8/12/22  100 Days to World Cup, Spain/Italy Start, CFC Players make HS teams, MLS All Stars win, Full TV Schedule

100 Days to the World Cup, Spain/Italy Start and Other notes So we are just 100 days until the World Cup starts in Qatar the Nov 20-Dec 12  World Cup in the middle of the European Seasons.  Yes the start has been adjusted as now the WC will start on Sunday night not Monday as Qatar moved the schedule so they could launch the games with Sunday night home game.  Messi is missing from the Ballon d’OR list for the first time in 7 years – but he still had the goal of the weekend with this beauty in PSG’s opening win of the season.  Spain and Italy start their season’s this weekend. (see full previews in the The Ole Ballcoach).  Goalkeeping Predictions for 2022-23 in Europe.  

EPL Fulham America and Leeds United States of America good starts

Wow the EPL season got off to a great start if you like to watch American’s succeed in the EPL – Fulham with American’s Jedi and Tim Ream holding down the left side of defense tied Liverpool at home 2-2.  Then America’s favorite EPL coach – Jesse Marsch and his American signees shined as Brendan Aaronson scored this goal and Tyler Adams had the most break-up plays of anyone in the EPL in week 2. Can Americans play soccer ?? Heck yes !!  Leeds might now be looking at Tim Weah from France – lets hope!!  Disappointing to see that Pulisic seems to be on the outs a Chelsea – listen their Manager Tuchel is THE WORSE OFFENSIVE COACH in the history of soccer.  Pulisic should have left for Juventus this summer – we’ll see if he gets a chance this Sun at 11:30 am when Chelsea hosts Tottenham in the biggest game of the weekend the LONDON Derby on USA Network.  Aston Villa host’s Everton Sat at 7:30 am on USA then Brentford hosts Man United on NBC for the boring game of the week Sat at 12:30 pm – yey NBC. Leeds travels to Southampton at 10 am on Peacock the same time as Fulham travels to Wolverhampton also on Peacock while Man City host Bournemouth on USA (yey).

Indy 11 @ Hartford Sat Night, 7 pm ESPN+

After closing its three-game homestand last weekend, the Eleven will take to the road for its next two, beginning tomorrow  Aug. 13, with a 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff at Hartford Athletic (live on ESPN+). Following a pivotal meeting for postseason hopes at FC Tulsa on Aug. 20 (8:30 p.m., live on ESPN+), Indiana’s Team will return home with two games against top of the table sides in four days’ time on Aug. 27 against Louisville City FC (7:00 p.m.) and Aug. 31 versus San Antonio FC and USL leading GK former 11 GK Jordan Farr. Tickets for those matches – and all future contests at Carroll Stadium – can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets, and fans can learn more about promotional themes for the evenings at indyeleven.com/promotions.

MLS AllStars Beats LIGA MX All Stars 2-1

Really cool watching both the skills challenge and the MLS Allstar game this week – as MLS beat Liga MX (Mexico) in everything.  Yes we dominate them in Ladies/Mens/Boys/Girls and now Concacaf Champions League (Seattle) and now for back to back seasons – MLS All-Stars kicked Liga MX All Stars on the field – again.  The best thing I saw was the return of the Goalkeeper wars !! More of that is needed. 

Huge Congrats to our Former and current Carmel FC players and GKs who made their high school teams – Season’s Start this Weekend

10 Carmel High School GKs played at Carmel FC (All 7 Ladies) (3 Boys)

On the Girls Side for Carmel High – we are proud that all 7 of the GK’s on the roster are former or current Carmel FC Players.  Seniors Bethany Ducat and Aubree Empie, along with Junior Chloe Fouts,  JV has Claire and Mary Grace, while 9th Grade has current CFCer’s Paulina Arana and Lilly Bose.  On the boys side the Varsity has former CFC’ers Charlie Featherson and Jacob Havice, and JV has Will Hartsock. Both our Zionsville GKs made it as Cooper Cass made the Freshmen team along with Avery Keller making Varsity Girls.   

A huge reminder for those who didn’t make it – you are really good players – Carmel is a huge school – chances are you all would have made it at HSE/Fishers/Guerin or Noblesville. Keep the head up and get ready for the club fall CFC season or rec at CDC!     

Carmel High School Girls & Boys Varsity Schedules 

This Sat @ Murray Stadium CHS

I will have local high school previews next week  – exciting with Carmel High School Girls and Boys teams coming off of State Finals Appearances last year. 


Fri, Aug 12

2:30 pm ESPN+                  Freiburg vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm beIN Sport               Lille (Weah) vs Nantes

8:30 pm Para+                   Houston Dash vs Racing Louisville FC  NWSL

10 pm FS1                            Juerez vs Pachuca

Sat, Aug 13

7:30 am USA                       Aston Villa vs Everton

9:30 am ESPN+                  RB Leipzig vs Koln

10 am USA                          Man City vs Bournemouth

10 am Peacock                  Southampton vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)

10 am Peacock                  Wolverhampton vs Fulham (Reem, Jedi)

12:30 pm NBC                    Brentford vs Man United 

12:30 ABC                            Schalke vs Mgladbach 

3 pm ABC                             Barcelona (Dest) vs Rayo Vallencano

7 pm ESPN+                        INDY 11 @  Hartford Athletic

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy v Atlanta United

10:30 pm Para+                 San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Orlando Pride NWSL

10:30 pm ESPN+               LA FC vs Charlotte

Sun, Aug 14

9 am USA                             Nottingham Forest vs West Ham United  

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stutgart vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am Peacock            Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham

11:30 am ESPN+                Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg

4 pm ESPN+                        Almeria vs Real Madrid  

3 pm Para+                         Seattle OL Reign vs NY Gothem FC NWSL 

8 pm Para+                         Angel City vs Chicago Red Stars

Mon, Aug 15

1:30 pm ESPN+                  Getafe vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm para+                   Juventus vs Sassulo

3 pm USA                            Liverpool vs Crystal Palace(Richards)

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

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

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USMNT weekend viewing guide: We’re all rolling now

With LaLiga and Serie A beginning this weekend, all the major European leagues are back.

  • By jcksnftsn  Aug 12, 2022, 7:11am PDT  
FC Barcelona v Pumas UNAM - Joan Gamper Trophy

Here we go! The action is in full swing now as La Liga and Serie A sides begin their season this weekend, joining the other European leagues who kicked things off last weekend and leading to a full slate of action. There are already some injury concerns impacting our watch schedule, as well as transfer rumors suggesting some individuals could be on the move, but at least for now here’s what we’ll be watching:


SC Freiburg v Borussia Dortmund – 2:30p on ESPN+

Gio Reyna made last weekend’s matchday squad for Borussia Dortmund but was an unused substitute in the team’s 1-0 win over 10-man Bayer Leverkusen. It is not surprising the club would continue their cautious approach with Reyna, who barely saw playing time during the preseason. Marco Reus scored 10 minutes into Dortmund’s opener, and the team would hang on to win 1-0 in what was an important, if unconvincing, victory over a Leverkusen side that seems likely to be a competitor for Champions League qualification by season’s end.

This weekend, Dortmund will take on a Freiburg side that finished last season in 6th place and opened their new campaign with a 4-0 thumping of Augsburg. Their match was scoreless through the first half, but Freiburg scored twice within the first three minutes of the second half kickoff and coasted to victory through a balanced attack that saw four different players find the back of the net.

Other notes:

  • Timothy Weah missed Lille’s opener last weekend (a 4-1 win over Auxerre) due to yellow card accumulation and now looks like he will miss a couple weeks due to a foot injury. Lille face Nantes at 3p on beIN Sports.


Barcelona v Rayo Vallecano – 3p on ABC

Sergiño Dest could be on the move yet this month as Barcelona has reportedly made him available, and it seems that he is third in the pecking order at the right back spot, having seen limited playing time during the preseason. It’s no secret that Barcelona have wage and money issues, but it’s also no secret that they don’t operate in typical fashion so it remains to be seen whether they are seeking to move Dest to recoup some money and register some of the numerous players they have already added this summer or if they are trying to replace him with yet another signing.

For now, Dest remains with Barcelona as the team kicks off their season against Rayo Vallecano Saturday afternoon on ABC. Barcelona finished a distant second place to Real Madrid last season and, as we mentioned above, has brought in a number of reinforcements (Robert Lewandowski, Andreas Christensen, and Raphinha, to name a few) in an attempt to close the gap. However, it isn’t without a high degree of risk. In fact, it has been argued that unless Barcelona are able to close the gap on Real Madrid in both La Liga and Champions League and reap the financial rewards, then president Joan Laporta’s summer strategy could send the club into an unrecoverable financial tailspin. They will be dealing with a different kind of pressure this season as they look to make good. They will start their campaign on Saturday against a Rayo Vallecano side that finished 12th place in La Liga last season, just four points out safe from relegation.

Streaming overseas:

  • Ricardo Pepi came off the bench last weekend in Augsburg’s 4-0 loss to Freiburg. This weekend, the team face Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Timothy Chandler was an unused substitute for Eintracht Frankfurt last Friday as they were smashed by Bayern Munich 6-1. Things should get easier this weekend as they face a Hertha Berlin side that needed to win the relegation playoff to escape being dropped to the 2. Bundesliga. This match will also be played at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Tyler Adams, Brenden Aaronson, and Jesse Marsch look to build on last weekend’s season opening win over Wolves when they face Southampton at 10a on Peacock. Southampton opened the season with a 4-1 loss to Tottenham.
  • Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson and Fulham were involved in the shock result of last weekend as the newly promoted club drew with title contending Liverpool 2-2. Fulham take on Wolverhampton Wanderers at 10a on Peacock.
  • Luca de la Torre could make his LaLiga debut as his new club Celta Vigo open their season against Espanyol at 11a on ESPN+.
  • Joe Scally got the start for Borussia Mönchengladbach last weekend in the team’s 3-1 win over Hoffenheim. ‘Gladbach look to build some momentum as they face a newly promoted Schalke side that lost to Köln 3-1. The match will be played at 12:30p on ESPN+.

MLS mashup (all matches on ESPN+):


Mainz v Union Berlin – 9:30a on ESPN+

Jordan Pefok got his Bundesliga career off to the perfect start last weekend, scoring the opening goal for Union Berlin in the team’s 3-1 Berlin Derby win over Hertha Berlin. Pefok redirected a cross in with a header from a sharp angle in the 30th minute and his side were off and running, getting out to a 3-0 lead before conceding a consolation goal in the 85th minute. It was a dream debut for Pefok, who joined Union Berlin over the summer following a prolific year for Switzerland’s BSC Young Boys, with 27 goals across all competitions. It would be unreasonable to expect Pefok to maintain such a high scoring rate with the jump in leagues, but if he is able to continue slotting home goals with some regularity for Union Berlin, it should help keep the attention on USMNT fans and, more importantly, USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter.

Other notes:

  • Christian Pulisic saw 25 minutes off the bench for Chelsea FC last weekend in the club’s rather mundane 1-0 win over Everton. They now face a Spurs side that looked rather explosive last weekend in putting four goals past Southampton. The match will be played at 11:30a on USA Network.
  • Yunus Musah has been playing regularly in the middle of the pitch for Valencia during the preseason, which is a welcome development for USMNT fans. His side open their 2022-23 campaign against Girona at 1:30p in a match that can be seen on ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.
  • Walker Zimmerman and Nashville SC host Minnesota United at 9p on FS1. Nashville sit just a point ahead of the Seattle Sounders in the playoff race.

Streaming overseas:

  • Erik Palmer-Brown and Troyes got their season off to a rough start last weekend suffering a 3-2 loss to Montpellier. They’ll look to rebound this weekend as they face Toulouse at 9a on beIN Sports.
  • Real Sociedad start their season with a trip to Cadiz at 11:30a on Sunday in a match that can be seen on ESPN+. Jonathan Gomez reportedly will get some opportunities with the first team this season, though it remains to be seen in what capacity. It would take a flurry of activity to grab the attention of Gregg Berhalter ahead of November’s World Cup.

MLS Mashup (all matches on ESPN+):

  • Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and the Seattle Sounders host Diego Luna and Real Salt Lake at 10p.

Bonus Monday action:

  • Weston McKennie remains sidelined for Juventus, who begin their Serie A campaign as they take on Sassuolo at 2:45p on Paramount+.
  • Chris Richards was an unused substitute for Crystal Palace last weekend. The side now face Liverpool at 3p on USA Network.

Let us know what you’re eager to keep an eye on this weekend and what other action you see in the comments section below.

USMNT players and their kids. (L to R) Deandre Yedlin, Aaron Long, Walker Zimmerman

LaLiga 2022-23 preview: Will Barcelona topple Real Madrid? What to watch for ahead of new season


Football fans around the world will tune in as LaLiga returns to action (stream matches, highlights on season on ESPN+). Spain’s top flight kicks off Friday with Osasuna hosting Sevilla, while Barcelona host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday at Camp Nou. On Sunday, Real Madrid begin their title defence against promoted side Almeria.

Coaches have swapped dugouts, players have departed, others have arrived with much fanfare (and lots of controversy), and fans are already debating whether Karim Benzema or Robert Lewandowski will score more goals.

Before the action gets underway, though, let’s examine some of the biggest storylines worth following as the 2022-23 season begins to unfold. ESPN contributers Alex KirklandSam Marsden and Sid Lowe look at players to watch for, and Cesar Hernandez rounds up United States and Mexico players in LaLiga.

– Stream every LaLiga match on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– Stream ESPN FC Daily on ESPN+ (U.S. only)
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access

Who are the faves? | Who will struggle, who will thrive Big questions Players to note | USMNT, Mexico stars in LaLiga

Title favorites?

Real Madrid

The euphoria generated by Real Madrid’s 14th Champions League win in May hasn’t faded yet. That victory over Liverpool, close on the heels of a 35th LaLiga title wrapped up a month earlier, left Madrid feeling self-assured and confident about this team’s trajectory. Stability and prudence have been the watchwords this summer, with no panic buying, and a determination to move only for elite players who can genuinely add something to the side.

– Stream LIVE: Real Madrid vs. Almeria, Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, ESPN+

Antonio Rudiger — a Champions League-winning central defender at Chelsea — fits into that category, and so does top midfield prospect Aurelien Tchouameni, who joined from AS Monaco. Otherwise, Madrid trust in the players who won it all last year — and unflappable coach Carlo Ancelotti — to go out and do it again.

There’s a belief that veterans like Karim Benzema and Luka Modric can deliver for one more year; that up-and-coming stars such as Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo have even more room for improvement; and that generational change is already underway with Eduardo Camavinga and Federico Valverde in midfield. — Kirkland

Will Benzema or Lewandowski have the better season this year?

Julien Laurens and Don Hutchison debate whether Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema or Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski will have the better season this year.


Barcelona finished second last season and it was reluctantly accepted as a success after Xavi Hernandez took over as manager in November with the team languishing ninth in LaLiga. A second-placed finish this time round will not be so highly regarded after what could perhaps be dubbed one of the most remarkable transfer windows of all time.

More on Barcelona’s mess:
– Lowe: How is the club signing, chasing players?
– Marsden: Explaining who can, can’t yet register and why
– Barcelona, reimagined: What if they made no signings after 2016?

After losing Lionel Messi a year ago because they could not afford to keep him, Barca have since sold off 25% of their domestic television rights and 25% of in-house production company Barca Studios for over €600 million.

That money, as well as helping reduce debt, has fuelled the signings of Robert LewandowskiRaphinhaJules KoundeFranck Kessie and Andreas Christensen. And president Joan Laporta says they are not done yet, either — although a bloated payroll also needs reducing first. As a result, Xavi has been handed a stacked, highly competitive squad. The team looks especially exciting in attack, with Ansu FatiOusmane DembeleFerran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang complementing Lewandowski and Raphinha. Finishing 13 points behind Madrid this season will not be acceptable. — Marsden

Atletico Madrid

Last year’s LaLiga season was characterised by the failure of any of Real Madrid’s rivals to deliver a proper title race. Nowhere was that more evident than at Atletico Madrid, whose bid to defend the 2020-21 crown fell apart in an identity crisis as coach Diego Simeone struggled to find a balance between defence and attack.

This season could be different, especially with the departure of Luis Suarez — Joao Felix is increasingly influential at one end of the pitch, while Reinildo Mandava has brought back some of the old bite at the other. Summer business has been limited to the free transfer signing of Axel Witsel and the belated arrival of a specialist right-back in Nahuel Molina.

Elsewhere around the league, there are concerns about Sevilla’s readiness for a top four battle, having lost both Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos, although sporting director Monchi looks to be readying a late sweep of the transfer market. Villarreal are strong contenders to follow up last year’s remarkable Champions League semifinals run by pushing for fourth, while Real Betis and Real Sociedad will both expect to challenge. — Marsden

Teams to struggle …


Gennaro Gattuso’s coaching record in Italy (AC Milan and Napoli) was passable, if not exceptional, but Valencia represent a different challenge altogether.

Los Che are one of the biggest teams in Spain, but it feels like until the continued confrontation between supporters and owner Peter Lim ends, they will struggle to be where they should be in LaLiga: at least competing for the Champions League places.

For years now Valencia have struggled to fill their potential, in part because of that tension between Lim and the fans. Stability has also been a problem as they have raced through coaches. Each of the past four campaigns has now begun with a new manager. Their summer has been low-key, with Samu Castillejo and Samuel Lino interesting signings, but there remains uncertainty around two of their best players. Both Carlos Soler and Jose Luis Gaya are in the final 12 months of their deals, with no immediate resolution to their futures in sight. — Marsden


If there’s a club that has made a virtue of departures, always able to assimilate loss and reinvent itself, that club is Sevilla. And yet, this time feels different: sales are happening because they have to rather than because they are planned per se, both central defenders (Jules Kounde and Diego Carlos) have departed, and they have actually not been very good for quite a while now — look at their results since the turn of the year and they don’t lose often at all but they don’t win much either.

The signing of Isco and the loan of Alex Telles from Manchester United can help, but there’s already a slight sense of loss and maybe even a little mistrust that might accelerate problems if things don’t start well for manager Julen Lopetegui. There are stalwarts such as Ivan Rakitic and Youssef En-Nesyri, but no sign of a new striker yet. Conceding six at Arsenal in a preseason friendly was a warning. — Lowe

Isco: Real Madrid did not let me play

New Sevilla signing Isco explains why he decided to join Julen Lopetegui’s side and insists he will give his all for the club.

… and teams to surprise?

Athletic Club

Ernesto Valverde is back at San Mames for a third spell in charge of Athletic Club and refreshed after over two years out of the game following his departure from Barcelona. During his second spell in Bilbao, which lasted four years and ended in 2017, he led the Basque side into the Champions League and never failed to finish outside the top seven, qualifying for Europe in every campaign. In the five seasons since he left, Athletic have finished 16th, 8th, 11th, 10th and 8th.

Athletic will always have their hands tied due to the fact they are committed to signing only Basque players, but Valverde knows the club inside and out and how it operates. There is talent in the squad in the form of Inigo MartinezIker Muniain and Inaki Williams, and the club’s academy at Lezama continues to produce talent for the first team. — Marsden


Getafe’s transfer window — led by new director of football Ramon Planes — has been quietly excellent. Defender Domingos Duarte, midfielders Jaime Seoane and Luis Milla and forwards Portu and Borja Mayoral are all sensible additions who will strengthen a team that lost a record seven consecutive games at the start of last season.

Quique Sanchez Flores has also steadied the ship after previous coach Michel’s struggles. Sanchez Flores is a seen-it-all, underrated manager who knows how to build a solid, effective team, and will be hoping for a straightforward midtable finish rather than a relegation battle. — Kirkland

Hutchison blasts ‘amateur’ Barcelona for registration issues

Don Hutchison and Julien Laurens discuss Barcelona’s problems with registering their new signings.

Can busy Barcelona stop Real’s repeat?

First of all, let’s assume all of Barcelona’s signings can be registered and there is a satisfactory outcome to the Frenkie de Jong situation. If so, there can be no excuses for Xavi and Barcelona this season. While it’s true Xavi transformed Barca last season after floundering midtable for a part of it, it’s also true he was given much more leeway than his predecessor, Ronald Koeman.


Xavi was backed in January with the signings of Ferran Torres and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and has been spectacularly backed this summer. Robert Lewandowski is the standout arrival at €45 million, but big money has also been invested in exciting Brazil winger Raphinha and vibrant defender Jules Kounde. It’s going to be fascinating to see how all the new signings do at Camp Nou, but also to see how Ousmane Dembele progresses after signing a new contract and how youngsters PedriGavi and Ansu Fati continue to evolve.

Club president Joan Laporta says success is a requirement at Barca and that is why he has sanctioned this summer’s spending. Now it’s up to Xavi to stop Ancelotti’s Madrid, who have also strengthened with the signings of Antonio Rudiger and Aurelien Tchouameni, retaining the title. The Clasico battles (Oct. 16 in Madrid, March 23 in Barcelona) for the top of the table will be full of promise. — Marsden

Will Madrid be fazed by Mbappe snub?

“Kylian who?” That’s been the message from the Bernabeu ever since Madrid missed out on their long-term top target when France star Kylian Mbappe signed a new contract at Paris Saint-Germain. The timing of that abrupt U-turn — a week before the Champions League final — looked awkward at first but turned out to be a godsend when Madrid’s victory over Liverpool helped reassure fans that not signing Mbappe was, perhaps, no big deal. In fact, it’s been remarkable how quickly the saga has disappeared in the rearview mirror.

In any case, Mbappe’s arrival would have caused Ancelotti an unnecessary headache, likely shifting Vinicius Junior from his preferred left-wing berth just as he’d established himself. Nonetheless, Madrid are all-in on Vinicius now. The Brazil winger will do well to repeat his 17-goal haul from last season. With no forward expected to arrive, it will be down to him and Rodrygo to support Karim Benzema (can Eden Hazard rebound from his injuries?) in the goal-scoring department. — Kirkland

Eden Hazard ‘focused’ on proving himself at Real Madrid

Eden Hazard speaks about potentially joining MLS and his hopes for this season with Real Madrid.

What about the coaching carousel?

Appointing a new coach refreshes expectations, and three LaLiga sides will be hoping a change of face on the touchline will improve their fortunes this season. It proved true for Cadiz and Mallorca last term, who dramatically stayed up after appointing Sergio Gonzalez and Javier Aguirre, respectively.

Ambitions will be loftier at Athletic ClubValencia and Espanyol, though. Ex-Barca boss Ernesto Valverde returns to Athletic with the task of helping the Basque side back into European football. That will also be the task facing Gennaro Gattuso at Valencia. The former AC Milan and Napoli coach replaced Jose Bordalas this summer.

Finally, Diego Martinez is an intriguing appointment at Espanyol. He produced miracles to take Granada to the Europa League, and the Barcelona-based side will want the same success. Realistically, though, they will struggle to break free from the no-man’s land between the relegation battle and the hunt for European places. — Marsden

Promoted sides offer a challenge?

There’s an element of intrigue to the owners of all three promoted teams. Real Valladolid are owned by Brazil legend Ronaldo, Almeria by Saudi Arabian billionaire Turki Al-Sheikh and Girona‘s majority owner is the City Football Group. Modern football, eh?

Of the three, Real Valladolid have had the most low-key summer, perhaps because it’s been only a year since they were last in the top flight. However, Almeria have spent over €15 million, which is a fortune in Spanish football for a team outside the top four. Among their key signings is Brazilian defender Kaiky, who is only 18 and was scouted by Barcelona. The real sign of Almeria’s wealth, though, is that they have so far resisted bids for star forward Umar Sadiq, a Nigeria international with over 40 goals in his two years at the club.

Girona, meanwhile, have had a good summer on paper. David Lopez adds experience to a squad that already includes veteran striker Cristhian Stuani. And the City Football Group has used its network of clubs to make some interesting additions, none more so than Valentin “Taty” Castellanos, who joins on loan after winning Major League Soccer’s Golden Boot in 2021 and leading NYCFC to the MLS Cup title.

Yangel Herrera and Yan Couto have been added from Manchester City and Rodrigo Riquelme from Atletico Madrid. Keep an eye on young, versatile defender Arnau Martinez, too. — Marsden

So, who wins LaLiga? Who’ll play in Champions League?

“The hunger is the last thing I am worried about,” Carlo Ancelotti said. If Madrid can maintain the basis of last year, and integrate Rudiger and Tchouameni, plus last season’s big signing Eduardo Camavinga, it feels like they should be the strongest side again — although the absence of another striker might be a concern.

Given the way that they finished last season and how they have signed in the summer, Barcelona really should compete all the way to the finish this time.

And not being defending champions might be good for Atletico Madrid. Sevilla and Real Betis probably won’t be as good as they were. Considering the stability and resources, fourth place should be there for Villarreal. Look for Real Sociedad to aim for fifth place and the Europa League berth.

Looking for a revelation: how good might Athletic Club be with the return of Ernesto Valverde as coach? Or what about Getafe, who impressed once Quique Sanchez Flores took over and seem to have signed well too. — Lowe

Lewandowski: I don’t want to be compared with Benzema

New Barcelona signing Robert Lewandowski praises Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema but says he isn’t keen on being in direct competition with him.

Benzema, Lewandowski. Anyone else in Golden Boot mix?

There’s nothing like a head-to-head Golden Boot race between two of the biggest names in world football to get people’s attention. That’s been absent since Cristiano Ronaldo and then Lionel Messi left LaLiga, but the arrival of Robert Lewandowski from Bayern means it’s back with a vengeance.

Last season, Karim Benzema walked it — his 27 goals were nine more than second-placed Iago Aspas‘ 18, with Vinicius Junior and Raul de Tomas each having 17 — but this year will be a different story altogether. Lewandowski won the European Golden Shoe in both 2021 and 2022, and if anyone can outgun Ballon d’Or favourite Benzema, it’s he.

Otherwise, expect Celta Vigo icon Aspas to retain his crown as the top-scoring Spaniard. De Tomas’ prospects depend on whether he’s still at Espanyol come the end of the transfer window, and three players who disappointed in terms of numbers last season — Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno (9), Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak (6) and Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann (3) — should all improve their tallies significantly. — Kirkland

‘Taty’ to keep Girona up?

Girona‘s signing of Valentin “Taty” Castellanos from Major League Soccer champions New York City FC would have been more out of left field if both clubs were not owned by the City Football Group. However, despite that fact, the Argentine forward’s loan move to Catalonia still has the potential to be one of the most exciting deals in Spain this summer.

Castellanos, 23, who won the MLS Golden Boot last year and was leading this season’s race before leaving, already has Girona fans excited after preseason goals against Andorra and Napoli. If you have goals in your side, you have a good chance of staying in LaLiga, and with Castellanos and veteran Cristhian Stuani, Girona should have them in abundance. — Marsden

Morales key to Villarreal’s top four hopes?

The player known as “El Comandante” built a reputation as one of LaLiga’s most fun-to-watch players at Levante. Jose Luis Morales‘ best efforts — and 13 goals — couldn’t keep them up last season, and his tears of frustration on the pitch when relegation was eventually confirmed were hard to watch.

The 35-year-old’s initial insistence on staying at Levante in Segunda was admirable, but he shouldn’t be judged too harshly for the change of heart that saw him join Villarreal. Morales deserves a late-career crack at European football, playing alongside footballers of a similar calibre. His quality might help Villarreal break into the top four. — Kirkland

U.S., Mexico players in Spain

The two traditional powerhouses from the CONCACAF region will each have a handful of representatives in LaLiga for the 2022-23 season.

Starting with the United States, 24-year-old midfielder Luca de la Torre is the newest USMNT player in LaLiga, making the move over to Celta Vigo this summer. Fullback Sergino Dest will be entering his third season with Barcelona, and midfielder Yunus Musah should feature more for Valencia. All three appear to be USMNT roster locks for the upcoming World Cup.Another name to keep an eye on is Espanyol‘s 17-year-old midfielder Luca Koleosho. Last season, Koleosho became the youngest American-born player to debut in Spain’s top flight. Also eligible for Canada, Koleosho hasn’t made a decision just yet regarding his national team future.

Is De la Torre’s Celta move a risk in a World Cup year?

The Futbol Americas team discuss the USMNT’s Luca de la Torre moving to Celta Vigo with the World Cup on the horizon.As for MexicoSevilla‘s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona is the most noteworthy name from the El Tri contingent. The 29-year-old winger has looked promising in the preseason with a couple of goals during July friendlies. Mexico captain and veteran Andres Guardado will be entering his sixth year with Real Betis, helping the team win the Copa del Rey last season.Over at Real Sociedad, fullback Jonathan Gomez will aim to break into the first team after earning consistent minutes for Real Sociedad B last season. Gomez has represented both the United States and Mexico at the youth and senior level, but last featured for El Tri during a friendly in April. He has yet to commit to either side.Both Corona and Guardado are shoo-ins for Mexico’s World Cup roster. Gomez is unlikely to be included due to his national team status being up in the air, but plenty could change if he establishes himself with Real Sociedad’s first team.Also of note for Mexico are three newcomers in Spain’s second division. Real Oviedo have brought in Daniel Aceves and Arsenal academy product Marcelo Flores, while Gijon have added Liga MX Rookie of the Year Jordan Carrillo from Santo Laguna.

A new Barcelona No. 1, outsider for Premier League Golden Glove: Bold goalkeeper predictions for 2022-23

Aug 11, 2022

  • Mouhamad Rachini

Erling Haaland bagging two goals on his Premier League debut; Aleksandar Mitrovic bullying Liverpool in his return to the English top flight; Lionel Messi scoring an overhead kick in the first game of the Ligue 1 season.


It’s hard to believe the 2022-23 season has already kicked off. It feels like just yesterday that Manchester City won the Premier League on the final matchday of the season, and Real MadridEintracht Frankfurt and AS Roma clinched some historic European silverware.

Now it’s time to do it all again: to watch new teams write history, new players make a name for themselves and new stories come to life. To celebrate the start of a new European football season, I’ve compiled a list of some of my goalkeeper predictions for the 2022-23 season — but with a twist. Instead of going the safe route, I’ve added a little bit of spice to my predictions. From a star goalkeeper losing his starting position to a World Cup record getting broken, here are some of my boldest goalkeeper takes for the new season.

Inaki Pena will take Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s spot at Barcelona by season’s end

The prediction: After a short loan spell at Galatasaray, Inaki Pena is back with Barcelona, replacing Neto as the club’s backup goalkeeper. But the promotions won’t stop there for Pena. I predict that by the end of the 2022-23 season, Pena will have supplanted long-time starter Marc-Andre ter Stegen as the club’s No. 1.

Why it’ll come true: There was a point in time when Marc-Andre ter Stegen was undisputed as one of the world’s top goalkeepers. But since his career season in 2017-18, the German’s performances have dipped. His league save percentage has dropped each season since his Barcelona career high of 79.7% in 2018, down to 70.9% last season; he’s failed to keep more than 11 league clean sheets in each of his past two seasons; and his expected league goals saved above average has been below zero for the past three seasons.

He’s also been involved in some humiliating losses, such as the Liverpool comeback in 2019 and Bayern Munich’s 8-2 dismantling of Barcelona in 2020. Ter Stegen hasn’t been able to find his composure since these losses, and his inability to bounce back has led to some fans calling for him to be replaced. This is why I believe the 23-year-old Pena is poised to take over Barcelona’s starting duties by the end of the 2022-23 season.

The Alicante native is one of the brightest prospects in Spanish goalkeeping. He’s displayed great agility and aerial dominance throughout his development, and his quick footwork and steely composure have made him an excellent sweeper-keeper for both the Barcelona and Spain youth ranks.

Pena is not a finished product, nor will he be one by the end of the season. And for the time being, the starting position isn’t Pena’s. But what happens if Ter Stegen’s numbers don’t improve over the first half of this season? What if his save percentage continues to dip? What if Ter Stegen continues to play at the level that has plagued him in recent years?

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These are all legitimate concerns, and if Pena impresses in the limited Copa Del Rey minutes he’s likely going to get, I can see Xavi Hernandez giving the youngster a chance.

With Barcelona back in win-now mode after Robert Lewandowski and Raphinha’s signings (among others), they need a goalkeeper who can provide them with the same consistency, game-stealing performances, mental stability and drive for success they relied on a few seasons ago. This is something I’m afraid Ter Stegen can no longer do (at least, not over a full season, and certainly not in the Champions League).

The club has to look ahead to a future without Ter Stegen as their first-choice goalkeeper, and by easing Pena into the No. 1 role by the end of this season, I think they’d be setting themselves up for success in both 2023 and beyond.

The World Cup penalties saved record will be broken this year

The prediction: In the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic matched the World Cup’s all-time penalties saved record when he stopped four penalties in seven appearances. It was an incredible achievement — but this year, it will be bested. I predict a goalkeeper will break the all-time penalties saved record in the World Cup.

Why it’ll come true: Penalties are a tough thing to predict when it comes to major international tournaments. Since most of these tournaments only require a team to play a maximum of seven games from start to finish, goalkeepers don’t tend to face a lot of penalties. This is especially true for the average goalkeeper, since most teams tend to play four or fewer games in a single international tournament and might not qualify for another World Cup for years.

But even with that context, I can’t shake off the feeling that four is a beatable number. The numbers also suggest that more penalties are being taken at World Cups, leading to more chances for a goalkeeper to break the record. We see this in the rise of the number of World Cup penalty shootouts.

The record for most penalty shootouts in a single World Cup is four, set initially in the 1990 World Cup. Three of the past four World Cups have matched that mark, including each of the past two World Cups. This isn’t a World Cup-specific occurrence either. Though no Copa America has matched the shootout record set in 1995 (also four), four of the past five Copa Americas have seen three shootouts take place. In Europe, Euro 2020 matched the all-time single-tournament shootout record (also four, seeing a pattern?), and Euro 2016 hit the three shootout mark for the first time since 1996.

Another number that seems to lean in favour of this prediction is penalty conversion percentage. Since the first shootout took place in a World Cup in 1982, only four World Cups have seen players record a total shootout conversion percentage below 70%. One of those World Cups was the 2018 edition (66.7%), and two others were World Cups that took place in the 21st century (2006: 63.6%, and 2022: 68.4%).

Penalty conversion rates seem to be on the decline elsewhere too. In the Premier League, penalty conversions have dropped significantly since the 1990s; and the 2021 Copa America had the lowest percentage of successful shootout penalties (62%) since 1997.

Though these percentages include off-target penalties, I reckon it also has to do with improvements in penalty knowledge and gamesmanship in goalkeeping. Given the talent today’s goalkeepers have as well as the numbers presented above, I’m confident this prediction will come true.

Premier League’s Golden Glove will be won by a goalkeeper not representing a top-3 club

The prediction: The Premier League Golden Glove is awarded annually to the league’s goalkeeper who kept the most clean sheets in a specific season. Usually, this is a goalkeeper playing for one of the season’s top clubs. But this season will be different because the award will be won by a goalkeeper not representing a top-three club.

Why it’ll come true: To understand just how bold of a prediction this is, we need to understand how exclusive the Premier League Golden Glove award is.

Since the award’s inception in 2005, the Golden Glove has been awarded 18 times. Over that time, nine different goalkeepers have won the award, representing one of just five different clubs: Manchester City, Liverpool, ChelseaArsenal and Manchester United. Only two goalkeepers — Pepe Reina in 2008 and Wojciech Szczesny in 2014 — have won the award while representing a club that finished outside of the top three that season and in both cases, their club finished fourth.

Given this context, what makes me think things will be different this season? First, although the winner has almost always been a goalkeeper representing a top-three club, the runner-ups, while still largely made up of goalkeepers from the top three clubs, aren’t nearly as exclusive.

Of the 54 goalkeepers who have finished first, second or third in a Golden Glove race, 23 of them represented a club that finished outside of the top three that season. These include goalkeepers who were playing for a club outside of the top six, like Emiliano Martinez in 2021 (Aston Villa finished 11th), Nick Pope in 2020 (Burnley finished 10th) and Fraser Forster in 2017 (Southampton finished 8th).

Many of these goalkeepers came in second place too. In fact, eight of the 18 Golden Glove silver medallists were goalkeepers who played for non top-three clubs. These include two of the past three runner-ups.

Although the winners of the award have almost exclusively been goalkeepers representing a top-three team, the podium has a much healthier dose of goalkeepers representing non top-three clubs. So it’s not unreasonable to think one such goalkeeper could have a good year and finish the race on top — especially when you consider the current crop of talented goalkeepers the Premier League boasts.

In the past, most of the Premier League’s top goalkeepers were those playing for one of the league’s big five or six clubs. In the 2010-11 season, for example, only five goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark — and of those five goalkeepers, four of them were playing for a club that finished in the top six (Mark Schwarzer played for 8th-placed Fulham).

Another example is the 2016-17 season, which only saw six goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark. Again, four of those goalkeepers were representing a top-six club (Forster played for 8th-placed Southampton and Tom Heaton played for 16th-placed Burnley).

Fast-forward to the 2020-21 season, though, and 13 different goalkeepers hit the 10 clean sheet mark — a record in the 38-game Premier League era. These goalkeepers ranged from Premier League winner Ederson to Nick Pope and Robert Sanchez, whose clubs finished in 17th and 16th.

Many of those goalkeepers are still in the Premier League, in some cases with their same club, and I can see them not only breaking the 10 clean sheet barrier again but challenging for the Golden Glove too. Last season, only four clean sheets separated Alisson and Ederson from Lloris (whose Tottenham finished fourth). If a couple of bounces worked Lloris’ way or against Alisson and Ederson, it might’ve been Lloris lifting the Golden Glove last season.

Throw in some of the new faces we’ll see this season (such as Thomas Strakosha, now at Brentford) and I think there’s a decent pool of goalkeepers outside of the top three to bet on to win the Premier League Golden Glove.

Conte’s revitalised Tottenham face first big test in London derby at Chelsea

Aug 11, 2022

  • James OlleySenior Writer, ESPN FC
  • On Sunday, Antonio Conte returns to the place where his worst fears about Tottenham were realised for the first time. It was particularly galling for a former Chelsea manager that the scale of his task was made clear at Stamford Bridge of all places, as the Blues eased to a 2-0 win in the Carabao Cup semifinal, first leg in early January.
  • The scoreline wasn’t particularly savage, but Spurs conceded two dreadful goals and failed to register a shot of any description until the 50th minute in a meek surrender that left Conte unwilling to pull any punches in his post-match assessment. “There’s an important gap, an important difference, there’s a big job to do to retrieve the situation,” he said in assessing the distance between Spurs and the top sides.

Conte was barely eight weeks into the job, and he had already masterminded a draw against Liverpool and seven wins from his first 12 games in charge.


But the chastening nature of that defeat to Chelsea — followed by an equally insipid showings in the return leg and a Premier League defeat to the same opponents later in the month — began a series of public utterances which raised questions over whether he would even stick around. After losing to Burnley on Feb. 23, Conte publicly doubted whether he was the right man for the job.

Even after pulling off an improbable fourth-place finish by thrashing Norwich 5-0 on the final day of the season, he still refused to commit to remaining as Tottenham head coach amid concerns the club would not back him to the extent he felt necessary to turn Spurs into title challengers.Conte knows enough about London to “mind the gap.” Optimism that this “gap” between them and the top clubs is finally closing comes from six summer signings, a full preseason working under the Italian and an encouraging 4-1 win over Southampton on the opening day. But Sunday’s trip to Chelsea represents the first meeting of the Premier League’s traditional Big Six this season, and will also offer the clearest indication yet whether Conte’s rebuild is on track.Both Conte’s brilliance and his volatility are well documented. The 53-year-old is an elite manager, but has never spent more than three consecutive seasons at the same club, often leaving in acrimonious circumstances. Juventus were Serie A champions when he quit after one day of preseason ahead of 2014-15 following disagreements over the club’s transfer strategy. He was sacked from Chelsea in 2018 after falling out with the hierarchy and several senior players, again over the direction of the club. Conte departed Inter Milan last May in opposition to an unloading of top stars triggered by financial problems related in part to COVID-19.He did win four Serie A titles and the 2016-17 Premier League with Chelsea during this span, but his combustible personality always seemed an improbable fit with Tottenham, a club that has long prioritised financial prudence and long-term planning over short-term, boom-and-bust under the watchful eye of chairman Daniel Levy.

Conte’s unstable rhetoric around last season effectively built to a two-day meeting in Italy as the summer began and, together with the club’s football managing director, Fabio Paratici, they finalised a list of summer targets. Significant backing was required. Previous managers — perhaps most obviously Mauricio Pochettino — became disillusioned when failing to receive the support they felt necessary to take Spurs to the top, meeting a brick wall built from financial caution. This time, it was different. Levy and the majority shareholders, ENIC, agreed to help realise Conte’s vision for the future. It was a significant moment.

February’s departure of the club’s longstanding director of technical performance, Steve Hitchen, was a sign of Paratici’s growing influence, but here, emboldened by Conte guiding Spurs back into the Champions League, was a real sea change in Tottenham’s willingness to support their head coach.

Previously, players were signed with potential and a clearly defined future transfer market value. This time, they were in large part being targeted for the here and now. The arrival of 33-year-old wing-back Ivan Perisic embodies this shift more than any other signing. Spurs announced a £150m cash injection from ENIC that’s helped finance a spending spree with Perisic, RicharlisonFraser ForsterYves BissoumaDjed Spence and Clement Lenglet arriving at the club.

This activity has generated a sense of momentum that quashed any concerns England captain Harry Kane could look for to leave the club — having tried to force a move away last summer — and, significantly, most of these signings were acquired early in the window, giving Conte a full preseason to work with his new players.

Conte’s training sessions are infamously tough. An agent of one player at the club told ESPN about double sessions involving tens of shuttle runs at the end. Another expressed surprise that Conte chose to work his players so hard in a session open to the cameras in Korea that Kane was sick by the side of the pitch, while others including Son Heung-Min could hardly stand during a brutal running drill. But the players have fully bought into Conte’s methods, in part seduced by his track record, and respectful of the level of control he clearly enjoys having been wholeheartedly supported by Levy in the transfer market.

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ESPN has also been made aware of other data their coaches are using to explain the need to improve player fitness, including the high number of late goals Tottenham concede. If last season’s Premier League matches are broken down into 10-minute blocks, with each of the nine segments assigned an aggregate score based on goals scored and conceded in those minutes, Liverpool and Manchester City are the only sides ending with a positive score in all of them. Spurs had positive net scores in the first eight, but in those crucial final 10 minutes of matches, they scored seven and conceded 10, leaving them on -3. By contrast, City were +15 and Liverpool +14 in the final 10 minutes of matches last season; Chelsea were +8.

There are a plethora of reasons to explain this, not least the manner in which City in particular wear teams down with their level of possession, but it is one indicator which Conte is demanding greater intensity from his players for the entire game — they also fell behind in 17 league matches last season, a figure higher than Arsenal (15), Liverpool (12), Chelsea (11) and City (eight). Combined with Conte’s devotion to a 3-4-3 system, the players have been left under no illusions about the physical and tactical expectations placed upon them this season. Although it still remains a tall order on paper to match City and Liverpool, perhaps the biggest doubt over Spurs remains their ability to implement what is being asked of them under pressure.

The “Spursy” tag — a derogatory term essentially meaning “to falter with the winning line in sight” — is one the club have found difficult to shake. They were superb for the majority of the Pochettino era but ultimately ended his five-year stint without a trophy to show for the progress made. Their last success of any description remains the 2008 League Cup.

Can Richarlison turn Tottenham into title challengers?

James Olley debates how Richarlison could fit into Antonio Conte’s plans at Tottenham.

Jose Mourinho’s appointment as his successor was made with the idea in mind of fostering a siege mentality to galvanise the group, but he never achieved it. Nuno Espirito Santo’s 17-game tenure was a brief as it was unmemorable, and so Conte now finds himself charged with responsibility of changing this mindset. When asked in May whether he knew what “Spursy'” meant, he said: “I am trying to cut this.”

The only way is to win silverware. A smaller step on that path is improving Tottenham’s record away at the traditional Big Six. They have lost 37 of their last 60 league games away to Arsenal, Liverpool, City, Manchester United and Chelsea, winning only nine. Although Spurs beat City and drew at Liverpool under Conte, they have won just one league game at Chelsea since 1990 — a 3-1 victory in April 2018.

“Obviously when you face that kind of opponent [in Chelsea] it’s a good moment to judge yourself,” captain Hugo Lloris said after their opening-day win over Southampton.Chelsea may have the proven pedigree but their summer transfer business is far from complete, and a new defence is bedding in after the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. There are certainly worse moments to play them.By contrast, Tottenham have enjoyed a more settled preseason, building nicely from the last. Spurs improved considerably in the second half of last season, winning 10 of their last 14 league games to show a level of form, which prompted Conte to suggest he wished they could have another crack at Chelsea soon to see where they were at.This weekend, he will finally get his chance.

Twice as nice! MLS All-Stars beat Liga MX All-Stars behind Vela, Ruidiaz goals

By Johnathan Wright @jwrightofficial

Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022, 10:54 PM

ST. PAUL, Minn. – With goals from Carlos Vela and Raul Ruidiaz, the MLS All-Stars held off the Liga MX All-Stars for the second straight year, securing a 2-1 victory in the 2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target on Wednesday night at Allianz Field. The MLS All-Stars got the party started early with Vela heading home a cross from LAFC teammate Diego Palacios in the third minute. The Black & Gold’s left back showcased his skill by chopping a Liga MX defender before serving in a perfectly-placed ball to his forward on the back post. Liga MX pushed to find an equalizer before the halftime break, with their best chance coming from Juan Dinenno in the 44th minute. The Pumas UNAM striker elevated for a header after receiving a cross from Juan Escobar inside the 18-yard box. He connected well, directing the ball to the lower left corner, but Minnesota United FC goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair pushed the attempt wide in front of his home supporters’ section. Ruidiaz added to the MLS All-Stars’ lead in the second half through a penalty kick after New England Revolution playmaker Carles Gil wiggled his way through the Liga MX defense after receiving a pass from FC Dallas forward Jesus Ferreira. The Seattle Sounders FC striker made no mistake in the 73rd minute. Liga MX pulled one back in the 85th minute when Kevin Álvarez blasted a shot from outside the box that zoomed past New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson. Mexico national team forward Alexis Vega was credited with the assist, but the comeback attempt proved futile as MLS celebrated a win for a second straight year.


  • 3′ – MLS – Carlos Vela | WATCH
  • 73′ — MLS — Raul Ruidiaz | WATCH
  • 85′ — Liga MX — Kevin Álvarez | WATCH

Three things

  • THE BIG PICTURE: It was an electric evening, with the MLS All-Stars claiming bragging rights over the Liga MX All-Stars for the second year in a row. MLS won the first iteration on penalty kicks in 2021 at LAFC’s Banc of California Stadium. MLS Commissioner Don Garber hinted it might be the last time we see these two leagues face off in an All-Star match, but in 2023 an expanded Leagues Cup will be introduced, where all of the clubs from MLS and Liga MX will compete in an annual, month-long tournament.
  • MOMENT OF THE MATCH: The game-winner from Vela in the third minute. The LAFC duo of Vela and Palacios showcased their league-leading quality with a clinical cross and header combination.

ALL-STAR GAME MVP: Dayne St. Clair earned MVP on the night by making four saves in front of his home fans.


MLS All-Stars prize party in St. Paul: “Everybody’s enjoyed being with each other”

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

  • Thursday, Aug 11, 2022, 01:42 AM

Wednesday night in St. Paul, Minnesota represented a showcase for the top talents from North America’s largest leagues, a lively international spectacle for fans of many stripes and a much-deserved close-up for the Twin Cities’ thriving soccer culture and the graceful venue at its heart.

“A great group of guys”

Above all, the MLS All-Star Game presented by Target provided a celebration, a gathering of luminaries both on and off the field that served as another milestone for an explosively-growing league, and a pleasant distraction before the 2022 season’s final sprint.

“The most pleasing thing was the competitive nature of all the guys,” said MLS All-Stars and Minnesota United FC coach Adrian Heath after his team’s 2-1 victory over their Liga MX counterparts at Allianz Field. “Everybody’s actually, I think, enjoyed being with each other in the group. So the atmosphere in the dressing room is terrific. The guys have been an absolute pleasure to be around for the last two or three days.”

The honor of making this roster is one thing; the firsthand experience offers another level.

“A great group of guys here,” said Loons goalkeeper and All-Star MVP Dayne St. Clair. “Just seeing some guys off the field and being teammates with them, because sometimes when you’re playing against some guys, they’re a little bit different than when you’re teammates with them. So that’s been nice, and I’m sure they’d probably say the same about me.”

The MLS All-Star Game provides a change of pace for elite professionals accustomed to facing off as rivals in club play, a chance to work as teammates, to train and break bread together. This one, in particular, had a real family atmosphere, with children like Walker Zimmerman’s young son Tucker front and center.


Walker Zimmerman and his son Tucker play after the match


The Englishman is now an MLS veteran, having led Orlando City SC into MLS before moving north to oversee a comparable project at MNUFC. He’s seen the growth and maturation of US and Canadian soccer, and spoke with pride of his club progressing along a similar journey, a story they and their supporters proudly shared with the rest of the league this week.

“The way that the club has shown itself,” said Heath, “I knew that people would turn up. I didn’t think that so many would turn up last night in the skills game, that speaks volumes. And then tonight, I knew the stadium would be full tonight.

“It’s been a great way to showcase what the club is about. I’m so pleased for all the ownership and everything we’ve tried to do here, and it shows. Six years in, the club is now firmly on the map and I think that we can only get bigger and stronger and better.”


Mutual respect between leagues

Such links stretched across to the Liga MX side as well. The cut and thrust of the game itself, with heavy tackles, emotional reactions and other signs of full commitment from the players, revealed this to be an exhibition match with some stakes, some pride on the line.

But the nastiness of yore between the US and Mexican national teams, the bad blood that so enflamed past border matchups, has evolved into something closer to mutual respect and recognized commonalities.

“We had a great game. Like I said to the boys, this is a great experience, and especially because we got to meet and to know each other,” said Liga MX All-Stars and Atlas manager Diego Cocca, an Argentine who has coached across Latin America.

“Rivalry is good. We can grow. If you have a strong rival, you can grow, you can get better. And both leagues can grow like this. And I think that the barometer is going to be the Concacaf Champions League. We came here and we lost, they can go there [to Mexico] and they can lose. For example, at Estadio Jalisco, the result could be different.”

New fronts of competition between the two leagues loom large, like the upcoming 2022 Campeones Cup between Atlas and New York City FC, and next year’s launch of a dramatically expanded Leagues Cup. The hope is that broad, sustained, toe-to-toe competition between member clubs can expand on the spectacle served up by these last two All-Star meetings.

“MLS won today. We had many opportunities; we played very well. There was no big difference, there is no big gap between the leagues,” said Cocca. And those who’ve followed the region’s soccer scene for any length of time will recognize the quiet revolution represented in his words.

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8/5/22  EPL Season Starts Fri, CFC Players make HS teams, Indy 11 home Sat, England wins Euros, MLS All Stars Wed night, MLS Skills Tues night

Tune In to the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G  MLS Allstar Challenge Tues 8:30 pm  
Follow along on social media or catch it on ESPN2, TUDN, TSN or TVA Sports TUES NIGHT starting at 5:30 p.m. PT / 7:30 p.m. CT / 8:30 p.m. ET.

The top stars from MLS and Liga MX will face off tonight in the 2022 MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G. The two-hour event will feature a team of ten MLS players battling ten of Liga MX’s best in five different challenges.

Shooting Challenge presented by AT&T 5G
Players will be shooting at 11 targets from distance with varying values to rack up as many points as possible for their team.

Touch Challenge presented by Old Spice
In this ultimate test of touch, players will have to collect and control balls coming at them from different angles in order to set themselves up to score points in the Old Spice apparatus.

Cross & Volley Challenge presented by AT&T 5G
Player’s creativity and skill will be on display, as they connect with a teammate to finish with style. The more style, the more points.

Passing Challenge presented by BOUNTY
With a variety of targets spread across the pitch, players must place their passes with pinpoint accuracy to earn big points.

Crossbar Challenge presented by GilletteLabs
As the final chance for players to earn points for their teams, this skill will test players’ accuracy by striking their passes at varying targets in 60-second rounds.

MLS AllStars vs LIGA MX Allstars Wed, Aug 10 8:30 pm ESPN

For the second consecutive season, the MLS All-Stars will take on the best of LIGA MX on Wednesday night, August 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET at Allianz Filed in Minnesota and will be broadcast live on ESPN and Univision in the U.S and in more than 190 countries around the world.  Find out all the events surrounding the game, here is the full roster for MLS and LIGA MX.  Tuesday night 8:30 pm is the Skills Challenge on ESPN 2 looks worth turning in for on ESPN2, TUDN.  

European Soccer Kicks off Fri, EPL/Germany/France Start

The Euro leagues are starting the season a week early with the World Cup interrupting things from Nov 20-Dec 12, the season had to kick off earlier (Euro League Preview)   Some exciting moves and transfers this off-season with tons of players moving including the most American’s in the EPL (7)  and England’s 2nd Division The Championship in a long time.  America’s own Leeds United State of America has the only American Coach in Jesse Marsch along with newbies Tyler Adams and Brendan Aaronson on the roster.  Fulham America returns to the EPL with a pair of American starters in Jedi Robinson at left back and Co-Captain Tim Ream at center Back.  Newcomer American CB Chris Richard’s joins Crystal Palace from Bayern Munich, while GK Matt Turner will battle at GK for Arsenal while of course Captain America is still battling for playing time for the German at Chelsea.  I guess its prediction time here for the EPL – I will reserve my predictions on the other leagues until next week. EPL Promo video

Shane’s EPL predictions

  1. Liverpool 
  2.  Man City
  3.  Arsenal
  4. Tottenham
  5. Chelsea 6 ) Crystal Palace.  7) Man United

Also I think Leeds finishes mid table with American Jesse Marsch in charge, and Fulham will stay up this season!  Yes I like Liverpool to find a way past city as Halland has just an ok year at City.  I think Arsenal with Arteta finally constructing his own team, will finally break thru and actually finish 3rd just above Conte and Tottenham.  I think Chelsea’s Manager Tuchel is an absolute idiot and how that he’s spent billions buying new players his team will drop even further down the table – unbelievable just how bad he is – they slip to 5th and finally I like Palace with American Chris Richard starting in the middle back taking home 6th above a Man United that will lose Ronaldo by mid season. Not thrilled to see NBC is only showing 2 games all weekend on cable TV only USA Network today at 3 pm Arsenal vs Crystal Palace and Saturday 12:30 for the Everton vs Chelsea (Pulisic) game. Yes they spent millions to force you to buy Peacock streaming period. (full previews and tons of stories in The Ole Ballcoach).  Peacock Free Trial Oh at least ESPN is showing a German game this weekend 12:30 Saturday as Dortmund and American Reyna face Bayer Leverkusen.

Indy home vs Pittsburgh Riverhounds Sat Night, 7 pm @ the Mike, TV 23

Indy Eleven is home for the 3rd of a three-match homestand Sat night at the Mike against Pittsburgh.  A variety of ticketing options for Saturday night’s Eastern Conference clash are available at indyeleven.com/tickets.  Cool to see former Carmel FC GK coach and former Indy 11  GK Jordan Farr get recognition , he returns home to face our Indy 11 Aug 27th

Women’s Euro’s England Brings It Home

Wow what a scene at a packed Wimbledon Stadium as England (the ladies at least) finally brought home a Championship.  The largest crowd to ever see a Euro Final (Men’s or Women’s) saw the England and Germany battle to a 1-1 tie in regulation before Chloe Kelly scored the winner in Extra-time to take home the Trophy.  England now has their Golden Moment – much like the US ladies Brandi Chastain did in 1999.  For a country that actually didn’t allow women or girls to play soccer until just a number of years ago – England and all of Europe has come a long way.  Couple this with the Amazing Ferminina Brazil win over Argentina in a packed house in South America – and its evident that women’s soccer (at least the international game) is here to stay. (Ton’s of Stories in the The Ole Ballcoach) Will this turn into more coverage and higher pay for player at the club level – we will see.  In the meantime – the US and England are going to capitalize on the moment by playing a friendly at Wimbley Stadium between the Defending World Cup Champion US Women and the newly Crowned Euro Champs England on Fox Sports 1, Friday, Sept 9th .  Put that in the Calendar now – finally the US will face a formidable opponent – we’ll see if the rest of the world is catching up – just 9 months before the next Women’s World Cup next Summer.  Great Euro Cup Saves. (see more saves below)

MLS AllStars vs LIGA MX Allstars Wed, Aug 10 8:30 pm ESPN

For the second consecutive season, the MLS All-Stars will take on the best of LIGA MX on Wednesday night, August 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET at Allianz Filed in Minnesota and will be broadcast live on ESPN and Univision in the U.S and in more than 190 countries around the world.  Find out all the events surrounding the game, here is the full roster for MLS and LIGA MX.  Tuesday night 8:30 pm is the Skills Challenge on ESPN 2 looks worth turning in for on ESPN2, TUDN.  

Huge Congrats to our Former and current Carmel FC players and GKs who made their high school teams!  Its sounds like we have over half the squad on CHS Girls Varsity & JV along with a handful on 9th grade. We also have a bunch on the boys side and players at Zionsville, Guerin, Westfield, and more.

CFC GKU !! 10 Carmel High School GKs played at Carmel FC (All 7 Ladies) (3 Boys)

On the Girls Side for Carmel High – we are proud that all 7 of the GK’s on the roster are former or current Carmel FC Players.  Seniors Bethany Ducat and Aubree Empie, along with Junior Chloe Fouts,  JV has Claire and Mary Grace, while 9th Grade has current CFCer’s Paulina Arana and Lilly Bose.  On the boys side the Varsity has former CFC’ers Charlie Featherson and Jacob Havice, and JV has Will Hartsock. Both our Zionsville GKs made it as Cooper Cass made the Freshmen team along with Avery Keller making Varsity Girls. 

A huge reminder for those who didn’t make it – you are really good players – Carmel is a huge school – chances are you all would have made it at HSE/Fishers/Guerin or Noblesville. Keep the head up and get ready for the club fall CFC season!     

Carmel High School Girls & Boys Varsity Schedules

Former Carmel FC GK signs to play College Ball at Savannah College of Art

We started training Bethany at U11 and are just absolutely thrilled one of our former Carmel FC GKs has announced where she is playing college ball next year after this season season at Carmel High.  “I am extremely blessed to announce my verbal commitment to continue my athletic and academic career at Savannah College of Art and Design.  So much thanks to God, my coaches, teammates, family and friends for their endless support.  Can’t Wait for this next journey!”  #gobees says Bethany!! Good luck – can’t wait to see her and the Greyhounds beginning next week as the State Runner’s Up Carmel Girls start at home Thurs night at home vs Brownsburg 7 pm.  Some highlights


Coach Shane has Officially joined the High School Reffing ranks this season – so keep an eye out for me at game near you 😊, I have some limited Carmel and Guerin games mostly JV so far.   Of course I will still be reffing CDC Games and some Travel games this fall as well along with coaching up the Carmel FC Goalkeepers and helping the U13 Boys with Coach Mark Stumpf.  (see cool links on Reffing below)

Small Sided Reffing Classes

Indiana Soccer is excited to announce the next opportunities to earn the Small sided referee license – enabling individuals 12 and older the opportunity to referee in the 4v4, 7v7 and 9v9 play formats.  It is an excellent way by which to help clubs use younger referees for their rec games as well as ISL fall season matches.  It is also a great opportunity for the older folks to get their feet into the world of officiating soccer matches, without the stress of having to cover a normal 11v11 match. Below are course you may register for.  If your club is interested in hosting a course, they may do so by clicking on the following link and completing the application process. Click Here  August 28, 2022  Sunday 2 – 5pm  Noblesville United Soccer Club / 8501 E 196th Street  Noblesville, IN  46062  $30 


Fri, Aug 4

3 pm USA                            Crystal Palace(Richards) vs Arsenal (Turner)  

Sat, Aug 5

7:30 am Peacock               Fulham (Reem, Jedi) vs Liverpool

10 am Peacock                  Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson) vs Wolverhampton

12:30 pm USA                    Everton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

12:30 ABC                            Dortmund (Reyna) vs Bayer Leverkusen

3 pm ABC                             Atlanta United vs Seattle Sounders  

7 pm TV 23                          INDY 11 v Pittsburgh

7 pm ESPN+                        Charlotte vs Chicago Fire

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy v Philly Union

10:30 pm ESPN+               Portland vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

Sun, Aug 6

9 am Peacock                     Man United vs Brentford

9 am bein Spor                  Lille (Weah) vs Auxerre

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stuttgart vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am Peacock            Man City vs West Ham United  

5 pm Para +                        San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs KC

6 pm Para+                         Chicago Red Stars vs NY Gothem FC (Rapino, Cook)

7 pm Para+                         Orlando Pride vs Angel City

9 pm Uniivsion                  America vs Juarez

Wed, Aug 10

3 pm Para+, Univision    Real Madrid vs Frankfurt (Supercup)

7:30 pm Para+                   Washington Spirit vs Portland Thorns NWSL

8:30 pm ESPN MLS AllStar Game USA vs Liga MX

9 pm ESPN+                        San Antonio (Jordan Farr GK) vs Loundon United USL

Sat, Aug 13

7:30 am USA                       Aston Villa vs Everton

9:30 am ESPN+                  RB Leipzig vs Koln

10 am USA                          Man City vs Bournemouth

10 am Peacock                  Southampton vs Leeds United (Adams, Aaronson)

10 am Peacock                  Wolverhampton vs Fulham (Reem, Jedi)

12:30 pm NBC                    Brentford vs Man United 

12:30 ABC                            Schalke vs Mgladbach 

3 pm ESPN+ Desp            Barcelona (Dest) vs Rayo Vallencano

7 pm ESPN+                        INDY 11 @  Hartford Athletic

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Cincy v Atlanta United

10:30 pm Para+                 San Diego Wave (Morgan) vs Orlando Pride NWSL

10:30 pm ESPN+               LA FC vs Charlotte

Sun, Aug 14

9 am USA                             Nottingham Forest vs West Ham United  

9:30 am ESPN+                  Stutgart vs RB Leipzig

11:30 am Peacock            Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham

11:30 am ESPN+                Bayern Munich vs Wolfsburg

4 pm ESPN+                        Almeria vs Real Madrid  

3 pm Para+                         Seattle OL Reign vs NY Gothem FC NWSL  

8 pm Para+                         Angel City vs Chicago Red Stars

Mon, Aug 15

1:30 pm ESPN+                  Getafe vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm para+                   Juventus vs Sassulo

3 pm USA                            Liverpool vs Crystal Palace(Richards)

Fri, Aug 19

2:30 pm ESPN+                  Mgladbach vs Hertha  

3 pm beIN Sport               Lyon vs Troyes

8 pm Para+                         Angel City vs KC  NWSL

10 pm ESPN                        LA Galaxy vs Seattle Sounders

10 pm FS1                            Juerez vs Pachuca

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

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


Weston McKennie dislocates shoulder, possibly putting his World Cup in jeopardy

McKennie’s injury creates more World Cup anxiety

Brandon Vazquez’s USMNT case grows during MLS Golden Boot challenge

Brenden Aaronson’s incredible assist; Tyler Adams: ‘I’m not Kalvin Phillips’ – Video
Report: Chicago Fire’s Gabriel Slonina to transfer to Chelsea in $15 million move
USMNT’s Gabriel Slonina unveiled by Chelsea, loaned back to Chicago

How many USMNT players are in the English Premier League?

A USMNT Premier League migration shifts the focus on American players in Europe – Henry Bushnell Yahoo

American Goal Keepers in the EPL thru the Years – Men in Blazers

Matt Turner’s First Day at Arsenal
England-US women’s game at Wembley sells out in one day

Cool Miked Up US Ladies with Mal Pugh



MLS Allstar Game Team Roster

Chicharito named 2022 MLS All-Star Game captain

 Apple’s MLS Deal Shows It Wants to Distribute Rights, Not Buy Them
Galaxy, America triumph in double-header at glitzy new stadium

Leagues Cup friendlies showing L.A. is a soccer market

What an Awesome View from LA Galaxy vs Atlas in SoFi Stadium
Riqui Puig to LA Galaxy: the biggest summer in MLS history just got bigger

2022 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target

MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G

The MLS All-Star Skills Challenge presented by AT&T 5G returns as the best in MLS take on the LIGA MX All-Stars in the annual skills competition:

  • Tuesday night 7:30 PM CT / 8:30 PM ET
  • Watch on: ESPN2, TUDN, TSN or TVA Sports


Women’s Soccer Euro’s

England’s Euro 2022 success is a platform for the next generation  ESPNFC Tom Hamilton

Women’s attendances have dominated European football in 2022  Chris Wright
England win Women’s Euro 2022, but the tournament’s biggest victor is the sport itself
  EPSNFC Mark Ogden
Euro 2022 delight sparks boom time for English women’s football

Chloe Kelly sends nation into raptures with extra-time Euros final winner for England

Serial winner Wiegman helps England ‘change society’ in Euro triumph

London soaks up Euros win with giant party

Beauty and Beast – the two goals that turned England into European champions

‘What dreams are made of’: How world reacted to England’s Euro win as Queen sends heartfelt message

It’s coming home! England rejoices as soccer women win Euros

England vs Germany, Euro 2022 final player ratings: Mary Earps stars as substitutes steal the show again

England beats Germany in European Championship final

Furious Germany claim they should have been awarded penalty for ‘clear handball’ in Euros final

Germany boss baffled by penalty call in Euro 2022 final defeat

Lioness Chloe Kelly’s Celebration – peaks Nike Sports Bra

Netherlands captain Van Veenendaal retires
England’s Kelly ‘always taking shirt off’ to celebrate winner

England’s Euro 2022 winners urge next PM to support girls’ football

Debinha gives holders Brazil Copa America Femenina win
Brazil triumphs again, but Copa America Femenina is getting stronger
  ESPNFC Tim Vickery

England’s Kelly Chloe scored the game winner in Extra Time to beat Germany and Bring it Home !


Premier League 2022-23: Full fixture list
Premier League season preview: ‘Big Six’ fortunes are mixe

Premier League’s top fourhopefuls primed for tense race

Conte sets sights on Premier League, Champions League glory at Tottenham

Jesus’ winning mentality contagious for Arsenal players, says Arteta

Haaland embracing life out his ‘comfort zone’ in Premier League

Leicester keeper Schmeichel to join Nice

Premier League seasonpreview: Focusing on the relegation candidates

Premier League season preview: Focusing on the mid-table battlers
Nunez upstages Haaland, Alvarez in Liverpool’s Community Shield     


Euro League Predictions

When does the 2022-23 season start across Europe?

Barcelona beat NY Red Bulls 2-0 to cap unbeaten US tour
Real Madrid vs. Juventus provides soccer satisfaction for 93,702 fans at Rose Bowl

Benzema, Asensio on target as Real Madrid down Juventus 2-0 in friendly


Our own DOC Juergen Sommer the first American Goalkeeper to Start in England

American Goal Keepers in the EPL thru the Years – Men in Blazers  Check out who was in there first – our own DOC Juergen Sommer.

Great Euro Cup Women Saves

Ochoa and McCarthy of LA Galaxy Share Love after the 2-0 win by LA

Great Save by Joe Willis of RSL  https://twitter.com/MLS/status/1555048754637688837

Goalkeeper Training – the Block

Matt Turner’ Great Saves

Matt Turner’s First Day at Arsenal

Gigi Buffon Footsave vs Zidane https://www.instagram.com/reel/Cf_A-groFEo/?igshid=MDJmNzVkMjY

REFFING This Crazy Game

Offside Law Update

MLS Allstar Game Crew Confirmed

Ukraine’s Kateryna Monzul refereed the UEFA Women’s EURO final on Sunday!

New MLS Next Pro Rule Will Put An End To Players Faking Injury

Small Sided Reffing Classes —

Indiana Soccer is excited to announce the next opportunities to earn the Small sided referee license – enabling inviduals 12 and older the opportunity to referee in the 4v4, 7v7 and 9v9 play formats.  It is an excellent way by which to help clubs use younger referees for their rec games as well as ISL fall season matches.  It is also a great opportunity for the older folks to get their feet into the world of officiateing soccer matches, without the stress of having to cover a normal 11v11 match.Below are course you may register for.  If your club is interested in hosting a course, they may do so by clicking on the following link and completing the application process. Click Here  August 28, 2022  Sunday 2 – 5pm  Noblesville United Soccer Club / 8501 E 196th Street  Noblesville, IN  46062  $30 

Indy 11





Indy 11 Park Announced Indy 11 Park

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(mention the ole ballcoach) 

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

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

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My 3 Thoughts on the England-Germany Euro Final Grant Wahl  Jul 31


LONDON — England beat Germany 2-1 after extra-time in the Euro 2022 final here on Sunday before a Euro record crowd of 87,192 Wembley Stadium. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

• Chloe Kelly, meet history. At a moment when nearly the entirety of Wembley was dreading what might happen in a penalty-kick shootout (not usually England’s thing, especially against Germany), Kelly made sure they wouldn’t happen by scoring the game-winner during a goalmouth scramble after a corner kick. Kelly’s first shot was saved by German keeper Merle Frohms, but the Man City forward stuck with it and hit it home to send the crowd into raptures. Kelly celebrated by ripping off her shirt and running wildly toward her teammates in her sports bra, and anyone in the U.S. who was watching couldn’t help but think back to Brandi Chastain doing the same thing in 1999. As has been the case in much of the tournament, England’s depth ended up making a huge difference in the game. Kelly and fellow second-half sub Ella Toone scored both of England’s goals, and England was more dangerous after the subs started coming into the game. (If there had been another game, I would have wanted to see Alessia Russo start up front instead of Ellen White.) But if you’re Sarina Wiegman, England’s coach, who started the exact same lineup in all six Euro games, you could also argue that it’s a killer for your opponent when you can bring on players with the quality that England has. There are a lot of them for the deserved European champions.

• Germany missed Alexandra Popp. You hate to see any injury remove a player from a major final, but Germany losing Popp to a pregame warmup injury was especially cruel. Popp had scored in every game of this tournament, including both of Germany’s goals in the 2-1 semifinal win over France. Germany just wasn’t as dangerous in front of goal with Lea Schüller in Popp’s place, but there was more to it than that. Popp sets the tone for Germany with her hell-bent ruthlessness, constant energy and fear she strikes in opponents. She’s a big reason why Germany’s press is so effective, and it just wasn’t the same without her. (Surprisingly, England was the better pressing team on Sunday.) Popp had put in so much work to come back from injury and be arguably the most influential player of this tournament. The final was diminished without her.

• The referee could have done a better job to prevent an overly physical game. Frankly, I was surprised that Stéphanie Frappart of France, the world’s top female referee, didn’t get the final and the job was given instead to Kateryna Monzul of Ukraine. Unfortunately, Monzul didn’t do nearly enough early in the game to set the tone that rough-housing wouldn’t be allowed. Literally the first entry in my game notes from the second minute was: “Ref letting GER be physical early.” And it only continued from there. Monzul giving only three yellow cards in the first half—two of them to England!—while Germany was chippy the entire time was about three cards too few, and it was stunning that Germany’s Lena Oberdorf didn’t draw a yellow until the 57th minute. This game had too many instances of players ending up on the ground due to rough play, leading to too many stoppages, and while Germany deserved the majority of the blame for that, Monzul deserved some too.

Premium: England Has Its Own 1999

Women’s soccer takes over England as the Lionesses win Euro 2022 on home soil Grant Wahl Aug 1 

LONDON — The comparison first hit me on Tuesday night, not long before England’s semifinal with Sweden, when I was outside Bramall Lane in Sheffield, and the bus carrying the England women’s national team happened to arrive near where I was standing. As I observed the scene of the home fans surrounding and serenading the bus with cheers, one thing in particular stood out: The players inside the bus were shooting cellphone videos of the spectacle just as much as the supporters were turning their cameras on the team.All-encompassing national fervor is new to the Lionesses, who have long toiled in obscurity compared to their men’s counterparts. And it made me think back to the same thing happening with the U.S. women’s national team players before the first game of the 1999 World Cup. As their bus made its way up the New Jersey Turnpike to what would be a sold-out Giants Stadium, it slowly dawned on the USWNT that the overwhelming traffic was there for them.

It’s not that women’s soccer was totally absent from English culture. After all, the surprise hit film Bend It Like Beckham (2002) was literally about a women’s soccer team in London. But if you recall, 1) a major plot line was about Jess (Parminder Nagra), whose family didn’t want her to be playing the sport, and 2) “Success” for young women’s players meant earning a scholarship to play college soccer in the U.S. (since England didn’t have anything remotely like it).

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A transcendent cultural moment was happening, and so the stunned U.S. players shot video of something they had never seen before (albeit with old-school camcorders instead of cellphones). We all know where that monthlong American celebration ended: with a World Cup title before a crowd of 90,185 at the Rose Bowl. England’s version of 1999 took place in 2022, and it culminated on Sunday with the Lionesses beating Germany 2-1 in extra time at Wembley Stadium. And in a perfect piece of symmetry, England forward Chloe Kelly celebrated her game-winning goal in the 111th minute by repeating what the U.S.’s Brandi Chastain did after her World Cup-clinching penalty kick in 1999: ripping off her jersey, twirling it over her head and celebrating in her sports bra with her teammates.Over the last month, England fell irretrievably in love with its women’s soccer team. There’s nothing like being in a host country when it performs well in a major international soccer tournament. The national pride, the living and dying with every game, the spontaneous celebrations in bars and public squares—they take over a country’s daily culture. USA 1994, France 1998, USA 1999, South Korea 2002, Portugal 2004, Germany 2006, Brazil 2014, Russia 2018: All you have to do is say the country and the year, and it conjures some of the best memories I have of covering this sport. (I also remember the epic cultural sadness when those host countries went out of those tournaments; see: Brazil 2014.)Now you can add England 2022. The images of the Lionesses’ six Euro games, all of them victories, will be imprinted on their supporters forever: The 68,871 fans who packed Man United’s Old Trafford for their opening 1-0 win over Austria; the stunning force of thrashing former World Cup champion Norway 8-0 (in a game that was 6-0 at halftime); the soul-stirring comeback against Spain in the quarterfinals to win 2-1 on Georgia Stanway’s thumping extra-time wonder strike; Alessia Russo’s outrageous backheel goal in a 4-0 semifinal win over Sweden; and the wild celebrations after Kelly’s winner against the Germans.You can measure the country’s newfound passion in any number of ways. If you’re into data, the national TV audience in the U.K. peaked at a giant 17.4 million during Sunday’s final (with another audience almost the exact same size in Germany), and 87,192 fans filled Wembley—a record attendance for any game ever at a European Championship, men’s or women’s.But there are other examples of how besotted Blighty became over the Lionesses. Like the way everyone stayed in the stadium for nearly an hour after the final whistle and sang “Sweet Caroline” with the England players, who performed running slip-and-slides on the massive piles of silver confetti on the field. It was as if nobody wanted to leave, and so they didn’t.Or take the conversation I had before the game in the press section with a friend of mine, an English woman who has covered women’s soccer here for years. Knowing how hard she has been working, I asked her if she had taken the time to step back on Sunday and reflect on what we were seeing in front of us for an England women’s soccer game.“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. “I’ve cried three times today already.”As the fútbol-loving University of Michigan professor Andy Markovits has noted, women’s soccer has had a harder time breaking through in many of the biggest men’s soccer countries than it has had in nations like the United States or Scandinavian countries. England, in particular, has been notorious when it comes to the massive culture around men’s soccer denigrating the women’s game. (You still see and hear plenty of it, especially on social media.) As was the case in several other nations, England’s soccer federation, the FA, banned women from playing the sport for decades (from 1921 to 1968). I thought it was a good thing that the historical context was being publicized during this tournament; when you arrived at the train station in Sheffield, you were greeted by large signs with all the details of England’s women’s soccer ban and the way women defied that ban and attempted to build a soccer culture anyway.But the official neglect of the women’s game in England made its mark. When I started covering soccer in 1996, I couldn’t believe that England’s team wasn’t any better than it was. The Lionesses didn’t even qualify for the World Cups in 1991, ’99 and 2003, and they didn’t advance past the final eight in ’95, ’07 or ’11. English talent did exist in those days. Kelly Smith was an attacking phenomenon who wasn’t appreciated nearly enough in her own country during her playing days. When Smith was at her best and not dealing with severe injuries during her NWSL and Arsenal days, she could be unstoppable.(A quick Kelly Smith story: When she was drafted No. 2 overall out of Seton Hall by the NWSL’s Philadelphia Charge in 2001, I idiotically criticized the Charge for picking her that high. Not only did she prove me completely wrong, but she also later wrote in her memoir that my dumb comments had motivated her to succeed. When I finally met up with Kelly in person at the 2015 World Cup—we were working together for Fox Sports TV—I profusely apologized, and now I’m lucky to say we’re friends.)It’s not that women’s soccer was totally absent from English culture. After all, the surprise hit film Bend It Like Beckham (2002) was literally about a women’s soccer team in London. But if you recall, (1) a major plot line was about Jess (Parminder Nagra), whose family didn’t want her to be playing the sport, and (2) “success” for young women’s players meant earning a scholarship to play college soccer in the U.S. (since England didn’t have anything remotely like that opportunity to play).It’s still wild to me that U.S. soccer culture was in a place then that David Beckham, who was at the height of his global powers, became better known in the U.S. from that movie (which he wasn’t in) than from anything he had done on the soccer field to that point.Still, Kelly Smith and Bend It Like Beckham were almost like one-offs when it came to women’s soccer culture in England. The national team was hardly considered world-class. But things have changed in the past decade since Team GB’s women drew big crowds for soccer at the 2012 London Olympics (while going out in the quarterfinals to Canada). Clubs like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City and others have invested more in their women’s teams; sponsorship and television revenue has spiked; and the WSL has become the women’s league with the best depth of quality in Europe. England has made at least the semifinals of the last two women’s World Cups.England’s women’s soccer talent is no longer a one-off proposition. In fact, the calling card of this England team was how many players could beat you. No fewer than nine Lionesses scored goals in England’s six victories: Lucy Bronze, Lauren Hemp, Kelly, Fran Kirby, Beth Mead (the golden boot winner with six strikes), Russo, Stanway, Ella Toone and Ellen White. It was the substitutions by England’s Dutch coach, Sarina Wiegman, that changed the game in Sunday’s final—in which both England goals were scored by subs. (Let it also be said that the assist from midfielder Keira Walsh on Toone’s opener on Sunday was an absolute thing of beauty.)What happens now for England? How much will this Euro triumph change the culture here? That remains to be seen. The legacy of 1999 in the U.S. most definitely exists, but it hasn’t been linear; the NWSL seems to be here to stay after nine years, but it followed two pro leagues that each folded after three years. England’s WSL has an infrastructure, though, and the conditions are there for it to become the world’s best league if the investment continues to grow. And if that happens, it could become like the men’s Premier League, with the money and popularity to attract the majority of the world’s best players. We’ll soon find out if interest in the WSL gets a post-Euros boost.As for the Lionesses, there’s a World Cup in just a year, and they will be among the favorites to raise the trophy. It certainly wouldn’t hurt if England and the U.S. (which has won the last two World Cups) built a rivalry at the top of the sport, since there was a real competitive edge to their game in the 2019 World Cup semifinals won by the USWNT.Who knows? Maybe 2023 will end up being even bigger for England than 2022 has been. But there’s a reason why I think the growth of women’s soccer will be the biggest sports story of the next 50 years. One by one, country by country, more nations are going to have their 1999, or at least something close to it. The moment may happen at World Cups, or perhaps in continental championships like this one, and in some cases it may not even require them to win the trophy. What we saw here in England over the last month is how cultures change. And there’s no stopping this train now that it’s moving around the world.

Women’s Euro final smashes TV viewership records

Henry Bushnell  Mon, August 1, 2022 at 9:42 AM  Yahoo Soccer

As England’s victorious players gathered Monday with thousands of fans in Trafalgar Square to celebrate their first European soccer championship, the BBC released stunning TV viewership figures that quantified just how much of the nation they’d captivated.England’s 2-1 win over Germany in the Women’s Euro final, the BBC said, was the most-watched program of any kind in the United Kingdom in 2022, and the most-watched women’s soccer game ever in the UK.

The peak audience of 17.4 million, plus 5.9 million streams online and on mobile, represented a roughly 34% share of the UK’s entire population. (The 2022 Super Bowl, by comparison, drew a 36.9 rating in the U.S.)

It topped the previous mark of 11.7 million viewers who watched England lose to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2019 World Cup.Sunday’s Euro final also set records in Germany. Public broadcaster ARD said Monday that an average audience of 17.9 million watched the match, making it the most-viewed women’s soccer game ever in Germany as well.It narrowly topped the 16.95 million fans who watched Germany lose to Japan in the 2011 Women’s World Cup quarterfinals.In the U.S., the most-viewed soccer telecast ever remains the 2015 Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan. That was watched by an average of 26.7 million people, and peaked at over 30 million viewers — numbers comparable to the BBC’s for last summer’s men’s Euro final between England and Italy.Relative to population sizes, though, the UK numbers for both the men’s and women’s finals are far larger.Euro 2022 also shattered attendance records. The sold-out final at Wembley Stadium, seen live by 87,192 fans, drew more people than any other European championship game, women’s or men’s, ever.The entire tournament, hosted by 10 stadiums across England, drew more than 500,000 fans — more than twice the previous record of 240,055, set in 2017 — despite some big English clubs balking at staging games at their home grounds.Continental women’s championships in Africa and South America also filled stadiums. A record crowd of 45,000 watched Morocco beat Botswana to qualify for its first Women’s World Cup.

A USMNT Premier League migration shifts the focus on American players in Europe

  • Henry BushnellTue, August 2, 2022 at 5:34 PM Brenden Aaronson watched his dream move to the English Premier League materialize on a smartphone in a Vienna café.He was, on the afternoon of May 22, two hours away from becoming the second-most expensive American soccer player ever — if, that is, Leeds United could avoid relegation. So, while on a mini-vacation to the Austrian capital with his girlfriend, he tracked the final day of the EPL season frantically, “sweating and pacing around the café.”

He tried to relax; to sip a coffee; to escape the stress. As Leeds went ahead and relegation-rival Burnley went behind, and his $30 million transfer from Red Bull Salzburg crystallized, the 21-year-old from South Jersey ducked away to the bathroom “four or five times,” as his girlfriend swiped and refreshed for score updates.It was “awful,” Aaronson said a week later — but life-changing too. “I wanted to be part of the club so bad,” he said.A few days later, he was. A few months later, he is gearing up for his first Premier League season, and he isn’t alone. U.S. teammate Tyler Adams has joined him and American coach Jesse Marsch at Leeds, and West Yorkshire, out of nowhere, has become the nucleus of a growing U.S. men’s national team network in Europe.For years, that nucleus was in Germany. The Bundesliga became the destination for American teens and young pros. But over the past year, USMNT regulars and hopefuls have migrated to Great Britain. At least 14 of them will begin their 2022-23 seasons in England or Scotland.So it’s there, in the EPL (and on NBC networks), where American eyes will be trained between now and mid-November, when the 2022 World Cup begins.But there are dozens of other USMNT players scattered across the continent as well. According to Transfermarkt data compiled by Yanks Abroad, the number of Americans in the world’s top five leagues has skyrocketed in recent seasons. U.S.-eligible players made 436 appearances in those leagues in 2021-22, per the analysis, up a whopping 79% from 244 in 2019-20.That number could rise yet again over the coming 10 months. And whereas the Premier League represented the smallest share of appearances and minutes last season, it could leap to the top of the list by May.So, with the Prem and Bundesliga set to begin on Friday, here’s a rundown of USMNT World Cup roster contenders and their overseas club situations.


(TV: NBC, USA, Peacock in English; Telemundo in Spanish)

Christian Pulisic (winger, Chelsea) — Pulisic remains in West London — for now. Whether he’ll be there come Sept. 2 is an open question that might not be answered until transfer deadline day. Playing time had already been a sticking point for the U.S. star when, in July, Chelsea paid north of $50 million for Manchester City forward Raheem Sterling.

But Pulisic has said he wants to stay and fight for his place, as he has ever since arriving at Stamford Bridge. And even if he isn’t starting regularly, he’ll be the USMNT’s catalyst in Qatar.

Tyler Adams (defensive midfielder, Leeds) — The 23-year-old’s $24 million move to Leeds made him the third-most expensive American player ever. It reunited him with Marsch, his former boss at New York Red Bulls and RB Leipzig. It also presented him with a near-perfect situation: He’ll be the first-choice defensive midfielder under a manager who trusts him in a pressing team in the most competitive league in the world.

In one sense, he’s a replacement for Kalvin Phillips, the English midfielder who departed for Man City. “But I didn’t come in to be Kalvin Phillips,” Adams recently clarified. “I came in to be Tyler Adams.”

Brenden Aaronson (attacking midfielder, Leeds) — Aaronson has been torching preseason opponents with his two preeminent skills: relentless pressing and transition passing. He is, as U.S. teammate Weston McKennie says, “an annoying gnat, like a fly that you can’t get out of your face” when you have the ball. When he wins it off you, he can carve up defenses in an instant.

He is, somewhat remarkably, not a first-choice starter for the national team, but he could play his way into a place in the USMNT 11 over the next three months.

Chris Richards (center back, Crystal Palace) — The newest addition to the American EPL flock, Richards arrived at Palace for up to $15 million from Bayern Munich after a strong loan spell at Hoffenheim. He won’t be a sure-fire starter, but if he can earn a consistent place alongside Marc Guehi in the Prem, the 22-year-old should partner Walker Zimmerman at center back for the U.S. in Qatar.

Antonee Robinson (left back, Fulham) — The USMNT’s top left back struggled in his first Premier League season, 2020-21, but is a more mature player this time around after helping Fulham win promotion back to the top flight.

Tim Ream (center back, Fulham) — Ream is not only still at Fulham; he started all 46 Championship games last season (at age 34!) as the Cottagers won the English second division. He hasn’t been called into the national team since withdrawing from an October 2021 squad for “family reasons,” and he doesn’t have the mobility that USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter desires, but he confirmed to The Athletic in April: “I’m still available to be picked. I don’t think that will change until I completely hang up the boots.”

Matt Turner (goalkeeper, Arsenal) — Turner is expected to back up Aaron Ramsdale in North London, which begs an obvious question: Why would an established starter (for the New England Revolution) voluntarily relegate himself to a reserve role, especially in a World Cup year?

“Well, I’ve been playing pretty well in MLS for the better part of three years now,” Turner said in late May. “Given the environment of transfers, for goalkeepers in particular, this was the first real interest, first real offer that I’ve had. And I’ve been trying to make things happen for quite some time. So it seems like the right time for me.

“Being a week-in, week-out starter in MLS didn’t guarantee me to be a starter here for the national team. And going to the World Cup, I obviously want to play games. So I need to shake things up in my club career, and I think this is a positive step forward for me in the long term, and in the immediate future.”


(TV: 3-4 games per weekend on ESPN+)

Zack Steffen (goalkeeper, Middlesbrough) — Steffen spent two years in a role similar to the one Turner now occupies, as an entrenched backup at Man City. And when he did get on the field, he made a few nightmarish gaffes. So he has dropped down to the Championship on loan, and made a couple big saves on his debut in a 1-1 draw with West Brom.

Although Turner is widely regarded as the better shot-stopper, a strong autumn could solidify Steffen as the U.S. No. 1.

Josh Sargent (forward, Norwich) — At this time last year, Sargent was the USMNT’s starting striker. Now he’s a try-hard second-tier winger on the fringes of the national team roster. There’s a school of thought that Norwich’s relegation to the Championship could be good for him. An uneventful display in a season-opening 1-0 loss at Cardiff, though, was inauspicious.

Daryl Dike (striker, West Brom) — One of many American strikers who, if he gets hot this fall, could sneak into Berhalter’s 26. The first steps, though, would be staying healthy and securing a regular place in West Brom’s 11.

Ethan Horvath (goalkeeper, Luton Town) — The hero of last summer’s CONCACAF Nations League final has never played consistently for club or country. He’d need to do that at Luton to snatch a World Cup roster spot away from the current clubhouse leader for the third goalkeeper slot, New York City FC’s Sean Johnson.


(TV: Every match on ESPN+ in English and Spanish)

Gio Reyna (attacking midfielder, Borussia Dortmund) — Reyna had a hellish, injury-riddled 2021-22 campaign that ended with yet another serious muscle injury, and with tears. But he’s still regarded as the USMNT’s brightest teenage prospect. He looked slick in his first unofficial game back from the hamstring tear. Dortmund is taking things slow, allowing the 19-year-old to methodically build toward full fitness, but once there, he should get plenty of minutes in both league and cup competitions.

Jordan Pefok (striker, Union Berlin) — The 26-year-old Washington, D.C.-born target man parlayed a Swiss league Golden Boot into a smart move to Union Berlin — which, after an unprecedented fifth-place finish last season, sold its top marksman, Taiwo Awoniyi, to Nottingham Forest. So Pefok will get his chance to lead the line, and, in preseason and the German Cup, he’s already taking that chance. If he keeps scoring, he’ll be in Qatar.

Ricardo Pepi (striker, Augsburg) — Pepi pounced on a big-money move to Augsburg last winter … and hasn’t scored since. He desperately needs some game time to re-find a rhythm, but seems set to start the season on the bench. Every appearance he makes will feel more pressure-packed than it should.

Joe Scally (fullback, Borussia Dortmund) — Scally, 19, is already up and running with goal in the DFB-Pokal, and, after playing 30 league games for Gladbach in his maiden season, should feature regularly again.

Gladbach, unfortunately, was a bit of a mess last year, and Scally was thrust into five different positions — “right back, right wing back, left back, left wing back, and right center back one game,” he said this offseason, rattling them off incredulously. But his versatility is a bonus for the national team, and will help his case for Qatar.

Kevin Paredes (left anything, Wolfsburg) — Scally’s primary competition for the back-up left back role could come from Paredes, who moved to Wolfsburg from D.C. United for $7.35 million in January. But he’ll need minutes, which are far from guaranteed.

George Bello (left back, Arminia Bielefeld, 2. Bundesliga) — At this time last year, Bello was the back-up left back, and a rising star at Atlanta United. But, as Berhalter has publicly suggested, he might’ve jumped to Europe too quickly. He made just three Bundesliga starts, all losses, after a January move as Bielefeld slumped to relegation. Whether he’s in the picture for Qatar or not, a pivotal season in the 2. Bundesliga lies ahead.


(TV: Every match on ESPN+ in English and Spanish)

Sergiño Dest (fullback, Barcelona) — Dest’s form and health have fluctuated constantly since arriving at Camp Nou in 2020. So have Barcelona’s opinions of him, according to local media reports. One day, he’s in Xavi’s first-team plans; the next, he’s being shopped. The latest, according to ESPN and SPORT, is that Barca will listen to offers for the 21-year-old American fullback as the club pursues Chelsea defender César Azpilicueta. It’s very unclear where Dest might end up.

Yunus Musah (midfielder, Valencia) — Musah’s national team career has accelerated quicker than his club career, in part because the U.S. plays him in his natural position, as a ball-carrying central midfielder. Valencia, meanwhile, had played the multicultural teen out wide. But that looks set to change under new manager Gennaro Gattuso, if preseason is any indication. If so, Musah, 19, could be one of La Liga’s breakout stars.

Luca de la Torre (central midfielder, Celta Vigo) — The 24-year-old San Diegan has had a rocky young career since moving to Fulham as a teen. But he found his footing last season, and especially last June with the national team. He earned an under-the-radar move to Spain, where his on-ball ability should flourish — if he gets regular playing time at Celta.

Matthew Hoppe (forward, Mallorca) — After a rough season at Mallorca, the 21-year-old forward and his club have reportedly been in talks with Middlesbrough and Sunderland. A move to the English Championship seems likely.


(TV: CBS Sports Network, Paramount+)

Weston McKennie (central midfielder, Juventus) — McKennie, a popular subject of transfer gossip, and repeatedly linked with Tottenham, seemed set for a third strong season at Juve when, in training last week, he dislocated his shoulder. The Italian club says that the injury will sideline him for at least three weeks.

Gianluca Busio (central midfielder, Venezia, Serie B) — Busio, along with a few other Americans at relegated Venezia, will now be hidden in the relative anonymity of Serie B. His stock has fallen since last autumn.


(TV: ​​beIN Sports, beIN Sports Connect)

Tim Weah (forward, Lille) — Weah will look to build on 2021-22, his best season yet as a professional. “I’m getting really comfortable,” he said during a USMNT camp in May. The next step? Goals. He’s never scored more than five in a pro season.

Erik Palmer-Brown (center back, Troyes) — “EPB” has finally settled at Troyes after four years as a Man City loanee in perpetual transition. But the 25-year-old central defender hasn’t distinguished himself as a reliable USMNT option.

Konrad de la Fuente (winger, Marseille) — Konrad started the USMNT’s first 2022 World Cup qualifier, and played in the second, and … hasn’t been back since. He struggled in his first season at Marseille, and will reportedly be sent out on loan — with Valladolid, a newly promoted Spanish side, the leading candidate to take him.


(TV: CBS Sports Network, Paramount+)

Cameron Carter-Vickers (centerback, Celtic) — A late addition to the World Cup roster picture after a sturdy 2021-22 campaign on loan, “CCV” and the Scottish champs made their partnership permanent this summer. He’s an every-week starter in Glasgow, and a contender to go to Qatar. The evaluative challenge for Berhalter and his U.S. staff is that the level of competition in the Scottish Premiership leaves plenty to be desired.

James Sands (defender/defensive midfielder, Rangers) — A compelling World Cup roster candidate in theory — but only in practice if he plays consistently, and well, at Rangers. He started a Champions League qualifier first leg on Tuesday, but last year’s Europa League finalists lost 2-0 to lowly Belgian side Royal Union Saint-Gilloise.

Malik Tillman (AM, Rangers) — Tillman, who committed his international future to the U.S. in May, moved on loan to Scotland last month in search of regular first-team minutes. The 20-year-old Bayern Munich product made an impressive cameo off the bench in Rangers’ league opener. More of the same could put him in World Cup contention.


Reggie Cannon (right back, Boavista, Portuguese Primeira Liga) — Cannon has been looking for paths out of Boavista for over a year now. “I can’t even imagine at this point how many transfers that have fallen through at the last second,” he said in May. But he’s still there, and while there, he’s grown into a more versatile defender, capable of playing right wing back in a 5, right back in a 4, and right center back in a 3.

Haji Wright (striker, Antalyaspor, Turkish Super Lig) — Wright, whose surge last spring earned him a USMNT debut (and debut goal), signed permanently with Antalyaspor after scoring 14 league goals on loan. Berhalter seemed strangely unimpressed with Wright in June, but a hot start in Turkey could keep the 24-year-old in the World Cup picture.

John Brooks (center back, free agent) — Brooks is one of the best center backs on the open market. The rumor mill, however, has been quiet — except for when Berhalter, explaining Brooks’ exclusion from multiple USMNT camps, told ESPN last month: “We want to play with a very high line. So ideally, if he went into a team that plays with a high line, and we can see every week how he’s dealing with space behind him, it would really help us get a picture of what he can do for our team. He hadn’t been doing it with Wolfsburg.”


Beyond the already-established national teamers, there are dozens of other Americans in Europe. Among the ones to keep on radars (ages in parentheses):

Folarin Balogun (FW, Arsenal but likely going on loan to Reims in France; 21)
Alex Mighten (W, Nottingham Forest, England; 20)
Auston Trusty (CB, Birmingham City, England; 23)
Richy Ledezma (AM, PSV Eindhoven, Netherlands; 21)
Cole Bassett (CM, Feyenoord, Netherlands; 21)
Sam Vines (LB, Royal Antwerp, Belgium; 23)
Mark McKenzie (CB, Genk, Belgium; 23)
Bryan Reynolds (RB, Westerlo, Belgium; 21)
Griffin Yow (W, Westerlo, Belgium; 19)
Tanne Tessmann (CM, Venezia, Italy [Serie B]; 20)

As European soccer leagues start unprecedented seasons, title predictions remain familiar

Henry BushnellThu, August 4, 2022 at 8:38 AM

The English Premier LeagueGerman Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 begin this Friday, Aug. 5.

Spain’s La Liga begins Aug. 12, and Italy’s Serie A starts Aug. 13.Never before have Europe’s preeminent soccer leagues collectively kicked off this early — because never before have they had to devise schedules quite like their 2022-23 ones.They’ll also end later than usual, because they’ll break for over a month in mid-November to squeeze in the 2022 World Cup, the first men’s World Cup held outside its traditional summer window. FIFA moved it to late-autumn to accommodate Qatar’s menacing heat.So the leagues reluctantly revised their calendars. Even the Champions League group stage will start earlier than ever before. Already-packed schedules will be further compressed. The cadence of the season will feel different.

But the league tables?

They, surely, will look as they almost always look, with a select few superclubs rising to the top and European soccer’s growing inequality laid bare.There has been speculation among pundits and fans that the World Cup, which will exacerbate workloads for top players while giving others a welcome reprieve, could advantage the middling clubs that send fewer players to Qatar.But Bayern Munich is still a runaway favorite (-500 with BetMGM) in Germany.PSG is -1000 in France.

Juventus and the two Milan clubs sit atop the list of favorites in Italy.

In England and Spain, two duopolies — Liverpool-Manchester City and

In other words, no matter how different the fall of 2022 feels, the spring of 2023 should feel familiar. Here’s a rundown of the basic as seasons get set to begin.

When do EPL, European leagues start and end

The dates for the big five leagues are:

Bundesliga: Aug. 5-May 27
Premier League: Aug. 5-May 28
Ligue 1: Aug. 5-June 3
La Liga: Aug. 12-June 4
Serie A: Aug. 13-June 4

When do World Cup breaks start and end?

Clubs worldwide are required to release their players to national teams by Monday, Nov. 14, a week before the World Cup opener.

Most major leagues, therefore, will play through the weekend of Saturday, Nov. 12, then pause for at least six weeks. Two minor exceptions are La Liga, which will play its second-week-of-November fixtures on Wednesday rather than the weekend, allowing Spanish players (and others) to report for World Cup duty a few days early; and the second-tier English Championship, which resumes on Dec. 10, with the World Cup knockout stages still ongoing.

The Premier League resumes on Boxing Day, Dec. 26, eight days after the World Cup final. The rest return soon thereafter:

Ligue 1: Dec. 28
La Liga: Dec. 31
Serie A: Jan. 4
Bundesliga: Jan. 21

What about the 2022-23 Champions League?

In a typical year, the Champions League group stage’s final two matchdays would be in late November and early-mid December.

In 2022, the round-robin phase will wrap up on Nov. 2. It begins on Sept. 6. Games remain on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, they’ve just been shifted forward. Here’s the full schedule:

Qualifying playoffs: Aug. 16-17 and Aug. 23-24
Matchday 1: Sept. 6-7
Matchday 2: Sept. 13-14
Matchday 3: Oct. 4-5
Matchday 4: Oct. 11-12
Matchday 5: Oct. 25-26
Matchday 6: Nov. 1-2

The Round of 16 will fall in the same February-March windows as last year. But the quarterfinal legs have each been pushed back a week, and the semifinals a further week. The Champions League final is slated for June 10, the latest scheduled date since the inaugural European Cup final on June 13, 1956.

Who are the favorites?

Liverpool and Man City are the two best teams in Europe. They were for much of last season, too, until City choked away a Champions League semifinal to Real Madrid. Both have since reloaded for another run at domestic and continental glory. (More on transfers below.)

PSG and Bayern Munich are their top challengers on the continent. The rest of the contenders are the usual suspects — Real Madrid, Barcelona, Chelsea, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, Atletico Madrid — minus Manchester United, which failed to qualify for the second time in four seasons.

The club most capable up upsetting their dual hegemony in England, meanwhile, might be Tottenham. Antonio Conte has now had a full offseason to mold Spurs to his liking — and in the past, a full Conte offseason has been a pretty good recipe for success. He won leagues titles in his first full seasons at Bari (in the Italian second tier), Juventus and Chelsea, and in his second at Inter Milan, he ended Juve’s run of nine straight Scudettos.

What have been the summer’s biggest transfers?

A very incomplete list of the biggest moves of an already very busy transfer window, which doesn’t close until Sept. 1:

Robert Lewandowski | Bayern Munich —> Barcelona
Erling Haaland | Borussia Dortmund —> Manchester City

Sadio Mane | Liverpool —> Bayern Munich
Darwin Nuñez | Benfica —> Liverpool
Romelu Lukaku | Chelsea —> Inter Milan (loan)

Raheem Sterling | Manchester City —> Chelsea
Gabriel Jesus | Manchester City —> Arsenal
Matthijs de Ligt | Juventus —> Bayern Munich
Aurelien Tchouameni | Monaco —> Real Madrid
Antonio Rudiger | Chelsea —> Real Madrid
Raphinha | Leeds —> Barcelona
Jules Kounde | Sevilla —> Barcelona
Lisandro Martinez | Ajax —> Manchester United
Paul Pogba | Manchester United —> Juventus
Kalidou Koulibaly | Napoli —> Chelsea
Angel Di Maria | PSG —> Juventus
Franck Kessie | AC Milan —> Barcelona
Ryan Gravenberch | Ajax —> Bayern Munich
Niklas Sule | Bayern Munich —> Borussia Dortmund
Richarlison | Everton —> Tottenham
Kalvin Phillips | Leeds —> Manchester City
Oleksandr Zinchenko | Manchester City —> Arsenal
Christian Eriksen | Brentford —> Manchester United
Paulo Dybala | Juventus —> Roma
Ivan Perisic | Inter Milan —> Tottenham
Boubacar Kamara | Marseille —> Aston Villa
Nico Schlotterbeck | Freiburg —> Borussia Dortmund
Karim Adeyemi | RB Salzburg —> Borussia Dortmund
Gleison Bremer | Torino —> Juventus
Nordi Mukiele | RB Leipzig —> PSG
Vitinha | Porto —> PSG
Fabio Vieira | Porto —> Arsenal
Sven Botman | Lille —> Newcastle
Gianluca Scamacca | Sassuolo —> West Ham
Brenden Aaronson | RB Salzburg —> Leeds
Tyler Adams | RB Leipzig —> Leeds

What big transfers could still happen?

The big name to watch is Cristiano Ronaldo. In short: He wants to leave Manchester United, but none of the Champions League clubs he wants to play for seem to want him.

Where are the top American players this season?

For a decade, American players had drifted out of the Premier League. Suddenly, they’re back in numbers. Here’s a full roundup of all the relevant U.S. men’s national team players in Europe.

What, and who, else is new?

Manchester United has a new manager, Erik ten Hag, who it poached from Ajax. So does PSG in Christophe Galtier.

Chelsea has a new ownership group, led by American Todd Boehly, who has taken control of the club’s operations and overseen one of the most incoherent summer transfer strategies in recent memory.

English Premier League predictions

1. Manchester City
2. Liverpool
3. Tottenham
4. Arsenal
5. Chelsea
6. Manchester United
7. Crystal Palace
8. Newcastle
9. West Ham
10. Leicester City
11. Aston Villa
12. Leeds
13. Brighton
14. Wolves
15. Brentford
16. Everton
17. Nottingham Forest
18. Southampton
19. Fulham
20. Bournemouth

German Bundesliga predictions

1. Bayern Munich
2. Borussia Dortmund
3. Bayer Leverkusen
4. RB Leipzig
5. Wolfsburg
6. Borussia Mönchengladbach
7. Mainz

La Liga predictions

1. Barcelona
2. Real Madrid
3. Atletico Madrid
4. Villareal
5. Real Sociedad
6. Real Betis
7. Sevilla

Serie A predictions

1. Inter Milan
2. Roma
3. AC Milan
4. Napoli
5. Juventus
6. Atalanta
7. Lazio

How can I watch the top European leagues?

The Premier League is on NBC networks — mostly USA and the streaming service Peacock in English, and Telemundo in Spanish. The first game, Crystal Palace v. Arsenal, is Friday at 3 p.m. ET on USA and online.

The Bundesliga and La Liga are on ESPN+ (and very occasionally ESPN or ABC). Some English Championship games are also on ESPN+.

Serie A and all UEFA competitions — the Champions League, Europa League and Conference League — are on CBS Sports Network and Paramount+. (So is the Scottish Premiership.)

Ligue 1 is on beIN Sports and beIN Sports Connect.

On the eve of his return to the Premier League, Fulham’s Robinson sees big year ahead

Last year was a huge year for Antonee Robinson helping to lead Fulham to promotion and the United States through qualifying. But the year ahead will build on that with his return to the Premier League and a likely spot on the U.S. team’s World Cup roster. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta spoke with “Jedi” about the past year while looking ahead to the big opportunities which await. 

AUGUST 04, 20225:50 PM

THE PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON gets underway this weekend and for Fulham, the goal is simple – to survive the season and chart a new course for the club as one that can survive as a regular competitor in England’s top-flight. Antonee Robinson joined the club two years ago and was part of both the relegation in 2021 and the impressive promotion last season.

This week, Robinson will turn 25 years old, and it will be a defining year. The hopes are that Fulham will find a way to survive in the Premier League, unlike its previous two campaigns in the top tier. Then there is the World Cup which will be played mid-season and it offers Robinson an opportunity to not only play in the biggest tournament, but also to possibly take on the country where he was both born and raised.This Saturday, Fulham has one of the most challenging opening games possible when it will host Liverpool at Craven Cottage. But the team is upbeat for the season and there is a lot of motivation for the group to set a new tone for the London-based club.

“Especially for the lads who stayed from the season when we’ve been relegated, it was a chance to redeem ourselves and fight back and earn our way back into the Premier League,” Robinson told ASN. “I think just sheerly through that it means a little bit more – the fact that we’ve brought the team to the Premier League this time. For me, personally, being part of the promotion fight, it makes me want to keep us in the Premier League where I feel like we belong.”Robinson was a key part of Fulham’s effort in getting promoted last season and it was certainly the most demanding season he has ever played. He made 33 starts over 36 appearances for Fulham last season while playing 3028 minutes. Combined with making 13 World Cup qualifying appearances for a total of 1060 minutes, Robinson played 4088 minutes for both club and country in the 2021/22 season.But last season was also the first time Robinson has been able to taste winning. His career to date has centered around Bolton, Wigan, and Fulham and every season until 2021/22 has been a relegation fight. Last year Robinson was able to partake in successful promotion and World Cup qualification campaigns – scoring twice for the U.S. team. 

“Last season, even being on a winning team, it was still just a really physically intense season,” Robinson explained. “The Championship always has been the same every year I’ve played in it. Especially ith World Cup qualifying, it made it very difficult but I came out of it on the other side with 50 or so games and playing good football at times, did pretty well with the national team and then being successful Fulham. Overall it was a really good season to boost confidence for myself as well.”All that does is raise stakes for the coming season when Robinson is in the Premier League and the World Cup as opposed to the Championship and qualifying.  When looking at the lessons he learned from Fulham’s relegation in 2020/21, he is able to recall specific games in great detail. In that season, Fulham lost its first six games, fought back into contention for survival, but squandered late goals for losses or draws towards the end.

“The mood around the team, it feels pretty similar to be honest,” Robinson said. “We have the same goal going into it. It’s just a couple different faces and it’s lads who have been in this position before who have the outlook of the experience of how it went last time to try and avoid the mistakes we fell into the last time round.”“A strong start would definitely help,” He continued. “Even if you take out the weak start the last time we were in the Premier League, towards the last third of the season, we had it in our control. A couple results our way would have got us to safety – and we never capitalized. We went through a streak of just like draws and losses. We just could not win a game to save our lives. Like when we go up against Villa and throw the game away. We should have beaten teams like Leeds and Burnley who were around us. We got punished. So going forward we know the importance of having the mentality to see a game out. Things like that will be massive this year.”During Robinson’s time at Fulham, one of the consistencies has been Tim Ream who, at age 34, was instrumental in the recent promotional effort. Robinson gets along with Ream well and the two Americans made up the left side of Fulham’s backline last year. Ream was named to the league’s Team of the Season by the Professional Footballer’s Association.

It remains to be seen if Ream will be a consistent starter for Fulham in the Premier League but Ream will likely see minutes this season and Robinson points out that the St. Louis native has an important role within the team that extends off the field as well.“Since Tom Cairney was injured a lot last season, Tim was pretty much the captain most of the season,” Robinson said of Ream. “He started every game which – for someone his age to start every game in the Championship and perform as well as he did – it’s nothing short of incredible, to be honest. He has a real calmness on the ball and a warrior spirit. He was fighting, throwing his head into tackles, getting cut every week. To have that as one of your baseline players, it really does lift the team.”

“Off the pitch, he was basically taking on the duties of being co-captain almost with Tom,” he added. “When it came to speaking to the management, staff and things like that, trying to organize stuff off the field and making sure that all the lads were happy and all the coaching staff were happy, and that we were working in unison – he was huge for us.”In November, the Premier League will take a break for the World Cup in a unique timeframe. For Robinson and the U.S. team, the World Cup will be an entirely new experience as DeAndre Yedlin is the only player to be capped recently by the U.S. team who has played in a World Cup.Robinson senses the excitement from players on the team but realizes that fight for roster spots remains competitive. Even with his heavy involvement in qualifying over the past year, he doesn’t put himself in the category of being a lock for Qatar – but that is a source of motivation for him.“There’re some guys on the team like Weston and Christian who everyone’s expecting to go if they are fit,” Robinson said. “Then there’s guys fighting for places – from the lads who are in MLS and the others in the European sides like myself, going into the season thinking I’ve got to be performing at the highest level I’ve ever performed to make sure I’m on my plane to Qatar.”But the team remains very close off the field, despite the competition. The team’s players are in regular contact with each other and are bonded by things sometimes beyond soccer. For instance, Robinson is one of four pianists in the player pool along with Weston McKennie, Erik Palmer-Brown, and Konrad de la Fuente. It’s a skill that Robinson proudly points out that he taught himself in his teenage years by watching YouTube videos.plan,” he added. “I think everyone can see how much of a brotherhood the group is.”After qualifying for the World Cup, the United States learned its fate that it would be in a group with England, Iran, and later it was determined Wales would be the final team added.Now as the Premier League season is set to get underway, it only makes the prospect of facing the country where he grew up even more exciting.“That’s definitely a surreal feeling,” Robinson said. “My dream was to be playing in the World Cup one day in general, but I definitely didn’t dream I was going to be playing for the US against England. It’s just something that I couldn’t have written when I was a kid, so hopefully I get to make that dream come true when we go and put on the show we can. Playing against England? Obviously, I’ve grew up here, lived here for my whole life and all the family and friends that are going to be watching my game for me obviously, but just the excitement of having the ties to both sides, it’s amazing, really.”

European soccer betting guide: Manchester City favored to win another Premier League title

By Dan SantaromitaAug 4, 2022

The European soccer season is getting an early start this season thanks to the World Cup taking place in November and December as opposed to this summer. That will wreak havoc on the club schedule, but also means we get the season starting this weekend in the Premier LeagueBundesliga and Ligue 1. La Liga and Serie A start next weekend.

As far as betting odds are concerned, all the familiar faces are favored. In four of the five biggest leagues, the defending champion is favored to repeat as champion. In three of the five leagues, there is a minus odds favorite.

All odds are from BetMGM.

English Premier League odds

Manchester City-140-5000
Manchester United+4000+150
Newcastle United+15000+800
West Ham+25000+1200
Leicester City+25000+1600

While the Champions League trophy still eludes Manchester City, the club has won back-to-back Premier League titles and four of the last five. Erling Haaland’s addition, in theory, is the missing piece up top City didn’t have in recent years.

Liverpool (+225) is a decent value on paper after finishing one point shy of City last season. The Reds sold Sadio Mané to Bayern Munich but spent big money to get Darwin Nuñez from Benfica in the attack.

It’s surprising to see Tottenham third in the title odds ahead of Chelsea. Spurs added Clement Lenglet (Barcelona) and Dejan Kulusevski (Juventus) on loan. Still, Chelsea finished ahead of Spurs last season and added Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) and Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli) while losing Antonio Rüdiger to Real Madrid.

The race for the top four to make the Champions League should be interesting again. Arsenal missed out on fourth by two points after losing two of its final three matches last season. The Gunners added Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko from Man City to boost their hopes of getting back into Europe’s top competition. Arsenal gets a tricky test to open the Premier League Friday at Crystal Palace, which was a solid 12th last season.

There isn’t much love for Erik ten Hag’s project at Manchester United. United has the sixth-best title odds but is only +150 to finish in the top four.

Top goalscorer odds

Erling Haaland+225
Mohamed Salah+450
Harry Kane+550
Darwin Nunez+850
Cristiano Ronaldo+1000
Gabriel Jesus+1000
Son Heung-Min+1200
Diogo Jota+2500
Callum Wilson+3300
Jamie Vardy+3300
Kai Havertz+3300
Kevin De Bruyne+3300
Luis Diaz+3300
Raheem Sterling+3300

The league’s top scorer race gets a new favorite in Haaland. It makes sense. After all, in the past two Bundesliga seasons, Haaland scored more goals (49) than he made starts (48) and now he doesn’t have to compete with Robert Lewandowski to win the golden boot. If Haaland stays healthy and takes penalties for City, he will be a factor.

However, it’s not yet clear if Haaland will take penalties. Riyad Mahrez and the now-departed Gabriel Jesus converted penalties in league play for City last season. Typically, the golden boot winner comes from a top six club and takes penalties.

Mo Salah and Son Heung-Min both scored 23 goals last season and Son did it without taking penalties for Spurs. Harry Kane takes penalties for Spurs and has averaged 22.5 goals in the last eight seasons. Especially if you believe the relatively bullish odds for Spurs, Kane seems like a good value here.

Relegation odds

Nottingham Forest+125
Leeds United+200
Crystal Palace+650
Brighton & Hove Albion+800

Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest are the newly promoted sides in the EPL this season. The oddsmakers expect Bournemouth to go back down and have Forest and Fulham next in the odds, but don’t expect all three to go down.

Since the Premier League expanded to 20 teams for the 1995-96 season, only one time did all three newly promoted teams get relegated back to the second tier. That happened in 1997-98 with Bolton Wanderers, Barnsley and Crystal Palace. In the last 26 seasons, 34 newly promoted sides went straight back down with all three surviving on four occasions, including as recently as the 2017-18 season.

Spanish La Liga odds

Real Madrid+110-1000
Atletico Madrid+550-300
Real Sociedad+5000+400
Real Betis+10000+450
Athletic Bilbao+20000+600

Barcelona was a mess much of last season, but still managed to finish second in La Liga with Xavi helming a late season surge as new manager. Now with Lewandowski in the fold it’s hard to overlook Barca, but it’s still not entirely clear what this team will look like with more moves, including departures, still expected.

Real Madrid didn’t appear especially dominant in its run to the Champions League title last season and has had numerous better La Liga seasons in terms of points, but Madrid just manages to win trophies. Los Merengues didn’t land the big fish in Kylian Mbappe and Rüdiger is the only big name addition so far this transfer window.

Beyond the league title race, the top goal scorer race could be fun as well. Lewandowski (+225) is just ahead of Madrid’s Karim Benzema (+250) after Benzema scored a career-high 27 La Liga goals last season.

Italian Serie A odds

Inter Milan+175-650
AC Milan+275-400

Italy had one of the most competitive title races last season and has the most competitive preseason odds this season. Defending champion Milan is only third in the odds. Juventus had won nine straight titles, but has finished fourth two years in a row.

Juve added Ángel Di María and Paul Pogba while seeing Giorgio Chiellini, Matthijs de Ligt and Paulo Dybala depart. Inter has Romelu Lukaku back on loan after a disappointing second stint with Chelsea. Lukaku scored 47 goals in two seasons with Inter before that move to Chelsea. Lukaku and Juve’s Dušan Vlahović are co-favorites for top scorer at +333 just like their clubs are co-favorites for the league title.

José Mourinho’s Roma got a boost in the odds as fourth-favorite to win the title and is even money to qualify for the Champions League despite finishing sixth last season. Roma added Dybala, Nemanja Matic (Man United) and is expected to sign former Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum.

German Bundesliga odds

Bayern Munich-500n/a
Borussia Dortmund+600-1400
RB Leipzig+900-400
Bayer Leverkusen+2800-155
Borussia Monchengladbach+10000+350
Eintracht Frankfurt+10000+400
VfL Wolfsburg+15000+350

Bayern Munich has won 10 straight Bundesliga titles and even after the loss of Lewandowski is still an overwhelming favorite to make it 11 in a row. Top challenger Borussia Dortmund also lost its leading striker in Haaland. The odds have last year’s top four as the favorites to be this year’s top four again as well.

With Lewandowski and Haaland gone, the top goalscorer race is wide open on paper. Leverkusen’s Patrik Schick (+300) is favored followed by new Bayern addition Mané (+350). Schick scored 24 times last season, second to Lewandowski’s 35.

We’ll get a look at Mané in a Bayern shirt Friday in the season opener at last season’s Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt.

French Ligue 1 odds


After failing to win the league title in 2020-21, PSG was back on top last season for its eighth Ligue 1 title in the last nine years. PSG won the title by 15 points and is the biggest favorite of any of the top five leagues.

Premier League preview: Predictions for the 2022-23 season

The Athletic UK StaffAug 4, 2022

The Premier League is back. The new season begins on Friday evening as Arsenal travel to Crystal Palace before everyone else piles in over the weekend.

Before the big kick-off, our writers have got their heads together to answer some of the crucial questions while also bravely predicting the final league table…

Who will win the Premier League and why?

Dominic Fifield: Manchester City will probably edge out Liverpool, just. Possibly. It may all boil down to good fortune in terms of injuries and how key performers cope with the distraction of a mid-season World Cup. In truth, both those teams appear utterly outstanding on paper and will benefit from revitalised front lines, which hardly seems fair on the rest.

Carl Anka: The Premier League is Manchester City’s until proven otherwise. Pep Guardiola has done more than just buy Erling Haaland: he’s recalibrated his attacking options to get the most out of him. Expect big seasons for Jack Grealish and Phil Foden as they feed the big man.

Grealish, GuardiolaGuardiola will be looking to get more out of Grealish this season (Photo: Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images)

Maram AlBaharna: The Premier League title has to be Manchester City’s. It will not be easy, but adding Haaland might just do it.

Stuart James: Toss-of-a-coin territory here, because there is still so little to choose between City and Liverpool. Haaland is a fantastic addition and, on the face of it, has made City better. It’s hard to argue the same right now about Darwin Nunez and Liverpool, purely because Sadio Mane was so good. But I just have a feeling that Liverpool will be hurting with how last season ended and that will give them a psychological edge.

Sarah Shephard: Unimaginative, I know, but Manchester City. Yes, they have lost the player who scored their second-highest number of goals (13 in the Premier League) last season in Raheem Sterling, and sold Gabriel Jesus (eight goals) but bringing in Haaland and Kalvin Phillips means they should not be weakened by those departures. I’m not sure I can say the same for Liverpool (who will be their closest rivals once again), who I suspect will feel the loss of Mane this season.

Who else will qualify for the Champions League?

Dominic Fifield: Tottenham Hotspur feel like a team on the up once again, overseen by a ferociously competitive and driven head coach who, for once, should actually be satisfied with his club’s business in the market (though he probably won’t be). It is hard to judge Chelsea before the closure of the transfer window, but they have spent their summer playing catch-up post-takeoverManchester United, too, are a mystery but may be coming from too far back to oust Thomas Tuchel’s side from the top four. More of a threat to Boehly-Clearlake could be Arsenal. But we’ve said that before and been left looking foolish.


Carl Anka: Let me not overthink things: Liverpool are coming second (but with a larger points gap than usual to City). Spurs are coming third. Chelsea look combustible and with a misfiring attack, but they should be able to fend off Manchester United and Arsenal to secure that final top-four slot.

Maram AlBaharna: My hot take of the season is Tottenham will find themselves in a title race they cannot edge, leaving them second. Liverpool, obviously, and then you have Arsenal, who are getting louder and louder each season.

Stuart James: The sort of question designed to trip me up, bearing in mind that I predicted, with about 10 games to go last season, that Arsenal would finish above Tottenham. Spurs seem in a better place than Chelsea right now, which means it’s a three-way fight between Tuchel’s team, Arsenal and Manchester United for that final place. Chelsea to get fourth, just.

Sarah Shephard: Liverpool, obviously. And then, well, I have a feeling Chelsea will do better than many are predicting this season and then it comes down to a shootout between Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United. Push me, and I’d have to give Spurs the nod. Just.

Who will be relegated and why?

Dominic Fifield: Bournemouth have been cautious in the market and may not be equipped for a top-flight campaign, particularly given the brutal nature of their opening run of fixtures. Recovering from that would be some feat. Fulham need to add more quality in what remains of the window, while the sheer level of upheaval at Nottingham Forest (even if it was required) brings with it considerable risk. That said, Southampton, who have also recruited heavily, will need to exorcise some of the miserable memories of the tail end of last season to avoid a decidedly difficult campaign.

Carl Anka: I’ve been burned twice by “Aleksandar Mitrovic — Premier League striker”, and even if he’s a more complete player now, Fulham’s squad isn’t much better than the one that got relegated in 2020-21. Bournemouth are a big shrug. Nottingham Forest’s squad looks “too weird to stay up” but I think they’ll make a late escape and doom Leeds to 18th place.

Maram AlBaharna: I have a feeling we’ll see a repeat of the Championship to Premier League to Championship seesaw for Fulham, Bournemouth and Nottingham Forest. Mitrovic has tricked me too many times into believing he can replicate his numbers in the top flight, Bournemouth look forgettable given their transfer activity (or lack thereof…) and Forest’s massive shopping spree will be too big to handle.

Our writers feel Parker’s Bournemouth will struggle this season

Stuart James: Bournemouth — Scott Parker has pretty much admitted that’s on the cards. “This squad is much weaker than it was when we got promotion,” Bournemouth’s manager said. I can see Fulham, Parker’s former club, struggling too. As for the other member of the promoted trio, who knows what to expect from Forest given their transfer activity, but the fact they’ve been out of the Premier League for so long could work in their favour — the City Ground will be bouncing. If I had to pick a faller from the rest, I’d say Southampton.

Sarah Shephard: I fear for Bournemouth, looking at their lack of transfer activity and logic tells me Fulham are the yo-yo team who will never die. Nottingham Forest will have a tough season but just about survive. In the wake of losing their best player (Richarlison) and no true replacement yet arriving, I can see Everton sinking into the danger zone again.

Which manager is going to get sacked first?

Dominic Fifield: The disquiet at St Mary’s at the end of last season will make a decent start imperative for Ralph Hasenhuttl, though panic could set in quicker at Bournemouth, leaving Parker in peril. A slack opening for Wolves, too, might thrust some of the focus on Bruno Lage.

Carl Anka: (Jokingly) One of the smaller clubs that gets to Christmas and realises they need to course correct to stay up. (Serious) No, but Frank Lampard’s job is in real danger.

Maram AlBaharna: Yes, it’s Frank Lampard.

Stuart James: Narrowing this down to Marco Silva, Lampard, Jesse Marsch, Ralph Hasenhuttl and Lage — crikey, that’s a quarter of the Premier League managers… and maybe Parker should be in there too. Fulham’s opening fixtures — Liverpool, Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea in the first seven games – don’t make for good reading, so it’s Silva on that basis.


Sarah Shephard: Given the above, Lampard could find that thinning head of hair becoming increasingly scarce.

Who will score the most goals? Rank from highest to lowest from Haaland, Nunez, Jesus, Richarlison, Sterling.

Dominic Fifield: 1, Haaland, 2, Sterling, 3, Jesus, 4, Nunez, 5, Richarlison

Carl Anka: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3, Nunez, 4, Sterling, 5, Richarlison

Maram AlBaharna: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3, Sterling, 4, Richarlison, 5, Nunez

Stuart James: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3, Nunez, 4, Sterling, 5, Richarlison

Sarah Shephard: 1, Haaland, 2, Jesus, 3,  Sterling, 4, Nunez, 5, Richarlison

Whose season will be helped most by the World Cup?

Dominic Fifield: A team who has hardly any players at the tournament. So, basically, plenty of those fighting relegation will have a month to lick their wounds before they go again.

Carl Anka: (Briefly looks at attacking players who won’t be travelling to the World Cup and sees Mohamed Salah and Haaland on the list, shakes head and remembers the true edge is found further down the table) I can see Aston Villa having a better time in the second half of the season.

Maram AlBaharna: Very tempted by the big names that will be left behind — Salah, Riyad Mahrez, Haaland — but something tells me it’s the teams cage-fighting at the bottom who would benefit from a ceasefire for a month to re-group.

How much will Liverpool benefit from Salah not being at the World Cup? (Photo: Jan Kruger – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

Stuart James: Easy to overthink this one. Individually, Haaland and Salah spring to mind immediately — they’ll have their feet up at home. Collectively, you’d have to think that bottom-half-of-the-table clubs will benefit because, by and large, they’ll have fewer players at the World Cup. Hang on, though, don’t the top clubs have bigger squads… see, I’m overthinking it.

Sarah Shephard: The promoted teams and clubs with fewer internationals who won’t have to deal with the aftermath of a mid-season major tournament. Also, any team who has a bad start to the season. The break will give them time to pause and reset — not something Premier League clubs often get an opportunity to do at that time of year.

And whose will be hindered most by it?

Dominic Fifield: There will inevitably be a sense of deflation — an emotional hangover — from the finals, experienced most by players whose nations consider themselves contenders. To that end, the potential for most of those competing at the top of the division to suffer in the aftermath is surely very real. To counter that, one suspects Haaland and Salah, absent from Qatar, may fancy reminding the watching world of their credentials post-tournament — which may mean defenders up and down the division are the ones to suffer the backlash.

Carl Anka: Antonio Conte has spent much of this summer making smart moves in the transfer market and beasting his players into top physical shape. You can see Spurs starting the season very well and provoking “Three-horse title race?” questions… only for Harry Kane and others to knacker themselves at the World Cup. (They should still finish in the top four at a canter.)

Maram AlBaharna: Kane coming back dead on his feet after an intense World Cup and slowing down Conte’s momentum in a title race.

Stuart James: The biggest danger is players who come back having done really well and domestic football is then viewed as an anti-climax. I remember speaking to some of the Wales players about that post-Euro 2016 — it was quite a hangover. “A massive, massive comedown,” Neil Taylor said. Anyway, I guess you need to know a team: Spurs.

Sarah Shephard: Tottenham are set to lose several key players, including Kane and Son Heung-min. Arsenal could also lose some, including Bukayo SakaGranit Xhaka and the three Gabriels (Martinelli, Magalhaes and Jesus).

Whose upcoming season would you most like to be turned into a documentary?

Dominic Fifield: Chelsea and Boehly-Clearlake are a blockbuster in-waiting, learning about the treacherous nature of the football industry on the hoof. Watching how they fling themselves into transfer negotiations, as the deadline ticks ever closer and a level of panic sets in, would surely be compulsive viewing.

Carl Anka: I cannot stop thinking about Manchester United spending more than half of 2021-22 having tactical advice transmitted from Russia into a man’s earphones. Erik ten Hag could do without the extra scrutiny, but I want to see how he deals with the executive dysfunction of the world’s strangest superclub.

Maram AlBaharna: Manchester United. Chaos seems to pop up like whack-a-mole for this strange club, on and off the pitch.

Stuart James: Manchester United or Chelsea are the obvious candidates, given the turbulence behind the scenes. The bit that I always find most interesting in documentaries is what the manager has to say in the dressing room and on the training ground. I’d love to see Tuchel at work (unedited).

Sarah Shephard: Tottenham’s. Conte’s lack of filter plus ever-present television cameras is the perfect recipe for a second season.

Which tactical innovation should we look out for?

Dominic Fifield: It will be intriguing to see whether, as threatened, Thomas Tuchel ditches his back three. Or, indeed, Patrick Vieira takes up the tactic across the capital at Crystal Palace. Teams’ use of the five-substitute rule, the adoption of which still fills me with dismay (apologies to all the big clubs), will also be interesting. Will games become fractured late on amid a rush of changes? Will it be used as a time-wasting tactic? Will younger players really benefit somehow?

Carl Anka: Last time Conte had a good Premier League spell, many teams had a go at employing his 3-4-2-1 system. Not every team can play inverted full-backs like Guardiola, so I’m going to say this season will see a lot of managers try to ape Conte’s use of wing-backs.

Maram AlBaharna: The rise of the inverted full-back — we saw it with Joao Cancelo and Klopp operating Trent Alexander-Arnold infield — but with the introduction of Ten Hag, especially if new signing Tyrell Malacia plays regularly, we’re going to see the trend of wide wingers and tucked in full-backs more often.

Stuart James: In my mind, the five-substitutes rule increases the likelihood of a player being dragged off at half-time, not least because there is an additional opportunity to make a change at the interval on top of the three occasions during the game, and there are now nine subs to choose from, too. In other news, I’m intrigued to see how United set up on goal kicks (in possession) this season.

Sarah Shephard: The introduction of the five-sub rule opens up a host of possibilities in terms of tactical exploitation. As the season reaches make-or-break point next April/May, it will be interesting to see how many of those subs get made in the dying minutes of a game one team is desperately trying to close out.

Which player is going to have a breakout season?

Dominic Fifield: The rave reviews from France suggest Cheick Doucoure could take English football by storm at Palace, though it will be just as intriguing to see how Michael Olise and Malcolm Ebiowei fare at Selhurst Park this season. Everything about Vieira’s forward options is thrilling.

Cheick DoucoureExpect a big season for Crystal Palace signing Cheick Doucoure (Photo: Crystal Palace)

Carl Anka: Doucoure is going to be a mainstay on best players outside of the top-six lists, along with Gianluca Scamacca. That both players will be at non-Champions League competing clubs in 2022-23 speaks to the financial strength of the Premier League. That’s simultaneously a good thing, and somewhat concerning.

Maram AlBaharna: The struggle is to pick one of Palace’s many talents but I have a feeling Doucoure will shock the Premier League. He has the ideal skill set to succeed (excellent anticipation, how to break the lines, dribble and defend) — he works in the shadows but he’ll be known.


Stuart James: I’d love to say Flynn Downes at West Ham, but that would be the heart and not the head talking — he’ll need time to adapt. Guess it depends on how we define “breakout”… Jesus has never started 25 Premier League games in a season — what can he do as a mandatory pick, as the go-to man to lead the line? Answer: score a lot of goals (probably).

Sarah Shephard: William Saliba is yet to play a competitive game for Arsenal but with Takehiro Tomiyasu out injured, he is likely to start the season at centre-half with Ben White filling in at right-back. If Saliba fulfils the potential he showed on loan at Marseille last season, he could become a fixture at the heart of Arsenal’s defence (and earn himself a place in France’s World Cup squad).

Which club will surprise everyone?

Dominic Fifield: Possibly Chelsea. Though not necessarily in a good way.

Carl Anka: Everton will be fine in the end.

Maram AlBaharna: Crystal Palace will challenge for a European spot.

Stuart James: Arsenal. Don’t ask me in what way. But just look at last season: calamitous start — written off. Impressive turnaround — top-four candidates. Then blowing it at the end.

Sarah Shephard: Brighton finished ninth last season and, such is my faith in Graham Potter, they could surprise everyone by finishing even higher this time around.

Friday Newsletter: On Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Much More

Plus my answers to a large Mailbag-full of your questions

Grant WahlAug 5
Gabriel Martinelli scored Arsenal’s first goal of the new season Friday (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

It’s a great day. I’m sitting in front of my TV watching Crystal Palace-Arsenal in the opening game of the Premier League season, and I’m preparing to park myself in the same place tomorrow to watch a few more games and get a handle on where teams are to kick off the new season. 

First off, a couple thoughts about Friday’s league openers:


Maybe it’s because I just watched the start of the Arsenal All or Nothing series last night, but the absolute debacle of a start to last season is still on my mind. So winning deservedly at a pretty good Palace side to kick off the new season is a sea change that will no doubt raise the expectations of Arsenal fans around the world that this, indeed, will be the year. 


You thought the Europa League champion, the team that eliminated Barcelona from that competition, would be ready to make a statement in the Bundesliga’s opening game against the 10-time-defending champion? Well, a statement got made. Congrats to Bayern on winning the title. (This isn’t good, at all, for the Bundesliga.)

Let’s make this Friday Newsletter a full mailbag. You all sent in some fun questions, so I’ll dive in:

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When do you think Laporta and crew will take all the trophies down to the local pawn shop or put them on eBay? (Seriously, very sad to be watching Barcelona and its legacy crumble before our eyes.)

Jim Bacharach

I wrote this tweet a couple nights ago:

Grant Wahl @GrantWahlHave always had affection for FC Barcelona, but what the club has done this summer trying to force players into taking pay cuts while spending wildly on new players is extremely distasteful.August 3rd 2022123 Retweets2,310 Likes

Look, I don’t have any problem saying that I have always felt positive vibes toward FC Barcelona. At one point they really did have some of the best teams we’ve ever seen in this sport, and there really was a sense that it stood for something more than just a sports team. But those days seem gone. No sane person would think the solution to being in more than a billion dollars in debt would be to try to pressure current players into taking salary cuts, mortgage future TV earnings and then spend without end to bring more stars into the team. As much as anything, Barcelona is showing why having member-owned clubs and elections (as opposed to an actual owner) is a bad idea in the modern game.

The funny thing is, La Liga might not let Barcelona register all their new signings. Stay tuned.

Which European-based USMNT player will raise their profile the most by their club performance leading up to the World Cup? (I think Brenden Aaronson will hit the ground running at Leeds and surprise a lot of people who haven’t seen him play.)


I agree with you on Aarsonson. For starters, not that many people saw him play in the Austrian Bundesliga last season, and in Champions League (and during Leeds United’s preseason)  he really has shown that he has taken a steep step upward in quality since his MLS days. The training session I saw Aaronson in last week in Leeds showed he’s ready to break out and be an absolute star, a player who produces goals and assists on a regular basis.

What’s going on with John Brooks? Are many clubs averse to signing him for the same reason(s) he hasn’t gotten a USMNT callup in nearly a year?


For anyone who doesn’t know, Brooks remains an unsigned free agent for now after his contract expired with Wolfsburg. The latest reports have linked him to Feyenoord in the Netherlands, but Brooks really does need to find a landing spot so that 1) he can resurrect his club career, and 2) he can at least make a case to be part of the USMNT for the World Cup. My sense is he wants a certain level of income—remember, he has made a lot of money in his career—but I was personally hoping he would come to an MLS team during the window, which didn’t happen. 

Will Jesse Marsch be scapegoated at Leeds for WC fatigue in fellow Americans Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson (with home supporters blaming the Americans for failing to live up to replacement expectations for fan favorites Marcelo Bielsa, Kalvin Phillips and Raphinia)?

Paul Krieg

The word “scapegoated” suggests you’re already making an assumption that something bad will happen and/or that Aaronson and Adams won’t have enough energy or stamina. I’m not so sure that’s the case. What I would say are a couple things: 1) There is a wide variation of potential outcomes for Leeds United in my mind. I think LUFC could end up in another relegation battle, or it might finish as high as eighth or ninth in the league; 2) Aaronson and Adams are already viewed as big additions inside the team (I learned that in person last week), though I think it’s important to note that Phillips left for Man City and Raphinia for Barcelona. As for Bielsa, he’ll always be remembered for improving Leeds’s culture and getting them back to the Premier League, but it was crystal clear that he needed to go when he did. His approach on a daily basis just isn’t sustainable for very long, and he’s not missed by people inside the club (players or staff).

Ronaldo wants to leave a messed up Man U. His perfect move is to MLS where he will be made extremely welcome for a couple of years and will continue to be a star. In MLS he will be a bigger star than Beckham and help grow the game in USA.

Alan Hinton

I’m not 100 percent sold that Ronaldo at 37 would be a bigger star in MLS than Beckham was at 31. But I do agree with you, Alan, that MLS would be the right move for Ronaldo to make right now. He wants to play in the Champions League, but there’s not a Champions League team that appears to want Ronaldo right now (correctly viewing Ronaldo’s net-negative impact at Man United and Juventus). That’s why I think he’ll stay at United in the end this season.

How do you think USWNT will fare against the Lionesses? Will be interesting to see Vlatko’s lineup. They certainly won’t be as dialed in as England’s squad. A loss won’t be fatal but will throw shade on his progress and whether he is the ONE.

Michael Richard

If I had to pick a winner for the October 7 England-USA game at Wembley, I’d lean toward England. The atmosphere and 90,000 crowd will be intensely supportive of the hosts, and I feel like England is farther along in terms of its chemistry than this U.S. team is right now. But I think it’s important to add that this showdown is the kind that the U.S. players really get up for. If any team in the women’s game would be called (to use Jürgen Klopp’s words) “mentality monsters,” it would be the USWNT. And we might well see that again in October.

Who do you see as surprise candidates to surface for the USMNT or the USWNT in time for their respective World Cup competitions?

Theodore Morehouse

Forward Brandon Vázquez from Cincinnati (13 goals, 4 assists) is making a great case to be included in the USMNT squad for the World Cup, especially if there are 26 spots. Meanwhile, 17-year-old Jaedyn Shaw (recently signed by San Diego) has a rocket next to her name and could be hard to keep off the World Cup roster next year.

Riqui Puig has a better, longer and less controversial run in LA than Yasiel Puig. Yes or no?

Bob L

Yes! (These are my readers.)

What are your thoughts on the work Pablo Mauer has done for The Athletic? I have really enjoyed his long pieces on the stories and quirks regarding the history of US soccer.

Vincent Stravino

Pablo is not only a friend, but he’s also a tremendous journalist and photographer (and mechanic!). Anytime someone can write so many good stories of a certain type that there becomes a genre associated with their name is a great sign for someone. This job isn’t easy, but Pablo has a great sense for what would make a good story, and then he goes completely down the rabbit hole to report it before executing a well-written and organized piece. All of those things are challenging, and he does them.

How do you think limited travel at this year’s World Cup will impact the experience of teams and fans?


There are a bunch of huge issues with Qatar hosting the World Cup, but the limited travel is not one of them. Travel ordeals inside big World Cup countries can really take away from enjoying the experience, and that shouldn’t be a big problem later this year. (That is, as long as everyone can find hotel rooms.) 

Would Gregg Berhalter benefit the USMNT by bringing on someone like Landon Donovan as part of the staff for the World Cup? In a similar way Argentina is bringing Sergio Aguero along? Not just for the experience, and inspiration he can impart on the young group, but also since he’s now a coach in his own right?


It’s not a bad idea, since Donovan has had World Cup experiences like very few Americans. I just don’t see it happening, not least because Berhalter himself has competed in World Cups, and he’s very data-oriented, which is why he added a set-piece coach ahead of the World Cup but not someone like Donovan. Besides, we need Landon for our podcast discussions!

What’s your take on the Miazga move back to MLS? Will he partner with or replace Cameron at FCC? Any chance of getting back into the USMNT mix? Were all those years loaned out by CFC lost, or has he improved while doing so?


I’m glad to see MIazga back in MLS. I think he still has the potential to return to the national team, and I wish he hadn’t gone the Chelsea route (hence: loans) a few years ago. I figure he’ll play with Geoff Cameron at Cincinnati, not in place of him, and this is another step in Cincy becoming a regular playoff contender instead of a league doormat.

Is your mind blown by the attendance numbers for women’s soccer this year, especially in Europe? I love this and really hope it continues.

Tom Terry

Big crowds really have been a theme of the year in women’s soccer, from England’s games at the Euros to Barcelona drawing 90,000-plus twice for home Champions League games to Morocco getting nearly 50,000 for home AFCON games to Colombia drawing 28,000 for the Copa América final to Angel City regularly filling up its stadium in Los Angeles. You can be certain England-USA will get upwards of 90,000 in October for their friendly. This will only continue.

Have a great weekend!

1999, 2011 and 2022: Comparing England women’s landmark moment to the USWNT’s

By Meg LinehanAug 3, 202235

Only days after filling Wembley Stadium with a record 87,192 people en route to their Euro 2022 win, the England women’s team have announced their return to the venue — this time, in October, against the U.S. Within 24 hours of the announcement, all general admission tickets had already sold out, with the queue to buy tickets stretching to a two-hour-plus wait.

There is one small caveat, in that the friendly is dependent upon England’s qualification for the 2023 World Cup in the September international window (they can do so with at least a draw against Austria, or a win at home against Luxembourg), but both federations forged ahead, knowing the demand for the fixture would be at a high point on both sides of the Atlantic.We’re all still in the glowing aftermath of Sunday’s Euro final, where new and casual fans are more easily converted. Wallets are opening. Ticket sales are booming. Players are earning new followers across social media at an absurd rate. As expected, the rising tide has come in — but what’s most exciting about England’s victory goes well beyond all the virtuous growth we can expect from a major tournament win.

We often talk about game-changing moments in women’s sports, about inflection points — but while these can be hard to assign in real time, women’s football has leaned on this language for decades. Progress has never been quite so clean and easy, however. For every major win and advancement, there are still steps backwards. But more importantly, there is so much work that must happen in order for these moments to truly stick and move the game forward.If there’s one moment we can all agree on as a turning point in the U.S., of course, it’s hosting the 1999 World Cup: a sold out Rose Bowl, Briana Scurry’s penalty kick save, Brandi Chastain on her knees, shirt in hand, screaming up to the sky in victory. It’s the tournament that changed an entire generation and launched a professional domestic league. It’s the tournament that changed my life, too.The parallels to 1999 were already easy to spot in England, even before Chloe Kelly whipped off her shirt (with one noticeable difference: a moment’s hesitation to ensure the goal stood, in this brave new world of VAR) England’s Euro win stands as its own accomplishment, and there is no direct one-to-one comparison, though. While 1999 isn’t inaccurate, especially considering the tournament being on home soil, it’s also incomplete. There are shades of 2011 here, too. While the U.S. did not lift the World Cup trophy in Germany that year, the memorable match against Brazil kicked off the modern era of the USWNT and the massive changes around the team’s reach and support over the next decade. 

The game has changed drastically. The sport is in a completely different state compared to 11 years ago, or two decades ago, with the growth of domestic leagues and the Champions League in Europe. In 2023, the World Cup will finally feature 32 teams (as recently as 2011, there were just 16 teams), and we’ve seen increased competition quality during every single qualifying tournament this past cycle.

From ‘99 to ‘11, and now ‘22, what’s so exciting about the latest moment on this list is that England’s win does not feel like a one-off or standalone event. Their win is in conversation with other huge accomplishments across the women’s game, particularly historic attendance numbers over the past year at the club level. England’s win matters on a global level thanks to the wider burst of attention and record-setting attendance and viewership figures we’ve seen lately, but England can prove this in the long-term by working to set a new standard by spreading a single success’ impact across all levels of the sport — from grassroots to pros.The team itself is already using their platform to push at the grassroots level, issuing an open letter to prime minister contenders Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss to remind them that only 63 percent of girls across the country can currently play football in school during physical education classes, and demanding that “all girls have access to a minimum of 2 hours PE,” as well as additional investment for more female PE instructors.Here in the U.S., the primary question over the past two decades has been how to maximize World Cup audiences to either launch or grow a professional league. It has not been tidy work, even as there has been progress, and we’ve been too dependent upon this as the primary accelerant for the sport. The major tournament approach has not been sustainable, even though the NWSL is an immediate option for new fans to follow, watch and attend. The WSL season doesn’t start until September 10, which will provide a fascinating case study to see if having a month to build off the momentum of the Euros provides a greater opportunity not just to sell tickets, but to educate new fans about the league itself. The NWSL struggled with this in 2015 and 2019, posting good numbers for a few matches before coming back down to earth by the end of the season after the USWNT’s World Cup successes. 

In 2019, only days after the USWNT had won the World Cup, Laura Harvey’s Utah Royals FC faced Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Field in front of 1,842 people, and the frustration was so clear: the league needed to be far more proactive to fully take advantage of the moment. 

“I just hope that we do it, I pray that we do it, and we do it in the right way, and we don’t just expect that because they won means people are going to come to games. It just doesn’t work like that,” Harvey told The Athletic.

Ultimately, Harvey stressed, it was not U.S. Soccer’s responsibility to grow the league — that instead fell to everyone involved with the league at every level. And if there’s one immediate next step for England here, it’s one that the U.S. has recently gone through itself, post-2019 World Cup win: an amicable divorce between the FA and the professional league. The NWSL and U.S. Soccer Federation might not necessarily be a perfect model here, but despite all the fears around the league’s sustainability without the federation’s influence, the NWSL has shown that controlling its own fate is the best path forward, not just when it comes to growth (from sponsorships to expansion, and so on), but for simply always having the league as the first and only item on the to-do list.Even though that’s a top priority for the league, England has four key ingredients for even greater success at the club level — regardless of who’s at the top — beyond the current Euros-inspired moment. 

First: accessibility, with a three-year television deal between the WSL and Sky Sports/the BBC (plus additional games on their own FA player that are free to stream). Those same deals also provide the next major piece: established commercial revenue, with £7 million being paid per year for the media rights — though it’s easy to assume the inbound sponsorship offers are going to increase over the next month for the league.Third, the WSL will feature in EA Sports FIFA 23 at launch, providing yet another path to introduce new fans to the league and its players. Chelsea’s Sam Kerr is on the cover, alongside Kylian Mbappe on the ultimate edition of the game; eventually the 2023 World Cup will be playable in game, too. It’s not just how many copies might be bought to play as the Lionesses or someone’s favorite WSL team, but there could be a significant breakthrough if existing users check out the women’s game thanks to the Euros.

Finally, the WSL’s best advantage is one that might have at times been a double-edged sword: established club brands with built-in loyalties. While teams like Manchester United and Liverpool have had their fair share of criticism for slow-playing the investment into their women’s sides over the years, there’s a massive potential windfall ahead of them if they go all-in on the women’s game. 

Multiple WSL teams have already announced games will be played at Premier League stadiums this season. Chelsea will open their season at Stamford Bridge (capacity 41,837) rather than Kingsmeadow (capacity 4,850), and the Merseyside and Manchester derbies will be played at Anfield and the Etihad, respectively. We can only hope that an influx of investment will allow for stakeholders to push on advancements in facilities and standards across the league, as well as potential expansion for the WSL.There’s honestly a lot to be jealous of from this side of the Atlantic — but the moment will have a ripple effect here, too.The NWSL will need to up its game across the board, and increase investment, to prove itself as a top-quality league that can attract and retain international talent. Television numbers like 885,000 viewers in the U.S. for the final between England and Germany could force the issue of increased broadcast investment and accessibility in America, as well, with ESPN’s production value across the entire tournament setting a new standard.No matter what, the lens through which we view things has once again changed: there’s before and after last Sunday, and the race is on to make the most of it before a golden opportunity slips away. Alongside ‘99 and 2011, ‘22 has joined the list of major soccer moments.

Picking the best and worst of Euro 2022: From once-in-a-lifetime goals to late trains and broken Wi-Fi

There’s never any shortage of world football matches going on at any given time — just look at the diverse offerings on ESPN+ — but what makes a tournament like the Women’s Euro 2022 so special is that it has the very best on offer.Some of the best goals, best saves and best performances happened in England this summer during the Euros. But there’s always that flipside in sport, where with the best you find a bit of the worst, too.With that in mind, ESPN’s writers who covered the tournament throughout July are weighing in with their best and worst of Euro 2022. Here are Tom Hamilton, Sophie Lawson, and Mark Ogden with their superlatives from a memorable summer.


Best goal

Hamilton: Well, it has to be Alessia Russo‘s backheel against Sweden. It was an outrageous piece of skill, which nutmegged two players and closed out the match. It said everything about this group of players — they had the confidence to try the outrageous but it also spoke to Russo’s mental strength. Just seconds previously she missed a chance that she should’ve scored. But instead of halting in her tracks, she chased the rebound and then backheeled the ball past half of Sweden and into the far corner.

Lawson: Firstly, shout-out to all the group stage bangers from just inside/outside the box that curled to snuggle inside of the post — there was a raft of them and they were great, but have all been DWARFED by that damn Russo goal that we are all going to pick. Cool, calm, collected, deft and just filthy… and of course, enough to deny Sweden any route back into the match so, important to boot.

Ogden: Tough one. The obvious answer is Russo’s back-heel goal against Sweden — being there to see it live was like watching Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo do something magical — but in terms of importance, I’m going to go with Georgia Stanway’s come-from-behind winner in England’s quarterfinal win against Spain. It was a tight game, heading for penalties, but Stanway grabbed the moment and claimed the win with a goal that had echoes of Bobby Charlton’s goals in 1966 or the kind of spectacular strike that once typified David Beckham and Wayne Rooney. Stanway’s goal puts her in that bracket.

Best player

Hamilton: That midfield duo at the heart of England’s midfield have been magnificent. Georgia Stanway has played brilliantly with her goal against Spain the sort worthy of winning any quarterfinal, but I’m going for Keira Walsh. She’s been absolutely outstanding for England and has been absolutely instrumental in all of their transitional play, while also acting as the wall in front of England’s back four. She’s already had her face projected onto the National Gallery in London, but her performances here have cemented her as a national superstar.

Lawson: Seeing as I wrote a whole article about Lena Oberdorf being the best player at the tournament

The midfielder has been fantastic this summer, reading the game like someone twice her age, standing up to all challenges and chaining up some of the biggest attacking threats at the Euros. At a tournament when we’ve looked to the attacks and kept talking about the Golden Boot race, the 20-year-old has been putting on a clinic game after game — and anyway, goal scorers are so passé.

Ogden: Leah Williamson has been majestic in the heart of defence for England, not only with her reading of the game and passing ability, but also her leadership as captain. Other players have had more spectacular tournaments, but Williamson has been quietly outstanding. Special mention also should go to her defensive partner Millie Bright who has been the perfect foil for Williamson.

Most disappointing player

Hamilton: I expected and hoped for so much more from Ada Hegerberg and Norway. She’s an incredible talent but her lack of chances at the tournament was symptomatic of the deeply underwhelming Norway team. Against Austria it was her sort of stage, but she was misfiring and that’s not like her. In a match Norway had to win to get through the group stage, they didn’t manage a single shot on target until the 89th minute. This will have hurt Hegerberg and expect to see a response from her at next year’s World Cup.

Lawson: Can I say every Italy player? Coming into the tournament, I knew Norway, Spain and the Netherlands had their issues so I’m not too surprised about their underwhelming performances — but Italy’s complete collapse against France and inability to correct themselves for their next two games was jarring. There were glimpses from some of the attackers of the talent that was lurking but match after match, we saw an 11 that was just staggeringly below their level, disappointing doesn’t even cut it.


Ogden: I’m not going to single out a player for underperforming, basically because this has been a tournament that has showcased the best of the women’s game rather than any negative elements. But it was a blow for the tournament that Spain’s Alexia Putellas missed out with a cruciate ligament injury. It would also have been good to have seen more of England’s Nikita Parris than brief glimpses from the substitutes’ bench.

Best save

Hamilton: How different the whole game may have been had Mary Earps not managed to keep out Sofia Jakobsson’s effort in the first minute of England’s semifinal against Sweden. She made a box office save later in the match under her own crossbar, but that save first up was absolutely key. Jakobsson managed to find space on the left and fired a shot in at Earps’ far post. Earps instinctively stuck out her left leg and managed to deflect it clear. Had that gone in, that match would have gone very differently.

Lawson: It’s worth remembering that we saw some cracking saves from Daphne van Domselaar, Merle Frohms and Nicky Evrard but I’m going to go a little out of the box here and say Mary Earps against Austria. It was a late effort from Barbara Dunst, but exactly the type she likes when she can work the space and lash a curler towards goal, but Earps getting across to deny the 24-year-old one of the goals of the tournament carried extra significance. Not only was it a textbook “good” save but it kept Earps’ clean sheet, giving her more confidence for the subsequent games but it ensured England held onto all three points to start the tournament with a win; again, a firmer foundation the team were able to build upon.

Ogden: This has been the Mary Earps show. Two crucial saves in the semi against Sweden — in the first minute and then tipping over from Stina Blackstenius moments before Alessia Russo made it 3-0. The Blackstenius save was huge because, had that one gone in, a 2-1 lead with 20 minutes to go would have ensured a totally different end to the game and could have motivated the Swedes to haul themselves level.

Best game

Hamilton: England’s quarterfinal win over Spain was one of the most nervy and tense matches I can remember. It was a match where Spain dominated much of the first 60 minutes, only to then eventually fall to Ella Toone’s late equaliser and Georgia Stanway’s extra-time winner. We got to witness the complete brilliance of Aitana Bonmati, and Spain’s intricate passing — had they had a fit Jennifer Hermoso, England would have been in trouble. But then we also saw the heroic performance of Millie Bright at the heart of England’s defence and Stanway’s blockbuster winner. It was a brilliant match, in a superb atmosphere and was everything this tournament’s about.

Lawson: This is a horrible question to ask someone who’s reported on half of them in this heat, leaving one big melty blob of a memory of the entire month … that being said, the Germany-France semi-final was up there in terms of tension and, let’s be boring here but, solid defensive structures and counter-pressing. There is something to be said for a match that’s so tightly contested, yes yes, most fans would rather see their team sow it up early with some outrageous attacking but the stress of a close game when so much is riding on it, makes it stick out in the mind.

Ogden: It has to be the final, doesn’t it? England-Spain and Germany-France were both seismic games that could have gone either way, but the final had everything. Two top teams who were so well-matched and England had to show real grit and determination to win before the audacity and skill of Ella Toone gave them the breakthrough. But Germany equalised and took the game into extra-time to add to the tension, only for Chloe Kelly to seal victory for England and save us / deny us the drama of a penalty shootout.

Worst game

Hamilton: The Sweden-Belgium game was a struggle to watch. It was attack against defence and despite the remarkable performance from Belgium keeper Nicky Evrard, it was cagey and error-strewn. Eventually Sweden broke Belgium’s resolve with a 92nd minute goal from Linda Sembrant, but it was a match that promised so much more.

Lawson: I personally do not like drubbings, and not just because I support a club team who has frequently been on the receiving end of them, so, for me, it’s the 8-0. You can say a dull 0-0 is the worst but those games are usually, easily forgotten but the complete capitulation from Norway to the point that they weren’t even trying to defend was deeply uncomfortable and will be consigned to women’s football infamy. Worst defending, worst individual performances, worst in-game management, worst defeat in Norwegian and Euros history. Overall, a terrible look for the women’s game.

Wiegman: England’s Euro win will help change society

Sarina Wiegman speaks about the lasting impact of England’s win at the Women’s European Championship.

Ogden: When you look back on England’s performance throughout the tournament, the opening game against Austria — a 1-0 win at Old Trafford — was pretty dull in comparison to what was to come. Opening games are always a challenge due to the desperation of both teams to avoid a bad start and that was evident in this game. But things got better — much better.

Best part of covering Euro 2022

Hamilton: Little beats the involuntary reactions of fans to when their heroes do something remarkable. Watching England-Sweden in Trafalgar Square was a joy — and you could see up close exactly what this tournament meant to people of all ages. The atmosphere there was a mixture of curious football fans wearing last summer’s England tops, young girls and boys who had the Lionesses’ names on their back, and families looking for a midweek outing in London.

There, captured in the 4,000 present in the famous square was the manifestation of exactly why the last four weeks have been so special. It’s meant something different to everyone watching it — from those who have been integral to the game’s growth, to those watching the women’s game for the first time, and those who have loved watching their heroes.

Lawson: It has absolutely nothing to do with the football, but tournaments are fantastic for socialising with other, shall we say, women’s football enthusiasts. Especially as this was the first major women’s tournament since the start of the pandemic (that fans were allowed to travel to and attend), it’s seen people from all over the world descend on England.

Yes, it is tricky when you’re working and travelling up and down the country, but I’ve found the time to catch up with other journalists I haven’t seen since the 2019 World Cup as well as finally getting to meet up with fans and women’s football creators I’ve been talking to for years. The women’s football community is a fun one.

Ogden: The atmosphere around the games and total absence of rival groups of fans taunting each other, berating the players and officials or disrupting national anthems. There has also been a lack of toxicity on social media connected to the tournament.

Covering Euro 22 has made me realise just how angry and unforgiving the men’s game has become in so many ways, so it would be something if the women’s game can inspire a positive change in that area.

Worst part of covering Euro 2022

Hamilton: It has to be the pesky U.K. transport system. It simply wasn’t up to scratch to service the tournament with hundreds delayed getting to Brighton for England’s match against Norway, and then train strikes interrupting plans on the day of the Germany-France semifinal. Some of the venue choices were also curious, at best — how must those feel who turned down the chance to host matches at this tournament when they were asked five years back.

Lawson: The trains, obviously. You can’t really blame the FA for the strikes and issues that come with the hot weather — that’s just the infrastructure of the country — but it put a dampener on things for fans and journalists alike.

It’s a boring one, but another is the behind-the-scenes logistics for media. From Wi-Fi that wasn’t strong enough to email over a match report, to outside mixed zones in the wind and rain that are full of screaming fans, to stewards that don’t know where anything is when you need directions. Media rooms that not only run out of food (OK, whatever), but out of water in scorching weather? It just hasn’t been good enough, and that’s before you talk about the stadiums that aren’t fit for hosting a Euros. It’s quite frankly been a mess, and made it harder to work — especially after the comparative ease of the last two tournaments I’ve covered.

Ogden: The social media takes from those who won’t give the women’s game any credit or suggest that the coverage of the tournament has been a token gesture. Who knows if they will ever open their eyes, but more than 87,000 people turned up at Wembley to watch a truly memorable final, so the critics and cynics are the ones who are missing out.

Hopes for 2022-23 after Euros

Hamilton: That England doesn’t squander the legacy. The opportunity provided here to grow the game in the country is one every stakeholder cannot afford to pass up. They have bold targets, including a focus on increasing the numbers of girls playing football in schools. Currently just 43% of girls play the sport in secondary schools (11-18 years old) and the FA plans to increase this to 75% by 2024. These are the sorts of targets which have to be hit, but are just one aspect of the momentum generated by this tournament.

Lawson: I’m sure this will be a shared sentiment among us writers and indeed among all outlets but, that there’s an appetite for women’s football. Major tournaments are vastly different from league football and just because a country goes mad for their national team, that doesn’t mean they’re going to seek out their home league but the football is there for those who have seen enough this summer to put in the effort.

We saw it with the U.S. off of the back of the 2019 World Cup — these tournaments drive investment in the game and with the pandemic rather putting the kibosh on increased attendances and interest, this is another iron hot/striking moment.

Ogden: I hope that stadiums in the Women’s Super League can now welcome capacity crowds and that clubs outgrow their grounds and look to build again. It may be a long path, but there is clearly a massive reservoir of football-supporting women and girls who want to see the sport grow.

It’s a shame that the 2023 World Cup, in Australia and New Zealand, will take place in a time zone that doesn’t lend itself to huge television audiences in Europe and the U.S., but even if a game kicks off at 4 a.m. in the Northern Hemisphere, many more supporters will tune in than before, so that’s a big positive from Euro 2022.

Banned, ignored… adored: How England fought to become women’s Euro 2022 champions

Charlotte Harpur and more

Chloe Kelly stripped off her shirt and wheeled it above her head, sprinting away in front of a 87,192 adoring fans. White sports bra on show, she celebrated England’s winning goal at the European Championship in iconic style and so she should. That gesture will become famous for years to come.

It was the moment that England beat Germany 2-1, a time that will change England women’s football forever. This was a landmark event, a moment of history, a new beginning of how the women’s game should be applauded and revered from now on.

It has not always been that way. Women’s football in England has struggled for equality, support and recognition ever since the Football Association banned it in 1921 for 50 years.When the FA officially lifted the ban in 1971, the game was run by volunteers at the Women’s FA. Pat Gregory, former secretary of the governing body, says the success of the modern team owes much to “the determination of men and women in the Women’s FA not to give up”.“For my generation, I call it the lost generation,” 119-time capped England international Gill Coultard tells The Athletic. “We stood still. When we reached the Euro 1984 final, we thought it might just parachute but for all those years from 1984 to when the FA took over in 1993, it didn’t.”When the Women’s FA became part of the FA, Coultard thought: “Wow, this is it. It’s going to explode.”But it wasn’t that simple.

Kelly delivers an iconic celebration to a goal that delivered a historic victory (Getty Images)

When England reached a World Cup in 1995 and progressed to the quarter-finals, Coultard thought: “We’ve got a chance.”

But again, the game stood still. At that tournament, England didn’t have a meeting room in the hotel or a bus to take them to training or matches.

The revolution began in 1998 when England failed to qualify for the following year’s World Cup and Ted Copeland, the part-time manager, was sacked. The FA’s technical director Howard Wilkinson approached England international Hope Powell. In 1998, at the age of 31, she went from playing for her country to becoming the first full-time England manager.

“Hope was a titan,” says Brent Hills, Powell’s former assistant head coach. “For many years, Hope was responsible for everything and I mean everything.”

“Hope put the foundations in for what it is now,” says England legend Kelly Smith. “She had to fight for everything — fight to have an office at Wembley, they didn’t want to give her one. It is things like that that people don’t realise.”

There was no manual for a job that no one had ever done before.

Powell had her part-time assistant Paul Smalley and mentor Alan May, but that was it. Rachel Pavlou, one of the many unsung heroes of women’s football, was appointed regional development manager. Powell ended up overseeing the set-up of women’s football, managing the senior team, running talent ID days for young players and restructuring grassroots football. There was no youth system in place.

“We were a nation in fast decline,” she writes in her book, Hope: My Life in Football. “The gulf between us and the top world sides was becoming a chasm.”

Yet 24 years later England are champions of Europe, an elite football team who have captivated a nation.

From banned to loved across the land: this is the story of how women’s football in England was transformed.


During her first game against Sweden in July 1998, it was clear to Powell that the players were not fit enough. They were way off the pace of Germany and the United States. When Powell came in, England averaged five games a year. Germany and the US were playing 15 to 20. Powell organised more games outside competition schedules and spoke to Umbro to design women’s shirts.

Powell, centre right, went from playing for England to managing them in 1998 (Photo: Mark Leech/Getty Images)

She made key appointments: Louise Fawcett joined as the first full-time physio, supporting part-time physio Jill Chapman, Graham Keeley became Powell’s first goalkeeping coach, Mo Marley worked part-time with Powell on the under-19s while chief medical officer Dr Pippa Bennett and sports scientist Dawn Scott were crucial to the team’s transformation. The staff wore many hats, taking on generalist roles due to the lack of numbers.

“In 2001, the set-up was minimal, sports science wasn’t heard of in women’s football,” says Scott, speaking to The Athletic over the phone from Inter Miami where she is the club’s director of performance.

Like Powell, Scott had a blank canvas, exciting but also daunting. The role had never existed. How should England women use sports science? How could she work with Powell on the technical side and the medical team? What do their warm-ups look like? How could they monitor training? Scott began to test players’ fitness during camp. They would do minimal strength training and technology was limited, fitness trackers and motion analysis felt like another world.

It is easy to forget the players were amateurs with full-time jobs. Scott’s biggest dilemma was how to support them when they were not with England. Outside of camp, she would have to print and send players individual training programmes via post and it was the players’ responsibility to find a place to train on their own alongside their day jobs. “For Karen Walker and Samantha Britton, their heart-rate watches were like their personal trainers,” says Scott.

In 2001, the FA created more than 50 licensed Centres of Excellence to provide quality coaching for talented girls. “There was no resource to scout in clubs all over the country, so we had to try to funnel it,” explains Kay Cossington, a former England Under-15 coach, now head of women’s technical.

Powell also asked Wilkinson for funding of about £50,000 to set up regional centres for senior players to train locally.

The players were asked to do two conditioning sessions a week to reduce the fitness gap to their rivals, as well as their twice weekly club sessions, while juggling full-time work. Players were put into regional training clusters and the FA paid for a qualified personal trainer to work with them. Scott brought in weightlifting champion Barrie Beasley to design a strength programme using weights.

Jill Scott and Demi Stokes, two of Sarina Wiegman’s players this summer, would later benefit from such a group in the north east of England.

“It was harder,” says Dawn Scott. “You’re trying to impact their behaviour and lifestyle in terms of nutrition, recovery, hydration without the support of a professional club or environment.”

In 2001, set up by Powell, 19 players received a place on the first fully-funded scholarship programme at Loughborough’s player development centre.

Clubs were still part-time so after their GCSEs, players such as Casey Stoney, Amanda Barr, Carney, Ellen White and Scott were able to train almost full-time and study.

The FA covered tuition, coaching and accommodation costs. The ambition was to help England win the 2007 World Cup with Jane Ebbage and Lois Fidler leading the centre and Mo Marley as head coach.

Four years after an 8-0 thrashing by Norway, England beat them 1-0 in Barnsley in 2004. “There were big strides made in terms of fitness and Dawn Scott made a huge difference,” says Hills.

The creation of a youth system would be crucial if England were to have success in the future. Powell had already introduced an under-19 age group, led by Marley, and in the early 2000s added the under-17s, coached by Fidler. The team’s creations coincided with UEFA’s decision to launch European Championships for those age groups.

An under-23s team was set up to bridge the gap between the under-19s and senior teams. Hills assumed the head coach role, as well as leading the pathway’s coaching development.

“As the game was getting more professional, the jump from under-19 to senior team was so big,” he explains. “Fara Williams started her first international at the age of 18, that wouldn’t happen now unless you’re the next Kelly Smith. There’s no way any under-19s are getting into the senior team today.”

Because of his dual role with the seniors and under-23s, Hills could work closely with Powell. “Hope brought in a clear rationale of how we were going to play,” he says. All the age levels, apart from the under-15s, played in a 4-3-3 formation so they felt comfortable playing in one system from under-17 to the senior squad.

Another significant step came in the mid-2000s when Powell secured players part-time contracts which allowed them to split their week between training and work, aiding a more professional environment. Hills also managed to get anyone who was a senior international membership of the players’ union, the PFA.

Despite making progress, England failed to qualify for the 2003 World Cup. “A reality check,” says Scott

In 2005, England hosted a home Euros. Scott was puzzled by all the traffic on the roads, only realising later it was fans on the way to the stadium. She spotted men wearing England shirts with (Rachel) ‘Unitt’ on the back on and thought, “Oh my goodness.”

“I remember going out for the warm-up, there were 29,000 at that game and you couldn’t hear people shout, we weren’t expecting it,” she says.

“We went into the changing rooms and Hope said to the players, ‘We need to come up with hand signals to pass on information because you won’t be able to hear.’ We weren’t expecting it.”

A 17-year-old Carney scored the winner in the first game at the Manchester City Stadium when they beat Finland 3-2 but England were eliminated at the group stages. They finished bottom as Sweden, who would were World Cup runners-up two years’ earlier, led the way followed by Finland and Denmark.

England were knocked out of a home Euros in 2005 in the group stages (Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

“Things were starting to change,” says Hills. “We would have over-performed if we got out of that group considering the strength of opposition.”

“It was changing the culture of women’s football a little bit in this country,” says Scott. “Going from a participation activity to qualifying for major tournaments.”

Directly qualifying for the 2007 World Cup in China was a “major milestone”, according to Scott. “We could see from their fitness data, and subjectively in games, the players were getting faster and stronger.”

For the first time, England travelled business class to Macau to complete a 14-day training camp leading up to the World Cup, using the British Olympic Association facility which was ready for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. “We did hand cooling, spoke to the players about sleep, nutrition, lifestyle and their training programmes,” says Scott.

Before travelling to China, England didn’t have a nutritionist or a chef. During camps, Scott would write the menus for the hotels and work with the team administrator to see what could be provided. “Hotels are ridiculous,” she says. “They can charge £10 just for a bowl of strawberries. It was our biggest headache on camps because sometimes the food was terrible. Food is mood!” Idris Caldora, the chef who accompanied the team, was described by Powell as a “marvel”.

The 11-strong team consisted of Powell, one assistant coach, one goalkeeping coach, the team doctor, two administrators, two physios, one sports scientist, a kit manager, a video analyst and the FA press officer.

England flew to the 2007 World Cup in China in business class for the first time (Photo: Guang Niu/Getty Images)

Powell had a six-person scouting team in China to analyse future opposition. It was a stark contrast to the support team in the 1995 World Cup when they didn’t have a meeting room in the hotel or a bus to take them to training or matches.

An England team — which included stalwart Jill Scott — lost in the quarter-finals to the United States.

There were signs of greater progress to come. A year later, at the under-17 World Cup, England reached the semi-finals. Rachel Daly and Lucy Bronze were part of the team who lost 3-0 to Germany in the third place play-off.

Powell brought in a psychologist for the first time in the lead-up to the 2009 Euros in Finland. The team were still semi-professional but three players had turned pro in the US Women’s Soccer League: Karen Carney, Kelly Smith and Alex Scott.

Dawn Scott, the sports scientist, had to manage their load as the trio were mid-season and a little fatigued. “We would give Karen Carney handfuls of Haribo jelly sweets during the game to get the sugar because we wanted to keep her going,” says Scott. “That’s probably a reflection of the nutrition, carbohydrate gels weren’t available.”

England made the final, having never got past the quarter-final stage before, but it was not originally due to be shown on TV in England. It was eventually broadcast on the red button.

“We got absolutely battered by Germany, losing 6-2 in the final,” says Hills. “That was a reflection of where our game was. Germany was by far the strongest team in Europe. They won the World Cup in 2007 without conceding a goal.”

England lost the 2009 Euros final 6-2 to Germany (Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images)

“That experience of preparing for and playing six games, that density is a big thing in a major tournament,” says Scott, of her last tournament under Powell before moving to the US Women’s national team.

“Germany were stronger, faster, physically better than us. We got to the final but we still had some way to go on the physical side. It was small steps all the way.”

“When I think back to what other countries looked like and how they invested, it was realistic to where we were as a sport back then,” says Cossington.

“The Germans had girls in their elite schools at 13. Alexandra Popp was in an elite school with boys throughout her whole career.

“Our girls were playing in girls’ clubs and training twice a week. The comparison was miles off. No wonder Germany won six championships back to back. I went over to Germany. From the age of 13, these players were lifting weights and were physical specimens at 13, 14, 15. We thought, ‘We’ve got a long way to go’.”

The investment in the younger age groups was starting to bear fruit. The under-19s, led by Marley and Cossington won their 2009 Euros age group for the first time. Lucy Bronze came up against Sweden’s Sofia Jakobsson in the final, the forward who she thwarted only last week in the Euro 2022 semi-final.

Always striving for more, in 2009 Powell secured funding for centralised contracts. She wrote the first draft before passing the contract on to the FA’s lawyer, Mary Guest. “We were asking the players to be more professional but still treating them like amateurs,” she wrote in her book.

Contracts of £16,000 per year — “a drop in the ocean compared to Premier League players,” wrote Powell — were given to 20 players. They went part-time with their day jobs and were able to work up to 24 hours a week to top up their income.

A key turning point was in 2010, when the Women’s Super League (WSL) was established. It was the end for the Loughborough player development centre as resources were pooled into the domestic league. Its creation was a statement with ambitions of being a full-time professional league, allowing players to train and play within high-performance environments.

“It wasn’t professional by any stretch in the first five or six years,” says Cossington. But standards were raised to meet the league’s licence requirements.

“It acted as a catalyst for clubs to start to think about investing in the game,” says Kelly Simmons, the FA’s director of the women’s professional game. “If they wanted to be in the top tier of women’s football, they had to meet certain criteria.”

Expectations increased and in 2013 Manchester City were given direct entry to the top flight while Doncaster Belles were controversially demoted to the second tier. City pumped in investment and some of England’s best players such as Steph Houghton, Scott and Karen Bardsley as well as international stars moved to the £250million City Football Academy at the Etihad Campus.

“The step change in investment started with (former FA CEO) Martin Glenn and has continued under Mark Bullingham’s leadership,” says Simmons. “From the top of the organisation, there has been a commitment to really drive the women’s game forward.”

The pro league brought an end to centralised contracts with England and club contracts became more lucrative, for some but not all. In 2018, the FA made it mandatory for clubs to be full-time and professional.

Why was 2018 the right time? “We brought Barclays in (as a sponsor) and started to look at TV rights. If we’re going to bring brands in, get a really good TV partnership, put that game in front of audiences of millions, you want to make sure that the product is the very best it can be,” says Simmons. “England was never going to maximise its potential if the players were having to work part-time.”

“If you want to compete on the world stage, it’s absolutely fundamental that your players are in full-time training with the best support and competition programme.”

In recent years, branded as the most competitive league in the world, the WSL has attracted some of the best international players providing high-quality, fast-paced games week in, week out.

“We’ve been losing a lot of players to America and wanted our players to feel they had a chance to break into the WSL,” says Simmons.

Part of England’s success, says Simmons, is down to the clubs. “They have helped produce those players from a young age. It’s a combination of the FA and club investment.”

The talent pathway was crucial to nourishing young players. “I talk now to Leah (Williamson), Georgia (Stanway) and Keira (Walsh) and remember them coming into an under-15s camp,” says Cossington, their former head coach.

“They were like Bambi on ice. I remember Alessia (Russo)’s legs grew and not much else, Ellie Roebuck was the same. It is beautiful to know them at that age group.

“If you look at the average age of players debuting in the senior team at 24 or 25, it is that 10-year cycle of them coming into the system.”

The senior team’s full-time physios and strength and conditioning coaches were also responsible for devising programmes for all age groups, an enormous remit.

“As teenagers, these players had the benefit of the first tranche of investment. The coaches were working with these same players when they were as young as 12 or 13 and that made a massive difference.

Williamson as England Under-15s captain and her team-mates were getting the same education as then-England captain Faye White.

“There’s a thread of these players that have had this investment who were able to: train every day, supported by high-quality performance staff and a regular competition programme,” says Cossington.

Back at senior level, England had “underperformed”, according to Hills, at the 2011 World Cup, conceding an equaliser two minutes from the final whistle and being beaten on penalties in the quarter-finals by France.

The game had continued to grow though and for the first time, the British Olympic Association entered a team at London 2012, a turning point as the TV broadcast gave women’s football a far greater platform.

“Getting 70,000 fans at Wembley and beating Brazil 1-0, who at the time were rated one of the top six teams in the world was a big thing,” says Hills. Captain Houghton scored the only goal in that game and Great Britain topped their group but bowed out at the quarter-final stage.

The England team had always leaned on clubs for training facilities, such was their nomadic existence. They would go round the country trying to find a ground nearby, frequently using Bisham Abbey and Lilleshall national sports centres. At times, training grounds abroad threw up surprises. Hills recalls an England Under-19 trip to Romania where their allocated training ground housed a horse with its legs chained in the middle of the tunnel, tufts of grass and a herd of cows on the pitch.

The establishment of a national football centre at St George’s Park seemed like a dream. “We had hi-vis jackets and hard hats on, and were taken around this mud site,” recalls Cossington.

“We were told that ‘the hotel is going to be there, the football centre there’. I remember looking around thinking, ‘I can never see this happening and I can never imagine this being right for the women’s game. We wouldn’t get a look in. It would be the same thing that we were invited to but we couldn’t access. I’m so happy to say that I was really wrong because that was a real defining point for us.

“We had somewhere that we could call home and we felt really welcome. The women’s team had a performance suite with full-time physios, doctors, nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches. We have to pay credit to Dan Ashworth at that time who really pushed for the women’s game.

“We had world-class facilities but most importantly, they invested in people.”

Having started off with just one senior team and one manager, over two years the FA appointed 18 staff to work with single age groups, expanding the talent pathway from under-15s to under-20s. Again, there were glimmers of hope from the younger generation. Fran Kirby, Demi Stokes and Mary Earps were in the under-23 squad who won gold at the 2013 World University Games in Kazan, Russia, beating Mexico 6-2 in the final.

A disappointing performance for the seniors in the 2013 Euros, however, saw England finish bottom of their group with one point. Powell was sacked. Mark Sampson was named England manager, Hills became head of elite development and Simmons led grassroots and the WSL

“It makes me laugh… they now pretty much have three people doing my old job,” explains Powell in her book. She has not been back into the FA offices since.

“I couldn’t bear it,” she writes. “The wonderful Rachel Pavlou cleared my desk for me. The truth is that the FA got me on the cheap. They put me in charge of every level of the international pyramid of women’s football at the FA — instead of paying for more staff to take responsibility for each of the levels.”

On the pitch, progress continued. England achieved the best result in their history at the 2015 World Cup, defeating Germany 1-0 after extra time in the third place play-off thanks to a Fara Williams penalty. A 22-year-old Lucy Bronze caught the world’s attention after her rocket against Norway.

England finished third at the 2015 World Cup (Photo: Matthew Lewis/FIFA via Getty Images)

A year later Baroness Sue Campbell, who oversaw Team GB’s medal haul at the Olympics as chair of UK Sport, was appointed as head of women’s football in 2016, “a real statement appointment”, says Simmons, who helped drive the FA forward.“There was just a different level of ambition being created in the FA,” adds Simmons.

The talent pathway was proving crucial in providing England’s next generation with major tournament final experience.The under-17 squad consisting of Lotte Wubben-Moy, Alessia Russo, Georgia Stanway, Ellie Roebuck and Ella Toone reached the 2016 World Cup quarter-finals in Jordan. At the 2018 Under-20 World Cup, England reached the semi-finals and beat France to gain a bronze medal. Chloe Kelly, Stanway, Lauren Hemp and Russo up top formed a formidable attacking threat with Roebuck named in goal.

At senior level, the game was engulfed by a scandal involving Sampson, the manager, who was sacked over “inappropriate and unacceptable” behaviour in a previous role. Sampson had earlier the same year faced allegations of making discriminatory remarks by England players, including Eniola Aluko. Sampson denied the allegations and was cleared by the FA. An independent barrister later ruled that he had made “ill-judged attempts at humour” towards Aluko and Drew Spence and the remarks were “discriminatory on the grounds of race”.

The FA chief executive Martin Glenn said that the organisation had been guilty of “systemic, historic failings” and that “what should have happened was a process of due diligence — which does happen now — but did not happen then”.

In 2019, the FA reached a settlement with Sampson over his sacking.

Phil Neville replaced the sacked manager Sampson and in 2018 England came second at the SheBelieves Cup and won the tournament a year later, beating Brazil, Japan and drawing with the US.

Lucy Bronze at the 2018 SheBelieves Cup, where England finished second (Photo: Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

In the lead-up to the 2019 World Cup, Neville brought in performance innovation consultant Dr Luke Gupta who monitored players’ sleep habits. Dr Gupta has continued to work with the Lionesses: players complete a Q&A on sleep habits, health and hygiene which informs in-camp scheduling and have access to one-to-one sessions to help them with their sleep hygiene.England reached their third semi-final in a row at the 2019 World Cup but lost 2-1 to the US, who went on to become world champions.From across the pond, Dawn Scott, who was part of that winning US women’s national team, noted the increase in England’s presence at major tournaments. They had qualified for every tournament since 2007 and reached semi-finals in 2015, 2017 and 2019.

“Wow, England are getting closer and closer every single time,” she thought.

Then-manager Neville made contact with Scott in 2019 in an attempt to bring her back to work with England. The difference compared to her first stint 18 years before was noticeable. The number of staff had grown from single figures to 20-plus specialists. Players received education on sleep and nutrition, there was a team of data analysts looking at training loads, injury data and technical and tactical information from games. The team was armed with a network of resources.One thing Scott noted, however, was the support offered was applied from what the men’s department were doing and not specific to individuals, let alone female athletes. At the time, the technical strategy at St George’s Park covered both the men’s and women’s national teams.“Phil said to me, ‘I want you to bring in anything that you felt made the US team successful’.”One of the biggest impacts on the US team leading up to the 2019 World Cup had been the education around individuals’ menstrual cycles. The change in hormone levels every day can impact mental wellbeing, nutrition, hydration, recovery and sleep.

Scott brought in Dr Georgie Bruinvels, senior sports scientist, to run the sessions with the England team prior to flying out to the SheBelieves Cup in 2020. They worked closely with the medical staff, psychologist, dietitian and chef, looking at players’ different phases and devised individualised plans. England also introduced Oura smart rings so players could track their sleep, heart rate variability and core temperature as well as consulting players about their subjective wellness.

Wind back the years and data was hard to come by for the women’s game. Over the past five years, however, the Lionesses, on par with Premier League clubs, have used STATSports’ elite servce. They provide performance data collected from GPS player trackers, analysts contextualise the data and adapt individuals’ training plans if necessary, taking into consideration their capacities and workloads as well as the team’s training programme and tournament schedule. Over the season, data will be gathered from players’ time on international duty and their clubs to give the full picture.

The GPS sports bra tracks 16 metrics across volume, speed and cardio and can measure high-intensity distance covered, sprints, high-speed running, accelerations, decelerations, time spent in the “red zone” of an individual’s heart rate.

“If a player is not responding in the way that we expect, then the multidisciplinary department (analysts, coaches, physios, doctors) have an understanding of the data and make a decision on what to do next in terms of recovery to help them perform to their best,” explains Emmanuel Fajemilua, GPS analyst at the FA.

“When looking at metrics, we need to understand playing styles and players’ capacities. We play as a high press for England, but maybe some players are not really used to that in a club team so how do we bridge that gap between the two to make sure the player doesn’t overcook themselves?”

Another key aspect of England’s progress was working successfully with players’ clubs.

“The physical demands at club level were very different and lower than what players would experience with England,” says Scott.Scott had to bridge the gap with players and clubs.

“Some of the players didn’t take ownership for themselves. A lot of time was spent meeting players individually and educating them and sharing their data: ‘When you play for your club your load is here, when you play for England, it’s here and you need to be the driver. We can’t tell the club what to do, but you need to work with them to be ready for your club and for selection for England and tell them, ‘I want to be ready and prepared for selection for England and to do that, I need to do a little bit extra here’.”

One month into her new post, the sports scientist and Neville met with Keira Walsh in a conference room in Manchester.

“Keira looked as nervous as hell, white as a sheet,” Scott recalls. “We said, ‘You could be the best player in the world but you need to address your fitness, lifestyle and habits’.”

Scott went round to visit each club, as well as flying to Lyon where Bronze, Alex Greenwood and Nikita Parris played, meeting the club staff and discussing individual player needs. She told them: “’When players compete with England the demands are so much higher. We appreciate the programme for your games week to week, but what we’re going to see is when they come in to train and play with England, there is a spike in their training and physical load, so how can we work together to develop and support the players?’”“That was a big thing to ring the clubs up and say, ‘Can we work together?’. It’s very sensitive because you don’t want to tell the teams what to do but if not, you’re almost under preparing the players for what the international level demands.”At the end of 2020, for the first time, the Lionesses had a technical performance strategy separate from the men’s department which allowed the women’s team to implement their own strategies straight away and control their own budgets.

At the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, under interim manager Hege Riise, players realised what it took to play back-to-back matches and maintain a high performance. It was not just the fact that Team GB lost to Australia in the quarter-finals but the manner in which they did so, conceding three goals in 17 minutes.

“I remember Leah Williamson in the changing room after the Australia game,” Scott says. “She came over and said, ‘I know what it takes now, I never want to feel like this again.’

“That was a key moment for those players, for them to take that ownership, do all the right things all the time. Yes, you are a full-time professional but is it still optimal for what you need to be? You still need to be the driver.”After the Olympics, Scott left the FA to do consulting with FIFA specifically in relation to their pilot Physical Mentoring Program. One year on, she is impressed with how England have dominated physically at Euro 2022.“It’s unbelievable,” says Scott.“They are beasts out there. It’s the same starting XI, it’s the only tournament ever where that would have been the case. For all players to be available for selection, let alone start the game and play all those minutes, kudos to the staff because they’ve done an amazing job with the players to get them ready.”

When Sarina Wiegman joined in September 2021, she knew England already had good foundations in place. “It’s not like I thought I’m going to come in and change everything,” the Dutch coach says. “It has had such an incredible development already, I just wanted to figure out what I and the technical staff could add to this team to take the next step. I had to talk to players and staff to find out what made them so successful.”

Bronze said Wiegman has been the difference to England’s success. It is the Dutchwoman and her team that has brought England this far.

“The sport is evolving, it’s still so new,” says Cossington. “This year we’re celebrating 50 years of England women and five years of the professionalisation of the game. We’ve made significant strides in that time.”

But the journey doesn’t stop here. England’s pathway and the WSL’s competitive environment are giving English players the best possible chance to excel. With the World Cup and Olympic Games just round the corner, this is just the start.

Premier League preview: Man City, Liverpool title race again? Team-by-team guide, big questions for 2022-23

Aug 4, 2022ESPN

It’s finally here! The 2022-23 Premier League season begins Friday as Crystal Palace host Arsenal, and it’s been a summer of quiet revolution up and down the table. From new signings to notable exits, from big clubs like Man City and Liverpool trying to reinvent themselves to the continuing projects at Arsenal and Tottenham, there’s a lot to discuss. Who will win the league? How does every team look compared to last season?

With the big questions around the Premier League to a team-by-team guide, we’ll get you ready for kickoff on Friday.

Jump to: Burning questions | Team-by-team guide

Burning questions

1. Will Manchester City and Liverpool keep the rest at arm’s length?

When City sealed their fourth Premier League title in five seasons in May, their total of 93 points was the joint sixth-best mark in the competition’s history. Liverpool finished just one point behind, 18 points clear of third-placed Chelsea. Of the eight biggest point hauls in Premier League history, six of them have been achieved by these two clubs in the past five seasons, including all of the top four. City’s and Liverpool’s respective goal differences of +73 and +68 put them both into the top five in league history. (City monopolise the top three.)

As if all of that wasn’t ominous enough for the rest of the league, City have signed Erling Haaland, the hottest prospect in the world game who scored 86 goals in 89 games for Borussia Dortmund, as well as Julian Alvarez, the hottest prospect in South America who scored six goals in one Copa Libertadores match, which happened to be one of his final appearances for River Plate. Liverpool, meanwhile, have brought in Darwin Nunez, a striker who scored 32 goals in 38 games for Benfica last term, including strikes against BarcelonaBayern MunichAjax, and his new employers.

With the rest of last season’s top six clubs all in various stages of transition, can any of them mount a credible challenge to break City’s and Liverpool’s duopoly when that pair have been able to build again from such a position of strength?

2. Can Erik ten Hag start his rebuild without falling further behind?

It’s hard to believe that United are the only club other than City or Liverpool to finish in the top two in the past five seasons. Not only that, but they did it twice. And yet last season’s sixth-place finish means that manager Erik ten Hag begins work with the club at their lowest ebb.

The former Ajax coach has maintained an Eredivisie connection with his summer signings: Lisandro Martinez followed him from Amsterdam, Tyrell Malacia arrives from Feyenoord and even Christian Eriksen began his senior career in the Dutch capital. Several big personalities and long-standing players have been moved on after last season petered out under interim boss Ralf Rangnick, but settling the future of Cristiano Ronaldo — who has said he wants to leave despite struggling to find any interested clubs — could be the most pivotal piece of transfer business United do this summer.

Ten Hag will find it difficult to implement his playing style on a team that has the 37-year-old forward in it, but can he risk doing without last season’s top scorer, who netted more than twice as many goals as anyone else at the club?

Even if Ten Hag can get his own house in order in time, that will only take him so far. He told ESPN’s Rob Dawson this summer that one of his key aims is “to bring the confidence back” to Old Trafford, but there is little cause for optimism when looking at their main rivals for a top-four place next season.

3. Will we see the highest-scoring Golden Boot race in years?

Since Mohamed Salah shocked everyone in his first season at Liverpool by scoring 32 Premier League goals to claim the 2017-18 Golden Boot, the figures required to win the award have fallen back to normal levels. Salah shared the prize with fellow Africans Sadio Mane and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the following season despite scoring 10 fewer goals (22), while he needed only one more than that to get his hands on it for a third time (shared with Son Heung-Min) last term. (That tally, 23, was also enough to make Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy top scorer in the previous two campaigns.)

– O’Hanlon: The Premier League’s best players, 97-71 (E+)
– Ogden: How ready are the big six for the new season?
– Johnson: What’s new in Premier League for 2022-23

It’s all a far cry from the days when the lead striker at a top club could make hitting the 30-goal mark a realistic target, but this coming season promises to bring that back. Haaland averaged almost a goal per game in the Bundesliga while at Dortmund (22 in 24 appearances last season, and 62 in 67 overall), so the main obstacle to a clear run at the Golden Boot for him could be his own injury issues. Nunez’s 26 goals in 28 league games for Benfica last term is similarly prodigious, although he’ll need a strong start to erase any whispers of “one-season wonder.”Tottenham’s Son will be backing himself to at least match last season’s tally now that Spurs have had a full preseason of prep under Antonio Conte, while teammate Kane is out to equal Thierry Henry’s record of four Golden Boots. Over at ArsenalGabriel Jesus has the chance to fully affirm his status as a top striker as the Gunners’ undisputed first-choice No. 9 with a rotating cast of busy young midfielders working to create the chances for him.

Chelsea don’t have an immediately obvious candidate to join this race, but in the 27-year-old Raheem Sterling, they now have a player who has hit 20 league goals in a season before and is approaching what should be his peak years. Plus, if Ronaldo ends up staying at Manchester United this summer, then we also have the greatest goal scorer of modern times in the mix. And we can’t rule out a contender from the fringes, either: After scoring 43 goals in the Championship last season, could Aleksandar Mitrovic finally make his mark on the top flight with Fulham after two previous failed attempts?

4. Will new-look Newcastle break up the big six?

It shouldn’t be difficult for Eddie Howe to have a better start to this season with Newcastle United than his predecessor, Steve Bruce, did last term. Without a win in his first nine games of the season before the club was taken over by the Saudi-backed PFI, Bruce was afforded one farewell match at St James’ Park in the form of a 3-2 defeat to Tottenham before he was sacked. After two draws and a defeat under caretaker Graeme Jones, Howe was appointed as the man to lead Newcastle into a brave new era.

The former Bournemouth manager claimed just one win before the January transfer window opened — a 1-0 home victory over Burnley — but the midseason arrivals of Kieran TrippierChris WoodBruno Guimaraes and Dan Burn, along with Joelinton‘s conversion from a misfiring striker into an all-action central midfielder, spurred Newcastle on to claim 12 more wins and secure a comfortable mid-table finish. This summer’s transfer business has been similarly sensible, with England goalkeeper Nick Pope coming in from Burnley and Matt Targett‘s loan from Aston Villa being made permanent, while defender Sven Botman is the closest thing to a glamorous, big-money foreign signing.

These are not signings to get the casual fan’s pulse racing, but they do consolidate Newcastle’s rapid improvement over the first half of the year and give them a real platform to target being this season’s “best of the rest.” And if they can set up camp below the top six this season, next summer’s window will see the next phase of the PFI plan come into effect. Also, if they can surprise everyone by looking like outside bets for the top four come January, who knows what they might be able to do to give their campaign a boost?

Howe is too sensible to be looking too far ahead, and he can’t afford to: Fixtures against Man City and Liverpool before the end of August will be at the forefront of his mind.

5. Can the yo-yoing between Premier League and Championship stop?

This will be the fifth consecutive Premier League season to feature either Fulham or Norwich City, but at no time in that run have both been in the top flight at the same time. Since 2013 the pair have won a total of seven promotions and have always ended up back where they were a year later. Those two teams, plus Watford and West Bromwich Albion, form a clutch of clubs that have been bouncing between the top two tiers of English football for the past few years without ever settling in either. Bournemouth — back up this season at the second attempt — and Burnley could also establish themselves as part of that group if they swap divisions again next summer.Those clubs that are regularly accruing Premier League parachute payments — perhaps in addition to generous backing from their owners — are finding it ever harder to break out of this purgatory, as all the other Premier League clubs are getting ever richer and the increasing gulf between the Big Six and the rest means that there are fewer points that are realistically available for newly promoted sides.

The aforementioned Mitrovic will be key to Fulham’s chances of staying up — although this was said the last time they came up, and the time before that. If the Serbia international can get even close to half of the 43 league goals he got last season, Marco Silva’s side might just have something to build on.

— Tony Mabert

Team-by-team guide


– Transfers in: FW Gabriel Jesus (Manchester City), DF Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City), MF Fabio Vieira (Porto), GK Matt Turner (New England Revolution), FW Marquinhos (Sao Paulo)
– Transfers out: MF Matteo Guendouzi (Marseille), DF Dinos Mavropanos (Stuttgart), DF Daniel Ballard (Sunderland), GK Bernd Leno (Fulham)
– Last season: Premier League (fifth), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Better than last year for Arsenal means Champions League qualification, and that is the benchmark against which Mikel Arteta will be judged this term. The club opted not to strengthen in January when they were well-placed to secure a top-four finish amid wage restructuring due to financial fair play concerns and a lack of availability over their preferred targets. Missing out on Europe’s premier club competition to Tottenham was a huge blow, but it has not derailed the Gunners from their long-term plan, which has seen further investment including a couple of shrewd acquisitions from Manchester City in Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Arteta knows both players well, having worked with the pair at City, and they add useful versatility that should make Arsenal more unpredictable. However, the team had no European football to contend with last term, and the return of Europa League engagements will make things tougher for them.

Key player: Gabriel Jesus

Jesus adds a potent goal threat at the top end of the pitch that Arsenal have lacked since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang went off the boil before joining Barcelona. Seven goals for the Brazilian in five preseason games is encouraging, displaying both a promising understanding with his new teammates and the range of finishes he is capable of producing. Jesus’ success in transitioning from City will be a significant factor in determining whether Arsenal can crack the top four, given goals were an issue last season; Bukayo Saka was the club’s top scorer last season with just 12, while their Premier League tally of 61 was the lowest in the top five, with City (99), Liverpool (94), Chelsea (76) and Tottenham (69) all superior.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. There remains some scepticism toward Arteta after Arsenal fell away last term, and that will quickly grow if the Gunners get off to a slow start. But the 40-year-old’s backing among Arsenal’s hierarchy remains total. Despite this being his first managerial role, the Spaniard has been given a huge amount of influence at the club, ranging from staffing changes to decisions over paying off the contracts of unwanted players, all with the aim of creating a more efficient and professional work environment. That, in turn, brings its own pressure.

With a month left to go in this transfer window, Arsenal’s spending totals more than £250m in the past two summers. There can be no referencing hangovers from different eras: This squad is undeniably Arteta’s, and they have to improve. Having shown so much faith in him to this point, something would have to go badly wrong for Arsenal to dispense with Arteta this season.

— James Olley

Aston Villa

– Transfers in: DF Diego Carlos (Sevilla), MF Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona), GK Robin Olsen (AS Roma), MF Boubacar Kamara (free agent)
– Transfers out: DF Matt Targett (Newcastle United), FW Mahmoud Trezeguet (Trabzonspor), MF Carney Chukwuemeka (Chelsea)
– Last season: Premier League (14th), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (third round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Aston Villa and Steven Gerrard will do better than 14th place last season. However, the question should be different. It should read: Will Villa do better than they did under Gerrard last season? Because if we count only the points won by the team after his arrival in November, they would have finished ninth.

It was a very different Villa before Gerrard, even if they had a rough patch toward the end of the season with two wins in their last 11 games, but this team should keep improving with Gerrard, especially with the players they’ve brought in this summer. Defender Diego Carlos and defensive midfielder Boubacar Kamara are great additions, while the permanent signing of Philippe Coutinho should allow him to play with more freedom. They’re not done yet given that they need a striker, too.

It’s a shame they lost Carney Chukwuemeka to Chelsea, but they are still very strong in midfield, especially if Jacob Ramsey keeps developing. Collectively, Gerrard has made the team much stronger and more structured with better patterns of play, especially on the right flank with Matty Cash. If Danny Ings and Ollie Watkins get more clinical and Coutinho is more consistently at his best, this team can surprise.

Key player: Philippe Coutinho

Which Coutinho will we get? The one who dazzled after his arrival on loan from Barcelona in January and put on some superb performances? Or the one who was anonymous in too many games toward the end of the season? Or both, maybe, if the Brazil international can’t find some consistency? Whatever happens, Coutinho will be the key. He is the creative brain of this team and arguably their greatest threat on the ball. He is the most gifted player in this squad, but he has to show it now. At 30 years old, this is a huge season for him, especially if he has a shot at making the Brazil squad for the 2022 World Cup. He needs a sharp start to the season to get momentum and beat the scepticism around him.

Will their manager last the season?

This is the Gerrard Project. Everything Aston Villa are doing right now is around him, and even if they start slowly, this club is committed to him and to this process. Gerrard got the players he wanted in the transfer window so far and expects (and should get) more. He has been backed up by the club, and he will deliver.

— Julien Laurens

AFC Bournemouth

– Transfers in: MF Joe Rothwell (free agent), DF Ryan Fredericks (free agent), MF Marcus Tavernier (Middlesbrough)
– Transfers out: DF Zeno Ibsen Rossi (Cambridge United), DF Sam Sherring (Northampton Town), FW Robbie Brady (free agent), DF Gary Cahill (released)
– Last season: Championship (2nd, promoted), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Bournemouth did much of their big business in January when they brought in Kieffer Moore and James Hill, but it’s been a quiet summer. They have a strong spine to the team with Lewis CookDominic SolankeLloyd KellyRyan Christie and David Brooks all key, but manager Scott Parker is clearly banking on the team that got them promoted, along with three new additions, being good enough to keep them in the Premier League. Fredericks will offer a new option at right-back, while Rothwell impressed for Blackburn last season. Tavernier will slot in nicely on the flanks or behind the striker, but they are going to have to hit the ground running.

Their opening fixtures are brutal — they play Man City, Arsenal and Liverpool in August — and no doubt their fans will have taken note of the big spending by their fellow promoted teams, Fulham and Nottingham Forest, but they will be putting all their chips on Bournemouth’s familiarity and cohesion being enough to keep them in the top flight. Anything above 18th will be a huge achievement.

Key player: Dominic Solanke

Highly rated Cook will be key alongside the likes of Kelly and Christie, and you should keep an eye on the fiercely talented Jefferson Lerma. But if Bournemouth are to survive, they need Solanke — who arrived for a £17m fee in 2019 — to take his championship goal-scoring form into the top flight. He scored 29 last term, following 15 the previous season, and Bournemouth will be banking on him finding the back of the net this time out. He needs to continue using that chemistry he’s forged with Philip Billing and Christie to find the goals that could keep Bournemouth afloat.

Will their manager last the season?

Bournemouth really should have won the championship last term, but had an awful habit of giving away leads. Parker knows they cannot afford to leave any points out there this season. His sole season in the Premier League with Fulham saw them relegated in 2020-21 and he will have learned from that, but this promises to be a tough season. I’d say his chances are 50-50 of being in charge by May.

— Tom Hamilton


– Transfers in: DF Aaron Hickey (Bologna), FW Keane Lewis-Potter (Hull City), DF Ben Mee (free agent), GK Thomas Strakosha (free agent)
– Transfers out: FW Marcus Forss (Middlesbrough)
– Last season: Premier League (13th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (quarterfinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Apart from Christian Eriksen — who they brought in on a contract for the second half of the season — they haven’t lost any of their core group, which bodes well. They were brilliant last season, the highlight being their 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge against local rivals Chelsea, and you would expect them to improve this time around. But achieving that in a league like the Premier League could be quantified as managing to stay roughly where they were last term.

Their recruitment has been on point, with Lewis-Potter and Hickey both exciting, young talents, while Mee could prove to be an inspired piece of business, adding experience and leadership to their backline. The signing of Strakosha provides David Raya with the competition he needs, while they’ve also been strongly linked with Sampdoria playmaker Mikkel Damsgaard, who’s a wonderful talent.


If they can see out the transfer window without losing any key players — Ivan Toney‘s future is uncertain — then expect Brentford to finish where they did last season.

Key player: Ivan Toney

While they have added new faces to the flanks, they will be in a world of pain if Toney gets injured or leaves. He scored 12 Premier League goals last season — five ahead of Yoane Wissa and eight more than Bryan Mbeumo and Vitaly Janelt. It shows how reliant they are on Toney upfront. They did struggle at times last term with a lack of depth in the squad — which contributed to their dodgy run at the start of 2022. Summer moves mean they’re sufficiently deep at most positions, but a run of games without Toney would be tricky to navigate.

Will their manager last the season?

Owner Matthew Benham is not one for knee-jerk decisions, which is how he’s managed to take Brentford from League One to the Premier League in seven years. So even if Brentford end up in a relegation battle, then I feel Thomas Frank will see out the season. The fans adore him, the players work well with him and he has a great relationship with the owner. A look at the preseason odds on the first manager to get sacked shows he’s not even in the top 10 contenders — only Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have longer odds — so expect Frank to be there in May regardless of where Brentford finish.

— Tom Hamilton


– Transfers in: FW Julio Enciso (Libertad), FW Simon Adingra (Nordsjaelland), FW Benicio Baker-Boaitey (FC Porto)
– Transfers out: MF Yves Bissouma (Tottenham), DF Leo Ostigard (Napoli), MF Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion)
– Last season: Premier League (ninth), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (fourth round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

It’s hard to believe they can improve on ninth with a squad that’s not really been reinforced yet this summer. Bissouma’s exit weakens the midfield, while Marc Cucurella‘s endless status updates hint at another vital loss should he leave for Chelsea (amusingly being denied by Brighton on social media), Man City or Barcelona.

A squad in need of goals — last season’s top scorer was Neal Maupay, with nine — is banking on new signing Enciso being an immediate success out wide and Moises Caicedo making an impact in midfield. It seems a lot to ask, even with the mercurial Graham Potter always seeming to have a plan.

Explaining the confusion around Cucurella’s Chelsea move

Julien Laurens remains very confident that Marc Cucurella will complete his move to Chelsea despite some confusion over the deal on Wednesday night.

Key Player: Lewis Dunk

Much was made of Brighton’s finish in the top half last season and despite being relatively thin in front of goal (42 goals in 38 games), their defending was a major reason for their final position. Dunk will again be asked to shoulder the load in central defence in order to give his side a fighting chance, especially if a proven scorer isn’t added to the squad in the remainder of the summer transfer window.

Will their manager last the season?

It’s hard to imagine a fracture between Potter and the club given his remarkable methods on a sensible budget. Potter will be welcome on the south coast until he decides he wants a change, rather than the other way around.

— James Tyler


– Transfers in: FW Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), DF Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), FW Omari Hutchinson (Arsenal), GK Eddie Beach (Southampton), MF Carney Chukwuemeka (Aston Villa)
– Transfers out: DF Andreas Christensen (free agent, joined Barcelona), DF Antonio Rudiger (free agent, joined Real Madrid), DF Jake Clarke-Salter (QPR), MF Danny Drinkwater (released), FW Charly Musonda (released)
– Last season: Premier League (3rd), FA Cup (runners-up), Carabao Cup (runners-up)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Manager Thomas Tuchel faces a difficult task to improve on last season given the upheaval caused by Chelsea’s change of ownership. Roman Abramovich’s sale of the club — effectively forced by U.K. government sanctions over his alleged links to Russia president Vladimir Putin — led to a situation where the Blues were unable to negotiate new contracts with existing squad members or hold talks with new players. Consequently, Rudiger joined Real Madrid, Christensen left for Barcelona and Chelsea have been playing catch-up in the transfer window, all while Tuchel knowing there was already ground to make up on Manchester City and Liverpool.

The signing of Sterling from City is excellent business by new club chairman Todd Boehly, while Koulibaly adds experience at the back, but further reinforcements are required if Chelsea have any chance of closing what ended up as a 19-point gap to champions City last term. The chasing pack — led by Tottenham, Arsenal and Manchester United — have strengthened and so a frantic end to the window awaits.

Laurens: I’m worried for Chelsea and Man United

Julien Laurens expresses his concerns for Chelsea and Man United’s chances of finishing in the top 4 this season.

Key player: Kai Havertz

Chelsea spent €115m to sign Romelu Lukaku last summer, but Tuchel ended up preferring Havertz as his central striker. With Lukaku now back at Inter Milan on loan, Tuchel appears to be pinning a lot on Havertz to lead a title challenge. There remains the possibility Chelsea could sign a centre-forward before the window closes, but Havertz’s mixture of intense pressure and high quality in possession is something Tuchel favours in setting the tone from the front. Havertz ended with 14 goals from 47 appearances across all competitions: if he does play up front this season, that record must improve.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. The consortium led by Boehly and Clearlake Capital might have inherited Tuchel as manager, but he is a European champion who has conducted himself with tremendous humility and grace during the difficult takeover period. Significantly, he has also been given greater influence over transfers following the departures of technical and performance adviser Petr Cech, along with the club’s former lead transfer negotiator, Marina Granovskaia. Managers could never be confident of seeing the season out under Abramovich, but the early signs are that Tuchel would have to seriously underperform in order for a change to take place.

— James Olley

Crystal Palace

– Transfers in: MF Cheick Doucoure (Lens), DF Chris Richards (Bayern Munich), MF Cormac Austin (Linfield), GK Sam Johnstone (West Bromwich Albion), FW Malcolm Ebiowei (Derby County)
– Transfers out: DF Martin Kelly (released), DF Jaroslaw Jach (released)
– Last season: Premier League (12th), FA Cup (semifinals), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Patrick Vieira: pretty good at this, eh? He wasted little time in turning a stodgy, obdurate team into an exciting, quick-passing side that has creativity and intent all over the pitch.


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• Frankfurt vs. Bayern (2:30 p.m. ET)
• Brugge vs. Zulte-Waregem (2:45 p.m. ET)

• Norwich vs. Wigan (7:30 a.m. ET)
• Union Berlin vs. Hertha Berlin (9:30 a.m. ET)
• Wolfsburg vs. Werder Bremen (9:30 a.m. ET)
• Augsburg vs. Freiburg (9:30 a.m. ET)
• Burnley vs. Luton Town (10 a.m. ET)
• Dortmund vs. Leverkusen (12:30 p.m. ET)
• Inter Milan vs. Villarreal (2:30 p.m. ET)
• Real Betis vs. Fiorentina (4 p.m. ET)

They might need a few games to adjust to the loss of Conor Gallagher, who was a purposeful presence in midfield during his season on loan from Chelsea, but there’s still plenty of quality in attack. Wilfried Zaha (14 Premier League goals last season) has help from the likes of Eberechi EzeMichael Olise and Odsonne Edouard, while the defense has been reinforced with the arrival of Chris Richards while Marc Guehi is now a full England international.

They might bump up a place or three as mid-table is truly hard to predict, but a deep cup run or even cup final would be a better target.

Key player: Wilfried Zaha

The 29-year-old is still their most consistent creative force as others are yet to come into focus. He’ll need to again lead the charge if the team are to have a strong season.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. He has brought entertainment and excitement back to Selhurst Park, a property more ethereal than league points but more valuable all the same. Unless there is another moment like at Goodison Park, when he got into an altercation with fans invading the pitch, he’s secure for as long as he wants to be.

— James Tyler


– Transfers in: FW Dwight McNeil (Burnley), DF Ruben Vinagre (Wolves), DF James Tarkowski (free agent)
– Transfers out: FW Richarlison (Tottenham), FW Cenk Tosun (free agent), DF Jonjoe Kenny (free agent), DF Fabian Delph (released), MF Gylfi Sigurdsson (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (16th), FA Cup (quarterfinals), Carabao Cup (third round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

If it gets any worse for Everton, they’ll be playing Championship football next season, which is almost unthinkable for a club of their size. There were times toward the end of last season when it felt like Everton were destined to get relegated, but in the end Burnley left themselves too much to do and Frank Lampard’s side escaped by the skin of their teeth.

Preseason results have been a mixed bag — a 4-0 defeat to Minnesota United was particularly worrying — but the biggest concern for fans will be the summer recruitment. Richarlison, Everton’s best player during last season’s run-in, has joined Tottenham and the only significant signings so far have been Tarkowski and McNeil from Burnley, although PSG midfielder Idrissa Gueye looks set to return. Without Richarlison, there is a lot of pressure on Dominic Calvert-Lewin to score the goals, but he has to stay fit and is likely to miss the opening month.

Key player: Jordan Pickford

Goals are going to be a problem for Everton, but judging by last season, they will also need their goalkeeper in top form. England‘s No.1 attracts plenty of criticism for his form and style, but he was outstanding as Everton clawed their way out of trouble last season. Having Tarkowski in front as part of a more settled defence should help, but it’s still likely that Pickford will have plenty to do.

Will their manager last the season?

No. Lampard has shown signs at Derby and Chelsea that he could be a good manager, but Everton almost feels like an impossible job these days. Expectations will always be high because it’s a huge club, but it’s not being matched by investment in the squad. The group that struggled so badly last season hasn’t been significantly improved and many supporters will fear another year battling at the bottom. If things go badly, Lampard will be the one to pay the price even though there are plenty of others to blame for what’s happening.

— Rob Dawson


– Transfers in: MF Joao Palhinha (Sporting CP), MF Andreas Pereira (Manchester United), DF Kevin Mbabu (Wolfsburg), MF Manor Solomon (loan from Shakhtar Donetsk), GK Bernd Leno (Arsenal)

– Transfers out: MF Andre Zambo Anguissa (Napoli), MF Fabio Carvalho (Liverpool), FW Timmy Abraham (free agent), MF Jean Michael Seri (Hull City),
– Last season: Championship (promoted to Premier League at champions), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (third round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

In the past four seasons, Fulham have been promoted twice to the Premier League, and relegated twice. So survival is the obvious target this term and their method this time around has been one of consolidation and improvement, rather than overhaul like they did ahead of the 2018-19 season (where they spent over £100m), and last time out in 2020-21 (where they brought in seven players on loan.) They appear to have learned from previous failings though manager Marco Silva feels they are still “undercooked” ahead of the season, saying earlier this week they have just 16 senior players at the club and just two central defenders.

Of those they’ve brought in, Mbabu should prove to be one of the signings of the summer, while Solomon and Palhinha are exciting, as is the arrival of Leno from Arsenal for a low fee and with plenty to prove. Pereira brings Premier League experience to the middle of the park, but there are still some unknowns. Last time out the prolific Mitrovic struggled in the Premier League; can he do better this time around? A new centre-back to start alongside Tosin would also be an astute piece of business, and they’ve been heavily linked with West Ham’s Issa Diop. They need to survive this year, given their previous yo-yo existence.

Key player: Aleksandar Mitrovic

Leno will be a busy man, but it must be Mitrovic. He scored an incredible 43 goals last season, shattering all sorts of Championship records in the process. But he struggled last time out in the Premier League in the 2020-21 campaign. Under Scott Parker he started just 13 matches that term, scoring only three league goals.

Will their manager last the season?

In previous seasons, had Silva started this campaign poorly, I’d have said he’d be gone by November. But there’s something different about their approach this term, with an admiration for Silva’s attacking brand of football. Fulham have made some poor decisions in the past with their managers — look at that ill-fated spell of Claudio Ranieri in the 2018-19 campaign, in which he lasted just three months — but they have settled since then. This team has evolved in their playing style and Silva has a good rapport with the owners. While previously backing a Fulham manager to be sacked before the end of the season was a safe bet, I believe he’ll still be there come May.

— Tom Hamilton

Leeds United

– Transfers in: MF Brenden Aaronson (FC Salzburg), FW Luis Sinisterra (Feyenoord), MF Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), MF Marc Roca (Bayern Munich), DF Rasmus Kristensen (FC Salzburg), MF Darko Gyabi (Manchester City), FW Sonny Perkins (West Ham United)

– Transfers out: FW Raphinha (Barcelona), MF Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City)
– Last season: Premier League (17th), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (fourth round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

This season has to be better for Leeds because the alternative simply doesn’t bear thinking about. Having avoided relegation only on the final day of last season, a worse campaign will mean dropping back into the Championship, so the stakes couldn’t be higher. But the outlook doesn’t bode well for Leeds due to the loss of key players Phillips and Raphinha since the end of last season. The club banked £97m by offloading the pair to Man City and Barcelona, respectively, but neither has been suitably replaced.

USMNT stars Aaronson and Adams have been signed by American coach Jesse Marsch, with Man City youngster Gyabi and Feyenoord’s Colombian forward Sinisterra also added, but all four new arrivals lack the Premier League experience and proven record of Phillips and Raphinha.

Getting striker Patrick Bamford fit and scoring again will be Marsch’s top priority. Bamford made just nine Premier League appearances last season due to injury, a huge loss that contributed to Marcelo Bielsa’s exit as manager in February. But with Marsch struggling to make an impact as Bielsa’s successor and key players moving on, it promises to be a tough year for Leeds and they will be in a relegation battle that may finish with a less positive ending.

Marsch hopes Adams & Aaronson alter British views of American soccer

Jesse Marsch tells SportsCenter why he wanted to bring Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson to Leeds.

Key player: Patrick Bamford

The 28-year-old scored 17 goals in 38 games during the 2020-21 campaign and his contribution enabled Leeds to secure a top-10 finish in their first season back in the Premier League after 16 years. But last season’s injuries saw him score just twice and Leeds desperately missed his goals and team play. The pressure on Bamford will be even greater this season and Marsch needs the former Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace forward to rediscover the form of fitness of two years ago. He’ll rely on Daniel James and Jack Harrison for service around goal, but ultimately, Bamford needs to make the difference.

Will their manager last the season?

No. Although the Leeds ownership — the San Francisco 49ers Enterprise group has a 44% stake — is committed to Marsch, having hired the American in February following his unsuccessful stint at RB Leipzig, he won just four of 12 games in charge and almost oversaw relegation back to the championship. The fans remain sceptical over his ability to make the team an established Premier League side, with an ongoing affection for previous manager Bielsa not helping Marsch win hearts and minds at Elland Road. Marsch needs a good start to the season to avoid creating more pressure for himself, but in the short term at least, he has the backing of the owners.

— Mark Ogden

Leicester City

– Transfers in: None
– Transfers out: GK Kasper Schmeichel (Nice)
– Last season: Premier League (8th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (quarterfinals), UEFA Europa League (group stage), UEFA Europa Conference League (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Leicester finished eighth last season, and they will finish below that this season. They are the only team in the Premier League to have not yet recruited a player yet this summer (at the time of writing) — how can you expect to have a better season than the previous one if you don’t strengthen a squad which needs strengthening and showed weaknesses, especially defensively?

On top of that, players want to leave. Goalkeeper Schmeichel has joined Nice and he is a huge loss for the club not just as captain, but his experience and also as a connective thread to their title-winning season. Wesley Fofana is pushing for a move; Youri Tielemans is hoping for a big offer from one of the top teams; Newcastle are coming in hard for James MaddisonBoubakary Soumare wants more game time and could move back to France with Monaco.

Leicester have a tough start to the season as well, with trips to Arsenal and Chelsea and the visit of Manchester City within the first five games of the campaign! Jamie Vardy is 35 now and won’t always be the saviour, so someone else will have to step up: whether it is Harvey BarnesKiernan Dewsbury-Hall or Patson Daka remains to be seen. But Brendan Rodgers will feel the pressure and will have to be inspired if this season is to be a successful one.

Key player: Harvey Barnes

At 24, this is the season when Barnes has to get to the next level. Since he broke into the first team in the second half of the 2018-19 Premier League season, we saw a lot of potential talent and progress, too — from one goal and two assists in 11 starts in 2018-19; to six and eight in 24 starts the following year; nine and four in 22 starts after that; and six and 10 in 24 starts last season. After domestic campaigns with 14, 13 and 16 goal contributions, he has now to get over the 20 mark and really explode. Barnes has the talent to get 10 goals and 10 assists a season in the top flight. He needs to show these numbers and this consistency.

After he made his debut (and only cap so far) with England in 2020, plenty would have thought that he would still be in the England set up now. Instead, others have overtaken him in the pecking order. He needs a top season to bring himself back in.

Will their manager last the season?

Whether Rodgers gets sacked or he leaves by himself, he won’t finish the season. The campaign has all the ingredients to be a difficult one and Rodgers already wanted to leave in 2021-22 when the Manchester United job was available. You can easily see that the end of a cycle is approaching at Leicester within the squad, but also on the bench. Rodgers has taken this team as far as he could.

— Julien Laurens


– Transfers in: FW Darwin Nunez (Benfica), MF Fabio Carvalho (Fulham), DF Calvin Ramsay (Aberdeen)
– Transfers out: FW Sadio Mane (Bayern Munich), DF Neco Williams (Nottingham Forest), FW Takumi Minamino (AS Monaco), DF Ben Davies (Rangers), FW Sheyi Ojo (Cardiff City), FW Divock Origi (AC Milan)
– Last season: Premier League (2nd), FA Cup (winners), Carabao Cup (winners), UEFA Champions League (runners-up)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Liverpool came within touching distance of a quadruple last season, missing out on the Premier League title on the final day before losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid. But although Klopp’s team almost had the dream campaign, falling short in the big two competitions means they can still improve this time around and winning both will be the objective.

Like Manchester City, Liverpool have signed players and lost some key men too. Mane will be a big loss, but if £75m striker Nunez settles quickly, the change may not be too painful. Persuading Mohamed Salah to extend his contract was a major boost for Liverpool, so they go into the new season as the team most likely to beat City to the title. (They also showed in their Community Shield win over City that they’re ready for the challenge.)

It’s difficult to envisage Liverpool failing to finish in the top two or being knocked out in the early stages of the Champions League, so it will be another big year ahead. And it could be the head-to-head encounters against City that decide whether this season is better or worse.

Nicol: Liverpool far superior in attacking than Man City

Steve Nicol praises the efforts of both teams for the Community Shield, but calls Liverpool’s attacking game far superior than Manchester City’s.

Key player: Virgil van Dijk

Liverpool possess an array of attacking talent, but even if they lost Salah for any significant period of time, they would be able to overcome his absence due to the available options, just as they did last season when the Egypt forward, and Mane, were away for over a month at the Africa Cup of Nations. It’s a different story in defence, however, and the player that Liverpool simply can’t do without is centre-back Van Dijk.

When he suffered a season-ending cruciate ligament injury early in the 2020-21 campaign, Liverpool’s title defence went off the rails and they only narrowly salvaged their season by sealing a top-four finish on the final day. Van Dijk brings experience, calmness and authority at the heart of the defence and he’s absolutely crucial to Liverpool’s ambitions.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. Klopp signed a new contract in April and is committed to managing the club until the end of the 2025-26 season, so there is no realistic prospect of the 55-year-old heading out of Anfield anytime soon. His plan is to deliver more success for Liverpool rather than seek a move elsewhere. He is there for the long-term.

— Mark Ogden

Manchester City

– Transfers in: FW Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund), MF Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United), FW Julian Alvarez (River Plate), GK Stefan Ortega (Arminia Bielefeld)
– Transfers out: FW Raheem Sterling (Chelsea), FW Gabriel Jesus (Arsenal), DF Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal), MF Romeo Lavia (Southampton), GK Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), DF Pedro Porro (Sporting CP), MF Darko Gyabi (Leeds United), DF Ko Itakura (Borussia Monchengladbach), GK Aro Muric (Burnley)
– Last season: Premier League (champions), FA Cup (semifinals), Carabao Cup (fourth round), UEFA Champions League (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

City operate to such fine margins that a good season for everyone else would be a bad one for them if they fail to win the Premier League. And that will be the benchmark again for Guardiola’s team: they basically need to finish above Liverpool and then everything will take care of itself.

But although City have strengthened by adding Haaland, Phillips and Alvarez to last season’s squad, they have lost significant players in Fernandinho, Jesus and Sterling. Zinchenko’s versatility will also be missed following his move to Arsenal.

There is a quiet evolution taking place at the Etihad and it may just lead to the team falling short this time around. Haaland will score goals, but will he deliver in the biggest games and will he make up for the loss of Sterling and Jesus’ goals? City will finish in the top two, but it will be another tight race with Liverpool and how it ends will define whether this season is better or worse than the last one.

Why there’s no reason to worry about Haaland after Community Shield loss

Gab Marcotti defends Erling Haaland’s performance for Manchester City in their 3-1 Community Shield loss to Liverpool.

Key player: Erling Haaland

Kevin De Bruyne is City’s best player and the one that elevates the team to a level it only occupies when he is fit and available, but their key player this season will be Haaland. If the Norway forward lives up to the hype and scores a huge volume of goals, City could win everything they contest this season, but there are question marks over the former Borussia Dortmund star and how they are answered will be decisive.

Is Haaland a player who only scores lots of goals against weaker opponents? Or is he one who can also make the difference in the tightest games that will decide if City win the Champions League or Premier League? Time will tell on that, but the evidence of his performance against Liverpool in the Community Shield suggested that Haaland and his new teammates will take time to work out how each other plays. City haven’t played with such a direct No. 9 under Guardiola and they will have to alter their style accordingly, but Haaland also needs to adjust his approach to become more of a team player.

It will be fascinating to see how it all turns out, for player and club.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. The only way that Guardiola will leave the Etihad before the end of the season is if he chooses to do so and there is no sign of that happening. However, the big question is whether he will stay beyond that. His contract expires next summer and he has already said he will not consider extending it until then. All in all, it could turn out to be the final year of Guardiola’s stay.

— Mark Ogden

Manchester United

– Transfers in: DF Lisandro Martinez (Ajax), DF Tyrell Malacia (Feyenoord), MF Christian Eriksen (free agent)
– Transfers out: MF Andreas Pereira (Fulham), MF Jesse Lingard (free agent), MF Paul Pogba (free agent), MF Nemanja Matic (free agent), MF Juan Mata (released), FW Edinson Cavani (released)
– Last season: Premier League (6th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (third round), UEFA Champions League (round of 16)

Will they be better or worse this season?

The good news for new manager Erik ten Hag is that it can’t get much worse. The humiliation towards the end of last season has left expectations at rock bottom, and anything other than abject failure will be seen as some kind of progress. The new United manager has refused to play down his team’s prospects ahead of the season, but a top-four finish and some kind of cup run is probably the best he can hope for.

A lot will depend on which players come in before the transfer deadline because the squad still feels light in midfield and up front, but even in his short time at the helm, Ten Hag has created the feeling that at the very least, he’s moving the club forward. United face a battle to get back into the Champions League because the Premier League is so strong, but if Ten Hag can restore some pride and establish a clear way of playing, then it should be viewed as a successful first season.

Hislop: Ten Hag ‘absolutely right’ in saying Ronaldo shouldn’t have left early

Shaka Hislop dissects the dynamic between Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric ten Hag after Ronaldo was seen leaving stadium before the final whistle.

Key player: Anthony Martial

There were doubts about his future at the start of the summer following a loan move to Sevilla last season, but after a positive preseason, it would be no surprise to see Martial start the first game against Brighton on Sunday. With question marks surrounding Cristiano Ronaldo‘s future, it’s not clear who’s going to score the goals for Ten Hag, but if Martial can have a good season in front of goal, he could transform United’s prospects. If he stays fit, sharp and engaged, he could have a big season.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes — or at least he should. No United manager post-Sir Alex Ferguson has survived after missing out on the Champions League following a full season in charge, but that might have to change here. It’s far from guaranteed that United will finish in the top four, but there has to come a point when the chopping and changing of managers must stop. New CEO Richard Arnold has been keen to distance himself from Ed Woodward’s chaotic spell as the club’s top executive and giving Ten Hag time, no matter what happens next season, would be evidence of a much-needed change of direction.

— Rob Dawson

Newcastle United

– Transfers in: DF Sven Botman (Lille), DF Matt Targett (Aston Villa), GK Nick Pope (Burnley), DF Charlie McArthur (Kilmarnock)
– Transfers out: GK Freddie Woodman (Preston), FW Dwight Gayle (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (11th), FA Cup (third round), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Newcastle ended last season as one of the Premier League’s form teams, having escaped a midseason relegation battle to finish 11th under Eddie Howe, but after being taken over by a Saudi Arabian investment fund, future ambitions go well beyond establishing a mid-table comfort zone.

Howe has been backed with significant funds to strengthen his squad since the takeover, with over £140m invested in new players during this year’s two transfer windows, so the expectation at St James’ Park is of a push for European qualification. In the years to come, Newcastle’s owners have made it clear that they will be targeting major success and regular Champions League football, but the first objective is a top 10 finish and a place in Europe. Howe’s team have the ability to do that, with goalkeeper Pope and defender Botman arriving to add quality and experience to the backline.Newcastle arguably need a more potent strikeforce, but that issue could be addressed before the transfer deadline. Regardless of whoever arrives in the weeks ahead, you can expect a better season this time around.

Key player: Allan Saint-Maximin

Newcastle are still looking to add to their attacking options for the new season, but Saint-Maximin will remain a key figure no matter who the club signs.

During Newcastle’s struggles under previous owner Mike Ashley, Saint-Maximin was a rare ray of light for the long-suffering supporters, with the French forward’s pace and attacking ambition often offering the team’s only goal threat. The fear that Saint-Maximin would leave for a club higher up the league was a constant, but now that such concerns are gone, the challenge for the 25-year-old is to take his game to a higher level and earn himself a central role in Newcastle’s bright future.

Will their manager last the season?

No. Howe has done a remarkable job so far at Newcastle since being appointed last November. The club looked doomed to relegation until the former Bournemouth boss took charge and transformed their fortunes. But Newcastle’s new owners want success and they want it quickly, so Howe is already under huge pressure to not only sustain the momentum of last season, but build on it.

Under normal circumstances, his progress so far would guarantee his position for the season, but if Newcastle underperform, there will be a long line of high-profile managers with persistent agents who will be desperate to take on the challenge at St. James’. So it depends on the owners being patient and loyal to Howe, especially when results hit a difficult patch. Football rarely works like that, however, and Howe will know he has to keep the team moving forward to avoid concerns over his job.

— Mark Ogden

Nottingham Forest

– Transfers in: FW Taiwo Awoniyi (Union Berlin), DF Neco Williams (Liverpool), DF Moussa Niakhate (Mainz), DF Omar Richards (Bayern Munich), MF Lewis O’Brien (Huddersfield), DF Giulian Biancone (Troyes), DF Harry Toffolo (Huddersfield), MF Jesse Lingard (free agent), GK Wayne Hennessey (Burnley),
– Transfers out: GK Brice Samba (Lens), DF Nikolas Ioannou (Como), DF Gaetan Bong (released), DF Carl Jenkinson (free agent)
– Last season: Championship (4th, promoted via playoff), FA Cup (quarterfinals), Carabao Cup (second round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Nottingham Forest would happily settle for 17th this season after winning promotion back to the Premier League for the first time in 23 years, but manager Steve Cooper and the club look like they’ve set their sights much higher.

After looking like relegation candidates early in the Championship last season, Forest would have been forgiven for just being happy to be back in English football’s top flight, yet their summer transfer business suggests they are intent on staying there. Close to £100m has been splashed on a host of new players with almost every area of the squad significantly strengthened. It remains to be seen whether Cooper can mould the new recruits into a functioning team but no one will be writing off a manager who took Forest from bottom of the championship to the Premier League in the same season.

If they get off to a good start and the new signings hit the ground running, they could push for a place in the top 10.

Hislop can’t understand Lingard’s Forest move

Shaka Hislop says Nottingham Forest’s Jesse Lingard should’ve chosen West Ham last summer.

Key player: Jesse Lingard

Forest have made some eye-catching signings this summer, but none more so than Lingard. The 29-year-old turned down interest from West Ham and Everton after his contract at Manchester United expired in June; he’s clearly backing himself to do well enough at the City Ground to force his way back into the England squad before the 2022 World Cup kicks off in Qatar in November. Lingard has been desperate for a run of first-team football for the last 18 months and he should get it at Forest. It’s a great chance to show what he can do.

Will their manager last the season?

Yes. Forest might have been playing in League One this season had it not been for Cooper performing near miracles following his appointment in September 2021. All promoted teams go through spells when it feels like they can’t buy a point — it happened to Brentford last season and they finished 13th — but Forest owe it to Cooper to back him even when things aren’t going well. It’s easy for clubs to panic when Premier League survival is on the line, but Cooper deserves the chance to see out the season regardless.

— Rob Dawson


– Transfers in: MF Romeo Lavia (Manchester City), GK Gavin Bazunu (Manchester City), FW Sekou Mara (Bordeaux), DF Armel Bella-Kotchap (Bochum), MF Joe Aribo (Rangers), GK Mateusz Lis (Altay SK)
– Transfers out: GK Fraser Forster (free agent), FW Shane Long (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (15th), FA Cup (quarterfinal), Carabao Cup (fourth round)

Will they be better or worse this season?

They have to do better, otherwise they will go down! Last season’s 15th-place finish was disappointing in the end, despite a decent run in the FA Cup and some interesting results (win away at Tottenham, two draws against Man City, beat Arsenal, draw at United.) But overall they only won nine matches out of 38 and finished the campaign with one victory in their last 12 Premier League matches (with nine losses and two draws) which was embarrassing.

They should do better here because their squad is stronger than that. They have kept their key players like James Ward-ProwseMohammed SalisuTino Livramento (who is injured) or, at least for now, Kyle Walker-Peters, and added some very talented youngsters: Bella-Kotchap, a Germany U21 international centre-back who was very good with Bochum last season; Mara, 20, a France U21 international and promising with Bordeaux last year in Ligue 1; Lavia, 18, the highly rated Belgium U21 international midfielder who came from Man City.

Coach Ralph Hasenhuttl will have everything he needs in his squad: experience, youth, intelligence, energy, pace, skills and depth. Now, he needs to find some consistency within this talented squad and more solidity defensively. They will also need more goals, which was a problem last season (only 43 scored in 38 games.)

Key player: Gavin Bazunu

At 20, the goalkeeper is already a full Republic of Ireland international and has impressed in all the games he has played for the national team so far — especially in the 0-0 draw with Portugal in November. After a good loan at Portsmouth in League 1 last season, Man City allowed him to leave and get his opportunity in the Premier League.

Bazunu is good in the air, great on his line and has a strong personality, but this is another level. He’ll be facing the best strikers in the world on a weekly basis, starting with Harry Kane to open the season on Saturday. Then he will meet Patrick Bamford and Leeds, Jamie Vardy and Leicester, Cristiano Ronaldo and Manchester United, Raheem Sterling and Chelsea. For Southampton to start well, they need him to deliver straight away. Let’s see if he can cope.

Will their manager last the season?

Since his arrival in December 2018, Hasenhuttl has always had the trust of his bosses, but with the new owners’ first full Premier League season ahead, he can’t afford the heavy defeats we see from the Saints every season (9-0 against Leicester and at United, 6-0 at home to Chelsea, 4-0 at Villa and Liverpool) and the regular bad runs of form (one win in nine to start the season; one win in 12 to finish it.) I expect him to be sacked if the campaign is similar to last season, which could well happen.

— Julien Laurens

Tottenham Hotspur

– Transfers in: FW Richarlison (Everton), MF Yves Bissouma (Brighton), DF Djed Spence (Middlesbrough), DF Clement Lenglet (Barcelona), FW Ivan Perisic (free agent), GK Fraser Forster (free agent),
– Transfers out: FW Steven Bergwijn (Ajax), DF Cameron Carter-Vickers (Celtic), FW Jack Clarke (Sunderland)
– Last season: Premier League (4th), FA Cup (fifth round), Carabao Cup (semifinals), UEFA Europa Conference League (group stage)

Will they be better or worse this season?

Tottenham only secured fourth place and Champions League qualification on the final day of last season, but there is widespread expectation of further improvement now that head coach Antonio Conte has been given licence to mould the squad as he sees fit. The Italian has made little secret of his desire to challenge Liverpool and Manchester City for the Premier League title, rather than merely repeating last year’s performance, and while that feels a tall order, it is easy to see why Spurs could kick on having had a full preseason under Conte, together with more suitable players for his preferred 3-4-3 system.

Tottenham have added proven quality in veteran winger Perisic and forward Richarlison, while Spence has significant potential after his breakthrough season at Nottingham Forest when on loan from Middlesbrough. Lenglet strengthens Conte’s centre-back options, and it could be significant that Spurs completed the majority of their incoming transfers early in the window, allowing greater time for integration.

The great unknowns are firstly whether Spurs can find sufficient consistency to match Conte’s lofty ambitions, or if harmony between the 53-year-old and those around him will endure, but Tottenham are in a much better place than they were 12 months ago when Kane wanted to leave and Spurs ended a protracted managerial search by appointing their infamous “eighth choice” Nuno Espirito Santo.

Key player: Harry Kane

Despite various alterations to the squad, he remains Tottenham’s most influential player by some distance. Kane spent last summer agitating for a move to Manchester City and although Guardiola ultimately decided to pursue Haaland instead a year later, the mood music around the England captain is currently a lot calmer. Bayern Munich have expressed an interest in Kane — and Chelsea may enter the running — but for the time being, the 29-year-old appears focused on taking Spurs to where he wants them to be: winning trophies. Talks on a contract extension are even expected to begin in the near future.

Kane’s partnership with Son Heung-Min remains pivotal to Tottenham’s chances of success, too: Son even outscored Kane last year to share the Golden Boot with Salah on 23 goals. It is another big year for Kane, who will lead England at the World Cup, either side of another crack at sating his desire to add silverware to his remarkable goal-scoring record for club and country.

Will their manager last the season?

Probably. Nothing is guaranteed with a character as volatile as Conte, especially given that his existing contract technically expires next summer. There is an option to extend, but both parties need to agree, something that will depend on how the team progresses this season. Spurs may well look to tie Conte down sooner if they make an encouraging start — he has made positive noises during preseason about being open to it — but even on the path to the top four last season, Conte repeatedly cast doubts over his own future, hinting at walking away from a job he was unsure he could thrive in.

His demeanour can change quickly, but the best that can be said right now is he has been given the backing he demanded both in terms of finance and control. Tottenham could not have done much more to keep him happy at this stage; now it is Conte’s turn to deliver.

— James Olley

West Ham

– Transfers in: FW Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo), DF Nayef Aguerd (Rennes), MF Flynn Downes (Swansea City), GK Alphonse Areola (Paris Saint-Germain),
– Transfers out: FW Sonny Perkins (free agent), FW Andriy Yarmolenko (free agent), MF Mark Noble (retired)
– Last season: Premier League (7th), FA Cup (fifth round), Carabao Cup (quarterfinals), UEFA Europa League (semifinals)

Will they be better or worse this season?

The good news is they’ve managed to keep Declan Rice and Jarrod Bowen (at the time of writing), and despite the retirement of stalwart and club legend Noble, their squad looks stronger with their two big-money signings alongside Areola and Downes. The recruitment of Scamacca offers them some much-needed depth up front and gives Michail Antonio some competition, while Aguerd will bolster their defensive options. Those new arrivals always come with the weight of the ghosts of previous failed big-money signings, like Nikola Vlasic who cost in the region of £27m last summer, but there’s an optimism around West Ham that they can build on last season’s top-half finish.

A £33m deal to sign Amadou Onana from Lille has been agreed, but you feel they do need further signings before the window’s out to enable this squad to cope with the rigours of European football for the second season running. However, the current group should be enough for them to finish in the top half.

Key player: Jarrod Bowen

Keeping Rice is a wonderful result for West Ham. Their new captain and outstanding player could slot into just about any team in Europe and look at home. While that’s been key, keep an eye on new signings Aguerd and Scamacca, the latter of whom comes with the expectation of being a 20-goal-a-season striker. But key to all of this is Bowen. Last season he finished with 12 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League and when he’s flying, the rest of the team follow him. There are other integral players in this team like Pablo FornalsTomas Soucek and Vladimir Coufal, but Bowen is indispensable.

Will their manager last the season?

David Moyes has worked wonders at West Ham, and the owners have backed him in the transfer market this summer. The recruitment has been astute, and seemingly better thought out than previous seasons. But with success comes increased expectation. The seventh-place finish last term was remarkable, alongside their run to the semifinals of the Europa League and it’d take a monumental collapse for Moyes’ job to be in danger this term. I fully expect him to be manager this time next year.

— Tom Hamilton


– Transfers in: DF Nathan Collins (Burnley), FW Adama Traore (loan ended)
– Transfers out: DF Ruben Vinagre (Sporting CP, on loan to Everton), GK John Ruddy (Birmingham City), DF Roman Saiss (free agent)
– Last season: Premier League (10th), FA Cup (fourth round), Carabao Cup (thrid round)

Will they be better or worst this season?

It’s hard to say. A weak showing in cups was reinforced by a tepid finish to last season, with 38 goals in 38 games capped by five defeats in their final seven games. It’s hard to see the same team that won at Aston Villa, Man United, Spurs and took a draw at Chelsea, but also lost 10 games (out of 17) by a single goal, and nine of those 1-0. It’s difficult to say that this team has really improved, though the return of winger Adama Traore from a loan spell in Barcelona would at least add a notable spark. (At least, it will he if remains at the club, with rumors linking him to both Tottenham and Chelsea.)

A rise up the table doesn’t seem likely unless they add someone potent in front of goal.

Key player: Ruben Neves

The midfielder was a reliable, steady force in the Wolves midfield and will again need to provide the platform from which the likes of Raul Jimenez (six league goals in 2021-22) can regain form and the permanent signing of RB Leipzig’s Hwang Hee-Chan can produce up front.

Will their manager last the season?

Bruno Lage is a Portuguese manager in charge of a largely Portuguese squad (12 players in the first team), and has set them up to play cagey football in which they create via disruption. If they continue to be comfortable in the league, there’s no reason to shake things up on the touchline.

— James Tyler

‘Free eights’, ‘low blocks’ and ‘pockets’: Your Premier League glossary for the new season

Charlie EccleshareAug 4, 2022

The new Premier League season is fast approaching and for those who follow it, this will mean once again being exposed to a language that can at times feel daunting.

There are so many terms and expressions used in commentary, analysis and tactical talks by managers, players, pundits and journalists, some of which we nod dutifully along with even though we don’t really know what they mean.

Here, The Athletic explains some of these words and phrases, and offers examples of how they can be correctly used.

This is our 2022-23 Premier League glossary.

Section 1: Tactics

The proliferation of tactics into the mainstream has meant a whole new set of terms for football fans to try to understand.

For many, the Premier League jumped the shark when the BBC’s Match Of The Day started including expected goals (xG) in its post-match statistics for the 2017-18 season. This led to a weird culture war that perhaps reached its peak on Sky’s Soccer Saturday when normally-affable host Jeff Stelling ranted that xG is “absolute nonsense” and “the most useless stat in the history of football”.

Most of you reading this won’t need to have xG explained (though I did speak to a football writer not that long ago who genuinely seemed to think expected goals was essentially a pre-match result prediction, like the pools).There are, though, a few tactical terms you might hear and have to slightly pretend you know what they mean.

Underlying numbers and overperformance/underperformance

If xG feels a little bit passe, these terms are the slightly newer, trendier kid on the block.

Put together, they essentially mean a player or team might be performing well but their underlying numbers — their xG, or expected assists, or expected goals against (xGA), or whatever’s most relevant — aren’t actually that good, indicating a level of overperformance which could soon see them found out. Likewise, if someone is underperforming, the reality may soon reflect the advanced metrics and lead to an improvement.

How to use it and sound convincing

Leicester City are running hot right now but if you look at the underlying numbers, I do just wonder whether this form is sustainable.”

Low block

You will hear this largely in terms of low-block defences — ones that typically sit deep and try to frustrate their opponents.

The meaning is very simple: the ‘block’ part refers to the ranks of players doing the defending and the ‘low’ bit tells us they are doing it deep in their own territory. A medium block would be higher up the pitch, a high block nearer still to the opponents’ goal. Though, of course, we tend to hear ‘high’ in relation to a high press.

How to use it and sound convincing

“They’re a good side, but as we know, they do struggle against low-block defences.”

Free eights

A positional descriptor that has leapt into the mainstream over the last couple of years, “free eights” refers to the two members of a three-player midfield who, thanks to a disciplined, deeper-sitting “six”, have the license to roam around the pitch and get forward.

Think Jesse Lingard and Dele Alli for England at the 2018 World Cup (when they were playing ahead of Jordan Henderson) or, as has often been the case for Manchester CityKevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva, backed by a deep-lying Rodri. A good deep-lying midfielder, incidentally, should be press-resistant and able to evade the inevitable pressure he will be put under by opposition attackers.

How to use it and sound convincing

“Listen, he’s a talent. I can see him as a 10 or out wide, or even as one of the free eights if the manager wants to go with that system.” 

See also: eight and a half — a position somewhere between a No 8 and a No 10 (but not a No 9, as might seem numerically logical). We also don’t have the time here to go into false nines, a term that has been around since Lionel Messi first popularised the role in 2009, but The Athletic has done a proper, in-depth analysis of that position if you want one.


The former is a more technical definition that is a translation of the German word halbraum and refers to the space in between one vertical line denoting a pitch’s wide area, and another denoting its central area. (Note that in a low block we’re talking about a horizontal line, and that another commonly-used expression between the lines refers to the space separating an opposing team’s back line from its matching midfield one).

“Pockets” is a looser way of describing what may be half-spaces or the spaces between the lines. Joe Cole is a big fan of the latter (both as a pundit, and when he was a player for West HamChelsea and England), whereas half-space is a bit more Tifo.

How to use it and sound convincing

“He tends to operate in the left half-space, where he can cut onto his right foot and get shots off.”

“He’s so good at just dropping deep and finding those pockets of space.”

Section 2: Recruitment

Alongside the growth of tactical language, the last few years have seen transfers, and more specifically the process of them, being described in ever more granular detail.

The Athletic’s Adam Hurrey, who knows a thing or two about football linguistics, recently outlined the 22 stages of a transfer saga, but we’re talking more here about the rules and regulations of buying and selling players, and how recruitment teams operate.

It’s essentially admin work, but appears to be the source of endless fascination both for fans and those of us who cover the game.

Homegrown quota

One of the biggest preoccupations fans seem to have in 2022 is about whether their club will fall foul of the Premier League’s (or, if in European competition, UEFA’s) homegrown quota.

What this means in the Premier League is that no more than 17 players in a team’s selected squad for the season can be non-homegrown. Those 17 players can be of any nationality or age. For a player to be considered homegrown, they must have played for an FA-affiliated club, not necessarily yours, for at least three years before turning 21.

Being across this rule is a great way to show you know more than the average supporter.

How to use it and sound convincing

Q: “What a summer it’s been so far for your club, you must be pretty excited?”.

A: “I am. I’m just a little concerned about what it means for our homegrown quota.”

Age profile

Premier League recruitment staff have never had it so good. Once, backroom operators nobody knew too much about, they are now the geniuses behind a team’s rise and fall. The layperson puts Liverpool’s success in recent years down to their manager Jurgen Klopp; for the more savvy observer, it’s just as much about their smart recruitment team.

As journalists, we have a responsibility to outline for you precisely what the thinking is of your team’s transfer brains trust (a term also applicable to a huddle of players discussing what they’re going to do at a free kick), and part of this means using the same kind of language they do.

“Profile” is one of the most commonly used words in this regard, meaning essentially the kind of player(s) whoever is being talked about is. An offshoot of this is “age profile”, which as far as I can understand just means age.

How to use it and sound convincing

“They did like the player, but in the end, he just didn’t quite fit the age profile the club’s recruitment staff are looking for.”

June 30

Has a deadline to submit accounts ever been so sexy? This is not a term as such, but the date Premier League clubs, and those in other countries and divisions for that matter, have to register their accounts for the year just gone and make sure they are compliant with football’s financial rules and regulations.

What it means is June 30 has become a mini transfer deadline day a couple of months before the real one, with some clubs needing to make sales before July 1 to balance their books.

Tottenham signed Richarlison from Everton on July 1 (Photo: Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)

On the flip side, a buying club may want to wait until July 1 to complete a deal, so the outlay does not affect the previous year’s accounts.

How to use it and sound convincing

“Just keep an eye out for June 30. I’ve got a feeling there’ll be quite a lot of business done then.”

Dry loan

One of the side-effects of all those Twitter aggregator accounts that pick up transfer rumours from around the world is that the reports are often run through Google Translate with, let’s say, mixed results.

As well as the often bizarre, nonsensical syntax, it has also meant that literally-translated idioms from other countries have entered the English football transfer lexicon.

“Prestito secco”, for instance, is an Italian term meaning an old-fashioned, bread-and-butter loan deal, with no option or obligation for the club doing the borrowing to buy the player involved at the end of their stay. It translates literally into English as “dry loan” — a term you will see now on Football Twitter. (Another favourite is “giorni caldi”, associated with the Italian journalist Alfredo Pedulla, which translates as “hot days” and means talks over a move are intensifying or heating up).

As a side note, these slight mistranslations can be seen elsewhere in the footballing lexicon.

“In a good moment”, roughly meaning “in good form”, was once the preserve of foreign managers, but has since been taken on by several English ones including Graham Potter of Brighton — for whom the expression feels very right.

How to use it and sound convincing

“I think it’s a good move for the club. Bear in mind it’s a dry loan, so they keep control to a certain extent.”

And while we’re on the subject of loans, a reminder that the correct way to tweet about every single such move from a Premier League club to an EFL one is:

Section 3: Off-field issues

A sign-of-the-times fact of modern football is that it is not enough to have a good understanding of tactics and recruitment. To really be accepted, you also need to have a basic grasp of geopolitics, especially the practice of…


Exact definitions of this term vary but essentially it means laundering the reputation of an entity, normally a country, by having it associated with a much-loved institution. For our purposes, a Premier League club — for instance, Manchester City or Newcastle United.

There are some experts in the field, though, who feel it has become a bit of a catch-all for anything one finds unpalatable, and it is not the most useful way to describe this sort of club ownership.

The term also threatens to spawn a new linguistic sub-genre.

For instance, regarding the recent women’s European Championship, Sarah Gregorius, director of global policy and strategic relations for women’s football at players’ union FIFPro, said in the Financial Times at the weekend: “Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving this tournament. But we have to be critical. I can’t get caught up in progresswashing.”

Maybe safest to stick to sportswashing for now.

How to use it and sound convincing

“I can’t get behind this Newcastle team. Not when their success is such a blatant result of sportswashing.” 

Educate myself

Once the case for sportswashing has been established, it will be put to a manager of whichever club stands accused.

This can prompt defensive retaliation, genuine reflection, or perhaps the equivalent of a child being told off but assuring their teacher they won’t do it again — the promise to “educate myself”.

How to use it and sound convincing

“Look, I take this sort of thing very seriously. I’m a football manager first and foremost, but I’m going to educate myself about this.”

The above examples only scratch the surface, and we haven’t even got into the minuscule distinctions, like using “football club” instead of “club” when really trying to convey the gravity of a situation — “That performance, the effort levels of the players… it’s just not good enough for this football club.” Or the nuclear option: “Manchester United Football Club.”And apologies in advance if there are lots of tactical or transfer terms you see this season that you don’t fully understand.Best to just nod along and, if challenged, sigh thoughtfully and earnestly promise to educate yourself on the topic.

What impact will five-substitutes rule have on the Premier League?

Grealish, Guardiola

By Mark CareyAug 4, 2022

Managers having the option to use five substitutes per match has been commonplace across the majority of Europe’s top domestic leagues for the past two seasons.

While Spain, Italy, France and Germany all chose to stick with a rule introduced as a temporary measure in the post-pandemic period of 2019-20, the Premier League did not follow suit — until now.

Resistance against five subs a game in England was based on the idea that so-called bigger clubs would gain an unfair in-game advantage due to them having greater strength in depth in their squads to call on from the bench — further widening the gap in the league’s competitiveness.

The rebuttal was that players need greater protection from burnout, with an ever-more-crammed football calendar meaning injury risk is significantly higher with the demands of so many fixtures.

Anyway, it’s here in the Premier League now. So, using the rest of Europe’s top five leagues as a template, what impact might this rule change from three permitted changes have?

Does using more substitutions equal success? Do winning teams make substitutions earlier or later? What positives can we take from this new variable?

More substitutions, more points?

Let’s go straight for the jugular.

Across those top four European leagues that had the five-sub rule in place last season (Germany’s Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1), there was no relationship between average number of substitutions made and overall league points accrued.

While all teams in the four countries averaged more than three changes per game, the output was understandably mixed. 

For example, Paris Saint-Germain, the Ligue 1 champions, elected to make the fewest in-game changes of the teams who qualified for this season’s Champions League (3.7 per match), while Serie A title holders Inter Milan almost invariably maximised their quota (4.9) en route to finishing as runners-up behind neighbours AC Milan.

It makes sense that there is no relationship between points and substitutions.

It’s not the quantity of permitted substitutions which has been the gripe of many Premier League clubs in recent seasons. It is about the quality of player top teams can tell to put down the Haribo and get warmed up. 

The drop-off in quality when a player for back-to-back champions Manchester City comes off the bench to replace a starter will be far smaller than when the fifth substitution is made by, say, newly-promoted Bournemouth — if that’s even going to be an option with their threadbare squad.

The argument has often been that the stronger sides could make wholesale substitutions early in the second half of a game, changing up to 50 per cent of their outfield players with five more world-class players to reignite their fortunes if the match isn’t going well.

Yes, that could well be the case, but looking across Europe last season, the more dominant teams actually tended to make their substitutions later in games rather than earlier.

In statistical terms, there is a subtle positive correlation between a team’s final points tally and their average substitution time.

At the extreme end, there is more than a 10-minute difference between the average substitution time made by PSG compared with Genoa, who got relegated from Serie A. 

Why is this? The short answer is that the successful teams are more likely to be, well, successful in the game by being in a winning position — meaning that there is less of a case to use substitutes early in the proceedings to change its outcome.

This tallies with research that shows teams tend to make substitutions later when ahead, and earlier when drawing or losing. In fact, there has even been extensive research to examine the optimal minute to make substitutions, depending on the state of the game.

When behind, the optimal minute to make a first substitution was shown to be the 58th of the 90, followed by the 73rd (second substitution) and 79th (third substitution). By contrast, the data encouraged teams to make their changes at will when either level or in front.

Of course, there may be isolated situations where a “bigger” team are chasing a game and have the strength in depth to be able to bring on five high-quality players.

But looking back to the last Premier League season, there are also examples where that did not occur.

For example, during title-bound City’s goalless draw away to Crystal Palace in March, Pep Guardiola decided not to make any substitutions in the game, despite having attacking options including Raheem Sterling, Gabriel Jesus and Ilkay Gundogan with him on the bench. 

When asked about deciding not to make changes, his response was simple: “I was thinking about that, but the guys who were playing were playing good and the game was in a high, high rhythm, so today we decided to stay with those guys.” 

In fact, Guardiola actually used substitutes the least of all Premier League managers last season, averaging just over two changes a match. 

It is interesting to see a manager’s style within a game but it’s important to consider the context of their rotation between matches.

Looking at the table below, we see that the likes of City, Liverpool and Chelsea rarely stuck with the same starting XI, all averaging between just above or slightly below three changes to their initial line-up from one game to the next.

This is an important point, because such rotation is a luxury afforded to such clubs irrespective of the five-substitution rule, given they require strength in depth to compete on multiple fronts domestically and in Europe across a gruelling season.

So, clubs with bigger squads are more likely to be successful? 

Again, not necessarily. Managing your squad requires the perfect alchemy of rotation, rhythm, and a large slice of luck. 

Guardiola famously likes to have a smaller squad full of players he can absolutely trust and rotate between, and with City avoiding too many injuries last season, he used 26 players in the Premier League. 

At the other end of the scale, Barcelona’s injury crisis meant 38 players appeared for them in La Liga as they eventually fought to a second-place finish despite their off-field issues.

It serves to reinforce the point — the advantage among the “bigger” sides is based on the quality of the squad more so than quantity. 

Have Klopp and Guardiola got a point?

The topic of injuries is particularly pertinent to this debate.

Research has shown there are higher rates of muscle injuries in matches following short periods of recovery (four days or fewer) compared with longer ones (six days or more).

This is crucial for clubs competing on multiple domestic and international fronts. For example, Liverpool and Chelsea both played in 63 games in all competitions last season — a third again more than bottom-half finishers Aston Villa (41).

While squad rotation will continue to be the optimal method to overcome such issues, two additional substitutions per league game will provide further protection against this match-induced fatigue, with positive impacts shown to reduce player load and maximise recovery.

Given the high physical demands of the Premier League compared with other European competitions, you can see why Jurgen Klopp, Guardiola and other managers at the major clubs were calling for this change sooner.

Using data from SkillCorner, we can see the Premier League is out in front among Europe’s top divisions when it comes to high-speed running.

Besides, isn’t it worth considering the positive outcomes that this change could have within English football? With the extra changes available, this could be the year for more young English talent to prosper. 

Debate still rumbles on over Premier League clubs’ inclination, or otherwise, to blood players emerging from well-respected academies, but the option of two further substitutions could provide valuable experience to youngsters seeking playing time — rather than them having to go out on loan further down the football ladder.

Compared with other European leagues, the Premier League is still notably behind in terms of the minutes given to homegrown players, but given the improving quality of academies and the premiums paid for English talent, it would be smart to use those extra substitute options wisely.

Additionally, could this new measure make for an even faster-paced spectacle?

Energy levels naturally diminish as a game progresses, no matter how supremely fit the players are, and the ability to change up to half of your outfield 10 with fresh legs would no doubt reduce that decline and maintain the pace of the match until the final moments.

More broadly, The Athletic has previously identified the trend that high-pressing intensity declined in the Premier League, in exchange for clubs getting better at building up in a more considered manner. Will five substitutions — in addition to a mid-season break due to the World Cup in November and December — change that trend this season? 

This will be an anomalous campaign anyway because of that mid-season World Cup, and those involved in the tournament will need extra protection, given the volume of games they will be asked to play for club and country between now and next June.

However, in the long term, don’t be surprised if you see Premier League games being played at an ever higher intensity in the coming seasons because of this rule.

So, what have we learned? Well, two key things stand out.

The first is that the quality of a squad is far more important than the quantity of players a team can use within a given game — or across a season. The incremental advantage that the “bigger” clubs might have with five substitutions does not hold up in the larger sample.

Second, the research is clear. Greater fatigue means more risk of injury. More injuries mean you don’t get to see your favourite players as often, which makes for a less attractive spectacle.

If the Premier League wants to maintain its status as the best league in the world, this change feels like the best way to help do that.

Weekend Recap: August 1, 2022
Welcome to Backheeled’s Weekend Recap! Here’s a snapshot of some of the biggest American soccer stories from this past weekend. MLS: Brandon Vazquez to the USMNT, a big weekend for young players, and moreNWSL: The league’s international stars are back and changing gamesUSL: The on-field factors behind the Sacramento Republic’s run in the U.S. Open Cup
© Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
We’re back with another edition of the Weekend Recap. Every Monday, we make it easier for you to keep up with the most interesting and important things in American soccer. Today, we’re taking you through some key storylines, including a big weekend for young players in MLS, the NWSL’s return, and the Sacramento Republic’s success in the U.S. Open Cup.
MLS Lowery: Brandon Vazquez to the USMNT, a big week for young players, and more So this weekend was just about the most MLS weekend to ever MLS, wasn’t it? There was a Friday night game that started on Friday and ended well into Saturday morning Eastern Time. There were two 4-4 draws. The Philadelphia Union snagged their second touchdown of the year, this time without the extra point. Oh, and a team that started with Tommy McNamara and Sebastian Lletget on the wings drew with a team that started Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi out wide. I mean, it just doesn’t get any better than that. Here’s my notebook complete with some takeaways from this weekend’s MLS action. Brandon Vazquez to the USMNT It’s time. Really, I thought it was time back in June. Brandon Vazquez scored a brace on Saturday night against Inter Miami. He’s now up to 13 goals on the season to go along with an extremely impressive set of underlying numbers. In a year that’s been something of a renascence for American No. 9s in MLS, Vazquez has been maybe the best of the USMNT-eligible bunch. He creates space in the box, he sees space, he attacks space, and he puts the ball in the back of the net. It’s not just goalscoring that makes the 23-year-old special, though. Vazquez does almost everything that you want a striker to do. He’s not going to drop into midfield like Jesus Ferreira, but he has a big frame, quick feet, and can hold the ball up and play off of his attacking teammates. Defensively, Vazquez presses more than the vast majority of strikers in MLS. According to Second Spectrum, he’s in the 94th percentile for pressures per 90 among strikers. With a pair of friendlies coming up next month for the U.S. men’s national team, Vazquez is showing that he’s worth a look from Gregg Berhalter. NYCFC’s struggles In their first game since Taty Castellanos moved to Girona, guess how many shots New York City FC took? Two. They took two shots against CF Montreal for a grand total of 0.07 expected goals. That’s, uh, not great. Heber started up top as the No. 9 and then Thiago Andrade, not Talles Magno, finished the night as the striker in NYCFC’s 0-0 draw. I have some questions about what NYCFC’s attack looks like going forward – and I’m guessing Nick Cushing does, too – but there is plenty of talent in this team and they should still be able to steamroll more than a few defenses over the coming months. That is, if they can find a way to control games again. Since Nick Cushing took over for Ronny Deila as manager of New York City FC, there’s been a notable defensive dip from the Pigeons. They’ve been a league-average team in terms of expected goals allowed per 90 minutes since Cushing took over. They’re also pressuring the ball less under Cushing than they did under Deila, according to 2S. In their game against Montreal on Saturday, NYCFC were passive. They were content to sit in their own half, absorb pressure, and then try to find something on the break. To be fair, they did pick up a point on the road using that strategy. But watching them play, it didn’t feel like I was watching the New York City team that won MLS Cup last year. A lack of defensive control that leads to defensive mistakes is one thing. But a lack of defensive control that limits an attack that’s already lost its most important player? Now you’re in dangerous waters. That lack of field control wasn’t the only attacking issue for New York City on Saturday, but without Taty, the margins are thinner than they’ve been all season for NYCFC. Rapid fire on the youngsters Jack McGlynn scored his first career MLS goal against the Houston Dynamo over the weekend and it was a beauty. His left foot is so good. With Mark-Anthony Kaye out injured, left winger Jayden Nelson is slotting into central midfield right now for Toronto FC. As a winger, Nelson really found his groove and he struggled to create his own shots. Now playing as a central midfielder, the 19-year-old can focus on pressing and ball progression, which fits his skillset. We could be looking at another Latif Blessing positional switch success story here, folks. Give it time. According to reports, Chicago Fire teenage goalkeeper Gaga Slonina is headed to Chelsea for a $10 million base fee with add-ons. At just 18, Slonina is a talented goalkeeping prospect. It looks like he’ll finish out the season in Chicago on a loan from Chelsea before heading over to England permanently in the new year. I hope he finds a way to get minutes and continue his development on the other side of the Atlantic. John Tolkin did this against FC Barcelona in one of those midseason MLS friendlies on Saturday. This kid has Mountain Dew in his veins where the blood is supposed to be.
NWSL Cascone: The league’s international stars are back and changing games The NWSL resumed this weekend after a week-long break and most of the league’s international players were back and available for selection. Rachel Daly (England, Houston Dash), Kerolin (North Carolina, Brazil), Debinha (North Carolina, Brazil), Angelina (OL Reign, Brazil), and Sofia Jakobsson (San Diego, Sweden) were still away, with Daly and the Brazilians winning championships for their countries over the weekend. Many of these international players picked up right where they left off before all of the international soccer they played in July, but a few players really stood out as game-changers for their clubs. Let’s talk about some of those players. Diana Ordoñez, Mexico, North Carolina Courage After a disappointing Concacaf W Qualifying tournament that saw Mexico fall short of World Cup qualification, Ordoñez made a splash in her NWSL return against the Washington Spirit. She led the Courage in shots (4) and all players in expected goals (1.59, StatsPerform) after scoring twice in the 3-3 draw. Ordoñez’s first goal pulled North Carolina level with their opponents and her penalty kick gave the Courage a 3-2 lead they later conceded. This was her first career brace and she now leads all NWSL rookies in goals this season (5). Unfortunately for North Carolina, this big performance from Ordoñez wasn’t enough to pull them up from the bottom of the table. The Courage are still sitting in last place with nine points and a 2W-3D-5L record. Kailen Sheridan, Canada, San Diego Wave Sheridan and the Canada women’s national team only conceded one goal on their way to World Cup qualification in July, and Sheridan kept up that pace against the Chicago Red Stars on Saturday. The Wave pulled out a 1-0 win despite playing the last third of the match with only 10 players after defender Abby Dahlkemper was shown a second yellow card in the 59th minute. It was Sheridan’s big penalty save in the 82nd minute that secured San Diego’s clean sheet – and ultimately, their win – after she denied Mallory Pugh her seventh goal of the season. Seventeen-year old Jaedyn Shaw was the goalscorer for the Wave. She became the youngest player to score in her NWSL debut and the second-youngest NWSL goalscorer ever, only after Portland’s Olivia Moultrie. With their win, San Diego returned to first place with 25 points (7W-4D-3L) after Portland occupied the top spot for merely 24 hours following their 2-1 win over Racing Louisville on Friday night. Sofia Huerta, United States, OL Reign Huerta was a pivotal piece of the USWNT backline that allowed zero goals and helped the U.S. qualify for both the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics. In Huerta’s return to OL Reign’s lineup, she scored a left-footed banger that pulled the Reign level with Angel City. She also assisted the game-winning goal, which Tobin Heath scored in the 89th minute. The Reign’s three unanswered second-half goals earned them the win over L.A. and kept them above the playoff line. It was also the Reign’s first regular season game where they scored more than two goals this year. Getting a few goals on the board is a good sign for a team that’s struggled to find the back of the net in 2022. María Sánchez, Mexico, Houston Dash Sánchez was lights-out for Houston in their 4-2 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC. It was the second time in as many games that the Dash put away four goals, only this time, Sánchez was involved in two of them. After the teams exchanged goals early in the first half, Sánchez assisted the Dash’s goal-ahead goal in the 36th minute. It was a perfect cross into the box that found Shea Groom, who put a header past Gotham goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris in true Air Groom fashion. Consistently getting into the attack, Sánchez also drew the foul in the box that ultimately resulted in Houston’s fourth goal. With the win, the Dash moved into third place in the NWSL standings.
USL Morrissey: The on-field factors behind the Sacramento Republic’s run in the U.S. Open Cup After their upset win last week, the Sacramento Republic became the first lower-division side to reach the U.S. Open Cup final since the Charleston Battery in 2008. On the way, they allowed just two goals in six matches, and they matched Charleston in beating three MLS teams on their path to the championship game. What has Sacramento done to best their first-tier competition? Well, each of their wins against MLS teams involved a slightly different approach. As a baseline, Mark Briggs lines up the Republic in a 5-4-1 shape. Three central defenders anchor the defense and the two wingbacks close hard up to the halfway line. In the midfield, two players sit deep and central. The remaining two midfielders take on attacking roles behind the striker, and they, too, play rather centrally. In some respects, the system looks like a 5-2-2-1. Against the San Jose Earthquakes in the round of 16, Sacramento played their wingbacks deeper in a true back five to limit their MLS foe. Working out of a 4-2-3-1, San Jose pushed their attacking midfield line up into a front four. In moving to a five-back, the Republic gave themselves a numerical edge, and they flattened the midfield as well. Additionally, Duke Lacroix, a player sometimes used as a center back by Briggs, started at left wingback over Damia Viader, an all-out attacker. Even with just 30% possession, Sacramento held firm thanks to their innovations and countered their way to a 2-0 win. Recognizing the LA Galaxy’s reliance on their fullbacks in the attacking half, Sacramento iterated on their offensive patterns in the quarterfinals. Striker Douglas Martinez was instructed to make runs to the touchlines as soon as the Galaxy turned the ball over. There, he could receive balls over the top in transition, leveraging the open space as the opposing fullbacks recovered. When Martinez received the ball, LA had to push their center backs wide to deal with him, opening the middle for late-arriving runs. In the semifinals against Sporting Kansas City, the Republic tweaked their midfield positioning to great effect. Matt LaGrassa, usually liberated to take on a box-to-box role to bolster attacking moves, played a deeper, more conservative role. This let LaGrassa lend support against Johnny Russell, SKC’s brightest attacking threat, and it also saw him add cover in defense when a center back chased Russell’s runs into the midfield. Higher up, Keko was employed as a true winger to punish an unbalanced style where Graham Zusi sat low as the right back and Ben Sweat bombed high on the opposite side. Sacramento has a clear identity, one founded upon defensive organization and controlled counterattacking through Rodrigo Lopez. The beauty of their Open Cup run has been the ability to tweak that system for each matchup. Briggs has proven himself to be a shrewd tactician thus far. Whatever he dreams up against Orlando City in early September could help the Sacramento Republic make history.

The USL W League today announced the members of its First and Second Teams of the Year following the league’s inaugural 2022 season, a group that includes three members of Indy Eleven’s Great Lakes Division title-winning squad. Defender Robyn McCarthy and forward Katie Soderstrom were two of the 11 players named to the league’s First Team, while forward Maddy Williams claimed a spot on the Second Team.

McCarthy was a mainstay on the Indy Eleven backline this summer, starting 12 of the squad’s 13 games and finishing second on the squad with 1,022 minutes played while also contributing a pair of assists. McCarthy switched seamlessly between the right back and center back positions, helping to spearhead a defensive united that posted six shutouts and allowed only nine goals all season, including only two games with multiple concessions. The native of Brentwood, Calif., finished her collegiate career at Fresno State last fall by earning the Mountain West Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award.

Soderstrom was a menace for opposing defenses from start to finish across the 2022 campaign, as she capped the scoring in the Eleven’s historic 3-1 win in the W League’s Inaugural Match on May 6 and finished the regular season with a brace in a 3-0 win over Detroit City FC on July 9. The latter performance gave Soderstrom a team-leading 11 goals on the season (to go along with 1 assist), which when spread across her 902 minutes of action in 11 appearances gave her a 1.10 goals per game average. The Carmel native will return to Butler University this fall for her fifth and final year of eligibility, looking to build on an already impressive resume that include 28 goals and 24 assists, which rank her sixth and fourth, respectively, on the Bulldogs’ career charts.

After injuries derailed her professional career in Europe in recent years, the launch of the W League allowed Williams a successful return to the sport with Indiana’s Team in 2022. The 26-year-old striker appeared in all 13 matches and provided a veteran presence and ample leadership for the young and hungry Eleven squad, while her 10 goals and assist in 885 minutes of play provided an attacking 1-2 punch alongside Soderstrom that proved a handful for the opposition all season long. Williams made club history on June 10, as her three goal outburst during the middle of the first half earned her the first hat trick in the Eleven’s burgeoning W League history. After finishing her collegiate playing days in 2017 as Purdue University’s all-time leader in goals (38) and assists (26), Williams continued her career in Europe with Dutch side PSV Eindhoven (2018-19) and Spain’s Real Zaragoza (2019-20) before injuries and the COVID pandemic brought her back stateside.To see the full 2022 USL W League Teams of the Year and learn more about the pre-professional women’s league growing the game across the United States, visit uslwleague.com.

To stay up to date on the latest news and notes surrounding the Eleven’s W League side throughout the offseason, including news this fall on impending tryouts, visit indyeleven.com/wleague.

New Member of Backline Brings USL Championship Experience from Pittsburgh, Loudoun

Indy Eleven continued its recent roster additions with today’s signing of defender Robby Dambrot. Per club policy, details of the contract that brings the USL Championship performer since 2019 to Indiana’s Team will not be disclosed; the transaction will be official pending league and federation approval.

Dambrot has already arrived in Central Indiana and began training with the Boys in Blue earlier today at the team’s Grand Park training headquarters. He will be eligible for selection by Eleven Head Coach Mark Lowry when Indy Eleven faces off against Dambrot’s former team, Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, this Saturday evening at Carroll Stadium.

“It’s exciting to be here with Indy Eleven. Mark [Lowry] is a great coach, and early on it’s easy to see he has brought together a great group of guys,” Dambrot said following his first practice with the squad earlier today. “We still have a lot to play for, so I’m excited to try and be a part of this club’s run to the playoffs and what we can do after that.”

Since joining the ranks of the USL Championship with Loudoun United FC late in the 2019 campaign, the 27-year-old native of Akron, Ohio, has collected 38 appearances, two goals, and two assists mostly from positions on the backline for both Loudoun and Pittsburgh. After missing the truncated 2020 season, Dambrot was one of five Loudoun players to see over 2,000 minutes of action after becoming a full-time starter for the D.C. United-affiliated squad in 2021. Dambrot signed with the Riverhounds this past January and scored once in his five appearances (three starts) during the ongoing 2022 campaign.

“Robby Dambrot gives us a valuable bit of depth at a few different positions and is a player whose energy fits in very well with how we want to play,” said Lowry. “He is familiar with the Championship – and the Eastern Conference in particular – and is someone who we know can help lift the level of our squad every day.”

Prior to turning professional in the summer of 2019, Dambrot was a collegiate standout first from 2013-17 at his hometown school of the University of Akron, which he helped to the 2015 Men’s College Cup Semifinals. He finished his college career in 2018 with the University of Pittsburgh, where as a graduate transfer he was a member of the first Panthers squad to win a match in the always-competitive ACC Tournament. Dambrot also gained experience in the NPSL with AFC Cleveland (2014-15) and Virginia Beach City (2019).

Indy Eleven will close out its three-match homestand at “The Mike” this Saturday, August 6, against a third consecutive opponent holding a top-four position in the Eastern Conference in Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC. Tickets for Saturday’s match – and all future contests at Carroll Stadium – can be purchased online at indyeleven.com/tickets, and a special discount will be provided to Gen Con attendees who show their convention ticket/badge at the Carroll Stadium Box Office; more details can be found at indyeleven.com/promotions.

Indy Eleven fans can also follow the action live on MyINDY-TV 23, ESPN+, Exitos Radio 94.3 FM/exitos943.com, and the @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers.

Flirting with disaster: “Big clubs” and the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs line

By Charles Boehm @cboeh

Thursday, Aug 4, 2022, 09:58 AM

Ready or not, the home stretch has arrived.

August is here, which in this year’s World Cup-adjusted calendar means there are barely two months left in the MLS regular season. Some teams have only 10 games to go. And several of the league’s big names and perennial contenders are in very real danger of missing out on the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs.

Many of them still have time to muster that final sprint into the postseason field where, as everyone has heard often by now, anything can happen, particularly in the single-game format adopted in 2019. One club, Seattle Sounders FC, actually, finally climbed back above the playoff line just this week, thanks to the 1-0 home win over FC Dallas they grinded out Tuesday night.

Yet ample work remains for them to stay there, and the hill is steeper for the rest of this group. Let’s take a look at the current state of 2022’s most prominent underachievers.



Atlanta United logo

Atlanta United

  • Standings: 12th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2018 MLS Cup, 2019 US Open Cup & Campeones Cup

What happened?

The short version: Injuries. Key starters Brad GuzanOzzie Alonso and Miles Robinson were all lost to serious, long-term ailments in the spring; later backup goalkeeper Dylan Castanheira was also lost for the year, forcing the Five Stripes to hit the international market for a healthy body between the pipes. Josef MartinezEmerson HyndmanBrooks LennonGeorge CampbellRonald Hernandez and Andrew Gutman are among those who’ve also spent significant time on the training table.

ATLUTD’s struggles run a bit deeper than just that hard-luck story, mind you. Influential club president Darren Eales, a foundational figure, just left for Newcastle United. Both Martinez and head coach Gonzalo Pineda have sounded off to varying degrees with concerns about commitment and intensity. They’ve been uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal and questions linger about the compatibility of one of MLS’s most expensively-assembled rosters.

What lies ahead?

ATL have only won two league matches since early May, a rough 2W-5L-5D patch. They’re just four points back of seventh-place Charlotte FC in the Eastern Conference table, though, and have 12 games left to work with. That said, they have to face Seattle, the New York Red Bulls and defending champs New York City FC at home, and also have a long trip to Portland and both home and away clashes with white-hot Philadelphia ahead, and have won just once away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Will they make it?

The Five Stripes have offered up flashes of real quality at times and could still, to borrow a phrase from Armchair Analyst, “brute-force” their way into the playoffs via sheer talent. But the vibes are not great down south in 2022 and we’re bearish on their hopes of figuring things out in time. Missing out on the postseason for the second time in their six years of existence will prompt sustained soul-searching alongside the hunt for Eales’ successor.

LA Galaxy logo

LA Galaxy

  • Standings: 9th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2012, 2014 MLS Cups

What happened?

This story starts with underperforming Designated Players. The Galaxy committed real resources towards acquiring Douglas Costa and Kevin Cabral to pace their attack and provide quality service for Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Alas, the wing duo have contributed 3g/2a combined in the league this season, and TAM-level attacker Samuel Grandsir has been only slightly more productive with 1g/3a.

Even the unexpectedly prolific Dejan Joveljic – LA’s leading scorer with nine goals despite only earning five starts – and a strong campaign from fullback Raheem Edwards haven’t been enough to compensate for all that. While their longstanding defensive woes have eased, the Galaxy have scored just 30 goals in their 22 games to date, one of the weakest outputs in the West.

What lies ahead?

SoCal’s older club have two games left against bottom-dwelling Sporting KC, very winnable-looking visits to Houston and Vancouver and a handful of six-pointers against fellow playoff chasers. They can still pull this thing out of the fire. Some of the questions facing second-year boss Greg Vanney are pretty daunting, though, including some structural matters in the club’s scouting and signing processes he’s alluded to having to deal with since his arrival.

Will they make it?

The Gs are just two points back of seventh-place Seattle and have welcomed 22-year-old FC Barcelona midfielder Riqui Puig, with sturdy center mid Rayan Raveloson off to France to make room. Is a dose of Barca tiki-taka, however elite Puig may be, really what LA need most, though? Given everything swirling around this vintage of “FC Hollywood,” we just don’t see them hacking a path into this postseason.

New England Revolution logo

New England Revolution

  • Standings: 11th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2021 Supporters’ Shield

What happened?

Bruce Arena presided over a range of improvements, some steady, others dramatic, upon his 2019 arrival in Foxborough, and finishing 12 points ahead of their nearest pursuers atop the 2021 league table suggested that he’d gotten his – and the Revs’ – mojo back. Consolidating that progress has been another matter entirely.

After a promising start, New England crashed out of the Concacaf Champions League spectacularly and several of their offseason acquisitions (Omar Gonzalez and Jozy Altidore, most prominently) just didn’t work. Another, Sebastian Lletget, was just traded to FC Dallas. Playmaking genius Carles Gil is a constant focus for opponents, his fellow DP Gustavo Bou has missed time to injury, Adam Buksa left for France in midseason and his replacement, Giacomo Vrioni from Juventus, has only just taken the field. Tajon Buchanan’s departure has been glaring and the Revolution have dropped dozens of points from winning positions.

What lies ahead?

The Revs’ run-in is home-heavy, and looks manageable. They have strugglers like D.C. United, LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo FC and the Chicago Fire (twice) on their remaining schedule, and while trips to Montréal and Toronto will be testing, they don’t have to fly anywhere west of Houston.

Will they make it?

With only two points separating them from the East’s final playoff slot, New England have reasons for optimism. The Revs are a more complete side than nearby competitors Charlotte, Chicago and Miami. We expect them to squeak in, with Cincy a tough challenger.


Seattle Sounders FC logo

Seattle Sounders FC

  • Standings: 7th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2022 Concacaf Champions League, 2019 MLS Cup

What happened?

In three words, Concacaf Champions League. History has shown deep CCL runs often trigger hangovers in the league, with focus, physical output and emotional energy all siphoned in the direction of regional glory. For the Sounders, it was and surely remains worth it, considering they scaled the CCL mountaintop, the first time in the tournament’s modern existence an MLS team has done so and just the third ever. Knowing they would eventually have to scramble to make up for that spring adventure is one thing; actually doing it is another.

What lies ahead?

Eleven games remain in Seattle’s league slate, and six of them are away from Lumen Field – not ideal considering they’re 3W-7L-1D on the road in league play, and several of them are six-pointers vs. the Galaxy and Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps. Still, as mentioned above, Tuesday’s win, as labored as it was, brings a boost in that they now pass the old “if the season ended tomorrow…” test, and are likely to stay there with a good result at struggling Atlanta this weekend.

Will they make it?

This isn’t the first time this groundbreaking club has flirted with missing the playoffs, and yet their amazing streak of taking part in every postseason since their 2009 arrival persists. In fact they hit an even lower nadir in the months leading up to their first MLS Cup triumph in 2016, only to storm back and reach the top after the arrival of Nico Lodeiro and the change from Sigi Schmid to Brian Schmetzer. We expect the Rave Green to be playing past Oct. 9, maybe even until Nov. 5.

Sporting Kansas City logo

Sporting Kansas City

  • Standings: 14th in Western Conference
  • Last trophies: 2017, 2015 U.S. Open Cups, 2013 MLS Cup

What happened?

The Midwesterners were behind the 8-ball from the jump when Designated Players and attacking linchpins Alan Pulido and Gadi Kinda were diagnosed with season-ending knee injuries right at the start of the year. Add in the eroding effectiveness of an aging roster, an academy-centered youth movement lagging behind schedule, a debilitating shortage of speed in key areas and the diminished effect of what was once the most imposing home-field advantage in MLS, and you have the recipe for a Wooden Spoon voyage just one year after finishing fourth in the overall 2021 table.

What lies ahead?

Home duels with San Jose and D.C. and a September trip to Houston look winnable. Unfortunately for Peter Vermes & Co., the rest of their remaining slate is loaded with playoff and playoff-chasing opponents. Even with talented midseason recruits Erik Thommy and William Agada in the fold, this is a steep, steep climb.

Will they make it?

Last week’s miserable one-two punch of the US Open Cup semifinal upset defeat to Sacramento Republic on penalty kicks and the frustrating home loss to Austin FC – which included a very soft game-winning goal and a missed penalty kick by Daniel Salloi – felt like a backbreaker, at least from a distance. It’s just unrealistic to expect Kansas City to conjure up a vault into the top seven.

Toronto FC logo

Toronto FC

  • Standings: 13th in Eastern Conference
  • Last trophies: 2017 treble (MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, Canadian Championship), 2020 CanChamp

What happened?

Some of TFC’s early difficulties were by design or expected, or something in that ballpark. It’s Bob Bradley’s first year in charge and the new tactical ideas he brought, combined with the wait for showcase signing Lorenzo Insigne to arrive after the conclusion of Napoli’s season and the need to blood a bevy of young players, most of them fresh-faced academy kids, was a heavy lift.

Like many young sides, away form was a serious drag and scoring output proved spotty. The Reds have been shut out eight times in league action, while DP defender Carlos Salcedo was a disappointment before his return to Liga MX for family reasons. The plan all along was for Insigne – who has been joined by fellow Italian reinforcements Domenico Criscito and Federico Bernardeschi – to spark a back-half rally up the table.

What lies ahead?

The schedule makers didn’t exactly hand them a soft run-in. TFC must visit Nashville, Charlotte and Philadelphia in the coming weeks, as well as have two long flights to Florida to meet Miami and Orlando, classic wild-card fixtures, especially during hurricane season. Making a fortress out of BMO Field, where they have a winning record this year but have lost five times, will be critical.

Will they make it?

It’s a tribute to the forgiving nature of the postseason format that after all their troubles, the Reds are still just a modest six points from the playoff line. Losing the CanChamp final to Vancouver on PKs was a missed opportunity to generate momentum and belief, however, and as talented as their newcomers clearly are, we don’t see playoffs in the cards on Lake Ontario this autumn.

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7/30/22  Indy 11 home Sat, Women’s Euro’s Finals England vs Germany Sun 12 noon ESPN, Supporters Shield Today Man City vs Liverpool 12N ESPN+

Women’s Euro’s Quarter Finals England vs Germany Sun 12 noon ESPN

In what should be a fantastic final – the two top scoring teams will go head to head in a sold out Wembley stadium on Sunday at noon on ESPN. Honestly this tourney has been fantastic – good Goalkeeping – some great goals and lots of fun to watch. The growth of the ladies game in Europe is taking off and the US is going to have to work hard to stay ahead as we look to next year’s World Cup. Tons of stories below about the game.

Indy home vs Tampa Bay Rowdies Tonight

Indy Eleven is home for the second of a three-match homestand tonight at Carroll Stadium against former NASL rival the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The meeting is the second between the sides this season, the first being a 2-0 home win for the Rowdies back on Matchday 2.The Boys in Blue broke a six-match losing streak and a five-match scoreless streak last Saturday night against Memphis 901 FC, its 1-1 draw helping the squad get back on track for playoff positioning as the final third of the season approaches. The Eleven sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, currently nine points outside the playoff picture but with two games in hand on both seventh place Miami (31 pts.) and FC Tulsa (25 pts.). A variety of ticketing options for Saturday night’s Eastern Conference clash are available at indyeleven.com/tickets.  Cool to see former Carmel FC GK coach and former Indy 11  GK Jordan Farr gets recognition , he returns home to face our Indy 11 Aug 27th

MLS – US Open Cup Shocker

Awesome to see the USL Side Sacramento Republic get the huge shocking win over Sporting Kansas City at home to advance to the US Open finals in Sept.  See final PKs.  This marks the first time a non-MLS team has advanced to the finals in over 13 years.  Now if the game was only on TV instead of ESPN+.  They will face Orlando City in the Finals Wed, Sept. 7.  LAFC continued its hold on the Western Conference with a win over Seattle last night as both Bale and Chiellini started. 

The oleballcoach is on vacation this week – so a short write-up today – but next week we’ll have EPL and other Euro League previews, Euro ladies wrap-up and more.  I do want to wish good luck to all our Carmel FC players trying out for high school teams this week- especially our GK’s – YOU GOT THIS!!


Sat, July 30

12 noon ESPN+                 Liverpool vs Man City Community Shield

2:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich  Supercup

 3 pm ABC                            Minn United vs Portland Timbers

7 pm myindyTV 23 Indy 11 vs Tampa Bay Rowdies (the Mike)

8 pm ESPN+                        Cincy v Inter Miami 

9 pm ESPN+                        LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

Sun, July 31

12 noon ESPN                    Euro Women’s Cup FINAL                           

5 pm ESPN+                        DC united vs Orlando City

8 pm FS2                              Santos Laguna vs Atlas 

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

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

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Women’s Soccer Euro’s

 England out to inspire the nation with Euro 2022 success

Cunning and confident, Lena Oberdorf exemplifies how Germany reached the Euro 2022 final

Germany’s Popp ‘proud’ of record-setting Euro

Sarina Wiegman tells England to ‘forget history’ against Germany and prove they are the best
How England’s national team became a power in women’s soccer

Know your enemy: Where Germany are dangerous – and how they can be attacked

Ukraine’s Kateryna Monzul to referee Euro 2022 final

Alex Popp – the qualified zookeeper who became Europe’s deadliest striker

Women’s Euro 2022 Soccer Championship Scoring With Audiences


Where US Players are Playing this Weekend

ASN: 2022/23 Championship season preview: Dike, Steffen lead 10 Yanks in England’s 2nd tier

Really Cool Story on Chris Richards from Birmingham AL to Crystal Palace in just 4 short years below.

EPL & World

Liverpool vs Manchester City: How to watch, team news, updates for FA Community Shield
Alisson, Jota to miss Liverpool’s Shield clash with Man City
EPL and other’s Pre Season Tour Wrap-Up

How to Watch the EPL this Year

Chelsea Preview – the18
Juventus, Barcelona draw 2-2 in US friendly

Ian Darke to broadcast for Fox during this year’s World Cup


US Open Cup – Sacramento shocks Kansas City

Sacramento goes to PKs to beat Kansas City at home

England’s road to Euro 2022 final has been hard but they are driven by history and inspiring the nation
Tom Hamilton Senior Writer  ESPNFC

TEDDINGTON, England — England‘s training session on Friday at the team’s base was the most competitive yet.According to veteran Jill Scott and others who were there, it was the most full-throttle of the past nine weeks. Tackles were flying in — Scott felt the full force of a one-on-one with Millie Bright, while Georgia Stanway also stuck one on her. “Her tackles this tournament have been phenomenal, so I’ll take a few stud marks for that,” Scott said.There is a major final on Sunday — the Euro 2022 final against Germany, to be exact (LIVE at 12 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+) — and that means there are precious few opportunities to impress coach Sarina Wiegman and force her to rethink picking another unchanged side, so there’s little point in players keeping anything in reserve.

Scott, 35, is the most experienced of this group and personifies the team’s goals. She’s been on the bench much of the time but has been used as an impact substitute in what is her eighth major tournament, alongside two Olympic Games. The reception she gets is testament to what she’s done for the game.Many on this England team talk about the 2009 side that reached the final with reverence — they remember watching the broadcast of that final in Finland and seeing England fall to a 6-2 defeat. They’re the more recent legends of the women’s game — they’ve even got rooms named after them at their hotel in southwest London — the ones who are immortalised on YouTube and who influenced this current crop.But there’s this wonderful crossover between generations in Scott: she was there through the days of poor funding, sparse crowds for league matches and ill-fitting kits. When she talks about what it’s like to be an England player for the last 15 years — the experiences she’s been through, and how she’s seen the game develop leading up to the Sunday final — you listen. That goes for some of the younger players who have been picking her brains this week.”They want to learn about the history of the game,” Scott said. “I keep telling them that getting to finals isn’t the norm, it’s been a long time coming. But they are ready for it. The hunger and determination they show — the performances have been out of this world.” Then comes the qualification: “You don’t want to put too much pressure on them, though.”That’s the thing with this group — they are aware of their multilevel mission. Not only do they want to win Sunday and become European champions, but in the process they want to inspire the children watching, while building on the foundations set by previous generations — from those who fought to play back in 1972 when the ban on women’s football was lifted, all the way through the game becoming more mainstream and to the current group.Each of them is compelling in their own right and, when they talk about legacy, it isn’t corporate speak — you feel it’s inherent in them. They know the importance of looking up to role models, and being one themselves. Take Lotte Wubben-Moy. She hasn’t played yet in these Euros, but she too has contributed to this legacy. Within the camp, the likes of Wubben-Moy, Beth England, Ellie Roebuck and Hannah Hampton have not played yet, but all have been there for the “blowout sessions” on the day after the match. These players deep in the squad have been integral to preparing the starting XI.After the match Tuesday in Sheffield, as Wubben-Moy took part in the team’s celebrations, she spotted a group from the education and social inclusion charity Football Beyond Borders. She gave her match shirt to them, and asked them to give it to someone deserving. Elsewhere, super-sub Alessia Russo picked out 10-year-old Nancy from her old football club Bearstead and gave the youngster her match shirt. All are decisions made in the moment, but ones that will leave a huge footprint. It’s something the players spoke about before the tournament started.”The biggest thing that Sarina has said was at the start: ‘Play for the little girl that wanted to be in our shoes,'” Stanway said. “So I’ll play for the little girl who wanted to play at the start, went to training, loved it, dreamed to be in our position. Yeah, play for her.”Legends such as Scott can’t help but feel that pang of nostalgia for what has come before. Scott has experienced the heartbreak of that 2009 final, but more frequently plays back in her mind missed opportunities from their 2017 European Championship quarterfinal defeat to Netherlands and England’s semifinal exit in the 2019 World Cup to the U.S. women’s national team.This group? Well, she doesn’t want to compare generations and their quality, but she loves this group.”Talking about this squad solely, I see the likes of Keira Walsh and she’s such a talented player,” Scott said. “People say to me all the time when going into a tournament, ‘You’re playing against the best players in the world.’ But I’m playing alongside them every single day in training, I truly believe that.”What people don’t see is their dedication — their whole lives are focused on being better players. The mixture of experience and youth has been good as well, but we have a special group. The passion and joy we have for football unites us all.”Listening to the England team on Friday, you wouldn’t think they were under pressure. Stanway has been one of the stars of this tournament, and she has two thoughts at the forefront of her mind when she allows herself to dream of the final: firstly she wants to win, and secondly she wants to hug her parents for the first time in six weeks.Stanway’s thoughts are emblematic of the group — each member holds collective and individual motivations for Sunday. Collectively they want to end the wait. Individually they’ve all overcome their own on- and off-the-field difficulties and heartbreak to be here.Take goalkeeper Mary Earps. She once thought her international days were over. She was third choice in 2019, and then saw two other goalkeepers promoted ahead of her following that World Cup. She had those grim moments where thoughts of failure filtered through her mind, but she stuck at it — and here she is a resounding first choice.”I don’t think I really want to keep going back to the past,” she said after England’s win over Sweden. “I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now, I’m loving being part of this team and I’m loving every minute.”Beth Mead had the heartbreak of missing out on a spot in the Tokyo Olympics squad; captain Leah Williamson played just six minutes in the last World Cup. Neither were going to allow that to happen again.There are also off-field struggles which have been overcome, such as those of Fran Kirby, who in the last couple of years has had extended spells out of the game with a heart disease and then fatigue. Yet here she is preparing for a final off the back of her incredible semifinal performance against Sweden. Chloe Kelly spent 11 months out with an ACL injury but returned in time.And then there are those wanting to make amends for previous disappointment in an England shirt. For those who had experienced the heartbreak of previous tournaments such as Ellen White, the emotion became a little too much after Wednesday’s match.When Scott speaks about her previous experiences, you hear her voice slightly quiver as she talks about the importance of legacy and those who have worn the shirt before her, and will in the future. But then comes that competitive edge, and the focus on not letting this moment slip and what she can personally influence this weekend.”We really want to inspire the nation,” Scott said. “We’ve ticked all of those boxes. As I said before, all the players that have gone before, put on this shirt, the learning experiences we’ve had as players — this is for everybody, really, on Sunday.”Absolutely everybody. Volunteers that just went and helped out with the local girls teams, the ones that are still doing it, the ones that just love the game. I see reporters in here and I’ve seen them here for the past 16 years, and they just do it for the love of the game. I hope everybody knows that, on Sunday, if we are to lift that trophy, they’ve all got their hand on it as well.”We’ve earned the right for the team to go out there on Sunday and enjoy it. It’s been an incredible journey so far and hopefully there’s one big tick left to do.”



Which USL offseason signings are having the biggest impact on the field this year? Let’s take a look at a pair of players who are shining with their new teams in 2022.

© Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Roster churn is a fact of life during the offseason for teams all around the world. The USL Championship is no exception. New offseason signings can have real value, especially if they hit the ground running. When a new face immediately provides all-league performances, it can make a team’s season.

Let’s talk about a pair of players who have done just that.


Signed: 1/26/22

As it stands, San Antonio boasts the best defense in the entire USL with just 13 goals allowed this season. At the same time, they rank eighth in shots on target allowed per 90 minutes and a surprising 18th in shots allowed per 90 minutes. So they’re not perfect when it comes to denying shots in the first place.

Jordan Farr, a star goalkeeper signed after an emergency loan stint in the 2021 playoffs, has been the difference.Farr was a backup with Indy Eleven for years. He was always solid in relief but never had the opportunity to step up as the first-choice goalkeeper. After excelling on loan, he moved to Texas on a permanent basis. San Antonio began 2022 with three starting-caliber goalkeepers, and the 27-year-old could have faced more time riding the pine. However, week-one starter Cristian Bonilla retired after three matches, Farr claimed the starting spot, and the results have been Statistically, Farr rates in the 97th percentile for goals saved above average and in the 80th or better for goals against and save percentage. Alen Marcina’s team doesn’t spend much of any time in possession, so the defense bears the brunt of pressure in their own half. Without Farr’s brilliance and sharp distribution – he’s in the 90th percentile of goalkeepers for long balls as a share of his total passes – San Antonio wouldn’t be nearly as successful this year. Farr in Open Cup play


Signed: 1/7/22

A club legend with the Charlotte Independence, Enzo Martinez has been a constant attacking weapon after moving to Alabama. One of the top all-time assisters in the USL Championship, Martinez has six goals and four assists in 2022. The Argentinian operated as a deep-lying creator for much of his stint in Charlotte and in other stops with the Carolina Railhawks and Colorado Rapids, but his role has changed entirely for the Legion.Birmingham play in a defensive 4-4-2 off the ball, where Martinez operates as a striker alongside Juan Agudelo. He ranks in the top half of USL attackers for successful defensive actions per 90, constantly roving to bother opposing forwards while maintaining a cover shadow that limits passing lanes into the middle of the field. Martinez and Agudelo aren’t lightning fast, but their intelligent positioning makes the Legion hard to break down.Still, Martinez is best when he’s on the ball. His passing vision and audacious through balls are eye-popping, and those six goals paint the picture of a true scoring threat.


Here’s where to watch USMNT players from July 29-August 1

All Times ET

Friday, July 29
Gio ReynaDFB POKAL: 1860 Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund2:45pmESPN+
Kellyn Acosta,
Cristian Roldan,
Jordan Morris
LAFC vs. Seattle Sounders11pmFS1,
FOX Deportes
Saturday, July 30
James Sands,
Malik Tillman
Livingston vs. Rangers7amCBS Sports Network
Josh SargentCardiff City vs. Norwich City10amESPN+
Ethan HorvathLuton Town vs. Birmingham City10am
Kevin ParedesDFB POKAL: Carl Zeiss Jena vs. Wolfsburg12pmESPN+
Bryan ReynoldsOH Leuven vs. Westerlo12:15pm
Zack Steffen,
Daryl Dike
Middlesbrough vs. West Bromwich Albion12:30pmESPN+
Ajax vs. PSV
Eryk WilliamsonMinnesota United vs. Portland Timbers3pmABC,
ESPN Deportes
Gaga SloninaChicago Fire vs. Atlanta United5pmESPN+
Sean Johnson
Djordje Mihailovic
CF Montreal vs. New York City FC7:30pmESPN+
DeAndre YedlinInter Miami vs. FC Cincinnati8pmESPN+
Walker Zimmerman
Shaq Moore
Nashville SC vs. Vancouver Whitecaps8pmESPN+
Sebastian LletgetNew England Revolution vs. Toronto FC8pmESPN+
Jesús Ferreira,
Paul Arriola
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy9pmESPN+
Jackson YueillSan Jose Earthquakes vs. Real Salt Lake10pmESPN+
Sunday, July 31
Mark McKenzieGenk vs. Standard Liege7:30amESPN+
Joe ScallyDFB POKAL: Oberachern vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach9:30amESPN+
George BelloDFB POKAL: Engers vs. Arminia Bielefeld9:30am
Justin CheDFB POKAL: Rödinghausen vs. Hoffenheim9:30am
Ricardo PepiDFB POKAL: BW Lohne vs. Augsburg9:30am
Celtic vs. Aberdeen11:30amCBS Sports Network
Johnny CardosoInternacional vs. Atlético Mineiro3pmParamount+
Sam VinesRoyal Antwerp vs. Zulte-Waregem3pm
Nicholas GioacchiniD.C. United vs. Orlando City5pmESPN+
Monday, August 1
Jordan PefokDFB POKAL: Chemnitzer vs. Union Berlin12pmESPN+
Championship preview

ASN: 2022/23 Championship season preview: Dike, Steffen lead 10 Yanks in England’s 2nd tier

The Championship opens its 2022/23 season this weekend and ASN’s Brian Sciaretta previews the season with a look at the 10 Yanks (and possibly more) in the league and what to expect from them. 

JULY 29, 2022
2:50 PM


THE 2022/23 CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON opens this weekend and Americans are now increasing in numbers at all levels within England. The second-tier Championship, however, is booming with Americans. There are right now 10 confirmed Americans and more could very well be on the way before the transfer window closes. What is interesting about the list that only Zack Steffen, on loan for the season at Middlesbrough from Manchester City, is a lock to make the U.S. World Cup team in Qatar. The rest are either on the bubble and battling or are long shots. But national team implications are just one dynamic of the story. These players are at various stages of their careers – some more critical junctures than others. Some are fighting for promotion, and some are going to be fighting against relegation. Some are going to be important players for their teams, while others are going to be fighting for playing time. Here is a look at the American players in the Championship and what are the expecations for each this season compared with the stage of their career.



The potential starting goalkeeper for the U.S. national team is now with Middlesbrough on loan from Manchester City where he spent the last two seasons as a seldomly used backup. Before that, he was injured the second half of the season on loan at Fortuna Dusseldorf, when it was relegated out of the Bundesliga.

Steffen, 27, hasn’t been a starter at any level since 2019. Now is the time to re-prove his quality and this is absolutely necessary if he wants to start in Qatar. While the other potential USMNT No. 1, Matt Turner, is a backup at Arsenal, he has at least been starting regularly the past three seasons.

There is a lot of pressure on Steffen on many levels. He needs to play and play well at Middlesbrough to prove he is capable of being a top goalkeeper who can start at the World Cup. At Middlesbrough, he also has a team that wants to return to the Premeir League. The last two seasons, Boro finished seventh and 10th. Middlesbrough won four of five preseason games, including one over a strong Marseille team. This has Boro supporters optimisitc to start the season. The realistic goal for Middlesbrough this season is to finish in the playoff positions – after that, anything is possible. To do that, Steffen will need to be big.



This month marks two years when Daryl Dike made his professional debut during the MLS Is Back tournament after the COVID layoff. For the first 17 months of his career, he scored 28 goals in 4,277 minutes between Orlando City and his loan to Barnsley in the Championship. By any measure, it’s been a strong start to a career.But Dike, now 22, suffered an injury that sidelined him almost immediately after securing a transfer to West Bromwich Albion in January. It was the only setback of his career, and it actually gave him rest that he never had since turning professional. Expecations should be high for Dike this season. He has shown he can score in the Championship, and he is on a more talented team than Barnsley. He’s also had a strong preseason despite indications of a sore groin last week.

West Brom is a team that should contend for promotion and Dike will have a big say as to whether the team succeeds. West Brom won four of six preseason games with the last coming over Hertha BSC by a 2-1 margin. From a national team perspective, Dike could be a darkhorse candidate to be on the plane to Qatar. While he is a well-known player, he was not part of any World Cup qualifying roster and attempted to play through a shoulder injury at last summer’s Gold Cup. His involvement with the U.S. team has been minimal, but he’s in a very good position to succeed to make a late push.

Of all the American players in the Championship, Dike has the most potential to succeed in 2022/23.



After four seasons as mostly a backup with Club Brugge and Nottingham Forest, Ethan Horvath is now with Luton Town on loan from Forest for the season. This summer, there was a need for a goalkeeper at Luton Town when James Shea suffered a serious injury towards the end of last season. Shea is not expected to return until possibly the end of this season. Horvath needs to play again. At 27, he’s in his prime for a goalkeeper and he needs to play for the sake of playing. Showing glimpses of a high level, like he did when he subbed into the Nations League final and played well, is not enough. Goalkeeping can only be evaluated with consistent play.

The good news for Horvath is that he should start at Luton Town – which is coming off a season where they made it to the playoffs and exceeded all expectations. The core of that team is returning, and Horvath should be part of a team aiming to make the playoffs again.

Horvath is firmly on the bubble to make the U.S. World Cup roster. He struggled in his one game in June in El Salvador while Sean Johnson performed well agianst Uruguay. If the World Cup were now, Johnson would likely be the third goalkeeper. The only way Horvath can change that is with a strong start to the season.



After nearly earning promotion to the Premier League before suffering a heartbreak in the playoff final to Nottingham Forest, expectations have declined for Huddersfield prior to the start of this season after the loss of top players and replaced with unknowns.Duane Holmes, 27, is one of the returning players and the Columbus, Georgia native scored five goals in the 2021/22 season where he made 28 starts over 40 appearances. In January 2021, he returned to Huddersfield, his childhood team where he broke into the professional ranks, and has successfully rebooted his career.

This season will be a challenge for Holmes. Huddersfield does not have the supporting cast around Holmes and Holmes will need to raise his game from supporting cast to impact player to help the Terriers remain in contention for the playoffs. But things are never easy to predict for Huddersfield as they tend to fluctuate between contenting for promotion and relegation.As for Holmes and the national team, it seems unlikely at this point. If Holmes wasn’t in the picture earlier in 2022, it seems like a bigger hill now with the addition of more central defenders to the pool.  



There is a lot to admire about Lynden Gooch and his relationship with Sunderland. Dating back to childhood summer camps, he has been affiliated with Sunderland since he was 10 years old. Since making his debut for the first team when it was in the Premier League in 2015, Gooch has stood by the club when it suffered two successive relegations and then as it fought for promotion out of League One.

Now 26, Gooch signed a new deal with Sunderland after last season when it finally earned promotion back to the Championship. Last season was tough for Gooch. He started regularly with 36 starts over 3,216 minutes.

Gooch should be expected to start regularly early in the season but he needs to show improved performances from last season to keep his starting job. Sunderland has a good chance of avoiding relegation since they have the resources to be competitive in the Championship. Our bet is that Gooch finds a way to be useful this season.   



Josh Sargent, 22, is coming into a critical season. After a lackluster run at Werder Bremen which resulted in the club relegated from the Bundesliga, Sargent moved to the Premier League with Norwich last season but, outside of one game against Watford, didn’t produce. Now in the Championship, Sargent is eventually going to have to show he can produce somewhere.

This is the season for him to do it. It will be tough for Norwich to bounce back up again. Their “yo-yo” nature of the last few years was built on Teemu Pukki’s impressive goalscoring the last two Championship seasons. But he will turn 33 this season and maintaining that output is going to be tough. Sargent needs to pick up the slack. We will learn a lot about Sargent this year.

Sargent has also faded from the national team over the past year. He hasn’t been with the team since the first round of World Cup qualifiers in September. The forward position remains unsettled although there is a long list of candidates. If Sargent wants to keep his slim chances of making the roster for Qatar, he needs a strong start to the season.



In terms of young Americans who have an opportunity to both make their professional debut and impress, Jonathan Tomkinson is a good bet. The 20-year-old central defender has risen up the ranks within Norwich City’s system and last season he made the bench for the first team on several occasions but never appeared. Still, he was the captain of the U-23 team and is rated within the organization.

Coming into this season, Tomkinson will be the third or fourth central defender on the team. With the Championship having a 46 game season, he will get his chances and if he performs well, he will remain in the lineup as Norwich.

Internationally, Tomkinson is a strong contender for the 2024 U.S. U-23 team for the Paris Olympics.



Auston Trusty, who will turn 24 in 10 days, is set to embark on the European leg of his career. Last January he signed for Arsenal but was expected to go the “loan army” route. That started with a re-loan to Colorado and now a loan to Birmingham City.

Trusty has been inconsistent in his career. He played well in Philadelphia initially but then fell out of favor. In Colorado, he eventually returned to top form, including last season. But the first half of this season he struggled for the Rapids.

The good news for Trusty is that he should play at Birmingham City. He immediately was thrust into the starting lineup in preseason but the expectations for the club are low again this season. Last year Birmingham City struggled defensively and narrowly avoided relegation.

Birmingham City hopes Trusty will be able to help stabilize the defense and avoid another relegation battle. If he struggles it could be a long season for him and the club.



Matthew Olosunde, 24, has occasionally shown glimpses of being a good player in the Championship with Rotherham United, injuries and inconsistent playing time have hurt his prospects. Last season he played just 136 minutes in the Championship.

Olosunde simply needs to play and get his career back on track. If this season doesn’t pan out, he might have to look elsewhere. It’s tough to expect much from Olosunde but he has the talent and athleticism to succeed in the Championship.


There are rumors the number of Americans in the Championship could expand.

Matthew Hoppe is rumored to be joining Middlesbrough from Mallorca after a lost season in La Liga where he rarely played. At 21, he needs to find a place where he can play and has looked promising in the past – although it has been a over a year.

Middlesbrough wants to contend for promotion and they have four forwards, although none that are noticeable above average. Hoppe is unknown, but Middlesborugh needs more options.

Marlon Fossey has been linked to Championship teams after a successful loan from Fulham to Bolton in League One last season. He has done well when given the chance but he has struggled to stay healthy. At 23, he needs a full season to distance himself from his injured past.

Chris Richards’ unique path to Crystal Palace: From FC Dallas rejection to ‘surreal’ Bayern experience

Sam Stejskal Jul 27, 2022

Lost among the inked-on portraits of Barack Obama, Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith and John Carlos is Chris Richards’ first tattoo. A simple Roman numeral, it’s easy to miss among the more striking art elsewhere on his arms: “VIII-VI-MMXVI” — 8-6-2016. August 6, 2016. The day Richards left home.

Richards was then only 16 years old. A couple of months before, he had decided to give up a promising basketball career so he could devote all of his time and energy to soccer. He was long on talent, but a bit short on imagination. Richards grew up in Hoover, Alabama, a sprawling suburb about 10 miles south of downtown Birmingham. Like the rest of Alabama, the town is football mad. Hoover High School has won 13 state titles; their games are periodically broadcast on national television; MTV even produced a couple of seasons of a controversial “Hard Knocks”-esque reality show highlighting the team and school in the mid-2000s.

In Alabama, soccer exists in the margins. When Richards was growing up, there wasn’t a single club in the entire state that fielded a team in the top US boys’ academy league. He could develop his skills and his dreams in his home state, but only to a point. To realise his full potential, to even understand that he had the ability to reach some of the sport’s highest levels, he had to leave.

His first choice was to go to FC Dallas. Home to one of the most productive academies in the US. By then, FC Dallas had already recruited a few Birmingham-area natives to their youth program. Richards arranged a trial through one of them. After five days of training with current US men’s national team players Weston McKennie, Jesus Ferreira and Reggie Cannon and the club’s under-18s, Luchi Gonzalez, then Dallas’ academy director and now a USMNT assistant coach, called Richards into his office. 

He cut him.

Less than two years later, Richards was starting for Bayern Munich in a pre-season match against Manchester City. And now, at 22-years-old, Richards has completed a high-profile, $12million-plus move from Munich to Crystal Palace. 

The Premier League — and, this winter, the World Cup — await.

“Summer 2016, I was packing my stuff, getting ready to move,” Richards told The Athletic at his parents’ home in Hoover. “Then, in summer 2018, I was playing in Hard Rock Stadium in Miami in front of 50,000 people against Manchester City. I was like, ‘Uhhhh, what?’ If I had told myself two years before that I would’ve been doing that, it would’ve just been a straight ‘no.’ Nope. I will not be doing that. Hopefully I’ll be prepping for my freshman year at college. That was my hope when I left home. So all of this? All of this is surreal.”

Today, the perimeter of the Richards’ driveway in Hoover is lined with several wooden backstops. A few feet high and five- or six-feet across, the homemade barriers are a neat little home training tool, a convenient way for a developing player to work on their touch without the need for a practice partner. 

The backstops weren’t around when Chris was a kid — they’re a newer addition, made for his 10-year-old brother Christian. Unlike some of his US team-mates whose parents played professionally or in college, Richards wasn’t really raised around the game. His parents, Ken and Carrie, were good athletes, but neither had any experience with soccer. Ken played basketball at Birmingham-Southern College in the mid-1990s and had a four-year professional career that took him to Iceland, Australia and Bolivia. 

Accordingly, when Chris was young, hoops was the main sport in the Richards’ household. Ken would devise basketball drills for Chris to perform in the driveway or the garage, movements that would help agility, ball handling and the jump shot of a promising young point guard who played on AAU teams and at Hoover High. Now listed at 6ft 2in, Chris was still just 5ft 9in when he quit basketball. Had he stuck with it, the elder Richards thinks his son had a real future on the court — a stance Ken said was backed up by ex-NBA executive and current University of Tennessee assistant coach Gregg Polinsky, a family friend. 

“He was a true point guard, great ball handler, great vision, he was fast,” Ken said. “I most definitely think if he would’ve kept playing basketball, given he grew to the height that he is, he most definitely would have been a big-time Division I player. 

“Chris used to go to Gregg’s basketball camps and Gregg would always say that he had some natural things that you couldn’t teach. He’d tell me back then: ‘Man, just the way he comes off the pick and roll, he does stuff that we have to teach NBA players. He does it naturally.’ He wasn’t saying that he was going to be an NBA player or anything, he just had a lot of talent, a lot of natural instincts for the game.” 

Of course, soccer was a serious pursuit, too. Richards grew up playing for Hoover SC, one of the bigger youth clubs in Birmingham. Home games were mostly held on a set of fields adjacent to a water treatment plant. If the wind was blowing the wrong way, the whole complex would smell like sewage. He battled there against fellow Alabamians and future FC Dallas homegrowns Tanner Tessmann and Brandon Servania, who played for rival local teams. He even spent one season, in the spring of 2015, with Hoover High’s junior varsity squad, lining up in midfield — he wasn’t a centre-back until his final year in Alabama — and playing home matches in a tiny stadium in the shadow of the school’s football facility. 

As he grew older, Richards eventually made his way to the South Region Olympic Development Program (ODP) team, which gave him the chance to travel to Argentina for a camp early in 2016. For USMNT players like Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna or Tyler Adams, who grew up in US Soccer Development Academy programs and were selected to youth national teams from a young age, those kinds of chances were somewhat normal. By age 16, Pulisic and Reyna had already moved to Borussia Dortmund and Adams had already signed a pro contract with the New York Red Bulls. They were used to travelling the world and playing against top international opponents at the youth level. For Richards, the trip to Argentina was completely new. It would end up changing the trajectory of his life. 

Chris Richards during the 2019 FIFA Under-20 World Cup between Ukraine and the USA on May 24, 2019 (Photo: TF-Images/Getty Images)

“That was my first time being out of the country, my first time really seeing professional soccer and a professional environment up close,” he said. “We went to a big derby match between two Argentine teams, Velez Sarsfield was one of them. I remember pulling up in a charter bus and people were throwing stuff at our bus. It was scary but, for me, it was this amazing experience. I came back home and that was when I told my dad that I didn’t want to play basketball anymore, this is what I want — I want soccer.” 

The family swung into action. Ken contacted Servania’s father, who helped arrange the trial with Dallas, where Brandon was already in the academy. Richards thought he performed OK, but Gonzalez and FC Dallas wanted more of a polished product at centre-back. They told him to keep working, that maybe he could come back in a year, but the denial was still devastating. When Richards called home to break the news, he was in tears.

“That was my first real rejection in soccer,” he said. “It wasn’t as if I didn’t think it was for me, but I was also wondering a bit if I was making the right decision just sticking to soccer.” 

Thankfully, he quickly got thrown a lifeline. One of the coaches of the ODP team that Richards went with to Argentina had a full-time role at US Soccer Development Academy club Houston Texans SC. That coach, Carl Fleming, got word to Texans club director and under-18 head coach Eric Quill that there was a centre-back out of Alabama worth taking a look at. Quill had never seen Richards play, but Fleming’s recommendation was strong enough for Quill to bring him in for a trial on the heels of being cut by Dallas. He could play with the Texans holdovers, meet his potential host family and see if he might like to move to Houston. Ken and Chris made the 670-mile drive from Hoover not long after.

“He was still kind of gangly, but you could tell he was super athletic,” said Quill, who is now an assistant in MLS with the Columbus Crew. “You frickin’ saw what his body was probably going to turn into down the road. If that matched up with his technique and his brain for the game and his ideas, it was gonna be an interesting combination. So I decided to make the call and say let’s go for it. They obviously, on their part, did the same thing, and it kind of became this match made in heaven.” 

Not that it was an easy decision for Richards and his family. 

Christian, his younger brother, was three or four years old at the time. His younger sister, Mackenzie, was only 10 or 11. If Richards left home, he knew he’d probably be leaving for good. 

In the world of high-level youth sports, leaving home at 16 to pursue a professional career or college scholarship has become somewhat standard. That doesn’t change the gravity of the situation for the people living it, though. Richards and his parents, naturally, needed a little bit of convincing. 

Texans SC wasn’t FC Dallas. The team wasn’t as successful, the facilities weren’t as nice and Richards would be the first player in the history of the club to be brought in from out of the area to live with a host family. Thankfully, Quill had the off-field concerns covered. He’d lined up a host family that had a younger son playing at the club. They got on well with Chris and his parents, who still keep in touch with them. On the field, Quill didn’t harbour any illusions about Texans SC’s place in the soccer pyramid. He pitched Ken on using the club as a stepping stone for Chris, a place he could grow before moving to an MLS academy or college program. Quill made Chris feel comfortable right away, then appealed to his competitive streak. 

“Eric was like, ‘We play FC Dallas twice a year’,” Richards said. “‘We heard that you might want to play them again’.” 

It was enough for Richards, who moved to Houston later that summer. 

He took a game or two to get used to the higher standard of play, but things soon started to move pretty fast. 

Richards began shooting up, growing over the course of his season with Texans SC from 5ft 9in to 6ft 1in. His added height didn’t come as a detriment to his athleticism, and he began to improve technically, as well, with Quill lining him up as a left-sided centre-back so he could work on his weaker foot. 

As the season progressed, Quill made it something of his own personal mission to help Richards and Texans midfielder Christian Cappis, now with Danish Superliga side Brondby IF, develop into pros. 

“From him, at least at first, there was a sense that he was shooting to be a Division One college player,” Quill said. “But as time went on, after a few months went by, as you saw how fast he was getting better and what he was doing, I saw star power. I remember saying at the time that he’d start for the US in a World Cup. And I still believe that. His progress was just so fast.” 

Texans SC started racking up positive results, beating FC Dallas during the regular season before making something of a Cinderella run to win the under-18 national title over an LA Galaxy team that featured current LA first-team starter and Mexico international Efrain Alvarez. Dallas had been eliminated earlier in the competition, but Luchi Gonzalez happened to be in LA at the time of the semi-finals and final. Quill saw him there and urged him to take another look at Richards. 

“We were staying at the same hotel and I got with him and said, ‘Listen, Luchi, I know you had this kid a year ago, you didn’t see him in the cards for you, but you need to watch him. Take a look at him in the finals and if you want him, he’s yours’,” Quill said. “Coming back (to Houston) would have just stagnated his progress, in my opinion. So (Gonzalez) watched him over the course of a couple games and was like, ‘This kid is amazing. Are you sure we can have him?’ I told him, ‘Absolutely. Have the other one, too — Christian Cappis.’ I think that took them by surprise, but you knew these guys could be pros and moving to a team like Dallas was a step they needed to take.” 

Richards had trained with Dallas again for a few days that April, but his performances at the finals in July sealed his invite. He felt a little conflicted about going back only a year after their stinging rejection  —“I was like, man, y’all just cut me not even a year ago, I don’t want to come back and play with y’all.” — but Quill pushed him to make the move to North Texas.  

Life in Dallas was significantly different than in Houston. Instead of living with a host family, Richards moved into an apartment that the club arranged for him, along with Cappis, who had also made the move from Houston, and two other players. They were mostly left to their own devices. FIFA and Fortnite were the main forms of entertainment; chicken fingers were a staple of their diet. Richards, who had by then verbally committed to play at the University of North Carolina, continued to progress, earning his first youth national team call-up in January 2018.

It was there that he first caught the eye of European scouts. German clubs Borussia Dortmund, Borussia Monchengladbach and Hoffenheim flew him over for trials that February; he said a couple of them wanted to offer him pro deals as soon as he turned 18 in March. That threw FC Dallas into a bit of a panic. 

The club had lost McKennie for free to Schalke shortly after Richards’ initial trial in Dallas in the summer of 2016. They were committed to not having another big talent walk away for nothing. So, even though an MLS rule requiring homegrown signings to spend at least 12 months in their club’s academy before they debuted for the first-team meant Richards couldn’t play for Dallas in MLS until later that summer, the club inked him to a pro contract in April. 

“I guess growing up in Birmingham, you never really think about playing professionally,” he said. “It was kind of one of those things where you would try to go to a Division One college and then see what happens afterwards. But then, playing in that Dallas environment, it kind of made me realise that if I wanted to play pro, this is the time to do it, this is the time to sign.” 

Richards made sure to have a buyout clause written into the deal. If a European team offered Dallas $1.5million, he would be able to move abroad. 

Sandwiched between Biscayne Bay and downtown Miami, the Mandarin Oriental on Brickell Key is not the kind of place an MLS academy team might stay on an away trip. Nor would an MLS team, for that matter. It is, however, the sort of hotel that a club like Bayern Munich might use as a base during a pre-season tour through the US. 

In the summer of 2018, the perennial German champions took it over. Bayern rented out entire floors of the hotel, implementing a strict security policy for any area in which team personnel were staying. If you wanted to get up to a floor that a player, coach or administrator was booked on, you had to get their express permission beforehand. 

Richards learned that the hard way. He went on a 10-day training stint to Bayern, which formed a partnership with Dallas in February 2018, just a few weeks after he signed his MLS deal with FC Dallas that spring. The club liked him so much they invited him back in July. This time, Richards was going not on a training stint, but a six-month loan with their under-19s. 

But with a number of Bayern stars given a break during the beginning of that pre-season after playing in the World Cup in Russia earlier that summer, Richards was included in the first-team squad for the trip to the US. 

His parents made the trip down to Miami for the friendly against Manchester City, but as they waited in the lobby for an elevator, Richards, ignorant to the protocol, had to scramble to find a security person to get them cleared to come up to his room.

“There’s David Alaba, there’s Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, they’re all on the same floor as me. My parents are walking to the room and I have to go find security to tell them that these people are my parents. Like, what am I doing here?” he laughed. “It was kind of this awkward — it almost felt like I wasn’t there. It didn’t feel real at the time. My mom and dad come into the room and they’re like, ‘This is the coolest thing ever’. It was just amazing. Something you can’t even begin to fathom.” 

A couple of nights later, Richards made his first start for Bayern against the reigning Premier League champs. Just a few months before, he’d been living with his academy team-mates in Texas, playing as his new team on FIFA while eating fast food from Raising Cane’s. 

The rest of his journey at Bayern wasn’t quite as smooth. He did well in his initial foray with the under-19s, showing enough for Bayern to trigger the buyout clause he’d inserted into his contract with Dallas in January 2019. After a successful run with the US in the Under-20 World Cup that summer, he moved up to Bayern’s reserve team, making 30 appearances to help them to the German third-division title. 

He was promoted to the first-team in the summer of 2020, once the Bundesliga returned to play following its COVID-19 hiatus. 

That’s where things got a little bit sticky. 

Richards after scoring for Bayern Munich II against SV Waldhof Mannheim on June 14, 2020 (Photo: Uwe Anspach/Picture Alliance via Getty Images)

Clubs like Bayern rarely promote players from the academy through to the first team. There’s too much quality, too many incoming highly priced transfers and too little opportunities for unproven youngsters. Richards got caught in that tangled web. He made a few Bundesliga appearances in the opening half of the 2020-21 season, tallying an assist in his first-ever Bundesliga start in a 4-3 win against Hertha Berlin in October, but he spent the bulk of his time with the under-23s in the third-division. When the January transfer window rolled around, he asked for a loan move. 

“I think the rejection at Dallas, in the academy, made me realise that not everything is going to be a straight-line path,” he said. “So once I got into the first team at Bayern, I kind of realised that I wasn’t going to get the game time that I wanted. I’ve never been so enamoured by the big name, I don’t want to be at Bayern just to be at Bayern. I want to go play and prove myself. So that’s what I did. I asked for a loan pretty quickly, they were kind of shocked, they were like, ‘You don’t want to play a game here, a game there, play Champions League?’ And I just thought it wouldn’t help me. I mean, it would, but to get to where I want to go, I need to be playing more regularly.”

It wasn’t too tough to find a destination. Sebastian Hoeness, who coached Richards in the Bayern under-19s and under-23s, had taken over as manager of Hoffenheim ahead of the 2020-21 season. He eagerly brought Richards for the remainder of the campaign, starting him at centre-back whenever he was healthy. 

After the season ended, Richards, who missed the final few matches of Hoffenheim’s campaign and the US’s run to the CONCACAF Nations League title that June with an injury, returned to Munich to take his chances under new Bayern manager Julian Nagelsmann. The young coach wasn’t the only new arrival. Nagelsmann brought centre-back Dayot Upamecano with him to Munich from RB Leipzig for a price of $47million. 

“Because Nagelsmann came, they wanted him to see me, but when he brought in Upamecano, I was like, ‘OK, this is going to be the same situation’,” Richards said. “I didn’t take it personally, I just wanted to play. I didn’t care if it was at Bayern or Hoffenheim. I can’t just sit on the bench again. It was a World Cup qualifying year, I wanted to play with the national team and I knew they weren’t going to pick me if I wasn’t playing games.” 

Palace made a move to acquire him on a full transfer late in the summer window, but Richards ended up returning to Hoffenheim for another loan, this time for the full season. USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter didn’t call him up for the first round of World Cup qualifiers in September, in part so that Richards could remain in Europe to finalise the deal, but a run of Bundesliga games got him into the USMNT for the October contests against Jamaica, Panama and against Costa Rica. He made his first start of qualifying against Los Ticos, playing well in a 2-1 win in front of a good number of immediate and extended family members in Columbus, Ohio, near where his mom grew up.

He did well later in qualifying to contain Michail Antonio in a 1-1 draw at Jamaica in November and performed solidly again in a 1-0 win against El Salvador in January, but went down with a foot injury in the subsequent match at Canada. That kept him out for nearly a month, then he suffered a thigh injury in April that ruled him out for the final weeks of the Bundesliga season and prevented him from joining the US for their friendlies and Nations League matches in June. 

Around that time is when the interest from Palace really began to heat up. Richards was hopeful that the transfer would be finalised in late June — he had already spoken with manager Patrick Vieira a few times at that point — but negotiations between Bayern and Palace were drawn out. Though he never really broke through with the Bayern first team, they liked Richards and didn’t want to let him go cheaply, especially just a few months before he’ll have a chance to raise his profile significantly at the World Cup in Qatar. Bayern considered loaning him again, but eventually reached an agreement with Palace for a base fee of $12million that could rise as high as $18million, depending on various benchmarks. 

If he can stay healthy, he should have a good chance to break into the Palace line-up early in the season. He’ll have to adjust to the pace and physicality of the Premier League, but he’s a solid passer, capable of playing as a right- or left-sided centre-back, good in the air and a strong athlete. 

He’s thoughtful, as well — a vocal campaigner against racism and, according to Quill, “the most coachable player you’ll ever find”. 

Richards is confident that he’ll be able to manage the jump. 

“It’s definitely faster,” he said. “Every week you’re playing two, three games, you’re playing against the best of the best. It’s going to be tough, but every time I’ve pushed to a new level, I’ve risen to it. I just think I’m ready for it.” 

Even before the move, Richards had good odds to start alongside Walker Zimmerman as one of the USMNT’s two centre-backs at the World Cup. His speed could be particularly important, as Zimmerman isn’t the quickest player and the US likes to play with a high defensive line. If he performs well for Palace, where US head coach Gregg Berhalter played during the 2001-02 season, he’ll only bolster his case for minutes in Qatar.

“I’d love to see Chris go there,” Berhalter told ESPN’s Futbol Americas earlier this week, before the move was finalised. “I’d love to see that. Crystal Palace is a great club, great stadium, great fans. Patrick Vieira is a great coach. Love it from every side.” 

Richards, of course, has his mind on getting off to a good start in London, but the World Cup looms large. He’s a young, inexperienced and talented member of a young, inexperienced and talented US team. He probably had a harder time imagining his journey than some of his international team-mates did theirs, but he’s now standing on the cusp of an incredible opportunity. If he can take it, the once-unknown kid from Alabama could wind up as one of American soccer’s biggest stars.

“People kind of laugh when they ask me, ‘How far do you guys want to go in the World Cup?’ And I’m like, ‘Damn, man, I want to win it’,” he said. “I don’t want to go into something and downplay ourselves, like, ‘Well, maybe we can get out of the group stage’. No, I want to win it. Same with (Crystal Palace). I want to win the league, win as many trophies as possible and just show out.”

Preseason notebook: Forwards producing, young Yanks seek minutes, & transfer watch

The preseason is winding down but ASN’s Brian Sciaretta offers up another preseason notebook to offer up how he sees things shaping up for a number of players ahead of the opening games. 

PRESEASON IN EUROPE is entering into its final stages and, in some cases, the season is underway. The results are often to be taken with a massive grain of salt, but how players are used does offer a glimpse into what we can expect at the start of the season.

In short, it has been somewhat of a concerning preseason for top American players. There hasn’t been anything too much among top U.S. national team players. Yunus Musah has done well but in terms of McKennie, Pulisic, Adams, Weah, Dest, or Reyna – it’s been very quiet. Strangely enough, it’s been the forwards getting the most production. 

Here is my notebook from the past week.

Bassett scores for Feyenoord

This is an interesting topic. Cole Bassett is at Feyenoord on loan from Colorado. Last month it was reported that Feyenoord were looking to loan Bassett, who turns 21 this week, Fortuna Sittard. These reports were accurate. But the problem, however, is that players on loan can’t be sent out on a subsequent loan. That decision must be made through Colorado.

Normally, it could be expected that Feyenoord would cancel the loan and then Colorado could loan him to Fortuna Sittard – one of the smallest teams in the Eredivisie. The problem, however, is that Feyenoord still wants to retrain its interest in Bassett, because it owns an option to buy with its current loan. It doesn’t want to give that up. But the minutes are probably not there yet at Feyenoord, which is one of the top teams in the Eredivisie. So how does Bassett find another club to play regularly and Feyenoord continues to hold the loan and option on him?

Bassett came off the bench today for Feyenoord in a preseason friendly today to start the second half. He scored in the 50th minute to give his club a 4-0 lead. Feyenoord ended up winning 6-1.
As I have mentioned, Bassett is a player who could have a big role ahead for the U.S. U-23 team as it prepares for the 2024 Olympics.The good news is that all parties are still talking to find a way to make this loan happen.

Busio likely to remain at Venezia

As the always reliable Tom Bogert reported this week, Gianluca Busio seems likely to remain at Venezia this season and is negotiating a contract extension that removes the financial incentives to loan him if the club remains in Serie B.

Last season, Busio made 29 appearances for Venezia as the club suffered relegation out of Serie A. Busio’s playing time dwindled, however, in the second half of the season as his starts became infrequent.

There are some substantial pros and cons. If Busio remains in Serie B, it hurts his chances of making the World Cup team this year. On the other hand, if he remains it will probably help his development in the long term.

Last year, Busio’s strengths remained the same as they were at Sporting KC. He’s an excellent passer and can move the ball well. But he needs work on defensive aspects of the game including handling the physicality of top-flight soccer and having a non-stop motor to close down on attackers for the duration of the game. In a relegation battle, it was risky to trust Busio in such situations.

But in a league where Venezia is among the better teams, the pressure on him won’t be as dramatic. Serie B isn’t a great league, but it is intense. He should be allowed to play to his strengths while working on his weaknesses. In the long-term, it will serve him well.

Internationally, Busio could be left on the outside of the World Cup team this fall. The team has more options in the midfield than it did during World Cup qualifying. Gio Reyna is slowly returning to health. Brenden Aaronson is likely going to be a midfielder at Leeds. Eryk Williamson was ahead of Busio last summer at the Gold Cup and he is returning to health.

Like Bassett, Busio is a strong candidate for the 2024 Olympic team and that could be a big transitional tournament for him to springboard into the national team when he is more ready.

Sands & Tillman at Rangers

In terms of Americans playing well, James Sands has been earning positive reviews for his first preseason with the club (while on loan from NYCFC). Both Sands and U.S. international Malik Tillman played the final 21 minutes for Rangers in a 2-1 loss to Tottenham over the weekend in their most recent game.

An important note on Sands is that while he was signed as a defensive midfielder, he has been playing almost entirely at central defense where he has potentially put himself in he mix as a starter alongside Connor Goldson. It will be competitive for Sands given that the Rangers signed centerbacks John Souttar and Ben Davies. But Sands has been effective with his passing and that fits the style of manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst who wants to play out of the back.

As for Tillman, he will be a regular for Rangers this season although it seems likely he is going to come off the bench to start the season while getting minutes in cup games.

Forwards keep scoring

In terms of preseason, Jordan Pefok, Daryl Dike, Ricardo Pepi, and Haji Wright are four players who all have a lot to prove early this season. Pefok is making the move up from Switzerland to Union Berlin the Bundesliga but the track record of top goal scorers in the Swiss Super League moving to a bigger league is mixed. Haji Wright will remain with Antalyaspor on a permanent deal. That will allow him to continue with his momentum. Daryl Dike is finally healthy after suffering an injury immediately after arriving with West Brom in January.  Ricardo Pepi, meanwhile, needs his first goal for Augsburg soon (in a game that counts.

Three players scored in friendlies over the weekend. Pefok scored in Union’s 1-0 win over Nottingham Forest. Dike scored the winner in West Brom’s 2-1 win over Hertha BSC. Haji Wright scored in Antalyaspor’s dismal 6-2 loss to Bochum. Ricardo Pepi assisted Maurice Malone in Augsburg’s 3-2 loss to Rennes.

From a national team perspective, these four players seem to be fighting for one or two spots on the World Cup roster to take the roles as a pure center forward as opposed to a hybrid version of Jesus Ferreira. But they’re also not the only four. Josh Sargent probably is still in the mix even if his preseason isn’t going well. Brandon Vazquez has been in fantastic form for Cincinnati and might also get a look in September.

Of the players I mentioned, it seems like Dike is probably in the best position to succeed. He’s had success over a much longer time than Pefok or Wright and he is also extremely mobile.

“He (Dike) is someone that can attack the deliveries I’m going to put in the box,” said West Brom attacker Jed Wallace of assisting to Dike against Hertha. “I have played with some very good centre forwards that like to get on the end of crosses in my time. When I think of Millwall, I had Steve Morison and Matt Smith. Daryl falls into that category. But not only is he a big lad, he is very, very, mobile and you saw that with the goal. He got across his man really well. The cross is one thing but, for me, it’s all about the end product. Any good striker can make an average cross look a good one. That is what he did there. It was a really great header.”

Other notes on who played

Taylor Booth is another player firmly in the mix for the United States U-23 team. He started for FC Utrecht on Wednesday in a 1-0 loss to AEK Athens but nearly scored on a free kick.

On the preseason Americans tours for both teams, Barcelona drew Juventus 2-2 in Dallas. Sergino Dest played for Barca while Weston McKennie was not in action, despite the game in his home town.  Dest played between the 34th and 77th minute and was hung out by poor position from his teammates on the first Juventus goal. Other than that, it was an uneventful performance.

Will Dest be a starter for this team at the beginning of the season? It doesn’t seem so.

As for McKennie, Max Allegri said the U.S. midfielder would return to the team tomorrow but didn’t say if it was for injury or personal reasons.

“He is an important player for us, tomorrow he will return with the team and on Saturday he will be able to play,” Allegri said.

It was a tough week for Yunus Musah. While he has been making big progress with Valencia in central midfield, he started for the club over the weekend in a rough 5-2 loss to a VfB Stuttgart team managed by Pellegrino Matarazzo.

Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson both started for Leeds United under Jesse Marsch in a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace to conclude the Australian preseason tour. Both Americans were subbed out at halftime with the score 0-0 and both look like potential starters to begin the season. 

Tim Weah started and picked up an assist for Lille in a 2-2 draw with Las Palmas. The USMNT winger picked off a poor pass from a Las Palmas central defender and quickly fed it towards goal for an assist. It will be interesting to see how Weah is used this year. It seems as if it is only a matter of time before Jonathan David is sold (Bayern are the latest interested) but that will certainly affect Weah and it will increase his responsibilities in the attack until further reinforcements are added.

Joe Scally started and played 75 minutes for Borussia Monchengladbach in a 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad. Scally was quiet in this one. Mexican-American Jonathan Gomez played the second half for Sociedad and it seems as if another season with Sociedad B could be in the cards.

Austin Trusty made his debut for Birmingham City (on loan from Arsenal) when he started in the club’s final preseason game, a 2-2 draw with Rayo Vallecano in La Liga. Trusty will wear No. 5 and will open the season this weekend against Ethan Horvath and Luton Town.

Will Trusty play for Birmingham City? It seems likely. Birmingham City were terrible defensively last season as the club finished 20th out of 24 in the Championship. That being said, Trusty struggled the first half of the season with Colorado.

2.Bundesliga/Belgium updates

Two leagues with several Americas which are already into their season are Belgium’s top flight and Germany’s 2.Bundesliga.  Results have been mixed.Two top performers have been Sam Vines and Terrence Boyd.Sam Vines was strong for Royal Antwerp in its 2-0 season opening win over Mechelen on Sunday. There is an opening on the U.S. team for the backup left back spot as George Bello has been unconvincing.

Elsewhere in Belgium, it wasn’t good for Americans. Mark McKenzie was an unused sub for Genk in its 3-2 loss to Club Brugge. For McKenzie, his World Cup hopes seem to be fading quickly. Owen Otasowie didn’t get off the bench either for Brugge. Bryan Reynolds was an unused sub for Westerloo in its 2-0 win over Cercle Brugge while Griffin Yow is still finalizing his work permit to suit up. Kyle Duncan, meanwhile, was suspended for Oostende’s 2-0 loss to Anderlecht due to the red card he picked up in last season’s finale.

In the 2.Bundesliga, Terrence Boyd scored for Kaiserslautern in its 2-2 draw with Holstein Kiel while Nico Carrera is still not in Holstein Kiel’s lineup. Boyd now has a goal and an assist in the first two games of the season.  Julian Green and Timothy Tillman each started for Greuther Furth in a 2-0 loss to Nurnberg. George Bello started and played 86 minutes for Arminia Bielefeld in a brutal 3-0 loss at home to Jahn Regensburg. Former Springfield college defender Ryan Malone started for Hansa Rostock in an impressive 1-0 away win over Hamburg.

From an international perspective, Bello was the big story and things clearly aren’t clicking for him at Arminia Bielefeld. While he was on the USMNT June roster, I would expect Berhalter to look at other options in September. Whether that be Sam Vines, John Tolkin, DeJuan Jones, or perhaps just moving Sergino Dest to the left, Bello has probably lost his grip on a ticket to Qatar.

Player movement

There have been a lot of moves so far this summer including key national team players. Luca de la Torre moved to Celta Vigo, Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams moved to Leeds, Zack Steffen was loaned to Middlesbrough, and there have been several other smaller deals or loans. But Chris Richards is a big one and his transfer from Bayern Munich to Crystal Palace has now been announced.

I wrote about this last week in the preseason notebook, but this is a great deal. He will probably be the third central defender, but he is moving because manager Patrick Viera wants him and he will now have to raise his game to get on the field. He wasn’t challenged that way at Hoffenheim. It’s also great for FC Dallas, who could net nearly $5 million from this transfer if the bonus incentives are met.

In other moves, former U.S. U-20 international Charlie Kelman has been loaned from Queens Park Rangers to Leyton Orient in fourth tier League Two.

Jordan Bender last fall saw the option on his homegrown contract declined by Orlando City and now he will return to his parents’ native Cape Town City FC which finished last season in second in South Africa’s top tier. Bender was called up to the only U-20 camp of the previous cycle in January 2020 before Covid cancelled the 2021 U-20 World Cup.

As mentioned, Cole Bassett could rework a situation where he goes on loan to another club, likely in Holland.

Justin Che could be in a different situation as he does not appear to be in the plans right now at Hoffenheim. He is at Hoffenheim on an 18-month loan but based on reports, it doesn’t seem like Bundesliga minutes will be there for him soon. He might remain at Hoffenheim but moving on loan to another club is certainly in the mix.

Tyler Boyd has been starting for Besiktas this preseason but hasn’t stood out. It seems unlikely that he will make their roster for the Super Lig season and Besiktas will probably settle for any decent offer.

The quiet nature of the John Brooks saga has been very interesting. There are reports of teams interested (we’ve seen Marseille, Union Berlin, top Turkish teams, and others all rumored) but then things go very quiet. It seems like it will be resolved soon but Brooks has been able to sign a contract with any team since January and still has yet to put pen to paper.

Richard Ledezma is a bigger story to watch and this one is going to come down to the wire – but it is a positive story. He is still in the plans at PSV and is performing well but Vitesse wants him on loan. PSV will likely wait for a few more weeks to determine if Vitesse is a possibility.

Matthew Hoppe is coming off a lost season at Mallorca and hasn’t been involved in preseason. Tom Bogert reported that an offer from Middlesbrough has been made. But would Hoppe play at Middlesbrough? There is a lot of heavy turnover in the Championship. Duncan Watmore and Josh Coburn are returning from last season. Watmore had seven goals and three assists last season, which is lackluster for a player in his prime (but still far beyond what Hoppe accomplished last season), and Coburn is only 19, but is highly rated with four goals last season.

Chuba Akpom, 26, returns to Middlesbrough from a loan to PAOK in Greece but has five goals in 39 games for Middlesbrough. Uche Ikpeazu also returns to Middlesbrough after a positive loan to Cardiff City where he scored three goals in 13 games (but started only once). That loan was due to an emergency need at Cardiff and Ikpeazu was popular in Wales.

For Hoppe, there is competition but none of the existing options seem unbeatable.



After winning the Concacaf U-20 Championship with the United States, Paxten Aaronson is playing games again in MLS
  • Many know the Aaronson name from Paxten’s older brother Brenden, but the younger Aaronson has plenty of talent

© Mitchell Leff-USA TODAY Sports

The Paxten Aaronson hype is building.

First, that hype came in whispered terms after his brother, Brenden Aaronson, broke out with the U.S. men’s national team. Then it grew louder as he signed his own first professional contract and made his debut with the Philadelphia Union in May, 2021. After a run with the U.S. at the Concacaf U-20 Championship, it’s still growing. Now back in Philadelphia, Aaronson is trying to establish himself in the Union’s first team to follow the same trajectory that led his brother, Brenden Aaronson, to Europe and the national team.At the U-20 Championship, Aaronson staked his claim as the best player on the team. Opposing defenses couldn’t cope with his movement or his skill on the ball. When the games became more difficult, the 18-year-old attacker raised his game to match the level: of his seven goals in the tournament, five of them came in the quarterfinals or later. He finished as the leading scorer and won the Golden Ball. While being the leading scorer for the U.S. at the Concacaf U-20 Championship hasn’t been historically meaningful – the last four leading scorers for the U.S. at that tournament have combined for two senior team caps and zero goals – Aaronson is clearly a talented young player. Let’s take a look at his skillset to learn more about what makes him tick and what his future might hold.


After Brenden Aaronson exploded onto the scene in 2020, lighting up MLS before a move to RB Salzburg and now Leeds United, it was easy to get excited about a younger version of him climbing up the professional soccer ranks. After all, if the “Little Brother” effect is true in other sports, why wouldn’t it be true in soccer?


Of course, as anyone with an older sibling knows, people often fall into the trap of treating siblings like they’re the same person, with the same abilities and weaknesses. It’s tempting to do that with the Aaronson brothers. They look similar, with their shaggy hair and slim builds. They have a similar frenetic approach to the game, which fits in nicely with the way the Philadelphia Union play. 

Despite these similarities, at their core, they’re different players.

The difference starts with how they’ve progressed so far in their careers. Here’s a look at how Paxten has performed over the first years of his professional career. This chart is just the sum of Goals Added (G+), a popular possession value metric by American Soccer Analysis, across both MLS and the USL Championship.

Paxten is ahead of where Brenden was at a similar age, which is an encouraging sign. For Brenden, the 2020 season was a breakout year, earning him first place on MLS’s 22 Under 22 list. With a strong end to the 2022 season, Paxten could establish himself as a first team starter and have that same kind of rise in 2023. There’s also the very real possibility that his breakout season could take place in Europe if a team decides to make a move for him.

Looking towards the field, the positional breakdown between the two brothers is different, too. Here’s a visualization of the various positions that Paxten and Brenden have played during their time in MLS and the USL.

Brenden split his time between the wings, the No. 10, and the No. 8 during his time playing in the United States. He even played a game as a center back (according to Stats Perform) back in 2019. We’re not buying that one, but nice try data provider. Paxten, on the other hand, tends to play higher up the field. He’s almost entirely coded either as a striker – really, a second striker when you watch the tape – or as an attacking midfielder. 

The younger Aaronson can play multiple roles in possession, but he has a tendency to assert himself in the attack more than his brother.


If Paxten isn’t just Brenden 2.0, then who is he?

After running his (admittedly limited) MLS numbers through a player matching algorithm, two European comparisons stand out: Leicester City’s Ayoze Perez and Atletico Madrid’s Angel Correa. That’s not to say that Aaronson is as good as these two players, but his style of play is similar to that pair. Paxten’s energy and activity on the defensive end is one of the biggest reasons the comparison fits.

Despite his listed height and weight sitting at a waifish 5’9” and 139 pounds, he shows a complete lack of fear on the defensive end against larger players. As an undersized, but aggressive player, Aaronson fits well into a system that requires pressing through the middle third.

As a ball progressor, Aaronson puts his relatively limited overall involvement to good use. He tends to touch the ball less than most midfielders or forwards, but he plays forward with a large percentage of his passes. The teenager is the most dangerous in the final third and around the box. He consistently moves into open spaces and creates shots either for himself or for his teammates with that movement and his skill on the on-attacker-special-different-than-his-brother.Aaronson is comfortable playing in tight spaces, but he doesn’t have the pace or acceleration to consistently beat players on the wing. He works better through the middle of the pitch.

Even though Aaronson has some real skills, there are still some deficits in his game that must be ironed out for him to truly shine in MLS and beyond. His overall usage rates are quite low, which means he doesn’t get on the ball very much. A low usage rate is not necessarily an issue, but it might indicate that Aaronson isn’t going to demand the ball and take over a game as a playmaker. Instead, he will find his spots and take advantage of his movement to try to take the final shot or make the penultimate pass in an attacking sequence. Aaronson is willing to dribble at players one-v-one, but his success rates leave much to be desired and he currently lacks the speed and strength to differentiate himself. That should change over the next year or so as he continues to mature.


The rest of the 2022 season could be key for Aaronson’s development. 

With the Union on top of the Eastern Conference, minutes have been hard to come by Aaronson: he’s sitting just shy of 400 minutes this year. That said, he has been playing this month. Since rejoining the team after the Concacaf U-20 Championship, Aaronson has played in four straight games. It helps that he’s on a Philadelphia Union team that uses two strikers and a No. 10 and is committed to playing the kids.The 18-year-old can play any of the three attacking positions in Jim Curtin’s 4-4-2 diamond: as one of the two forwards or as a replacement for Gazdag in the space between the midfield and the strikers. Gazdag doesn’t get many touches either and his game could provide the blueprint for how Aaronson could impact play as an unconventional No. 10. Aaronson’s flexibility in this area is an asset, one that should contribute to increased playing time going forward.Despite reports of European attention, Aaronson still needs some seasoning before he’ll be truly ready to impact a good team across the Atlantic – and that’s okay. He’s only played around 2,000 MLS minutes in his career. Regardless of what happens on the transfer front over the next 12 to 18 months, Philadelphia Union and USMNT fans have plenty of reasons to be excited about Paxten Aaronson. His skill on the ball and relentless defensive work could make him a valuable player in a modern soccer landscape that prioritizes both of those attributes over almost anything else.If Aaronson continues to mature physically and gets more on-field reps, he could develop into quite the player.

With Arlo And NBCSN Gone, Here’s How To Watch Premier League In U.S. In 2022-23


AMERICANS WILL HAVE SOME CHANGES TO GET USED TO FOR THE 2022-23 PREMIER LEAGUE SEASON. The Premier League is back for the 2022-23 season, and that means it’s time for us Americans to set those weekend alarms for way-too-early a.m. and get the TV ready for the world’s most popular soccer league. There will be a few changes to this year’s EPL TV lineup, so here’s a quick refresher on how to watch Premier League in the U.S. for 2022-23. After eight years of Americans watching the Premier League on NBC’s family of networks, the EPL’s U.S. TV rights went up for grabs last year. Despite heavy competition (including a surprising second round of bidding), NBC shelled out a reported $2.7 billion to retain the rights for another six years in both English and Spanish. For a bit of comparison, ESPN paid $1.4 billion for a similar eight-year deal with LaLiga, while JetBlue will spend $3.8 billion to buy Spirit airlines. (I’m not sure which company got the better deal, but it’s not JetBlue.)While the network owning the Premier League TV rights will not change, fans will notice a few major differences. The first major change is the loss of NBCSN, but fans should have already adjusted to this. NBCSN shuttered at the end of 2021, so if you’re still trying to find the cable channel in August 2022, that’s on you.The second major change is the loss of announcer Arlo White. NBC announced in May that White was being replaced by the excellent Peter Drury as the network’s lead soccer announcer. While many will miss White’s velvety voice, I think most Americans will grow to appreciate Drury’s intelligent, poetic and appropriately enthusiastic calls.Enough with the changes, here’s how to watch Premier League matches in the U.S. in 2022-23. 

How To Watch Premier League In USA 2022-23

  • TV: NBC, USA Network, CNBC, Universo, Telemundo
  • Streaming: Peacock Premium
  • Third-Party Streaming*: fuboTV, Sling TV, DirecTV Stream, YouTube TV, Hulu+ Live TV

How To Watch Premier League In USA For Free

  • Hope for a match on over-the-air NBC

Premier League matches will once again be split between three primary outlets in English: network NBC, cable USA Network and streaming Peacock Premium. The only free one is NBC; USA requires a cable subscription (as does the occasional match on CNBC) while matches on Peacock will come with a $4.99-per-month price tag. The song remains the same in Spanish, with matches on Telemundo, Universo and Peacock Premium. On a typical weekend, you’ll see a few games on USA, one or two on NBC and the rest on Peacock. This means to watch every Premier League match, you’ll need both a cable subscription and a Peacock subscription. This is less than ideal, but at least Peacock is one of the cheapest streaming services around. And with the loss of NBCSN, more and more matches have been placed behind the Peacock paywall, so you’ll probably want to pay for that subscription anyway. For instance, on opening weekend, NBC decided to air two matches on USA and the other eight on Peacock. Now that you know how to watch Premier League matches, catch up on all the Americans playing in the league here. And if you need help naming your Fantasy Premier League team, we’ve got you covered, too.* — Third-party streaming refers to streaming services through which you can gain access to live TV channels such as NBC and USA.

Boys in Blue Seek to Cool Down Red-hot Rowdies Side Saturday

#INDvTBR Preview 
Indy Eleven vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies
Saturday, July 30, 2022 – 7:00 p.m. ET
IUPUI Carroll Stadium  – Indianapolis, Ind.

Streaming Video: ESPN+ (click to subscribe) 
Radio (Spanish): Exitos 94.3 FM / exitos943.com
In-game updates: @IndyElevenLive Twitter feed, presented by Central Indiana Honda Dealers
Live stats: #INDvTBR MatchCenter on USLChampionship.com 

Indy Eleven: 6W-10L-4D (-7 GD), 22 pts.; 9th in Eastern Conference 
Tampa Bay Rowdies: 12W-6L-3D (+22 GD), 42 pts.; 2nd in Eastern Conference 

OUT: Aris Briggs (R shin), Bryan Meredith (R hand fracture), Stefano Pinho|

IND: none
TBR: none

* IND’s Raul Aguilera & Sam Brown will receive a one-game suspension from USL for caution accumulation (eight) should they receive a yellow card in any game up to and including Aug. 27 vs. SA

Indy Eleven Game Notes

Tampa Bay Game Notes

USLC Week 21 Notes

Indy Eleven is staying in the Circle City for the second of a three-match homestand this Saturday night at Carroll Stadium against a former NASL rival in the Tampa Bay Rowdies. The meeting is the second between the sides this season, the first being a 2-0 home win for the Rowdies back on Matchday 2.

The Boys in Blue broke a six-match losing streak and a five-match scoreless streak last Saturday night against Memphis 901 FC, its 1-1 draw helping the squad get back on track for playoff positioning as the final third of the season approaches. The Eleven sit ninth in the Eastern Conference, currently nine points outside the playoff picture but with two games in hand on both seventh place Miami (31 pts.) and FC Tulsa (25 pts.).

Two new Boys in Blue made their IXI debuts last week in Sean Lewis and former Rowdies striker Juan Tejada, and two more could do the same on Saturday. On Monday, defender Jesus Vasquez was added to the squad from RGV Toros FC in a loan exchange for Jonas Fjeldberg, and 18-year-old Orlando City forward Wilfredo Rivera also joined Indy for the remainder of the season on loan. The match will allow for some quick reunions for Tejada and ex-Eleven midfielder Nicky Law, as the duo will face their former squads just nine days after being traded for each other last Thursday.

Across the pitch, the Rowdies have been one of the top performers in the league all season long – but especially so since the calendar hit May. Tampa Bay currently sits second in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind top of the table Louisville City FC, and is undefeated since an April 30 loss to San Diego Loyal. Since then, the Floridian side has rattled off a 9-0-2 unbeaten run, including five straight wins overall and four consecutive road wins heading into this weekend.

A variety of ticketing options for Saturday night’s Eastern Conference clash are available at indyeleven.com/tickets.


Indy Eleven 1 : 1 Memphis 901 FC 
Sat., July 23 | Recap & Highlights |  Stats

Indy Eleven garnered its first point since mid-June via a 1-1 draw with Memphis 901 FC at Carroll Stadium. Two-time USLC MVP Solomon Asante scored his first goal in an IXI shirt just nine minutes in, making him the 17th player to score 50 regular season goals in the Championship’s 12 seasons. The fastest goal of the 2022 campaign to this point for Indy allowed the Boys in Blue to stretch their now two-year undefeated streak when scoring first to 25 games.

Indy goalkeeper Sean Lewis tied an Eleven season high with seven saves in his debut for the Boys in Blue, including a club-record tying six in the first half, but he couldn’t deny Phillip Goodrum’s 23rd minute tally that gave him an Eastern Conference best 12th goal of the season.

Tampa Bay Rowdies 3 : 1 Atlanta United 2
Sat., July 23 |  Stats

The Rowdies continued their winning ways Saturday night at home against Atlanta. Darwin Matteus put the visitors up 14 minutes in, but Steevan Dos Santos notched a first half brace, scoring in 25’ and 38’ to put the Rowdies up by the break. Leo Fernandes’ 11th goal of the season in the 68th minute from the penalty spot all but sealed the proceedings, which saw Tampa Bay take a USL Championship season-high 28 shots on the evening.   

All meetings: 3W-3L-8D (17 GF/17 GF)
USLC regular season (2018-current): 1W-2L-2D (4 GF/6 GA)
USL Championship at home: 1W-0L-1D (1 GF/0 GA)
NASL regular season (2014-17): 2W-1L-6D (13 GF/11 GA)

Few teams have as much history with Indy Eleven as the Tampa Bay Rowdies do. The two clubs have met 14 times since 2014, and the series stands dead even at 3W-3L-8D and 17 goals for each team across both USLC and NASL competition. The teams met once previously this season, a 2-0 victory for the Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium on March 19, a match that included a first-minute game-winner and the assist on the Rowdies’ insurance tally by now-Eleven forward Juan Tejada.

Their first meeting at Carroll Stadium took place in Indy’s second-ever match on Apr. 19, 2014, a 1-1 draw in which Erick Norales equalized late for Indiana’s Team. The rivalry took a hiatus in 2020 or 2021 due to scheduling changes due in large part to the Covid-19 pandemic. The last contest between the two in the Circle City came on Oct. 12, 2019, when Sebastian Guenzatti (45’) and Dane Kelly (72’) traded tallies in a 1-1 draw at Lucas Oil Stadium.

We’ve touched up the Juan Tejada (13 goals, 5 assists in 65 games with Tampa Bay from 2019-22) and Nicky Law (4 goals and 5 assists in 49 games from 2021-22) angles, but there remains one more current link to the two squads in Rowdies defender Connor Antley. Indy Eleven’s acquisition of the Atlanta area native from South Georgia Tormenta FC on Nov. 21, 2019, made USL history, as it marked the first time a Championship squad paid a transfer fee to a USL League One side for a player’s services. Antley  spent the 2020 campaign in the Circle City, playing 12 of the squad’s 16 games during the COVID-shortened season before joining Tampa Bay in 2021.  

Didn’t see this one coming, did you? However, we choose Tejada for good reason, as his boundless energy both on and off the ball in attack and in the high pressure defensive set-up that head coach Mark Lowry likes to implement was on full display in his Indy debut last weekend. The Eleven’s scoreless drought broke last Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Memphis 901 FC, and if the goals start rolling with some consistency for the Boys in Blue as they did across April, May, and early June, it seems more and more like Tejada will be a reason why.

While we have no reason to think there’s any grudges between Tejada and his former side, the fact remains Tejada’s primary role for the Florida side ever since his standout 2019 rookie season had been coming off the bench – and just two days after arriving in the Hoosier State, Lowry gave him the full 90 minutes to show his stuff. We’ll selfishly hope there’s a little added motivation for Tejada to open his Eleven account in his first meeting against his former side on Saturday – and a duplication of his goal and assist output against Indy back in Week 2 would be even better.

 Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online https://theoleballcoach.wordpress.com/
Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://brickyardbattalion.com, Sam’s Army-http://sams-army.com , American Outlaws  https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

7/22/22  USWNT beats Canada, Indy 11 home Sat, Women’s Euro’s Semi’s ESPN2 3 pm Tu/Wed

Women’s Euro’s Quarter Finals Wrap Up Sat– Semi’s Next Tues/Wed 3 pm ESPN2

The Women’s Euro’s have been great  – with this spectacular comeback at home by England who needed 83rd minute and ET goals to secure victory over a Spain team that had dominated them in the first 60 minutes or so. The Quarterfinals wrap up Saturday with the Semi’s Tuesday and Wednesday at 3 pm.

France Beats Netherlands in ET

England vs Spain Was Classic (video highlights)

Sweden Win over Belgium (highlights)

Great GK Saves in Euros (see this in more below in GK section)

Dutch GK Domselaar Save vs France in Semis  

Reserve Dutch GK Vanomselaar steps up with Saves in Euros

Belgium Evrard PK Save in losing effort vs France


Tuesday, July 26
SF1 – 
Sweden vs. England – (Sheffield) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Wednesday, July 27
SF2 – 
France  vs. Germany – (Milton Keynes) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Sunday, July 31
Winners of SF1 vs. Winners of SF2 – (Wembley Stadium) – midday ET, ESPN

USA Ladies beat Canada 1-0 to Win the CONCACAF W and gain Olympic Birth 

Unlike in just about every  game the US has played in this tourney the US Ladies did look good – heck they looked Dominant in the first 20 minutes shooting like 5 or 6 times – blasting poor Canadian GK Sinclair.  The Cannucks did adjust and looked dangerous for the rest of the half as they made continued runs down the left wing.  The US completely took over in the 2nd half as they had 15 shots on goal overall including this by Smith – finally winning it on a PK by Alex Morgan vs her teammate GK Christine Sinclair after Rose Lavelle was taken down in the box on an interesting call  (refs what do you think see links below)?   Here are celebration videos Long Highlights – US Win Over Canada

US Men

USMNT coach Greg Berhalter on Fox Sports with Colin Coward. In other news GK Zach Steffan has completed his loan move from Man City to Middlesborough in the Championship (2nd division). Also Chris Richards has moved to Crystal Palace from Bayern Munich. I was hoping he would land at Leeds United States of America – but oh well.


So the MLS is sitting tall after huge wins by Charlotte over Chelsea 2-1 shootout win, and Minnesota United 4-0 over Everton.  Of interest this weekend a # of European teams are in the US on their summer tours – one of the more intriguing is Sat night on ESPN as Bayern Munich faces Man City at Lambeau Field 6:30 pm.  That might be worth the tune in – at the same Time Chelsea Pulisic are playing Arsenal and Turner – but somehow that only garners us ESPN+ at 7:30 pm  (I’m not going to pretend I understand their logic sometime.)  Of course Bayern will not have leading scorer Lewondowski as his transfer request to Barcelona has been completed and he is expected to suit up Sat vs Real Madrid in El Classico in Las Vegas Sat night 11 pm on Fox Sports 2.

Indy 11

Indiana’s Team returns home next weekend for the first of three consecutive Saturday contests at IUPUI Carroll Stadium, starting against a surging Memphis 901 FC side. Fans can secure tickets for the 7:00 p.m. ET kickoff on “International Night at The Mike” starting at just $15 online at indyeleven.com/tickets or over the phone at 317-685-1100; more details on the Eleven’s promotional nights through the rest of the season can be found at indyeleven.com/promotions.  Indy Eleven’s recent attacking woes continued tonight in the Garden State, as New York Red Bulls II sent the Boys in Blue to their fourth consecutive 1-0 defeat at MSU Soccer Park. Despite a season-high seven saves by goalkeeper Tim Trilk, Indiana’s Team fell to a sixth straight loss with the narrow result. Former Indy 11, Carmel United, Carmel High GK Eric Dick playing for Minn United in their 4-0 win over Everton. Be sure vote for Carmel High at Butler’s own Katie Soderstrom for Indy 11 – VOTE: SODERSTROM UP FOR W LEAGUE PLAYER OF THE YEAR.

Calling all 7 & 8th Grade & High School Soccer Rec Players in Carmel!

Some of you have registered already but there are still many slow to sign up and teams are now in process at Dads Club. Tell your friends to get moving so they don’t miss a chance to play this fall. Space is limited and we cannot add more teams beyond what we have planned for. Sign up now-High School league has no late fees! www.carmeldadsclub.org   317-846-1663


Sat, July 23

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup France vs Netherlands

6:30 pm ESPN                    Bayern Munich vs Man City (Lambeau)

7 pm ESPN+, TV23     Indy 11 vs Memphis 901

8 pm ESPN +                       Arsenal (Turner) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

8:30 pm ABC                       Houston Dynamo vs Minn United

10 pm ESPN+                     Seattle vs Colorado

11 pm Fox Sport 2             Barcelona vs Real Madrid – El Classico

Sun, July 24

7:30 am ESPN3                  US Youth Championship U19 Boys

10 am ESPN3                      US Youth Championship U19 Girls

9:30 pm FS1                        Atlanta united vs LA Galaxy

Mon, July 25

8 pm FS1                              Copa America Semi 1 Colombia vs Argentina

Tue, July 26

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Semi 1 Sweden vs. England

8 pm FS1                              Copa America Brazil vs Paraguay

Wed, July 27

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Semi 2 France vs. Germany

Fri, July 29

8 pm FS2                              Copa America 3rd

11 pm FS1                            LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

Sat, July 30

12 noon ESPN+                 Liverpool vs Man City Community Shield

2:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich  Supercup

 3 pm ABC                            Minn United vs Portland Timbers

8 pm ESPN+                        Cincy v Inter Miami 

9 pm ESPN+                        LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

Sun, July 31

12 noon ESPN                    Euro Women’s Cup FINAL                           

5 pm ESPN+                        DC united vs Orlando City

8 pm FS2                              Santos Laguna vs Atlas 

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

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

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Pulisic On Target, But Charlotte Stuns Chelsea For Biggest Win In Club History

Charlotte Beats Chelsea 1-1 on Pks
Frank Lampard after Minnesota meltdown: Everton gets relegation warning

Debut goals for Mane, De Ligt as Bayern thump Rooney’s D.C. United

Jesus strikes early in Arsenal’s 2-0 friendly win over Everton

LAFC defeats Nashville, moves back to top of MLS standings in Gareth Bale’s debut

Apple’s MLS Deal Shows It Wants to Distribute Rights, Not Buy Them

USA Women

USWNT’s win at Concacaf championship pays dividends beyond World Cup, Olympic spots | Opinion USA TODAY Sport

TakeAways from The US win over Canada – backheeled.com

U.S. women’s national soccer team on way to 2024 Paris Olympics after beating Canada for Concacaf championship title
USWNT edges Canada in CONCACAF W Championship final to earn
Olympic Birth – LA Times
USWNT qualifies for 2024 Olympics, defeats Canada in Concacaf W Championship final

The USWNT wins another title, and finally reaps the rewards of its equal pay fight


 Women’s Soccer Euro’s


Wednesday, July 20
QF1 – England vs. Spain – (Brighton) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Thursday, July 21
QF2 – Germany vs. Austria (Brentford) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Friday, July 22
QF3 – Sweden vs. Runners-up of Group D – (Leigh) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Saturday, July 23
QF4 – France vs. Netherlands – (Rotherham) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Women’s Euro 2022 bracket and fixtures schedule


Is Palace the right place for USMNT’s Richards?

Transfer chat: USMNT players potentially (or already) on the move 

Has Chelsea gotten ‘proper return’ for Pulisic?


Sam Kerr and Kylian Mbappé star as FIFA 23’s cover athletes
Ibrahimovic, 40, extends stay with Italian champions AC Milan

Lewandowski will bring ‘winning mentality’ to Barca: Christensen

Skocic reinstated as Iran coach six days after sacking

REFFING This Crazy Game

Lavelle was taken down in the box on an interesting call 

Do You Agree with this call MLS?  

Ref Reviews for Week 18 in MLS
Female referee at men’s World Cup wants the game to shine

Ref Question    Whats the Right Call


Dutch GK Domselaar Save vs France in Semis  

Reserve Dutch GK Vanomselaar steps up with Saves in Euros

Best Women Goalkeepers Saves

Great Saves Women’s Champions League 2022

Belgium Evrard PK Save in losing effort vs France

Goalkeeping MLS 7/23

Former Carmel FC GK Coach Jordan Farr has Save of the Week #3 of season

Look at this Save by former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr

We are planning to go see former CFC GK Coach Jordan Farr as his San Antonio comes to town Sat, Aug 27th 7 pm to play Indy 11 – reach-out to me at shanebestsoccer@gmail.com if you want to join us.

Indy 11




Indy 11 Park Announced

Indy 11 Park





 My 3 Thoughts on USWNT-Canada

Morgan’s 78th-minute penalty gives U.S. a 1-0 win over Canada in the CONCACAF W Championship final    Grant Wahl Jul 19 

The USWNT beat Canada 1-0 on a 78th-minute penalty by Alex Morgan to win the CONCACAF W Championship and earn the U.S. an automatic berth in the 2024 Olympics. (Canada will meet Jamaica in a playoff for the other CONCACAF Olympic spot.) The U.S. win avenged last year’s 1-0 Olympic semifinal loss to the Canadians. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

• Morgan came up big in the game’s deciding moment. Morgan delivered a terrific spot kick past her San Diego Wave club teammate, Canadian goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan, to put the U.S. ahead on the only goal either team has conceded in the entire tournament. But that wasn’t Morgan’s only part in the penalty sequence. It was Morgan whose weighted pass put Rose Lavelle free in the box, where she was clipped by Allysha Chapman and fell to the turf. Morgan was sharp in this game from the start and should have had an assist a few minutes earlier in the second half when her ace through-ball found Sophia Smith, who somehow managed to shoot wide on an open Canadian goal. For Morgan, this game was personal. She was one of the few U.S. players on this team who had been on the field during Canada’s win over the U.S. during the Olympics. That loss had been crushing. And while this occasion wasn’t as big as that one, it still is an important win for the U.S. to reestablish control of CONCACAF after Canada’s gold medal last year.

• Vlatko Andonovski got a big win here too. If the U.S. had lost this game, Andonovski would have kept his job, but he most certainly would have been on the hot seat after two straight important losses to the Canadians. But the truth is this was the U.S.’s best performance of the tournament by far, and Andonovski deserves some credit for that. The U.S. came out on a mission and probably should have scored in the opening 15 minutes given the chances the Americans had. But Canada fought back and had its own dangerous attacking moments in the first half, often through Nichelle Prince working against Sofia Huerta. Those Canadian chances diminished in the second half, however, as the U.S. asserted control and deserved the advantage that came its way. Does Andonovski have a lot to figure out in the next year before the World Cup? Sure. A lot of that has to do with the return of some important players, including Catarina Macario, Crystal Dunn, Sam Mewis, Julie Ertz, Tierna Davidson and perhaps others. But beating Canada with a solid performance in a final is Andonovski’s biggest moment since taking the job.

• Work needs to be done over the next year. If the U.S. is going to win a third straight World Cup, there are several areas that need to be worked on. There needs to be more willingness in the attack to take defenders on 1v1 and less settling for lumping aimless crosses into the box. The central midfield needs to find more creativity than we saw in this tournament, and a Mewis or Ertz type (even if it’s Mewis or Ertz herself) needs to reestablish control as a defensive mid. (Andi Sullivan just didn’t bring enough this tournament.) Mal Pugh and Smith are phenomenal wingers but need to get more clinical in the moments that count the most. Is Naomi Girma a starting centerback next year? I think so. But there’s a lot of talent in the U.S. pool as well, and it’s certainly possible that a third straight World Cup run can be made.

Predicting the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup squad, one year out

By Meg Linehan

Jul 21, 2022


The USWNT flew home from Monterrey with the newest trophy to add to the cabinet, but only after forward Alex Morgan discovered the CONCACAF W Championship cup fit roughly 20 margaritas. 

The team did the double on the qualification front, picking up their spots for both the 2023 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics in their perfect run through the tournament, outscoring their opponents 13 to zero.

Now, 364 days remain until next summer’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand (though no repeat of the heat wave in France, it’ll be winter in the host nations). The work for U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski had already turned from evaluation to qualification. Now, the switch can be flipped once again, to the final piece: cohesion.

Andonovski and the squad have 13 games between now and their World Cup opener to build the chemistry, address any lingering questions and try to peak at the right time. All the pressure’s on the back-to-back World Cup winners to add a third consecutive trophy, though that’s also nothing new for the USWNT.

While Andonovski was honest in saying the USWNT is not — at this time — ready for the World Cup, the team’s performance in the W Championship final against Canada was a timely reminder of how the U.S. can turn it on against top teams. Take all those narratives about Olympic revenge with a grain of salt too, since the roster had a real mix of players who experienced that loss and plenty more who didn’t. The kids are more than okay, and they’re making their case for starting roles next summer.

“It’s very obvious that the team is significantly younger than the previous time we played Canada,” Andonovski said after the match in his press conference. The USWNT made six changes from the starting XI that featured in Tokyo last year, with the additions of Sofia Huerta, Alana Cook, Emily Fox, Andi Sullivan, Mal Pugh and Sophia Smith.

“They’re going to be here for at least three, maybe four, World Cups,” he said about players like Smith (21 years old) and Fox (24), in a delighted tone that perhaps just crossed the line into smugness. “So get used to them.”

There’s still time for potential shake-ups on the World Cup roster, and there’s still time for players to return from injuries (or pregnancies) or make their case for the final 23. While it’s impossible to anticipate every potential twist between now and the FIFA deadline for the World Cup roster, it’s worth taking a look at where things stand right now, and where the biggest question remarks remain for Andonovski.

This intellectual exercise does assume that World Cup rosters will remain at 23 players for 2023, though FIFA expanded the men’s World Cup rosters to 26 for the tournament this fall, due to the strain on players. Considering the recent run of injuries (and, of course, the ongoing pandemic), and an increasing focus on player workload, it’s not impossible that the same change could happen for the women, too.

We’re still a year out, but one outside factor that could play a role here is vaccination status. Currently, Australia has relaxed entry requirements and does not require proof of vaccination, but New Zealand has not. 

My picks are italicized, and while they are my picks, they are influenced heavily by a few key moves I think Andonovski will make on the roster.


There are three spots to fill here, and at this point in time it already feels safe to assume that Alyssa Naeher and Casey Murphy have essentially locked up two of them. One of the major subplots of the W Championship was the increase in minutes for Murphy, providing crucial development in a tournament setting; Naeher getting the nod in the final against Canada does point to her still being the trusted No. 1, though.

Aubrey Kingsbury seems to have the inside track on the third spot, but this is absolutely a spot on the roster that could be swayed by NWSL form and previous experience. AD Franch might not want to speak with the media about her USWNT status, but there’s a really good case for her to be part of the World Cup depth chart. Her form in KC has been good, she was on the 2019 roster, and she stepped in after Naeher’s major injury at the 2021 Olympics. 

Historically, the goalkeeping selection for the World Cup has been pretty easy to predict, but the current pool is the strongest it’s ever been. Splitting the backup goalkeepers between the promising heir apparent and a more veteran presence feels like the most logical approach, however — despite all the options.

Meg’s picks (3): Naeher, Murphy, Franch


We’re into the territory where it’s hard to pin down what the exact number of players in any positional bucket might end up. In 2015, former USWNT head coach Jill Ellis took eight defenders (four center backs, four outside backs), then she took seven in 2019 (four center backs, three outside backs — though there was more positional flexibility among the group). Andonovski named seven defenders for the W Championship, also a 23-player roster.

Let’s start with the center backs. Right now, it feels like there are five players in the mix for a minimum of three, but more likely four spots — the question there is if Andonovski both selects Emily Sonnett for the roster, and also feels confident enough in her ability to play across the back line.

For outright center backs though, it’s Becky Sauerbrunn, Alana Cook, Naomi Girma, Abby Dahlkemper and Tierna Davidson (currently recovering from an ACL tear). Sauerbrunn will be 38 years old by the start of next year’s tournament, but she’s also the team’s captain and was just named to the best XI of the W Championship. Cook feels like a lock already, not just because she’s been a consistent call-up since Andonovski took over, but she’s an option for the starting XI in 2023 based on her NT minutes and NWSL form. As of this moment, Dahlkemper feels like she might be at the bottom of the depth chart between the five, though future rosters for friendlies might not be instructive until Davidson returns to determine if that’s right. 

Girma is the youngest option, but she’s got a full year to show why she should be making the trip. She was a stand-out in the minutes she got in Monterrey, making the tournament best XI despite not playing every match, plus she’s a leading contender for the NWSL rookie of the year award. She’s made the transition to the pros and international level look easy so far; it’s not hard to imagine her in the final 23. 

For outside backs, right now there are two potential head-to-heads for starts on the two wings. Emily Fox has seamlessly stepped in on the left, but Crystal Dunn is nearing her return after giving birth (Dunn also offers versatility in the midfield, of course). On the right, there’s Kelley O’Hara and Sofia Huerta. Sonnett provides potential options on a wing or as a center back. There are other candidates here, as well: Carson Pickett earned her first call-up as part of the June friendlies, Imani Dorsey’s had some looks and Casey Krueger could also make her return after having her child.

No matter what, there’s a difficult decision ahead for Andonovski. Seven or eight? Four centerbacks, four outside backs? Do you opt for versatility with Sonnett or just go directly for two left backs and two right backs?

Meg’s picks (8): Sauerbrunn, Cook, Davidson, Girma, Fox, Dunn, O’Hara, Huerta


In 2015, the USWNT took seven midfielders, four years later they took six. There are currently three players who are very easy to predict, as it would be shocking if the starting midfield in 2023 isn’t Rose Lavelle as the No. 10, Lindsey Horan as the No. 8, and Andi Sullivan as the No. 6.

But, once again, there’s a lot of depth and players who are currently absent. Sam Mewis has missed a huge amount of 2022 to injury. Julie Ertz certainly looked like she not only found the extreme limit of player workload during the 2021 Olympics, but blew past it. She is currently expecting a child, and remains somewhat of an unknown concerning a potential return. 

At the W Championship, Andonovski didn’t originally employ a direct approach to having a backup for each role in the midfield, though Sam Coffey was called in and eventually offered depth at the six though she did not make her national team debut. Jaelin Howell also is a contender in that spot, and is likely ahead of Coffey on the depth chart with more call-ups, though she only has five career caps with the USWNT so far (three of them in 2022, with 86 minutes played).

Taylor Kornieck is the newest name to be making a play for a more permanent role on the roster, but Ashley Sanchez is currently the top depth pick at the 10 (bringing both Lavelle and Sanchez in order to play a double 10 to break down a low block feels like a smart call for the group stage). Kristie Mewis offers another attacking midfield option, but the experiment with her at the six was hopefully deemed ill-advised by the USWNT technical staff and will not be repeated.

The midfield depth for 2023 could go in any direction, but it does feel imperative to have an option for a creative playmaker, a traditional box-to-box midfielder and a defensive midfielder. If Sam Mewis can get healthy, it’s going to be really hard to leave her off a roster, but it might mean it’s at the expense of her sister.

Meg’s picks (6): Lavelle, Horan, Sullivan, Sanchez, S. Mewis, Howell


Every single one of these categories has its own challenges, but there’s nothing quite like the fight to make the forward pool of the USWNT right now. Catarina Macario missed out on the W Championship due to her ACL injury, but it’s clear how prominently she features in the future of this team. Sophia Smith and Mal Pugh have been consistently starting, and Alex Morgan just reminded everyone in Monterrey that her NWSL form isn’t a fluke by earning the golden ball as the W Championship’s best player.

In 2015, Ellis only took five forwards, and in 2019 she upped it to seven. There’s a legit case for a dozen different options this time around, so paring it down is really, really tough.

Do you prioritize bringing the youths? Trinity Rodman, Midge Purce and Ashley Hatch have each gotten plenty of minutes this year. The chance feels very remote for a World Cup roster spot, but high schooler (committed to USWNT talent pipeline that is Stanford) Alyssa Thompson made the W Championship provisional roster and is already playing with the U-23 youth national team, and scoring goals there, too.

Do you lean on the vets? Megan Rapinoe has been talked about a lot in terms of her playing time and her role on the team in the twilight of her career. Tobin Heath is easing her way back in with OL Reign, finally making her first appearance for the team, and Christen Press is early into her ACL recovery. Lynn Williams suffered a nasty injury during the first match of this year’s Challenge Cup, but stepped up for the team in Tokyo last year, when called upon.

Here’s the key one where my picks are built around anticipating Andonovski: if Rapinoe is still playing, I think the same decision gets made as the one he made for the W Championship. But four different players could be named to that final spot and I would think the decision is sound and justifiable, with Press, Williams and Purce all being strong picks, too. 

I remain glad I’m just writing words on the internet and not actually trying to make these decisions in real life.

Meg’s picks (6): Smith, Macario, Pugh, Morgan, Rodman, Rapinoe

The Interview: Brian Dunseth

One of the most powerful conversations we’ve had on this site

   Grant Wahl Jul 21 

I love every one of the twice-weekly interviews I do in the soccer world. But some interviews take things to a level we don’t always get to, and that’s what happened this week with Brian Dunseth. I hope you take the time to read this one. It’s powerful.

The entirety of the written interview below is reserved for paid subscribers. As always, you can still get the entire free audio version of my podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify or wherever you like to go for your pods.

Grant Wahl:

Our guest now is Brian Dunseth. He hosts Counter Attack weekday afternoons on SiriusXM FC, SiriusXM’s 24/7 soccer channel. He’s also a TV analyst for Real Salt Lake, where he lives, and ESPN. Dunny, it’s great to talk to you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Brian Dunseth:

Yeah, it’s been a while. Thanks for inviting me. And it’s great to catch up again, man.

Grant Wahl:

Lots to talk about here, because you’re on so many different things. And I guess that’s my first question. How do you keep up with everything that you have to keep up with in the soccer world to talk about it on all your different shows?

“I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of guys of, ‘Hey, have you been seen? Have you really gone and talked to somebody and seen a brain specialist? You know, BU and the CTE studies are doing an incredible job, have you?’ And a lot of guys are like, ‘No, I haven’t. I haven’t.’ And then you get into, ‘How are you numbing yourself? How are you dealing with all of this?’” — Brian Dunseth

Brian Dunseth:

Thankfully we’ve been blessed with technology, right? I remember talking back in the day with JP Dellacamera about how he would prepare for calling matches. And he said he would get faxes from team administrators and PR people. And that would be how he got a hold of rosters or how he got a hold of bios.It truly is incredible having been on the broadcast side since I retired back in 2006 to see kind of the evolution of what broadcast looks like and the consumption of television and with social media how that’s taken a big chunk and a big bite out of, I would say, not only the broadcaster’s personality and personal personality, but how we’re finding out news and information. And now that athletes can share their own stories. Or Cristiano Ronaldo can say, “Going back to Sporting Lisbon, fake!”But I’ll tell you what, it’s harder to manage my children’s schedules with dropping off to school, picking up from school, going to soccer, picking up from soccer, trying to figure out what dinner looks like with my wife. But I am extremely fortunate to be in this space, as you know, to carve out a life within the game post-playing career is something pretty rare outside of going into the coaching realm, which was something that I was never interested in. So, here we are, what, 16, 17 years later, still trying to figure out what this space looks like, as it’s ever-evolving.

Grant Wahl:

Well, I enjoy your work and all the different platforms that you do it on. What’s a typical week like for you in your different jobs? How do you hop from one thing to the other?

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Brian Dunseth:

Depending on the European season, when European football/soccer kicks off, usually I’m up as early as 5 a.m. depending on the game. Because we’re five days a week on SiriusXM and Channel 157 for Counter Attack, Tony Meola and I are messaging back and forth. He’s the Serie A homer, so I lean on him because he’s AC Milan. And they’ve won the Serie A title, so he’s the happiest kid in the moon right now. But between the Premier League coverage, and you have to keep an eye on all the big teams.You have to keep an eye on Man City and Liverpool. And I’ll include my Manchester United, even though we’re having a few tough years recently. But Chelsea and Tottenham and all, so you have to pay attention to those games because those are the big content drivers for our show, the call-ins that we’re going to get. And then with the Bundesliga on, usually right around the same time, kicking off just a little bit after, I’m bouncing back and forth.Then when my kids’ lives come in, and we’ve got soccer games or things that I have to do, then I’m relying on highlight packages. I’m trying to bounce around to the different networks, the different subscription packages. YouTube is a huge, huge ally in keeping up with the game. But I’ll tell you the hardest is keeping up with all of the MLS games in the evening, because as I’m preparing for whatever broadcast for Real Salt Lake and/or ESPN, there’s so many games, so many teams.And even from last night, I’ve still not caught up outside of our broadcast because Kenny Neal’s fantastic as a producer/director extraordinaire that we’ll roll highlights from Saturday and earlier Sunday games in our Real Salt Lake package. So I’ll get a little bit of a teaser, but this morning, waking up, get the boys ready. And then I’ll pop in front of my computer, start taking notes and try to catch up on as many highlights and games and condensed match highlights that I possibly can.

Grant Wahl:

I always remember, because I did used to do hosting work occasionally for SiriusXM back in the day. And these were call-in shows, and you never knew what some caller might want to talk about. And so I always prepared like crazy on a bunch of different stuff because you can get caught out pretty quickly, and you can’t fake it.

Brian Dunseth:

No, no, you can’t. And it’s something that I learned really quickly is, so John Harkes and Tony Meola started Counter Attack. They were the iconic face and duo, and obviously their pedigree and playing pedigree is so well-established and known in the U.S. soccer scene. They were, I always joke with them, the Dick Butkuses of soccer for the United States men’s national team. So when John left and decided that he was going to go back into coaching, Christopher Sullivan, Janusz Michallik and myself were kind of this three-man rotation with Tony Meola. And I realized really quickly that we label a lot of people, especially in the business. We’ll say, “Oh, U.S. international or English international or Premier League winner or Champions League winner.” And there’s a lot of sweat equity that comes along with that.Immediately, you’re like, “Well, he’s played at the highest level. He’s done it. You know this guy knows what he’s talking about.” For someone like myself, I was an MLS guy. I’d bounced around Major League Soccer. I had been with the U.S. under-20s and the Olympic team. And I was fortunate enough to play significant roles in those two underneath Clive Charles. But the national team level, I was only like a camp guy. I was a friendly guy. I never really broke in from that transition of like Carlos Llamosa and Eddie Pope and Gregg Berhalter to Jimmy Conrad and Carlos Bocanegra.And I never really was able to push through that group. So the moment that I got on Sirius, I realized really quickly, number one, Counter Attack is the most difficult show on the channel because it’s everything. It’s not just Premier League-centric, or it’s not just yell about everything on fire. I’m looking at you, Tom Rennie and Grumpy Pundits. Or it’s not just Jason Davis, which is American soccer and the American soccer fan perspective. We’re everything.And I think you and I probably did, I don’t know, five to 10 shows together at Sirius. And you’re right, you get a phone call, and you don’t know where it’s coming. It could be about Atlanta United. It could be about Borussia Dortmund. It could be about AC Milan. It could be about West Ham United, or it could be about the Mexican national team. So you have to be aware. And I realized very quickly that I, like you, talking about getting called out. I had this insecurity of, “I have to prove to the listeners that I’m not just this guy that played at this level. And by the way, I’m American. So do I really know the game?” And “Hey, this is our game. What do you know about it?”I had to be prepared, and I got called out a few times. And I was challenged, and I realized very quickly how all-encompassing this show was going to be. And you had to do the work. And if you’re not prepared, people will call you out because they know their teams so much better than you do. And if you try to fluff it, ooh, nope. You’ll get called out. You’ll get caught. You’ll get caught really, really quick.

Grant Wahl:

It’s fascinating. One positive aspect of that, though, I am convinced, is that in the United States, we have so many fans of different leagues, different countries from around the world. That if you’re in media like you, you do need to be up on a bunch of different leagues. And one thing I’ve found is, and this isn’t the case with everybody in media in England or Germany or Italy or Spain, but in the biggest soccer countries in Europe, they actually don’t pay that much attention to the other big soccer countries’ domestic leagues in Europe.And they get caught out a little bit if they’re doing Champions League stuff. I see this a lot with English broadcasters, where you can tell that they don’t know much about what’s happening on the continent, and everything is about England, or this player who used to play in England. It’s why people in England used to say, “Diego Forlán was not a good player because he wasn’t great at Man United.” And then he won the Pichichi a bunch of times in Spain. But I actually think this is good for American soccer media. Right?

Brian Dunseth:

I would agree with you. So at Sirius we do a podcast called Week in The Tackle. Tom Rennie, who’s over at TalkSPORT, does an incredible job. And he lights everything on fire, huge personality, huge West Ham homer, and basically hates anything that is Top 6. And I can remember we were doing previews for the Euros, and it was he and I, and we were previewing stuff. It was really one of the first times we worked together. And we got done. He’s like, “Damn, you know your stuff.” And I was like, “Well, we’re previewing the Euros.” I had to be prepared and like, “I’m paying attention to games.” And I was teasing him because then when we started doing Week in The Tackle, we started delving into or dipping our toes into Major League Soccer.And I get it. Listen, I know from the big talking-point perspective how we categorize what the leagues are and the most important leagues and who wants to pay attention to what. And so for Tom, I started trying to get jerseys for him to buy into MLS teams to pay more attention, but then you have the time change. And the differences, the variables that Europe has to deal with when trying to pay attention to Major League Soccer.And it was always fascinating to me that the conversation was, I was watching all of these other leagues in the mornings and the afternoons, and then still hyper-focused on Major League Soccer. While to your point, you get so engrossed with just the idea, my country, my team, my league. We’ll see what happens if we’re involved in Europe.

Grant Wahl:

So when you have a regular partnership like you have with Tony Meola, how does that relationship develop over the years?

Brian Dunseth:

So Tony and I, I look at him as my big brother, man. Grant, I’ve known Tony, obviously, growing up in the U.S. soccer scene. That beautiful head of lettuce and what he did in the ’90 and the ’94 World Cup. And I mean, everyone knew Tony Meola. This was like the iconic putting the stamp on U.S. soccer and soccer in the United States. And for all of us, I think, I was born in 1977, I’m 45 years old, to watch that generation above me, the Harkeses, the Meolas, and Cle Kooiman was my coach in Southern California growing up when I was 12 years old. Alexi Lalas was my first teammate when I turned pro, these were magical moments for me when I was turning pro. So because of Clive Charles and the under-23 role that I had, playing with that team, going to the Olympics, being the captain, in the build-up to the Olympics when Steve Sampson was the head coach, Clive Charles was the assistant.So I was getting called in, or because these camps were in conjunction with one another, alongside one another, when the under-23 camp would end after we’d be scrimmaging and training or whatever with the full team, I would get to stay. I was kind of earmarked to stay and continue to try to develop and learn and see what happened with the first team. And being a central defender, and Tony being a goalkeeper, we had a ton of interaction. But Tony was always fantastic to me, as were all the guys. It was one of those things where, I don’t know, our personalities meshed really well. And then we had a family incident. My little sister in 1997, she was getting off the school bus. The bus driver closed the door on the backpack and drug her down the street.She had a really bad injury. It was a really bad incident. And I had to fly home and handle that. It was right during the MLS playoffs. And Tony had found out, sent me a message, called me. And then literally every time I saw Tony, first thing, “Dunny, how are you? How’s your little sister doing?” And it was always like he personalized that relationship for me. So I always had a special place for him. So then playing against him throughout my MLS career. So when this opportunity started, he and I had this meshed organic relationship, a real friendship before, and then to see the aggressive, loud, boisterous Tony Meola with the big old bear claws, the Wreck-It Ralph, flying all over the place. Then to see him now where he’s more subdued. The competitiveness has been kind of rolled back.Now we just have a blast, man. Every day, whether we’re texting about stuff and Andrew Williams, our producer, we, the three of us, and whether it’s Emmett or Gabe or whoever else is being a part of the show. It’s just a fun, organic kind of environment for us to be kind of locker roomy, like bust chops and have fun and tease and poke. I poke the bear all the time, see what I can get out of him. And then, honestly, one of the things I’m most proud about with our relationship is that we’ve cultivated this environment for the callers and the listeners so we want to act like we’re at the bar, and we’re having a drink. And everyone’s talking about football and soccer, and what happened?And now, honestly, I can go to different cities, and I’ll meet up with listeners from the show because we have created an environment where the listeners, now we will DM or text message or call, and I meet guys face-to-face. And I have great relationships and texting relationships with listeners of the show. And I just think that’s incredible. It’s so much fun to create something so organic just through a relationship of two guys talking about soccer and football.

Grant Wahl:

Yeah. When you start creating a community, it’s a really cool thing. And it sounds like that’s exactly what’s happened there. So before we go any further, I do want to ask you, we are publishing audio and not video here, but you’re in your typical spot that I think viewers and listeners have probably seen before. And behind you there are two framed jerseys from the 2000 Olympics. A tournament I covered in Australia that you got to the semifinals of and played Chile. And that’s Ivan Zamorano’s jersey.

Brian Dunseth:


Grant Wahl:

And I assume it’s from that game in the semifinals. Is there a story behind it?

Brian Dunseth:

Yeah, so I ended up getting injured. I was captain of the team. I ended up getting injured. I had an adductor injury literally the last training session on my own. It was at the old Foxboro Stadium, stepped into a hole, a sand hole, and strained my adductor. So I didn’t get to play in the beginning of the tournament.

And so finally when I was healthy at the end of the group stage, Clive Charles was like, “Well, my centerback pairing of Danny Califf and Chad McCarty are playing so well right now, I can’t drop them.” So hands up, totally get it. No problem. I knew that heading into the first game and facing Samuel Eto’o, if I turned and tried to run with him and my adductor popped, not only was it probably a goal, but then probably a forced substitution. So I didn’t want to do that. Clive and I went through that whole song and dance about if I should be involved. So I only got to play, Chad got a yellow. He was on yellow card warning. He got a yellow card against Spain. And I remember sitting on the bench going, “I’m going to get to play in the bronze-medal match. This is going to be great.”

Grant Wahl:

That’s right, bronze-medal match.

Brian Dunseth:

Yeah. It was the bronze. So it was Bam Bam Zamorano. At the time he was at Inter. He was captain. I was captain. And I’ve got a picture of the group on one side, and I’ve got Bam Bam hugging me. We went up to each other and hugged each other afterwards. I’d ended up hitting the crossbar. And Alexi was actually the analyst with Andrés Cantor, the play by play, doing English, which was the very first time Andrés had done English. And so, after we exchanged jerseys. And so I had my backup Jersey, and then I’ve got his jersey, which I made the mistake of packing in my bag without washing on the way home. So everything was ripe in my bag afterwards, because it was hot down in Australia.

But my neighbor actually across the street, Zack, has a company called the Framing Establishment. So he ended up, he came over one day, and he’s like, “Why do you have all these jerseys in a bucket?” And I was like, “I don’t know. I mean, what do I do with them?” And he took them, and he framed this up. And the only thing I came across was I actually have the captain’s armband just over to my left. And I wish I would’ve included it in the frame, just because I thought it was kind of cool. You can see it off the right shoulder. But Zamorano, man, what a player. His movement off the ball, front shoulder, back shoulder, incredible in the air, left foot, right foot. He was difficult to keep an eye on, or try to, I always say touch-tight, kind of understand where his momentum was at any point.

Grant Wahl:

What a great run that was by that U.S. team.

Brian Dunseth:


Grant Wahl:

I have some really good memories of that whole tournament. Some random ones, too. That’s when Alexi actually shaved his beard for the first time, was in Australia doing that. I remember going to Adelaide where I think it was the U.S. advanced against Japan.

Brian Dunseth:

Yeah. Yeah. Japan.

Grant Wahl:

And I remember, it was kind of funny. I didn’t understand time zones. It was like a 30-minute time change to go to Adelaide. I was just like, “What kind of weirdness is this?” But looking forward to going to Australia again next year for the women’s World Cup, cool country.

Brian Dunseth:


Grant Wahl:

But I want to ask about something a little more serious right now. And when the CTE stories came out recently about the late Scott Vermillion and then Bruce Murray, who thinks he probably has it, you spoke very eloquently about it. And I’m wondering, why do you think it struck such a chord with you?

Brian Dunseth:

This one, I was talking to my wife about this, because I’ve had a ton of emotion over this. And when it was the one day that Tony wasn’t on the show, and I was with Matty Lawrence, who played over primarily in the Championship a majority of his career. Was here in the United States for his college education playing D1 soccer, and then currently alongside Glenn Crooks on the NYCFC Radio Call.

And I texted him and Emmett McConnell and I said, “Here’s this New York Times article about Scott Vermillion. I knew Scott. We were kind of in this brotherhood of the Project-40.” For those that don’t understand MLS, Project-40 basically was like the start of early-entry college players into Major League Soccer, and still have the college draft. But these are all seniors. So you’re getting guys that are 21, 22, 23.

And Sunil Gulati and Nike and U.S. Soccer and MLS came together, and they started Project-40, which turned into Generation Adidas, which is now effectively what the homegrown system looks like, bypassing college and going straight to the pros. Well, I was the second guy to sign, and Scotty came through from UVA. Well, UVA was a much, much bigger school than my Cal State Fullerton, I’ve got to admit. So it was easy for me to leave. And you started to see guys like Scott Vermilion, guys like Benny Olsen, guys like Chris Albright. So Scott, he was a competitor, and I played against him in college. And then when we got into the pros, whether it was at Kansas City or it was at Colorado or it was at DC, or we were traveling over in the off-season, people forget, we’d get this Project-40 collective circus together. And we would go to England, or we would go to Portugal or even later they go down to Argentina with kind of the next generation of P-40s that were signing.And so Scott and I, he was a right back or a right centerback. And we just played together, and we worked together. And a lot of us, we lose touch with guys that we play with, right? And it happens. Even you go back, anybody, high school, college, you end up losing touch. But that doesn’t mean that you still don’t have an organic relationship that you can pick up where you left off. And I’d kind of heard about Scott and what was happening in his personal life. And when he passed away, it was kind of in the mix of what was happening with COVID starting up and Christmas Day and all of this.And I knew he had a family, and he had some kids, and I wasn’t aware of what had happened. And I felt horrible. I felt horrible that this had happened. Here’s a guy that I know that played alongside me. And he fell on some hard times. But I didn’t realize the depth of how CTE or concussions were involved. And then when I saw the report come out, it was devastating to me. It was devastating to recognize and to hear and to see that he was the first person that had been postmortem declared that he had CTE, the first [MLS] soccer player.And so I wanted to talk about it because I think there’s a lot of, I’m going to say, us. I’ll do a broad stroke. There’s a lot of us. And this is any sport, but I’m going to keep it for soccer, that really struggled to figure out, when it’s all said and done, “Okay, who are you? Who are you without the game?” For me, I was no longer Brian Dunseth, the soccer player. I wasn’t Dunny, the guy who got to play at the highest level. All of a sudden I was getting married. I was having kids. I was trying to figure out who the hell I was. I made $12,000 the first year after I quote unquote “retired.” Thanks a lot, Alexi, when he was the general manager of Galaxy. And then it was like, “Who am I?” And we got caught in this phase where people were asking, “Oh, what are you up to?”They were interested in your life. But now you were trying to reestablish your identity without the game. And this whole idea of, “Okay, well, I’m struggling. Like, I need help. I need direction.” You find out very quickly as an athlete. And again, a broad stroke, I’ll say athlete, that there’s not a lot of room for you to complain. You have your tight circle, but outside of that people are going to look at you and be like, “Hold it, bro, you made it. You got to play. You got to travel. You got to go to the Olympics. You got to go here. You got to see that. We lived vicariously through you. We’d watch you on television. We were rooting for you, dude. You represented Upland. You represented Fullerton.” And all of a sudden you realize, “Oh, I can’t talk about this. I can’t talk about how hard this is. I got to live this incredibly special life, but now it’s in the past.”

And we’re not doctors, and we’re not lawyers, and our careers, our body, when our bodies give out, we’re done. And it’s usually 30-ish. And then it’s, “Who the hell are you?” So throughout this whole process, you start realizing, and I’ve had conversations with Chad McCarty. I’ll give you the laundry list of guys whose careers have ended because of concussion or head injuries. Chad McCarty, Jimmy Conrad, Alecko Eskandarian, Ike Opara, Sam Cronin, and Chad Marshall, Bryan Namoff, Josh Gross, Ross Paule. These are just off the-top-of-my-head. I started reaching out to these guys and trying to figure out how everyone’s doing. Because there’s so much, I feel like we can talk to ourselves about it because we understand what each other’s going through, but it’s hard for other people to kind of get it and figure it out.So for Scotty, long story short, I started thinking about, “Man, he was in a really bad spot.” And he probably didn’t know what was happening. And he understood he had a brain injury. But whether it was irritability or light sensitivity, or it was depression, or it was high anxiety, or it was something as stupid as not understanding his emotions, the impulse control of what was happening. We don’t talk about dementia or CTE, because we’re such an early phase of sport here in the United States, where you hear it. And you hear about the studies, and you hear about the leather-weighted wet balls over in Europe and specifically in the Premier League in England. So I just, I think about what he was going through and all of those emotions, all, Grant, it unlocked, man, I didn’t expect it.I had pushed everything so far down, bolted it up. “Hey, I can’t feel this. I can’t, because I’ve got kids. I’ve got a family. I’ve got a wife. I’ve got to take care of everybody.” And so I didn’t expect it to happen. And then when Sirius put out the video, all of a sudden it resonated with people. And I got calls from Chris Nowinski at Concussion Legacy Foundation. And let me stop for a second. Taylor Twellman’s done an extraordinary job pushing the envelope for player safety, concussion awareness, and concussion protocol. ThinkTaylor.org, highly suggest anyone who’s paying attention. He took it upon himself. I called that game when he got punched in the face and the goalkeeper broke his hand. And that was one of the last big injuries that he suffered before he was forced to retire.So all of this came together, and now I think talking and then reaching out to so many players that their career was cut short because of injuries. There’s a significant concern amongst us. And a lot of us, including myself, haven’t reached out to healthcare providers, or seen the correct doctors because quite honestly, Grant, I’m scared shitless of what I’m going to find. It’s kind of like, “Don’t ask the questions. You don’t want the answers to.”And I’ve been having this conversation with a lot of guys of, “Hey, have you been seen? Have you really gone and talked to somebody and seen a brain specialist? You know, BU and the CTE studies are doing an incredible job, have you?” And a lot of guys are like, “No, I haven’t. I haven’t.” And then you get into, “How are you numbing yourself? How are you dealing with all of this?” And for me personally, it’s I leaned into alcohol, and kind of … cutting that down a little bit. I’m trying. Not that I can’t function, but just taking that edge off. So … yeah, sorry, man.

Grant Wahl:

No, man.

Brian Dunseth:

It’s been hard, and I’ve been talking to my wife a lot. And I didn’t realize that underneath everything that I’ve kind of built and been told, “Don’t be soft. Be strong.” Then all of a sudden, that box got opened up because of Scotty, because I just think about him being in that room, or him being in that dark place and not having the assets, the mental health or the medical assets that he needed in a time where he was by himself. And talking to other guys, man, I fear for my group and my generation as we continue to learn about CTE. And Bruce [Arena] reached out to me before the story went public a couple of weeks ago and was telling me what was happening. And I was unaware of what was happening, but he decided to share because of when that video went live on Sirius.And I just, I want to be a part of the solution. I want to be an advocate. I’m trying to reach out to as many people as possible. This last week I’ve donated my brain to the CTE study. I’ve signed up for the hits study as well, for people that are over the age of 40 to try to figure out what the impact has been for sport on our brain. And I think about what this legacy, and it is going to be a legacy, unfortunately, it’s going to be a serious legacy in the world of soccer in the United States as we continue to learn more. I fear for the MLSPA. I fear for the league. I fear for ourselves as we in five years time. We, broad stroke. We’re probably about five years behind all the time in terms of medical studies and information. In five years time, how many players are publicly diagnosed with severe brain trauma from our playing career?And to be clear, this isn’t like a singular event. This isn’t MLS’s problem because guys played in MLS, so they get caught holding the bag. It’s from childhood all the way up, and minimizing heading the ball up until you’re 12 is fantastic. I still have issues that we’re not teaching children how then once they become 12 years old to head the ball properly. But for all of these incidents. And I’ve had six.I got a concussion on my MLS debut. I got a concussion my first MLS goal, Rusty Pierce headbutted me in the temple. We still kind of laugh about that. I taste Eggo waffles straight out of the toaster with a little metallic taste. When I know I quote, unquote, “Got my bell rung.” That’s how I justify that something’s wrong. My left eye vision gets a little wonky, gets a little messed up. And so I kind of knew what I was dealing with. But now, as we’re getting older, these conversations, man, Grant, I’ve been reaching out to so many players just checking in on them. And a lot of guys are dealing with some tough stuff right now and trying to figure out what’s the next solution.

Grant Wahl:

Well, first off, I just want to say, thank you for being so heartfelt about this and so open. And it’s a lot. I know it is. And I mean, not many ex-pro athletes are willing to be as vulnerable as you have been on radio and television about this. Why do you think that is?

Brian Dunseth:

I think guys are, again, it’s the machismo, right? It’s “You’ve got to be strong. You’ve got to be tough.” We’ve been taught since we were, well, especially in highly competitive environments. Even going back to club soccer. “You’ve got to grit through it. We need you. You’ve got to play through it.” And the levels ramp up from competitive club soccer to college level. Once you get to the pros, then there’s a dynamic of your self-worth is equitable to your paycheck. And as you get raises, or as you get bigger contracts, that’s how you’re justifying the value of yourself, but also how important you are to your respective club. And guys are deathly afraid of losing that status. First of all, you don’t want to lose your starting spot. You don’t want to lose your role as an impact sub.And, God forbid, you’re injured enough to where the coach or the club doesn’t look at you as, “We can’t trust you. We can’t trust you and your body.” So all of this is ingrained in your mentality. You’re fighting every single day, not only for that position in the team, but you’re fighting for yourself and your value. You’re fighting for your family and your stability. Every time I bought a house in Major League Soccer, I got traded. I got a new contract with Columbus Crew. I’m going to go buy a house. Six months later, traded. I’m coming back from Sweden. I’m signing with Real Salt Lake. I’m going to buy a house. Nine months later, traded. So all of these are like levels of how we look at success.But again, then you’re gone, and there’s a disconnect. It starts with the disconnect from your brotherhood of this team that you’re fighting for. They always say, “Fight for the badge and fight for the name on the jersey on the front, not on the back.” Well, yeah, until they don’t want you anymore. And then there’s no brotherhood. Then you’re just a former player. And then there’s nowhere to turn. There’s a disconnect with those guys. They see what happened to you. And they’re scared to death of knowing, inevitably, that’ll be them at some point. So, “We like you, but man, good luck, bro. We’ll see what happens.”And it happens, that’s a real thing. And so I think for all of us, we lock it up. We put it away. We say, “Man, what an incredible run.” And, “What’s next?” And a lot of us have families and children, and you can’t expose that insecurity and that fear of emotion coming out. And again, I thought I put it away. And I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with Taylor privately talking about and texting him and asking for referral or guidance. Or, “Hey, what’s working for you? This is what I’m dealing with right now.” And first message I got was Taylor, “I’m proud of you.” Because like you said, not a lot of us talk about it. And I think it’s the fear of falling on dead ears. It’s the fear of, “Ugh, there goes Dunny again. Ugh. Talking about his head injuries. Dude, get over it, bro.” For me, that’s what I was extremely fearful about.

Grant Wahl:

It’s great that you’re checking on other people. I hope people are checking on you, too, my friend.

Brian Dunseth:

I appreciate you. Thank you.

Grant Wahl:

And I guess one question I would have is what do you want to see happen in terms of protecting players that you’re not seeing right now?

Brian Dunseth:

For me, this is something that I’m wrestling with right now because like I said, I want to be an advocate. I want to be an ally. I don’t want to light everything on fire. I don’t want to like cancel everything. And I’m not trying to take the sport into a direction that is unidentifiable. That’s nothing. This is for me as organic to me as a human being as I possibly can, just trying to figure out what the solutions could be. I’m in the midst of just trying to go through different football associations and players associations from not only abroad, but here in the States with different sports in trying to figure out what could be a positive step in the right direction.

And I know from an MLS Players Association, we are still quote, unquote, I would say, in the “infancy.” The infancy of this Players Association, even though it’s grown tremendously since the start of being in a courtroom and watching Sunil Gulati being deposed or testifying as to what’s happening with Major League Soccer. As Semioli and company were trying to start a player’s association. John Kerr Jr., back in the day, for all the MLS After Darkers.I would love to see assets being available to former players. Even something as silly as opt-in healthcare. And I know that’s, I’m saying it’s silly, but for us as players, when you’re done with the team, it’s like, “Thank you very much. Good luck. Appreciate what you’ve done.” And then you’re like, “Until I die,” whatever, there’s a hashtag associated with your goodbye tweet. But the amount of guys that still need some type of therapy or have some type of injury, or that maybe are in a tough place. Are there counselors or therapists available for the transition into that next life? Instead of going to COBRA for $2,500 a month, is there some type of opt-in healthcare program that’ll be available? Because teams have healthcare programs, and could you subsidize some type of opt-in healthcare program?Long-term? I would love to see a pension plan set up from Major League Soccer and the MLSPA and tie it into future earnings, figure it out some way. But even looking at LinkedIn the other day, what Chris Paul and the NBA are doing with the NBA Players Association with ABA players, back in the day, and what they’ve done. And I know the money’s significantly different. And then I don’t expect MLSPA or Major League Soccer to sort out what a player’s life looks like post-playing career with regards to any type of employment, or what they should do. The individual has to figure that out.

But how can we provide, or how can it be provided that there’s guidance, some type of guidance program? So from the healthcare side, the physical side, the mental side, that’s all taken care of. And then creating a continued growth of a network that affords guys maybe a little bit more direction. Just a little bit more direction. Because as the league continues to grow and the teams and the players, and the amount of players retiring and staying in the United States, I can’t see why we can’t start to put the bones together of something that I think is so important. Not only for the real time athletes, but I keep telling those real time athletes, you’re only a couple of seasons or a couple of plays away from being in the same position I find myself in.

Grant Wahl:

We’re winding down here with Brian Dunseth. Really appreciate you taking this much time to talk. Just a couple more questions. And transitions are always jarring when you go from something like that topic to, “Oh, yeah, let’s talk about what’s happening on the field.”But here we are. What’s going on out in Salt Lake? I mean, I’ve had Pablo Mastroeni and David Blitzer on my podcast in recent months. The team is doing well on the field. Obviously, it’s drawing extremely well in the stands, even more so this season. What’s causing all that?

Brian Dunseth:

I think David Blitzer’s group and Ryan Smith’s group have reinvigorated this fan base, especially after what’s transpired off the field for the last couple of years. There is more of an emphasis on game day experience. And if you come out to the stadium at Rio Tinto Stadium, I mean, it’s got to be a million, couple million, just invested in everything. From you walk in, there’s a bucket of flags, and you just grab one. And you get in the stands, you wave it, and you just drop it back in the bucket on the way out.To the paint, the claret and cobalt paint. To the graffiti. And I’m saying graffiti, and that sounds bad, but the graffiti artistry that’s been placed around the stadium. And then just even to the banners. The game day environment, bringing the fan culture and the supporter group in the south end all into that bottom right behind the goal, all of these things are important.And I think a lot of it’s been, the fans are finally having their voice heard, and there’s interaction. And it’s real time face-to-face with the ownership group, which is what any fan that has gripes or opinions wants to be heard. And then Pablo’s incredible, man, having played against Pablo, played alongside Pablo, worked with Pablo, and now, having this relationship as broadcaster/coach, along with friendship, the way he… You know, Pabs, right? “Oh, that’s a beautiful tree.” And Pab would be like, “Yeah, but the roots, man, have you ever thought about how this tree goes so deep in the ground? And the roots spread out, and that’s the life of the ground, man.” He’s just, he’s incredible, just the way his mind works.So the way that he’s got this team going, he’s created the culture and the atmosphere behind the scenes, still dealing with the loss of Albert Rusnak in the off-season, and Damir Kreilach being out all season, Bobby Wood having a fantastic year, being injured. And somehow this team with all the games lost because of player injury, is currently in third place in the Western conference. It’s just all clicking.And as you reference 10 consecutive sellouts at Rio Tinto Stadium, is something really we haven’t seen since the Jason Kreis/Garth Lagerwey MLS Cup-winning or CONCACAF Champions League final grouping. There’s a buzz around the city. And I’m really, really excited to see what the next couple of years looks like underneath this stewardship.

Grant Wahl:

I also want to ask about the new Apple/MLS deal, with that having just been announced. And there’s a lot that’s up in the air. Are you up in the air on being able to call RSL games next season?

Brian Dunseth:

Yeah. So for those that don’t understand, all the home broadcasts are gone at the end of the season. And for all the uproar, just to be clear, everybody associated with any club or any broadcast knew at the end of 2022 that something was going to happen. For me, I signed my deal three years ago, and I’m not a full-time employee. “Here’s my contract for game rate.” And it was up until 2022. There was talk about maybe extending it to 2023, as everyone was waiting to see what the announcement would be and who the announcement would be coinciding with. So I, like everybody, was nervous and trying to figure out, am nervous, trying to figure it out. There’s I would assume MLS and Apple have their list of guys that they’re interested in. I would assume also the infrastructure has to be laid first and foremost, because you’ve got to get the games to air.Will I be a part of it? I hope so. Is there anything confirmed? There’s not. But I think there’s a lot of really, really fun, strong talent available. And I think, like everybody, we’re all going to be intrigued to see what this looks like. Is it full-time studio? Is it shoulder programming? Is it on-site? I still am a huge believer in what NBC Sports does when they put the desk on the field, and you’ve got the warm-ups behind them and that immediacy and the visuals that happen. I think that’s a great atmosphere builder that needs to continue to be exposed.And then ultimately, how many teams? Who’s on the road? Are you on-site? Are you back in the studio? What does this look like? Is it a full-time gig? Is it a part-time gig? For someone like myself, who’s freelance across the board, doing SiriusXM from my basement in my office, to doing local television shows and local radio shows, what does this look like? So because I haven’t had a full-time gig since I was an MLS player back in 2006. So I think we’re all just trying to figure out what this looks like. And I mean hopefully selfishly for myself, I hope there’s a role for me and I can be included.

Grant Wahl:

Brian Dunseth hosts Counter Attack weekday afternoons on SiriusXM FC, SiriusXM’s 24/7 soccer channel. He’s also a TV analyst for Real Salt Lake and ESPN. Dunny, thanks so much for coming on the show.

Brian Dunseth:

Grant, I really appreciate the platform, the opportunity and the friendship, man. Thank you so much.

ESPY nominee Brad Stuver flourishing for Austin on the pitch and in the community

Mar 20, 2022; Austin, Texas, USA; Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver (1) meets with the supporters group following the match at Q2 Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

By Jeff Rueter

Jul 19, 2022


Save Article

Often when an athlete ventures into charitable outreach, it’s with a single focus. But Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver has been more varied in his approach. 

Stuver has been an outspoken advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, worked to create greater accessibility to laundry services for lower-income families and fosters dogs.  

“I think it’s an unfortunate scenario where there are so many marginalized communities, so many different ways to help our community in general, that my wife Ashley and I couldn’t really pinpoint one singular organization or one singular effort to focus on,” Stuver told The Athletic. “We just decided that we’re going to do as much as we could for as many people as we could, and it just took on a life of its own.”

Unable to secure a starting role as a goalkeeper for his first eight MLS seasons, Stuver has found playing time and community outreach opportunities in equally bountiful amounts with Austin FC. 

Thanks to his charitable work (and a surprise nomination submission from the club), Stuver is the first MLS player to be nominated for ESPN’s Muhammad Ali humanitarian of the year award. The winner will be announced on Wednesday, July 20 at the ESPY Awards. 

While giving an award to just one humanitarian effort seems like an impossible task for any voting committee, the work is truly its own reward to Stuver.

“It’s taken a couple of weeks to fully process, but I am overwhelmed and very excited to be up for this award,” Stuver said. “I’m very excited to be able to share the work that we’re doing with these organizations. For any nonprofit, it’s all about exposure and bringing to light the work that’s being done. I’m very grateful to the club for doing this and extremely excited to be in the company of these athletes who are doing amazing things in their community, as well.”

Even if Stuver was seldom playing in his first several MLS seasons, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t busy. After a fine four-year career at Cleveland State University, Stuver was the first goalkeeper selected in the 2013 SuperDraft. He became an MLS pool goalkeeper that season, spending time as an emergency backup at four clubs and never seeing the field.

One of that quartet was the Columbus Crew, which ultimately signed him ahead of the 2014 season. During his pool assignment at Columbus, he backed up Matt Lampson, who also started the Lampstrong Foundation after battling Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma a week after finishing high school. Stuver’s permanent move afforded him a mentor on and off the field, with Stuver doing meet-and-greets with LampStrong heroes.

“I have a lot of admiration for what Matt has done with the LampStrong Foundation and everything that he’s done to take his own journey and transform that into helping others that have gone through the same thing that he did,” Stuver said. “It was amazing watching him interact with kids that he brought out for the games and just seeing the way their eyes lit up meeting a professional athlete — talking to someone that has been through kind of the same journey that they’re going through now. Just seeing the way that he handled himself and sparked a little bit of joy, a little bit of relief. You can tell that it meant the world to the parent, too. Seeing the way people responded to him and just the way he put himself out there and was doing good for his community was truly inspiring.”

Lampson ended up winning the MLS humanitarian of the year award three times before his retirement this past offseason, the only player with multiple wins. However, his on-field career is unfortunately all-too-common for domestic goalkeepers in MLS. Long seen as the most prolific positional pool for United States men, there are a bounty of quality backstops in the league and beyond. Solid shot-stoppers with mid-level distribution will rarely get an extended run-out, and if a team pays a transfer fee or notable salary for an international goalkeeper, starting the cheaper domestic option is seldom the route.

Lampson made 61 MLS appearances in a 10-year career. After Stuver entered the league a year later, his career started to follow that familiar trajectory. He hung on at Columbus for four seasons, backing up Steve Clark before being passed over when Zack Steffen left Germany at age 21. 

All the while, Stuver said he found a “sense of community” in Columbus which encouraged him to find ways to look out for others in need. One of his first major charitable endeavors came after his wife, Ashley, had a high school friend tell them about The Laundry Project. Run by Current Initiatives, the project helps lower-income families meet a basic need for clean clothes. Organizers raise funds to cover the costs of renting a laundromat and all associated laundry fees, while the events also feature entertainment for children and, in some cases, appearances by notable guests.

“When we moved to Columbus, they told us about their work and asked if we would be interested in putting on projects in Columbus,” Stuver said. ”We did our first project and we saw in real time just how important clean clothes could be. We realized just how privileged we were to have a washer and dryer in our house and in our apartments. Going to a laundromat and cleaning clothes, paying for that, was something that we didn’t even think about on a daily basis. It’s something that we figured that we could do as often as we could, and we ran with it from there.”

The beginning of Stuver’s playing career coincided with the beginning of MLS’ grand expansion push, as the league has launched 11 clubs since the start of the 2015 season. For a nomadic domestic goalkeeper, new clubs are a golden opportunity to earn a roster spot and challenge for a starting job as the team often focuses resources on outfield players. 

After going unselected in expansion drafts by Atlanta, Minnesota and Los Angeles FC ahead of their MLS debuts, Stuver was traded to New York City FC in late 2017 for a future fourth-round SuperDraft pick. To drive home just how valuable that return is, MLS trimmed its draft down to a three-round affair starting in 2021. 

Stuver made seven appearances across the next three seasons, serving as a training partner and backup to U.S. international Sean Johnson. While still organizing Laundry Project events in NYC, Stuver also became an ambassador for Athlete Ally, which works to combat systems of oppression facing LGBTQI+ people in the sports landscape.

While he and his wife remained engaged with community ventures, Stuver entered the 2020 season without a clear pathway to consistent minutes despite turning 29 in April of that year. Johnson had become one of the league’s most dependable goalkeepers, and since Stuver is only two years younger than Johnson, there wasn’t much of a succession plan. Facing full free agency following that first COVID-19-impacted season, it was unclear what options would be available for him.

“I think it’s always in the back of your mind when you’re getting closer to 30 and you haven’t really been a consistent starter, Stuver said. “You’re always worried what the perception of you as a player is going to be in the eyes of GMs and head coaches.” 

After being passed over by several expansion sides, a “perfect storm” of factors converged over Texas’ capital city. Austin was granted an MLS franchise after a fraught period in which the Crew were nearly relocated south. With Columbus keeping a team and Austin getting its own, the expansion side’s front office got to work in assembling its soccer staff. Leading the charge were two men who had been very familiar with Stuver as a player: sporting director Claudio Reyna, previously from NYCFC, and first-time head coach Josh Wolff, who worked as an assistant under Gregg Berhalter in Columbus. 

“I think I hit free agency at a perfect time,” Stuver said, “(Josh and Claudio) had more of a personal connection to me and they knew who I was, what I was capable of, my work ethic. It was like a perfect storm for me to come down here to Austin, work and compete, and get the chance to become a starter — but there’s always going to be a little bit of doubt, especially after going through so many years where you’re always looking to get yourself somewhere as a starter and nothing’s really worked out. It required that grind mentality, the ability to believe in yourself and have the support system around you that are willing to grind out those years. Once you get your chance, you just kind of have to take it.”

To merely say Stuver has taken his chance in Austin would be a massive understatement. At last, he had found a club that trusted him as their No. 1 option between the posts. While Austin missed the playoffs by a comfortable margin in their first season, Stuver stood out as a bright spot for the new franchise. The club named him its defender of the year as he became a fan favorite for his shot-stopping prowess. 

Even as he finally balanced the workload of an MLS starting goalkeeper, he and Ashley didn’t let up in their charitable works. Stuver has organized seven events with The Laundry Project in the Austin area, with the next one scheduled to take place in nearby Uvalde after the community was shaken by the recent school shooting. 

Stuver’s work with Athlete Ally landed him on the radar of Equality Texas, where he sits on the board of the largest LGBTQI+ advocacy nonprofit in the state. Ashley has also championed causes for voting rights and reproductive rights while working full-time and attending graduate school. 

Humans aren’t the only benefactors of the Stuvers’ desire to help. The pair also fosters dogs through Austin Pets Alive, currently housing notorious cuddler Limeade.


Working with Equality Texas, Stuver was asked to pen an op-ed for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper after the state introduced legislation that would ban transgender kids from playing sports from kindergarten through high school.

“Excluding transgender children from normal school activities fuels the type of school culture that no parent would want for their kids to experience — one that isolates and makes targets of kids who are just trying to be themselves,” Stuver wrote. “This is the worst type of message to give children. What right do governments have to tell children they aren’t welcome as they truly are?””

While he said he’s gotten a warm reception to his social outreach from Austin fans, the reality of Texas politics means his views of trans-inclusion are a minority viewpoint. Still, the inevitable dissent doesn’t discourage Stuver.

“There’s always going to be resistance, no matter what you speak out against, whether it’s racial equality, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, reproductive rights, no matter what you speak up for,” Stuver said. “There will always be people out there that try to minimize what you say and tell you that you’re wrong. The Austin community, as a whole, has been extremely supportive. The club has been extremely supportive. It’s a really good thing when you know that you have the support of those people that surround you. There’s always going to be pushback, but you kind of just let that drag out. In sports, no one athlete has 100 percent likability; no matter what, you’re always gonna get a little bit of heat. It’s been nice knowing that the Austin community and those around us rally around the cause and support what we’re fighting for.”

The Austin community is also enjoying the chance to rally around a highly competitive MLS side for the first time. Austin FC finished the weekend ranked second in the Western Conference table, eight points clear of third-place Real Salt Lake. The team’s six clean sheets have already surpassed their 2021 total, while the attack is whirring around MVP candidate Sebastian Driussi

After spending his first eight seasons as a little-used backup, Stuver is finally playing a vital role in a playoff push. He has also found a community that embraces and looks to help in his charitable outreach efforts. And the mix of strong play and social advocacy has helped him plant deep roots in Austin FC’s budding story.

“We’ve never really thought about my off-the-field work as something that would identify with a club or with anything else,” Stuver said. “We wanted to take that with us no matter where we are. My time on the field is a very limited window in my lifetime, and we always said that what we do off the field is more important than what we do on the field. Every player is replaceable. Every record eventually gets broken. But the work that you can do off the field and the work that you can do in your community makes a hands-on difference.”

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

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7/18/22  USWNT vs Canada 10 pm Para+ Tonite, Women’s Euro’s Quarterfinals begin, CHS Girls Camp next Week, Copa America continues

USA Ladies vs Canada 10 pm on Para+ TONITE – Olympic Birth on the Line

The USWNT didn’t look pretty but the did beat Costa Rica 3 – 0 Thurs night (full highlights)– while Canada did the same to Jamaica setting up the big finale tonight between 2 of the top 5 teams in the World – and lets be real – the only decent team the US has played since losing to the Cannucks in last summer’s Olympics which knocked us out and allowed Canada to win it all.  The US really does need to turn to the new guard and let them play and let’s see how far behind Canada we have fallen – or not? Centerback Girma in the back middle, Sanchez at midfield, with Horan #6, and Lavelle and let young wingers Push and Smith fly with Alex holding down the #9 slot.  It all wraps at 10 pm on Para+ with pregame starting at 9 pm after the 3rd place game finishes (hard to believe this game is not AT LEAST being moved to CBS Sports Network – but here’s a FREE Month Signup for Paramount Plus if you want to watch tonight’s game. https://www.paramountplus.com/home enter GLORY. I like the US to pull this out 2-1 in a hard fought game !! Check out this Cheeky Backheel from Lavelle to Pugh for a goalUS Behind the Crest

Shane’s Starting Line-Up Tonite vs Canada (Depth Chart)


Sanchez/Horan /Lavelle



Women’s Euro’s Quarter Finals this week

The Women’s Euro’s have been great  – with this spectacular last second goal highlighting just how exciting some of the Euro’s have been. The Quarterfinals are sent to begin Wednesday and last thru Saturday with the Semi’s next week.

Wednesday, July 20
QF1 – England vs. Spain – (Brighton) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Thursday, July 21
QF2 – Germany vs. Austria (Brentford) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Friday, July 22
QF3 – Sweden vs. Runners-up of Group D – (Leigh) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Saturday, July 23
QF4 – France vs. Netherlands – (Rotherham) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2


So this is making the rounds – looks like me back in College (yeah right).  Also of interest a # of European teams are in the US on their summer tours – on of the more intriguing is Sat night on ESPN as Bayern Munich faces Man City at Lambaeu Field 6:30 pm.  That might be worth the tune in – at the same Time Chelsea Pulisic are playing Arsenal and Turner – but somehow that only garners us ESPN+ at 7:30 pm  not going to pretend I understand their logic sometime. Of course Bayern will not have leading scorer Lewandowski has his transfer request to Barcelona has been completed. 

US GK Matt Turner leads Arsenal to clean sheet and 2-0 win vs Everton, Turner says his move to one of the EPL’s top clubs is not a gamble ahead of the World Cup.

Here’s American Brendan Aaronson with some nifty moves vs Aston Villa for Leeds United States of America.  (yes my jersey is on its way baby!)

Last Week of GK Training

Coach Shane is offering Extra Paid Training tor the high school aged Keepers this summer Tues/Thurs shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

 Calling all High School Soccer Rec Players in Carmel!

Some of you have registered already but there are still many slow to sign up and teams are now in process at Dads Club. Tell your friends to get moving so they don’t miss a chance to play this fall. Space is limited and we cannot add more teams beyond what we have planned for. Sign up now- this league has no late fees! www.carmeldadsclub.org   317-846-1663

 Calling all Middle School Soccer Players in Carmel- July 18-21!

Last Chance to Register for Carmel High School Girls – 2022 Middle School Camp – 6/7/8th Graders  $90 (includes T-shirt) July 18-21  Murray Stadium  2:30 to 4:30 pm   Of course high schoolers trying out for the ladies team need to attend the high school camp next week that ends with the CHS DeWayne Akin Invite next Fri/Sat at the River Road fields off 126th.

Watch with the American Outlaws at Union Jack’s Pub in Broad Ripple (eat before hand as kitchen will be closed)

Reminder: 30-Day Paramount+ Promo Code
Tonight’s match will stream on Paramount+ and ViX only.Just like with our away World Cup Qualifiers, AO members can get a month of P+ free.New* subscribers can use the promo code “GLORY.” Use the link below.30-Day P+ Trial


Mon, July 18

1 pm ESPN+                        Dortmund (Reyna) vs Valencia  

3 pm ESPN2                        Italy vs Belgium Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN+                        Iceland vs France Euro Women’s Cup

5 pm FS1                              Venezuela vs Brazil Copa America

7 pm Para+                   CONCACAF Womens 3rd  

8 pm FS1                              Peru vs Uraguay Copa America

10 pm Para+             CONCACAF Women’s Finals USA vs CANADA 

Wed, July 20

3 pm ESPN2                 Euro Women’s Cup QF – England vs. Spain

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Arsenal (Matt Turner)  @ Orlando City

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Chelsea (Pulisic) @ Charlotte FC

7:30 pm ESPN+                  Bayern Mumich @ DC United

9 pm ES{N+                         Man City vs Club America

8 pm FS1                              Colombia vs Chile Copa America

8 pm FS2                              Ecudor vs Paaguay Copa America

Thur, July 21

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Austria vs Germany  

8 pm FS1                              Brazil vs Peru Copa America

8 pm FS2                              Venezuela vs Argentina Copa America

Fri, July 22

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Sweden vs ______

8 pm FS1                              Brazil vs Peru Copa America

Sat, July 23

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup France vs Netherlands

6:30 pm ESPN                    Bayern Munich vs Man City (Lambambeau)

7 pm ESPN+                Indy 11 @ Memphis 901

8 pm ESPN +                       Arsenal (Turner) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

8:30 pm ABC                       Houston Dynamo vs Minn United

10 pm ESPN+                     Seattle vs Colorado

Sun, July 24

7:30 am ESPN3                  US Youth Championship U19 Boys

10 am ESPN3                      US Youth Championship U19 Girls

9:30 pm FS1                        Atlanta united vs LA Galaxy

Mon, July 25

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Semi 1

8 pm FS1                              Copa America Semi 1

Tue, July 26

8 pm FS1                              Copa America Semi 2

Wed, July 27

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Semi 2

Fri, July 29

8 pm FS2                              Copa America 3rd

11 pm FS1                            LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

Sat, July 30

12 noon ESPN+                 Liverpool vs Man City Community Shield

2:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich  Supercup

 3 pm ABC                            Minn United vs Portland Timbers

8 pm ESPN+                        Cincy v Inter Miami 

9 pm ESPN+                        LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

Sun, July 31

12 noon ESPN                    Euro Women’s Cup FINAL                           

5 pm ESPN+                        DC united vs Orlando City

8 pm FS2                              Santos Laguna vs Atlas 

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

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

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USA Women

The USWNT Concacaf roster

Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).

Midfielders: Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC).

3 things 2 W 4  -backheeled.com

With USWNT into CONCACAF W final, a more nuanced version emerging before World Cup Jeff Kassouf

Been there, done that. Canada’s veteran core can get another upset vs. USWNT  ESPNFC

What Went Right and What Went Wrong – USA vs Costa Rica – Backheeled
U.S., Canada renew women’s soccer rivalry with Olympic spot at stake

US Needs to Find Shooting Boots after Pathetic 3-0 win over Costa Rica – the18.com
Carson Pickett on making USWNT history as 1st player with limb difference

The Time Is Now for Brands to Go All In on Women’s Soccer

Tired Of USWNT Gear Never Available In Stores, Players Decide To Sell Their Own Merch

Women’s Soccer Euro’s


Wednesday, July 20
QF1 – England vs. Spain – (Brighton) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Thursday, July 21
QF2 – Germany vs. Austria (Brentford) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Friday, July 22
QF3 – Sweden vs. Runners-up of Group D – (Leigh) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Saturday, July 23
QF4 – France vs. Netherlands – (Rotherham) – 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Women’s Euro 2022 bracket and fixtures schedule

Spain’s 90th Minute Header Advances them to Knockout Round

Netherlands win sets up Euro clash with France

Sweden finally hit top gear, just in time for the knockout rounds

Spain reach quarterfinals, but questions linger ahead of England matchup

Germany emerge from Euros group as England’s top trophy rival

Spain edge Denmark, set up England knockout tie

England’s Russo says ‘pressure’ will hit in QFs

Austria oust Norway, advance to quarterfinals

England’s record-setting group stage shows Euro 2022 field how it’s done

Sources: Extreme heat warning at ’22 Euros

 Great Saves Women’s Euros

Lene Christensen Grat save for Denmark vs Finland

 US Men

USMNT’s Turner rejects Arsenal move as ‘gamble’
7hJames Olley
Skocic reinstated as Iran coach six days after sacking


Bayern agree Lewandowski move to Barcelona

Jesus strikes early in Arsenal’s 2-0 friendly win over Everton

Ings on the spot as Villa beat Leeds 1-0 with Gray carried off

Kane on target again as Tottenham draw 1-1 with Sevilla

Chelsea sign Napoli defender Koulibaly on four-year deal

United’s Rashford eager for ‘fresh start’ under Ten Hag

Everton boss Frank Lampard says Wayne Rooney’s U.S. coaching move ‘shows personality’

MLS Atlanta president Eales to become Newcastle United CEO

LAFC defeats Nashville, moves back to top of MLS standings in Gareth Bale’s debut

REFFING This Crazy Game

You Make the Call – MLS

Ref Reviews for Week 18 in MLS
Female referee at men’s World Cup wants the game to shine

Ref Question    Whats the Right Call



W Championship Final on Monday, let’s talk about what you should you be watching for from the United States 

This is it, folks. The U.S. women’s national team has the chance to lift a trophy and lock up a spot in the 2024 Olympics on Monday against Canada. The United States and Canada are both undefeated at the Concacaf W Championship, each with four wins and a +12 goal difference. What should you be watching for from the USWNT in this final? Let’s talk about that.


We’ve seen glimpses of the U.S.’s press during this tournament, but rarely have we seen any sort of consistent high press or counter press from this team. Why? Because teams are afraid to play out of the back or even to hold much of the ball at all against the United States. Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, and Costa Rica were all at a pretty significant talent disadvantage relative to the USWNT and they all ceded possession.

On talent, Canada is much, much closer to level with the United States. They have quality players in every line and a number of dangerous attackers. Bev Priestman’s team dominated possession in all four of their W Championship games to date and while I wouldn’t expect them to do that against the U.S., they’ll be willing to use the ball for stretches. 

A more aggressive Canada team means that there should be opportunities for the U.S. to press and create transition moments. That’s where this USWNT really thrives under Vlatko Andonovski. 

Watch out for the United States in transition in this final. 


I said it earlier in this tournament, but I think it’s time for Naomi Girma to start next to Alana Cook in the back. Girma has looked confident, capable, and, maybe most importantly, mobile during her minutes down in Mexico. Becky Sauerbrunn is a hugely important figure for the United States, but I do have questions about her ability to defend in space. She was already exposed against Haiti (the only team that has really tested the USWNT even for short spells) at this tournament. Given the skill and speed that Canada has in the attack, I think it’s fair to question if Sauerbrunn is the right player to start next to Cook in the center of the U.S.’s 4-3-3 defensive shape.I’m not sure that Andonvoski will make this swap. But with how strong Girma has looked in the back, I think this is the right time to change the guard in central defense.


If one thing is clear after almost three years of the Vlatko era, it’s this: the United States can be lethal in the attack if they stop crossing so much. At times in this tournament – especially against Jamaica and for stretches against Costa Rica – the U.S. found other ways to attack that didn’t involve forcing balls into the box from wide areas. Sophia Smith was dangerous against Jamaica, taking advantage of chances to go one-v-one on the right side. Plus, Ashley Sanchez and Rose Lavelle drove forward in midfield and helped create opportunities. Against Costa Rica, the U.S. had some strong moves down the left side with Lindsey Horan and Mallory Pugh working together to pull the opposition’s right side apart. They crossed the ball in both of those games, yes, but they also found other ways to create chances.If we see more diverse attacking play from the U.S., with a mixture of transition attacking, off-ball rotations, central combinations, and smart crosses, they’re going to be almost impossible to stop against Canada.

Canada’s CONCACAF W campaign shows why they can upset the USWNT once more

Jul 14, 2022Cesar Hernandez

Canada will take on the U.S. in the much-anticipated, and much-expected, final at the CONCACAF W Championship. Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

MONTERREY, Mexico — Canada‘s women’s national team defeated Jamaica 3-0 in the second CONCACAF W Championship semifinal of the evening Thursday, setting up the defending Olympic gold medalists in a much-anticipated final battle against the United States on Monday at Estadio BBVA.It will be a daunting challenge against the U.S., as both teams have gone undefeated at this tourney without conceding a goal. But then again, when was the last time the USWNT lost a match? It was to this Canadian squad at the semifinal round at the delayed Tokyo 2020 games.Despite unideal humid conditions and light dust currents forcing their way into Estadio Universitario, Canada had few issues with a Jamaican side that were without star striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw. According to manager Lorne Donaldson, Shaw was dealing with “maybe a little sickness” and the coach opted to rest his team’s leading tournament goal scorer before a third-place showdown against Costa Rica.

Canada hit the ground running on Thursday in the 18th minute from Jessie Fleming. Following a slightly deflected cross from left-back Ashley Lawrence, Fleming did well to pounce on the cross and head the ball into the back of the net in the first half. Canada continued to have an immense amount of possession, but as manager Bev Priestman put it in the postgame news conference: “We didn’t take care of direct play and transition.””We fixed that at halftime — I think it made a big difference,” she later added.

The quick incorporation of four substitutes (Adriana Leon, Jordyn Huitema, Allysha Chapman and Julia Grosso) in the 53rd minute gave Priestman’s squad a more dynamic edge. By the 64th minute, Leon would go on to send a perfectly timed cross from distance that landed perfectly toward Chapman, who would head in the ball to make it 2-0. In the 76th, Huitema redirected a cross to Leon, providing an opportunity for Leon to sprint toward the lobbed ball and tap it into the net.Possibly through rejuvenated options off the bench, or maybe thanks to the temperatures finally dropping down to the 80s, Canada were enthusiastic in the secod half — later accumulating a total of 33 shots over the entirety of the 90-plus minutes. Jamaica, on the other end of the pitch, would finish with just two.Still, even after securing a 3-0 victory, a previous place in the 2023 Women’s World Cup through the group stage, a fourth victory in a row and a fourth consecutive match in the tournament without a goal allowed, Priestman believes that her squad is capable of more.”I think there’s another level and I do think that playing a team like the U.S. will bring out some of our strengths that maybe teams haven’t allowed us to do,” the Canadian coach said.”There’s a lot on the line, it’s the Olympic Games that we want and we want to make sure that we win that final.””I think we’ve had all different types of wins, whether it’s from the bench or from the starting lineup,” Huitema said. “I think all around our team is ready to come in and hurt them. I think we’re very deep and our squad has a lot of depth to it.”Off-the-field, the players haven’t appeared to be impacted by a looming internal issue with their federation that has yet to be resolved. Amid tensions over negotiations, a report by Canadian outlet TSN on Tuesday highlighted an alleged lack of transparency on governance and finances by those running Canada Soccer.The players responded with a lengthy statement, which included that they were “deeply troubled by the content” of the article and that they have also called for an “investigation” into the matter.Canada midfielder Quinn said after the win that players are “still sifting through the article” and that it was a “tough week” due to what is happening behind the scenes, but let out a smile in the mixed zone when discussing what lies ahead on the pitch.”We have an important match,” the midfielder said optimistically. “That’s going to be the focus for us moving forward.”

My 3 Thoughts on USWNT-Costa Rica

U.S. heads to CONCACAF final with a 3-0 win, but you can’t help but think the U.S. would struggle right now vs top teams at Euro 2022

Grant Wahl

The win put the U.S. in Monday’s final against the winner of Canada-Jamaica. Here are my three thoughts on the game:

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• Rose Lavelle had a filthy backheel. The U.S. was absolutely lacking in invention in Monday’s lackluster 1-0 win against Mexico, and a big reason was the absence of Lavelle—easily the team’s most creative midfielder—from the starting lineup. With the score 1-0 late in the first half, a successful U.S. counter-press by Sophia Smith forced a turnover deep in the Costa Rica end, and Lavelle instinctively backheeled to Pugh, who finished well for her first goal of the tournament. Lavelle brings something special to this U.S. midfield that’s unique to her, and when teams like Costa Rica are defending deep it’s even more important to have someone who’s willing and able to pull off a remarkable bit of skill in tight space at speed. For Pugh, too, her finish was hard-earned for a player who has been active during this tournament but had been frustrated by her inability to find the net. This U.S. team may be a work in progress, but I don’t think there’s much debate right now that Pugh and Smith should be the starting wingers.

• This U.S. team would struggle right now against a number of teams in the Euros. I fully understand that the U.S. right now is still trying to find the right combinations and isn’t attempting to peak for this tournament in the same way that teams are for Euro 2022. But it’s inescapable when you watch games from both tournaments at the same time that the U.S. would struggle right now against the current versions of England, France, Germany and perhaps Sweden and the Netherlands. U.S. coach Vlatko Andonovski said on Monday that his team wasn’t ready today to play a World Cup but that it “absolutely” would be a year from now. Perhaps, but even with the U.S. controlling the game against Costa Rica from the start, and even if we allow that there are just two elite teams in CONCACAF (the U.S. and Canada), I’m not seeing this U.S. team playing in a way that would provide much confidence against one of those European teams.

• Naomi Girma should start the final. The U.S. has gone the entire tournament without conceding a goal, admittedly against weak opposition, but Girma (who didn’t start on Thursday) has been the best-performing centerback of the three-person rotation that includes Becky Sauerbrunn and Alana Cook. Cook had a couple shaky moments on Thursday, so I’d lean toward Sauerbrunn as the central partner for Girma. If there’s one big takeaway on a U.S. player from this tournament, it’s that Girma is the real thing and needs to be a starter going forward.

With USWNT into CONCACAF W final, a more nuanced version emerging under Vlatko Andonovski

Jul 15, 2022  Jeff Kassouf

MONTERREY, Mexico — Thursday brought another methodical performance from the United States women’s national team in a 3-0 victory over Costa Rica at Estadio Universitario. The result clinched the Americans a place in Monday’s CONCACAF W Championship final, a match they and nearly everyone assumed they would win from the start.The path there has been more laborious than dominant for Vlatko Andonovski’s squad, but it was enough to qualify for the 2023 World Cup — where the U.S. will look to win an unprecedented third straight title — and put the U.S. within one victory of clinching a place in the 2024 Olympics.”I think we need to be overall sharper,” said Emily Sonnett, who scored the USWNT’s initial goal on Thursday. “I don’t think our team is very satisfied with that. There’s a lot that we need to focus on. But overall, I think we’ve competed, and I think we’ve stuck to game plans every single game. How do we put it all together now going forward?Two of the goals on Thursday were products of the U.S. implementing pressure high up the field at the right time. Sonnett’s opening goal in the 34th minute — the first of her career in 69 appearances — was, like the Kristie Mewis game-winner in Monday’s 1-0 victory over Mexico, another scrappy effort from a corner kick.

Important to the creation of that opportunity is something which will not show up on the stat sheet: an individual defensive effort from Mallory Pugh high up the field. One minute after Pugh nearly stripped Costa Rica goalkeeper Noelia Bermudez of the ball in her own box, as the lone player pressing, the U.S. winger put Costa Rica’s defense under pressure deep inside their own defensive third, winning the ball and going straight to goal to force the corner kick. Sonnett scored on the ensuing play.

Ten minutes later, it was Pugh on the finishing end. Sophia Smith won the ball just outside of Costa Rica’s penalty area and Rose Lavelle reacted quickly, backheeling it into the path of Pugh, who was running in behind. Lavelle’s technical skill made the play, but Smith’s pressure to win the ball back in a high area was the catalyst.”I think pressing is a great opportunity to transition and attack,” Pugh said after the match. “So, I think if you look at it that way, like defense is offense, I think that’s just part of our identity. We want to create these attacking transition moments to be able to create ad just keep going. We want teams just to feel that pressure, so I think it’s just part of our identity.”Since Andonovski’s first game in charge in November 2019, the U.S.’s press has been more varied than the previous iteration under Jill Ellis. The 2019 World Cup-winning team played with a relentless, high-energy press which demanded significant defensive efforts from its forward line as well as a midfield which was asked to cover large swaths of ground in wide areas. The ongoing absences of Julie Ertz (pregnant) and Sam Mewis (recovering from injury), two of the three starting midfielders at the 2019 World Cup, are part of the reason that area of the team is in transition.Andonovski took over the job with a determination to add nuance to the team’s defensive pressure. His objective, he said at the time, was not to completely recalibrate a system which had brought the team great success, but rather to add sophistication to the process. At times, that means the Americans will drop their line of confrontation slightly to challenge their opponent to play through them. Many opponents — especially in CONCACAF — cannot do it. On Thursday, the circumstances dictated that the U.S. be selective about when to press, anyway. The game kicked off at 6 p.m. local time under the relentless sun as Monterrey’s ongoing drought drags on. The temperature at kickoff was 96 degrees Fahrenheit, with a feels-like temperature of over 100. Thursday was also the fourth game in 11 days for each team (10 for their opponents), and with the final against Canada looming on Monday, the U.S. staff had to allow themselves to look ahead.”It comes down to reading the moments and when we want to press and when we want to drop off a little bit and allow them to connect a few passes,” Andonovski said about managing the heat.The upcoming U.S.-Canada clash is a rematch of last year’s Olympic semifinal, which the Canadians won on its run to a gold medal, forcing the U.S. to settle for the bronze medal. Canada will be the toughest and deepest opponent the U.S. has faced all tournament. It is also a team which likes to find transitional moments and strike on the counterattack, much as it did in that semifinal in Tokyo. The U.S. dominated most of that match but conceded a fluky penalty on a Canada counterattack and lost 1-0.Much of those same dynamics will be at play again on Monday, although the U.S.’ roster has undergone a significant overhaul in the 11 months since that game. Canada, who defeated Jamaica 3-0 in Thursday’s late match, will be defensively sound and look to exploit the U.S. in wide areas as the Americans’ fullbacks push forward. That likely means the U.S. will pick their moments to press their rivals, to limit their exposure on the counterattack.”I feel like the way that Vlatko wants us to play, it’s different every game, right?” Alex Morgan said. “It depends on if it’s a four-back or a five-back [for the opposition], the way that they pressure — whether inside or outside, the spaces that they give, or the high line or a low line. I think we’ve faced different challenges every game.”

Morgan followed up by noting that the U.S. could have led 3-0 by halftime but missed chances, including by her. She hit the post moments into the match and the U.S. missed several opportunities from close range, which has been a theme this tournament. The sharpness still isn’t there for this version of the U.S., but it will need to be on Monday. The loser of the final will have to wait a year to confirm its place at the 2024 Olympics via a playoff.”I thought that we made too many technical errors, too many for the players that were on the field,” Andonovski said “Because we know that they are technical. We know they can settle the ball and pass and that they can execute different technical demands.”


COMMENTARYUSWNTJULY 15, 2022BY ARIANNA CASCONE The United States women’s national team beat Costa Rica 3-0 on Thursday to advance to the final of the Concacaf W Championship

What went right for the United States? What went wrong? Let’s talk about that ahead of Monday’s final against Canada

The United States women’s national team beat Costa Rica 3-0 on Thursday to advance to the final of the Concacaf W Championship. It took some time to break down the Costa Rican defense, but both the scoreline and stats-sheet indicate that the USWNT had control of the game from the start.


Costa Rica lined up in a 5-4-1 and sat in a defensive block inside their own half, but the U.S.’s relentless counter pressing allowed the team to find space in the attacking third. The United States made nearly 100 more passes than their opponents in the final third and also had 12 of their 15 total shots come from inside the box.

Much of the USWNT’s success stemmed from the work of Rose Lavelle, Sophia Smith, and Mallory Pugh. That’s been true for the majority of this tournament so far. 

In the group stage, Lavelle and Smith tallied goals against Jamaica and Pugh contributed two assists, one each against Jamaica and Haiti. On Thursday against Costa Rica, the trio delivered an impressive goal in first half stoppage time.

Lavelle played a cheeky backheel through to Pugh, who put away her first goal of the tournament. That goal doesn’t happen, though, without Smith’s defensive work to win the ball back from Costa Rica after a poor clearance. All three players involved in that goal also led the team in recoveries last night, which shows how valuable they are for the U.S. on both sides of the ball (data courtesy of StatsPerform)


We could go on to talk about the U.S.’s other two goals – Emily Sonnett with the first and Ashley Sanchez with the third – but one other thing that stood out from this game is head coach Vlatko Andonovski’s approach to player rotation.

The starting lineup against Costa Rica included four changes from the 11 that started the final group stage game against Mexico. The United States also made five changes to their lineup from their tournament opener against Haiti to game two against Jamaica and another seven changes from Jamaica to the Mexico game. The only two players who have started every game for the U.S. at this tournament are Smith and Lindsey Horan. Andonovski has even rotated his goalkeepers, with Casey Murphy and Alyssa Naeher going back-and-forth in net.

Andonovski and the U.S. might be playing the long-game here, providing young players with starts, caps, and experience in a major tournament ahead of next year’s Women’s World Cup. But at what point does all this rotation hurt the on-the-field product?

In the post-game mixed zone, when asked about the team’s progression throughout the tournament, Alex Morgan said that Andonovski has the U.S. play in a slightly different way each game depending on the opponent’s approach. She went on to mention that it’s important for players to know their roles, since they change “from game to game”. 

Some continuity could really help this U.S. team. 

Even though they’ve secured four wins and four clean sheets in four games, they’ve been inconsistent. Some of the struggles against Haiti and the dip in performance from the Jamaica to Mexico games put that on full display. Andonovski also pointed out that his team made many technical errors against Costa Rica, and speculated whether it was a result of the stress and pressure associated with a knock-out game.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if some of that stress might arise from players having to learn roles that change each game while playing with different teammates.

There won’t be enough time in this tournament to address all the hitches that Andonovski and Co. highlighted on Thursday night, as the U.S. is set to face Canada in the championship match on Monday. 

With a trophy and a spot at the 2024 Olympics on the line, fielding a familiar line-up and focusing on that counter press might mitigate some of the United States’ inconsistency and help them secure the win over their North American rivals. 

Is the concern around the USWNT’s performances overblown?

MONTERREY, MEXICO - JULY 14: Emily Sonnett #14 of the United States celebrates scoring during a Concacaf W Championship game between Costa Rica and USWNT at Estadio Universitario on July 14, 2022 in Monterrey, Mexico.
Emily Sonnet who scored her first goal was the Woman of the Match from her left back spot.

By Meg Linehan and Steph Yang Jul 15, 2022

Another CONCACAF final, another match-up between the U.S. and Canada. In the end, we’re exactly where we expected to be, with the USWNT defeating Costa Rica 3-0, followed by Canada defeating Jamaica 3-0 on Thursday night at Estadio Universitario.

The semifinals ultimately felt more like a formality than anything else. Both Costa Rica and Jamaica rested key players in Raquel Rodriguez and Khadija Shaw, respectively. With the third-place game being a must-win for both teams in order to have a shot at the second CONCACAF Olympic berth (to be decided in a two-leg playoff between the second and third place teams in September 2023), it felt like both teams took the realistic approach to Thursday rather than pushing hard for the upset. Given the general level of exhaustion due to local weather conditions — the water shortage in Monterrey is still ongoing and the forecast for the third-place game is a high around 97 degrees — that seems like a smart tactical move.

But does that mean an all-out battle between the United States and Canada for the championship and a guaranteed Olympic spot? Certainly it would be nice for any team to be able to get both World Cup and Olympic qualification crossed off their list in one go, and to be able to shift focus solely to World Cup prep. Both teams will be aware of minutes management for players who will have to return to their respective clubs, though, and finish out at least another three months within the NWSL’s often unforgiving schedule. Let’s find out together! 

“I think we are gaining momentum”

For as much angst seems to be surrounding the current state of the team, nothing about Thursday’s match suggested that the USWNT was ever not in control of the game’s outcome. 

Costa Rica’s extremely organized mid-to-low block in the 5-4-1 was effective in the exact way it was designed to be effective, but the U.S. still found moments via the press even in the heat. As Alex Morgan said after the match, they certainly had decent looks through the first 30 minutes, even if they weren’t turning into goals.

Let’s rewind to the opening match against Haiti. After that win, Morgan said, “I just think we need to figure it out on the field quicker. We go in with a game plan, but they can give us something completely different. … We need to adjust a little bit better.”

On Thursday night, asked to assess if the team has been improving on this front with four games done and only one remaining, Morgan gave a lengthy response in the mixed zone. 

“The way that Vlatko wants us to play, it’s different every game,” she began. “It depends on a four back or a five back, the way that they pressure inside or outside, the spaces they give, whether it’s a high line or a low line. We’ve faced different challenges each game.” 

While the first sentence has somehow earned a lot of attention on social media, interpreted as a weakness of the coaching staff, there’s really nothing concerning about the idea that the USWNT has a different tactical approach for each match, depending on the opponent. It feels like a leap to suggest that Andonovski is somehow trying to fundamentally alter the entire DNA of the team from match to match, even with starting XI changes or fiddling with some of the finer details of their formations (like the Lavelle-Sanchez double 10).

Here’s where it does get more interesting: “I think we are gaining momentum, and we’re doing better reading the game earlier and figuring it out on the field. We do need to understand, though, what the coach has given us. We all have to buy in, we can’t have one or two players not doing what they’re supposed to do because that ruins the whole flow of the game if we’re going to play in a certain structure. I think that’s important to know — it’s playing free, but knowing your role, and that’s going to change from game to game.”

The best case scenario is that the players on the field are still working to get the chemistry clicking and balance reading the game and making adjustments on the fly with the tactical instructions from the coaching staff. A less charitable reading of this suggests that there may be some sort of communication issue, or players are not understanding or resisting those tactical instructions. 

“We had Soph (Smith), and then when Trin (Rodman) came in there at the end, we were playing a little bit of two 9s with the winger on that side tucked in, and Sof (Huerta) getting a little higher on that side. So it’s different roles in every game and you just have to be willing to do a little bit of dirty work. Sometimes you get a little more freedom one game, and less freedom another game.”

The greater question prompted by Morgan here is: if there’s some sort of breakdown on this front, will we see further evidence of that against Canada, or when the USWNT plays another top team? The tournament has been a chance to move from the evaluation period to now building for next year’s World Cup. While new combinations are still being played, it’s going to get a lot harder to handwave away lackluster performances as growing pains.

The USWNT isn’t at the Euros, they’re here in Monterrey with a very different objective and — to Andonovski’s full admission — a work in progress that is not ready for a World Cup at this moment in time. The good news is that they’re not playing a World Cup at this moment in time. There has to be an end product for this process, but even with all the high expectations and the legitimate criticism of the team, the USWNT is an unfinished project with another year to build. 

The final against Olympic gold medalists Canada will be the most helpful match when it comes to getting an accurate assessment of the current state of the team in 2022. Scheduling has been an issue in 2022 across the board, but that hasn’t entirely been within the federation’s control. They need to play higher ranked teams over the course of the next year. And the good news is that the October FIFA window may finally allow for a test or two against European teams, with their World Cup qualifiers finally wrapping up in September.

Could there perhaps be some additional communication around the overall plan, or benchmarks the technical staff would like to achieve between now and July 2023? Sure. But right now, the USWNT has not allowed a single goal through the W Championship while scoring 12 of their own in four games, they’re in the final and they’ve avoided any major injuries (I type this knocking on every type of wood available in the vicinity of this laptop). They might not have been beautiful wins, but they have been wins that qualified the team for the World Cup. That’s not nothing.

Canada advances to the final to play their old friend, the United States

There were plenty of questions after the game for both teams about an Olympic rematch from last summer; a chance for redemption for the U.S., or an opportunity to keep sticking it to their rivals for Canada — a chance to say ‘hey, it was no fluke that we won that semifinal last year.’ 

“We definitely won’t underestimate them. They’re a top side,” said Canada head coach Bev Priestman after their win against Jamaica. “But I’m really excited to call that challenge again. And there’s a lot on the line. It’s the Olympic games (qualification) that you know, we won. And we want to make sure that we win that final.”

Andonovski told the press after the U.S. defeated Costa Rica that he and his staff had already been reviewing the Olympic semifinal, which Canada won 1-0 on a penalty kick, and that they would be analyzing Canada for any changes in trends or styles. 

“Heading into this tournament, we kind of knew if both teams played the way they’re capable of we’d be meeting them in the final,” said Christine Sinclair. “And it’s always exciting. I mean, they’re a world class team. They’ve obviously changed a little bit since the Olympics and have some new young, fresh faces. And we’re excited.” 

One of those faces is, of course, Sinclair’s Portland Thorns teammate Sophia Smith. Both sets of players often crisscross with each other in the course of club play in the NWSL, which always adds an element of intellectual exercise to a meetup between these two teams, as everyone has an idea of everyone else’s tendencies. 

Meanwhile, the players have been finding off-the-field camaraderie with U.S. players as the Canada women’s and men’s national teams are currently locked in a tense disagreement with Canada Soccer over matters of governance, with accusations that Canada Soccer has made  bad financial decisions that have impacted pay to both the women and the men and completely eroded the players’ trust in the federation. Sinclair said Canadian players were talking to their U.S. counterparts, given that the U.S. women had just gone through an extensive CBA negotiation process with USSF. 

“Obviously I’m teammates with Becky (Sauerbrunn), which kind of helps,” said Sinclair, laughing. “So Janine (Beckie) and I, we’ve picked her ear a bunch and I think we’re in a pretty good spot. The men’s team is fully supportive and we’re both on the same page now. It’s just a matter of getting Canada Soccer on it.”

Emily Sonnett: nice.

Let’s end this one with a celebration of Emily Sonnett’s first national team goal, which she earned in her 69th appearance for the national team — a stat that feels incredibly perfect for Emily Sonnett.

She didn’t go for the obvious joke in the mixed zone, but hopefully she found the pizza party she was looking for.

Meet the USWNT chef responsible for feeding the World Cup champs during qualifiers in Mexico

Jul 16, 2022  Jeff Kassouf  ESPNFC MONTERREY, Mexico — Hamburgers, pork chops, mac and cheese: It’s hard to pick a favorite dish. That’s not even mentioning the custom vegan plates that turn heads at every meal.Away from the field and the pressures of qualifying for the World Cup and Olympics, food is the talk of the U.S. women’s national team at the CONCACAF W Championship. And Teren Green might be the most popular person on the team.”He’s great, such a good chef,” U.S. defender Sofia Huerta said, raving about everything from tacos to avocado toast. Huerta and her teammates already qualified for the 2023 World Cup, and they will try to clinch a spot in the 2024 Olympics on Monday.Green — or “Chef T” as he’s known to just about everyone — is the team’s personal chef brought in during big tournaments, cooking every meal for players and staff. Three times per day — four on game days for the late-night, postgame meals — he oversees the fueling of the two-time defending World Cup champions.Framed like that, it can sound like a stressful job, but what sets Green apart is his ability to make popular food while keeping mealtime fun. Part of that process is allowing players to have a say in the menu. Each player gets an opportunity to design the menu on a given day. The staff will put out a poster with the player on it to celebrate their choices, none of which ever disappoint once prepared.Emily Fox and Megan Rapinoe celebrated birthdays early in the CONCACAF W Championship in Mexico. Fox opted for a local flair: tacos and ceviche, then churros for dessert. Then came the birthday cake, along with a team singalong that the introverted Fox said Rapinoe enjoyed a bit more.This collaborative effort between chef and team is a window into how Green operates — and why he is such an important member of the team. He carries with him lessons he learned as a young chef at The Sagamore, a luxury resort overlooking Lake George in upstate New York: his role is not just about food, but exceptional service and experience.”I feel like mealtime is a big part [of the environment],” Green said from a chair in the private dining area the team blocked off and customized atop its hotel. “We have it three times a day and we want it to be the best three times a day. We want everyone happy, we want everyone to have what they want. We don’t want anyone to feel left out, so I’m constantly asking for requests. Tell me what you want. We’ll make it happen.”Green, 33, is a self-taught chef who got his start at a small restaurant in greater Detroit, working his way up from prep work and dishwashing to entrees. He left for the opportunity at The Sagamore to advance his skills before returning home to Detroit to work atop the famous Renaissance Center looking over the city.Then he got his first shot in sports through a connection, working with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons. Green started as one of five chefs, brushing elbows with Stan Van Gundy, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson. After a few weeks, Green said, the players requested him exclusively. Soon, they started inviting him over to their houses to cook and hang out. Green’s popularity had as much to do with his hospitality as his food, he said now.”Most of the time they didn’t really want to eat, they just wanted a friend,” Green said. “I’d come over to cook, I’d cook a meal, and then they were like, alright, let’s go play [NBA]2K or let’s go to the movie theater that they had in their home.”U.S. women’s national team players have taken to “Chef T” as well. Green made a connection to the team ahead of the 2019 World Cup and served as chef for that entire tournament, which the U.S. won. He was back again for the Tokyo Olympics last year, and he joined the team again ahead of the 2022 CONCACAF W Championship qualifying tournament. His full-time gig is cooking for MLB’s Detroit Tigers when they are playing at home, and they work with him on the occasions he leaves to join the U.S. women.Green is a tall figure with a quiet, humble demeanor. “It’s not really about me,” he said of his work. He blends in seamlessly with the team, serving an integral role behind the scenes, which at its core is designed to help everyone else do their job better.”When you bring anyone into a mix of delegations, it isn’t just your skillset — it’s about the fit,” U.S. women’s national team general manager Kate Markgraf said. “He definitely fits. He’s a big element [of the team], but he’s a value-add. He’s someone that different people gravitate towards. And when you see his face, the players all go, ‘Chef T’ because he’s a non-threatening, supportive presence, which is something that you need in this environment.”A chef is officially a professional support position that U.S. Soccer provides at its own discretion. Markgraf said it should be an investment all teams are making.Becca Roux, the executive direction of the USWNT Players Association agreed. “It’s fantastic that USSF has recently brought in a chef to most U.S. major tournaments and qualifiers as it is a health, safety and performance advantage,” she said.The U.S. women’s national team’s staff is large, so Green does not work alone. He meets with the team’s head of performance, Ellie Maybury, and the team’s dietitian, Lindsay Langford, to build guidelines around what the team should eat: more carbs before a game, flexibility to indulge after a game.Then, Green takes those guidelines and builds menu ideas, working with local chefs at the team hotel. He will make sure hotel kitchen staff know the team’s nutrition guidelines and objectives of any given meal, and then they’ll collaborate. Typically, Green does not get to watch the first game of a tournament because he needs to get the local staff assimilated with postgame operations, but he can be found at the stadium, enjoying a game, like during Thursday’s 3-0 win over Costa Rica in the tournament semifinal.Green said he likes to lean on the local expertise of chefs and use local ingredients, all of which are sourced for their quality. In Monterrey, that means using authentic Mexican sauces and “perfect” avocadoes. At the Olympics, it was everything from Ramen to Wagyu beef and Miyazaki mangoes, an expensive, candy-like version of the fruit.”You’ve got to have respect for the kitchen,” Green said of entering new environments. “I’m glad that I know how to walk around the kitchen properly and move around to where I’m not offending anybody.”Players notice the attention to detail. Green did not grow up on soccer. His first women’s soccer game was when he got his first shot with the team, at a training camp in St. Louis, Missouri, in 2019. Immediately, there was reciprocal respect.”They’re great,” he said. “They don’t hold anything back. They’re extremely appreciative, which is one of the reasons why they’re my favorite team to work for.”After the CONCACAF W Championship ends, Green will return to his regular job working for the Detroit Tigers. He already has his eyes on the 2023 World Cup, though, wondering aloud which types of cuisine he needs to start experimenting with from Australia and New Zealand.Scroll through Green’s Instagram page and among the mouth-watering photos of his dishes, you’ll find him holding the World Cup trophy on the field in Lyon after the U.S. won in 2019. Rapinoe gave him a personal shout-out on the steps of New York City Hall during her speech after that victory.It was there in France where that special attention that Green puts into his craft became obvious to players. Among the team’s practicing vegans is Alex Morgan, who was on that squad and is back with the team for the CONCACAF W Championship. Green said he feels for vegans because they can’t always eat exactly what they are craving, so he puts an extra effort into their meals, serving them directly instead of via a buffet setup. Soon, more players wanted in on that experience.”When we went to France, there were maybe two vegans,” Green said. “By the end, there were about six. I build the plate specifically for them and make it nice and fancy and deliver it to them. When the other players see that, they’re like, ‘Oh, I want a meal brought to me, too.'”Now, the newer players notice, too. This training camp is the first Huerta has experienced with “Chef T,” but she said the appreciation of his work is strong and the connection he makes with players is immediate.”The food here has been amazing, and obviously that’s really important being a professional athlete, the nutrition aspect of it,” she said. “He’s so good and he knows exactly what he’s doing. That’s just something that, when you don’t have him here, that’s something you’re worried about or you’re thinking about. Having him here, though, that’s taken care of. You don’t have to worry about anything you are putting in your body. He’s so sweet, he takes care of us. He’s so valuable and important to the team.”Of course, there’s always room for some cheat meals to keep things fun. After the squad’s 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday, that meant filet mignon at 1 a.m. Sometimes it means ice cream. Even the boss is on board with a little fun.”The mac and cheese postgame — and I don’t usually eat mac and cheese,” Markgraf says, “it’s the best thing I’ve ever had in my life.”

Alyssa Naeher brings ‘just take the picture already’ energy to USWNT’s funny pre-match photos

MONTERREY, MEXICO - JULY 6: Alyssa Naeher #1 of the United States looks to the ball during a training session at the training fields on July 6, 2022 in Monterrey, Mexico.

By Steph Yang and Meg Linehan

Jul 15, 2022

You know that gif of a woman pointing emphatically and going “I respect YOU!”? 

That’s me to Alyssa Naeher for her insistence on being herself and playing by her rules. From being told by Stephanie McCaffrey to smile at her own birthday dinner to shrugging off the congratulations of her teammates after a huge save because she didn’t want to get called for time wasting by the referee, Naeher is the epitome of business in the front, and also business in the back. 

This has all come out in new and exciting ways during CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, as the USWNT bench players keep taking “fun” pregame photos in which Naeher is technically present, but absolutely not participating. I have to emphasize that this is not a roast or a diss in the least — as a fellow “just take the picture so I can go” person, this has made me the No. 1 Alyssa Naeher respecter. I absolutely love that she’s not a picture person, at least not on a game day. Internally she might be nervous, excited, resentful, worried. We’ll never know. Nor do we have a right to know. Give us nothing, girl. I respect YOU.

July 4

This photo, taken before the USA vs. Haiti game, kicks off our series. It’s clearly meant to be in the “sassy” category, or perhaps the “strike a fun and cool pose” category. Naeher is standing to the side with her arms calmly folded behind her back. Is there a glimmer of disgust at the whole exercise? It’s impossible to tell. End of story. 

I give this one about 6.5 out of 10 Naehers for the neutral expression. 

(Meg here, hopping in: In the complete opposite direction, just want to note newcomer Trinity Rodman’s journey as she realizes her full potential in these photos. First one here is just happy to hang in the back row.)

July 7

Naeher wasn’t in the photo before USA vs. Jamaica, as she started the game, so there are no Naehers to award for this date.

July 11

Megan Rapinoe captioned this one on her instagram “Semi Daze with the BADDIES” with a heart on fire emoji ahead of their semifinal; it was actually taken July 11, before USA vs. Mexico. Again, there seems to be some element of “have fun with it.” We’ve got everything from your general smile to some big poses. From Naeher, a direct stare at the camera lens. 

8 out of 10 Naehers

(Meg again: Rodman has realized the opportunity before her, and that Megan Rapinoe is completely willing to do whatever. Not 100% full strength yet, but getting there.)

July 14

This was taken before the semifinal against Costa Rica. The players seem to have gone full goof with this one, and there’s a collection of big smiles and even Kristie Mewis throwing up the peace sign behind Kelley O’Hara, who is smiling big time like a dad in a family gathering photo. I don’t know how else to put it. Naeher: a complete enigma. Just a mystery of a goalkeeper. My favorite picture yet from this tournament. 

9 out of 10 Naehers

(Meg again: Rodman has ascended to her highest form, Pinoe’s all in and this time Rodman’s bestie Ashley Sanchez is ready to benefit. There could be no more opposite energy compared to Naeher.)

We’ve still got one game left to go. If Casey Murphy or Aubrey Kingsbury is asked to start, we can probably look forward to one more picture of Alyssa Naeher being herself and, given the trajectory of these photos over time, I absolutely cannot wait.

Women’s Euro 2022 bracket and fixtures schedule


Wednesday, July 20
QF1 – England vs. Spain – (Brighton) – 8 p.m. BST / 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Thursday, July 21
QF2 – Germany vs. Austria (Brentford) – 8 p.m. BST / 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Friday, July 22
QF3 – Sweden vs. Runners-up of Group D – (Leigh) – 8 p.m. BST / 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Saturday, July 23
QF4 – France vs. Netherlands – (Rotherham) – 8 p.m. BST / 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Tuesday, July 26
SF1 – Winners of QF3 vs. England or Spain – (Sheffield) – 8 p.m. BST / 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Wednesday, July 27
SF2 – France or Netherlands vs. Germany or Austria – (Milton Keynes) – 8 p.m. BST / 3 p.m. ET, ESPN2


Sunday, July 31
Winners of SF1 vs. Winners of SF2 – (Wembley Stadium) – 5 p.m. BST / midday ET, ESPN

USMNT’s Matt Turner denies Arsenal move puts international status at risk

– Arsenal boss Arteta reflects on demanding Amazon documentary

Aaron Ramsdale has established himself as Arsenal’s first-choice goalkeeper under Mikel Arteta and Turner appears to face a difficult task in dislodging him, despite being named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021.Turner is currently vying with Zack Steffen for the No. 1 jersey in Gregg Berhalter’s side with the World Cup just four months away.Steffen is set to join Middlesbrough on loan from Manchester City in search of regular action, but Turner believes he can make a fast start in north London.”Opportunities like this for players from the U.S. are few and far between,” Turner said. “I wouldn’t say I’m worried or it’s a gamble. This is the obvious progression in my career.”Getting my foot in the door overseas is a lot easier said than done. I’ve been playing well in MLS for the last three seasons and this was the first concrete offer I had.”Playing consistently in MLS did not guarantee me the starting XI for the U.S. national team. I needed to shake it up to take my game to the next level and playing in the Premier League with these guys has already shown me some massive improvements.”You have to think about your entire career. You can’t make decisions based on one World Cup. Injuries happen and athletic careers are finite. I’ve wanted to take this game as far as I can, so to be able to represent a club like Arsenal is a dream come true.”Turner’s task should be made a little easier by backup goalkeeper Bernd Leno‘s likely departure to Fulham, although the two clubs are yet to finalise a fee for the proposed move.Asked how Arteta had described his possible role at the club before signing, Turner continued: “Mikel told me I am here to challenge for the starting role. We’re not in this business to just accept being second.”We all want to battle for time on the pitch. So the mentality he wants for me is to push Aaron, to push myself and to push the guys in the locker room. There’s a lot of young guys bopping around and I am a senior player here at 28. So I can be someone those guys can rely on for advice on and off the pitch.”Every step I have gone through in my career has been a big step. Going from high school to Uni, then Uni to MLS, then MLS to the national team and now to the Premier League. The players I am with every day are very talented. They bring a consistency, an intensity and a different sort of intelligence in the way they play the game.”The other big thing is the standards they hold you to every single day. The coaching staff and the players.”Sometimes the training regimen can be a bit more casual in the U.S. Maybe what I was used to at the Revolution was a little more casual. That has been a bit of an adjustment, but I was eager for a new challenge and this is definitely what I have.”At the World Cup, which begins in November in Qatar, the United States is in Group B with WalesEngland and Iran and plays its first match against the Welsh on Nov. 21.

Friday Newsletter: Why Women’s Soccer Will Be the Biggest Global Sports Story of the Next 50 Years Plus I answer your Mailbag questions     Grant Wahl Jul 15   During my short stay at home, between visiting Mexico to cover the CONCACAF women’s championship and traveling to England to cover the UEFA women’s championship, the women’s game has taken over my soccer bandwidth these days. And it’s glorious. On just about any day, I can watch live continental women’s championship games on broadcast platforms in the United States from Mexico (CONCACAF), England (UEFA), Colombia (CONMEBOL) and Morocco (CAF). A year out from World Cup 2023, I can get up to speed on the world’s best women’s players in games that matter from tournaments around the globe. That wasn’t even possible in previous cycles. Fans are fired up about it, too. More than 68,000 attended England-Austria to kick off Euro 2022 at Old Trafford. Another 45,000 at Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat celebrated Morocco’s World Cup berth-clinching win over Botswana. And if Mexico hadn’t flopped in CONCACAF, we would have seen more than the 20,000-plus who came in Monterrey for El Tri’s 1-0 loss to the USWNT. GrantWahl.com is a reader-supported soccer newsletter. Quality journalism requires resources. The best way to support me and my work is by taking out a paid subscription now. Fr ee 7-day trials are available. Subscribe now Give a gift subscription   Twice a week, I post my Google calendar of soccer games on my radar. There’s a lot of orange on it these days, which is the color I use for the women’s game. That’s a reflection of increased availability and investment. There are lots of reasons I believe the growth of women’s soccer will be the biggest global sports story of the next 50 years. Part of it has to do with the steep spike of investment we’re seeing in the existing elite game, especially at the club level in North America and Europe. Television money, sponsorship money, it’s all growing at a rapid rate. Business people get it now. Investment is happening. Media coverage is happening.But another part of it has to do with simply expanding access for women and girls to play soccer in large sections of the world where the opportunity hasn’t been there before due to societal norms. That’s why I did a fist pump seeing this post from journalist Aziza Nait Sibaha about the opportunities that could come from Morocco becoming the first North African team ever to qualify for the women’s World Cup:  FIFA has helped here by expanding the women’s World Cup from 24 to 32 teams for next year’s tournament and opening up more slots to incentivize national federations to support their women’s programs. FIFA also pledged a billion dollars in development for the women’s game to be given around the world, though as is always the case, FIFA needs to do a better job making sure that money goes toward the people and programs intended to receive it.And obviously, FIFA can do more, like creating an annual FIFA Club World Cup for the women’s game as soon as possible; decreasing the World Cup prize money gap between the men and women; and considering other initiatives that could be successful from the top-down. The development of women’s soccer doesn’t need to happen the same way as it did in the men’s game, and we have seen that top-down initiatives (like expanding the World Cup field) can be successful.That’s part of the reason why I’m not entirely against the idea of having a women’s World Cup every two years (and losing the Olympic tournament), even though I didn’t like the idea on the men’s side.In any case, we’ll have a lot more opportunities to discuss the big-picture growth of women’s soccer in the year ahead as the World Cup approaches. But right now there’s so much going on in terms of the games themselves that I’ll get back to focusing on that for the time being. I hope you’re enjoying the on-site coverage! OPENING THE MAILBAG Who are some current American players (men or women) you could see being successful managers in a decade or two? Doug Steiger Some might happen sooner than that. On the men’s side: Michael Bradley, Sacha Kljestan, Tyler Adams, Cristian Roldán, Alejandro Bedoya. On the women’s: Becky Sauerbrunn, Christen Press, Sam Mewis. What are the prospects for some of our walking wounded to be available for WC? Specifically: Catarina Macario, Sam Mewis, Tierna Davidson, Julie Ertz, Crystal Dunn, Abby Dahlkemper, Christen Press. Theodore Morehouse Of those, Ertz and Dunn have had pregnancies, while the others have been injured. The only question for me with any of them is whether Vlatko Andonovski doesn’t rate them enough to be on the World Cup team. All should be available by then. My sense is we would likely see Macario, Mewis, Davidson and Dunn. Ertz, Dahlkemper and Press would be up in the air. The appointment of Wayne Rooney to manage D.C. United is entertaining but it is hard to believe that it is going to solve the club’s problems. Does the dysfunction all trace back to the ownership? Dave Kasper? What can save our team? Robert Gluck It’s a great question. What’s clear, though, is that D.C. is going in a completely different philosophical direction under Rooney than the one they committed to just a year ago with Hernán Losada. That requires bringing in a bunch of new players and taking the time to see if it works. Is Rooney committed to spending much time at United? That remains to be seen. Something big needed to change, and I like Rooney, but I’m not entirely sold this is the way to do it.

Spain ‘not scared’ of England and confident of Euro 2022 upset

By Charlotte Harpur at Brentford Community Stadium

July 17, 2022Updated 7:23 AM EDT

Spain “are not scared” of England and believe they can upset the Euro 2022 hosts in their own backyard, Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati has said.Spain narrowly overcame Denmark 1-0 in their final Group B match to set up a quarter-final against the host nation in Brighton on Wednesday night.Denmark had to win on Saturday to progress to the last eight behind Germany, but Spain dominated the match with Marta Cardona scoring a late winner.England are in fine form having won all three of their group games, scoring 14 goals without once conceding. But Bonmati said Spain believe they can win the first knockout match.“It’s motivating. I’m not scared and I think my team-mates aren’t scared either,” she said after Saturday’s victory.“We played against (England) in the Arnold Clark Cup, we know that they are a good team and they have had many good performances. We have seen their three group games and they did very well.“But we think we can beat them if we improve our style and play better than today.”Her words were echoed by her team-mate Ona Batlle, who plays in the Women’s Super League with Manchester United, who suggested England’s home advantage could in fact help Spain.She added: “We’ve seen a lot of their games and I think they play really well, really good. They have a really good squad and it is not just the [starting] players. Everyone there is a good player.“They are very strong and they are playing in England, so they have that [home advantage]. But that’s going to be a boost for us because we know everything [about them] and we are ready for them.

“I think we can do it.”

Euro 2022: The quality of goalkeeping on display is the highest it’s ever been

BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - JULY 12: Merle Frohms of Germany controls the ball during the UEFA Women's Euro England 2022 group B match between Germany and Spain at Brentford Community Stadium on July 12, 2022 in Brentford, United Kingdom. (Photo by Thor Wegner/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

By Caoimhe O’NeillJul 14, 2022

After any unforced error, goalkeepers can receive a barrage of abuse on social media.

Whether you’re a man or woman between the sticks, you’re likely to receive negative comments at some point in your career. But if you are a high-profile woman who plays in goal, it can be particularly bad.

For so long, goalkeeping errors have been used to undermine the women’s game and the athletes who play it. But so far at Euro 2022, not many people are talking about the keepers. And that’s largely because they’ve been very good.

“We are seeing the best level of goalkeeping that we ever have,” former England keeper Rachel Brown-Finnis tells The Athletic. “There’s been times in previous tournaments where a goalkeeper has been a weak point and teams will recognise that and use it to their advantage, but there hasn’t been a goalkeeper in this tournament so far that’s looked vulnerable or been a weak point.

“The standard of goalkeeping has gotten much, much better. Look at the Germany goalkeeper, Merle Frohms, who’s come in with a handful of caps. Some of the saves she made against Spain were outstanding — the height of athleticism.”

One Frohms save left Spain’s players, and their fans, at the Brentford Community Stadium mystified.

Germany were 2-0 up with 20 minutes to go on Tuesday as Spain looked to their catalogue of efficient passes, eyeing a way through to get them back into the game.

A ball over the top from Barcelona midfielder Patricia Guijarro and a perfectly timed run by Mariona Caldentey broke through the German back line.

Caldentey, also of Barcelona, went for a first-time strike while the pass was still in the air.

The shot was just to the left of Frohms, which helped the 27-year-old, but the speed and power at which it was barreling towards her was ferocious.

That was until the Wolfsburg player threw out her left glove to force it over the crossbar.hThere was a similar moment of skill the same day in the earlier Group B meeting between Denmark and Finland in Milton Keynes.Denmark were holding on for a 1-0 win, after Pernille Harder’s 72nd-minute header had given them a crucial lead, when Finland substitute Jenny Danielsson fired a shot towards the top right corner.

It was a hold-your-breath moment for Danish players and fans as Lene Christensen leapt towards it, tipping the ball around the post.

It was another remarkable save to add to an already bulging playlist of top saves in this European Championship.When the whistle blew on their victory, it was Christensen the Denmark team gathered around.That defeat means Finland will not advance to the knockout phase, having also lost 4-1 to Spain.But even though they are bowing out after Saturday’s finale against Germany back at Stadium MK, their goalkeeper has produced moments of magic, too.When Spain’s Laia Aleixandri headed an Ona Batlle cross down and towards goal last Friday, the new Manchester City signing was already running away, arms aloft, in celebration of what she clearly thought was a certain goal.

But Tinja-Riikka Korpela put a stop to her joy, pulling off an outstanding stop as she shuffled across her line to get a hand to it at full stretch.

Like Finland, Northern Ireland are also mathematically out before the final set of group games, but their Jackie Burns has certainly shown her worth despite conceding six times in the two matches so far.On Monday, a poor pass out from the back ended up at the feet of Austria midfielder Barbara Dunst, but Burns quickly retreated to tip the goal-bound effort over the bar.

“What you want to see in any goalkeeper is them moving their feet quickly, looking agile; then they can make excellent, technical saves,” says Brown-Finnis, who is covering the tournament as a co-commentator for the BBC. “If an error happens, it’s because of either a poor technique or poor decision. And we’re seeing very few of those.”One we did see was from Spain’s Sandra Panos in that 2-0 loss to Germany. A misplaced pass gave Klara Buhl the chance to put Germany into the lead inside the first four minutes of the match — an opportunity she calmly took.“The poor decision from Panos came from her being the first line of attack when in possession, which is still relatively new both for male or female goalkeepers,” Brown-Finnis says.“If you lose possession in midfield from a careless pass, there’s four or five players behind to mop up and nullify that mistake. That’s just not the same for a goalkeeper — and of course, it’s highlighted when it’s on the international stage and there’s millions of people watching it.”

So how have goalkeepers in the women’s game improved?

“From an England perspective, Mary Earps, Hannah Hampton and Ellie Roebuck have all had goalkeeper coaching since a very young age and have played in England’s under-15s and under-17s,” Brown-Finnis says. “They’ve had regular professional goalkeeping coaches pretty much since they decided they wanted to be goalkeepers. That’s fantastic. That’s where we always wanted the game to be.

“Goalkeepers have been an afterthought in some respects and when you look at past championship-winning teams in the Women’s Super League, the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal, one of their strongest parts of who they are is because of their last line of defence; their goalkeepers.

“People are starting to recognise and realise that goalkeepers win titles. Of course, you need players to put the ball in the back of the net, but not unless you can be defensively resolute and consistent. So with that, there’s been a bigger focus on coaching keepers, improving them and getting the best out of them.”

Earps’ performances, in particular, have impressed Brown-Finnis, who says she has been flawless in England’s two matches so far. Even though the Manchester United goalkeeper had few saves to make during the 8-0 dismantling of Norway in Brighton on Monday, she had to stay switched on throughout as the goals flowed at the other end of the pitch.

“The mindset of a top-level goalkeeper is something that a lot of people probably haven’t considered. It’s very different to that of outfielders,” Brown-Finnis says.

“Being the last line of defence is one aspect. Another is we have to stay concentrated all game, every game, whether you’ve been peppered (with shots) or whether you’ve got nothing to do. That’s a really strong performance quality in a goalkeeper. You are born with some of those qualities but concentration is one of the things you work on relentlessly. To be able to wipe the slate clean after a brilliant save or a disastrous mistake is a strength. This is a superpower of a goalkeeper (that is) highly underestimated by people who have not worn a pair of gloves.”

In the tournament opener, against Austria last Wednesday, Earps demonstrated her powers of concentration, making two saves late in a 1-0 game to ensure Sarina Wiegman’s host nation got off to a winning start at Old Trafford.

The more impressive of the two was from a long-range shot by Dunst, which forced Earps to sprint across her goal.

Here, the England keeper’s agility is integral to her getting into a position to make the save.

“Mary Earps’ agility is excellent, and that is what you train on — because you are smaller (than male goalkeepers) and the size of the goal is exactly the same (as in the men’s game). You can’t get away from the fact that the average (women’s) goalkeeper size is probably about 5ft 9in (175cm), which is very different to men’s goalkeeping. We are trained in a different way because of that,” the former Liverpool, Everton and Arsenal keeper explains.

“What you have to do is work your feet quicker, to cover the full goal. It’s not about relying on size. You don’t think, ‘Oh, I’m not going to make that top corner because I’m not 6ft 5in’, you just get those feet moving quick. You work relentlessly on agility, on power, so that you can cover the goal and you just see those saves being made in a slightly different way.

“Ultimately, those saves are being made, those crosses are being collected. Goalkeepers are dominating their areas.“I remember in previous tournaments, and when I was playing, the set-up from corners was to crowd the goalkeeper. You’ll see that with Sweden — they’ve always done it. Norway have always done it. It’s just a tactic that seems to be used in women’s football more predominantly because goalkeepers are not as tall, but very few goals in this tournament have been scored from that tactic.”The level of analysis has also intensified.“It’s important having the expertise around you to be able to analyse your game: how did you make that save? Looking at your movement, where your bodyweight was centred, being in exactly the right place at exactly the right time to push off,” Brown-Finnis says. “What we’re seeing is the result of the level of detail coaches and players are getting into. The finer details are things you want to get absolutely spot-on.”Mistakes can happen at any time and the likelihood is an error by a goalkeeper will go viral during these Euros, attracting negative comments from trolls on social media. Having played 82 times for England and now as a prominent figure in football media, this is something Brown-Finnis is, unfortunately, aware of.“If you’re a goalkeeper you’re open to — and know you’re going to get — criticism,” she says. “The people you want to be getting your feedback, critiquing and analysis from are goalkeeping coaches and goalkeeper team-mates.“I’m certainly not bothered about looking at what people think and say about goalkeepers (after an error), because I am pretty sure none of them have played international football.”

Check out the latest episode of The Athletic Women’s Football Podcast which is running daily during the Euros, free wherever you get your podcasts and ad-free on The Athletic.

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

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

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Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

7/14/22  USWNT vs Costa Rica Semis Thurs 7 & 10 CBSSN, Indy 11 Watch Party Downtown Carmel Fri 7 pm, CHS Girls Camp next Week, Ladies Euros & Copa America continue

USA Ladies vs Costa Rica 7 pm CBS Sports Network

The USWNT had to dig deep but they found a way to win 1-0  vs a very game Mexico team who was egged on by the home crowd at Monterey Mexico.  The US scored on a 89th minute goal as Kristie Mewis followed a save off a great header by Emily Sonnet (a last second sub for Emily Fox who was is in Covid protocol.)  The US struggled at times – as coach A continued his musical chair starting line-ups with 7 changes from last time out.  This time Midge Purse started underneath Morgan in a 2 forward approach – with Purge and Sophia Smith on the wings in a slightly less attacking position – Mexico actually got the first good shot on Murphy – as she sat behind a backline of Sonnett (subbing for Fox out with Covid), Saubraum, Girma, and O’hara  with Horan in the double #6 D mid role with Sulivan. To say it didn’t work would be an understatement.  The US really does need to turn to the new guard and let them play. Girma in the back middle, Sanchez at midfield with Horan #6, and Lavelle and let young wingers Push and Smith fly with Alex holding down the #9 slot.  It all starts tonight at 7 pm on CBS Sports Network (finally CBS – I still don’t understand why these games aren’t on big CBS – but at least ½ of the US can watch these Semi-Finals and Finals on cable without having to get Para+ (which will also broadcast them).  CBSSN does start coverage at 6 pmm the game at 7, a post game show 9-19, the Canada game at 10 pm and Postgame after.  Of course the final is Monday night 10 pm CBSSN with an Olympic Birth on the line!  Cool Behind the Crest with the US Ladies  Oh 11 Years ago 2 days ago Abby Wambach Did this to save the US ladies!  I have some great stories about Alex’s comeback, Huerta’s Switch and new centerback Grima in  The Ole Ballcoach

Shane’s Starting Line-Up Tonite vs Costa Rica (Depth Chart)


Sanchez/Horan /Lavelle



Indy 11 Ladies Lose 1st Round / Indy 11 Men @ NY Red Bulls Fri 7 pm Carmel Watch Party

The Indy Eleven host a cool downtown Carmel Watch Party this Friday night in the Carmel Midtown Plaza at 7 pm.  I am hoping to squeeze over and check it out for sure.  Indy’s next home game is vs Memphis next Sat, July 23 7 pm at the Mike-Tix are just $15 @ indyeleven.com/tickets. Indy Eleven’s successful inaugural season of play in the USL W League came to an abrupt end in Wed nights Quarterfinal Round of the Playoffs via a hard fought 1-2 loss at Minnesota Aurora FC in front over 6,200 fans at a sold out TCO Stadium in suburban Minneapolis. The hard luck result looked to be going the other way after Ella Rogers gave Indiana’s Team the lead late in the first half, but Minnesota stormed back in the second to ultimately take the playoff affair between two of the three unbeaten teams in the 44-team USL W League following regular season action. Disappointing end but a great season overall ladies!

MLS Bush League

After building up the debuts of Garath Bale and Gergio Chiilini last weekend in El Traffico LAFC vs La Galaxy – of course neither of them played. Oh and then my beloved Seattle Sounders got swamped at home 3-0 to Portland. I am done with MLS for awhile – I will post stories and that’s it.   

Around the World of Soccer
Bear puts soccer skills on display for neighborhood
– gives new meaning to he played like a bear. The Euro Ladies Championships have not disappointed with some great games to fill up our afternoons this summer – we are nearing the final games of the group stage tomorrow so far England, Germany and Sweden along with the Netherlands have all looked good.  Also in this summer of ladies soccer – the Copa America Ladies Championship is underway with the best teams in South America being featured in the eves 5 & 8 pm on FS1, and FS2.  (See full schedule below). Of course I have the weekly best Goalkeeping Saves and Interesting Reffing Calls sections in The Ole Ballcoach.   Who Remembers this classic World Cup Commercial from the 90s?  Angel City FC Celebrity Owners are Best Soccer Moms.

Just 1 Week of GK Training Left

Coach Shane is offering Extra Paid Training tor the high school aged Keepers this summer Tues/Thurs shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

And Coach Noelle is offering Extra PaidTraining to any age groups – this summer text 904-654-9011

Calling all High School Soccer Rec Players in Carmel!

Some of you have registered already but there are still many slow to sign up and teams are now in process at Dads Club. Tell your friends to get moving so they don’t miss a chance to play this fall. Space is limited and we cannot add more teams beyond what we have planned for. Sign up now- this league has no late fees! www.carmeldadsclub.org   317-846-1663

Calling all Middle School Soccer Players in Carmel- July 18-21!

Last Chance to Register for Carmel High School Girls – 2022 Middle School Camp – 6/7/8th Graders  $90 (includes T-shirt) July 18-21  Murray Stadium  2:30 to 4:30 pm   Of course high schoolers trying out for the ladies team need to attend the high school camp next week that ends with the CHS DeWayne Akin Invite next Fri/Sat at the River Road fields off 126th.


Thur, July 14

12 pm ESPN2                      Italy vs Iceland Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        France vs Belgium Euro Women’s Cup

7 pm CBSSN                CONCACAF Women’s Semi’s USA vs Costa Rica

10 pm CBSSN/Para+     CONCACAF Women’s Semi’s Canada vs Jamaica

Fri, July15

3 pm ESPN+                        Austria vs Norway Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        Northern Ireland vs England Euro Women’s Cup

7 pm ESPN+                Indy 11 @ NY Red Bulls  (Downtown Carmel Watch Party)

10 pm para+               San Diego Wave vs Racing Louisville NWSL

Sat, July 16

12 pm ESPN+                     Denmark vs Spain Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        Finland vs Germany Euro Women’s Cup

5 pm FS2                              Argentina vs Uraguay Copa America Womens

6 pm Univision            Atlas vs Cruz Azul

8pm FS1                               Peru vs Venezuela Copa America Womens

8 pm ESPN+                 Chicago Fire vs Seattle Sounders

10 pm FS1                   Monterrey vs America

10:30 pm para+          Portland Thorns vs Gothem NY NWSL

Sun, July 17

12 pm ESPN                        Switzerland vs Netherlands Euro Women’s Cup

12 pm ESPN+                     Sweden vs Portugal Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ABC                             Atlanta United vs Orlando City

5 pm ESPN                          NY Red Bulls vs NYCFC

5 pm FS1                              Chile vs Bolivia Copa America

7 pm para+                 KC Current vs Seattle Reign NWSL

7:30 pm FS1                        Columbus Crew vs Cincy

8 pm FS2                     Ecuador vs Colombia Copa America

10:30 pm ESPN+               Portland vs Vancouver

Mon, July 18

3 pm ESPN+                        Italy vs Belgium Euro Women’s Cup

3 pm ESPN2                        Iceland vs France Euro Women’s Cup

5 pm FS1                              Venezuela vs Brazil Copa America

7 pm CBSSN Para+       CONCACAF Womens 3rd   

8 pm FS1                              Peru vs Uraguay Copa America

10 pm CBSSN Para+     CONCACAF Women’s Finals USA? Canada 

Wed, July 20

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup QF

8 pm FS1                              Colombia vs Chile Copa America

8 pm FS2                              Ecudor vs Paaguay Copa America

Thur, July 21

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup QF2

8 pm FS1                              Brazil vs Peru Copa America

8 pm FS2                              Venezuela vs Argentina Copa America

Fri, July 22

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup QF3

8 pm FS1                              Brazil vs Peru Copa America

7:30 pm ESPN                    Bayern Munich vs Man City

Sat, July 23

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup QF4

7 pm TV23                  Indy 11 vs Memphis- The Mike

8 pm EPSN?                        Arsenal (Turner) vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

8:30 pm ABC                       Houston Dynamo vs Minn United

10 pm ESPN+                     Seattle vs Colorado

Sun, July 24

9:30 pm FS1                        Atlanta united vs LA Galaxy

Mon, July 25

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Semi 1

8 pm FS1                              Copa America Semi 1

Tue, July 26

8 pm FS1                              Copa America Semi 2

Wed, July 27

3 pm ESPN2                        Euro Women’s Cup Semi 2

Fri, July 29

8 pm FS2                              Copa America 3rd

11 pm FS1                            LAFC vs Seattle Sounders

Sat, July 30

12 noon ESPN+                 Liverpool vs Man City Community Shield

2:30 pm ESPN+                  RB Liepzig vs Bayern Munich  Supercup

 3 pm ABC                            Minn United vs Portland Timbers

7 pm TV 8                   Indy 11 vs Tampa Bay Rowdies The Mike

8 pm ESPN+                        Cincy v Inter Miami  

9 pm ESPN+                        LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Matt Hedges)

Sun, July 31

12 noon ESPN                    Euro Women’s Cup FINAL                           

5 pm ESPN+                        DC united vs Orlando City

8 pm FS2                              Santos Laguna vs Atlas  

Indy 11 Schedule

NWSL Women’s Schedule

MLS National TV Schedule

World Cup Schedule

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

USA Women

Watch tonight’s game with The American Outlaws Indy at Union Jack’s Pub in Broad Ripple

The USWNT Concacaf roster

Goalkeepers: Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars).

Defenders: Alana Cook (OL Reign), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit).

Midfielders: Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon), Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit).

Forwards: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (San Diego Wave FC), Midge Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC).


2022 CONCACAF W Championship: Scouting Costa Rica By Brendan Joseph S&S

2022 Concacaf W Championship: USA 1-0 Mexico – La Tri played hard, but the Americans stayed perfect By Parker Cleveland  S&S
Analysis: USWNT keeps momentum going at CONCACAF W Championship but wasn’t easy against Mexico

US Ladies with Unconvincing Win over Mexico – the 18

US ladies Win

Why the USWNT without Alex Morgan was an absurd idea  ESPNFC Gwendolyn Oxenham, sp
USWNT’s Sofia Huerta started with Mexico, then moved from forward to defender. Is the World Cup next?
   hJeff Kassouf ESPNFC

US Sanchez shares tender moment with College Teammate after win over Mexico

USWNT to Play Niigeria in Sept Friendlies – Woopie – not sure why we play these crap teams! 

Get to Know Trinity Rodman

Getting to Know Casey Murphy

Mexico Women’s Coach and Soccer Director out

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Women’s Soccer Euro’s

Germany see off Spain to reach Euro quarters
Germany punish Spanish carelessness to seal Euro 2022 quarter-final 

England set Euro record in eight-goal rout of Norway

England Eviscerated 11th best team in the world
Austria push Northern Ireland towards Euro 2022 exit

Netherlands rally to hold Sweden in clash of Euro 2022 contenders

Portugal and Switzerland produce dazzling Women’s Euros draw

Three talking points from the first week of Euro 2022


Analyzing which USMNT players got the best moves

Pulisic or maybe Chris Richards to Leeds?

De La Torre headed to La Liga

Gaga – Chicago GK Gabriel Slonina headed to Chelsea
Who should start for the USMNT at the 2022 World Cup?


Has Chelsea gotten ‘proper return’ for Pulisic?

Summer of USMNT Soccer hi-lights video


Wayne Rooney unveiled as new DC United manager
More with less: why Wayne Rooney may just be the ideal fit for DC United

Gareth Bale says he’s at LAFC to win trophies, not to retire

L.A. was Bale’s refuge from the scrutiny of Madrid. Now it’s his home
  21hKyle Bonagura ESPN
El Tráfico: New-look LAFC keeps rolling and picks up victory over rival Galaxy

2022 MLS All-Star Game: Rosters, start time, more




REFFING This Crazy Game

How about these Calls _ MLS ?  

Ref Question    Whats the Right Call

Funny Mike Dean Story – EPL Ref who just retired


Hawler from Spain GK – gifts Germany the Win

Top Euro Women Goalkeeper Saves

Great Save Copa America

Best Women Goalkeepers Saves

Great Saves Women’s Champions League 2022

Checkout These Saves

Proper Form Saves Scoops

Indy 11

Historic First Season for Indy 11 Women ends in Defeat at Minn Aurora

Indy 11 lose to Women’s League top new team Min

Men Lose 3rd in Row to Detroit this time

Indy 11 Park Announced

Indy 11 Park

USWNT vs. Costa Rica, 2022 Concacaf W Championship semifinals: What to watch for

Now, a push for the Olympics and a title. By Donald Wine II@ S&S

The United States Women’s National Team have completed the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship and have secured a place at the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and next up is a date with Costa Rica tomorrow night in the semifinals. The USWNT have not played particularly well despite going undefeated in the group stage without conceding a goal, but now they focus on getting to the final, where they will get a chance to go for the automatic spot in the 2024 Olympics.Standing in their way is Costa Rica, who played pretty well in the group stage, qualifying 2nd in Group B. The loss to Canada on Monday was their only blemish in group play. They have been defensively sound, and they have a couple of players that can change a game for Las Ticas. The USWNT will need to begin to play the type of soccer that they’re capable of playing in order to pass this test and move onto the final.

 What To Watch For

Vlatko needs to pick his starters. It’s high time for USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski to decide what his best lineup is and go with it. The time for experimenting with lineups is over, and you go with the players you trust in the formation that best gives them a chance to succeed.

The midfield needs to be creative. The USWNT were missing some creativity in the first half, and it showed in how stagnant the attack felt. After making subs in the 2nd half, the creativity level increased tremendously, particularly on the flanks. The USWNT needs to have that creative midfield lineup out there from the stop, and it would help if Emily Fox is able to clear COVID protocols and be healthy enough to return to the lineup.

Play sharp. This match is super important, and the USWNT cannot give Costa Rica any chances to take advantage. The team has not played sharp throughout this tournament, and that sharp, mistake free soccer needs to return tomorrow night.


There is still some struggle as Costa Rica does their best to keep themselves in it. Two late goals give the USWNT a 2-0 victory and a trip to the final.



The USWNT beat Mexico 1-0 on Monday night, finishing the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship

  • With a semifinal game against Costa Rica coming up later this week, let’s talk about what the U.S. still needs to accomplish in this tournament

It wasn’t pretty, but the U.S. finished the group stage at the Concacaf W Championship with a 1-0 win over Mexico on Monday night. That result helped the USWNT secure the top spot in Group A and set up a semifinal match against Costa Rica on Thursday.Now that the group stage is over, what does the United States still need to do at the W Championship?Let’s talk about that.


Simple, right?

Qualifying for the Olympics was always one of the two results-based goals for the USWNT heading into this tournament down in Mexico. The other goal was to qualify for the World Cup, which the United States did after two games. To qualify for the 2024 Olympics, the U.S. needs to make it past Costa Rica in the semis and then take down their next opponent, likely Canada, in the final.With all of the USWNT’s quality players, they’re more than capable of winning the W Championship and earning that auto-qualification spot for 2024. But being capable of winning this tournament isn’t enough. Making it to the final – and then winning it – is a must for the United States. After finishing third at the Olympics last summer, these next two games are two of the biggest of Vlatko Andonovski’s tenure. Because the U.S. underperformed in Tokyo, it’s critical that they improve and get results over this next week. Unfortunately for the U.S., Monday’s game against Mexico doesn’t give themmuch momentum. It was the worst of their three group stage games by some distance: there were far too many sloppy touches, poor passes, and questionable tactical choices. The United States’ only goal came late in the game once Mexico had already gone down to 10 players.3235bd17138fa%3A1657578976990&width=550px KRISTIE IN THE 89TH 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸IC.TWITTER.COM/8RHSJZ4PXJ

Overall, the game felt eerily similar to the USWNT’s matches at last year’s Olympics, albeit with much lower stakes. The U.S will need to be sharper and more consistent in the knockout rounds if they want to win this tournament.


It’s becoming increasingly clear that the United States’ new guard is ready to change games. That new guard includes an immensely talented group of young forwards (see: Mallory Pugh and Sophia Smith). It also includes creative midfielder Ashley Sanchez and up-and-coming center back Naomi Girma. At least one, if not both, of the USWNT’s young wingers is going to start however many games the U.S. has left in Mexico. But setting the forward group aside, I think Andonovski should continue to start Sanchez in the midfield and Grima in the back in the knockout rounds. Girma was strong defensively in both of her group stage starts, one against Jamaica and one against Mexico. Her patience and quick reads help her elevate the United States’ backline. More than that, she looks like an upgrade over Becky Sauerbrunn in pretty much every phase of play. I’m not sure if Andonovski would be willing to start Girma over Sauerbrunn, a U.S. legend, in big games at this tournament, but I think he should consider it.And then there’s Sanchez. Sanchez tries stuff, people. Her ambition on the ball, creativity in the attack, and defensive mobility make her an extremely valuable presence for the USWNT. She’s appeared in all three games for the U.S. so far, mostly playing as a No. 8, but also playing some as a No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1 against Mexico (more on that later). I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the U.S. had their best attacking performance against Jamaica when Sanchez and Rose Lavelle started together in central midfield. At this point, Sanchez has shown that she should be starting as one of the No. 8s.


Before this tournament, Andonovski mentioned that the United States might play with a “double six”. They did just that for long stretches against Mexico on Monday, with Andi Sullivan and Lindsey Horan sitting deeper in midfield.

The U.S. had the edge on Mexico, but they didn’t play well. The 4-2-3-1 shape (or, at the very least, a super lopsided 4-3-3 with Horan playing lower on the left and Sanchez playing higher on the right) and the USWNT’s execution in that shape was poor, to say the least. With both Sullivan and Horan sitting deep, there was a massive gap between the back four/double pivot and the front three/No. 10. That gap forced Sullivan into too much distribution. In general, she struggled to control the game and her errant passing hurt the USWNT. As the game wore on, the U.S. primarily advanced the ball through long balls over the top from Sullivan and Horan, which didn’t lead to many meaningful chances. You can see that gap in midfield in this image, with Horan setting up for a ball over the top.Looking a little higher up the field, Sanchez didn’t get enough touches playing as a No. 10 or even as a second forward next to Alex Morgan. Finally, because Andonovski flipped the central midfield shape and because the fullbacks were very reserved, there weren’t as many FB-CM-W combinations. As the clock ticked towards 90 minutes, the U.S. reverted to hopeful long balls and scattered play even against a 10-player defense.With all of those attacking issues in mind, the United States should stay away from the 4-2-3-1 and go back to the 4-3-3 against Costa Rica.If the U.S. can find their attacking rhythm and create consistent chances with the possession that most opposing teams give them, they’ll be in great shape. If not…we’ll all be reliving last summer’s Olympics.

Key takeaways and standout performers of the CONCACAF W Championship so far

By Meg Linehan and Steph Yang Jul 12, 2022

After eight days in Monterrey at the CONCACAF W Championship, the U.S., Canada, Jamaica and Costa Rica are World Cup-bound. Haiti and Panama, meanwhile, have booked their tickets to the intercontinental playoff in February. And Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago have ended their tournament runs in last place in their respective groups — particularly disappointing and shocking for the host country, which has now missed out on the last two World Cups.The USWNT will play Costa Rica in the first semifinal on July 14 at 7 p.m. ET, then Canada faces Jamaica in the late game at 10 p.m. ET — both are back at Estadio Universitario. The winners of these matches will face off in the final for that single 2024 Olympic qualifying spot. For all the changes to the tournament and the excitement around the results in Group A, the group stage still felt like the same old chaotic, confusing CONCACAF we all know: full of physicality, weather playing a factor and a handful of strange officiating decisions as a bonus. There’s not much of point in a direct comparison between the W Championship and Euros on pretty much any front, but it also makes sense why some USWNT fans are looking at the quality of England, France and Germany early in the group stage across the Atlantic and feeling some nerves. To be fair, the Euros being delayed to 2022 only fans the flames a bit here too — the preparation for next summer’s World Cup is going to be far more helpful for UEFA teams than anything the W Championship presents.Now, at least, the next few games will all feature World Cup-qualified teams and the stakes will be higher than CONCACAF bragging rights. But there’s plenty to consider from the group stage before we turn to the semifinals.

So what did we learn?

Group A

It’s still a little silly to call Group A the “group of death” when there are only two groups in the tournament (it hasn’t stopped us, but we know it’s silly), but Jamaica and Haiti came through with massive performances in the group stage and are as much the story for their success as is Mexico for their catastrophic elimination.Haiti should feel good about their chances in the playoff tournament in February — their opponents are still largely TBD, but they will try to hang on to all of their momentum from their matches against the U.S. and Mexico. Jamaica didn’t let the pressure of the group or the 5-0 loss to the U.S. get to them, but they can make a real statement about their World Cup hopes in this semifinal against Canada. As for the U.S., yes, they had a “perfect” group stage performance, with three wins and a +9 goal differential. But beyond the 5-0 win over Jamaica, there was no performance that will assuage concerns about the readiness of this team, and there was no real trending growth across the three matches to speak of. Part of this is due to the high expectations for the team: steamrolling their way through CONCACAF, even as those days of majorly lopsided results are probably gone. The bigger question here for the U.S. is the overall development of a team halfway through the transition between the 2021 Olympics and the 2023 World Cup.“I have to say, if you ask me if we’re ready to go into the World Cup, into a competitive World Cup tomorrow, we’re probably not ready for it,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said in his presser. “But are we going to be ready in a year? Absolutely. I’m very happy with the development of the team and the development of the individuals in the team, as well. I think that we’re doing a good job and we’re moving in the right direction.”Captain Becky Sauerbrunn agreed, when asked the same question, saying the team was right on track. 

“Vlatko, since the Olympics, has kind of changed up the team, brought in a lot of new faces,” she said. “Let go of a couple of faces. So it takes a little bit of time to really get on the same page and to start gelling. Even during this tournament, he’s played a bunch of different relationships, a lot of different people. We’re still cementing those relationships and that’s what you really need going into 2023.”Trying to accurately assess those answers from the outside, especially with the lack of games against other top-ranked teams in 2022, is a tough undertaking. And, not to beat the same drum again and again, but the same questions keep coming up about the USWNT when it comes to decision-making, finishing and their overall readiness. There’s a good, dynamic team still at the heart of this project, with a ton of exciting talent. But for all the talk about joy last summer during the Olympics, we’ve seen a lot less of it than expected so far in 2022.

Group B

Group B, on the other hand, played out pretty much exactly as expected when it came to the results. Canada, coming off their Olympic gold-medal run last year, came out on top unbeaten in three with the biggest goal differential of +9. Costa Rica right behind them. 

The biggest question mark was probably between Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, with Panama emerging as the grittier team — not just in their game against T&T, but in their resolute defiance of Canada, in what ended up a 1-0 loss. Afterwards, multiple Canadian players and head coach Bev Priestman talked about their frustration with Panama’s fouls, injuries, and other time management tactics (and credited them for it, as the disruptions worked). Canada also had trouble effectively breaking Panama down, with the majority of their shots having to come outside the box. Certainly they dominated the game, but when a team is getting one goal off of 13 shots and 69% possession, it’s cause for concern.

The best performances through the group stage for the USWNT…

Naomi Girma, center back

Sauerbrunn had to glance at the USWNT press officer on Monday night to confirm she had never actually started alongside Girma before the match against Mexico — but if you were new to watching the team, you would have thought Girma had a lot more than three caps under her belt. Girma needed to be fast-tracked in terms of her role on the USWNT backline thanks to injuries befalling both Tierna Davidson and Abby Dahlkemper, but her performances so far have proven we shouldn’t worry about the first pick in the 2022 NWSL draft slotting in and performing at the international level. Hopefully, Andonovski goes all in on Girma for the semifinals and final, too.

Casey Murphy, goalkeeper

Raise your hand if you had Murphy starting two out of the three group stage games. We can’t see them, but it’s hard to think a ton of you had them raised with Alyssa Naeher back in both the USWNT roster and the NWSL. While Murphy didn’t get a huge test from Mexico, she had to make some saves against Haiti — and ultimately, this is all extremely helpful in ensuring she’s ready to either step in for Naeher, or make a run at the No. 1 spot on the goalkeeping depth chart. Andonovski has talked about giving meaningful games to his back-up in case an injury suddenly changes things, but he’s got another big opportunity here to potentially split the final two games between Murphy and Naeher. With that Olympic spot on the line, Naeher’s the safe bet for the final, but why not give Murphy a knockout game for the experience?


While players have had good individual games or halves, the team overall seems to not quite be in the groove together. Sophia Smith stood out in the second game against Jamaica. Midge Purce sometimes seemed to cruise past Mexico. Alex Morgan showed early brilliance against Haiti. Ashley Sanchez had some real moments in the midfield when she got on the field, but it’s probably not enough to change up the starting three of Lindsey Horan, Rose Lavelle and Andi Sullivan for the remaining games.Of note, this is the longest the national team has been together in quite a while, between their friendlies against Colombia and then coming directly to Monterrey. “I think that obviously, this is a really long time being together,” said Kristie Mewis after the game against Mexico, in which she came off the bench to score a late winner. “It’s a long tournament. But I think all of us have been through it before. We have a lot of experienced players and we’re staying busy. We’re staying in a great hotel. We’re going to practice every day, grinding. So it’s been really good. Obviously, it’s a long, hard journey, but I think all of us are ready for it.” 

No comment on the team maybe going a little stir crazy at their hotel

…and beyond

Melchie Dumornay, Haiti

Dumornay has been a complete and total menace in this tournament, in very exciting ways. And she’s 19! Usually, the breakout stars of CONCACAF tournaments (at least in the U.S.) are goalkeepers that stand on their heads against the USWNT, but Dumornay’s rave reviews are extremely well-deserved, and her eventual transfer fee is going to be a very fun number. 

Marta Cox, Panama 

Cox carries a heavy load for Panama in their midfield, asked to be both a playmaker and scorer. She’s shown her ability to distribute with both lovely threaded balls on the ground and medium-range balls over to try to pick out teammates. 

Julia Grosso, Canada 

Grosso has been a bright spot for a Canada team that is still not sure of how to get where they want to go, at least when it comes to converting possession into goals or having the willingness to shoot the ball more and think less. Grosso is the one who really broke things open for Canada against Trinidad & Tobago and she scored their lone goal against Panama. It’s not surprising that Canada would rest her against Costa Rica, looking ahead to the knockout rounds; she’s clearly been essential as a gamechanger and tempo-setter in this tournament.

It’s the hope that kills you

For a few moments on Monday night, all Mexico needed was a single goal to somehow salvage their W Championship performance. With Jamaica up 4-0 on Haiti at BBVA Stadium at the same time, a single goal and a win over the USWNT would have been enough to catapult them into third place in Group A and send them to the intercontinental playoff. For so much of the game, their focus was on limiting the U.S. and minimizing the risks of any forward attack of their own, but as the end of regulation time approached and Jamaica ran up the score, there was suddenly a new hope — and a tangible one that spread throughout the crowd as La Banda de Tigres helped soundtrack the supportive chants — that a result could maybe come through for La Tri.

And despite the red card issued to Jacqueline Ovalle in the 73rd minute after video review of her tackle on Rose Lavelle (side note: not sure we needed to see Lavelle’s ankle bend like that as many times as we did on replay, and she walked gingerly with a slight limp through the mixed zone on the way to the team bus after the game), Mexico had their chances until the final whistle. The crowd held up their phones with flashlights lit, a constellation of their continued hope. Instead, it was another deflating wait for VAR to determine if Kristie Mewis’s goal in the 89th minute would stand. It did. Despite the eight minutes of stoppage time, despite the final turn to desperation on the attack, Mexico ended their group stage without scoring a single goal.The frustration with head coach Mónica Vergara hasn’t exactly been a secret over the past couple of matches, especially after the loss to Haiti. On Monday night, the crowd booed her name after the announcement of the starting XI. The tone of her postgame press conference was far more polite on both sides, though she entered the room on a clear mission to underline the greater project of women’s football in Mexico and the need for support, rather than dissect the team’s performance through the group stage. With every tweet from Mexico’s account awash with replies of #FueraMonicaVergara, from the front row it felt like a coach who clearly knew her fate but hoped to get her message through. Vergara spoke like a person who had plenty of reason to worry that this performance wouldn’t just affect her own job security, but the support for the national team, even the idea of women’s football itself.

The best atmosphere of the tournament so far

The late game on Monday at Estadio Universitario featured the best crowd of the tournament, with 20,522 fans in attendance for USA vs. Mexico. Generally, the crowd was extremely supportive of Mexico, rather than outright hostile toward the U.S. (and they weren’t shy about cheering for Alex Morgan or Megan Rapinoe at a few points during the night, though never while they were on the ball).“As the atmosphere was getting fired up, our team started losing the focus of the tempo,” Andonovski said after the game. In the mixed zone, the players didn’t quite make that same leap, but had a common theme of appreciation for the environment and what it provided the team in terms of preparation.“It’s absolutely critical to have games like this,” Sauerbrunn told reporters. “The last time I played Mexico in Mexico was 2010 qualifiers, and it did not go well that night. It’s really hard to replicate these types of games with this type of crowd. The home crowd wasn’t exactly hostile, but it definitely wasn’t cheering for us. I think this is great; the more experience the younger players can get in this kind of environment is crucial going into 2023.”As one of those younger players, Purce could only smile when asked about the experience of playing on Monday night. “Oh, that’s a dream,” she said. “When you’re young and you see the national team playing, you want to play at Wembley, you want to play in Mexico in front of the best fans in the world. They were fantastic, and I hope I get to do it again one day.”
As absent as the promotion of the tournament has been, the vibe inside the stadiums has been pretty fun. On Monday night, the playlist remained the same before both matches, but it’s hard to go wrong with classic Shakira and Selena songs, though at one point the new CONCACAF anthem from Skip Marley got put on repeat. It’s one