing what it can to give this current crop of U-23s every opportunity. They’ll get a couple of weeks with coach Jason Kreis in Bradenton, and then a handful will join the 12 senior players for the Serbia friendly.

“We do have two groups in camp, and we’re split for most of the camp,” Berhalter explained. “Meals are split. Team building activities are split. But at training is one time where we can actually compete together, and that’s where we are working together to make numbers and we’re able to focus a little bit more on our 12 [senior] players. But the whole group is there. The whole group is working together, and it’s great for both coaching staffs to be able to assess the players and see some of the comparisons in camp.”

Morris, 26, said setting an example also could happen in small ways, as the veterans look to help steer the younger players toward the Olympic spotlight.

“It’s super exciting to see all the young talent,” he said. “A big goal of this camp for us as senior players is helping the Olympic team get ready as well, because it’s a big competition for them coming up. I know when I was coming up as a younger player, having the veteran guys in camp and being able to learn from them was super important. So we’re hopeful we can kind of do the same for the younger group that’s here.”

Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

When it’s over, Berhalter will have seen his European-based stars for a camp, most of the best in MLS for a camp, and then his Olympic hopefuls (with some senior seasoning) for a camp. That’s a tough way to build chemistry, but the scheduling is out of U.S. Soccer’s control. The bonus is that after a 10-month break in 2020, Berhalter should have a sense of the talent at his disposal. He can start thinking about what the Olympic, Nations League, Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying rosters might look like. When connections among players can be forged, all the better.

“The idea is to keep everyone engaged, everyone on the same page and everyone up to speed with what we do and how we want to play,” Berhalter said. “Because we’ve seen these two groups. … I think we’re able to tie that together nicely and really have a good idea of the player pool. I think that’s what it comes down to, just having a real good understanding of what the player pool looks like so when we need to make the difficult decisions when it comes to [World Cup] qualifying, we get it right.

“But in terms of Nations League, Gold Cup, those are two events where there’s trophies awarded and we want to compete to win them,” he added. “There’s no question about it. That will give us one final opportunity before qualifying to test guys and put them under pressure to perform.”

Be successful and “Be The Change.” It’s no easy task. Morris said that for the players, it begins with small things, the day-to-day work during and after training, when skills are enhanced and bonds are strengthened.

“Every camp is an opportunity to learn and continue to get better and I think also, building a brotherhood here,” he said. “I think that’s a big thing we talk about, is building a brotherhood. We know going into an important year, it’s important that we’re all together, all on the same page. So every opportunity that you have, especially in a longer camp like this, just to be around the guys, it’s awesome.”

BY

 BRIAN STRAUS

1/8/20 US Teams announced, FA Cup Weekend, Leipzig vs Dortmund Sat 12:30

FA CUP

So the eyes get big young kids eyes full of wonder as England’s FA Cup enters round 3 this weekend on ESPN+.  It’s the little guys vs the Giants – The EPL Powerhouses like Liverpool and Tottenham vs the neighborhood team with teachers and butchers and bar hands vs the multi-billion dollar clubs. Imagine Indy 11 taking on Seattle or even worse Liverpool or Barcelona.  That’s what we get and more this weekend.  The games I will have my eyes on Sat 7:15 am Chorley vs Derby County and Sunday 12:30 Marine hosting Tottenham on ESPN+.  If ever a tie summed up the FA Cup, is is the one that will send Premier League giants Tottenham and their charismatic manager Jose Mourinho to Marine on Sunday. The Merseyside club play in the Northern Premier League North West Division, four rungs below the Football League (7th division), and a team which includes a binman, teachers and supermarket workers has already worked its way past Barnoldswick Town, Frickley Athletic, Runcorn Linnets, Nantwich Town, Chester, Colchester and Havant and Waterlooville. Coronavirus restrictions which mean the game will take place behind closed doors have cost Marine around £100,000 in lost revenue, prompting them to stage a virtual raffle in which first prize is the opportunity to take over as manager for a pre-season friendly.

Marine’s hopes of causing an upset may be remote, but National League North Chorley (5th division) may feel they will never have a better chance of claiming a Sky Bet Championship (2nd division) scalp and a place in the fourth round. Derby County will send a team of Under-23 and Under-18 players to Victory Park on Saturday with manager Wayne Rooney, his staff and their entire first-time squad bubble self-isolating after nine positive Covid-19 tests. The Magpies have already put League One duo Wigan and Peterborough out of this season’s FA Cup. (See the big games on the FA Cup Schedule in The Ole Ballcoach.     Other decent FA Cup games worth watching are Arsenal vs New Castle and US mid Deandre Yedlin on Sat 12:30 ESPN+, and Man City vs  Birmingham Sun at 9:30 am on ESPN+ with US GK Zach Steffan between the pipes.  US and Man City GK Zach Steffan makes game saving beauty.

Games to Watch this Weekend

With the England in FA Cup play this weekend the attention turns to Germany and Italy where some big games are on hand. In Germany RB Leipzig with Adams in the #6 slot will face Gio Reyna and Dortmund at 12:30 pm on ESPN+ with 2nd spot in the table on the line for the Red Bulls and 3rd for Dortmund.  At 9:30 am 3rd place Bayer Leverkusen will host Werder Bremen and forward Josh Stewart.   Barcelona and US right back Serginio Dest will travel to Grenada at 12:30 pm on beIN Sports, while Osasuna hosts Real Madrid at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  Sunday Juve and Aron McKinney travel to Sassuolo at 2:45 pm on ESPN+, while the early morning wake-up Sunday features a battle between 2nd place Inter hosting 3rd placed Roma at 6:30 am on ESPN2.     

USA

The US Men’s and Ladies teams have announced rosters for their annual January camps and games at the end of the month for US Based players. The ladies are of course missing their European club players like Mewis, Heath and of course Alex Morgan is out with Covid.  The ladies will convene and then have 2 games vs Colombia from Orlando on Jan 18 and Jan 22 at 7 pm.   The Men have announced a smaller full roster along with a full U23 Squad that will battle represent the US in the Olympics this summer.  The men are planning a game in late Jan as well. 

 

U-23 USMNT DETAILED ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB):


GOALKEEPERS (3): JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)


DEFENDERS (10): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), George Bello (Atlanta United FC), Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven/NED), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew SC), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United FC), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)


MIDFIELDERS (6): Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United FC), Bryang Kayo (Wolfsburg/GER), Andrés Perea* (Orlando City SC), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)
FORWARDS (7): 
Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Benji Michel (Orlando City SC), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact/CAN)

 U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM – JANUARY TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION:


GOALKEEPERS (4): Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)


DEFENDERS (10): Alana Cook (Paris Saint-Germain, FRA), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Fox (UNC), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Margaret Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)


MIDFIELDERS (8): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Florida State), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City, ENG), Catarina Macario (Stanford), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Samantha Mewis (Manchester City, ENG), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)


FORWARDS (5): Carli Lloyd (Sky Blue FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)

They play Columbia Mon Jan 18, 7 pm on FS1 and again on Fri, Jan 22 at 7 pm on ESPN2. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri, Jan 8

2:30 pm ESPN+                    M’Gladbach vs Bayern Munich (Carter)

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Aston Villa vs Liverpool (FA Cup)

Sat,  Jan 9

7 am ESPN+                         (FA Cup Games in England 7/10 am, 1 & 3 pm)

7:15 am ESPN+                   Chorley vs Derby County  FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

12:30 pm ESPN+                 Arsenal vs New Castle United (Yedlin) FA Cup

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

3 pm ESPN+                         Man United vs Watford FA Cup

Sun, Jan 10

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                            Roma vs Inter 

8:30 am ESPN+                    Man city (Steffan) vs Birmingham City  FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Morecambe FA Cup

12 noon ESPN+                   Marine vs Tottenham FA Cup

2:45 pm ESPN+                     Juve (McKinney) vs Sassuolo

Wed, Jan 13

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Aston Villa vs Tottenham 

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Juventus (McKinney) vs Genoa Coppa Italia

5:15 pm beIN Sport             Santos vs Boca Juniors – Copa Libertadores

Fri, Jan 15

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Fulham (Robinson)  vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

Mon, Jan 18

7 pm FS1                              US Women vs Colombia  

Fri, Jan 22

7 pm ESPN2                         US Women vs Colombia  

USA Ladies
Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and 25 others called up for U.S. national team

Soccer-Morgan ruled out of U.S. training camp after positive COVID-19 test

US Ladies Called in For Jan 18 + Jan 22 Games

 

USA Men

 Doyle: Explaining the two USMNT rosters
US U23 and Senior Teams Announced for Jan Training  S&S
U 23 USA Team Announced  Brian Straus SI
US Olympic football hopefuls gather before qualifying
US and Man City GK Zach Steffan makes game saving beauty
Guardiola heaps praise on USMNT’s Steffen

 

WORLD
Serie A: USMNT’s McKennie scores as Juve takes down Milan; Inter, Napoli fall

PSG held by Saint-Etienne in Pochettino’s first match
Ranking the EPL Clubs
Three things we learned from Manchester United – Man City
Klopp: Liverpool cannot promise center back addition because of pandemic
Milan teams regroup as Roma, Juventus close gap in Serie A

Dortmund hunt win at high-fliers Leipzig to rejoin title race

FA Cup third round: How to watch, start time, stream link, preview, odds
What to Watch in Spain this weekend
MLS
MLS proposes 2-year CBA extension to players, no salary cuts

LA Galaxy hire former star Vanney, coached Toronto to MLS treble

Wiebe: Three things Vanney needs to do to return Galaxy to MLS elite
Report: Phil Neville in talks with Inter Miami

Boehm: What’s next for Inter Miami?
Official: Union Homegrown McKenzie transfers to Genk
Matt Besler joins Austin FC as free agent
Bob Bradley to receive lifetime achievement award
BoGetting closer: Pitch installed at Cincy’s West End Stadium
Behm: Why RSL turned to once fierce rival Mastroeni to revive fortunes

 

INDY 11

·        INDIANA’S OWN RECE BUCKMASTER SIGNS WITH INDY ELEVEN
·      DEFENDER KARL OUIMETTE RETURNS TO INDY ELEVEN

 

Premier League Club Power Rankings, Vol. III: Manchester Rising

Nicholas MendolaThu, January 7, 2021, 10:54 PM EST

We’re still not halfway through the Premier League season, and the balance is not going to return to the matches played column any time soon.So the irregular litmus test that is our Club Power Rankings rolls on without worry.

[ MORE: Previous power rankings – November | Vol. I – Oct ]

Buckle up, we’ve had two months since our last run through the league, and one of those months held most of the Festive Fixtures.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: 2020-21 Methodology

As a reminder, ProSoccerTalk is using a different method to ranking teams this season, at least until everyone’s played each other once.

Here are our considerations:

  • Form — Winning and losing in three recent matches plus notable injuries
  • Sense and strength matter — If the champs lost two-straight hard luck matches and a relegation candidate got 2 weird VAR breaks to win, we note the big picture over the little.
  • The table — Of course it matters.
  • Head-to-head — The results better be notable if a head-to-head loser goes above a team that beat it recently.
  • Numbers > Luck— Did a wicked deflection or bad bounce make a dominant side fall to a poor one? Let’s look at xG, shots, chances, possession, and other indicators.

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Vol. III

20. Sheffield United

October: 17
November: 20

Why? You serious, Clark?

19. West Bromwich Albion

October: 18
November: 18

Why? Sam Allardyce has been in charge for four matches. He’s drawn Liverpool and got angry that anyone would infer they had fortune smile on them. He’s lost the other three games in blowout fashion and basically said his players aren’t good enough and that his “never been relegated” record is basically because his clubs have bought him better players than were there when he got there.

18. Brighton and Hove Albion

October: 13
November: 14

Why? The world’s biggest head scratcher. The anti-Burnley (see below). Graham Potter’s Seagulls are winless since a Nov. 21 defeat of Aston Villa, and they’ve won the xG battle in five of those eight matches.

They’ve now had the following matches on their xG record:

  • Lost 2-3 to Man United (xG advantage 2.98-1.58)
  • Drew 1-1 with Liverpool (xG advantage. 2.31-0.28)
  • Lost 2-1 to Southampton (xG advantage 2.03-1.35)
  • Drew 1-1 v Sheffield United (xG advantage 2.90-1.04)

It’s wild.

17. Fulham

October: 20
November: 17

Why? The table matters, and the table spot stinks, but four-straight draws before COVID came to Craven Cottage in large numbers. No one really wants to play Scott Parker’s hard-fouling bunch and Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa is one of the division’s most overlooked players.

16. Burnley

October: 19
November: 19

Why? A huge tree falls in the forest, leaving a massive tree-shaped dent in the cold, wet ground and bouncing to the side. It fills with water to finish off any of the Aesthetically-pleasing flowers that survived impact. Sean Dyche signs that dead tree. The worst-passing team in the league with the fourth-worst shots-per-game and possession, winning more aerials than anyone else, and completing fewer dribbles than anyone else, are still going to find a way to stay in the PL. Have won the xG battle just twice since the start of November but have a 4W-3D-2L record in that span. BURNLEY. Let’s see how they look post-takeover.

15. Newcastle United

October: 16
November: 16

Why? If you’re going to try and get by with a manager like Steve Bruce, someone players will play for but also be left unprepared when things go off-script during the flow of the game, you need a dominant midfielder going box-to-box. With apologies to passing maestro Jonjo Shelvey, industrious Isaac Hayden, and buzzing bee Matty Longstaff, that’s not there right now. Also, the COVID-19 absence of Allan Saint Maximin is terrible on so many levels. Bring us our entertainers!

14. Crystal Palace

October: 11
November: 11

Why? Where would they be without Wilfried Zaha? Well, they are 5W-2D when he scores or assists, 1W-2D-4L when he doesn’t, and have lost both matches without scoring when he doesn’t play.

13. Leeds United

October: 5
November: 15

Why? They are who they are — Very entertaining and great to have in the league but maddeningly inconsistent. Incredible numbers: Leeds have 24.89 xG and 22.95 xGA from open play alone (no set pieces, corners, or penalties). Those numbers would put them ninth amongst all teams in all scenarios for goals scored and give them the eighth-worst goals conceded. Tighten it up (but also, don’t).

12. Wolves

October: 14
November: 6

Why? Out-performed Tottenham in a 1-1 draw just after Christmas but have been unconvincing in nearly every game since Raul Jimenez was injured. Decent against Villa and had a nice period versus Manchester United, but they don’t look like the Wolves we’ve come to love (and fear).

11. Arsenal

October: 9
November: 10

Why? Turns out playing Alexandre Lacazette more as if he was an really good finisher more times than not is a good idea. It’s the lone reason for the rebound but it’s up there. And Thomas Partey should be back soon.

10. West Ham United

October: 7
November: 12

Why? Back-to-back strong defensive performances against good attacks in Saints and Everton. Don’t be surprised if David Moyes is getting Manager of the Year talk in the press if the Irons handle their business in a run of Burnley, West Brom, and Palace, the first two at home.

9. Aston Villa

October: 2
November: 9

Why? Very much in the top-end discussion. But given a chance to prove that their four-match unbeaten run had restored their early-season power, Villa was outplayed by Chelsea in a 1-1 draw and Manchester United in a 2-1 loss. Work to do.

8. Chelsea

October: 6
November: 4

Why? Followed up a nine-match unbeaten league run by taking four of 18 points. Frank Lampard’s public face and words has been confusing and he better hope his players have a better idea of what he’s trying to do than the rest of us have been able to figure out after 17 games. That City loss was a wake-up call for plenty of people who believed Chelsea had made it back.

7. Southampton

October: 15
November: 5

Why? The defeat of Liverpool was solid and deserved but also a bit fortunate, too. They’ve allowed one goal from their last four, and it was to Man City, but they’ve also scored one goal in that stretch. Up ahead? Leicester, Leeds, Arsenal, Villa, and Manchester United. That’s a proving ground!

6. Tottenham Hotspur

October: 3
November: 1

Why? There are valid individual excuses for all of the matches of their recently-ended four-match skid but combined they don’t work. Villa, Sheffield United, and Liverpool are next. Better find 5-7 points there if you want to be in the title fight, and at least one better come at home to the reigning champions.

5. Leicester City

October: 8
November: 3

Why? It’s challenging to get a feel for the ceiling of Brendan Rodgers’ men. Are they the team that bossed Palace and drew or the one that looked meh at Newcastle but found the requisite winner? There are numbers that scare us: Outscored 9-0 on corner kicks and set pieces. Ten goals from penalties. And of their surface-level extremely impressive 23-11 advantage in goals from open play? It shrinks to approximately 17-15 in terms of expected goals. Look out.

4. Everton

October: 1
November: 7

Why? Carlo Ancelotti has taught the Toffees how to win a different way since James Rodriguez was injured. He returned in a 1-0 loss to West Ham, and Everton had four-straight before that while allowing just one goal from a gauntlet of Chelsea, Leicester City, and Arsenal (then Sheffield United).

3. Liverpool

October: 4
November: 2

Why? The Reds are winless in three PL outings for the first time since May 2018, and this the first time the Reds have scored just one goal in three matches since Sept. 12, 2015. That said, Liverpool out-attempted West Brom 17-5, Newcastle 11-8, and Saints 16-7, holding 78, 74, and 68 percent possession in those games. They simply didn’t score enough. That was enough to have some claiming Pep Guardiola had lost his touch earlier this season, so it’s one thing or the other here. We bet it’s unlucky.

2. Manchester United

October: 12
November: 13

Why? A 10-match unbeaten run in the league is nice, but we’re more interested in how Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s men responded to taking zero of six points from the final two UEFA Champions League group stage matches by collecting 14 of 18 points in the Premier League by a combined score line of 14-7. That seven, though. And winless against the traditional Big Six despite all four matches coming at home.

1. Manchester City

October: 10
November: 8

Why? Unbeaten in seven league matches while conceding a total of two goals, City has also beaten Manchester United and Arsenal away in the League Cup and blasted Marseille in the UEFA Champions League. Since allowing eight goals in season-opening matches against Wolves and Leicester City, Pep Guardiola’s men have allowed multiple goals just once while kept 14 clean sheets in 23 matches across all competitions. Now if they can keep Sergio Aguero healthy…

Guardiola heaps praise on USMNT’s Steffen

Joe Prince-WrightFri, January 8, 2021, 9:24 AM EST

USMNT goalkeeper Zack Steffen has received glowing praise from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.Steffen, 25, has stepped in admirably for usual first-choice goalkeeper Ederson in recent games. The Brazilian star tested positive for COVID-19 in late December and has been self-isolating ever since.After making his Premier League debut at Chelsea in a 3-1 win last week, Steffen starred in City’s 2-0 League Cup semifinal win against Manchester United at Old Trafford Wednesday, pulling off a fine save from Bruno Fernandes early on.“He [Steffen] has settled incredibly well to the dynamic of the group. He listens in training. He made an incredible save in the first half from Bruno Fernandes, but his other actions, like with the ball, he did really well,” Guardiola said.How much will Steffen play in the second half of the season?

Steffen will play in Man City’s FA Cup game against Birmingham City on Sunday, and that will be his seventh appearance of the season for City.It is likely he will play in the FA Cup in the remaining months of the 2020-21 season and that could mean another five outings for Man City, if they reach the final and Ederson doesn’t come in for the final few FA Cup games.That experience would be invaluable for the young American goalkeeper.Even if his future doesn’t lie with being the number one at Man City (Ederson, 27, is probably one of the top five goalkeepers on the planet) he has proven he can play at the Premier League level and a loan move to a midtable PL club is surely his next move.Spending last season on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf in the Bundesliga clearly helped his development and as well as making fine saves, his always-impressive distribution has also improved.The USMNT need Steffen to being playing regularly and the way he’s stood in for Ederson proves he will be doing that for another team in the Premier League, or in another of Europe’s top leagues, next season.

5 talking points ahead of this weekend’s FA Cup third-round ties

Damian Spellman, PAThu, January 7, 2021, 8:27 AM EST

Aston Villa

The magic of the FA Cup will be alive and kicking this weekend, with the big guns entering the competition during third-round weekend.There are both all-Premier League clashes and classic David and Goliath showdowns among a fixture list which has thrown up a series of talking points.

Fairly cross on the Mersey

Premier League champions Liverpool have become accustomed to sweeping almost all before them in recent seasons, but will head for Aston Villa on Friday evening smarting. The Reds have not won in three games after failing to beat both West Brom and Newcastle before losing to Southampton. They have not gone four matches without a victory since September-October 2018, when they were defeated in League Cup and Champions League ties by Chelsea and Napoli respectively and drew with the Blues and Manchester City in the league. They have been to Villa Park already this season – and lost 7-2.

Mourinho heads for tier eight

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho takes his side to non-league Marine (Mike Egerton/PA)

If ever a tie summed up the FA Cup, is is the one that will send Premier League giants Tottenham and their charismatic manager Jose Mourinho to Marine on Sunday. The Merseyside club play in the Northern Premier League North West Division, four rungs below the Football League (7th division), and a team which includes a binman, teachers and supermarket workers has already worked its way past Barnoldswick Town, Frickley Athletic, Runcorn Linnets, Nantwich Town, Chester, Colchester and Havant and Waterlooville. Coronavirus restrictions which mean the game will take place behind closed doors have cost Marine around £100,000 in lost revenue, prompting them to stage a virtual raffle in which first prize is the opportunity to take over as manager for a pre-season friendly. Imagine if Mourinho won it.

Chorley not?

Marine’s hopes of causing an upset may be remote, but National League North Chorley (5th division) may feel they will never have a better chance of claiming a Sky Bet Championship (2nd division) scalp and a place in the fourth round. Derby County will send a team of Under-23 and Under-18 players to Victory Park on Saturday with manager Wayne Rooney, his staff and their entire first-time squad bubble self-isolating after nine positive Covid-19 tests. The Magpies have already put League One duo Wigan and Peterborough out of this season’s FA Cup.

Emphasis on U-23s, Olympic Qualifying Group

Jozy Altidore is back as part of a smaller USMNT squad, while a more comprehensive look is being given to the U-23 players in the pool.

BRIAN STRAUS JAN 5, 2021   SI

To kick off a uniquely busy year, the U.S. men’s national team will conduct a pair of uniquely busy January camps that start Saturday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.With up to five competitions scheduled over the next 11 months—the Concacaf Nations League, Gold Cup, World Cup qualifying, Olympic qualifying and the Olympics themselves—USA coach Gregg Berhalter and his staff face the prospect of putting together multiple rosters while evaluating player availability and form across multiple continents.To that end, he capped 42 players in only four games in 2020, the same number that appeared across 18 matches the year before. And on Tuesday, he unveiled two January camp squads—one of 12 senior players who will prepare for a to-be-announced friendly against Serbia (most likely) at the end of the month, and another of 26 U-23 players who will train with coach Jason Kreis ahead of the Concacaf Olympic qualifying competition that’s expected to happen in Guadalajara in late March. On Jan. 24, several U-23s will move up to fill out the remainder of the senior side.“This is an important year for our national team programs, and we are looking to maximize every possible opportunity,” Berhalter said. “For the senior team players, this is an opportunity to continue to develop as a group and build on the foundation of a busy and challenging year. Being alongside our U-23 team gives that group a chance to prepare for Olympic qualifying while further integrating into our culture and game model.”John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty ImagesLike previous January camps, the roster(s) are dominated by MLS players who are out of season. There are two European-based players on the U-23 list—defender Chris Gloster from PSV Eindhoven and midfielder Bryang Kayo from Wolfsburg. Olympic competitions aren’t included in FIFA’s international calendar, meaning clubs aren’t required to release players for them. Even though a significant portion of Berhalter’s first-choice team is Olympic eligible—he fielded 28 U-23 players in 2020—there’s a good chance they won’t take part. Chelsea isn’t going to allow Christian Pulisic to just run off for a few weeks during the stretch run of the Premier League campaign, for example. So it’s likely the bulk of the Olympic qualifying roster will come from MLS.Berhalter will then have to juggle his senior team between the Nations League (June) and Gold Cup (July) as he prepares for the start of World Cup qualifying in September.The most intriguing selection among the senior players is veteran striker Jozy Altidore, 31, who hasn’t played for the USA since the 2019 Gold Cup. He had two goals and one assist in 14 games for Toronto FC last season. Berhalter also is continuing his pursuit of dual-national players who aren’t yet committed or tied to the USA. LA Galaxy defender Julian Araujo, Orlando City midfielder Andrés Perea and Orlando striker Daryl Dike are among the U-23 selections who remain eligible for multiple national teams. This month’s camp will mark the first time since March 2020 that Kreis has been able to bring the U-23s together, and it probably will be the last before the Olympic qualifiers. They’ll train separately in Bradenton between Saturday and Jan. 24.“With Olympic qualifying approaching quickly, this training camp is a great opportunity to prepare ourselves and evaluate some new faces,” Kreis said. “While 2020 was a very challenging year, it was impressive to see so many U-23-eligible players make major strides on the field. Some of them have been involved with the senior team over the last few months and it’s exciting to now get our players and staff back together in camp alongside Gregg and his group as we prepare for a very important qualifying tournament.”Here’s a look at the two January camp squads:

SENIOR ROSTER

The only newcomer on the senior list is LAFC right back Tristan Blackmon. New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner has been called up before but remains uncapped. Sebastian Lletget was the only player to appear in all four 2020 friendlies.Notable omissions include Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes, who’s been a staple under Berhalter, underwent a minor medical procedure and isn’t fit, and D.C. United goalie Bill Hamid, who started last month’s 6–0 exhibition win over El Salvador.

GOALKEEPERS

Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS

Tristan Blackmon (Los Angeles FC), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS

Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS

Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

UNDER-23 ROSTER

Eight of the 26 players have been capped by the senior team and nine were involved in last month’s camp that preceded the El Salvador friendly. There’s also considerable youth—seven players will be age-eligible for the 2024 Olympics as well.Two noteworthy dual-nationals who Berhalter called up in December are not on this month’s lists. Toronto FC forward Ayo Akinola, 20, accepted an invite from Canada to join its January camp, which, ironically, also is taking place in Bradenton. Akinola scored against El Salvador.Also absent is Galaxy forward Efrain Alvarez, 18, who played for the USA U-15s and then Mexico’s U-17s before accepting Berhalter’s invitation last month. Alvarez was ineligible to play against El Salvador because he hadn’t filed a one-time change of association. Likewise, Perea is unable to play this month because he previously represented Colombia at the FIFA U-17 and U-20 World Cups.Meanwhile, the absence of 21-year-old Philadelphia Union center back Mark McKenzie, a 2020 MLS Best XI selection, suggests a transfer to Europe may be imminent. Similar reports surrounding FC Dallas right back Bryan Reynolds—some of which link him to Juventus—weren’t sufficient to keep him off Kreis’s list, however. His FCD teammate, midfielder Tanner Tessmann, is set to train with Bayern Munich following camp, according to ESPN, as part of a relationship between the clubs that already resulted in Chris Richards’s move to the German champions.

GOALKEEPERS

JT Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)

DEFENDERS

Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), George Bello (Atlanta United), Chris Gloster (PSV Eindhoven), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids)

MIDFIELDERS

Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), Bryang Kayo (VfL Wolfsburg), Andrés Perea (Orlando City), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas), Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS

Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Benji Michel (Orlando City), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact)

Armchair Analyst: Explaining the two USMNT rosters for January

January 5, 20213:04PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

The US men’s national team dropped two rosters on Tuesday afternoon ahead of the annual January camp. One of the rosters is composed solely of players age 24 and older, and the other is — you’ve probably already guessed it — for players 23 and younger.The message here is clear: the older guys are mostly there because they’ve shown that they’re core players, to one degree or another, for the full national team, and any player who fits that bill can expect to get their ticket punched at least once or twice in 2021, which is likely to be the busiest year in USMNT history. There could be as many as 21 full international games on the schedule this year at last count.Just as clear is that the younger guys are in camp not for full USMNT reasons, though a few of them are already regulars, but specifically for Olympic reasons. And hence this is being run as two separate and distinct camps — Gregg Berhalter’s in charge of the olds and Jason Kreis is in charge of the youngs — which is not usually the way.“This is an important year for our national team programs, and we are looking to maximize every possible opportunity,” Berhalter said is a press release. “For the senior team players, this is an opportunity to continue to develop as a group and build on the foundation of a busy and challenging year. Being alongside our U-23 team gives that group a chance to prepare for Olympic Qualifying while further integrating into our culture and game model.”A quick run-down for those who are a little bit confused about Olympic stuff (if you’re not confused, just skip a bit):

Q: “Why the age cut-off?”

A: Olympic qualifying is for the U-23 age group, which means only players who were born on January 1, 1997 or later are eligible.

Q: “Aren’t some of those guys are 24 now, Matt?”

A: You’re correct. Very good math on your part. But the Olympics were among the whole raft of things that were postponed last year, and rather than push the age cut-off to January 1, 1998 and keep it as purely U-23, FIFA made the (IMO good) decision) to keep the same age cohort eligible even though they are now, technically, no longer U-23s.

Q: “If that’s the age cut-off, then why aren’t Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Sergino Dest, Tim Weah, Reggie Cannon, Chris Richards and Josh Sargent here?”

A: You need to relax. This is not a FIFA-sanctioned international window, and there is no way to force or compel teams that have actual games right now to release players for this camp. It has been this way for as long as there has been a January camp.

MLS teams aren’t playing games right now, so MLS players are here. There are also a couple of Europe-based guys who’ve yet to break through to the first team and are in their respective youth teams, and let’s tip our hats to Wolfsburg and PSV for being cool and letting those guys head to Florida. 

Q: “What’s the point, then?”

A: Well, you know what else those clubs aren’t required to release those players for? Olympic qualifying! FIFA does not mandate clubs release players for youth tournaments, and both Olympic qualifying and the Olympics itself are considered to be youth tournaments. And as it stands, other than maybe Richards, there is zero chance any of the young Yanks Abroad making headlines in Europe are going to be released for Olympic qualifying. ZERO. You will not see them, and it’s not the USSF’s fault or Gregg Berhalter’s fault or Jason Kreis’s fault. It’s just how the rules are.

MLS teams have the right to refuse to release any of their players as well, by the way. But MLS teams have almost always played nice with the USSF over these types of things, and I would expect the vast, vast majority of potential call-ups to have damn near a permanent green light from their clubs.

Q: “So that means…”

A: Yes, you appear to have once again done the math: That means come Olympic qualifying, the bulk of the team is going to come from this group. Pulisic is not walking through that door, and McKennie’s not walking through that door, and Sargent’s not walking through that door, and Yunus Musah and Owen Otasowie and Johnny Cardoso* aren’t walking through that door.

(*) I could maybe see it happening with Johnny, to be fair, but it’s a long shot.

So what you’re looking at with the U-23s is damn near a complete Olympic qualifying roster, save for one or two spots, and January is likely to serve as a cut-down camp. So let’s start there:

GOALKEEPERS: J.T. Marcinkowski (San Jose Earthquakes), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake), Brady Scott (Austin FC)

As I see it, it’s likely a two-man race between Marcinkowski and Ochoa. Marcinkowski was largely very good for San Jose after claiming the starting job mid-season — though he did struggle in the playoffs — while Ochoa disappointingly only got one game for RSL this past year, but probably has the higher upside.

Scott beats out Jonathan Klinsmann for the third spot on the depth chart.

LEFT BACKS: Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), George Bello (Atlanta United), Chris Gloster (Jong PSV)

I have them in this order for a reason. Vines generates an order of magnitude less buzz than he should given his performances for club and country:

Bello, on the other hand, has generated more buzz than his play has warranted, though the delta between “actual buzz” and “deserving buzz” narrowed considerably given his play over the second half of Atlanta United’s season, and he is on the radar of almost every big club in Europe. If the improvement curve he showed this autumn is real, he will be sold for many, many millions of dollars within the year.

Gloster got that European move but hasn’t been able to make it sing. He’s not been a regular contributor for Jong PSV in the Dutch second tier, and chances are the New York Red Bulls academy product will be on his way back to MLS sooner or later.

RIGHT BACKS: Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Aaron Herrera (Real Salt Lake)

Reynolds is still learning the finer defensive aspects of the game, having only switched to fullback from winger about 18 months ago, but he is an attacking force of the sort that the likes of Juventus and Roma pay attention to (and eventually pay lots of money for). Araujo is the opposite — a natural defender who’s still figuring out how to add value on the overlap and in the final third.

Herrera seems to be there making up the numbers, but don’t rule him out: He is probably the best two-way player of the three at the moment, and is the only one of the six fullbacks on the roster who has experience playing both RB and LB. That matters for depth reasons during small-roster, short-rest tournaments.

CENTER BACKS: Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution), Aboubacar Keita (Columbus Crew)

Pineda, a ball-playing converted central midfielder, was one of the most pleasant surprises in the league this past year, though Kessler probably topped him in the “pleasant surprise” category. Both guys walked right into the starting lineups for their teams and added value on both sides of the ball. What separates Kessler a bit is that he did it in the playoffs. This was superb:

Kessler’s defensive nous created transition moments for the Revs all year long. The modern game is all about transition moments.

Keita was not a starter for Columbus, but earned a good chunk of playing time and like both Pineda and Kessler, he can ping a pass and open up the game. What makes him stand out is that he does that with his left foot, and is the only left-footer among this bunch.

Robinson took a massive step backwards in 2020 for Atlanta, but was rightfully on the MLS Best XI in 2019 and has the tools to get back there. Unlike the other guys at this camp he’s not really a ball-playing center back, but defensively he can be — has been — better than any of them.

I am surprised that Justen Glad and Auston Trusty aren’t here. And obviously Mark McKenzie would be here if he wasn’t about to be sold to Genk.

REGISTAS: Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes), Tanner Tessmann (FC Dallas)

Okay, so here’s where I’m going off course a little bit. Usually I list the central midfield cohort as “defensive midfielders,” “central midfielders” and “attacking midfielders,” and usually there’s a certain amount of delineation amongst the group as to make it sort of intuitive to spell it out like that.

That’s not the case here, so I’m just going to list Yueill and Tessmann as what I’ll expect them to be: tempo-setting, game-dictating, deep-lying, playmaking midfielders. Their job isn’t to press and win the ball back, but to shield the backline and dictate the team’s shape on both sides of the ball.

Yueill’s done this job well for both club and country. Tessmann, who like Ochoa, Bello, Araujo and Reynolds, is also age-eligible for the 2024 Olympics, was superb at this for Dallas this past year.

Both of these guys can push higher as more traditional No. 8s, and in fact that was Yueill’s role for most of the final two months of this past season. But I don’t think that’s how they’ll be used this month.

Am I surprised Aidan Morris isn’t here after his outstanding MLS Cup performance? Yes. 

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Eryk Williamson (Portland Timbers), Bryang Kayo (VfL Wolfsburg), Hassani Dotson (Minnesota United), Andres Perea (Orlando City)

Williamson was awesome as a two-way No. 8 for the Timbers this year, a revelation who was essential in their switch from “counter a bunch and cross way too much” to “actually use the ball to break teams down.” He was fun:

It’s a safe bet he would’ve played a role in last month’s thumping of El Salvador had he been healthy.

Kayo is an uber-talented two-way central midfielder who’s yet to break into Wolfsburg’s first team, and has been released for the January camp for the second straight year. That’s good — it’s nice of Wolfsburg to play nice — but it’s also bad, since it shows that he’s not really in their immediate plans. Wolfsburg are notoriously slow about progressing kids up the ranks and into the first team, for what it’s worth.

Dotson has spent a lot of time playing as a d-mid and a right back, but is probably best understood as a two-way, destroying central midfielder for this camp, as his lack of passing range would prevent him from playing the regista role in the way that Kreis (and hence Berhalter) would want.

It’s interesting that Perea, the Tampa-born son of a former Colombia international, is in his second straight US camp. He is not eligible to play until/unless he files a one-time switch. Maybe that’s in the works?

As mentioned, there are no real attacking midfielders with this group. Brenden Aaronson’s off to Salzburg and Cole Bassett, who was rostered vs. El Salvador but did not play, isn’t here (which shocks me, but there are whispers in the wind that he’s off to Europe to train). Neither is young Caden Clark, which surprises me at least a little bit (he was originally scheduled to go to Leipzig this month, though that fell through).

WINGERS: Jonathan Lewis (Colorado Rapids), Djordje Mihailovic (Montreal Impact), Benji Michel (Orlando City), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes)

I’ve been beating the Lewis drum forever, and while he’s delivered in spurts and earned himself a new contract, he’s yet to earn a starting spot for club or country, at any level. The talent to do so is obvious, and there is no time like the present.

Mihailovic had something of a breakout season for Chicago playing largely as a playmaking, inverted left winger, which is a role I sort of expect to see him in for this camp. That said it wouldn’t shock me at all if he’s actually used as an attacking midfielder for this camp.

There is no question as to where either Michel or Cowell will play: On the wing, where they can drive forward off the ball and make hard, direct runs at goal. Michel is six years older than Cowell and naturally is more polished, but Cowell — the youngest player in this camp — has an attention-grabbing level of fearlessness and flair. I don’t expect him to make the final roster, but it wouldn’t shock me if he did.

FORWARDS: Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers), Daryl Dike (Orlando City), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas)

I think USMNT fans are more excited about Dike than about Ebobisse, and I get it. Dike’s got a combination of touch, soccer IQ and off-the-charts physicality that is unique. There is a reason I made multiple videos about him this year:

I do think, though, that if Ebobisse had been used as a center forward for the past two years in Portland he’d be a regular 20-goal scorer. A big part of it is he’s figured out how to get the one-touch goals that any center forward needs, and a big part of it is that, as with Dike, when the ball’s on his preferred foot he wallops the crap out of it. Striking the ball clean is a damn good trick!But the big thing with Ebobisse is that he’s dominant in the air in a way, at this point, that Dike is not. Set pieces played an outsized role in determining success at the international level and in tournament play (just go back and watch Portland’s MLS is Back Tournament run), and I can’t just look past that.That said, I’m happy with either choice.I am somewhat surprised to see Jesus Ferreira here given how significant his struggles were for Dallas this past year and how he doesn’t really fit a clear role for the way Berhalter’s teams play. Yes, he was pretty good last year against Costa Rica as a false 9, but it’s not like the US blew the Ticos off the pitch that day.For those wondering: Ayo Akinola is with Canada. He would have to file a one-time switch to play for them.


And now here’s the full roster. As per the USSF press release, “The senior team group, consisting of players aged 24 and older, will train alongside the U-23 USMNT through January 24, at which point several U-23 players will be elevated to the full USMNT roster in advance of a planned match at the end of the month.”

GOALKEEPERS: Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

Johnson has been a mainstay for Berhalter and Turner is here for the obvious reasons. I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get his first US appearance.

CENTER BACKS: Aaron Long (RBNY), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Tristan Blackmon (LAFC)

Long is probably still the first-choice CB partner for John Brooks, though his grip on that spot is at least somewhat tenuous. Zimmerman has been in the mix since Berhalter’s first game in charge, and has obviously kept himself in the mix with a superb 2020 season.

Blackmon is the only surprise inclusion of the over-24 crowd, the only player in this group who’s still purely a prospect, and the only field player who’s uncapped. He’s primarily been a right back for LAFC, but take a look at the current RB depth chart for the USMNT — Dest, Cannon, DeAndre Yedlin, Reynolds, Araujo, Herrera, etc — and then tell me if you think Blackmon is here for that spot or for his likely eventual conversion to center back.

And so the fact is there are no actual fullbacks on this roster. Daniel Lovitz had a very good season for Nashville and Chase Gasper was excellent for Minnesota but they are not going to be ahead of Vines or Bello this month. I think Nick Lima‘s mostly been very good when he’s played for the US, but pushing Reynolds, Araujo or Herrera up for the friendly against the as-yet unnamed opponent.

CENTRAL MIDFIELDERS: Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

Lletget’s almost certainly going to start this friendly, and is in contention to be a starter for the full national team no matter who’s called in. People are going to hate that sentence, but it’s true.

Acosta and Roldan are more than just making up the numbers, but as I see it both are more likely to be part of the Gold Cup squad this summer — which is likely to be a B team — than the A squad for World Cup qualifiers or grabbing a role as one of the three overage players at the Olympics should the US qualify.

They could, of course, begin to change some minds with standout performances this month.

Note that neither Michael Bradley nor Wil Trapp got the call for this camp. As with Lovitz and Lima, it seems like they’ve been sorted down the list a bit.

WINGERS: Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

Morris and Arriola are proven at the national team level several times over. Mueller is not, though he made quite an impression with two goals and two assists in his first US appearance last month.

“Yeah, but it’s only El Salvador!” is not a worthwhile sentiment to me, by the way. Part of being a great team is beating the brakes off of bad teams, which is something the US hadn’t done for a long, long time. Then they whupped Panama 6-2 in November and whupped El Salvador 6-0 in December, and Mueller was the Man of the Match in that one. He belongs here, and will have a chance to prove he can compete with or even usurp Morris and Arriola at this camp.

FORWARD: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)

This feels like Jozy’s last ride. Berhalter made it clear last year where he stands on the veteran, who is by far the most experienced player at this camp, when he said Jozy’s still the most talented forward in the pool (true) but that his constant fitness issues have compromised his position on the depth chart.n the past you could say “yeah, but…” and point to any number of things, including Jozy’s ability to open the game up with his passing, his ability to physically dominate opposing CBs and thus allow for easy outlets when the midfield is overrun, and his ability to put the ball into the net even when injured. But both Ebobisse and Dike do those first two things, and as for the third… an injured Altidore scored in the 2019 MLS Cup. A coming-off-an-injury-and lacking fitness Altidore did this in the 2020 playoffs:He’s just 31, so there’s a chance he hasn’t hit the end of the road. He’s going to have to prove it, though, because I don’t think the likes of Dike and Ebobisse are going to be just sitting around, waiting their turn. Nor are Sargent, Nico Gioacchini and Sebastian Soto, none of whom are at this camp but all of whom will, I’m sure, be watching.There is no Gyasi Zardes this month after the Crew striker underwent a minor medical procedure, according to a US Soccer spokesperson. While he would have been there if fit, at the same time, what more could Berhalter learn from his inclusion? Gyasi knows how to play the center forward role in damn near the exact way Berhalter wants, and just had a very long year in which he logged a lot of hard minutes. Giving him a few more weeks to recover, and then giving game time to either Jozy or one of the kids makes sense.This is what could’ve happened had Jozy made that run, by the way:Let’s hope those are dance steps that Ebobisse and Dike show they know as well.

The truth is I really don’t care what XI the US end up playing in the friendly, but since I know you all love these graphics…

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

Great 2,000 SF place in La Porte, IN just 20 min from both Notre Dame and the lakeshore. 3 Br/2 Ba Place 4 beds on Stone Lake – check it out: https://abnb.me/EVmg/KjWULabehK

Proud Member of Indy’s Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.comCLICK HERE FOR BYBTIX

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

12/31/20 Holiday European Games Schedule, PSG Fires Coach, CFC 05 Boys win College Showcase

EPL

Interesting conversations this week as the EPL is discussing at 2 week shutdown because of the recent rash of new Covid cases over the past 2 weeks.  A handful of games have been delayed Man City vs Everton, Fulham vs Tottenham.  All this going on in a season that is as tight at the top of the EPL table as it has been in a long time.  Five teams are tied for 5th and no fewer than 11 teams are within 10 pts of the top.  EPL Table   Big games to watch this weekend include Man City vs Aston Villa on Peacock at 3 pm Friday, and Man City traveling to Chelsea and the reinvigorated Christian Pulisic coming off 2 fine showings on Sunday at 11:30 am on NBCSN.  Sat on NBC we get the beauty of Brighton vs Wolverhampton on NBC at 12:30- my gosh the EPL sucks at scheduling bad games on NBC = but this takes the cake.  I love soccer and I would rather watch paint dry than watch that game- Scary how stupid sometimes !!  And yet we have to pay $6 a month to get Real Madrid vs Liverpool in Champions League – truly mindboggling! Anyway Full schedule below and on the ole ballcoach.  End of Year Review

USA

It sounds like the US is planning a January camp for MLS players again with a late Jan game vs Serbia capping things off. If so this is much stiffer competition and should be a good match to see where the youngsters of MLS might be as we head into what should be a busy summer for US Soccer on the men’s side.  One of the things that caught my eye was this list of soccer movies showing during the holiday’s on different services.  A bunch on Netflix might be worth catching these last few days of vacation – this offers more than She’s the Man or Bend it Like Beckham, and includes the Maradona movie on HBO, and the Game of their Lives about the 1950 US World Cup team on Prime Video. 

MLS

Heartbreak city seeing LAFC lose a tight game in Concacaf Champions League to Mexican side ?  It was closest an MLS team has come to winning since the new format almost 20 years ago.  Great Season review here –

MLS 2020 season review: The Crew were worth saving.  It sure is fun seeing MLS being mentioned as a possible destination for Barcelona’s Messi!  Won’t happen yet – but someday I hope !!

Carmel FC

Huge congrats to the 2005 Boys for winning the top division at the Indianapolis College Showcase in early December at Grand Park with a perfect 3-0 mark and no goals allowed (Awesome job Charlie).  Also excited about the Carmel Dad’s Club Field House to Open in 2021.  Also congrats to former Carmel FC players GK Erin Baker and Brooke Bailey of Carmel High School on being named to the US Soccer Coaches All – Region Team !!

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 1

1 pm Peacock                                Everton vs West Ham

3 pm Peacock                                Man City vs Aston Villa 

Sat, Jan 2  

7:30 am Peacock                           Tottenham vs Leeds

12:30 pm NBC                                  Brighton vs Wolverhampton

12:30 ESPN+                                     Hertha Berlin vs Schalke 

3 pm NBCSN ?                               West Brom vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ESPN+                              RB Leipzig (Adams)  vs Stuttgart

Sun, Jan 3

6:30 amESPN2                                  Inter vs Crotone

7 am NBCSN                                      Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

9:15  am NBCSN                               New Castle vs Leicester

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

11;30 am NBCSN              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man City 

2:45 ESPN+                                     Udinese vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                           Huesca vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Jan 4

3 pm NBCSN                                   Southampton vs Liverpool

Wed, Jan 6

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Man U vs Man City League Cup Semis

2:45 pm ESPN2                   AC Milan vs Juventus (McKinney)  

5:15 pm beIN Sport            Boca Juniors vs Santos  

Fri, Jan 8

2:30 pm ESPN+                    M’Gladbach vs Bayern Munich (Carter)

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Aston Villa vs Liverpool (FA Cup)

Sat,  Jan 9

7 am ESPN+                         (FA Cup Games in England 7/10 am, 1 & 3 pm)

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayer Leverkusen vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

12:30 pm ESPN+                 Arsenal vs New Castle United (Yedlin) FA Cup

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

3 pm ESPN+                         Man United vs Watford FA Cup

Sun, Jan 10

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                  Roma vs Inter  

8:30 am ESPN+                    Man city (Steffan) vs Birmingham City  FA Cup

9:30 am ESPN+                    Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Morecambe FA Cup

12 noon ESPN+                    Marine vs Tottenham FA Cup

2:45 pm ESPN+                     Juve (McKinney) vs Sassuolo

Wed, Jan 13

3:15 pm NBCSN?                               Aston Villa vs Tottenham  

2:45 pm ESPN+                    Juventus (McKinney) vs Genoa Coppa Italia

5:15 pm beIN Sport                            Santos vs Boca Juniors – Copa Libertadores

Fri, Jan 15

3:15 pm NBCSN?                               Fulham (Robinson)  vs Chelsea (Pulisic)   

Top Soccer Stories of the Year Avi Creditor SI

Marcotti’s soccer wishes for 2021: Five subs in every league, continued push for reform, Euros must happen  MArcotti ESPNFC

USA

USWNT stars playing in Europe due to circumstance, or start of a growing trend?  ESPN

Seltzer: Top 10 American exports moments of the year
USMNT back reportedly set for club that developed Koulibaly, De Bruyne

Cobi Jones announces US Soccer vice president candidacy

The best soccer films to binge-watch at home over the holidays

MLS

MLS 2020 season review: The Crew were worth saving
Messi ‘always had the dream’ to play in US, could leave Barcelona for free in 2021

Seltzer: 5 possible MLS fits for Lionel Messi

Report: Messi, Suarez to team up at Inter Miami?

Tigres break LAFC hearts as MLS’ wait for CCL glory goes on
Boehm: There’s no agony quite like CCL agony

Doyle: What 2020 meant for all 26 clubs

Schmetzer writes letter to Sounders fans after MLS Cup defeat

Report: Juventus eyeing young MLS quartet as they search for “new McKennie”

Americans at home: A look at the Yanks who should move abroad in 2021

EPL 


Liverpool’s lack of ruthlessness holding champions back, keeping title race alive
 
Mark Ogden

Chelsea are missing something, and they’re running out of time to find it
Lampard has special praise for USMNT star Pulisic

Pulisic Watch: USMNT star starts again in Chelsea – Aston Villa

Spurs’ winless run a massive test for Mourinho and his managerial style
  Mark Ogden

 World  

Liverpool’s glory, Neymar’s tears: Top soccer images of 2020  Chris Wright

Why PSG will replace Tuchel with Pochettino

Why PSG finally moved on from Tuchel, chose Pochettino  Julien Laurens

FIFA cancels men’s U-17, U-20 World Cups

Almost 70% of the world’s soccer balls are made in one city in Pakistan — here’s what it’s like inside one of the factories

 INDY 11  

$25 Down Gets your 2021 Season Tickets on Hold

Get to Know: Cal Jennings

Former Butler University Standout Jared Timmer Signs with Indy Eleven

Three More “Boys in Blue” Confirmed for 2021
2021 Roster Starts to Take Shape with Return of Six “Boys in Blue”

Tampa Bay’s Doherty Claims Fans’ Choice Goal of the Playoffs Award

New Mexico’s Mizell Takes Fans’ Choice Save of the Playoffs Award

Charleston Battery’s Joe Kuzminsky Wins Championship’s Fans’ Choice Save of the Year

Carmel FC

Carmel Dad’s Club Field House to Open in 2021

Lampard has special praise for USMNT star Pulisic

Joe Prince-WrightTue, December 29, 2020, 10:56 AM EST·2 min read

Christian Pulisic has been a consistent bright spark for Chelsea despite their recent slump in form.The USMNT star, 22, has been injury free over the last month and has been doing his best to drive Chelsea on.Speaking about Pulisic’s performance following Chelsea’s 1-1 draw against Aston Villa on Monday (Pulisic was involved in Chelsea’s goal), Lampard praised his fitness and his form.“Christian was really bright all game. That’s great for him, fitness-wise, to play two games in such a short space of time,” Lampard said. “He created plenty of chances, he had an opportunity himself when he hit the side-netting and it looked like it was in but overall, he was really bright.”

Premier League news

Manchester United – Wolves: How to watch live, team news, odds Report: Premier League considers short break due to COVID-19 cases Report: Tottenham – Fulham in doubt after COVID-19 increase

Pulisic is clearly one of the first names on the teamsheet for Chelsea right now.

After an injury-ravaged start to the 2020-21 season, Pulisic has finally found fitness and his form wasn’t far behind.

What next for Pulisic?

In defeats against Wolves and Arsenal he was the shining light, and even though Chelsea dropped more points against Villa he was again their best forward player.

Pulisic was surging forward time and time again, went close on multiple occasions and he spent the game against Villa out on his favored left wing. In previous weeks Lampard had swapped him to the right wing to accommodate out-of-form forward Timo Werner, but Pulisic on the left and Callum Hudson-Odoi on the right look like his starting wingers until Hakim Ziyech returns from injury.The next step for Pulisic is scoring goals and getting assists, as he has scored once in the Premier League during the 2020-21 season. After his fine form in the summer during ‘Project Restart’ and his goal in the FA Cup final, Pulisic has proven he can add end product to his surging runs.Chelsea need him to deliver, big time, in the coming months as the Blues and Lampard are under pressure after a poor run of results in December.It will be intriguing to see if he starts against Manchester City on Sunday, as three starts in nine days is a lot for a player who has been hampered by hamstring and upper leg injuries over the last 12 months.

Marcotti’s soccer wishes for 2021: Five subs in every league, continued push for reform, Euros must happen

lay

https://imasdk.googleapis.com/js/core/bridge3.432.0_en.html#goog_1033063715 Dec 29, 2020Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

It’s not remotely original to say that 2020 can’t end soon enough. Most of us have experienced the single biggest collective disruption of our lives. Many of us have lost loved ones. Some have lost livelihoods. We know better than to believe that just because the Earth has made another (imperfect) revolution around the Sun doesn’t mean anything is likely to change substantially at the stroke of midnight. But that doesn’t make the sense of renewal that a change in the calendar brings any less real.If you’re reading this, football is part of your life, however big or small a slice you devote to it. And that means it too carries with it wishes for something brighter and better. I’ve shared mine below, as I’ve been fortunate to do each December for the past seven years.Roll on 2021…

Gab’s wishes from: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014


1. That we reflect on the enforced hiatus from the game back in the spring — and the continued absence of supporters in most grounds — and use it to guide us. What did we miss? What matters? What matters less? Professional football is a relentless, commercially driven 24/7 operation that sits somewhere between collective spirituality and escapist entertainment. It is not set in stone. We — or, at least, the institutions at the top — can mold the future.2. That the legacy of players feeling empowered enough to take a knee, and other forms of protest, not be dissipated by the passage of time. That was — and is — about systemic racism; others may be about the environment, human rights abuses, whatever. Players have a platform. It’s at once a privilege and a responsibility. Let them feel empowered to use it when they feel it is necessary.

3. That Euro 2020 takes place, even in 2021. Even (if necessary) in another form, in different venues, with different formats. I miss international football tournaments. For many of us, they’ve defined every other summer for our entire lives.

4. That FIFA’s new regulations on agents and transfers are approved and, just as important, are applied with uniformity and integrity. Agents and intermediaries serve an important purpose but they, and the clubs that empower them, shouldn’t be allowed to operate in darkness and without regulation.

5. That we get clear rules on who can own a club and under what conditions, and that decisions be swift and transparent. No more of this nonsense that saw Newcastle’s takeover bid being strung along for months by the Premier League without explanation.

6. That, while we’re at it, we also start having a conversation about what owners can and cannot do. Among the “cannot-do list,” I’d include stuff like piling on debt irresponsibly, taking out cash for their own purposes, being entirely beholden to intermediaries and generally not being good stewards. A club, ultimately, is at the heart of a community. Whether it’s a community of a few thousand supporters in a provincial team or a few hundred million dotted around the world, that has to come first.

7. That the single biggest decision to come in the next 12 to 18 months — the reform of the International Match Calendar — not be guided by greed, power games or a handful of self-interested clubs. The year 2024 is the witching hour, when the FIFA calendar that governs virtually every aspect of club, international and youth football has to be agreed, and the stakes are huge. We could see more games, we could see Champions League games on weekends and internationals relegated to a single window every year. Everything is in play, and these reforms will dictate how the game develops for the next decade.

8. That all the breakaway European Super League talk remains just talk, unless it’s based on something other than greed. We’ve had more than 120 years of the European game existing on a pyramid structure with promotion and relegation between the various tiers. It has worked remarkably well, too. If we’re going to talk on the basis of growing the game even further and making it more sustainable, fine. But if it’s going to be — as it appears to be of late — primarily driven by some clubs’ avarice and other clubs’ need for fresh revenue after overspending or suffering economic damage because of the pandemic, no thank you.

9. That fans and media — especially those who focus on big clubs and big leagues — don’t deride and ignore the UEFA Europa Conference, which launches this summer, as just another big joke. One of the side effects of the big leagues’ flexing has been to push out the rest of football and ensure that the Champions League is stocked with clubs from the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1. This competition gives others a chance to play.

10. That while it’s great that rich folks from Asia and North America (and the corporations they control) pour money into Europe’s elite clubs, at least for the clubs themselves, we create the right conditions for them to invest locally and, indeed, in the rest of the world. Otherwise, we’ll always have an uneven playing field.

11. That the world outside Europe and South America realize what worked there might not necessarily be what works elsewhere to best grow the game. UEFA and CONMEBOL have a 100-year (or more) head start. Maybe that talked-about merger of LigaMX and Major League Soccer makes sense. Maybe the Gulf nations, where there’s plenty of money, could use a regional league of their own. Maybe the notion of a pan-African league isn’t that far-fetched. Let’s be open-minded. It’s not one-size-fits-all.

12. That the concussion protocol be taken seriously. That means temporary substitutions and independent assessments pitch-side. Until then, it won’t be.

13. That we at least explore the possibility of making the five-substitution rule permanent. Looking at the league tables in FranceGermanyItaly and Spain — where, unlike England, it has been adopted — that doomsday scenario about bigger, wealthier clubs dominating doesn’t quite seem to have materialized, does it?

14. That Lionel Messi stay at Barcelona. Yes, this is a personal wish. Sorry, but I love the idea of a legend spending his entire career at one club.

15. That Barcelona make themselves a club that Messi finds worth staying at. This might take a bit more work given the dumpster fire in which they find themselves — some of it self-inflicted, some of it out of their control — but elections are coming up. Believe it or not, Barcelona fans have

16. That Cristiano Ronaldo keeps defying gravity and reinventing himself. We first defined him as a quick-as-a-whip winger unleashing whup-ass with an intoxicating array of tricks. Now among his signature moves is the Jordan-esque hang time on his far-post headers.

17. That Juventus fans and critics understand that what they’re going through this season with Andrea Pirlo at the helm is necessary. The attacking football, the belief in young players, the high line, the counterpressing, the possession game… yeah, it’s a seminal philosophical change. And maybe Pirlo, in his first senior gig, might not have the tools to deliver it. But somebody had to do it, because their previous model was unsustainable in the modern game. And even if he fails, it will make the job of his successor that much easier.

18. That Eden Hazard stay fit. Not so much for Real Madrid‘s sake — they’ll find a way without him — but more so for his sake and for the sake of all of us who loved his mazy, low-to-the ground runs, his eyes-on-the-back-of-the-head awareness and pinpoint finishes. (Oh, and because Belgium project to be among the favorites at 2021’s rescheduled Euros.)

19. That even if Marcus Rashford doesn’t develop into the world-beating superstar his precocious success suggested, everyone will remember what he has already achieved as a caring, selfless individual in public life. Inspiring others by taking a public stand isn’t for everyone, and he does it with passion and dignity. From what we can tell, he’s a better person than he is a footballer. And that’s high praise.

20. That people realize that Marcelo Bielsa plays the way he does because he believes it’s the best way to win. He’s not on some philosophical mission to entertain, he doesn’t enjoy giving away cheap goals, and he truly believes that this is the best way for him to get the best out of his players at Leeds United. And guess what? It’s working, and it’s entertaining. Next guy who calls him naive gets a boot to the head. Bielsa knows what he’s doing.

21. That this generation of young American talent — Giovanni ReynaChristian PulisicWeston McKennie and others — go on to lift the sport as a whole in the United States. Why? So that one day we can laugh at that old joke “soccer is the sport of the future in America… and always will be.”

22. That Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira find some place to play when their contracts expire next June. Both joined Real Madrid a decade ago, both have been shut out for most of 2020 in part because of their enormous contracts and because they couldn’t be moved on (and did not want to take a pay cut). I don’t want to remember these two World Cup winners as sad-sack figures training by themselves while being called greedy.

23. That Kai Havertz finds a place to play on the pitch at Chelsea even if it takes time. Especially when you see him in person, you realize what a singular talent he is. But equally, how accommodating him at this stage of his development is far from easy. He’s young. Be patient.

24. That Jurgen Klopp sees out his contract with Liverpool. Yes, he has already delivered the Premier League and Champions League. Yes, he has built a team that is once again top of the league. So if someone comes calling, sure, few would begrudge him leaving despite having committed himself to the club through 2024. But what he’s doing is pretty special and the Premier League is richer for having him around.

25. That Manchester United find their mojo, with or without Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It’s true that it was good for other clubs to emerge after the hegemony of the Sir Alex Ferguson Era. But it’s been a long time since United ruled, and what’s most perplexing is the sense of perennial drift that’s been around since then. Managers have come and gone, but the decision-makers above them have stayed the same. And yet it still doesn’t feel they’re building toward anything. It can’t all be down to the manager.26. That Paul Pogba regains his smile, whether it’s at Old Trafford or elsewhere. The punditocracy — mostly ex-pros, mostly ex-United “Golden Era” players who seem hellbent on holding everyone to the standard they set (or that they think they set) — appears to take great delight in pointing out his every flaw. He’s not perfect, but he’s supremely talented and fun to watch. And that word “lazy” gets thrown around far too much when it comes to Pogba.

27. That all three of Milan’s high-profile free agents — Gianluigi DonnarummaHakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic — stick around after their deals expire in June… but if it’s going to be too expensive, there’s no question who you prioritize. (It’s Donnarumma, by far the youngest of the three.) All three have played a big part in Milan’s renaissance and Scudetto challenge this season, but none of them is indispensable. The system that has been built and the young players that have come on board… that’s what will drive Milan going forward.

28. That Neymar stays fit and stays productive. I feel like I say this every year. He’s not in the Messi/Ronaldo conversation, and he never will be. But I don’t want to see a guy of his ability somehow be surpassed by the next generation — the Erling Haaland/Kylian Mbappe cohort — either.

29. That Borussia Dortmund keep this crew together for a while and get them the leadership they need to succeed. They’ve gotten plenty of pats on the back as the “smartest guys in the room” for assembling that hugely impressive corps of young talent: Jadon Sancho, Haaland, Reyna, Jude Bellingham and, now, Youssoufa Moukoko, too. They’re also honest in admitting that they can’t retain them long-term. OK. So sacrifice one, get a coach who can squeeze the best out of them and persuade them to win something big — something really big — before they’re sold on.

30. That kids who fall in love with the sport be given the chance, first and foremost, to support their local club before jumping on the big juggernaut/club bandwagon simply because it’s pumped relentlessly onto their screens. Yes, this is cut-and-pasted from last year, but it’s worth repeating. And it’s the one wish over which we hav

The Top Stories From an Atypical Year Across World Soccer

2020 has been full of unprecedented obstacles, sadness, revitalization and triumph, and that’s been represented across multiple levels of the beautiful game.

AVI CREDITOR  SI  DEC 23, 2020

Well, it certainly has been a year.The story of 2020 will always be told through the lenses of the coronavirus pandemic and the quest for social justice, and the same is true of global soccer’s last 12 months (more specifically, the last nine). It’s impossible to separate one from the other when considering how much leagues, players and organizations around the world were forced to adapt, postpone, acknowledge and sacrifice.For a time in the spring, the only active leagues in the world were found in Belarus, Tajikistan, Burundi and Nicaragua. Slowly, the beautiful game returned elsewhere, but not in a way we were accustomed to seeing and enjoying it. The bubbles, empty stadiums, fake crowd noise and COVID-19-related postponements and player absences provided the ultimate wrinkles and norm-shattering elements to a regular schedule that we all take for granted.Through it all, champions were crowned, players progressed and broke through, the business sides labored and new heroes, stars and focal points emerged. Here’s a look back at the year in global soccer, the most impactful moments, individuals, story lines and events that occurred on and off the field, accompanied by some of Sports Illustrated’s top stories of the year that told it all:

How Europe brought its leagues back

The Bundesliga was the first major league in Europe to resume play, setting a model for those that would follow. Countries had to abide by local guidelines and governmental decisions, and not all chose to resume. France’s Ligue 1 and the Netherlands’ Eredivisie, for instance, did not, and champions, relegation and European places were determined in ways that clearly left some unhappy parties.

The Champions League was postponed until all the remaining leagues could finish their domestic seasons, and even then, it was reduced to a single-elimination sprint in one country from the quarterfinals on. That UEFA and the individual associations reached the finish line at all deserved the plaudits they received and set the parameters for how to resume in the fall.

RELATED FEATURES

STRAUS: Behind the scenes of behind closed doors: How the Bundesliga returned

STRAUS: The inside story of La Liga’s return to action

CREDITOR: Fake fan noise on broadcasts provides comfort, but it’s disingenuous

Player of the year

The cancellation of the Ballon d’Or robbed Robert Lewandowski of one player of the year award, but he took him FIFA’s best honor, and rightly so. With 55 goals in all competitions in the 2019–20 season, Lewandowski cemented his status as the world’s preeminent striker. He won the golden boots in the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB Pokal, three competitions that his Bayern Munich side not-so-coincidentally won as well.

At 32, he’s in the form of his life, and with 17 goals in 13 Bundesliga games, he’s well on his way to a fourth straight Bundesliga golden boot and sixth in eight years. He just became the third player ever to score 250 goals in Germany’s top flight, and he finally has the individual accolades to recognize his greatness. 

RELATED FEATURE

WILSON: Robert Lewandowski’s unusual, volcano-altered path to becoming The Best 

 Team of the year

Dovetailing with Lewandowski’s success is that of Bayern, which was ruthless after the Bundesliga’s restart and resurgent after Hansi Flick replaced Niko Kovac on the bench. The club has lost a total of one (1) match in 48 across all competitions this calendar year (42-1-5), winning the treble, adding the German Super Cup and eyeing the FIFA Club World Cup this coming February.

Its dominance peaked in an 8–2 thrashing of Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, which sent the Spanish power reeling and into full-blown crisis mode.

Its true that the repeated and expected domestic titles for clubs like Bayern, PSG and Juventus say plenty about the state of affairs across the European game and can be tiring, but there’s often a breathtaking element to the accomplishment—especially when it comes to Bayern and its relentless approach.

RELATED FEATURES

WILSON: Bayern Munich beats PSG with one of its own to win Champions League 

WILSON: Bayern maintains its dominance while undergoing a rapid transition

 Top breakout players

Alphonso Davies, Erling Haaland and Ansu Fati are just three in a rising generation of talents in their teens and low 20s taking the world by storm. 

Davies, the 20-year-old former Vancouver Whitecaps academy product, cracked the FIFPro World XI, making him the first North American to ever do so (and only the third who does not hail from Europe or South America). His ascent and transition to left back were surpassed in speed by only the pace he possesses on the field, an attribute that led Thomas Muller to dub him “The FC Bayern Road Runner.”

Haaland’s power and precision have made the 20-year-old Norwegian the apple of every big-spending club’s eye. His rise under Jesse Marsch at Salzburg quickly materialized into a transfer to Dortmund, and he hit the ground running in January with his German club, where he’s formed a productive partnership with U.S. rising talent Gio Reyna.

Fati, meanwhile, has become the breakthrough talent that both Spain and Barcelona need. His current injury has impeded his progress, but there’s a reason he was getting preferred to Antoine Griezmann at Barcelona. Still just 18, he can be the star of Barcelona’s revival for the next decade, should the club elect to defy his many suitors.

RELATED FEATURES

WILSON: Alphonso Davies’s meteoric rise, and the future of the left back position

STRAUS: Gio Reyna may be young, but he’s ready for club and country right now

 Liverpool ends its 30-year drought

Liverpool’s Premier League dominance crested over the winter, and by the time it won its first domestic league title in three decades, it was all a bit anticlimactic. But that takes nothing away from the achievement. 

After winning the Champions League the season before, Liverpool was sensational, losing its run at invincibility just before the pandemic’s onset, with a late-February defeat to Watford. Regardless, it ended Man City’s reign by winning the title with an 18-point gap over Pep Guardiola’s side, a true sign of how exceptional its season truly was. Only some late faltering after the restart prevented Liverpool from setting more single-season standards.

Jürgen Klopp and the technical staff have built a dynamic and balanced club, one that has the ability to press, recover, strike, counter, defend and dominate. Injuries have put that to the test this season, but it’s a testament to the culture at the club that Liverpool remains in the driver’s seat, looking to win a second straight title.

RELATED FEATURES

WILSON: There’s no asterisk next to Liverpool’s dominant, wait-ending title

WAHL: Jürgen Klopp and the Liverpool manager’s infectious aura

 Barcelona’s Messi mess

There was perhaps no soccer-related bombshell bigger than the one Lionel Messi dropped in August, after Barcelona’s Champions League demise followed its capitulation in La Liga. Messi wanted out of the only club he’s ever known as a pro, claiming he had an agreement with now-ex-president Josep Bartomeu that he could leave for free at the end of last season, despite having a year to run on his deal. The wording of the contract evidently stated that clause expired in June, and with the end of the season pushed until August, it was no longer valid when Barcelona’s campaign actually ended.

That set off a few days of uncertainty and intensity at Camp Nou, where Messi ultimately stayed, saying that no matter his conviction, he could never take the club he loves to court. With Bartomeu out and a new president set to be elected Jan. 24, the next month will be pivotal in determining whether Messi will play out his career at Barcelona or head elsewhere. As it stands, he just became the world record holder for most goals at a single club, passing Pelé with his 644th tally in a Barça shirt.

RELATED FEATURE

CREDITOR: Messi stays, but the war vs. Bartomeu is far from over

 The voice and power of the player

Both in the USA and abroad, player power became quite evident. It was evident in the NWSL’s bubble in Utah, where players, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota, kneeled for the national anthem and amplified their voices. It was evident in MLS’s bubble in Florida, where the league’s Black Players for Change started their initiatives with a moving demonstration prior to the opening match. 

It was evident abroad as well, with U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie among the first to use his platform to call attention to injustice after the events in Minneapolis. Others like Jadon Sancho, Marcus Thuram and Achraf Hakimi followed, with clubs regularly kneeling in unison at the opening whistle to make a statement afterward.

The player platforms extend beyond racism. Marcus Rashford has become a hero to the children of the U.K., taking on the government and using his voice and stature to an immense degree to ensure impoverished children are fed.

The power of a club to take a stand was also on display in the USL, where Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal walked off the field in a match that had playoff implications for the club, following the antigay abused suffered by one of its players.

All of these individuals and groups deserve the highest commendation for their actions and for using their platforms for good.

RELATED FEATURES

ECHEGARAY: MLS’s Black Players for Change and the long-term plan 

WILSON: Marcus Rashford takes on the UK government again

GEARY: NWSL’s return and the Black player movement within it

STRAUS: The story behind USMNT’s ‘Be The Change’ jackets 

STRAUS: Donovan’s San Diego Loyal takes a stand 

 U.S. Soccer’s transformation at the top

U.S. Soccer has been through some significant change this year. After a disgraceful defense against the U.S. women’s national team players from the federation’s legal team in the ongoing battle for equal pay and gender equality, Carlos Cordeiro resigned as president in mid-March, just as the pandemic was starting to hit the U.S. Ex-U.S. women’s player and USSF VP Cindy Parlow Cone stepped into the role, and she was joined at a remade top of the federation’s organizational chart by new CEO Will Wilson, who replaced longtime chief executive Dan Flynn.

The two struck a new tone in the case against the U.S. women and have moved to settle many of the federation’s other outstanding lawsuits as well. There’s still work to be done on all fronts—legal, competitive and elsewhere—and with the pandemic negatively impacting the federation’s finances, dynamic and steady leadership is required to keep things on an upward trajectory.

RELATED FEATURES

STRAUS: At another inflection point, will U.S. Soccer learn from past failings?

WAHL: Who Cindy Parlow Cone is, from the teammates who knew her best

 The Americans abroad golden age

The U.S. men’s national team has evolved ever since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and the evolution of its player pool is a big reason why. There are now young Americans at—and some featuring prominently for—Barcelona, Juventus, Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, playing in some of the biggest matches in the world against some of the best talent in the world on a regular basis.

It seems like it was ages ago now, but Christian Pulisic was a star after the Premier League’s restart, one of the league’s most consistently dangerous attacking players until a hamstring injury in the FA Cup final (in which he’d already scored) derailed his progress.

But Pulisic is far from alone in drawing the spotlight. Tyler Adams scored a Champions League quarterfinal-winning goal for RB Leipzig, helping bring the club to its greatest heights on a European stage. McKennie moved to Juventus, Sergiño Dest signed with Barcelona and there’s a genuine feeling that this is a golden moment for U.S. youth, with more moves to clubs of global significance in the offing.

Women’s national team players have been testing themselves abroad at new levels as well, with NWSL’s atypical season and lengthy offseason coinciding with the run-up to a postponed Olympics. Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle have gone to Man City, while Tobin Heath and Christen Press are across town at Man United. Alex Morgan spent the first half of the FA WSL season at Tottenham, while Emily Sonnett won a Swedish title with her short stint at Goteborg.

There’s never been a more intriguing and essential time for Americans abroad.

RELATED FEATURES

STRAUS: Why the moment for Americans at elite European clubs is happening now

STRAUS: The play-by-play of how Weston McKennie wound up at Juventus

STRAUS: Tyler Adams scores the most significant goal for an American abroad

STRAUS: Christian Pulisic isn’t just competing in big games, he’s changing them

STRAUS: Sergiño Dest knows he hasn’t ‘made it’ simply by signing with Barcelona

STRAUS: Zack Steffen puts game time vs. training environment to the test at Man City

STRAUS: Chris Richards begins his breakthrough

STRAUS: After failed Milan move and heart scare, it all works out for Antonee Robinson

 

As for on these shores…

MLS’s 25th season was completely derailed, but completed nevertheless. What began with Chicharito’s landmark signing, Miami and Nashville’s introductions and plans for a grand celebration turned into months of labor negotiations, coronavirus protocols and uncertainty. But the league, to its credit, reached the finish line, becoming the first American league to complete a playoff season in home markets. The Columbus Crew wound up lifting the trophy at home to cement a massive turnaround in that market, months after the Portland Timbers emerged as the best in the bubble at MLS Is Back.

The first successful bubble experiment in U.S. team sports belonged to the NWSL, with the Houston Dash commanding respect and changing their narrative by winning the Challenge Cup. The league resumed play with a Fall Series won by the Portland Thorns, and excitement continues to build with the addition of Racing Louisville FC in 2021 and Angel City FC–with its loaded ownership group–in 2022.

RELATED FEATURES

STRAUS: Nobody knows resilience like the Columbus Crew

GEARY: A U-Turn in H-Town for the NWSL’s Dash

STRAUS: Finding perspective amid Chicharito’s unfulfilled hype

 Gone, but never forgotten

Sadness has been a constant throughout everything this year, and the soccer world knows that quite well. Three World Cup legends, Diego Maradona, Paolo Rossi and Papa Bouba Diop, all died within two weeks of each other, with the passing of such a titanic figure like Maradona, especially, grabbing the world’s attention.

They were unfortunately far from alone. Among the many other former players, managers and administrators to lose their lives this year–for COVID-19 reasons or otherwise–were four players from England’s 1966 World Cup title team (Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Peter Bonetti and Norman Hunter); Argentine left back great Silvio Marzolini; Argentina’s 2014 World Cup manager Alejandro Sabella; and treble-winning former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier.

May their memories be a blessing, and may the holiday season and year ahead be filled with way more joy and significantly less pain.

WILSON: Diego Maradona’s greatness and legacy go well beyond the trophies and goals

WAHL: Diego Maradona was a timeless icon

STRAUS: Rubio Rubin: The American who played for Maradona, and his tales of their time at Dorados de Sinaloa

WILSON: The significance and reach of Paolo Rossi

MLS 2020 season review: Columbus Crew SC were worth saving

eMajor League Soccer concluded its season with Columbus Crew SC‘s MLS Cup victory on Saturday night, and with preseason preparations for the upcoming campaign set to begin as early as one month from now, attention is already turning to 2021. But before we look too far into the future, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Austin Lindberg look back on a 2020 season that won’t soon be forgotten.

Jump to: Crew worth saving | Impacts of COVID-19 | Debuts of Miami, Nashville | Black Players for Change | Philly legitimizes homegrown blueprint | Young players departing | New low for labor relations | Best XI

The Crew were worth saving

Three years ago, Columbus Crew SC seemingly had no future in Ohio’s capital. Owner Anthony Precourt announced in October 2017 he intended to move the club to Austin, Texas, in 2019 if a new stadium in downtown, partially funded by public tax dollars, couldn’t be secured.

He told ESPN shortly after the announcement that the club needed “to see a dramatic change” in attendance and other factors if it was to remain in Columbus. Reading between the lines, it was clear that in his mind there was little that could keep him from taking the Crew from the capital of Ohio to the capital of Texas.What he didn’t count on was the fierce resistance, the organization and the persuasion of the fans and local community. He didn’t count on the #SaveTheCrew movement.The fans made an almighty racket, making their voices heard at the capitol and in stadiums across MLS — and in many cases, stadiums hosting teams that had nothing to do with the Crew. The city of Columbus canvassed business leaders throughout the region as it sought to put together an ownership group that would keep the club in town.

A year after Precourt’s announcement, the Haslam and Edwards families entered into negotiations to buy the Crew. By the end of 2018, the Crew had been saved. Barely a week later, Caleb Porter was named manager and Tim Bezbatchenko was appointed president.

With significant investment from the Haslams and Edwardses — which included the signing of $7 million designated player Lucas Zelarayan and a privately financed downtown stadium scheduled to open in 2021 — and the vision of Porter and Bezbatchenko, the Crew embarked on a reimagining of the club that culminated with last Saturday’s MLS Cup win.

For so many reasons, 2020 has been miserable, with few bright spots. The Crew’s championship, on the back of their fans’ righteous, successful campaign to keep their club — the league’s original club — in town, is a sliver of sunshine we could all do with more of. — Austin Lindberg

The impacts of COVID-19

Give MLS credit. The league made it to the MLS Cup finish line, even as an outbreak of COVID-19 made its way through champions Columbus Crew during the postseason, with a total of 10 positive cases. This was on top of outbreaks earlier in the year within the FC DallasNashville SC and Colorado Rapids organizations.

None of this seemed possible on March 12, when in the first days of the pandemic, MLS engaged in a shutdown that would last four months. Yet the league managed to get off the deck, first with the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida.

That competition was among the first of several in the U.S. that proved the efficacy of a bubble environment, and it helped get the league back in front of fans. Matters proved more difficult when teams resumed league play in August. The MLS’ three Canadian teams, after first playing a series of games against each other, were forced to relocate to the U.S. because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada. A total of seven games were canceled, forcing the league to go to points per game to determine a team’s placement in the conference standings.

The wounds — some financial, others physical — will take time to heal. The MLS Players Association reported that “almost 20%” of the league’s players contracted COVID-19 at some point during the year. The long-term impact of those infections is still to be determined. There were also layoffs across the league, both at league headquarters and within MLS teams.

But the league is still here, highlighting a resilience that has long been one of its hallmarks. One can only hope that the 2021 campaign proves easier to navigate for all involved. — Jeff Carlisle

A tale of two expansion teams

When Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF began the season, it was Nashville that looked like an econobox sedan, while Miami bore a closer resemblance to a flashy sports car. But sometimes the sedan does a better job of getting you to where you want to go, and that proved to be precisely the case in this instance.

General manager Mike Jacobs fashioned a defense-first side that saw Nashville finish seventh in the Eastern Conference — which would have qualified it for the postseason even without the generously expanded playoff field — while Miami finished 10th. And as fate would have it, that saw the teams meet in the play-in round of the postseason, with Nashville proving it was by far the better team in a 3-0 victory.

Granted, it’s impossible to avert one’s eyes from Miami, which is quickly approaching car-wreck status. Chief operating officer and sporting director Paul McDonough paid the price for too many swings and misses in the international transfer market and stepped down last week. Then on Monday, ESPN confirmed a story in The Athletic that manager Diego Alonso exited an end-of-year meeting with ownership thinking he had been fired, and told players and staff about it, only for that to not be the case. Alonso is still the manager, although his continued presence seems awkward at best. After a six-year wait to take the field following the team’s inception, owners David Beckham and Jorge Mas have some cleanup work to do. — Jeff Carlisle

The formation of Black Players for Change

It wasn’t just the coronavirus that had some players on edge. The death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police galvanized the community of Black MLS players and brought about the formation of Black Players for Change. The organization aimed to advocate for social justice and put in place programs to further that end, both inside and outside the game of soccer.

There were powerful demonstrations of support of social justice, with MLS teams taking a knee at kickoff when play resumed at the MLS is Back Tournament, a statement that continued for the rest of the season. Following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the BPC helped orchestrate a protest of most the league’s games on Aug. 26.

Away from the field, the BPC was impactful as well, partnering with the LeBron James-led nonprofit More Than A Vote to encourage minority communities to register to vote and engage in the electoral process. That included getting 95% of the league’s players registered.

The BPC also dedicated its first mini-pitch in Newark, New Jersey. The project, in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, is the first of 12 such pitches to be built in Black communities across the country in a bid to get more kids involved in the sport of soccer.

Earlier this month, the BPC earned the league’s Humanitarian of the Year award in recognition of its efforts in 2020. — Jeff Carlisle

Philadelphia further legitimizing homegrown blueprint

After 11 years of existence, the Philadelphia Union finally won their first trophy, claiming the Supporters’ Shield in 2020. It was a just reward for a fan base whose passion delivered the city a club in the first place and never let up in the ensuing lean years.

For the fans, it probably means a bit more that this silverware was secured by academy products Brenden Aaronson (who’s off to FC Salzburg in January) and Mark McKenzie (who’s attracting plenty of interest from European clubs himself) and SuperDraft selection and Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake. For everyone else in MLS, it means a great deal, too: Philadelphia’s success further solidifies a familiar blueprint for success.

The Union is the fourth team in the past six years (New York Red Bulls in 2015, FC Dallas in 2016 and the Red Bulls again in 2018) to win the Shield following a formula reliant on homegrown talent. Thirteen years after the inception of U.S. Soccer’s academy program, the past six seasons have been demonstrable proof that cultivating talent in-house is a viable path to success.

As MLS sees spending increase year in and year out, primarily on burgeoning stars imported from South America or Europe, Philadelphia (along with the Red Bulls and Dallas) is demonstrating that clubs can win in this league without spending a fortune on exotic imports — although that helps. — Austin Lindberg

Young players are departing — and that’s a good thing

For years, MLS had had a reputation for practically holding young players hostage, rarely transferring players out of the league before their contracts ran down. But recent campaigns have shown that to be changing. According to data on the league’s website, in 2017 only four players were transferred out of MLS. In 2018 that number grew to 12, and then to 14 in 2019. In 2020 that number climbed to 19.

And it hasn’t been just guys exiting in search of one last payday. In 2019, you had the likes of Tyler Adams and Alphonso Davies, of RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich, respectively, leaving the league. In the just-concluded season, there were Reggie Cannon and Alberth Elis both being sent to Portuguese side Boavista. In 2021, the Philadelphia Union’s Brenden Aaronson will move to FC Salzburg, and New York City FC‘s Joe Scally will head to Borussia Monchengladbach.

It all has amounted to a revenue stream of which MLS teams are taking greater advantage. And the league’s academies are producing players that are catching the eye of foreign clubs.

Is there room to grow? Absolutely. But there’s no doubting that transfers out of the league are becoming more of the norm. — Jeff Carlisle

Labor relations hit a new low

All seemed rosy in February when the MLS Players Association and the league agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that left both sides — at least outwardly — feeling as though they gained something. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and because neither side had ratified the new CBA, the league used its leverage to force the MLSPA back to the bargaining table.

With the league threatening to lock out the playersthe two sides ultimately reached an agreement in June, just a month before the MLS is Back Tournament was scheduled to take place. But the MLSPA membership emerged demoralized and with $150 million less than what it had agreed to in February due to cuts in salary, bonuses and a revenue-sharing plan tied to the next media rights deal.

Even worse, the league managed to get the MLSPA to accept the presence of a force majeure clause in the CBA. While the clause would allow either side to terminate the agreement in the case of catastrophic conditions, it gives considerable leverage to ownership in that it could once again force the union back to the bargaining table.

Labor tensions usually crop up only every five years, but for now they are a continual fact of life between owners and players. — Jeff Carlisle

Best XI

Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defense: Anton Tinnerholm (New York City FC), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Ryan Hollingshead (FC Dallas)
Midfield: Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC), Diego Chara (Portland Timbers), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC)
Forwards: Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC), Diego Rossi (LAFC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)

12/24/20 Holiday European Games Schedule, McKinney & Reyna, Mewis win US Players of Year

Great to see Weston McKinney win the US Player of the Year this year.  What a year for McKinney as he gambled on himself on loan to Juventus and has become a starter and full out star with the Old Lady!  Gio Reyna is a worthy winner of the Young Player of the Year – with his breakout year at Dortmund this year.  I truly think he has the chance to be better than Pulisic as he doesn’t get hurt. 

Sam Mewis wins the USWNT Player of the year – after her big year – especially overseas for Man City.

Huge news that Dortmund fired their coach and American Jessie Marsh might be on the shortlist of candidates.  Marsh has does wonderous things as head man at Redbull Saltzburg as part of the Red Bull organization.  Two great runs in the Group Stages the last two years where he scared the pants off huge clubs and almost qualified for the Sweet 16 Knockout stages each time despite a huge difference in quality of player.  Dortmund would be smart to give the American coach a chance.  Wow would that be awesome. 

Not much time this week – except to say I hope you have a Wonderful and Safe Holiday and Best Wishes for the New Year.  I have updated the TV game schedule in case you have time to mix in some soccer watching with your Holiday festivities.  Pulisic should be on Boxing Day – Sat for Chelsea at Arsenal at 12:30 pm on NBC. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat Dec 26 – Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN                   Leiester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN                      Aston Villa vs Cyrstal Palace

12:30 NBC                   Arsenal vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm  NBCSN                       Man City vs New Castle

Sun, Dec 27

11:30  pm NBCSN                                Liverpoool vs West brom

2:!5 pm NBCSN                   Woverhampton vs Tottenham

Mon, Dec 28 

10 am NBCSN                      Crytsal Palace vs Leicester

12:30 pm NBCSN                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Aston Villa

3 pm Peacock                       Everton vs Man City

Tues, Dec 29

1 pm NBCSN                        Brighton vs Arsenal 

1:15 pm beIn Sport                              Barcelona (Dest) vvs Eibar

3 pm NBCSN                        Man United vs Wolverhampton

Weds, Dec 30

1 pm NBCSN                        Tottenham vs Fulham (Robinson)

3:30 pm beIn Sport                              Elche vs Real Madrid

3 pm NBCSN                        New Castle vs Liverpool

Fri,  Jan 1

1 pm Peacock                       Everton vs West Ham

3 pm Peacock                       Man City vs Aston Villa 

Sat, Jan 2 

7:30 am Peacock                  Tottenham vs Leeds

12:30 pm NBCSN                           Everton vs Arsenal

12:30 ESPN+                                    Hertha Berlin vs Schalke 

3 pm NBCSN ?                     West Brom vs Arsenal

2:30 pm ESPN+                    RB Leipzig (Adams)  vs Stuttgart

Sun, Jan 3

6:30 amESPN2                                Inter vs Crotone

7 am NBCSN                                   Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

9:15  am NBCSN                            New Castle vs Leicester

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

11;30 am NBCSN         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man City 

2:45 ESPN+                          Udinese vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                   Huesca vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Jan 4

3 pm NBCSN                       Southampton vs Liverpool

USA

Mueller shows Berhalter’s USMNT options run deep

US Weston McKennie Wins Player of the Year for US –  SI  
Reyna voted U.S.’s Young Male Player of Year

Man City’s Mewis named U.S. top women’s player   Jeff Carlisle

USWNT’s support for racial justice ‘a long time coming’ – Becky Sauerbrunn

Dec 22, 2020ESPN

United States defender Becky Sauerbrunn said the USWNT had failed its Black players by not taking a stand against racial injustice sooner.The U.S. women displayed their support before a 2-0 friendly defeat of the Netherlands in late November, with the players wearing warmup jackets with the words “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned on the front, and nearly every member of the team took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.Accompanying the pregame show of solidarity was a statement posted to team members’ social media accounts.peaking on USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara’s podcast called “Just Women’s Sports” on Tuesday, Sauerbrunn said she regretted the team’s lack of awareness for so long.

“I’m actually conflicted that it took us thing long as a national team to get to this point because we for so long we have fought for so many things,” she said. “For gender equality, for pay equality. We wear jerseys for LGBTQ, for military, and we’ve never as a group come together to fight for social justice and racial inequality.”It has been a long time coming and in a way I feel we’ve failed the Black women on our team, on our program and our Black supporters by not being more aware to this fight. I’m glad we came together and I’m glad we got all the Black women together and as a team and a small group decided what we could do to bring more awareness to BLM [Black Lives Matter].”It’s amazing that we got to do that but it’s also, I feel like, it’s been too long for this to finally come to fruition and hopefully it’s just the first of many things we do to continue this fight.”Nine out of the 11 starters knelt for the anthem against the Netherlands. O’Hara, a defender, and midfielder Julie Ertz were the two who stood. Sauerbrunn said the team understood their reasons not to participate.”As you know, it was the first time as a team that we ever had a conversation about race. And it was awkward at times and there was tension and it was emotional, but I think people really got to speak their truths for the first time in that group setting. So, I’m proud about that, and even though people decided to participate in the anthem the way that they did, at least it was done with an understanding for one another’s motives.”Still work to be done, but it was a really big step for the group,” she said.ue to a pause in international play caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the match in November was the first for the USWNT since the death of George Floyd — a Black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 — sparked worldwide protests and calls for racial justice and an end to police brutality.Earlier in the month, the United States men’s team wore messages calling for justice on its tracksuits prior to its 0-0 friendly draw with Wales in the team’s first match back since Floyd’s death.

USWNT stars Morgan, Heath, Lavelle went to Europe due to the pandemic, but don’t expect a larger movement

play

Manchester City’s Alex Greenwood describes how Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis have benefitted the team this year. (1:10)

Dec 22, 2020ESPN

When whispers began circulating at the end of the summer that a number of high-profile United States women’s national team players would be making their way to England, there was curiosity on both sides of the Atlantic as to what this might mean for the global game.

Several players had done stints in Europe before, of course, but the arrival of five of the 2019 World Cup winners’ top stars — Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, and Sam Mewis — to England was a marked difference to previous moves that had drawn criticism and even seen national team careers threatened.

Jump to: A few minutes with Matthew Hoppe | Stock watch | Scouting report: Chris Richards

In 2018, Portland Thorns and USWNT star Crystal Dunn cut her time at Chelsea short over fears her national career would suffer, while Morgan (Lyon) and Carli Lloyd (Manchester City) also previously faced criticism after leaving for opportunities abroad.

Former United States manager Jill Ellis was a strong advocate of players remaining in the USA and the USWNT’s existing pay structure makes playing outside of the U.S. quite complicated for players, especially if they don’t have the support of U.S. Soccer. The federation pays the players’ international salaries and game bonuses, as well as the club salaries for USWNT players who play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). While teams own the league, U.S. Soccer are employed through a contract to manage aspects of the league. This includes paying national team salaries for some players as well as salaries for at least 22 other players. In exchange for these salaries, the teams and the league limit the amount of players who can go overseas, though this contract is revisited periodically and the next review is due at the end of 2021. It all means that the USSF has an extra interest in its big stars staying home and playing in the States.

Americans in Europe

ESPN highlights the biggest stories around United States stars plying their trade overseas, bringing inside information to their successes and struggles, sitting down with some of the national team’s top players, and scouting the next generation of Americans breaking through across Europe.

However, these controls have been loosening in the last year due to a number of internal and external factors. The league has been looking to lessen the control U.S. Soccer has on its players while Ellis’ successor as USWNT coach, Vlatko Andonovski, has said he sees the benefits of players getting experience abroad.

“Every player that is Europe-based, if they’re healthy and performing well, they’re going to be in our plans and will be called for upcoming camps,” Andonovski said when asked about the Europe-based members of his squad.

However, one factor undoubtedly pushed the balance for the players this year: the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the NWSL was the first professional sports league to return to play in the United States after the initial pandemic-enforced shutdown, uncertainty led to Press and Heath opting out of the league’s Challenge Cup, while Morgan’s club side, the Orlando Pride, were forced to withdraw from the tournament entirely due to a spate of COVID-19 tests.”It was a really impossible situation,” Heath told ESPN. “I haven’t played a real game of football since March, and it was a long time to press pause on my career. It was a very tough decision because I have given so much of my career and my heart there.

Alex Morgan leaving Spurs for Orlando in 2021

“The NWSL is a great league. It’s so competitive from every single team and every single game. They have the right people and they are invested in it. It’s unfortunate that the outcome right now isn’t players staying.”Man City’s Mewis (North Carolina Courage) and Lavelle (OL Reign) did compete in the tournament, but the chance for regular football ahead of an Olympic year was a massive draw.”I think the NWSL did such a good job with the Challenge Cup,” Mewis told ESPN. “I think it is such an individual decision to switch teams or change leagues, and the opportunity is so great that I personally was like this is a chance for me to add some depth to my game and continue to evolve as a player.”

Not only was the certainty of England’s FA Women’s Super League (WSL) season a draw for the players, but their coaches also backed them for pursuing regular game time and continuing their development. “Most important for Sam right now are competitive games, especially leading into an Olympic year, and she will be able to play 20 games over the next six to seven months, which is hugely valuable,” North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley said when her transfer was announced.While the winds may be slightly changing for the USWNT, it is unlikely — especially with the return of the NWSL and several new expansion teams coming soon, like Racing Louisville FC and Angel City FC in Los Angeles — that these moves will herald a mass exodus to Europe. The role of COVID-19 and subsequently a lack of domestic options for players also cannot be understated, with Morgan announcing on Monday she will be leaving Spurs to return to Orlando in January.

However, as women’s football becomes a more global game and the ties between U.S. Soccer and the league continue to loosen, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of the USWNT’ stars make the move across the pond in the future. — Kathleen McNamee

A few minutes with … Matthew Hoppe

Schalke 04‘s Matthew Hoppe is the latest young American to break through in the German Bundesliga, the 19-year-old having recently made his Bundesliga debut against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Matthew Hoppe explains why he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and take his skills to the next level in Europe.

The Californian, who has made three appearances to date for Schalke, is hoping to make his USMNT debut soon and sat down with ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar to discuss the future of the USMNT, his unlikely rise at Schalke and which strikers he models his game after.

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

Tobin Heath, Manchester United — On the rise : Coach Casey Stoney’s work to secure the signatures of USWNT stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press at Manchester United was one of the biggest coups of the summer transfer window. Heath in particular has made her presence felt since her arrival at the club, with her distinctive and confident play helping United head into the Christmas break top of the WSL table. With United still a relatively young side, Heath’s four goals have been impressive, but her leadership and experience have undoubtedly been just as important to the Red Devils’ success so far this season.

– Gio Reyna voted U.S. Soccer’s young male player of the year

Tim WeahLille — On the rise : After a lost 2019-20 season due to multiple hamstring injuries, Weah is finally starting to make his mark in France. The American attacker has made the most of his appearances of late, scoring goals against Celtic and Dijon and adding an assist against Slavia Prague in the month of December. Weah has yet to start a game in Ligue 1, but it seems as if that is only a matter of time now.

“He has improved massively. He is getting better and better. We forget sometimes that he is only 20 and that he had a very serious injury last year. He is working really hard, and we have great hopes for him for this season,” a Lille source tells ESPN’s Julien Laurens. Healthy and confident again, Weah looks as if he is getting back to his best, which is great to see after an injury-marred 2020 for the ex-PSG man.Tyler AdamsRB Leipzig — Trending downAdams remains a contributor for RB Leipzig, but some around the team worry about his form and his competition for the starting defensive midfield role. After scoring the goal that sent RB Leipzig into the Champions League semifinals in August, the 21-year-old has endured a mixed start to the season, marked by inconsistent playing time and a minor knee injury.

The American has started seven of Leipzig’s 13 games in the Bundesliga, six of those as a defensive midfielder, but faces competition from both Marcel Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl in the heart of the pitch. Ulli Kroemer of NTV rates him behind Sabitzer and Kampl in terms of ball control and adds that at the moment, Adams lacks the class and experience that the other two possess. Maybe more troubling is that Kroemer also says that Adams has struggled to win back balls of late, which is one of the attributes the former New York Red Bulls product typically hangs his hat on. Adams will need to turn it around soon or he could be the odd man out in Julian Nagelsmann’s constantly changing midfield.

Rose Lavelle, Manchester City — Trending downPicked to the NWSL Challenge Cup’s Best XI, Lavelle’s arrival at Manchester City was met with real excitement. However, it feels like we’ve yet to see the best of the midfielder across the Atlantic. Manager Gareth Taylor has said that she arrived to the WSL with a different level of fitness to teammate Sam Mewis, which is why her game minutes have been somewhat limited. A goal against the Netherlands for the USWNT in November was a timely reminder of what she is capable of, however an injury soon after set her back again. Many will be hoping 2021 is the year she banishes any fitness doubts and establishes herself as a key cog in the Man City machine.

Scouting report: Chris Richards

The young American defender has enjoyed a fairytale 2020-21 season so far. In the space of a few eventful months, the Alabama-born center-back has gone from a talent to a proper pro, starting for Bayern in the Bundesliga and the Champions League and making his debut for the USMNT against Panama. The 20-year-old’s journey to the German champions hasn’t been the easiest — he had to undergo a trial and a loan move before his permanent €1.1 million move from FC Dallas — but he’s passed every exam along the way with flying colours.

Fielded mainly as a centre-back for Bayern’s second team in the third tier of German league football, Richards has alternated between his preferred position in the middle and as a right-back for the senior side. Despite being mobile, he doesn’t have the extreme pace of his teammate Alphonso Davies and at centre-back, but his obvious qualities — aerial power (he’s got a great leap), composure on the ball, and one-on-one defending — come to the fore much more readily.

While not quite yet ready to permanently replace Jerome Boateng or David Alaba (whose contracts expire at the end of the season) in the first team, the accumulated playing time and faith he’s been shown by Bayern head coach Hansi Flick will work wonders for his further development. With work on his positional and game-reading skills, he’ll have every right to envisage a future as a regular starter for the reigning Champions League holders. – Tor-Kristian Karlsen