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

Games to Watch this Weekend

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

US Ladies vs Colombia Tonight 7 pm ESPN2

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

US Men – play next Sun 7 pm on FS1.

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

FA Cup on ESPN+

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

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 22

2:45 ESPN+                       Chorley vs Wolverhampton FA Cup

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

3 pm beIN Sport                PSG vs Montipellier

7 pm ESPN2 USA Ladies vs Colombia

Sat,  Jan 23

                              (FA Cup Games on ESPN+)

7:15 ESPN+                         Southampton vs Arsenal FA Cup

10 am ESPN+                      Bournemouth vs Crawley Town

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

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

12:30 pm ESPN+               Cheltenham Town vs Man City

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

3 pm beIn Sport                     Alaves vs Real Madrid

Sun, Jan 24

6:30 am ESPN2                    Juve vs Bologna 

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

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

12 noon ESPN+                  Man United vs Liverpool FA Cup

3 pm EPSN+                         Everton vs Sheffield Wednesday

3 pm beIn Sport                   Atletico Madrid vs Valencia 

Mon,  Jan 25

2:45 ESPN+                         Wycombe Wanderers vs Tottenham FA Cup

Tues,  Jan 26

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

Weds,  Jan 27

1 pm NBCSN                      Chelsea (Pulisic ) vs Wolverhampton

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

3:!5 pm NBCSN                Everton vs Leicester City

Thurs  Jan 28

3 pm NBCSN                     Tottenham vs Liverpool

Sun, Jan 31

7 pm FS1                            US Men vs Trinidad and Tobago

USA Women


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

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

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

USA MEN

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

WORLD

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

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

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

Title-chasing Leicester suffer Vardy blow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

USWNT vs Colombia, 2021 friendly: What we learned

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

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

The Mewii are on fire.

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

The high pressure is suffocating and exciting.

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

Sandra Sepúlveda was the player of the match.

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

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

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

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

by The Associated Press, Updated: January 19, 2021

  •  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • ESPN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Americans in Europe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few minutes with … Brenden Aaronson

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

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

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scouting report: Owen Otasowie

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

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

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

Games to Watch this Weekend

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

USA

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

FA Cup

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

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat,  Jan 16

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

9:30 ESPN+                          Dortmund (Reyna) vs Mainz

10 am NBCNS                     Leeds vs Brighton

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

3 pm Peacock                       Leicester City vs Southampton 

Sun, Jan 17

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                  Napoli vs Fiorentina 

7  am Peacock                      Aston Villa vs Everton 

9  am NBCSN                       Sheffield United vs Tottenham 

9:30 am ESPN+                    Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

12:30 am Peacock               Liverpool vs Man United

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

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

Mon, Jan 18

3 pm NBCSN                       Arsenal vs New Castle (Yedlin)

7 pm FS1                              US Women vs Colombia  

Tues, Jan 19

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

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

Wed, Jan 20

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Man City vs Aston Villa

3:15 pm ?                             Fulham vs Man United

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

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

Fri, Jan 22

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

7 pm ESPN2                         US Women vs Colombia  

Sat,  Jan 23

                              (FA Cup Games in England 10 am ESPN+)

10 am ESPN+                      Chorley vs Wolverhampton FA Cup

10 am ESPN+                      Man United vs Liverpool FA Cup

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

Sun, Jan 24

6:30 am ESPN2                    Juve vs Bologna 

9:30 am ESPN+                    Schalke vs Bayern Munich

3 pm beIn Sport                    Atletico Madrid vs Valencia 

USA

Americans Abroad – SI Avi creditor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPL


Manchester United-Liverpool Preview

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

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

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

Wayne Rooney retires to become permanent Derby manager

World

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

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

Athletic knocks out Madrid to reach Super Cup final vs Barça

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

MLS

Indy 11 forward Tyler Pasher signs with MLS Houston Dynamo

Official: Toronto name Chris Armas head coach

Extratime: Are Portland strong enough to compete for CCL?

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

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

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Jan 11, 2021Gabriele MarcottiSenior Writer, ESPN FC

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

Match-winner Pogba sends United top ahead of Liverpool showdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan 12, 2021

  • Tor-Kristian Karlsen

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

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

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

Where has he come from?

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

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

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

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1:58

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

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

Position

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

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

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1:28

Matthew Hoppe recounts ‘amazing’ La Masia experience

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

Strengths

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

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

Tor-Kristian Karlsen

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

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

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

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

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

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Klinsmann: Matthew Hoppe’s heroics are a fairytale story

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

Weaknesses

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

What’s next?

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

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

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

  • Jurgen Klinsmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Klinsmann: Matthew Hoppe’s heroics are a fairytale story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BRIAN STRAUSJAN 12, 2021

  •  

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

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

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

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

John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports

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

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

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

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

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

BY

 BRIAN STRAUS

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

FA CUP

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

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

Games to Watch this Weekend

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

USA

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

 

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri, Jan 8

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

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

Sat,  Jan 9

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

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

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

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

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

3 pm ESPN+                         Man United vs Watford FA Cup

Sun, Jan 10

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                            Roma vs Inter 

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

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

12 noon ESPN+                   Marine vs Tottenham FA Cup

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

Wed, Jan 13

3:15 pm NBCSN?                Aston Villa vs Tottenham 

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

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

Fri, Jan 15

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

Mon, Jan 18

7 pm FS1                              US Women vs Colombia  

Fri, Jan 22

7 pm ESPN2                         US Women vs Colombia  

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

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

US Ladies Called in For Jan 18 + Jan 22 Games

 

USA Men

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

INDY 11

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Premier League Club Power Rankings: 2020-21 Methodology

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

Here are our considerations:

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

Premier League Club Power Rankings: Vol. III

20. Sheffield United

October: 17
November: 20

Why? You serious, Clark?

19. West Bromwich Albion

October: 18
November: 18

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

18. Brighton and Hove Albion

October: 13
November: 14

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

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

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

It’s wild.

17. Fulham

October: 20
November: 17

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

16. Burnley

October: 19
November: 19

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

15. Newcastle United

October: 16
November: 16

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

14. Crystal Palace

October: 11
November: 11

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

13. Leeds United

October: 5
November: 15

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

12. Wolves

October: 14
November: 6

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

11. Arsenal

October: 9
November: 10

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

10. West Ham United

October: 7
November: 12

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

9. Aston Villa

October: 2
November: 9

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

8. Chelsea

October: 6
November: 4

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

7. Southampton

October: 15
November: 5

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

6. Tottenham Hotspur

October: 3
November: 1

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

5. Leicester City

October: 8
November: 3

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

4. Everton

October: 1
November: 7

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

3. Liverpool

October: 4
November: 2

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

2. Manchester United

October: 12
November: 13

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

1. Manchester City

October: 10
November: 8

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

Guardiola heaps praise on USMNT’s Steffen

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

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

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

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

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

Aston Villa

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

Fairly cross on the Mersey

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

Mourinho heads for tier eight

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

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

Chorley not?

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

Emphasis on U-23s, Olympic Qualifying Group

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

BRIAN STRAUS JAN 5, 2021   SI

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

SENIOR ROSTER

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

GOALKEEPERS

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

DEFENDERS

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

MIDFIELDERS

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

FORWARDS

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

UNDER-23 ROSTER

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

GOALKEEPERS

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

DEFENDERS

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

MIDFIELDERS

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

FORWARDS

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

Armchair Analyst: Explaining the two USMNT rosters for January

January 5, 20213:04PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

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

Q: “Why the age cut-off?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q: “What’s the point, then?”

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

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

Q: “So that means…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FORWARD: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC)

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

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

EPL

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

USA

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

MLS

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

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

Carmel FC

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

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 1

1 pm Peacock                                Everton vs West Ham

3 pm Peacock                                Man City vs Aston Villa 

Sat, Jan 2  

7:30 am Peacock                           Tottenham vs Leeds

12:30 pm NBC                                  Brighton vs Wolverhampton

12:30 ESPN+                                     Hertha Berlin vs Schalke 

3 pm NBCSN ?                               West Brom vs Arsenal

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

Sun, Jan 3

6:30 amESPN2                                  Inter vs Crotone

7 am NBCSN                                      Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

9:15  am NBCSN                               New Castle vs Leicester

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

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

2:45 ESPN+                                     Udinese vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                           Huesca vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Jan 4

3 pm NBCSN                                   Southampton vs Liverpool

Wed, Jan 6

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

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

5:15 pm beIN Sport            Boca Juniors vs Santos  

Fri, Jan 8

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

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

Sat,  Jan 9

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

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

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

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

3 pm ESPN+                         Man United vs Watford FA Cup

Sun, Jan 10

6:30 am ESPN2 ?                  Roma vs Inter  

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

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

12 noon ESPN+                    Marine vs Tottenham FA Cup

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

Wed, Jan 13

3:15 pm NBCSN?                               Aston Villa vs Tottenham  

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

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

Fri, Jan 15

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

Top Soccer Stories of the Year Avi Creditor SI

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

USA

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

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

Cobi Jones announces US Soccer vice president candidacy

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

MLS

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

Seltzer: 5 possible MLS fits for Lionel Messi

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

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

Doyle: What 2020 meant for all 26 clubs

Schmetzer writes letter to Sounders fans after MLS Cup defeat

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

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

EPL 


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

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

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

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

 World  

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

Why PSG will replace Tuchel with Pochettino

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

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

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

 INDY 11  

$25 Down Gets your 2021 Season Tickets on Hold

Get to Know: Cal Jennings

Former Butler University Standout Jared Timmer Signs with Indy Eleven

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

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

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

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

Carmel FC

Carmel Dad’s Club Field House to Open in 2021

Lampard has special praise for USMNT star Pulisic

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

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

Premier League news

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

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

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

What next for Pulisic?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22. That Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira find some place to play when their contracts expire next June. Both joined Real Madrid a decade ago, both have been shut out for most of 2020 in part because of their enormous contracts and because they couldn’t be moved on (and did not want to take a pay cut). I don’t want to remember these two World Cup winners as sad-sack figures training by themselves while being called greedy.

23. That Kai Havertz finds a place to play on the pitch at Chelsea even if it takes time. Especially when you see him in person, you realize what a singular talent he is. But equally, how accommodating him at this stage of his development is far from easy. He’s young. Be patient.

24. That Jurgen Klopp sees out his contract with Liverpool. Yes, he has already delivered the Premier League and Champions League. Yes, he has built a team that is once again top of the league. So if someone comes calling, sure, few would begrudge him leaving despite having committed himself to the club through 2024. But what he’s doing is pretty special and the Premier League is richer for having him around.

25. That Manchester United find their mojo, with or without Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. It’s true that it was good for other clubs to emerge after the hegemony of the Sir Alex Ferguson Era. But it’s been a long time since United ruled, and what’s most perplexing is the sense of perennial drift that’s been around since then. Managers have come and gone, but the decision-makers above them have stayed the same. And yet it still doesn’t feel they’re building toward anything. It can’t all be down to the manager.26. That Paul Pogba regains his smile, whether it’s at Old Trafford or elsewhere. The punditocracy — mostly ex-pros, mostly ex-United “Golden Era” players who seem hellbent on holding everyone to the standard they set (or that they think they set) — appears to take great delight in pointing out his every flaw. He’s not perfect, but he’s supremely talented and fun to watch. And that word “lazy” gets thrown around far too much when it comes to Pogba.

27. That all three of Milan’s high-profile free agents — Gianluigi DonnarummaHakan Calhanoglu and Zlatan Ibrahimovic — stick around after their deals expire in June… but if it’s going to be too expensive, there’s no question who you prioritize. (It’s Donnarumma, by far the youngest of the three.) All three have played a big part in Milan’s renaissance and Scudetto challenge this season, but none of them is indispensable. The system that has been built and the young players that have come on board… that’s what will drive Milan going forward.

28. That Neymar stays fit and stays productive. I feel like I say this every year. He’s not in the Messi/Ronaldo conversation, and he never will be. But I don’t want to see a guy of his ability somehow be surpassed by the next generation — the Erling Haaland/Kylian Mbappe cohort — either.

29. That Borussia Dortmund keep this crew together for a while and get them the leadership they need to succeed. They’ve gotten plenty of pats on the back as the “smartest guys in the room” for assembling that hugely impressive corps of young talent: Jadon Sancho, Haaland, Reyna, Jude Bellingham and, now, Youssoufa Moukoko, too. They’re also honest in admitting that they can’t retain them long-term. OK. So sacrifice one, get a coach who can squeeze the best out of them and persuade them to win something big — something really big — before they’re sold on.

30. That kids who fall in love with the sport be given the chance, first and foremost, to support their local club before jumping on the big juggernaut/club bandwagon simply because it’s pumped relentlessly onto their screens. Yes, this is cut-and-pasted from last year, but it’s worth repeating. And it’s the one wish over which we hav

The Top Stories From an Atypical Year Across World Soccer

2020 has been full of unprecedented obstacles, sadness, revitalization and triumph, and that’s been represented across multiple levels of the beautiful game.

AVI CREDITOR  SI  DEC 23, 2020

Well, it certainly has been a year.The story of 2020 will always be told through the lenses of the coronavirus pandemic and the quest for social justice, and the same is true of global soccer’s last 12 months (more specifically, the last nine). It’s impossible to separate one from the other when considering how much leagues, players and organizations around the world were forced to adapt, postpone, acknowledge and sacrifice.For a time in the spring, the only active leagues in the world were found in Belarus, Tajikistan, Burundi and Nicaragua. Slowly, the beautiful game returned elsewhere, but not in a way we were accustomed to seeing and enjoying it. The bubbles, empty stadiums, fake crowd noise and COVID-19-related postponements and player absences provided the ultimate wrinkles and norm-shattering elements to a regular schedule that we all take for granted.Through it all, champions were crowned, players progressed and broke through, the business sides labored and new heroes, stars and focal points emerged. Here’s a look back at the year in global soccer, the most impactful moments, individuals, story lines and events that occurred on and off the field, accompanied by some of Sports Illustrated’s top stories of the year that told it all:

How Europe brought its leagues back

The Bundesliga was the first major league in Europe to resume play, setting a model for those that would follow. Countries had to abide by local guidelines and governmental decisions, and not all chose to resume. France’s Ligue 1 and the Netherlands’ Eredivisie, for instance, did not, and champions, relegation and European places were determined in ways that clearly left some unhappy parties.

The Champions League was postponed until all the remaining leagues could finish their domestic seasons, and even then, it was reduced to a single-elimination sprint in one country from the quarterfinals on. That UEFA and the individual associations reached the finish line at all deserved the plaudits they received and set the parameters for how to resume in the fall.

RELATED FEATURES

STRAUS: Behind the scenes of behind closed doors: How the Bundesliga returned

STRAUS: The inside story of La Liga’s return to action

CREDITOR: Fake fan noise on broadcasts provides comfort, but it’s disingenuous

Player of the year

The cancellation of the Ballon d’Or robbed Robert Lewandowski of one player of the year award, but he took him FIFA’s best honor, and rightly so. With 55 goals in all competitions in the 2019–20 season, Lewandowski cemented his status as the world’s preeminent striker. He won the golden boots in the Bundesliga, Champions League and DFB Pokal, three competitions that his Bayern Munich side not-so-coincidentally won as well.

At 32, he’s in the form of his life, and with 17 goals in 13 Bundesliga games, he’s well on his way to a fourth straight Bundesliga golden boot and sixth in eight years. He just became the third player ever to score 250 goals in Germany’s top flight, and he finally has the individual accolades to recognize his greatness. 

RELATED FEATURE

WILSON: Robert Lewandowski’s unusual, volcano-altered path to becoming The Best 

 Team of the year

Dovetailing with Lewandowski’s success is that of Bayern, which was ruthless after the Bundesliga’s restart and resurgent after Hansi Flick replaced Niko Kovac on the bench. The club has lost a total of one (1) match in 48 across all competitions this calendar year (42-1-5), winning the treble, adding the German Super Cup and eyeing the FIFA Club World Cup this coming February.

Its dominance peaked in an 8–2 thrashing of Barcelona in the Champions League quarterfinals, which sent the Spanish power reeling and into full-blown crisis mode.

Its true that the repeated and expected domestic titles for clubs like Bayern, PSG and Juventus say plenty about the state of affairs across the European game and can be tiring, but there’s often a breathtaking element to the accomplishment—especially when it comes to Bayern and its relentless approach.

RELATED FEATURES

WILSON: Bayern Munich beats PSG with one of its own to win Champions League 

WILSON: Bayern maintains its dominance while undergoing a rapid transition

 Top breakout players

Alphonso Davies, Erling Haaland and Ansu Fati are just three in a rising generation of talents in their teens and low 20s taking the world by storm. 

Davies, the 20-year-old former Vancouver Whitecaps academy product, cracked the FIFPro World XI, making him the first North American to ever do so (and only the third who does not hail from Europe or South America). His ascent and transition to left back were surpassed in speed by only the pace he possesses on the field, an attribute that led Thomas Muller to dub him “The FC Bayern Road Runner.”

Haaland’s power and precision have made the 20-year-old Norwegian the apple of every big-spending club’s eye. His rise under Jesse Marsch at Salzburg quickly materialized into a transfer to Dortmund, and he hit the ground running in January with his German club, where he’s formed a productive partnership with U.S. rising talent Gio Reyna.

Fati, meanwhile, has become the breakthrough talent that both Spain and Barcelona need. His current injury has impeded his progress, but there’s a reason he was getting preferred to Antoine Griezmann at Barcelona. Still just 18, he can be the star of Barcelona’s revival for the next decade, should the club elect to defy his many suitors.

RELATED FEATURES

WILSON: Alphonso Davies’s meteoric rise, and the future of the left back position

STRAUS: Gio Reyna may be young, but he’s ready for club and country right now

 Liverpool ends its 30-year drought

Liverpool’s Premier League dominance crested over the winter, and by the time it won its first domestic league title in three decades, it was all a bit anticlimactic. But that takes nothing away from the achievement. 

After winning the Champions League the season before, Liverpool was sensational, losing its run at invincibility just before the pandemic’s onset, with a late-February defeat to Watford. Regardless, it ended Man City’s reign by winning the title with an 18-point gap over Pep Guardiola’s side, a true sign of how exceptional its season truly was. Only some late faltering after the restart prevented Liverpool from setting more single-season standards.

Jürgen Klopp and the technical staff have built a dynamic and balanced club, one that has the ability to press, recover, strike, counter, defend and dominate. Injuries have put that to the test this season, but it’s a testament to the culture at the club that Liverpool remains in the driver’s seat, looking to win a second straight title.

RELATED FEATURES

WILSON: There’s no asterisk next to Liverpool’s dominant, wait-ending title

WAHL: Jürgen Klopp and the Liverpool manager’s infectious aura

 Barcelona’s Messi mess

There was perhaps no soccer-related bombshell bigger than the one Lionel Messi dropped in August, after Barcelona’s Champions League demise followed its capitulation in La Liga. Messi wanted out of the only club he’s ever known as a pro, claiming he had an agreement with now-ex-president Josep Bartomeu that he could leave for free at the end of last season, despite having a year to run on his deal. The wording of the contract evidently stated that clause expired in June, and with the end of the season pushed until August, it was no longer valid when Barcelona’s campaign actually ended.

That set off a few days of uncertainty and intensity at Camp Nou, where Messi ultimately stayed, saying that no matter his conviction, he could never take the club he loves to court. With Bartomeu out and a new president set to be elected Jan. 24, the next month will be pivotal in determining whether Messi will play out his career at Barcelona or head elsewhere. As it stands, he just became the world record holder for most goals at a single club, passing Pelé with his 644th tally in a Barça shirt.

RELATED FEATURE

CREDITOR: Messi stays, but the war vs. Bartomeu is far from over

 The voice and power of the player

Both in the USA and abroad, player power became quite evident. It was evident in the NWSL’s bubble in Utah, where players, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing in Minnesota, kneeled for the national anthem and amplified their voices. It was evident in MLS’s bubble in Florida, where the league’s Black Players for Change started their initiatives with a moving demonstration prior to the opening match. 

It was evident abroad as well, with U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie among the first to use his platform to call attention to injustice after the events in Minneapolis. Others like Jadon Sancho, Marcus Thuram and Achraf Hakimi followed, with clubs regularly kneeling in unison at the opening whistle to make a statement afterward.

The player platforms extend beyond racism. Marcus Rashford has become a hero to the children of the U.K., taking on the government and using his voice and stature to an immense degree to ensure impoverished children are fed.

The power of a club to take a stand was also on display in the USL, where Landon Donovan’s San Diego Loyal walked off the field in a match that had playoff implications for the club, following the antigay abused suffered by one of its players.

All of these individuals and groups deserve the highest commendation for their actions and for using their platforms for good.

RELATED FEATURES

ECHEGARAY: MLS’s Black Players for Change and the long-term plan 

WILSON: Marcus Rashford takes on the UK government again

GEARY: NWSL’s return and the Black player movement within it

STRAUS: The story behind USMNT’s ‘Be The Change’ jackets 

STRAUS: Donovan’s San Diego Loyal takes a stand 

 U.S. Soccer’s transformation at the top

U.S. Soccer has been through some significant change this year. After a disgraceful defense against the U.S. women’s national team players from the federation’s legal team in the ongoing battle for equal pay and gender equality, Carlos Cordeiro resigned as president in mid-March, just as the pandemic was starting to hit the U.S. Ex-U.S. women’s player and USSF VP Cindy Parlow Cone stepped into the role, and she was joined at a remade top of the federation’s organizational chart by new CEO Will Wilson, who replaced longtime chief executive Dan Flynn.

The two struck a new tone in the case against the U.S. women and have moved to settle many of the federation’s other outstanding lawsuits as well. There’s still work to be done on all fronts—legal, competitive and elsewhere—and with the pandemic negatively impacting the federation’s finances, dynamic and steady leadership is required to keep things on an upward trajectory.

RELATED FEATURES

STRAUS: At another inflection point, will U.S. Soccer learn from past failings?

WAHL: Who Cindy Parlow Cone is, from the teammates who knew her best

 The Americans abroad golden age

The U.S. men’s national team has evolved ever since failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and the evolution of its player pool is a big reason why. There are now young Americans at—and some featuring prominently for—Barcelona, Juventus, Chelsea, Manchester City, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, playing in some of the biggest matches in the world against some of the best talent in the world on a regular basis.

It seems like it was ages ago now, but Christian Pulisic was a star after the Premier League’s restart, one of the league’s most consistently dangerous attacking players until a hamstring injury in the FA Cup final (in which he’d already scored) derailed his progress.

But Pulisic is far from alone in drawing the spotlight. Tyler Adams scored a Champions League quarterfinal-winning goal for RB Leipzig, helping bring the club to its greatest heights on a European stage. McKennie moved to Juventus, Sergiño Dest signed with Barcelona and there’s a genuine feeling that this is a golden moment for U.S. youth, with more moves to clubs of global significance in the offing.

Women’s national team players have been testing themselves abroad at new levels as well, with NWSL’s atypical season and lengthy offseason coinciding with the run-up to a postponed Olympics. Sam Mewis and Rose Lavelle have gone to Man City, while Tobin Heath and Christen Press are across town at Man United. Alex Morgan spent the first half of the FA WSL season at Tottenham, while Emily Sonnett won a Swedish title with her short stint at Goteborg.

There’s never been a more intriguing and essential time for Americans abroad.

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STRAUS: Why the moment for Americans at elite European clubs is happening now

STRAUS: The play-by-play of how Weston McKennie wound up at Juventus

STRAUS: Tyler Adams scores the most significant goal for an American abroad

STRAUS: Christian Pulisic isn’t just competing in big games, he’s changing them

STRAUS: Sergiño Dest knows he hasn’t ‘made it’ simply by signing with Barcelona

STRAUS: Zack Steffen puts game time vs. training environment to the test at Man City

STRAUS: Chris Richards begins his breakthrough

STRAUS: After failed Milan move and heart scare, it all works out for Antonee Robinson

 

As for on these shores…

MLS’s 25th season was completely derailed, but completed nevertheless. What began with Chicharito’s landmark signing, Miami and Nashville’s introductions and plans for a grand celebration turned into months of labor negotiations, coronavirus protocols and uncertainty. But the league, to its credit, reached the finish line, becoming the first American league to complete a playoff season in home markets. The Columbus Crew wound up lifting the trophy at home to cement a massive turnaround in that market, months after the Portland Timbers emerged as the best in the bubble at MLS Is Back.

The first successful bubble experiment in U.S. team sports belonged to the NWSL, with the Houston Dash commanding respect and changing their narrative by winning the Challenge Cup. The league resumed play with a Fall Series won by the Portland Thorns, and excitement continues to build with the addition of Racing Louisville FC in 2021 and Angel City FC–with its loaded ownership group–in 2022.

RELATED FEATURES

STRAUS: Nobody knows resilience like the Columbus Crew

GEARY: A U-Turn in H-Town for the NWSL’s Dash

STRAUS: Finding perspective amid Chicharito’s unfulfilled hype

 Gone, but never forgotten

Sadness has been a constant throughout everything this year, and the soccer world knows that quite well. Three World Cup legends, Diego Maradona, Paolo Rossi and Papa Bouba Diop, all died within two weeks of each other, with the passing of such a titanic figure like Maradona, especially, grabbing the world’s attention.

They were unfortunately far from alone. Among the many other former players, managers and administrators to lose their lives this year–for COVID-19 reasons or otherwise–were four players from England’s 1966 World Cup title team (Jack Charlton, Nobby Stiles, Peter Bonetti and Norman Hunter); Argentine left back great Silvio Marzolini; Argentina’s 2014 World Cup manager Alejandro Sabella; and treble-winning former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier.

May their memories be a blessing, and may the holiday season and year ahead be filled with way more joy and significantly less pain.

WILSON: Diego Maradona’s greatness and legacy go well beyond the trophies and goals

WAHL: Diego Maradona was a timeless icon

STRAUS: Rubio Rubin: The American who played for Maradona, and his tales of their time at Dorados de Sinaloa

WILSON: The significance and reach of Paolo Rossi

MLS 2020 season review: Columbus Crew SC were worth saving

eMajor League Soccer concluded its season with Columbus Crew SC‘s MLS Cup victory on Saturday night, and with preseason preparations for the upcoming campaign set to begin as early as one month from now, attention is already turning to 2021. But before we look too far into the future, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Austin Lindberg look back on a 2020 season that won’t soon be forgotten.

Jump to: Crew worth saving | Impacts of COVID-19 | Debuts of Miami, Nashville | Black Players for Change | Philly legitimizes homegrown blueprint | Young players departing | New low for labor relations | Best XI

The Crew were worth saving

Three years ago, Columbus Crew SC seemingly had no future in Ohio’s capital. Owner Anthony Precourt announced in October 2017 he intended to move the club to Austin, Texas, in 2019 if a new stadium in downtown, partially funded by public tax dollars, couldn’t be secured.

He told ESPN shortly after the announcement that the club needed “to see a dramatic change” in attendance and other factors if it was to remain in Columbus. Reading between the lines, it was clear that in his mind there was little that could keep him from taking the Crew from the capital of Ohio to the capital of Texas.What he didn’t count on was the fierce resistance, the organization and the persuasion of the fans and local community. He didn’t count on the #SaveTheCrew movement.The fans made an almighty racket, making their voices heard at the capitol and in stadiums across MLS — and in many cases, stadiums hosting teams that had nothing to do with the Crew. The city of Columbus canvassed business leaders throughout the region as it sought to put together an ownership group that would keep the club in town.

A year after Precourt’s announcement, the Haslam and Edwards families entered into negotiations to buy the Crew. By the end of 2018, the Crew had been saved. Barely a week later, Caleb Porter was named manager and Tim Bezbatchenko was appointed president.

With significant investment from the Haslams and Edwardses — which included the signing of $7 million designated player Lucas Zelarayan and a privately financed downtown stadium scheduled to open in 2021 — and the vision of Porter and Bezbatchenko, the Crew embarked on a reimagining of the club that culminated with last Saturday’s MLS Cup win.

For so many reasons, 2020 has been miserable, with few bright spots. The Crew’s championship, on the back of their fans’ righteous, successful campaign to keep their club — the league’s original club — in town, is a sliver of sunshine we could all do with more of. — Austin Lindberg

The impacts of COVID-19

Give MLS credit. The league made it to the MLS Cup finish line, even as an outbreak of COVID-19 made its way through champions Columbus Crew during the postseason, with a total of 10 positive cases. This was on top of outbreaks earlier in the year within the FC DallasNashville SC and Colorado Rapids organizations.

None of this seemed possible on March 12, when in the first days of the pandemic, MLS engaged in a shutdown that would last four months. Yet the league managed to get off the deck, first with the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida.

That competition was among the first of several in the U.S. that proved the efficacy of a bubble environment, and it helped get the league back in front of fans. Matters proved more difficult when teams resumed league play in August. The MLS’ three Canadian teams, after first playing a series of games against each other, were forced to relocate to the U.S. because of travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada. A total of seven games were canceled, forcing the league to go to points per game to determine a team’s placement in the conference standings.

The wounds — some financial, others physical — will take time to heal. The MLS Players Association reported that “almost 20%” of the league’s players contracted COVID-19 at some point during the year. The long-term impact of those infections is still to be determined. There were also layoffs across the league, both at league headquarters and within MLS teams.

But the league is still here, highlighting a resilience that has long been one of its hallmarks. One can only hope that the 2021 campaign proves easier to navigate for all involved. — Jeff Carlisle

A tale of two expansion teams

When Nashville SC and Inter Miami CF began the season, it was Nashville that looked like an econobox sedan, while Miami bore a closer resemblance to a flashy sports car. But sometimes the sedan does a better job of getting you to where you want to go, and that proved to be precisely the case in this instance.

General manager Mike Jacobs fashioned a defense-first side that saw Nashville finish seventh in the Eastern Conference — which would have qualified it for the postseason even without the generously expanded playoff field — while Miami finished 10th. And as fate would have it, that saw the teams meet in the play-in round of the postseason, with Nashville proving it was by far the better team in a 3-0 victory.

Granted, it’s impossible to avert one’s eyes from Miami, which is quickly approaching car-wreck status. Chief operating officer and sporting director Paul McDonough paid the price for too many swings and misses in the international transfer market and stepped down last week. Then on Monday, ESPN confirmed a story in The Athletic that manager Diego Alonso exited an end-of-year meeting with ownership thinking he had been fired, and told players and staff about it, only for that to not be the case. Alonso is still the manager, although his continued presence seems awkward at best. After a six-year wait to take the field following the team’s inception, owners David Beckham and Jorge Mas have some cleanup work to do. — Jeff Carlisle

The formation of Black Players for Change

It wasn’t just the coronavirus that had some players on edge. The death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police galvanized the community of Black MLS players and brought about the formation of Black Players for Change. The organization aimed to advocate for social justice and put in place programs to further that end, both inside and outside the game of soccer.

There were powerful demonstrations of support of social justice, with MLS teams taking a knee at kickoff when play resumed at the MLS is Back Tournament, a statement that continued for the rest of the season. Following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the BPC helped orchestrate a protest of most the league’s games on Aug. 26.

Away from the field, the BPC was impactful as well, partnering with the LeBron James-led nonprofit More Than A Vote to encourage minority communities to register to vote and engage in the electoral process. That included getting 95% of the league’s players registered.

The BPC also dedicated its first mini-pitch in Newark, New Jersey. The project, in partnership with the U.S. Soccer Foundation, is the first of 12 such pitches to be built in Black communities across the country in a bid to get more kids involved in the sport of soccer.

Earlier this month, the BPC earned the league’s Humanitarian of the Year award in recognition of its efforts in 2020. — Jeff Carlisle

Philadelphia further legitimizing homegrown blueprint

After 11 years of existence, the Philadelphia Union finally won their first trophy, claiming the Supporters’ Shield in 2020. It was a just reward for a fan base whose passion delivered the city a club in the first place and never let up in the ensuing lean years.

For the fans, it probably means a bit more that this silverware was secured by academy products Brenden Aaronson (who’s off to FC Salzburg in January) and Mark McKenzie (who’s attracting plenty of interest from European clubs himself) and SuperDraft selection and Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake. For everyone else in MLS, it means a great deal, too: Philadelphia’s success further solidifies a familiar blueprint for success.

The Union is the fourth team in the past six years (New York Red Bulls in 2015, FC Dallas in 2016 and the Red Bulls again in 2018) to win the Shield following a formula reliant on homegrown talent. Thirteen years after the inception of U.S. Soccer’s academy program, the past six seasons have been demonstrable proof that cultivating talent in-house is a viable path to success.

As MLS sees spending increase year in and year out, primarily on burgeoning stars imported from South America or Europe, Philadelphia (along with the Red Bulls and Dallas) is demonstrating that clubs can win in this league without spending a fortune on exotic imports — although that helps. — Austin Lindberg

Young players are departing — and that’s a good thing

For years, MLS had had a reputation for practically holding young players hostage, rarely transferring players out of the league before their contracts ran down. But recent campaigns have shown that to be changing. According to data on the league’s website, in 2017 only four players were transferred out of MLS. In 2018 that number grew to 12, and then to 14 in 2019. In 2020 that number climbed to 19.

And it hasn’t been just guys exiting in search of one last payday. In 2019, you had the likes of Tyler Adams and Alphonso Davies, of RB Leipzig and Bayern Munich, respectively, leaving the league. In the just-concluded season, there were Reggie Cannon and Alberth Elis both being sent to Portuguese side Boavista. In 2021, the Philadelphia Union’s Brenden Aaronson will move to FC Salzburg, and New York City FC‘s Joe Scally will head to Borussia Monchengladbach.

It all has amounted to a revenue stream of which MLS teams are taking greater advantage. And the league’s academies are producing players that are catching the eye of foreign clubs.

Is there room to grow? Absolutely. But there’s no doubting that transfers out of the league are becoming more of the norm. — Jeff Carlisle

Labor relations hit a new low

All seemed rosy in February when the MLS Players Association and the league agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement that left both sides — at least outwardly — feeling as though they gained something. But then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and because neither side had ratified the new CBA, the league used its leverage to force the MLSPA back to the bargaining table.

With the league threatening to lock out the playersthe two sides ultimately reached an agreement in June, just a month before the MLS is Back Tournament was scheduled to take place. But the MLSPA membership emerged demoralized and with $150 million less than what it had agreed to in February due to cuts in salary, bonuses and a revenue-sharing plan tied to the next media rights deal.

Even worse, the league managed to get the MLSPA to accept the presence of a force majeure clause in the CBA. While the clause would allow either side to terminate the agreement in the case of catastrophic conditions, it gives considerable leverage to ownership in that it could once again force the union back to the bargaining table.

Labor tensions usually crop up only every five years, but for now they are a continual fact of life between owners and players. — Jeff Carlisle

Best XI

Goalkeeper: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)
Defense: Anton Tinnerholm (New York City FC), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Ryan Hollingshead (FC Dallas)
Midfield: Alejandro Pozuelo (Toronto FC), Diego Chara (Portland Timbers), Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle Sounders FC)
Forwards: Chris Mueller (Orlando City SC), Diego Rossi (LAFC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC)

12/24/20 Holiday European Games Schedule, McKinney & Reyna, Mewis win US Players of Year

Great to see Weston McKinney win the US Player of the Year this year.  What a year for McKinney as he gambled on himself on loan to Juventus and has become a starter and full out star with the Old Lady!  Gio Reyna is a worthy winner of the Young Player of the Year – with his breakout year at Dortmund this year.  I truly think he has the chance to be better than Pulisic as he doesn’t get hurt. 

Sam Mewis wins the USWNT Player of the year – after her big year – especially overseas for Man City.

Huge news that Dortmund fired their coach and American Jessie Marsh might be on the shortlist of candidates.  Marsh has does wonderous things as head man at Redbull Saltzburg as part of the Red Bull organization.  Two great runs in the Group Stages the last two years where he scared the pants off huge clubs and almost qualified for the Sweet 16 Knockout stages each time despite a huge difference in quality of player.  Dortmund would be smart to give the American coach a chance.  Wow would that be awesome. 

Not much time this week – except to say I hope you have a Wonderful and Safe Holiday and Best Wishes for the New Year.  I have updated the TV game schedule in case you have time to mix in some soccer watching with your Holiday festivities.  Pulisic should be on Boxing Day – Sat for Chelsea at Arsenal at 12:30 pm on NBC. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat Dec 26 – Boxing Day

7:30 am NBCSN                   Leiester City vs Man United

10 am NBCSN                      Aston Villa vs Cyrstal Palace

12:30 NBC                   Arsenal vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm  NBCSN                       Man City vs New Castle

Sun, Dec 27

11:30  pm NBCSN                                Liverpoool vs West brom

2:!5 pm NBCSN                   Woverhampton vs Tottenham

Mon, Dec 28 

10 am NBCSN                      Crytsal Palace vs Leicester

12:30 pm NBCSN                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Aston Villa

3 pm Peacock                       Everton vs Man City

Tues, Dec 29

1 pm NBCSN                        Brighton vs Arsenal 

1:15 pm beIn Sport                              Barcelona (Dest) vvs Eibar

3 pm NBCSN                        Man United vs Wolverhampton

Weds, Dec 30

1 pm NBCSN                        Tottenham vs Fulham (Robinson)

3:30 pm beIn Sport                              Elche vs Real Madrid

3 pm NBCSN                        New Castle vs Liverpool

Fri,  Jan 1

1 pm Peacock                       Everton vs West Ham

3 pm Peacock                       Man City vs Aston Villa 

Sat, Jan 2 

7:30 am Peacock                  Tottenham vs Leeds

12:30 pm NBCSN                           Everton vs Arsenal

12:30 ESPN+                                    Hertha Berlin vs Schalke 

3 pm NBCSN ?                     West Brom vs Arsenal

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

Sun, Jan 3

6:30 amESPN2                                Inter vs Crotone

7 am NBCSN                                   Burnley vs Fulham (Robinson)

9:15  am NBCSN                            New Castle vs Leicester

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

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

2:45 ESPN+                          Udinese vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm beIN Sport                   Huesca vs Barcelona (Dest) 

Mon, Jan 4

3 pm NBCSN                       Southampton vs Liverpool

USA

Mueller shows Berhalter’s USMNT options run deep

US Weston McKennie Wins Player of the Year for US –  SI  
Reyna voted U.S.’s Young Male Player of Year

Man City’s Mewis named U.S. top women’s player   Jeff Carlisle

USWNT’s support for racial justice ‘a long time coming’ – Becky Sauerbrunn

Dec 22, 2020ESPN

United States defender Becky Sauerbrunn said the USWNT had failed its Black players by not taking a stand against racial injustice sooner.The U.S. women displayed their support before a 2-0 friendly defeat of the Netherlands in late November, with the players wearing warmup jackets with the words “Black Lives Matter” emblazoned on the front, and nearly every member of the team took a knee during the playing of the national anthem.Accompanying the pregame show of solidarity was a statement posted to team members’ social media accounts.peaking on USWNT teammate Kelley O’Hara’s podcast called “Just Women’s Sports” on Tuesday, Sauerbrunn said she regretted the team’s lack of awareness for so long.

“I’m actually conflicted that it took us thing long as a national team to get to this point because we for so long we have fought for so many things,” she said. “For gender equality, for pay equality. We wear jerseys for LGBTQ, for military, and we’ve never as a group come together to fight for social justice and racial inequality.”It has been a long time coming and in a way I feel we’ve failed the Black women on our team, on our program and our Black supporters by not being more aware to this fight. I’m glad we came together and I’m glad we got all the Black women together and as a team and a small group decided what we could do to bring more awareness to BLM [Black Lives Matter].”It’s amazing that we got to do that but it’s also, I feel like, it’s been too long for this to finally come to fruition and hopefully it’s just the first of many things we do to continue this fight.”Nine out of the 11 starters knelt for the anthem against the Netherlands. O’Hara, a defender, and midfielder Julie Ertz were the two who stood. Sauerbrunn said the team understood their reasons not to participate.”As you know, it was the first time as a team that we ever had a conversation about race. And it was awkward at times and there was tension and it was emotional, but I think people really got to speak their truths for the first time in that group setting. So, I’m proud about that, and even though people decided to participate in the anthem the way that they did, at least it was done with an understanding for one another’s motives.”Still work to be done, but it was a really big step for the group,” she said.ue to a pause in international play caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the match in November was the first for the USWNT since the death of George Floyd — a Black man who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25 — sparked worldwide protests and calls for racial justice and an end to police brutality.Earlier in the month, the United States men’s team wore messages calling for justice on its tracksuits prior to its 0-0 friendly draw with Wales in the team’s first match back since Floyd’s death.

USWNT stars Morgan, Heath, Lavelle went to Europe due to the pandemic, but don’t expect a larger movement

play

Manchester City’s Alex Greenwood describes how Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis have benefitted the team this year. (1:10)

Dec 22, 2020ESPN

When whispers began circulating at the end of the summer that a number of high-profile United States women’s national team players would be making their way to England, there was curiosity on both sides of the Atlantic as to what this might mean for the global game.

Several players had done stints in Europe before, of course, but the arrival of five of the 2019 World Cup winners’ top stars — Alex Morgan, Tobin Heath, Rose Lavelle, Christen Press, and Sam Mewis — to England was a marked difference to previous moves that had drawn criticism and even seen national team careers threatened.

Jump to: A few minutes with Matthew Hoppe | Stock watch | Scouting report: Chris Richards

In 2018, Portland Thorns and USWNT star Crystal Dunn cut her time at Chelsea short over fears her national career would suffer, while Morgan (Lyon) and Carli Lloyd (Manchester City) also previously faced criticism after leaving for opportunities abroad.

Former United States manager Jill Ellis was a strong advocate of players remaining in the USA and the USWNT’s existing pay structure makes playing outside of the U.S. quite complicated for players, especially if they don’t have the support of U.S. Soccer. The federation pays the players’ international salaries and game bonuses, as well as the club salaries for USWNT players who play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL). While teams own the league, U.S. Soccer are employed through a contract to manage aspects of the league. This includes paying national team salaries for some players as well as salaries for at least 22 other players. In exchange for these salaries, the teams and the league limit the amount of players who can go overseas, though this contract is revisited periodically and the next review is due at the end of 2021. It all means that the USSF has an extra interest in its big stars staying home and playing in the States.

Americans in Europe

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

However, these controls have been loosening in the last year due to a number of internal and external factors. The league has been looking to lessen the control U.S. Soccer has on its players while Ellis’ successor as USWNT coach, Vlatko Andonovski, has said he sees the benefits of players getting experience abroad.

“Every player that is Europe-based, if they’re healthy and performing well, they’re going to be in our plans and will be called for upcoming camps,” Andonovski said when asked about the Europe-based members of his squad.

However, one factor undoubtedly pushed the balance for the players this year: the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the NWSL was the first professional sports league to return to play in the United States after the initial pandemic-enforced shutdown, uncertainty led to Press and Heath opting out of the league’s Challenge Cup, while Morgan’s club side, the Orlando Pride, were forced to withdraw from the tournament entirely due to a spate of COVID-19 tests.”It was a really impossible situation,” Heath told ESPN. “I haven’t played a real game of football since March, and it was a long time to press pause on my career. It was a very tough decision because I have given so much of my career and my heart there.

Alex Morgan leaving Spurs for Orlando in 2021

“The NWSL is a great league. It’s so competitive from every single team and every single game. They have the right people and they are invested in it. It’s unfortunate that the outcome right now isn’t players staying.”Man City’s Mewis (North Carolina Courage) and Lavelle (OL Reign) did compete in the tournament, but the chance for regular football ahead of an Olympic year was a massive draw.”I think the NWSL did such a good job with the Challenge Cup,” Mewis told ESPN. “I think it is such an individual decision to switch teams or change leagues, and the opportunity is so great that I personally was like this is a chance for me to add some depth to my game and continue to evolve as a player.”

Not only was the certainty of England’s FA Women’s Super League (WSL) season a draw for the players, but their coaches also backed them for pursuing regular game time and continuing their development. “Most important for Sam right now are competitive games, especially leading into an Olympic year, and she will be able to play 20 games over the next six to seven months, which is hugely valuable,” North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley said when her transfer was announced.While the winds may be slightly changing for the USWNT, it is unlikely — especially with the return of the NWSL and several new expansion teams coming soon, like Racing Louisville FC and Angel City FC in Los Angeles — that these moves will herald a mass exodus to Europe. The role of COVID-19 and subsequently a lack of domestic options for players also cannot be understated, with Morgan announcing on Monday she will be leaving Spurs to return to Orlando in January.

However, as women’s football becomes a more global game and the ties between U.S. Soccer and the league continue to loosen, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more of the USWNT’ stars make the move across the pond in the future. — Kathleen McNamee

A few minutes with … Matthew Hoppe

Schalke 04‘s Matthew Hoppe is the latest young American to break through in the German Bundesliga, the 19-year-old having recently made his Bundesliga debut against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Matthew Hoppe explains why he wanted to step out of his comfort zone and take his skills to the next level in Europe.

The Californian, who has made three appearances to date for Schalke, is hoping to make his USMNT debut soon and sat down with ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar to discuss the future of the USMNT, his unlikely rise at Schalke and which strikers he models his game after.

Stock watch: Assessing the ups and downs of Americans abroad

Tobin Heath, Manchester United — On the rise : Coach Casey Stoney’s work to secure the signatures of USWNT stars Tobin Heath and Christen Press at Manchester United was one of the biggest coups of the summer transfer window. Heath in particular has made her presence felt since her arrival at the club, with her distinctive and confident play helping United head into the Christmas break top of the WSL table. With United still a relatively young side, Heath’s four goals have been impressive, but her leadership and experience have undoubtedly been just as important to the Red Devils’ success so far this season.

– Gio Reyna voted U.S. Soccer’s young male player of the year

Tim WeahLille — On the rise : After a lost 2019-20 season due to multiple hamstring injuries, Weah is finally starting to make his mark in France. The American attacker has made the most of his appearances of late, scoring goals against Celtic and Dijon and adding an assist against Slavia Prague in the month of December. Weah has yet to start a game in Ligue 1, but it seems as if that is only a matter of time now.

“He has improved massively. He is getting better and better. We forget sometimes that he is only 20 and that he had a very serious injury last year. He is working really hard, and we have great hopes for him for this season,” a Lille source tells ESPN’s Julien Laurens. Healthy and confident again, Weah looks as if he is getting back to his best, which is great to see after an injury-marred 2020 for the ex-PSG man.Tyler AdamsRB Leipzig — Trending downAdams remains a contributor for RB Leipzig, but some around the team worry about his form and his competition for the starting defensive midfield role. After scoring the goal that sent RB Leipzig into the Champions League semifinals in August, the 21-year-old has endured a mixed start to the season, marked by inconsistent playing time and a minor knee injury.

The American has started seven of Leipzig’s 13 games in the Bundesliga, six of those as a defensive midfielder, but faces competition from both Marcel Sabitzer and Kevin Kampl in the heart of the pitch. Ulli Kroemer of NTV rates him behind Sabitzer and Kampl in terms of ball control and adds that at the moment, Adams lacks the class and experience that the other two possess. Maybe more troubling is that Kroemer also says that Adams has struggled to win back balls of late, which is one of the attributes the former New York Red Bulls product typically hangs his hat on. Adams will need to turn it around soon or he could be the odd man out in Julian Nagelsmann’s constantly changing midfield.

Rose Lavelle, Manchester City — Trending downPicked to the NWSL Challenge Cup’s Best XI, Lavelle’s arrival at Manchester City was met with real excitement. However, it feels like we’ve yet to see the best of the midfielder across the Atlantic. Manager Gareth Taylor has said that she arrived to the WSL with a different level of fitness to teammate Sam Mewis, which is why her game minutes have been somewhat limited. A goal against the Netherlands for the USWNT in November was a timely reminder of what she is capable of, however an injury soon after set her back again. Many will be hoping 2021 is the year she banishes any fitness doubts and establishes herself as a key cog in the Man City machine.

Scouting report: Chris Richards

The young American defender has enjoyed a fairytale 2020-21 season so far. In the space of a few eventful months, the Alabama-born center-back has gone from a talent to a proper pro, starting for Bayern in the Bundesliga and the Champions League and making his debut for the USMNT against Panama. The 20-year-old’s journey to the German champions hasn’t been the easiest — he had to undergo a trial and a loan move before his permanent €1.1 million move from FC Dallas — but he’s passed every exam along the way with flying colours.

Fielded mainly as a centre-back for Bayern’s second team in the third tier of German league football, Richards has alternated between his preferred position in the middle and as a right-back for the senior side. Despite being mobile, he doesn’t have the extreme pace of his teammate Alphonso Davies and at centre-back, but his obvious qualities — aerial power (he’s got a great leap), composure on the ball, and one-on-one defending — come to the fore much more readily.

While not quite yet ready to permanently replace Jerome Boateng or David Alaba (whose contracts expire at the end of the season) in the first team, the accumulated playing time and faith he’s been shown by Bayern head coach Hansi Flick will work wonders for his further development. With work on his positional and game-reading skills, he’ll have every right to envisage a future as a regular starter for the reigning Champions League holders. – Tor-Kristian Karlsen

12/19/20 Columbus wins MLS Cup, Lewandowski wins Player of Year, Busy Holiday European Games on TV

MLS Columbus Wins its 2nd MLS Cup

Wow Columbus got off to a fantastic first half and knocked the defending Champion Seattle Sounders off last weekend.  The 3-0 score line is really misleading – as after getting off to a surprising 2-0 lead Columbus really buckled down and defended with occasional counters.  After playing their worst half of the year/decade in the first half – Seattle attacked with reckless abandon in the 2nd half.  Shots to the left of goal, shots over the post – 3 times, shots just over the goal.  In all Seattle peppered Columbus with 15 shots in the 2nd half – but they just couldn’t put them on target and late in the game – 1 final counter attack made it 3 – 0 for Columbus as the title returned to Columbus for the first time since in 25 years.  Great story for Columbus who this time last year were headed to Austin.  Until the Owner of the Browns stepped up on the ownership side with begging from the Columbus fans holding one of the original 8 MLS franchises at its home in Columbus.  The first ever soccer specific stadium built – hosted its last game – a Championship Win – bookcasing a fantastic 25 Years of MLS.  I for one am happy Columbus stayed – Columbus is still the home of the USMNT in games that must be won vs Mexico – and I can’t wait to be there next time the game takes place with fans.  Congrats Columbus – I guess its ok you beat my Seattle this time. 

On the CCL – Atlanta won their 2nd game but only LAFC will advance to the final 4 Tuesday on FS2 at 10 pm in the annual battle between MLS and LigaMX. The Finals are Sat night on FS2. (See the schedule)

 Champions League last 16 schedule

Borussia Monchengladbach v Manchester City

Lazio v Bayern Munich

Atletico Madrid v Chelsea

RB Leipzig v Liverpool

FC Porto v Juventus

Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain

Sevilla v Borussia Dortmund

Atalanta v Real Madrid

The first legs of these games will be played on Feb. 16-17 and 23-24, while the second legs will take place on March 9-10 and 16-17.

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 19 

7:30 am Peacock                  Liverpool vs Cyrstal Palace  

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

10 am beIN Sport                 Barcelona (Dest) vs Valencia  

12:30 pm NBCSN              Everton vs Arsenal

12:30 ESPN+               Bayern (Richards) vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm               Parma vs Juve (Mckinney)

8 pm FS2                                           Tigres vs Olimpia CCL 

10:30 pm  FS2                                 LAFC vs America  CCL

Sun, Dec 20 

9:15  am NBCSN         Tottenham vs Leicester

11:30  am NBCSN                Man United vs Leeds

12 pm ESPN+                       Geonoa vs Juve (McKinney)

12 pm ESPN+                       Leverkusen vs Hoffenheim

2:15 pm NBCSN                   West Brom vs Aston Villa  

3 pm beIN Sport                   Eober vs Real Madrid  

Mon, Dec 21  

1 pm NBCSN??                    Burnley vs Wolverhampton

3 pm NBCSN                       Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Westham

Tues, Dec 22

1 pm NBCSN                        Brentford vs Newcastle United

3 pm NBCSN               Arsenal vs Man City  

8 pm FS2                     CONCACAF Champs Final  

Wed, Dec 23 

1 pmEPSN+                          Stoke City vs Tottenham  League Cup

3 pm NBCSN??                    Everton vs Man United 

Sat Dec 26

3  pm NBC                    Arsenal vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

Sun, Dec 27

11:30  pm NBCSN                                Liverpoool vs West brom

2:!5 pm NBCSN                   Woverhampton vs Tottenham

USA

US Weston McKennie Wins Player of the Year for US –  SI  

Key USMNT questions heading into a busy 2021 that includes the start of World Cup qualifying

Pulisic Starts and plays full 90 in Weird game for Chelsea in loss to Wolves

USMNT golden generation? Why Pulisic, Reyna & Co. are on course to make a run at 2022 World Cup 

Weston McKennie earns 2020 US Male Player of the Year award

MLS

News Analysis: Was it worth it to have an MLS season amid coronavirus?

Zakuani: Three takeaways (and a little more) from MLS Cup 2020

Unbelievably special” Zelarayan delivers ultimate prize for Crew

MLS Cup Player Ratings: Perfection from Zelarayan, Porter

“Our worst half of the season”: Sounders not deflecting blame after MLS Cup loss

Columbus Crew win MLS Cup 2020! Sounders repeat denied

St. Louis celebrate stadium construction milestone

Carlos Vela relishing CCL run as LAFC star helps oust another Liga MX foe

Atlanta beat Club America, but exit CCL quarters on aggregate

MLS vs. Liga MX: Is the tide turning in CCL?

History! Davies first North American named to FIFA Men’s World XI

Zlatan’s stunner wins “The Greatest Goal” vote

WORLD

Which Premier League club in Europe dealt best with fixture congestion?

Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Leicester City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and 

The growing number of USMNT players featuring for top clubs overseas is reflected in the 2020 voting, won by Weston McKennie.

BRIAN STRAUS4 HOURS AGO

It’s noteworthy, perhaps historic, that the winner of the 2020 U.S. Soccer male player of the year award is a 22-year-old midfielder who, after standing out for struggling Bundesliga side Schalke 04 in the spring, became the first American player to sign for mighty Juventus.It’s equally noteworthy that Weston McKennie, who’s played 13 times and already scored twice for the Bianconeri, beat out U.S. teammates at Barcelona, Chelsea and RB Leipzig for the American game’s most prestigious honor.After a couple down years for the men’s national team program, not only has the player of the year award recouped some of its luster, it’s also become much tougher to win. And that trend is likely to continue as more U.S. players climb the club pyramid in Europe and play games at the highest level. MLS players are eligible as well, of course, but the bar for contention has been raised considerably. It’s yet another sign that the USMNT has entered a new era.McKennie, 22, won the award after being named on 44% of the ballots cast by national team coaches, players who were called up to the USA in 2020, members of the U.S. Soccer Federation board of directors and Athletes Council, MLS and USL head coaches, media members and “former players and administrators,” according to the USSF. Each voter selects just one nominee. Last year’s winner, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, finished second with 27% of the vote and Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest placed third at 14%. The other finalists were Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders) and Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew).McKennie was informed Friday after training in Turin by new National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Carlos Bocanegra, who met McKennie in 2006 when he was a child growing up at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. McKennie has said that meeting, which also included Landon Donovan, sparked his dream to play for the national team.“I want to thank everyone for this huge honor. It’s been a journey, especially through these difficult times during the pandemic,” McKennie said. “Our fans have stuck with us throughout and we really appreciate it. Hopefully in 2021 we can have many more memories together.”The pandemic limited the USA to four friendlies in 2020, and only two of those came during a FIFA window and were open to players based in Europe. McKennie started and excelled in those October games, a 0-0 draw at Wales and a 6-2 win over Panama. But this was a year in which club performance was going to take precedence, and McKennie’s was good enough at Schalke to earn the move to Juventus. Once there, he attacked the opportunity. He’s made eight starts already, including three in the UEFA Champions League, and there are reports that Juventus is ready to make his loan from Schalke a permanent transfer.McKennie is the fourth-youngest recipient of the award, which was first handed out in 1984. He finished third last year, but the 2019 honor was a two-man race between Pulisic and Morris. It was an uneven period for the USA as coach Gregg Berhalter looked to get comfortable and implement his system during his first year in charge. ADVERTISING

U.S. Soccer's Player of the Year winners

U.S. Soccer The Americans advanced to the Concacaf Gold Cup final but were beaten by Mexico on a frustrating night outside New York City. Then there was the embarrassing Nations League defeat to Canada in Toronto. By year’s end, only Pulisic and Morris really stood out. Pulisic tallied three goals and three assists at the Gold Cup and then completed his move to Chelsea, for which he scored five times. Morris was outstanding for Seattle in MLS, notching 13 goals and eight assists, but no one else really staked his claim during a year of national team transition.Goalkeeper Zack Steffen was named player of the year in 2018, an even stranger period marked by coach Dave Sarachan’s interim tenure, a lot of friendlies and a voting dynamic that saw Adams and McKennie split the “exciting European prospect” vote. Steffen started in five of the USA’s 11 games and backstopped the Crew to the MLS Cup quarterfinals as he was named MLS’s goalkeeper of the year. In 2018, that was enough.The year before, untainted by the USA’s World Cup qualifying failure, Pulisic won the first of his two awards with a ridiculous 94% of the vote. That type of landslide won’t happen again. That year, the voting was an indication of crisis. This time and in the future, it’s likely to reflect the unprecedented growth and progress of the American player pool.

12/11/20 MLS Cup Columbus vs Seattle Sat 8 pm Fox, Manchester & Madrid Derby’s Sat, US Men Dominate, UCL Final 16 Set

MLS Finals Set Seattle vs Columbus Sat 8 pm on Fox

Seattle came back from 2 goals down to Minn United at home with 3 goals in the last 15 minutes to snatch away the victory. The 2nd goal in the 89th minute and the final goal off a corner header in the 93rd minute to secure the victory as MLS’ new dynasty the Seattle Sounders will look to complete a Back to Back at Columbus on Saturday night. The defending MLS Champs were taken to the woodshed in the first 30 minutes by upstart Minn United. The 4th year team – just 2 years removed from having the worst record in the league has made steady progress under coach Adrian Heath and looks to be set to compete moving forward in the West. Meanwhile, Seattle has set the standard in MLS this decade as this is their 4th MLS Cup in 5 years with Championships last year and in 2016. Columbus Crew SC are the home team and they’re 12W-1L-0D at MAPFRE Stadium this season, including Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs wins over the New York Red BullsNashville SC and the New England Revolution. The Seattle Sounders, meanwhile, are the defending champions and are looking to join D.C. United, the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy as the only teams in league history to win back-to-back titles. This is honestly a toss-up and the way this MLS Playoff season has gone – is much watch TV Sat Night at 8 pm on Fox.  Also CONCACAF Champions League kicks off next week Tues/Wed/Sat between MLS and Mexican teams on Fox Sports 2 – see schedule below as Atlanta United, NYCFC, LAFC and Montreal will all be in action with the Semi’s on Sat eve.    

What to Watch in Europe This Week

Its Derby weekend in England and Spain this weekend as the Manchester Derby between Man United and Man City is Sat 12:30 pm on NBC (finally as good game on NBC!!) and the Madrid Derby with Real Madrid and Athletico is Saturday at 3pm on beIN Sport.  A lot of good games on Sartuday as American Christian Pulisic should be available vs a sliding Everton at 3:30 pm on Peacock.  In Germany Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig host Werder Bremen and forward Stewart at 9:30 am on ESPN+, while Dortmund and Gio Reyna host Stuttgart at the same time on ESPN+.  Sunday gives us Fulham and American’s Ream and Robinson trying to hold down high scoring Liverpool at 11:30 am on NBCSN.  Juve and American Weston McKinney (fresh off his wondergoal in Champions League Wed) will travel to Genoa in Italy at 12 pm on ESPN+, and finally Sergio Dest will travel with Barcelona to face Levante at 3 pm on beIN Sport.  There are bunch of midweek games headed by Liverpool vs Tottenham on NBCSN at 3 pm Wed. 

US Men Wallop El Salvador 6-0. 

Wow want goals – how’s 6-0.  So this is how we are supposed to handle 3rd tier CONCACAF teams when our 3rd team plays their first team.  Quite impressive of the the young American squad and of course veteran’s Llegget and Paul Arrieola.  Overall I thought the entire squad was impressive on the night.  It certainly sets up some interesting choices for coach Gregg.  Hopefully they can pull together another – MLS camp in January – as we prepare for the busy summer of the Olympics, Gold Cup and Nations League this summer. 

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 12 

7:30 am Peacock                  Wolverhampton vs Aston Villa

9:30 am ESPN+                    Dortmund (Ryna)  vs Stuttgart

9:30 am ESPN+                    RB Leipzig (Adams)  vs Werder Bremen (Stewart)

10 am beIN Sport                 Getafe vs Sevilla  

12:30 pm NBC                       Manchester United  vs Man City

12:30 ESPN+                        Bayern (Richards) vs Union Berlin

3 pm beiN Sport         Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid  

3:30 pm Peacock              Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

8:30 pm FOX              Columbus Crew vs Seattle Sounders MLS CUP

Sun, Dec 13  

9:15 am  NBCSN                  Crystal Palace vs Tottenham

11:30 am NBCSN                 Fulham vs Liverpool

12 pm ESPN+                       Geonoa vs Juve (McKinney)

12 pm ESPN+                       Leverkusen vs Hoffenheim

2:15 pm NBCSN                   Arsenal vs Burnley

3 pm beIN Sport                   Barcelona (Dest) vs Levante

Tues, Dec 15  

1 pm NBCSN??                    Wolverhampton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3 pm NBCSN??                    Man City vs West Brom

8 pm FS2                                           Atlanta United vs America  CCL

10 pm  FS2                                       LAFC vs Cruz Azul  CCL

Wed, Dec 16 

1 pm NBCSN??                    Arsenal vs Southhampton

3 pm NBCSN               Liverpool vs Tottenham

8 pm FS2                                           Olimpia vs Montreal Impact  CCL  

10:30 pm  FS2                                 NYCFC vs Tigres    CCL

Thur, Dec 17 

1 pm NBCSN??                    Aston  Villa vs Burnley

3 pm NBCSN??                    Sheffield vs Man United  

Fri , Dec 18 

2:30 pm ESPN+                     Dortmund (Ryna)  vs Union Berlin

MLS – Champ Game Sat 8:30 pm FOX

Jones: Your neutral’s guide to who to support in MLS Cup
Columbus Crew midfielders Darlington Nagbe, Pedro Santos out for MLS Cup vs. Seattle Sounders

MLS Cup storylines: Are Seattle Sounders a dynasty in the making? Can Columbus Crew be defeated at home?
Wiebe: Do Sounders need to win MLS Cup to cement dynasty status?
Zakuani: An insider’s guide to the two MLS Cup coaches
An MLS title is in view for Columbus Crew, a club saved by fan power

Soccer-Seasoned Seattle seek third MLS Cup title in five years

Sigi Schmid’s influence still felt in Columbus, Seattle
538: Who will win MLS Cup 2020?
Sounders Score 3 Goals in last 15 Minutes to Stun Minn
What a comeback! Seattle beat Loons 3-2, reach fourth MLS Cup in five years
“One of our best games ever”: Seattle back in MLS Cup after classic
Bruin & Svensson the super-sub heroes for Sounders: “I knew what I needed to do”
Minnesota: We were “running on empty” at the end vs. Seattle.
USA
USMNT Abroad weekend preview

Pulisic, Reyna, Mewis, Dahlkemper headline U.S. Soccer award nominees

USMNT youngster Ledezma tears ACL in 6th appearance for PSV

USMNT – El Salvador player ratings from a six-star show

Three things we learned from USMNT – El Salvador

Chris Mueller leads six-goal barrage as U.S. men’s national soccer team defeats El Salvador in friendly

Dominant U.S. soccer still making progress, routs El Salvador in friendly
EPL
Lampard says Pulisic fit for Everton – Chelsea despite ‘tiny’ hamstring fright

Premier League odds, Prince-Wright’s picks: Week 12

Manchester derby ‘best game’ to lift United, says Solskjaer

Solskjaer in the spotlight for Manchester derby

Managers are paid to handle the pressure, says Guardiola

Fulham – Liverpool: How to watch, start time, stream link, odds, prediction
 WORLD & Champs League
Atletico favourites to win Spanish title says Zidane

Lewandowski facing Messi, Ronaldo for FIFA best player award
 Crazy final day: Champions League group stage winners and losers
UEFA Champions League wrap: Gladbach, Madrid sides take final spots

Who can Premier League clubs draw in Champions League knockouts?

Real Madrid, Atletico into Champions League last 16 as PSG win suspended game

Atletico brush Salzburg aside to reach last 16

Inter Milan crash out of Europe after Champions League stalemate

Europa League: Tottenham, Leicester win groups; USMNT’s Weah scores

STEFFEN’S SHUTOUT CAPS RECORD SHATTERING UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE GROUP STAGE FOR AMERICANS IN EUROPE

SBI SoccerJust Now

Zack Steffen’s UEFA Champions League debut may have felt like a bit of a formality for a Manchester City side that had already clinched its group before Wednesday’s match against Marseille, but the goalkeeper’s shutout performance still carried significance as a worthy cap to a record-setting group stage for Americans.

Steffen became the ninth different American to play in this season’s Champions League group stage, further shattering the previous record of six. He became just the third American goalkeeper to start in Champions League (joining Tim Howard and Ethan Horvath), posting the first shutout since Horvath posted three shutouts in a row with Standard Liege in 2018.The end of the group stage offers a moment to reflect on a collection of matches Americans aren’t going to forget any time soon, a period highlighted by Weston McKennie’s stunning goal and man of the match performance for Juventus against Barcelona on Tuesday.

The American contingent in Champions League set new records for matches played (30) and goal scorers (three), with several playing key roles on top teams. Sergino Dest has become a regular starter for FC Barcelona while Gio Reyna has continued to develop into a top threat for Borussia Dortmund.

The knockout rounds could produce even more magic, with eight Americans set to take part, and five of the eight being part of group-winning squads, including Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic

Monday’s Round of 16 draw could help setup the first knockout-round match to feature American players on both sides. Potential clashes between Gio Reyna and Sergino Dest, or Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, could put a finishing tough on a special Champions League season.

The ultimate goal for all eight remaining Americans in Champions League will be to try to become the second American to win a Champions League winner’s medal, joining Jovan Kirovski, who won one as part of the 1996-1997 Borussia Dortmund title squad.

BREAKDOWN IN EUROPE THIS WEEKEND

Gregory Caltabanis

Just Now

Derbies have often served as turning points in seasons, something Real Madrid and Manchester United will be hoping for this weekend.

Manchester United is coming off a disappointing Champions League exit ahead of its clash against Manchester City, while Real Madrid will be eager to get its title defense back on track against Atletico Madrid.

The Galacticos just punched their ticket into the Round of 16 in midweek and will now shift their attention on cutting into Atletico’s six-point lead atop La Liga. Elsewhere, Barcelona’s struggles continued under Ronald Koeman, losing out on first place in their group following their defeat against Juventus. The Blaugrana takes on Levante, while Real Sociedad hosts Eibar.

Chelsea’s affair with Everton presents an intriguing clash of styles, with the Blues looking to maintain the pace atop the table with Spurs and Liverpool. Jose Mourinho’s men return to action against a fellow London side, Crystal Palace, while the reigning champions take on the newly-promoted Fulham. All eyes in England will be on the Manchester Derby, as the fierce rivals lock horns on Saturday at Old Trafford.

In Germany, Bayern Munich engages in an intriguing affair with Union Berlin, hoping to extend its lead atop the Bundesliga. Bayer Leverkusen faces off against Hoffenheim, while Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to claim its first Bundesliga win in three games against Stuttgart. RB Leipzig hosts Werder Bremen, in what promises to be an enthralling matchup.

In Italy, Juventus travels to take on Genoa, in search of its sixth win of the season, while Inter Milan take on Cagliari on Sunday. League-leading AC Milan takes the field on Sunday against a tricky Parma side.

Here is a closer look at this weekend’s action in Europe’s top leagues and competitions:

Premier League

The latest iteration of the Manchester Derby headlines the action in England this weekend, as the Red Devils welcome Manchester City into Old Trafford. Manchester United will be eager to put its Champions League disappointment behind them on Saturday and continue its recent surge up the table. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer’s men have won their last four in league action, sitting just five points behind first with a game in hand. Manchester City enters the derby in fine form as well, having yet to concede a goal on its latest five-game unbeaten run. As just one point separates them in the table, the English giants will be raring to go.

Chelsea’s title credentials will be put to the test when they travel to Goodison Park to take on Everton. Frank Lampard’s men most recently punched their ticket into the Champions League Round of 16 in convincing fashion and are currently riding a 14-game unbeaten streak. Chelsea’s recent resurgence has them within two points of the league leaders ahead of the crucial holiday stretch. Everton has slowed down since its hot start, picking up just one win in its last seven encounters. Dominic Calvert-Lewin continues to find the back of the net despite the Toffees’ struggles and leads the league with 11 goals. The Blues will be hoping to confirm their contender status and return to winning ways following their draw in mid-week.

Tottenham has taken the Premier League by storm this season, marching to first place in recent weeks. Jose Mourinho’s men will now shift their attention to the in-form Crystal Palace. Roy Hodgson’s side is coming off a 5-1 win over West Brom, with Wilfried Zaha and Christian Benteke each netting braces. Spurs will be hoping to keep its momentum going, most recently emerging victorious over Arsenal in last weekend’s North London Derby. Harry Kane and Heung-min Son were once again on target and will be hoping to continue their productive start on Sunday. Spurs currently sit in first place, level on points with Liverpool, and are yet to lose since their surprise defeat against Southampton back in September.

The reigning champions’ next stop takes them to Craven Cottage to take on Fulham on Sunday. Liverpool enters this clash off the back of a comprehensive victory over Wolves and will be looking to create some breathing room atop the table against the newly-promoted side. Scott Parker’s men are languishing dangerously right abovethe drop zone, sitting just one point ahead of Burnley. Fulham most recently lost to Manchester City in a fiery affair, indicating they can compete with England’s elite. Liverpool may still be without key men but has demonstrated its impressive depth in recent weeks, extending its unbeaten run to seven games.

La Liga

Real Madrid hosts its fierce rivals Atletico Madrid on Saturday, in hopes of reigniting its title hopes. The Galacticos sit six points behind Diego Simeone’s men, having played one more game than them and will be eager to make up some crucial ground. Both clubs are coming off successful weeks in Europe, booking their place into the knockout stages of the Champions League. Real Madrid put an end to its recent skid, recording back-to-back victories against Sevilla and Borussia Moenchengladbach to get its season back on track. Their crosstown rivals – Atletico Madrid – have since emerged as the favorites to dethrone them, kicking off the La Liga season on a 10-game unbeaten run. Joao Felix and Luis Suarez have provided the firepower, scoring five goals apiece.

Barcelona will be looking to bounce back following its disappointing defeat against Juventus, welcoming Levante into the Camp Nou. The Spanish giants have struggled under Ronald Koeman, opening their season with four defeats in their opening 10 games. Barcelona currently trails the league-leading Atletico by 12 points and will be hoping to put its recent woes behind them. Levante has stumbled out of the gates themselves and hovers dangerously above the drop zone. Despite this, Paco Lopez’s men are unbeaten in their last five games, albeit having drawn four of their clashes. As their title hopes slip away, Barcelona needs to start picking up results.

Real Sociedad relinquished the top spot for the first time this season last week and will be hoping to overtake Atletico Madrid when they square off against Eibar. The Basque outfit most recently played out to a stalemate against Alaves, dropping points for the second consecutive weekend. Real Sociedad has only lost one of its 12 La Liga encounters this season and has since propelled itself in the title race. Imanol Alguacil’s men have their sights set on first place, sitting just one point behind Atletico Madrid. Los Colchoneros, however, have played two games in hand on Real Sociedad. Eibar enters this clash in decent form, currently riding a four-game unbeaten run in league play. 

Bundesliga

Borussia Dortmund will be hoping to return to winning ways on Saturday, hosting a resurgent Stuttgart side. Lucien Favre’s men punched their ticket into the Champions League knockout stages as group winners but have dropped points in consecutive matchdays in the Bundesliga. Erling Haaland has missed his side’s last three games and is expected to be sidelined until January, forcing Dortmund to make do without its towering hitman. Stuttgart has proven incredibly hard to break down in the early goings of the season, losing just twice in 10 games. Pellegrino Matarazzo’s side will be looking to confirm its European credentials, hoping to put its name in the conversation for the Europa League. Bayern Munich heads into its clash with Union Berlin in top form and is yet to lose since its defeat on matchday two. The German giants may be leading the Bundesliga, but just two points separate them and third place. Union Berlin has impressed in its second season since returning to the top-flight, emerging as unlikely contenders for a place in Europe. Max Kruse has led the charge for the capital-based club, registering six goals and five assists in eight starts. Urs Fischer’s men will be eager to put its recent skid to an end, having failed to win their last two games. Bayern Munich’s high-powered attack has propelled them past the competition thus far, netting 34 goals in its opening 10 games. Robert Lewandowski leads the league with 12 strikes already and will be on the hunt for more on Saturday.RB Leipzig will be looking to carry the momentum from its midweek triumph over Manchester United into matchday 11. Julian Nagelsmann’s men host Werder Bremen, who is winless in its last eight games. Florian Kohfeldt’s men have struggled in recent weeks, dropping to 13th place. RB Leipzig will want to confirm its title credentials and maintain the pace atop the table with Bayern Munich. The German giants are coming off a taxing game against Manchester United but will need to be at their best on Saturday. Werder Bremen may be struggling, but they have proven they can compete with any side in the Bundesliga on their day, holding Bayern Munich to a draw.Bayer Leverkusen will put its unbeaten record on the line when they welcome Hoffenheim into the Bay Arena on Sunday. Peter Bosz’s men are currently riding a 10-game unbeaten streak and sit just one point behind Bayern Munich in first place. Leverkusen most recently overcame a winless Schalke side, emerging comfortable winners in a 3-0 victory. Hoffenheim has turned its fortunes around following an indifferent start to the season and will be hoping to extend its three-game unbeaten streak. The German side has already booked its place in the Europa League’s Round of 32 and will be eager to throw a wrench in Leverkusen’s title hopes. Hoffenheim remains the only side to have beaten Bayern Munich this season, putting four past the Bavarian giants.

Serie A

With first place in its Champions League group secured, Juventus can now turn its attention on boosting its title defense against Genoa this weekend, with the Italian champions making the trip to the Luigi Ferraris on Sunday. Andrea Pirlo’s squad enter this clash off the back of a comprehensive victory against Barcelona and will be hoping for much of the same against Genoa. Juventus has struggled for consistency in the opening rounds of league play, drawing five of its opening 10 games. The Bianconeri currently trail AC Milan by six points and cannot afford to fall any further behind Stefano Pioli’s men. Genoa will be eager to turn its season around, having won just one of its first 10 games. Davide Nicola’s men are flirting dangerously with the drop zone and are winless in their last nine encounters.

AC Milan welcomes Parma into the San Siro on Sunday, looking to maintain its sizable lead atop the table. The Rossoneri sit five points above fierce rival Inter Milan. Pioli’s side is coming off a narrow victory against Sampdoria, extending its unbeaten run in Serie A to 22 games, dating back to last season. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Parma will be looking to continue its recent resurgence. Fabio Liverani’s men have only lost once in their last eight encounters in all competitions, indicating a hard-fought battle ahead. 

Inter Milan will not have much time to lick its wounds following its European elimination, traveling to Sardegna Arena to take on Cagliari on Sunday. The Nerazzurri are unbeaten in their last five league encounters, recording three consecutive wins. In fact, Inter Milan’s only defeat in league action came in the Derby Della Madonnina against their fierce rivals. Antonio Conte’s men will try to cut into AC Milan’s five-point lead atop the table but will not have it easy against Cagliari. The Sardinian outfit has proven to be a free-scoring side under Eusebio Di Francesco, with Joao Pedro and Giovanni Simeone combining for 11 goals already this season.

France/Portugal

Paris Saint-Germain hosts Olympique Lyonnais on Saturday, with just two points separating the sides. Rudi Garcia’s side has undergone a recent resurgence and is unbeaten since its loss against Montpellier back in September. PSG heads into this intriguing matchup off the back of a dominant performance against Istanbul Başakşehir, putting five past the Turkish side. Neymar and Kylian Mbappe combined for five goals between them and will look to translate their goalscoring exploits into this game. Lyon possesses a dynamic attack of its own, having scored six goals in their last two convincing victories. 

PSG’s encounter with Lyon may dominate the headlines, but Marseille’s upcoming clash against AS Monaco will be just as compelling. Andre Vilas Boas’s side is coming off an abysmal European campaign, but still sits just two points behind PSG with two games in hand. Monaco will be looking to return to winning ways after losing narrowly to Lille last weekend. Niko Kovac’s men were previously riding a four-game winning streak, including a come-from-behind win against PSG. Only five points stand between a fifth-place Monaco and first place, indicating an intense title race ahead.

Portuguese football is on pause this weekend, as the fourth round of the Taça de Portugal is set to resume. Sporting CP hosts Pacos Ferreira on Friday, while Porto welcomes Tondela into the Estádio do Dragão on Sunday. Elsewhere, Benfica takes on Vilafraquense while Braga makes the trip to CO Montijo.

Champions League group stage winners and losers: Manchester United headlines early exits

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

Yahoo Sports StaffWed, December 9, 2020, 5:54 PM EST·5 min read

The most condensed UEFA Champions League group stage in the history of Europe’s top club competition came to an end Wednesday as the final slate of Matchday 6 games concluded.

Despite the breakneck pace of the schedule — the 2020-21 campaign started a month later than normal because of fixture congestion caused by the coronavirus pandemic, resulting in games almost every single week — there was absolutely no drop-off in drama. Now that the first round is over, with the knockout phase set to begin February as usual, a look and the biggest winners and losers is in order.

Champions League group stage winners

Real Madrid: The most successful team in tournament history came into its sixth and final match sitting third in a tricky Group B, meaning Real Madrid needed to beat then-leader Borussia Monchengladbach to emerge from a foursome that also included Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk.

But Zinedine Zidane’s team made no mistake, strolling to a comfortable 2-0 victory over the German side, with veteran striker Karim Benzema scoring both of the goals. Not only did the triumph vault Real into the next stage, it was enough to take the group, too.

Juventus: The Italian titan came into its final Group G contest knowing that following a 2-0 loss to Barcelona in Turin in October, only a three-goal margin in the rematch in Spain would be enough to leapfrog Barca and top the group, guaranteeing (in theory anyway) an easier Round of 16 foe. For a club looking for its first European title this century following a pair of fruitless appearances in the finals since 2015, every advantage matters.And in the first meeting between Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in more than two years, Ronaldo got the better of his fellow living legend by scoring twice from the penalty spot — including the all-important group clincher — in a 3-0 rout at the Camp Nou.

Borussia Monchengladbach: After losing to Real, the only hope Gladbach had of advancing was if Inter and Shakhtar played to a stalemate in the other Group B contest. Yet that’s how it shook out, allowing the Germans to move on.

Chelsea: Frank Lampard’s Blues were the favorites to win Group E from the start. But after opening the tourney with a disappointing scoreless draw with Sevilla, Chelsea was lights-out in advancing, stringing together four consecutive wins — including a 4-0 drubbing of the Spaniards in Seville — en route to the top spot.

U.S. men’s national team: When Manchester City keeper Zack Steffen made his debut in the competition Wednesday in the already-qualified Sky Blues’ group finale, he became the record ninth American to play in the Champions League this year.

Steffen kept a clean sheet in 3-0 win over Marseille, and he’ll join seven of his other eight compatriots — Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Konrad de le Fuente, Sergino Dest (both Barcelona), Weston McKennie (Juventus) Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund), Chris Richards (Bayern Munich) and Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) — in next year’s knockout round. The only USMNT regular who didn’t advance was Club Brugge’s backup backstop Ethan Horvath, who starred in a last-gasp win over Zenit St. Petersburg in his only appearance this campaign.

Champions League group stage losers

Manchester United: The Red Devils’ furious comeback was too little, too late in Tuesday’s 3-2 loss in Leipzig, relegating once-feared United to third place behind last season’s surprise semifinalists and Group H winners Paris Saint-Germain. (PSG trounced İstanbul Başakşehir 5-1 behind Neymar’s hat trick Wednesday, a day after the match was abandoned following a racist incident.)

Despite being drawn into arguably the most difficult of the eight groups, it was an embarrassing exit for the three-time European champs. And it heaped more pressure on manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who now must balance trying to win the Europa League with climbing up the standings in the Prem, where United sits sixth.

Inter Milan and Shakhtar Donetsk: Both teams came into their final day meeting with the chance to move on from Group B. A win for either would’ve been enough; a draw would result in mutually assured destruction. Inter attacked like crazy, but put just four of 20 shots on frame, while defensive-minded Donetsk clearly was content to settle for the Europa League rather than risk finishing last.

Lionel Messi: Watching a visibly frustrated Messi in Tuesday’s thumping by Juventus, it was hard not to think back to the historic drubbing Bayern Munich put on Barcelona in the 2019-20 quarterfinal. This one wasn’t as bad, granted. But it also inspired zero confidence that this Barcelona squad, as currently constructed, has any realistic chance of competing for the Champions League title, either this year or in the near future.

However long Barcelona is able to survive in the knockout stage, those matches could well mark the last handful of Messi’s incomparable Blaugrana career. The 33-year-old, who tried to leave his only professional club last summer in a bid to win another European crown before he retires, has just six months remaining on his contract.

12/8/20 Champs League Tues/Wed Real or Man U out?, USMNT vs El Salvador Wed 7:30 pm ESPN News, MLS Finals Sat Columbus vs Seattle on Fox 8 pm.

MLS Finals Set Seattle vs Columbus Sat 8 pm on Fox

Seattle came back from 2 goals down to Minn United at home with 3 goals in the last 15 minutes to snatch away the victory. The 2nd goal in the 89th minute and the final goal off a corner header in the 93rd minute to secure the victory as MLS’ new dynasty the Seattle Sounders will look to complete a Back to Back at Columbus on Saturday night. The defending MLS Champs were taken to the woodshed in the first 30 minutes by upstart Minn United. The 4th year team – just 2 years removed from having the worst record in the league has made steady progress under coach Adrian Heath and looks to be set to compete moving forward in the West. Meanwhile, Seattle has set the standard in MLS this decade as this is their 4th MLS Cup in 5 years with Championships last year and in 2016. Columbus Crew SC are the home team and they’re 12W-1L-0D at MAPFRE Stadium this season, including Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs wins over the New York Red BullsNashville SC and the New England Revolution. The Seattle Sounders, meanwhile, are the defending champions and are looking to join D.C. United, the Houston Dynamo and the LA Galaxy as the only teams in league history to win back-to-back titles. This is honestly a toss-up and the way this MLS Playoff season has gone – is much watch TV Sat Night at 8 pm on Fox.

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE – FINAL Group Matches – Real & Man U on Edge, 7 spots up for grabs, Renaldo vs Messi

The Champions League group stage has reached its climax, with seven places in the round of 16 still up for grabs.  The crucial action comes in Group H as Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and RB Leipzig fight it out for the two places, while Borussia Monchengladbach, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk are in a titanic battle in Group B.  With that in mind, we run you through all the action ahead of what promises to be another unpredictable, dramatic week of Champions League action. Who will seal their places in the knockout stages?  It’s a Winner advance game today at 3 pm on CBS All Access and TUDN between RB Liepzig and Man United as American Adams looks to help RB Leipzig advance to the Sweet 16.  A PSG win or tie puts them into the next round.  Dortmund and Gio Reyna – fresh off a goal over the weekend – will look to claim first place in their group with a win at 1 pm at Zenit- either way they are thru.  Also Tuesday with 1st place in the group on the line is a rematch of Messi vs Ronaldo as Juventus and American Weston McKinney travel to Barcelona with American Serginio Dest at 3 pm on CBS AA.  Wednesday’s marquee matchup is Real Madrid hosting Borrusia MGladbach with the winner advancing to the Knock-out stages at 3 pm on CBS AA and TUDN.  At the same time Inter and Shakhatar are playing their own winner goes on – loser goes home match.  Atletico must win or tie to hold on their spot in the next round vs American Coach Jesse Marsh and Salzburg also at 3 pm Wed.  At 1 pm Ajax and Italy’s Atalata will face off on CBSAA for a shot to the next round.  Finally American GK Zach Steffan gets the start for Man City vs Marseille – as Man City has basically clinched top in group B.  Today and Wednesday just might be the day to watch the Goalazo show on CBS Sportsnetwork with so many games of such importance!   Here’s the Table going into the final matchday of group play.

USA Men face El Salvador Wed 7:30 pm ESPN News

The US Men take a mighty young very U23 looking team of MLS stars into their game with El Salvador on Wednesday night.

The US Men take a mighty young very U23 looking team of MLS stars into their game with El Salvador on Wednesday night.  Some things to watch for Wed night are who makes a mark.  Lots of players are battling for a chance to be on the roster this summer as the US looks towards the Olympics (U24s), Gold Cup and Nations League Finals this summer.  Can the US score will be once question as Sebatian Soto looks to start up top.  Line-up prediction – This team should win by at least 2 goals! 

Soto //Akinola

Acosta, Aaronson, Lletget

Yueill

Vines, McKenzie, Zimmerman, Araujo

Hamid

USA MLS MEN

GOALKEEPERS (3): CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Andrés Perea (Orlando City), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Efrain Alvarez (LA Galaxy), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tues, Dec 8 

               Champions League Final Group Day

1 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Zenit vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Man United  (winner thru)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Barcelona (Dest) vs Juve (McKinney)

3 pm CBS AA                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Krasnodar

3 pm CBS AA                     PSG vs Instanbul

 Wed, Dec 9  

                              Champions League Final Group Day

1 pm CBS AA                     Ajax vs Atalanta

1 pm CBS AA                     Midtjylland vs Liverpool

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Real Madrid vs Borrusia MGladbach (winner thru)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Inter vs Shakhatar Donetsk

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Salzburg (US Manager) vs Athletico Madrid (winner thru)

3 pm CBS AA                     Manchester City (Steffan GK) vs Olympique Marseille        

7:30  pm  ESPN News TUDN USA Men (MLS guys) vs El Salvador 

CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Tues/WED

 Champions League: How teams can qualify for round of 16  Dale Johnson

Man United, Real Madrid could bow out of UCL in pivotal week  Tom Hamilton
Messi will face Ronaldo in UCL clash – Koeman
  Sam Marsden

Zidane: I’ve never felt untouchable as coach  dAlex Kirkland and Rodrigo Faez
Solskjaer’s had many ‘make or break’ weeks but this one will define his season
  Mark Ogden

Ole: Players must prove they belong at Man Utd  Rob Dawson

USA

USMNT stars make Euro leagues scoring history
Berhalter issues challenge to Aaronson ahead of El Salvador friendly
Arriola: USMNT now have “different sense of urgency” now
Berhalter impressed by Efra Alvarez, leaving “open door” for US switch
Doyle: Latest USMNT roster has an Olympic flair
Jackson Yueill added to USMNT roster
Scouting El Salvador

MLS

538: Who will win MLS Cup 2020?
Sounders Score 3 Goals in last 15 Minutes to Stun Minn
What a comeback! Seattle beat Loons 3-2, reach fourth MLS Cup in five years
“One of our best games ever”: Seattle back in MLS Cup after classic
Bruin & Svensson the super-sub heroes for Sounders: “I knew what I needed to do”
Minnesota: We were “running on empty” at the end vs. Seattle

Complete Bracket: MLS Cup is set!

USA vs. El Salvador | How to watch, stream and follow | 2020 International Friendly

Dylan Butler Nov 25, 2020

2020 International Friendly
United States vs. El Salvador
Inter Miami CF Stadium – Fort Lauderdale
December 9 – 7:30 PM ET

TV: UniMás, TUDN, ESPN News

After the young, largely European-based US men’s national team impressed last month with results against Wales and Panama in the team’s first matches in nine months, a young crop of MLS players will look to impress Gregg Berhalter in an international friendly against El Salvador at Inter Miami CF Stadium Dec. 9. It is the last competitive match of the calendar year ahead of what will be a very busy and very important 2021, which includes World Cup qualifiers and the Concacaf Gold Cup. Of the 23 players called up, with Benfica goalkeeper CJ Dos Santos the lone player not from MLS, 13 are looking to earn their first USMNT cap. There’s some interesting storylines as well ahead of this match. Berhalter called in a handful of players who are either dual nationals or available to compete for several national teams, including Efra Alvarez from the LA Galaxy who has represented both the US and Mexico as a youth international. Young forwards Daryl Dike from Orlando City SC and Toronto FC’s Ayo Akinola both have multiple international options with each impressing in the 2020 season. Brenden Aaronson’s year started with his first USMNT cap in January and included playing a starring role in the Philadelphia Union’s historic Supporters’ Shield run as well as a Best XI presented by Home Depot selection. Berhalter challenged Aaronson, who will join Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull Salzburg in the new year, to show what he did in MLS on the international level against a tricky El Salvador side. “What we’re looking for him now is to validate it. Validate it on the field,” he told reporters in a video conference call. “It’s a good opponent we play. Against El Salvador, it’s going to be a tight game and this is where he should be able to be very effective. We’re really looking forward to him capping off a strong season with a good performance against El Salvador.”Paul Arriola, who spent much of the season working his way back from a preseason ACL injury, returns to the fold and the D.C. United midfielder has more goals (5) and appearances (33) than any other player on this roster. And there’s an open competition at the center back spot to earn regular starts with Aaron Long of the New York Red Bulls, newly-minted MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman from Nashville SC and Mark McKenzie of the Union leading the charge. While Berhalter has one eye on the the USMNT future of some of these young players, many are also eligible to compete in Olympic qualifying, which should also take place in 2021. “They’re here for a reason, they’ve here because they’ve earned this call-up based on what they do well and keep doing that well and we’ll fit them in to what we do,” Berhalter said of the young players in camp. “That’s the important message for these guys.”Houston Dynamo midfielder Darwin Ceren and Andres Flores from the Portland Timbers, who have a combined 125 appearances, have been called into the El Salvador team for this match. The USMNT hold a 17-1-5 all-time advantage in the series dating back to 1977. This is the first friendly meeting in more than a decade with Brian Ching and Sacha Kljestan scoring in a 2-1 win in Tampa on Feb. 24, 2010. The most recent match was a 2-0 USMNT win in the 2017 Gold Cup quarterfinals with Omar Gonzalez and Eric Lichaj scoring first-half goals.

Champions League: Who can reach last 16?

Joe Prince-Wrighton, December 7, 2020, 10:30 AM ESTThe UEFA Champions League group stage will enter its finale next week, and only nine of the spots in the last 16 have been decided.

[ MORE: Champions League odds, picks ]

Groups B and H will be intriguing as seven of the eight teams across those groups head into the final 90 minutes knowing they can reach the last 16. There is also plenty to sort out when it comes to third place and which teams will move down to the Europa League Round of 32.

While below we look at the Champions League permutations and who needs what on the final day.

Who can reach UEFA Champions League last 16?

Group A

Reigning champs Bayern have won the group, while a final day showdown sees USMNT legend Jesse Marsch lead Austrian champs RB Salzburg against Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid at home. A win for Salzburg would seal their first-ever passage to the last 16. Atleti only need a draw to reach the last 16.

Qualified: Bayern Munich (group winners)
In the hunt: Atletico Madrid, RB Salzburg

Final day games: RB Salzburg v Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich v Lokomotiv Moscow

Group B

This is the most exciting group. All four teams can still qualify, as Shakhtar’s two wins against Real Madrid have really mixed things up. Real have never failed to qualify from the group stage, but it is a straight shootout between themselves and Monchengladbach for a spot in the last 16. Inter Milan have to beat Shakhtar to have a chance of advancing, and hope that Madrid v Monchengladbach doesn’t end in a draw. Wow.

Qualified: Nobody
In the hunt: Borussia Monchengladbach, Shakhtar Donetsk, Real Madrid, Inter Milan

Final day games: Real Madrid v Borussia Monchengladbach, Inter Milan v Shakhtar Donetsk

Group H

Another belter of a group. Manchester United head to RB Leipzig knowing a point will be enough to reach the last 16, but Leipzig need a win to guarantee their path to the last 16. PSG host already-eliminated Basaksehir and a win would see them qualify. However, there is a scenario that if United and Leipzig draw and so too do PSG, then Les Parisiens will go through by virtue of away goals scored in their head-to-head record with Leipzig. Wild. Root for chaos.

Qualified: Nobody.
In the hunt: Manchester United, PSG, RB Leipzig

Final day games: RB Leipzig v Manchester United, PSG v Istanbul Basaksehir

Group F

This is interesting. Borussia Dortmund are through but need a win against Zenit to guarantee top spot. Lazio host Club Brugge in a straight shootout to see who joins them in the last 16. Lazio need a point to seal their place in the last 16.

Qualified: Borussia Dortmund
In the hunt: Lazio, Club Brugge

Final day games: Zenit v Borussia Dortmund, Lazio v Club Brugge

Group D

Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool have eased through as group winners, while Ajax v Atalanta is a straight showdown to see who joins them. A draw for Atalanta is enough to reach the last 16 and send Ajax to the Europa League. Ajax have to win.

Qualified: Liverpool (group winners)
In the hunt: Atalanta, Ajax

Final day games: Midtjylland v Liverpool, Ajax v Atalanta

Group C

Easy in this group, as City have already won the group and Porto will finish second. Marseille and Olympiacos are battling for third and qualification to the Europa League as they’re both locked on three points.

Qualified: Manchester City (group winners), FC Porto

Final day games: Manchester City v Marseille, Olympiacos v Porto

Group E

Chelsea have eased through as group winners, while Sevilla join them in the last 16. Krasnodar have also sealed third place and Europa League qualification. Nothing to play for in Group E, other than pride for Rennes.

Qualified: Chelsea (group winner), Sevilla
In the hunt: Nobody. Krasnodar have sealed third place

Final day games: Chelsea v Krasnodar, Rennes v Sevilla

Group G

Barca need a point at home to Juve to seal top spot, but a defeat could see Juve jump above them (as long as they better the result from Barca’s 2-0 win at Juve in October). Dynamo Kiev and Ferencvaros square off for third place with both teams on one point after their 2-2 draw in Hungary earlier in the group stage.

Qualified: Barcelona, Juventus
In the hunt: Dynamo Kiev, Ferencvaros in battle for third.

Final day games: Barcelona v Juventus, Dynamo Kiev v Ferencvaros

Group H

Another belter of a group. Manchester United head to RB Leipzig knowing a point will be enough to reach the last 16, but Leipzig need a win to guarantee their path to the last 16. PSG host already-eliminated Basaksehir and a win would see them qualify. However, there is a scenario that if United and Leipzig draw and so too do PSG, then Les Parisiens will go through by virtue of away goals scored in their head-to-head record with Leipzig. Wild. Root for chaos.

Qualified: Nobody.
In the hunt: Manchester United, PSG, RB Leipzig

Final day games: RB Leipzig v Manchester United, PSG v Istanbul Basaksehir

JPW’s Champions League predictions

Group A – December 9

Bayern Munich 3-1 Lokomotiv Moscow
RB Salzburg 2-2 Atletico Madrid

Group B – December 9

Inter Milan 3-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Real Madrid 2-1 Borussia Monchengladbach

Group C – December 9

Olympiacos 1-2 FC Porto
Manchester City 4-1 Marseille

Group D – December 9

Ajax 2-3 Atalanta
Midtjylland 1-2 Liverpool

Group E – December 8

Rennes 1-1 Sevilla
Chelsea 4-0 Krasnodar

Group F – December 8

Zenit 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Lazio 2-1 Club Brugge

Group G – December 8

Dynamo Kiev 1-1 Ferencvaros
Barcelona 1-3 Juventus

Group H – December 8

Paris Saint-Germain 3-1 Istanbul Basaksehir
RB Leipzig 1-1 Manchester United

 Champions League Matchday 6 preview: Man United, Real Madrid could bow out in pivotal week

10:40 AM ETTom HamiltonSenior Writer

  • The Champions League group stage has reached its climax, with seven places in the round of 16 still up for grabs.The crucial action comes in Group H as Man United, PSG and RB Leipzig fight it out for the two places, while Borussia Monchengladbach, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Shakhtar Donetsk are in a titanic battle in Group B.

With that in mind, we run you through all the action ahead of what promises to be another unpredictable, dramatic week of Champions League action. Who will seal their places in the knockout stages?

Jump to groups:
— Wednesday’s matches: A | B | C | D
— Tuesday’s matches: E | F | G | H


GROUP A: Bayern MunichAtletico MadridFC SalzburgLokomotiv Moscow

Standings: Bayern (13 pts), Atletico Madrid (6 pts), FC Salzburg (4 pts), Lokomotiv Moscow (3 pts)

Bayern Munich are through as group winners but second place is up for grabs. If Atletico Madrid avoid defeat against FC Salzburg, they go through, but if Salzburg win in Austria then it’s Jesse Marsch’s team who will progress.

BAYERN MUNICH vs. LOKOMOTIV MOSCOW

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Reigning champions Bayern Munich are already through as group winners so coach Hansi Flick may opt to rotate his squad following their 3-3 draw with RB Leipzig at the weekend. English wunderkind Jamal Musiala scored alongside a brace from Thomas Muller against Leipzig leaving Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga. They have Javi MartinezAlphonso DaviesJerome BoatengLucas Hernandez and Joshua Kimmich all out injured but should have too much for Lokomotiv.

Lokomotiv may yet need a result in Munich to secure a spot in the Europa League and will take heart from their 3-1 win over Rubin Kazan at the weekend where Vladislav Ignatyev scored twice. They have Mikhail Lysov, Dmitri Barinov, Daniil KulikovZe Luis and Feder Smolov all out injured.

FC SALZBURG vs. ATLETICO MADRID

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Both Salzburg and Atletico have a shot at reaching the knockouts, with the Austrians needing to beat Diego Simeone’s side to go through. Jesse Marsch’s Salzburg suffered a shock 1-0 defeat to Flyeralarm Admira at the weekend but will hope for more of the same from their last Champions League match where they won 3-1 at Lokomotiv. Antoine Bernede misses out through injury while Noah Okafor is a doubt.

Atletico beat Real Valladolid 2-0 on Saturday with Thomas Lemar and Marcos Llorente scoring. They have conceded just two goals in 10 La Liga games so Salzburg will have it tough to get through the Atletico defence. Simeone’s side will be without Yannick CarrascoJose Gimenez and Diego Costa but will be favourites to go through.

 

GROUP B: Real MadridShakhtar DonetskInter MilanBorussia Monchengladbach

Standings: Borussia Monchengladbach (8 pts), Shakhtar Donetsk (7 pts), Real Madrid (7 pts), Inter (5 pts)

This is all to play for. All four teams can progress: Gladbach need to avoid defeat to go through, while Real Madrid need to beat the German side to qualify. Shakhtar need to beat Inter to keep fate in their hands, while Inter need to win and hope for anything other than a draw in the other game.

INTER MILAN vs. SHAKHTAR DONETSK

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This group is beautifully poised with all four teams still hopeful of gate-crashing the knockout stages.

Internazionale will go through to the knockouts if they beat Shakhtar Donetsk and the Real-Borussia match does not end in a draw. They won 3-1 on Saturday against Bologna with Romelu Lukaku scoring and Achraf Hakimi grabbing a brace. Aleksandar Kolarov and Matias Vecino are unavailable.

Shakhtar will progress if they win in Milan and travel with plenty of confidence having won 5-1 over Mynai at the weekend with Fernando, Manor Solomon and Mykola Matviyenko all scoring alongside a pair of own goals. Shakhtar drew 0-0 with Inter first time out, and will be without Ismaily, Viktor Kornienko, Yevgen Konoplyanaka and Junior Moraes. Inter should have too much for the visitors here.

REAL MADRID vs. BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Real Madrid’s topsy-turvy season continued with a 1-0 win at Sevilla win at the weekend, thanks to a Yassine Bounou own-goal, but the pressure’s on Zinedine Zidane’s side to get a result against the impressive Borussia MonchengladbachSergio Ramos could play while Dani Carvajal has trainedm but Eden Hazard, Martin Odegaard and Federico Valverde will all miss out.Gladbach drew 2-2 at Freiburg on Saturday with Breel Embolo and Alassane Plea scoring. They lost to Inter Milan in the last round, but know they may need a draw to go through. Jonas Hofmann and Ramy Bensebaini will both miss out for Marco Rose’s side but there is a slim chance Nico Elvedi returns. We think Zidane will pull this one out of the hat and Madrid will progress.

GROUP C: FC PortoManchester CityOlympiakosMarseille

Standings: Man City (13 pts), FC Porto (10 pts), Olympiakos (3 pts), Marseille (3 pts)

Man City and FC Porto are already through while Olympiakos and Marseille are competing for the Europa League spot.

MANCHESTER CITY vs. MARSEILLE

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

 

Pep Guardiola’s side are through as group winners so expect some rotation against Andre Villas-Boas’ team. City saw off Fulham at the weekend 2-0 thanks to goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Raheem Sterling, leaving City sixth in the Premier League. They have Sergio Aguero still out injured but Guardiola’s team should see off Marseille.

Marseille will be hoping to get a result in Manchester to book a spot in the Europa League and will travel over the Channel buoyed by their 2-0 win at Nimes on Friday. Dario Benedetto and Valere Germain both scored in their Ligue 1 victory and Villas-Boas only has winger Nemanja Radonjic absent.

OLYMPIAKOS vs. FC PORTO

Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Like MarseilleOlympiakos will be gunning for third and qualification to the Europa League and won 4-1 against Volos in Super League Greece on Saturday. Youssef El-Arabi grabbed a hat trick in that comfortable win, and they will fancy their chances against Porto on Wednesday. Veteran midfielder Mathieu Valbuena misses out through injury.

FC Porto drew with City last time out and edged past Tondela at the weekend in a 4-3 thriller. They had Mateus Uribe sent off late on, but moved third in the Primeira Liga thanks to Moussa Marega’s double and other goals from Zaidu Sanusi and Mehdi TaremiIvan Marcano and Pepe both miss out. We think this will end in a draw with Olympiakos taking third spot.


GROUP D: LiverpoolAjaxAtalantaFC Midtjylland

Standings: Liverpool (12 pts), Ajax (8 pts), Atalanta (7 pts), FC Midtjylland (1 pts)

Liverpool are through as group winners while Ajax and Atalanta face each other for the second spot. If Atalanta avoid defeat in Amsterdam, they go through.

FC MIDTJYLLAND vs. LIVERPOOL

Wednesday, 12:55 p.m. ET / 5:55 p.m. GMT

Danish champions FC Midtjylland will finish at the foot of Group D while Liverpool head into the knockouts as group winners so hopefully this’ll lead to an expansive, end-to-end match. Midtjylland won 2-0 at Vejle BK on Saturday with Erik Sviatchenko and Alexander Scholz scoring. Liverpool breezed past Wolves 4-0 on Sunday with Jurgen Klopp juggling his squad with precision. Mohamed SalahGeorginio Wijnaldum and Joel Matip all scored, alongside a Nelson Semedo own goal, but expect Klopp to shuffle his pack again for Wednesday’s trip to Denmark.

Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez remain long-term absentees while James Milner is also sidelined, but Trent Alexander-Arnold and Naby Keita returned in their win over Wolves. Liverpool should have too much for the hosts.

AJAX vs. ATALANTA

Wednesday, 12:55 p.m. ET / 5:55 p.m. GMT

This will be one of the games of Matchday 6 with everything on the line as Atalanta travel to Ajax. If Atalanta avoid defeat, they’ll go through to the knockout stages but a win for Ajax will see them leapfrog the Italians into second.

Ajax suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at home to Twente on Saturday with Dusan Tadic’s second-half penalty not enough to earn a point, so they’ll hope to fare better against Gian Piero Gasperini’s side. Noussair MazraouiDavid Neres and Mohammed Kudus are all likely to be unavailable.

Atalanta’s match at Udinese at the weekend was called off due to a waterlogged pitch so their previous match was the 1-1 draw at home to Midtjylland last week. Mattia Caldara and Robin Gosens will both miss out. We think this will end in a draw, with Atalanta going through.


GROUP E: SevillaChelseaKrasnodarRennes

Standings: Chelsea (13 pts), Sevilla (10 pts), Krasnodar (4 pts), Rennes (1 pt)

This group is already sorted: Chelsea go through as winners, Sevilla as runners-up and Krasnodar are in the Europa League.

CHELSEA vs. KRASNODAR

Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Chelsea will top Group E and impressed at the weekend in their 3-1 win over Leeds with goals from Olivier GiroudKurt Zouma and Christian Pulisic. Giroud now has five in two, following his four-goal haul against Sevilla, and Hakim Ziyech is Chelsea’s only injured player.

Krasnodar swiped aside Rotor 5-0 at the weekend thanks to braces from Ari and Viktor Claesson, and another goal from Magomed Suleymanov. They are already secure in third spot in this group. They will be without Dmitri Stotskiy and Sergey Petrov and will do well to get anything out of this trip to Stamford Bridge.

STADE RENNES vs. SEVILLA

Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This group’s standings are cemented with Rennes finishing fourth, and Sevilla going through as runners-up. Rennes’ Champions League campaign has been disappointing and they fell to a 2-0 defeat at home to Lens at the weekend to leave them ninth in Ligue 1. Manager Julien Stephan said afterwards he was concerned by the team’s “negative spiral” and said they have to behave like they are in a “fight against relegation.” Rennes have a number of injury concerns with Daniele RuganiJonas Martin, Nayef Aguerd, Serhou Guirassy, Martin Terrier and Alfred Gomis all absent.

Sevilla lost 1-0 at home to Real Madrid at the weekend and have Marcos Aruna, Sergio Escudero, Munir and Tomas Vaclik all injured while Jesus Navas and Joan Jordan are rested. But they are already through in second and should get a result in France.


GROUP F: Zenit St. PetersburgBorussia DortmundLazioClub Brugge

Standings: Dortmund (10 pts), Lazio (9 pts), Club Brugge (7 pts), Zenit (1 pt)

Borussia Dortmund are through but need a win to cement top spot. The winner of Lazio-Club Brugge will go through as runners-up with a draw enough for the Serie A side.

LAZIO vs. CLUB BRUGGE

Tuesday, 12.55 p.m. ET / 5.55 p.m. GMT

Anything other than defeat will see Lazio through and they’ll hope to carry momentum into Tuesday’s game from their 2-1 win over Spezia on Saturday. Ciro Immobile grabbed his 10th of the season alongside another from the incredibly talented Sergej Milinkovic-SavicSenad Lulic and Vedat Muriqi are both unavailable for Tuesday’s match but we expect Lazio to finish this group with a victory.

Club Brugge edged past Sint-Truiden 1-0 on Saturday thanks to David Okereke’s second-half goal. They beat Zenit 3-0 last time out and have a fully fit squad for the trip to Rome.

ZENIT ST. PETERSBURG vs. BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Tuesday, 12.55 p.m. ET / 5.55 p.m. GMT

Zenit hammered Ural Yekaterinburg 5-1 on Saturday in the Russian Premier League with Sardar Azmoun scoring a hat trick alongside goals from Artem Dzyuba and Douglas SantosDejan Lovren is out injured and will miss Tuesday’s game.

Borussia Dortmund are struggling for goals without the injured Erling Haaland and needed a brilliant effort from Gio Reyna to grab a draw at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. Borussia Dortmund are already through to the round of 16 and will want to finish top of the group but will have to do it without Manuel AkanjiRaphael GuerreiroThomas DelaneyMarcel Schmelzer and Haaland. We can see this ending all-square.


GROUP G: JuventusBarcelonaDynamo KievFerencvaros

Standings: Barcelona (15 pts), Juventus (12 pts), Dynamo Kiev (1 pt), Ferencvaros (1 pt)

Barcelona are in the driving seat and will keep top spot if they avoid defeat by three goals (or two goals, if the score is 3-1 or higher) against Juventus. Dynamo Kiev need to avoid defeat against Ferencvaros to get the Europa League spot.

BARCELONA vs. JUVENTUS

Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This is a tantalising battle between two European giants for the top spot in Group G – and we’re all hoping to see Lionel Messi up against Cristiano Ronaldo. But Barcelona head into this clash off the back of impressive European form, but a dismal performance in the league as they lost 2-1 to Cadiz on Saturday. Ronald Koeman has rotated Messi in their last two European games and he should start but Barcelona’s injury list is ever-lengthening with Ousmane Dembele out with a hamstring injury. Gerard PiqueAnsu Fati and Sergi Roberto are all long-term absentees while Ronald Araujo should come back into the side.

Juventus need a victory to top Group G and edged past local rivals Torino at the weekend in Serie A, winning 2-1 thanks to goals from Weston McKennie and Leonardo Bonucci. They sit fourth in the Italian top flight and will be without veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and defenders Merih Demiral and Giorgio Chiellini. Nothing will separate these sides on Tuesday evening.

DYNAMO KIEV vs. FERENCVAROS

Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This is a battle for the Europa League spot, which Dynamo Kiev will take if they avoid defeat. Dynamo beat Mariupol 2-1 at the weekend thanks to goals from Denys Harmash and Viktor Tsyhankov, while Ferencvaros won at Diosgyori 3-1. Dynamo will be without Oleksandr TymchykNazariy RusynMikkel DuelundMykyta Burda and Volodymyr Kostevych while Ferencvaros are at full-strength.


GROUP H: Paris Saint-GermainManchester UnitedRB LeipzigIstanbul Basaksehir

Standings: Man United (9 pts), PSG (9 pts), RB Leipzig (9 pts), Istanbul Basaksehir (3 pts)

PSG, Manchester United and RB Leipzig are all tied on nine points. A draw will see PSG through. Manchester United go out if they lose, but need a point at Leipzig to go through. Leipzig realistically need to beat United to go through.

PARIS SAINT-GERMAIN vs. ISTANBUL BASAKSEHIR

Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

This group is evenly poised with three teams all in with a shout of getting through to the knockout stages.

PSG know a win over Istanbul Basaksehir will see them book their spot in the round of 16 and they won 3-1 at Montpellier on Saturday thanks to goals from Colin DagbaMoise Kean and Kylian MbappeJuan Bernat will miss out through injury, while Mauro IcardiJulian Draxler and Pablo Sarabia are also doubts, but Thomas Tuchel will likely recall Neymar to the starting line-up.

Basaksehir lost 4-3 to Leipzig on Matchday 5, and drew 1-1 at Yani Malatyaspor on Saturday with Giuliano de Paula scoring. Martin Skrtel is suspended while Basaksehir will also be without Boli Bolingoli, Alexandru EpureanuMehmet Topal and Ifran Kahveci. PSG should win this comfortably.

RB LEIPZIG vs. MANCHESTER UNITED

Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. GMT

Manchester United need to avoid defeat in Leipzig to go through, while Julian Nagelsmann’s side will be looking for revenge having lost the return game 5-0 at Old Trafford.

Leipzig are playing some wonderful football at the moment and caused Bayern Munich all sorts of difficulty in their 3-3 draw on Saturday. Christopher NkunkuJustin Kluivert and Emil Forsberg all scored against Bayern but Nagelsmann’s side will be without Benjamin HenrichsHwang Hee-ChanLukas Klostermann and Konrad Laimer for Tuesday’s match, while Dayot Upamecano is suspended.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Manchester United came from behind to win 3-1 at West Ham on Saturday thanks to goals from Paul PogbaMason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford. They will be without suspended Fred, who saw red against PSG in their 3-1 defeat last week, while Luke ShawAnthony MartialEdinson Cavani and Phil Jones are all absent. David de Gea remains doubtful with Dean Henderson on hand to deputise in goal. We think this will end in a win for Leipzig.

12/4/20 MLS Finals Sun, Mon, US Men Play Wed 9 pm, UCL Final Day at play Tues/Wed

MLS Playoffs Are Spectacular – Finals East & West Sun 3 pm ABC/Mon 9 pm FS1

While the games were not as spectacular the results were certainly interesting as the bottom seed in the East the New England Revs knocked of Orlando on the road to match up against the 3rd seeded Columbus Crew.  The game will be Sunday at 3 pm on ABC – and should be good as 3 time MLS winner Bruce Arena looks to spring another upset vs a stalwart in the East over the past few seasons Columbus.  In the West it’s the mighty Loons of Minnesota – just 4 years removed from expansion looking to unseat the defending Champion and MLS’ top dynasty of the 2000’s Seattle on Monday night at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.

USA Men face El Salvador Wed 9 pm ESPN/TUDN

The US Men take a mighty young very U23 looking team of MLS stars into their game with El Salvador on Wednesday night.  I promise I will have more preview stuff for this and Champions League Tues/Wed early next week!!

USA MLS MEN

GOALKEEPERS (3): CJ Dos Santos (Benfica), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), David Ochoa (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (8): Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), Kyle Duncan (New York Red Bulls), Marco Farfan (Portland Timbers), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), Mauricio Pineda (Chicago Fire), Sam Vines (Colorado Rapids), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Brenden Aaronson (Philadelphia Union), Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids), Sebastian Lletget (LA Galaxy), Andrés Perea (Orlando City), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes)

FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), Efrain Alvarez (LA Galaxy), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Daryl Dike (Orlando City SC), Djordje Mihailovic (Chicago Fire), Chris Mueller (Orlando City)

GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 5 

7:30 am NBCSN                   Burley vs Everton

9:30 am ESPN+                    Frnaksfurt vs Dortmund (Ryna)

10 am beIN Sport                 Sevilla  vs  Real Madrid  

10 am NBCSN                      Man City vs Fulham

12:30 pm NBC                  West Ham vs Manchester United

12:30 ESPN+             Bayern (Richards) vs Leipzig (Adams)

3 pm beiN Sport                Cadez vs Barcelona (Dest)  

3:30 pm NBCSN               Chelsea (Pulisic) vs leeds United 

Sun, Dec 6   

11:30 amPeacock            Tottenham  vs Arsenal

2:15 pm Peacock                 Liverpool vs Wolverhampton  

3pm ABC                     Columbus Crew vs New England MLS East Finals

Mon, Dec 7  

9:30 pm FS1                Seattle Sounders vs Min United -MLS West Finals

 Tues, Dec 8 

               Champions League Final Group Day

1 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Zenit vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Man United  

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN        Barcelona (Dest) vs Juve (McKinney)

 Wed, Dec 9   

                              Champions League Final Group Day

3 pm CBS All Access/TUDNReal Madrid vs Borrusia MGladbach

3 pm CBS AA/TUDN       Salzburg (US Manager) vs Athletico Madrid       

9:30 pm                       Seattle (Morris) vs FC Dallas (Carmel’s Matt Hedges)

9  pm   TUDN/Fubutv            USA Men (MLS guys) vs El Salvador  

 

MLS Playoffs

Doyle: Tactical preview of the Conference Finals

Predictions: Which teams will make MLS Cup?

FiveThirtyEight: Does a Seattle-Columbus MLS Cup final await?

MLS Cup hosting scenarios: Where the 2020 final could take place

Zakuani: Three takeaways as Minnesota set up showdown with Seattle

Boehm: Sounders find a way, yet again, with champions’ performance

Boehm: Loons deliver on big night to arrive as a true MLS power

Sporting: We had “unbelievable” chances, then the Loons stormed us

Porter not buying the Revs as underdogs: “It’s going to be a hell of a test”

Seltzer: Why Nashville, Orlando will remain East contenders

FC Dallas: This defeat to Seattle stings even more than 2019 loss

Zakuani: Three takeaways as Seattle top Dallas in WC Semifinal

Wiebe: Why Vanney is a perfect fit for the LA Galaxy

Coaching carousel: Four MLS clubs looking for new head coaches

 

USA

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Looking to build something
Berhalter issues challenge to Aaronson ahead of El Salvador friendly
Arriola: USMNT now have “different sense of urgency” now
Berhalter impressed by Efra Alvarez, leaving “open door” for US switch
Doyle: Latest USMNT roster has an Olympic flair
Jackson Yueill added to USMNT roster
USWNT and USSF reach partial agreement on equal pay lawsuit

 

Predictions for the Audi 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Finals | Greg Seltzer

December 4, 20202:18PM EST

Greg SeltzerContributor

As we get down to the nitty gritty of the Audi 2020 MLS Playoffs, picking winners becomes harder if only because everyone left fully deserves a place in the final four.One can make a reasonable advertisement for the virtues of each team left in the title chase, and well, we’ve already seen over the past couple weeks that anything can happen when the MLS postseason arrives.Before we get into Eastern Conference and Western Conference final predictions, a quick update of my playoff track record after a successful last round. I hit on three of the final four, with only New England making m look foolish. That brings my playoff mark to 10-4, which is quite acceptable to me.  That’s squared away, so let’s set up the next episode.

Columbus Crew vs. New England Revolution

Sunday, Dec. 6 @ 3 pm ET | ABC, ESPN Deportes in US; TSN4, TVA Sports in Canada

Both conference finals hold a similar vibe. Each features a balanced favorite at home against a visiting side that one would struggle to call an underdog based on form. Fitting half the bill, Columbus have conceded just eight goals in winning 11 of 12 games at MAPFRE Stadium in 2020. Ably spelling the other half, the Revs have bumped off both Philadelphia and Orlando City, and are 7-4-1 on the road this year spanning the playoffs and regular season.

The fun part about New England’s run (aside from the chance to watch Bruce Arena field more media questions) is they’re just coming out of their shell offensively. Matt Turner and his crew at the back have carried the Revs most of the season, but Carles Gil’s return from injury has them excelling at both ends. Further back, I tabbed New England as the team nobody in the East should want to face in the playoffs. They’ve made me look good – well, only partially, as they’re responsible for half my four missed playoff predictions. Arena’s postseason game plans have worked a charm, with his charges jumping ahead early to control the game states.

On the other hand, Caleb Porter’s Crew tend to write match narratives through patience around whether they can strike early or not. Their defeat of Nashville SC marked the fifth time they’ve emerged victorious from a second half that began scoreless. They’re also 7-1 when carrying a 1-0 lead into the break.

In other words, it’s not about how long it takes them to score (they’re probably going to score eventually, having been shut out just three times in 2020). Playing Columbus often boils down to how long they keep you from scoring. New England have the cogs necessary to pull off what should be considered a minor upset, but can’t quite match the Crew’s overall balance. Being partial to teams that dictate the game with oppressive possession, I’m going with a tense 1-0 Columbus triumph.  

Seattle Sounders vs. Minnesota United FC

Monday, Dec. 7 @ 9:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US, TSN, TVA Sports in Canada

Fresh off slaying a road demon in Kansas City, could the Loons possibly do it again against the oft-rampant defending champs? That is a big question, of course. Minnesota have dropped all three previous games in Seattle (even if each was close at the end), and are yet to beat them anywhere in seven series tries. And this is the Sounders we’re talking about. In the postseason. At home. This is no small ask.

Despite everything they’re up against, it’s a question worth considering. Adrian Heath’s boys are gutsy, perhaps more complete than they’ve been since March and unbeaten since late September. They’re also brimming with hot hands, from Dayne St. Clair and Michael Boxall to Kevin Molino and Emanuel Reynoso. This team will definitely bend, but they just find ways to get the job done. Another away upset almost feels possible.

Then you remember who they need to tackle, and where, and when. You remember that the Sounders come in playing their best defense of the year and that they’re on the verge of their fourth final in five years. You remember that Brian Schmetzer has his own swarm of players in championship form, and not for the first time.

Once you also note that Minnesota will have a long-ish flight with two fewer days of rest at the tail end of a long, strange season, an inevitable outcome seems clear enough. The Loons will give them a good fight, but the firm of Nicolas LodeiroJordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz will be the ones who find a way this time. Let’s say Seattle 2-1.

 Too bad this amazing Orlando City season has to come to an end | Commentary

By MIKE BIANCHIORLANDO SENTINEL |NOV 29, 2020 AT 8:45 PM1 / 32

No, it can’t be over, can it?Please don’t let it be over.Don’t let Orlando City’s amazing, trailblazing season come to an end.Don’t let the Lions go home just yet.

They’ve been too much fun; they’ve spread too much joy; they’ve actually given us something to root for and rally around during this abysmal, awful pandemic-plagued year.

“I could not be prouder of this group,” said first year coach and franchise savior Oscar Pareja. “It has been an honor for me to coach them.”

Orlando City magical playoff run ends with loss to New EnglandNOV 29, 2020 AT 7:00 PM

But, sadly, Pareja’s fabulous first season is over by virtue of Orlando City’s 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinals Sunday at the Purple Palace. It was the final game in this season of firsts: First playoffs. First playoff victory. And, sigh, first playoff loss.

Too bad a season of such celebration and jubilation had to end like this: In bitterness, in frustration, in anger; with emotions erupting, tempers flaring and Orlando City’s players and coaches feeling as if they weren’t just playing against their opponent, but also against MLS officiating.

Whatever inner ill will the Lions were harboring, it caused them to lose their composure and make mistakes, including one monumental blunder in the 60th minute. That’s when Orlando City veteran midfielder Mauricio Pereyra was rightfully given a red card and ejected from the match after he came in spikes-up and gouged New England’s Matt Polster in the back of the calf.The referee immediately showed the red card and Orlando City players, including team captain Nani, went berserk, argued vehemently and even made physical contact with the official. But they were arguing a call that was inarguable. Pereyra made a huge mistake that changed the complexion of the game.“Today, there was a moment where we lost our head and that cannot happen,” Pareja said in his postgame news conference. “… At this moment, there is a lot of pain and frustration that we have been carrying in the last 10 days.”Obviously, Orlando City’s coach and his team haven’t taken kindly with having at least one of their players red-carded and having to play a man down in three of their last four home matches. In last week’s incredible playoff victory over NYCFC, Orlando City had two players tossed out of the match, including starting goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who was suspended from Sunday’s game because of last week’s ejection.

“Every game we play at home, it seems like there’s zero tolerance [from the officials,]” Nani said. “That makes it tough on us emotionally.”

Even so, Orlando City has won matches before when they were a man down. They did it last week against NYCFC, playing the final 43 minutes with 10 men to send the game into penalty kicks. The Lions, trailing 2-1, actually had chance to tie the match on Sunday even after they went a man down following Pereyra’s ejection.Orlando City rookie Daryl Dike was taken down from behind in the box and earned a penalty kick. That’s when everybody started to wonder: Could it be another miracle? Could Orlando City win another playoff game while playing 10-on-11?

Ah, but this time it wasn’t to be. Nani, the team captain, was chosen to take the kick and fired his shot to the left side of the net, but New England goalkeeper Matt Turner guessed right and made a massive save to keep the score 2-1. If somehow Nani had converted, it might have swung the momentum of the match and put all the pressure on New England.According to teammates, Nani cried after the game because he felt he had let his teammates down at the moment they needed him most.

“I will take responsibility,” Nani said. “Today, I couldn’t make the penalty kick. I feel sorry for my teammates because the dream finished right there.”

But what a dream and a dream season it was. Yes, this final loss is disappointing, but not when you put it in perspective. Unlike past seasons when Orlando City left the pitch for the final time, there’s actually a feeling of hope and optimism about the future.

Who will ever forget the previous five seasons of disenchantment, discontent and dysfunction? In the past, the hapless, hopeless Lions were simply playing out the string at the end of another miserable, depressing season; fans were grumbling; ownership was anxious; the head coach’s job was perennially in jeopardy.Not anymore. Pareja, in one magnficient season, has put some pep in the step of Orlando City’s beleaguered, bedraggled franchise. He and this Orlando Gritty team have restored the emotion and devotion of a fan base that had begun to lose faith.

“We made history this season,” said midfielder Junior Urso, who scored the Lions’ only goal Sunday. “Orlando City had never been to the playoffs, but I want more. We want more. So let’s try to get it next season.”

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait.For the first time in Orlando City history, this season ended way too suddenly and next season can’t get here quick enough.

This column first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email me at mbianchi@orlandosentinel.com. Hit me up on Twitter @BianchiWrites and listen to my Open Mike radio show every weekday from 6 to 9 a.m. on FM 96.9 and AM 740.

 

11/26/20 USA Women vs Dutch Fri 12 noon ESPN2, Diego Maradona Dies, MLS Playoffs Spectacular Sun

Iconic, legendary superstar Diego Maradona has died at the age of 60
  So I have to admit I have never been a huge Maradona guy, he was just before I really started watching soccer. I know about the el Mano El Dio and the wonder goal where he dribbled 7 guys before dribbling the English goalkeeper then scoring in the World Cup Semis in 1986. Maradona’s Top 5 Goals But as I hear the players who played with him wonder at the marvel of this wonderful player Maradona the legend becomes more apparent. I hear there is a great HBO documentary about him as well. Hope to watch this weekend. One of the strangest stories I have read involved his warmups -Fans would arrive an hour before gametime just to watch Maradona’s legendary warm ups – especially when he played at Napoli in Italy.   Nice short video on Diego by The Guardian.  While the man was often missunderstood and a bit nuts – the legendary player their is not doubt about. RIP Maradona.

MLS Playoffs Are Spectacular

So I will admit – with nearly all the games on ESPN+ over the last few months of the MLS season – I have not watched a lot of MLS Soccer after the MLS tourney in Orlando to start the season.  But now that the SINGLE ELIMINATION MLS playoffs are underway – I have been sucked back in.  I know a lot of European soccer fan buddies who laugh at MLS still – but man if tune in for Playoff Soccer MLS style I promise you will return.  It started with high scoring games and shootouts – some of them crazy early.  But each and every game I have watched has been dripping with Drama – most of them decided late and extremely competitive.  The Top 2 seeds in the East were sent home #2 Toronto – 4 time finalist was knocked out deservedly by MLS Expansion team Nashville.  More huge games this Sunday as Orlando City hosts NE Revs and coach Bruce Arena at 3 pm on ABC, while ESPN will have Columbus and US Forward Zardes hosting Nashville and Walker Zimmerman at 8 pm. Tues and Wed have the other 2 games see schedule below.

USA Women Face Netherlands Fri  12:30 on ESPN

The World Champs will travel to face the team they beat to win the last world cup in their first competitive match since the She Believe’s Cup back in March. Returning to the fold is Forward Alex Morgan back from having a baby and now playing in Tottenham.  The full roster is here – of course missing are Rapino, Pugh, and Carli Lloyd still recovering from injuries and Horan who has been diagnosed with Covid.  Will be interesting to see how coach works in the newcomers with the old guard next week.  A Good Friday after Thanksgiving Sitdown at 12:30 on ESPN – along with football,

US Ladies Roster

GOALKEEPERS (3): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Aubrey Bledsoe (Washington Spirit), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash)

DEFENDERS (8):  Alanna Cook (PSG), Abby Dahlkemper (North Carolina Courage), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns), Kelley O’Hara (Utah Royals), Midge Purce (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns), Emily Sonnett (Orlando Pride)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Julie Ertz (Chicago Red Stars), Rose Lavelle (Manchester City), Sam Mewis (Manchester City), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash), Jaelin Howell (Florida State), Catarina Macario (Stanford)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Tottenham), Christen Press (Manchester United), Tobin Heath (Manchester United), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage)


Short-handed by COVID-19, Vanderbilt brings in women’s soccer player as kicker

Vandy women’s soccer player option to kick for football team

 GAMES ON TV

(American’s in parenthesis)

Thurs, Nov 26  Europa League

1 pm  Unimas, CBSAA          Molde vs Arsenal 

12:55 TUDN, CBSAA           Lille vs AC Milan

3 pm TUDN, CBSAA            Tottenham vs Ludogorets

Friday, Nov 27

12:30 pm ESPN2         Netherlands vs USA Women

2:30 pm ESPN+                    Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Werder Bremen (Sargent)

Sat, Nov 28 

7:30 am Peacock                     Brighton vs Liverpool

9:30 am ESPN+                      Bayern (Richards) vs Stugart

9:30 am ESPN+                      Dortmund (Ryna) vs Koln

10 am beIN Sport                    Valencia vs  Atletico Madrid  

10 am NBCSN                        Man City vs Burnley 

 12:30 pm NBC                   Everton vs leeds United 

12:30 pm  ESppn+              Frankfort vs RB Leipzig (Adams)

2:30 pm EPSN+                      Hertha Berlin (Brooks) vs Dortmund (Reyna)

3 pm beiN Sport                   Real Madrid vs Alaves

Sun, Nov 22 

9 am NBCSN                         Man United vs Southampton 

9 am ESPN+                           Milan vs Fiorentina 

10:15 am beIN sport               Real Sociadad vs Granada (Sp)

11:30 am NBCSN               Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham 

2:15 pm NBCSN                    Arsenal vs Wolverhampton

3pm ABC                    Orlando City vs New England MLS Playoffs

8 pm ESPN                  Columbus Crew vs Nashville MLS Playoffs

Mon, Nov 23

12:30 pm NBCSN                  Lecivester City vs Fulham  

3 pm NBCSN                         West Ham vs Aston Villa

 Tues, Dec 1 

3 pm                                       Champions League

9:30 pm                       Seattle (Morris) vs FC Dallas (Carmel’s Matt Hedges)

Wed, Dec 2 

3 pm                                       Champions League

9  pm                           Sporting KC vs Minn United

 Argentina’s Diego Maradona Dies at 60

Diego Maradona Was a Timeless Icon BY GRANT WAHL SI
Diego Maradona, gifted Argentine soccer legend, dies at 60
Diego Maradona played and lived with abandon

Maradona’s legendary career in pictures

Argentine legend Maradona dies at 60

Messi on Maradona passing: Diego is eternal

Pope Francis mourns Maradona’s passing
Vatican: Pope prays for Maradona, fondly recalls meeting him

Diego Maradona dies at 60, remembered as an artist on the field

Diego Maradona – a life in 10 key dates

‘An immense sadness’: Argentina mourns death of Maradona

Maradona’s relationship with Naples went beyond football

Feuding no more, Pelé mourns friend, legend Diego Maradona

Maradona v Pele — who’s the greatest of them all?

 Maradona’s Skills

Maradona FIFA 6 min video

USA

US vs Netherlands – 5 THINGS 2 KNOW
Why USWNT GM Kate Markgraf understands the program’s mentality better than any executive has before
Dest, De la Fuente speak on making USMNT, Champions League history
Sergiño Dest becomes first American to score for FC Barcelona

Sergino Dest nabs 1st Barcelona, Champions League goal in style (video)

Chelsea’s Lampard: Christian Pulisic fit for Spurs, wants fan return ‘if 

Top 25 players in the USMNT pool right now
 MLS
https://www.mlssoccer.com/mls-cup-playoffs/2020/bracket
Fastest 3 Minutes: Upsets, stoppage time goals and more video 
Playoffs Bracket: Conference Semifinals are set!
Conference Semifinals matchups are set! Here’s what to watch for
Dallas ready for Seattle rematch: We learned hard lessons last year
LAFC’s season once again ends in playoff loss to Seattle Sounders
Sounders outclass LAFC in Round 1 win
Nashville SC upsets No. 2 seed Toronto in MLS Cup Playoffs on Daniel Rios’ extra time goal
Toronto FC: Everything “caught up with us” in playoffs exit
New England tops top seed Philadelphia, Bruce Arena sets record

Supporters’ Shield curse? Union became latest winners to fall short in playoffs

Toronto FC: Everything “caught up with us” in playoffs exit
Nashville upset Toronto! Rios, Mukhtar power expansion side to glory
Shock, pain and rage for Union as dream season ends with a thud
Bogert: What’s next for the Philadelphia Union?

 

Champions League
Champions League: Juve, Sevilla among 4 to advance on day of golazos

3 things learned as Man City qualify for Champions League last 16

Sloppy Liverpool beaten at home by Atalanta

Sergiño Dest becomes first American to score for FC Barcelona

Haaland continues record exploits as Dortmund beat Brugge

‘Lucky’ late Morata strike seals Juventus last-16 berth

Atletico’s Costa to miss a month with blood clot

Europa League: How to watch, odds, start time, predictions

FIVE THINGS TO KNOW: NETHERLANDS vs US

NOVEMBER 25 2020 

On Friday, the U.S. Women’s National Team will take the field for the first time in 261 days when it faces the Netherlands at 12:30 p.m. ET at Rat Verlegh Stadium in Breda, the Netherlands. The match, which will be the final game of 2020 for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Champions, will be televised live on ESPN2 and TUDN.   Here are Five Things to Know about the reigning European Champions and Women’s World Cup runners-up.


NETHERLANDS NOVEMBER CAMP ROSTER

Nine of the 14 players who saw action for the Netherlands during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final are on this roster, led by midfielder Sherida Spitse, the Netherlands’ all-time leader in caps. Spitse has 180 caps and 41 goals for the Netherlands. She received a yellow card early in the World Cup Final in Lyon. Of the 23 players on the roster, 12 play outside of the Netherlands, with a strong contingent of five in England, two in Spain, three in Germany, one Norway and one in France. Of the 11 domestic-based players, three play for Ajax, three play for PSV, and five play for FC Twente, which are the top three teams currently in the Women’s Eredivisie, respectively.

GOALKEEPERS (3): Lize Kop (Ajax), Sari van Veenendaal (PSV), Daphne van Domselaar (FC Twente)DEFENDERS (8): Stefanie van der Gragt (Ajax), Dominique Janssen (Wolfsburg, GER), Kika van Es (Twente), Merel van Dongen (Atlético Madrid, ESP), Danique Kerkdijk (Brighton & Hove Albion, ENG), Aniek Nouwen (PSV), Lynn Wilms (Twente)MIDFIELDERS (5): Sherida Spitse (Vålerenga, NOR), Daniëlle van de Donk (Arsenal, ENG), Jackie Groenen (Manchester United, ENG), Inessa Kaagman (Brighton & Hove Albion, ENG), Victoria Pelova (Ajax)FORWARDS (8): Lieke Martens (Barcelona, ESP), Shanice van de Sanden (Wolfsburg, GER), Lineth Beerensteyn (Bayern Munich, GER), Renate Jansen (Twente), Sisca Folkertsma (Twente), Katja Snoeijs (Bordeaux, FRA), Jill Roord (Arsenal, ENG), Joëlle Smits (PSV)

WE MEET AGAIN


Friday’s game will be the eighth meeting all-time between the USA and Netherlands and the fourth in the last eight years. The USWNT leads the overall series with a record of 7-1-0, with its lone loss to the Dutch coming in a 4-3 defeat during the first matchup between the teams in 1991. Since then, the USA has won the last seven games and outscored the Netherlands over that span, 24-2. Friday’s match will be just the third time the U.S. Women have played in the Netherlands. The most recent match took place on April 9, 2013, in The Hague, a 3-1 U.S. victory. Tobin Heath had one goal and Christen Press had two in that match while Sydney Leroux dished out a pair of assists. The goals were the fifth and sixth international goals for Press, who is now in the top-10 in U.S. Women’s National Team history with 58 career goals.

ORANJE IN ACTION
The 2017 European Champions, Netherlands qualified for the next UEFA Women’s Euros by routing Estonia 7-0 at home on Oct. 23. After a 6-0 win over Kosovo on Oct. 27, head coach Sarina Wiegman’s side sits atop their group with a maximum of 27 points from nine matches, earning their spot at the Euros in England, which were originally scheduled to be played in the summer of 2021. Due to COVID and the postponement of the Olympics to 2021, the UEFA Women’s Euros will be played July 6-31, 2022.
Only three of the Netherlands’ UEFA qualifiers were played this year, a 1-0 victory over Russia in September in Moscow followed by the drubbings of Estonia and Kosovo during the most recent FIFA window. Forward Katja Snoeijs tallied a hat trick for Netherlands in their 6-0 win over Kosovo while midfielders Daniëlle van de Donk and Jackie Groenen both tallied braces in the 7-0 victory over Estonia.Following the match against the USA, the Netherlands will play Kosovo on December 1 to finish the UEFA group play, but with a nine-point cushion over Russia in Group A, qualification for the Euros is already secured.

FAMILIAR FACES
The defending European champions feature some of the world’s best players at their positions in goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal (PSV), who was named the Best Goalkeeper of the tournament at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, midfielders Daniëlle van de Donk (Arsenal), Jackie Groenen (Manchester United) and Sherida Spitse (Vålerenga), and forwards Lieke Martens (Barcelona) and Miedema (Arsenal). The 25-year-old Groenen, who has 64 caps and five goals, is currently teammates with Tobin Heath and Christen Press at Manchester United and has appeared in all seven Women’s Super League matches for top of the table United this season.The Netherlands will be without one of its star forwards in Arsenal star Vivianne Miedema, who has a hip injury. At the age of 24, she has scored a remarkable 71 goals in 90 games for the Dutch. With Miedema’s absence, the top scorer on the roster is now Martens, who at age 27 has 46 goals in 116 caps. Martens won the Bronze Boot as the third leading scorer and the Golden Ball as the best player at the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euros and was named the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in 2017.


WIEGMAN ERA WINDS DOWN, BUT NOT BEFORE TOKYO 2021

Head coach Sarina Wiegman, who was recently named to the seven-person shortlist for The Best FIFA Women’s Coach 2020, will coach the will coach the Netherlands through the Olympics next summer before taking over as the head coach of England. Wiegman played college soccer in the USA at the University of North Carolina and earned 104 caps representing the Netherlands as a player. Six months after becoming head coach of Netherlands, Wiegman led her home country to the 2017 UEFA Women’s Euro title, a feat that earned her the 2017 Best FIFA Women’s Coach award.

 Diego Maradona Was a Timeless Icon

The Argentina legend died Wednesday at 60 of a heart attack. His career was marked by extremes—especially the heights of the 1986 World Cup—but he was beloved every step of the way.GRANT WAHL  Sports illustrated

It is an accepted truism of modern soccer that, unlike in the five-on-five world of basketball, the 11-on-11 nature of fútbol makes it nearly impossible for a single superstar to take over a game and lead his team to a championship. In fact, data shows that soccer tends to be a “weakest-link” sport, which is to say that you’re only as good as your worst player on the field. If there is a singular exception, however, it is Diego Armando Maradona’s performance at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. In the history of the men’s World Cup, which has now been contested 21 times, no player has ever lorded over a single tournament the way Maradona did that year by leading Argentina to its second title.

Maradona, the flamboyant and controversial legend who died of a heart attack Wednesday at age 60, will forever be frozen in time at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca as the 25-year-old genius who confounded the best efforts of West Germany, Belgium and England and lifted an otherwise ordinary Argentine team to glory. During the same game, a 2–1 quarterfinal victory against England, Maradona scored two goals four minutes apart that could be described as the greatest and most notorious World Cup goals of all time. On the first, Maradona leaped in the air and beat English goalkeeper Peter Shilton to the ball, surreptitiously (and illegally) using his left fist to punch the ball into the goal. Maradona would later say the goal had been scored by “la mano de Dios,” and it was forever known as the Hand of God goal.

But Maradona’s second goal that day was a distillation of all the qualities—superhuman ball control, next-level speed of thought and the sheer audacity of his imagination—that made him perhaps the sport’s greatest genius. Receiving the ball in his own half near midfield, Maradona spun and flicked it with his left foot to elude two defenders, then embarked on a glorious 60-yard run at speed, never touching the ball with his right foot, beating four more hapless English interlopers before sliding the ball past Shilton into the net. The television call from Argentine commentator Víctor Hugo Morales remains indelible: “What planet did you come from?” 

Maradona added two more goals to beat Belgium 2–0 in the semifinals and the assist on Argentina’s game-winner in a 3–2 classic against West Germany in the final, sealing his place in the lore of the sport.Maradona would end up playing in four World Cups from 1982 to ’94, losing in the final to West Germany in ‘90 and being thrown out of USA ’94 when he failed a doping test. Meanwhile, his greatest exploits at club level came in Italy at Napoli, which Maradona captained to the club’s first league titles in 1987 and ’90. But Maradona’s tumultuous time in Italy came to an end after he failed a drug test for cocaine and faced a 15-month suspension from 1991 to ’92. Maradona’s drug use and weight gain led to a pattern of health scares over the years, including multiple occasions when he was near death but survived.Yet Maradona’s dark side and human frailties only seemed to endear him more to an Argentine public that anointed him a cultural deity among the likes of Eva Perón and the tango singer Carlos Gardel. Raised in the Buenos Aires shantytown of Villa Fiorito, Maradona rose to the closest position in sports to the King of the World—and then tumbled dramatically off its pedestal. It is a peculiar aspect of Argentine public life that Argentines have always adored Maradona far more than Brazilians have loved Pelé. The two are inextricably linked as the greatest men’s soccer players of the 20th century. Pelé won three World Cups to Maradona’s one, but Maradona hit loftier heights in 1986 than Pelé did in any of his World Cups. Ultimately, a fan’s choice of one player over the other reveals not just a sports preference but a general worldview. For what it’s worth, Maradona and Pelé clearly had differing perspectives on the United States. While Pelé played for the New York Cosmos in the NASL from 1975 to ’77 and visited the U.S. frequently, Maradona reveled in his disdain of Uncle Sam and his support of leftist leaders from Cuba’s Fidel Castro to Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez. (For many years, Maradona’s drug record prevented him from gaining admission to the U.S.)Unlike Pelé, who never became a coach, Maradona had a checkered career as a manager that never came close to matching his playing achievements. His most memorable coaching tenure lasted from 2008 to ’10 with the Argentine national team and its superstar, Lionel Messi, who was always as reticent as Maradona was voluble. It was a poor match. Messi never appeared comfortable with Maradona, who was unable to put together a tactical game . plan that unleashed Messi’s talents for the national team. While Maradona regularly won the press conference during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, his rudderless Argentina was throttled by Germany 4–0 in the quarterfinals, wasting Messi at the height of his powers.Yet for as combative and rude as he could be, Maradona will always be known for his unparalleled love affair with the ball. It is no coincidence that one of his most popular highlight videos—with millions of views on YouTube—has no game highlights at all. Instead, it’s a three-minute video of Maradona warming up by himself before a 1989 game, shoes untied, oblivious of the camera, performing casually jaw-dropping tricks with the ball to the soundtrack of the Opus song Live Is Life. Maradona is 28 years old in the video, but he still exudes the simple joy of a boy with his ball. That feeling, which he may have possessed more deeply than any human to live on this planet, is universal. Timeless.