1/27/22 USMNT vs El Salvador Thurs 7 pm ESPN2, vs Canada Sun 3:30 paramount, African Cup Semis, Indy 11 Open Tryouts & Schedule released

USA vs El Salvador Thurs 7 pm ESPN2 in Columbus (hype video)

So the next round of Qualification is here – and they include at home Thur, Jan 27-  7 pm on ESPN 2 vs El Salvador in Columbus (we are heading that way around 2:15 Thurs!!  So a couple of things to discuss – its going to be cold folks – GET OVER IT !! Heck don’t worry I will dress warm. The dang fields at Columbus and Minn are both heated grass fields.  They have heated benches – no one is going to die of frost bite.  Yes it might be 20 degrees in Columbus and even colder in Minneapolis but heck  ½ our guys play in England where its cold by the way.  Either way the US will be MUCH better at adapting to the cold weather than either El Salvador or Honduras will be?  PERIOD!  And all the idiots questioning US Soccer’s decision to play to in cold weather around our frozen visit to Canada where we can basically send them back to 3rd with a win can just BITE IT if the US actually gets 9 points like I think they will in this 3 game window.  Listen El Salvador will be missing their top center back in Westfield’s Eriq Zavaleta and we are simply better player by player than El Salador and we are home.  My starters are below with Jordan Morris and Weah/Aaronson coming off the bench mid 2nd half. I think Adams will also be an early subout if we get a lead (Acosta will come in to replace Adams who is on a yellow.)  Same for Dest and perhaps a center back with Chris Richards coming in.  Listen Christian Pulisic (see his press conference) is gonna be pissed coming from Chelsea (where he has been benched again) he’s going to score vs El Salvador and Canada if I had to guess. Also McKennie is on fire at Juve and Musah just scored last week, Aaronson is on fire at Salzburg and Adams is back starting for Leipzig.  We should kill El Salvador – at least 2 -0.  My official prediction 2-0 USA.  (Dos a Cero)    

(behind the Crest video)  (US last time out)   (American Outlaws – We will Fill the Stadium – we ask you to watch !!)

My pick for Starters vs El Salvador Thurs

Pulisic/Pepi/Aaronson or Weah

McKinney/Musah

Adams

Antonee R/M Robinson/Zimmerman/Dest

Turner (Steffan didn’t travel he’s hurt)

For those going to Columbus, join us with the American Outlaws Thursday pre-game at Brother’s Bar & Grill – we are leaving for CBus Around 2:15 pm. 

@ Canada Sun 3 pm on Paramount+. 

As for at Canada on Sunday in a half empty stadium due to covid, they are missing their best player in Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies (out for 4 to 6 weeks) and perhaps without their best forward as well – they are ripe for the picking.   We are better than Canada with those players – we should beat them without them – even in Canada.  It will be interesting to see if Pulisic and Weah start here or if one of them is replaced by Aaronson in this 2nd game or even Jordan Morris if he plays well as a sub Thursday night.  I think the defense and midfield stays the same however assuming we play well Thurs night.  Maybe a switch at right back?  Or at least early subs. 

If the US can secure 2 wins and tie at Canada – qualification will all but be assured.  Two wins and loss in Canada will keep things interesting as Canada (16), US (15), Mexico (14) and Panama (14), Costa Rica (9) lead the way in World Cup Qualifying.  Anything less and things will get interesting – as only the top 3 teams qualify with the 4th team having a playoff to advance. 

US ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB)

GOALKEEPERS (4): Sean Johnson (New York City FC), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire), Zack Steffen (Manchester City) ARRIVING LATE FROM ENGLAND, Matt Turner (New England Revolution)

DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista), Sergiño Dest (FC Barcelona), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United), Mark McKenzie (Genk), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Antonee Robinson (Fulham FC), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United), DeAndre Yedlin ARRIVING LATE FROM EUROPE  (Galatasaray), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig), Luca de la Torre (Heracles), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution), Weston McKennie (Juventus), Yunus Musah (Valencia), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), Ricardo Pepi (Augsburg), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea FC), Tim Weah (Lille), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew)

Lay off of Coach Berhalter

Finally I am getting sick of the US fans screaming about all of the MLS guys on the roster this time.  This is a big roster – there are covid concerns and concerns with our US players trying to fight for playing time at the home clubs in Europe to consider.  Sure I am not thrilled with Zardes – but hey he has scored-in a US Jersey something Dike (now out 8 weeks with West Brom),  and Josh Sargent (finally scored his 1st 2  goals for Norwich last week) have not done in forever.  Now I am confused about not having Jordan Pfok but word is he flirting with a club change in Europe.  As for say Jordan Morris – he ws our starter at right wing before he got hurt a year ago – we need to know if he is back and can hang with this group again.  Acosta – no he should never be an 8 again – but he is our 2nd best #6 right now – and he won the US vs Mexico game in the Gold Cup as Captain.  He will be needed in case Adams gets a yellow.  And I am sorry Busio is not as good at the 6 as Acosta and he’s not an 8 (attacking mid) in this lineup.  As for Lletget, Arriola and Roldan some guys are here because they are good locker room guys and if they don’t play – hey its ok – they didn’t fly all the way over from Europe to be here.  Roldan is a good late sub and doesn’t mind coming off the bench late – and this summer he proved he could unlock stacked CONCACAF defenses with his guile and his pinpoint passing sometimes.  Lletget and Arriola give 150% every time they play – they are old school US players – not skilled enough but all heart.  There is roon for that especially with this big a roster.  So sorry US Soccer Whiners – I don’t want to hear it.  Listen Berhalter is 2nd in Qualifying and has beaten Mexico 3 TIMES IN A ROW – so JUST SHUTUP already.  I know he’s an American – which means he must stink – but for me as a former US player who played in Europe – I think he is getting things right.  If this team qualifies first in the group – even 2nd – I think folks will just have to put up with it!  I for one am enjoying the ride.  Go USA !!   (behind the Crest video)  (US last time out) American Outlaws – We will Fill the Stadium – we ask you to watch !!

Columbus Lower.com Field will be rocking Thurs night 7 pm

 Indy 11 Open Tryouts

Think you have to what it takes to play professional soccer?  Indy 11 is holding open Tryouts this Thurs and Fri Jan 27 & 28 with representatives from Indy 11 and 5 other professional and semi-pro clubs at Grand Park.   The 11 have unveiled their schedule with season tickets available for purchase.  The Indy Eleven tandem of midfielder Neveal Hackshaw and defender Noah Powder have been called up to the Trinidad & Tobago Men’s National Team ahead of its first international exhibition of the year against Bolivia. The friendly is set to take place this Friday, January 21, at 4:00 p.m. ET in the Bolivian capital of Sucre.

Congrats to former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr who has caught on with San Antonio (after helping them reach the Western Conference finals last year)

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

Thurs,  Jan 27

9:30 am Para+                    Iran vs Iraq

7 pm ESPN2                         USMNT vs El Salvador (Columbus) WCQ

7 pm Para+                          Jamaica vs Mexico WcQ

7:15 pm fubotv                  Chile vs Argentina

8 pm Para+                          Honduras vs Canada

9 pm Para+                          Costa  Rica vs Panama

Sat Jan 29

10 am ESPN+                       Fulham vs Blackpool

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Game 1 Gambia vs Cameroon 

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters – Game 2 Tunisia vs Burkina Faso

Sun,  Jan 30

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Game 3

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters – Game 4

3 pm Paramount+/Telemundo    USMNT @ Canada

6 pm Para+                          Mexico vs Costa Rica

6 pm Para+                          Panama vs Jamaica

7 pm Para+                          Honduras vs El Salvador

Tues,  Feb 1

9:30 am Para+                    Iran vs United Emirates

6:30 pm fubotv                  Argentina vs Colombia

7:30 pm fubotv                  Brazil vs Parguay

Weds,  Feb 2

2 pm beIn Sport                 African Cup Semi

7:30 pm FS1                        USMNT vs Honduras

9 pm Para+                          El Salvador vs Canada

10 pm Para +                       Mexico vs Panama

Thurs,  Feb 3

2 pm beIn Sport                 African Cup Semi  2

Sat, Feb 5

7:30 am ESPN+                   Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Plymouth Argyle  FA Cup

10 am ESPN+                       Man City vs Fulham (Robinson, Ream)  FA Cup

12 noon Para+                    Inter vs Milan Milan Derby 

12:30 pm ESNP+                Bayern Munich vs RB Liepzig (Adams)

3 pm ESPN+                        tottenham vs Brighton FA Cup

Sun, Feb 6

9:30 am ESPN+                   Dortmund vs Bayer Leverkusen

10:!5 am ESPN+                 Barcelona (Dest) vs Atletico Madrid 

2:45 pm Para+                    Juve (Mckinney) vs Hellas Verona

3 pm ESPN+                         Real Madrid vs Granada

2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET

Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET

Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN

USMNT tomorrow vs El Salvador 7 pm ESPN2

USA vs. El Salvador, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for By Donald Wine II S&S

How should the USMNT rotate for January WCQ? By Justin Moran S&S

USMNT favors frigid forecast, but will it yield home-field advantage?  Jeff Carlisle  ESPN

Adversity isn’t Limited to USMNT in this WCQ Window – SI Avi Creditor  

Tyler Adams: USMNT midfield can “dominate games” with Weston McKennie & Yunus Musah NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM MLS.com   

What shaped USMNT’s latest Octagonal roster? Gregg Berhalter on fitness, conditions & COVID

 “It’s mind over matter”: USMNT embrace ice-cold conditions for winter World Cup Qualifiers

 What If The USMNT Isn’t Actually Embracing The Cold And…  the 18 Conner Flemming

How Many Points Do the US Need to Qualify – the 18

FORTRESS COLUMBUS: Detailing the USMNT’s History of Success in Central Ohio

READY TO PLAY: How Lower.com Field and Allianz Field Have Prepped for USMNT’s Winter World Cup Qualifiers

Five Things to Know About 2022 World Cup Qualifying in Concacaf

Five Things to Know About El Salvador

DETAILED EL SALVADOR ROSTER BY POSITION (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS):

GOALKEEPERS (2): Kevin Carabantes (FAS; 4/0), Mario González (Alianza; 19/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Roberto Domínguez (Chalatenango; 48/1), Alexander Larin (Comunicaiones/GUA; 70/4), Ronaldo Rodriguez (FC Tulsa/USA; 18/0), Bryan Tamacas (Alianza; 52/1), Eduardo Vigil (Firpo; 7/0), Romulo Villalobos (Municipal Limeno; 5/1), Eriq Zavaleta (Unattached; 13/1)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Eric Calvillo (El Paso Locomotiv/USA; 3/0), Darwin Cerén (Houston Dynamo/USA; 81/4), Enrico Hernández (Vitesse/NED; 8/1), Bryan Landaverde (FAS; 5/0), Christian Martinez Mena (San Carlos/CRC; 7/0), Marvin Monterroza (Alianza; 40/2), Narciso Orellana (Alianza; 44/1), Kevin Reyes (FAS; 4/0), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders/USA; 12/2)

FORWARDS (5): Nelson Bonilla (Port FC/THA; 49/16), Cristian Gil (Metapan; 1/0), Jairo Henríquez (Aguila; 23/3), Walmer Martinez (Monterey Bay; 18/2), Joaquín Rivas (FC Tulsa/USA; 24/4)

USA

McKinney is on Fire at Juventus in Italy

What next for Christian Pulisic at Chelsea?

Save of the Year – American Outlaws
VIDEO: USMNT midfielder Musah gives Valencia lead with superb goal

Josh Sargent ridiculous goal

Sargent, Ramirez, & Musah score while Tessmann & De la Torre impress ASN

USWNT Goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher Fully Recovered From Knee Injury…
USWNT’s Tobin Heath scores key equalizer for Arsenal (video)

Indy 11       

https://www.indyeleven.com/opentryout 

SEason Tickets for Sale

  INDY ELEVEN’S 2022 USL CHAMPIONSHIP REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE UNVEILED

Indy 11 Roster

NEVEAL HACKSHAW, NOAH POWDER TO REPRESENT TRINIDAD & TOBAGO NATIONAL TEAM IN INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION

INDY ELEVEN ADDS MIDFIELDER RAUL AGUILERA TO ROSTER

Trio of Technical Staff Hires Support Indy Eleven’s On-field Growth

EPL


Three talking points from the Premier League

Thomas Tuchel reaction on Ziyech goal, Lukaku work, first year at 

Claudio Ranieri fired as Watford head coach

Klopp relieved ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Liverpool ride out January

Antonio Conte reaction on losing to Chelsea, January transfer update

Jurgen Klopp: Alisson ‘saved our backside again’ in Liverpool win at Palace

Alisson’s 10/10 performance secures Liverpool win at Palace  Adam Brown

Man United’s progress has been slow and painful, but it’s clear after win over West Ham Mark Ogden

Roy Hodgson takes charge at Watford, replacing Claudio Ranieri

World


Mane ends goal drought as Senegal overcome nine-man Cape Verde

African football boss blames closed gate for Cup of Nations tragedy

Morocco Overcomes 40-Yard Malawi Blast To Advance To AFCON QF
AFCON hosts Cameroon labour to beat Comoros side deprived of goalkeeper

Tunisia shock Nigeria, Comoros to use outfield player as goalkeeper

Deadly stampede overshadows Cameroon’s African Cup progress

Nigeria to meet Ghana in African World Cup play-offs

South Korea, Iran set to qualify for soccer World Cup


Which CONMEBOL giant will miss out on the World Cup?
Tim Vickery

Weekend Review: Real Madrid’s comeback, Rashford’s redemption, Alisson MVP for Liverpool ESPN

Milan lose ground in title race after Juve stalemate
Chiesa out for seven months after ‘perfect’ knee operation
    
Insigne matches Maradona as Napoli stay on Inter’s trail

De Jong strikes late for Barca after Real Madrid pinned back by Elche

Messi returns, Ramos scores and PSG cruise

 

USA vs. El Salvador, 2022 World Cup qualifying: What to watch for

It’s an opportunity to take care of business as a new window opens.By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Jan 26, 2022, 7:00am PST Stars and Stripes

a unique international window by resuming World Cup qualifying against El Salvador tomorrow at Lower.com Field in Columbus. The USMNT enter the match in 2nd place in the Octagonal standings with 3 more points in sight against La Selecta, who sit in 7th place in the table and in desperation mode. For the Americans, it’s a chance to take care of business at home and hopefully making the environment a cold and unwelcoming one for El Salvador. La Selecta is there to spoil the party, and they still are dangerous enough where they can have a moment that allows them to steal a result on the road.

Latest Form

USA

W (1-0) – Bosnia & Herzegovina – Friendly

D (1-1) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-0) – Mexico – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-1) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying

L (0-1) – Panama World Cup Qualifying

El Salvador

L (0-1) – Chile – Friendly

D (1-1) – Ecuador – Friendly

L (1-2) – Panama – World Cup Qualifying

D (1-1) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

L (0-1) – Bolivia – Friendly

What To Watch For

Embrace the environment. The sooner the team realizes that they have to play in the bitter cold, the better. They have to generate the energy out on the field in a different way, and they have to show they have the advantage early on. Make it a long night for El Salvador by punching them in the mouth with a cold fist from the opening kick.

Play power football. There will likely not be as many opportunities to get creative, and the elements may not allow for it at times. So, the next option is to just push the ball forward. The USMNT should prepare to be physical with El Salvador and use that muscle to get the ball going downfield and towards goal.

The midfield should be the best unit on the field. If the USMNT’s midfield can control the pace and the tempo of the game, the team will be very effective. They have to be the engine and set the tone for everyone on the field.

Lineup Prediction

The USMNT are thin at a couple of positions while loaded at others, so it means that Gregg Berhalter will likely begin with what he thinks is his best lineup. This is what we predict Berhalter will list as his starting XI against El Salvador:When it comes to Zack Steffen’s competition with Matt Turner for starting goalkeeper, Steffen appears to have held onto the #1 job in Berhalter’s eyes. However, since he is listed as day-to-day due to back tightness, it’s Turner that gets the start in Columbus. Antonee Robinson and Sergiño Dest begin the match at left and right back, but don’t be surprised to see Robinson come off early in an effort to rest him for Canada, while Dest moves to the left side. In the middle, Walker Zimmerman and Miles Robinson have proved to be a terrific partnership, and they’re the starting centerbacks.In the middle, It’s M-M-A time, as Weston McKennie, Yunus Musah, and Tyler Adams form that core. Adams will operate more defensively, leaving McKennie and Musah to be able to stretch forward or fall back where needed.Up front, Christian Pulisic will occupy his normal position of left wing, with Tim Weah back and giving the USMNT some speed on the right wing. Ricardo Pepi gets the start up front, but we should expect to see Brenden Aaronson, Gyasi Zardes, and possibly Paul Arriola to come on as substitutes depending on how the match progresses.

Prediction

It’s a cold night in Columbus, but the team gets to light some fireworks on the field. It’s a 2-0 victory that is hard earned but well deserved.

How should the USMNT rotate for January WCQ?

The roster is out, and we’re past the halfway point in qualifying. Let’s discuss potential approaches.By Justin Moran@kickswish  Jan 25, 2022, 8:00am PST

Gregg Berhalter’s 28-man USMNT roster has been revealed for the penultimate 2022 World Cup qualifying window. Here’s the schedule:

  • El Salvador at home Thu, Jan 27 in Columbus, OH
  • Canada away Sun, Jan 30 in Hamilton, Ontario
  • Honduras at home Wed, Feb 2 in St. Paul, MN

Berhalter has said that since travel is less severe this window, it’s possible some players may be able to start all three games, which limits the need for rotation.

Approaches

There are two major questions that essentially determine how you line up this window:

  • Can we afford to rotate somewhat for the home games? If you think we can comfortably beat Honduras and/or El Salvador at home without our best players, that frees us up to go strong vs Canada. However, if you go strong and leave nothing to chance at home, you have to rotate at least a little for Canada.
  • Do you play an “iceball” lineup in any of the games? Weather could be a huge factor both in Hamilton and St. Paul. If you choose to start a lineup specifically geared to playing a completely different style, that likely frees you up to use stronger lineup(s) in the other game(s).

Tyler Adams and the Yellow Card

Tyler Adams is carrying a yellow card. Next time he receives a yellow card, he will be suspended for the following match. There’s been a lot of game theory going around about whether Tyler should be rested to prevent missing an important game, or pick up a yellow on purpose in order to time his potential suspension optimally.

Resting Adams to avoid him missing a match is illogical. By sitting him on the bench, you’re doing exactly what the suspension would do, with the threat of future suspension unchanged. Having him take a yellow on purpose makes a little more sense, but then you could run into issues if he picks up any more yellows the rest of qualifying. Having him miss multiple games due to card accumulation is the worst possible scenario.

Weah’s fitness and vulnerability

Tim Weah returned to play just in time to make this roster. He has 89’ under his belt: a 22’ sub appearance, and a 67’ start. So he’s fit to play at least 60’. However, the weather may also be a limiting factor for young Timothy. Exposing a player who just recovered from a muscle injury to extended minutes in freezing-cold temps is a great way to re-injure him. Berhalter will need to be judicious in his use of the budding star attacker.

Summary

With all that said, here’s my approach. The home games are absolutely critical. They MUST be 3 points each. With that in mind, I start the strongest possible lineup in games 1 and 3. If El Salvador is completely overmatched in the first game, that allows substitutions to rest key players like Pulisic, Dest, and the MMA midfield trio, enabling them to play a larger role vs Canada, perhaps even starting.

Perhaps nearly the entire team will be able to start all 3 games without performances suffering. That would be fantastic, but I have my doubts. So I’m laying out a heavily rotated squad for Canada, with hopes of more of the A-team being fit and available. I don’t go with a full “iceball” lineup for Canada, but it is a different approach.

https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/LR2lPBBxV4M7O6IohFJo1sMWUcY=/0x0:1203x555/1200x0/filters:focal(0x0:1203x555):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/23192072/1__2__3.PNG

What do you think? How would you rotate the squad this window? Let us know in the comments.

 

USMNT favors World Cup qualifiers in frigid temperatures, but will chilly climate yield home-field advantage?

2:14 PM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent  ESPN

Every run-up to a World Cup qualifying window has its area of focus. Usually it centers on player availability, or the opponent. But the upcoming trio of games for the United States men’s national team against El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio; Canada in Hamilton, Ontario; and Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota, has a special point of emphasis.The weather, and just how much of an advantage it might provide for the U.S. team.To the surprise of no one, it will be cold. It is late January (and early February), after all. According to Accuweather.com, the forecast for Thursday’s match (7 p.m. ET, watch LIVE on ESPN2) against the Cuscatlecos is expected to be in the low 20s with light winds and a chance of intermittent snow. Slightly colder but dry conditions are expected for the Canada match. The encounter with Honduras is forecast to have temperatures go down to 9 degrees, with wind gusts up to 17 mph and a 94% chance of snow, although obviously much can change between now and then.With those conditions come questions. How will preparation be affected? Will the players be negatively impacted? How well will the respective fields — at least in those venues where the U.S. has control — hold up?The reality is that any time it comes to selecting venues for World Cup qualifiers, there are innumerable moving parts. There’s venue availability, the state of the field, the impact of travel and yes, the weather.

Mind games in venue selection

That travel issue is one of special importance to U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter. Berhalter is well known for wanting to keep travel time to an absolute minimum, whether it be flight times or bus rides to and from practice. And yes, Berhalter has considerable say as to where the U.S. ends up playing.”If we were the Senate, the manager would have 51% of the vote,” U.S. Soccer’s director of events, Paul Marstellar, said in October.In this case, with Canada hosting the middle match of the window, the U.S. team’s choice of venues was dependent on where that game was held. When it looked as if Canada might opt for Vancouver, the U.S. Soccer Federation had San Jose, California, and Portland, Oregon, lined up.But when the Canada Soccer Association opted for Tim Hortons Field — 42 miles southwest of Toronto — the calculus changed and Columbus and St. Paul were selected because of their proximity to Hamilton.Major East Coast metropolitan areas have been precluded from World Cup qualifying matches despite being closer to travel for the European-based players, which lends credence to the notion that the U.S. venue selection process looks like a bit of overthinking. But Marstellar adds that the demographics and the popularity of rival teams in those areas inhibit a pro-USMNT atmosphere. “Between [Mexico and] Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, those are also games that are challenging in terms of venue selection. Given the number of folks that they have throughout the country, which is why all the games against those teams end up being in, you know 20,000-seat MLS-specific venues,” Marstellar added.And while New York/New Jersey, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., all have newer soccer-specific stadiums, the experience of some home qualifiers from years past seems to stick in the collective memory. Honduras fans have a history of showing up in droves, with the 2001 win at RFK Stadium for the Catrachos as well as a narrow defeat in 2009 at Chicago’s Soldier Field being the most prominent examples.And then there was the 2-0 loss to Costa Rica during the doomed 2018 qualifying campaign. That result at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, has also taken on outsized importance in the discussions about venue selection. Then-manager Bruce Arena criticized the choice, even though it was a night when the U.S. had considerable home support in terms of fans but the team performed so poorly it only sounded as if the crowd was being shouted down by the Ticos‘ faithful.

‘Feels like extra weight’

Yet the U.S. obviously feels it isn’t in the position to be taking any chances. The limited number of seats in Columbus and St. Paul should guarantee a pro-U.S. crowd, and Berhalter has continually talked up the perceived advantage of playing in the cold. Many of the U.S. players perform for European clubs, while the vast majority of Salvadoran and Honduran players play for teams in warm-weather climates.”This is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents,” he said during a Zoom call with reporters. “They’re all coming from the equator, and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions.”There haven’t been all that many occasions when the U.S. could play the cold-weather card. Since 2000, only four U.S-hosted World Cup qualifiers have seen the temperature hit 40 or lower. Included in that quartet are a pair of iconic games: the 2001 encounter in Columbus with Mexico (the first installment of the Dos a Cero chronicles), and the “Snow-clasico” against Costa Rica at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado, in 2013. The temperature at kickoff of both of those games was 29.USMNT and World Cup veterans Jermaine Jones and Herculez Gomez, who both took part in that match against Costa Rica, had differing responses to playing in the cold. “If you come out to warm up, or you walk out to check the field, it feels cold,” Jones said. “But then if you really got into just getting warm, and doing the warm-up and do all that stuff, then I think it’s just getting your body up to temperature. Your body gets ready, you’re ready to play.”Gomez felt the impact to a greater degree.”You feel it in your lungs. You feel it in your face. It feels like you have something on you,” he said. “It feels like there’s extra weight.”Yet both agreed that the challenge is more mental than physical,”If you’ve never experienced it, it’s a grind,” Gomez said. “Athletes being creatures of habit, a lot of athletes are superstitious. A lot of athletes have routines. A lot of athletes do the same thing, repetition. And when you change something like that, it’s an adjustment period. it’s definitely something that on the fly is very difficult to handle.”

Preventing another Snow-clasico?

The USSF’s own Recognize to Recover guidelines for playing in cold weather, combined with the forecast, indicate there is a “high risk of cold-related illness”. But USSF Chief Medical Officer Dr. George Chiampas is confident that the conditions can be managed, and that things could be a lot worse. From his vantage point, dealing with cold, dry conditions with light winds is easier than coping with altitude or the twin obstacles of heat and humidity. In the upcoming matches, the players will be constantly moving, and there are ways to mitigate the cold, be it layers or Vaseline on the feet. Staying hydrated is key as well.”These are all things we can manage,” Chiampas said of the cold.There is an impulse to think that players are more susceptible to muscle pulls in cold weather, but Chiampas said, “I don’t think the data is there to support that. I think what we always get worried about is probably getting cleated, getting stepped on, a tackle. Those collisions in colder temperatures are probably going to be a little bit more painful.”The biggest challenge might be keeping the players on the bench warm. While there will be layers and blankets, the key is making sure the players get a proper warm-up and get their body temperature raised. Do those two things and any concerns about muscle pulls are drastically reduced.”We’re going to obviously have to adjust a little bit and think through our warm-ups,” Chiampas said. “Obviously, we’re limited with the number of people we can warm up at a time, so you may have to see them get up multiple times. Traditionally, you see one group and then a second group. So you may see a little bit more frequency there.”Given the U.S. team’s confidence in managing the temperature, focus is shifting to field conditions. The impulse is to think that the game won’t be pretty, which would seem to play into El Salvador’s blue-collar approach.”I don’t think you want to dirty the game against a team like El Salvador,” Gomez said. “I think you want the elements to be favorable for both because that means it’s favorable for [the U.S.]. I really don’t think taking El Salvador to Columbus is an advantage for the US. men’s national team. If anything, you dirty the playing field for them.”This is where the undersoil heating systems at Lower.com Field and Allianz Field will give the U.S. an advantage, or so the thinking goes. The idea is that as long as the field isn’t frozen, then the U.S.’s technical advantage should still be in force. The system at Lower.com Field consists of three boilers that pump a mixture of water and glycol through 10 miles of what is called PEX piping that lies about 10 inches beneath the surface of the field. Ben Jackson, the director of grounds at Lower.com Field, said that while the stadium only opened last July, the undersoil heating system has been running continually since late October.

“If we didn’t have that [system], right now the field would be frozen,” Jackson said. He added, “We were able to raise the temperature up and push growth and recover and get everything back to a really good spot by the end of December. I think it’s probably going to be in the best state that it’s been throughout the year.”One potential wrinkle is that snow is expected to fall in the Columbus area through Monday evening, up to several inches. Jackon anticipates that while much of the snow will melt off, some kind of removal — be it mechanical or manual — will be required.

“We can just take some shovels out there, just do kind of an all hands on deck and throw a bunch of people at it to shovel stuff off,” he said.Snow on game day — which is what is forecast for the Honduras game — would be a different story. Although the heating system would help, it wouldn’t necessarily be enough to prevent snow from collecting on the playing surface.”[Dick’s Sporting Goods Park] had the same thing and look what happened in the Snow-clasico,” said Gomez about undersoil heating systems.Adding precipitation to the equation wouldn’t be beneficial to the players in that adding damp conditions would make it more difficult for them to maintain their body temperature. If the Snow-clasico is anything to go by, a slugfest would likely ensue. Not exactly the perfct recipe for a match the U.S. is heavily favored to win.”It’s concentration at the utmost. It’s not easy,” Gomez said.The current crop of U.S. players, for its part, is embracing the challenge. Defender Walker Zimmerman spoke of wanting to play in something “iconic.” Securing maximum points, and moving closer to World Cup qualification, will no doubt suffice.

Tyler Adams: USMNT midfield can “dominate games” with Weston McKennie & Yunus Musah

By Charles Boehm @cboehm MLS/com Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022, 04:56 PM

When the US men’s national team gathered in Nashville for the start of the Concacaf Octagonal World Cup qualifying round nearly five months ago, influential midfielder Tyler Adams set what seemed like logical expectations for his talented side’s opening matches – visits to El Salvador and Honduras sandwiched around a home date with Canada.“We’re looking for a nine-point week, bottom line,” said Adams. “We want to set the standard.”

That trio of games turned out to be tricky, with a frustrated USMNT forced to settle for draws in the first two matches before requiring a ferocious second-half comeback to beat Honduras and instead come away with five points.

Perhaps head coach Gregg Berhalter thought Adams’ honesty backfired, because he and his players have constantly, insistently repeated variations on the phrase “one game at a time” ever since. That mantra has returned in force this week as the Yanks prepare to meet that same trio of opponents in the reverse fixtures, starting with Thursday’s clash with Los Cuscatlecos at Lower.com Field in Columbus (7 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN,).

“I mean, I will tell you right away, I don’t ever go into a game and say I want to tie or not get maximum points. For me, the whole point of playing and competing is you want to win and get three points,” Adams told reporters in a Tuesday afternoon media availability.“[But] when you start to look too far ahead, and I’m already thinking about playing in a game against Canada, that’s overlooking a good opponent in El Salvador, where we went to El Salvador and drew. So I don’t want to have the mindset of looking too far ahead and creating a distraction for myself. I want to stay focused on exactly what’s in front of me and what the aim of the target is.”El Salvador and Honduras are currently stuck at the bottom of the Ocho standings and Sunday’s visit to Canada at Tim Horton’s Field in Hamilton is a much-anticipated meeting of the eight-team group’s current leaders. But taking maximum points at home has long been considered central to the recipe for successful qualification, making the game-by-game mindset a must in the USMNT’s eyes.Nonetheless, the squad is riding a strong undercurrent of optimism and belief, thanks in large part to the performances and playing time many key contributors are enjoying at club level.

Antonee Robinson is a regular contributor for a surging Fulham side currently five points clear atop the English Championship. Chris Richards (Hoffenheim), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea) and Brenden Aaronson (RB Salzburg) have racked up quality minutes for prominent European clubs this season and many among the United States’ MLS-based contingent are coming off career years.“The expectations are different with the league we’re [Fulham] in at the moment, but playing in a winning team that goes on and feels like they should be winning every game, dominating every game, you do have a different mindset and it’s definitely a confidence booster,” said Robinson on Monday. “And that is similar to how I feel with the US, because I’ll back the team that we have against any other team that we’re going to play against. So the confidence I have in everyone else and myself on the pitch is a lot higher.”Perhaps none are flying as high as the “MMA” central-midfield of Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah.Adams has earned the trust of Dominico Tedesco since the Italian-German manager took charge of RB Leipzig in the wake of Jesse Marsch’s departure. McKennie is “probably in the form of his life,” in Berhalter’s words, doing a bit of everything – including some clutch goals – for Juventus. And Musah has clambered his way up the pecking order at CF Valencia, starting in their last three La Liga matches and scoring his first goal of the season at Atletico Madrid on Saturday.

“Right now Weston is scoring goals for fun, so I’m going to hold him to it and put a little bit of extra pressure on him that he needs to score some goals now,” said Adams with a smile. “So every time we get a set piece and there’s a good delivery, I’m thinking that he’s going to score. And as far as Yunus, obviously, he’s had a great performance and a big game for his club and to see him playing regularly now at Valencia is super important as well.

“I think form coming into competitions like this is always super important because you come in with this confidence and a little bit of swagger and you help dictate games at the end of the day. And being a young team, I think it’s important that all of our players have confidence.”The MMA trio have been ferociously effective when all are fit and available for Berhalter’s selection, though that probably hasn’t been the case often enough for the coach’s liking during Ocho play.

When unveiling the current roster last week, Berhalter suggested that the circumstances of this winter window might allow players to start in all three qualifiers, a heavy level of use both Robinson and Adams said they would welcome – even in the heart of a heavily congested club calendar.“I think when the three of us are out on the field, we feel like we have a strong chemistry and we’re able to dominate games and that’s important,” said the New York Red Bulls product of his engine-room partnership.

“But exactly like Antonee said, we have great confidence in our group when we’re playing at a high level and we’re all focused on that one goal, and what we need to do, and not looking too far ahead is when we’ve always achieved our best results.”

“It’s mind over matter”: USMNT embrace ice-cold conditions for winter World Cup Qualifiers

By Charles Boehm @cboehm Monday, Jan 24, 2022, 05:37 PM

The pictures speak for themselves, driving home both the extreme conditions and historical symmetry.On their first full day of an enormous week-plus of three crucial Concacaf World Cup qualifiers in seven days, the US men’s national team frolicked on a snow-shrouded pitch at the Columbus Crew’s OhioHealth Performance Center, just a stone’s throw west of the field where the program’s “La Guerra Fria” and “Dos a Cero” legends were born at Historic Crew Stadium.As the white stuff fell, the mercury scarcely climbed above the freezing point all day in the Ohio state capital. Similar temperatures are forecast for Thursday, when the USMNT host El Salvador at Lower.com Field (7:30 pm ET | ESPN2, UniMas, TUDN). Over the next few nights, the lows are slated to dip deep into the single digits in Fahrenheit.But the Yanks are here by choice, and they insist there’s nowhere they’d rather be. It’s the start of a rare midwinter window of qualifying action, and in pursuit of any possible psychological or climatological advantage whatsoever, the USMNT are leaning into the theme. Way, way in.“I was just outside today training and it’s really cold, and my feet felt cold,” said Austria-based midfielder and Philadelphia Union product Brenden Aaronson in a Monday afternoon media availability. “But listen, I’m used to it, I just got back from where it was snowing last game. So I think a lot of these guys are used to it, playing in Europe, and most of the MLS guys, I would imagine. So yeah, I think we’re ready to go.”Gregg Berhalter’s squad wants to be prepared for the icy conditions awaiting them in Sunday’s visit to Hamilton, Ontario to face Canada at Tim Horton’s Field, a clash of the Octagonal’s top two sides at the moment. But their bigger priority is making El Salvador and Honduras, next Tuesday’s adversaries at Allianz Field in Saint Paul, Minnesota, as uncomfortable as possible in pursuit of a full six points from this window’s two home dates.

“It’s just about embracing the cold. Get ready, understand that mentality and what it takes to succeed in those moments,” goalkeeper Matt Turner, a New Jersey native who’s familiar with the chill as a longtime regular for the New England Revolution, said on Friday. “And just have fun with it. I mean, this is America. This is the beauty. We could play in 90 degrees and we can play in 0 degrees in the same time of year. It’s a pretty cool thing. So we’re excited. We’re looking forward to embracing it.”

That’s pretty clearly become a chief talking point for the USMNT.“I look back at some of my first times watching the men’s national team, and seeing that [2013 Snow Clasico] game in Colorado against Costa Rica sticks out in my head. I was even talking to my wife over the break. I was like, ‘I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want it to snow,’” said defender Walker Zimmerman. “I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and really remember growing up. That’s exciting to me.”

On Monday English-American fullback Antonee “Jedi” Robinson harked back to fond memories from the festive seasons of his youth.“It’s something I think everyone’s looking forward to. Growing up in England, I’m not a stranger to snow,” said the Fulham standout. “Kind of takes me back to when I was younger, I remember Boxing Day, it was a big thing in my Sunday league team, we used to play ‘dads vs. lads,’ so all the sons would be playing against the dads on a snowy pitch. That’s some of the happiest football I have ever played.”The natural rejoinder to this framing is to point out that the United States possess deeper player pools and superior talent to their winter guests, and risk shrinking that gap by flirting with conditions that could slow play or hamper peak performance. A hint of that possibility briefly crept into view when Aaronson was asked about his tactics for managing the temperatures.“There’s no real way of getting around how cold you’re going to be,” he said. “I think just kind of coming to terms with it and having little thingsyou can do, like getting hand warmers or maybe wearing double socks in the game, maybe little things you can do. But there’s no, really, way of getting past that. I think it’s just you got to get warm as fast as you can on the field and all the adrenaline starts to kick in, and then you’re ready to go in the game.”Berhalter has said he’s been assured that the heated pitches in Columbus and Saint Paul will ensure good field conditions, plus that his players are familiar with the cold. And on this region’s road to the World Cup, gamesmanship is widely perceived as a near-necessity, a box to be checked, and slyly.After weathering myriad forms of it on trips to trips south over the decades, from sweltering tropical heat to pulled fire alarms and fireworks and loud all-night parties in hotel parking lots, the USMNT consider situations like this to be a rare chance for them to return the favor.“It’s mind over matter,” said Berhalter on Friday upon naming his 28-man roster.

“This is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents. They’re all coming from the equator, and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions. They’re going to take a couple breaths in and it’s going to hit them like they’d never been before. And our guys who have been playing in Europe, in cooler temperatures, and most of the guys here have played in cool temperatures, will be ready to go.”

What shaped USMNT’s latest Octagonal roster? Gregg Berhalter on fitness, conditions & COVID

By Charles Boehm @cboehm

The US men’s national team are about to immerse themselves in deep-winter conditions for three massive World Cup qualifiers as a global pandemic continues to rage, and their head coach has picked a large squad he believes can embrace that environment and push the program to the doorstep of Qatar 2022.

Hosting El Salvador in Columbus (Jan. 27) and Honduras in St. Paul, Minnesota (Feb. 2) on either side of a top-of-the-table clash with Canada in Hamilton, Ontario (Jan. 30), the USMNT will spend the next week and a half in what’s forecast to be bone-chilling cold. But for Gregg Berhalter, that’s something to celebrate, not dread.

“Thinking about the weather conditions, this is when I think about historic World Cup qualifiers in our history. And certainly the two that come to mind are the game in 2001 against Mexico in Columbus [dubbed “La Guerra Fria”], and then the [2013 “Snow Clasico”] game in Denver against Costa Rica, where the weather is playing a key role in really giving us the upper hand,” said Berhalter on Friday afternoon as he named his 28-player roster for the Concacaf Octagonal matches.

“So we expect to embrace the conditions, enjoy the conditions and really be able to take it to our opponents in this.”

The former center back continues to wave off concerns about dangerously low temperatures, preferring to emphasize the home-field advantage it can offer against adversaries from tropical locales.

“It’s a mindset, it really is,” Berhalter declared. “I played in Germany when it was -15 Celsius, -20 Celsius, and I played with short sleeves. And the reason why I did that is because it’s a mindset. It’s mind over matter in this case, once you get running, once you get sweating, I think you’re good to go.

“Just as all the times we go down to Central America and we’re playing in the humidity and the heat and sometimes the smog and the altitude at times, this is an opportunity for us to gain an advantage on our opponents. They’re all coming from the equator, and it’s going to be really difficult for them to deal with these conditions.”

COVID concerns loom

Despite US and Canadian leagues being in their offseason, nearly half of the rostered players (13, to be precise) are MLS-based standouts already in the January camp that just concluded in Phoenix, Arizona. That decision reflects the coaching staff’s confidence in the work that group has put in, as well as concerns about others being exposed to the highly-infectious Omicron variant of COVID-19 on their trans-Atlantic travels.

Berhalter revealed that one player, Venezia midfielder Gianluca Busio, has already had to bow out of this month’s action due to a case of COVID, and he says he expects more positive tests to crop up in the coming days; additional players are on standby to join the team in mid-window if needed. Further, regular starters Tyler Adams, Zack Steffen and DeAndre Yedlin are carrying yellow cards that mean their next such caution will trigger a one-game suspension.

“When I look at the threat of COVID and how quickly this new variant has been spreading, we can expect guys to come into camp and test positive, that’s just the nature of it,” said the coach. “So we need some protection on that. When we think about the potential of playing three games in seven days, that’s enough right there to need a bigger squad. We think about yellow-card accumulation, we can be missing some guys from that; potential for injuries.

“And then finally, any potential wear and tear that the [artificial] turf in Hamilton can bring. So that’s exactly why we increased the roster size a little bit and we feel that we’ll have enough cover no matter what happens in this window … We think fitness won’t be an issue in this camp.”

Rotation calculation

Berhalter offered nuanced answers on the topic of lineup rotation, noting that the roster is heavy in certain areas, namely winger and right back, in order to provide ample options where key contributors may not be at maximum fitness.

“There’s some positions that we purposely are loaded in for,” he said, “that we don’t expect the players to be 90 minutes fit, we expect to be approaching it in a platoon type of method where we put guys on, we take guys off and we work that way. As long as they can go, they can play, when they can’t give any more, then sub them out. When I look at the winger position in particular, we have Christian [Pulisic], Brenden [Aaronson], Timmy [Weah], Paul [Arriola] and Jordan Morris, who are more than capable of playing that position.”Yet he also contended that the circumstances allow for key players to log heavy minutes in all three games. And he confirmed that the entire group is eligible to travel to the Canada match, a signal that everyone is fully vaccinated and able to pass border regulations.“I’m not sure you can’t play all three games. If you think about this, our travel’s minimized, we have a 50-minute flight up into Canada, then another two-hour flight to Minnesota,” said Berhalter. “It’s no different than a player performing for his club three games in a week, so I’m not ruling out a guy being able to play three games in a week.”

Should the USMNT boss’ words prove decisive, they could move atop the Octagonal this window. The Yanks sit second 15 points from eight games, a chance to prove adverse conditions can provide an upper hand.

How Many Points The USMNT Needs To Qualify For The 2022 World Cup

TRAVIS YOESTINGJ ANUARY 24, 2022  the `18

WITH CONCACAF WORLD CUP QUALIFYING REACHING ITS CLIMAX, WE ENUMERATE WHAT THE U.S. NEEDS TO BOOK A TRIP TO QATAR.

After the debacle of failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the focus and attention on the U.S. men’s national team’s qualification efforts for Qatar 2022 have been greater than ever. What was once taken for granted is now the source of constant anxiety. As we near the end of Concacaf qualifying, we explain exactly what USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022. Concacaf 2022 World Cup qualifying — at least for the U.S. — consists of a single round-robin group stage against seven other Concacaf nations. The USMNT plays seven home games and seven away games over the course of seven months, a schedule condensed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The top three teams qualify for the Qatar World Cup while the fourth-place team enters single-match playoff against the top team from Oceania.Here’s the latest on what USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022, which we’ll update throughout the qualification process.

What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022

Through Jan. 26

Currently the U.S. is in second place in the eight-team group with 15 points, one behind Canada. Mexico and Panama are right behind at 14 points before a considerable drop to fifth-place Costa Rica at nine. We are back! More #CWCQ Final Round action coming our way this week, and this is where every national team stands.-. While there are countless permutations in play, the USMNT can qualify outright for Qatar 2022 in this window — if everything goes perfectly. If the USMNT won all three of its matches, it would reach 24 points. That would be enough to qualify if Panama loses all three of its matches and Costa Rica gets five or fewer points in this window and Jamaica fails to win all three of its matches. That would leave fourth place at 14 points, 10 behind the U.S., which at that point would be ensured of a top-three finish. The same could be true if Mexico loses all three of its matches, but because Mexico and Panama play each other on Feb. 2, it’s impossible for both nations to lose all three matches. Los Canaleros have a hugely important window with matches against the two teams right behind them (Costa Rica on nine, Jamaica with seven) and the showdown with Mexico.Intensity keeps rising as the #CWCQ Final Round reaches its boiling point. Here are the upcoming matches in our triple game week:It’s more likely the USMNT will head into the qualifiers on March 24, 27 and 30 still needing results. Here’s a rundown on what the USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022 regardless of other results.

How Many Points USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022

If the USMNT wins out, it’s going to Qatar, as simple as that. Of course, that’s easier said than done. How many points the USMNT needs to qualify is a trickier question to answer. Because teams behind the U.S. play each other, it’s impossible for all of them to win every match. The U.S. has a little bit of breathing room, currently six points ahead of fifth place, the first spot that goes home. Even fourth place is almost as good as qualifying this year because even Oceania’s best team, New Zealand, is ranked 110th in the world, while the lowest-ranked team in this Concacaf qualifying stage is Honduras at 76th (the U.S. is currently 11th). In October, I calculated the estimated total points that would be needed to qualify outright to be 21.2, with 18.4 needed to finish fourth. By those computations, the USMNT needs just two more wins to feel good about qualifying for Qatar, which is certainly attainable with two home matches this window. If the U.S. can beat El Salvador and Honduras in Ohio and Minnesota, respectively, even a defeat to Canada would leave it with 21 points. But those calculations were based on historical results. There has been an inordinate number of draws this time and the entire table is clumped more closely together; Panama’s impressive start has created a large gap between fourth and fifth while making the gap from first to fourth just two points. This means two wins could be more than enough or it could be not nearly enough. Currently, the pace for the top four is as follows with points per game and estimated total points based on results so far. 

Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Points Per Game (Extrapolated Total Points)

  1. Canada — 2.0 (28)
  2. United States — 1.875 (26.25)
  3. Mexico — 1.75 (24.5)
  4. Panama — 1.75 (24.5)
  5. Costa Rica — 1.125 (15.75)
  6. Jamaica — 0.875 (12.25)
  7. El Salvador — 0.75 (10.5)
  8. Honduras — 0.375 (5.25)

Based on this, the USMNT must do better than Costa Rica’s pace of 1.125, which would extrapolate to 16 points. To qualify outright (top 3) the U.S. would need 24.5 points. By that quotient, the U.S. needs just one more draw to ensure a top-four place and three more wins plus a draw to ensure a top-three place. Again, this is all based on teams following their current form. If we did that the rest of the way, there’d be no need to continue the qualifiers. Things will change, so it’s impossible to say this early exactly how many points the USMNT will need, especially with the U.S. still to play every team except Jamaica once more.Definitively, we can estimate the number of points needed based on potential results, as shown below. The “at most” category represents the most possible points needed based on a worst-case scenario of results for the U.S. elsewhere; the “at least” category represents the best-case scenario, which is highly unlikely to transpire with six matches left but could technically happen. 

What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022 (At Most)

  • Games Remaining: 6
  • Points Available: 18
  • Points Needed For Top 3: 16
  • Points Needed For Top 4: 12

What USMNT Needs To Qualify For World Cup 2022 (At Least)

  • Games Remaining: 6
  • Points Available: 18
  • Points Needed For Top 3: 3
  • Points Needed For Top 4: 0

The exact number of points the USMNT will need is somewhere in between all the aforementioned scenarios, somewhere in between three and 16 points, probably closer to 10 points for top three and three points for top four, as suggested initially. If Costa Rica or Jamaica make a surge, as many expect they might given their talent, and if Panama struggles, as many expect it might given its talent, these numbers will fluctuate over the coming weeks. What we do know is the USMNT doesn’t want to go into its final match needing a result, as World Cup qualifying ends with a trip to Costa Rica, a place where the U.S. has never gotten a point from a final-round World Cup qualifying match.Check back here throughout the Concacaf World Cup qualifying process as we explain what USMNT needs to qualify for World Cup 2022. And if you spot any errors in our calculations, feel free to let us know and we’ll get it corrected, because we were nerdy liberal arts majors, not nerdy math majors.For more on how to watch the USMNT’s Concacaf World Cup qualifiers, click here.

What If The USMNT Isn’t Actually Embracing The Cold And This Was All A Terrible Idea?

CONNOR FLEMINGJANUARY 25, 2022  AS QUALIFYING BEGINS AGAIN I FIND MYSELF WORRYING ABOUT THE WEATHER.

It is, we’re learning, a question that can be framed in countless ways — “Will it be an advantage? But will it really be an advantage? How will you prepare? How will you mentally prepare? Will you put hot chicken broth in your water bottle so it doesn’t freeze?” — but really only ever has one definitive plan of action: Deal with it. n Sunday, the USMNT started arriving in Columbus, Ohio, to collectively grow an extra layer of skin ahead of Thursday night’s World Cup qualifier against El Salvador at Lower.com Field, where the forecast calls for a pleasant day of partly cloudy skies and a high of 34° F.The squad and its legion of The Athletic writers, however, are seemingly preparing to discover the Northwest Passage. Brenden Aaronson said Monday that his feet felt cold, leading him to consider wearing two socks — great for warmth, not so great for feeling the ball at your feet. Antonee Robinson said it was going to be like “Dads vs. Lads,” so it’s possible that he’s not really up to speed on anything right now. Meanwhile Gregg Berhalter is proposing that he rub down the entire squad’s feet with Vaseline like a sort of CONCACAF Christ figure.  

It’s a mentality. The hype for the weather in Columbus, Ontario and Saint Paul has become absurd, to the point where the mythos of it all has clouded the fact that horrible weather usually produces horrible results. The earliest recorded uses of the winter home-field advantage come from warfare, where a superior, aggressive force is brought to its knees by a ragtag band of defenders and the weather. Perhaps the most famous example is the French invasion of Russia in 1812, when 500,000 soldiers under the command of Napoleon were routed by the Generals Janvier and Février (January and February), amounting to losses of around 380,000.  But why is the USMNT — second in the Octagonal — taking on the role of the besieged underdog against the nations in seventh (El Salvador) and eighth (Honduras)? Our players are more used to it, sure, but our players are also much better than those representing La Selecta and Los Catrachos. Shouldn’t we be looking to emphasize our technical quality rather than looking to play with a depressurized ball that’s assumed all the qualities of a rock? When we look back on the most famous of cold-weather games — the Snow Clasico in Colorado — one point that’s largely forgotten in the romanticism of playing without lines and the dusting of Jermaine Jones’ afro is that it was a good call because Costa Rica was better than us. They knew it, we knew it. That Ticos squad went on to the 2014 World Cup and never lost a match despite playing Italy, England, Uruguay, Greece and the Netherlands (losing to the Oranje in a shootout), so staging the match in unplayable conditions was a stroke of genius. But do we really fear Alex Roldan and Alberth Elis that much? Do we really think that Sergiño Dest is going to be enjoying life in the frozen tundra? This is such a massive window against relatively easy opponents, and getting nine points would effectively book America’s place in Qatar, but have we made it more difficult on ourselves?These are my musings as I prepare to attend the match in Minnesota, where the current forecast is for 12° F and snow showers, and I’d be lying if I didn’t personally agree entirely with Walker Zimmerman’s sentiment: “I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want it to snow.”I just don’t want to have to go to the Azteca and San José next window needing positive results.

Adversity Isn’t Limited to USMNT in World Cup Qualifying Window

The conditions that both are and are not under the U.S.’s control aren’t optimal, but then again, its opponents are dealing with plenty to overcome, too.

It has been established quite emphatically that it’s going to be cold. Nearly half of the squad is out of season. Some key players are hurt. Others have their club careers in the balance, with MLS trades and potential European transfers swirling. One player has had travel issues just getting to camp. Generally speaking, the conditions are not ideal for the U.S. men’s national team entering the penultimate World Cup qualifying window. It’s not a vacuum, though. The U.S.’s fortunes over the course of the next three matches are tied to those of their opponents as well. And those opponents are not exactly operating under optimum circumstances, either.Take Thursday’s opponent El Salvador, for instance, a team that held the U.S. to a scoreless draw in the opening match of World Cup qualifying but has only five points since and has been all but reduced to playing spoiler. It’s not going to be accustomed to the frigid temperatures of Ohio, nor is it slated to be entirely at full strength (El Gráfico reports the two center backs who started vs. the U.S. in September may not be available Thursday). Last-place Honduras, which the U.S. will play to close the window, is also all but eliminated, is on its second coach of the Concacaf Octagonal and, like its fellow Central American nation, should not be playing at its peak in the Minnesota cold. That’s the logic from the USMNT side, which systematically chose its two home locations for this window by prioritizing shorter travel for the middle match—at first-place Canada, in Hamilton, Ontario—while creating layers of complications for its other opponents and ensuring a partisan crowd. “We know a large portion of our guys are playing in Europe. They’re playing in cold weather right now,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said last month. “They should be able to adapt pretty nicely.”If it’s tough for us, and we have guys playing in Europe in cold weather, what’s it going to be like for Honduras, who’s coming from Honduras midweek, coming from 85-, 90-degree temperatures?”

There’s an acknowledgement that forcing the U.S. players to also contend with the cold isn’t ideal, either. But then again, braving and taming the elements while subjecting opponents from warmer climates to them has traditionally been a badge of honor for this team, a rite of passage of sorts. Welcoming Mexico to Columbus in the cold months began with “La Guerra Fria” over 20 years ago, and playing Costa Rica through a Colorado blizzard set the stage for the famous “Snowclasico” of the 2014 qualifying cycle. These are the games that can strengthen a team’s bond if things go right, and while it’s rare to find a player who will admit to preferring elements like that if given the choice, it’s not exactly a foreign concept for some in U.S. camp.“It’s obviously cold out here, but something that I’ve been used to growing up in New York and playing academy games throughout the winter on turf fields,” U.S. star midfielder Tyler Adams said from Columbus, where the temperature at first kick Thursday is slated to be in the high 20s. “You’re used to this, pushing the snow to the side and being able to play and enjoy it. The cold is not going to stop us from doing what we do. If anything, it’s just going to cause us to run a little bit more to stay warm.”Added center back Walker Zimmerman: “I was even talking to my wife over the break. I was like, you know what? I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want the snow. I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So I think the guys are ready to embrace it, embrace the cold. And it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise, as well.”The cold is no obstacle for Canada, which enjoyed a famous win over Mexico in frigid Edmonton at a stadium that was, temporarily anyway, renamed the “Iceteca” as a nod to Mexico’s Estadio Azteca. But the current first-place side will be missing its top attraction, with Bayern Munich left back Alphonso Davies out as he recovers from myocarditis following a positive COVID-19 diagnosis. The coronavirus has impacted another key cog for the Canadians as well, with midfielder Stephen Eustáquio recently testing positive. His availability for Canada this window remains in question. Nine of Canada’s 25 players are based in MLS and thus facing the same out-of-season dilemma that 13 of the U.S. players have been combatting. Two key components out wide, Tajon Buchanan and Richie Laryea, just completed transfers to new clubs overseas and are in the midst of that transition. There’s also the matter of Canada’s home-field advantage. The crowd surrounding the turf field at Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Stadium has been limited to 50% capacity due to COVID-19 protocols, with the Canadian Soccer Association canceling and refunding all of the 24,000 tickets it had sold before reselling 12,000. It’ll be loud and partisan, just not as much as initially planned.This entire qualifying process has been about navigating through adversity. The three-game windows have put more stress on squads than any previous qualifying campaigns. For the U.S., specifically, it has never had what most would consider its ideal XI all on the field together, not during qualifying or before it. You’ll often hear coaches talking about how their teams need to suffer to find success. There will be plenty of suffering over the course of the next week, physically and psychologically. The U.S. is banking on the fact that its ability to absorb all of that exceeds that of its three opponents, and by doing so takes the Americans that much closer to the hotter locale that has been its target destination all this time: the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.“Understand that mentality and what it takes to succeed in those moments,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who is in line to start with Zack Steffen suffering from back tightness and yet to join the team from Man City. “So for me, it’s embracing the cold. It’s keep up my focus sharp for the moments when I’m called into action and just have fun with it. I mean, this is America. This is the beauty. We could play in 90 degrees and we can play in zero degrees in the same time of year. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

READY TO PLAY: HOW LOWER.COM FIELD AND ALLIANZ FIELD HAVE PREPPED FOR USMNT’S WINTER WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

EXPERT GROUNDSKEEPERS HAVE WORKED FOR MONTHS TO ENSURE FIELDS WILL BE IN GREAT SHAPE FOR THE WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS IN COLUMBUS AND ST. PAUL

JANUARY 25 2022

Qualification for the World Cup in Concacaf is always a difficult gauntlet. Each of the region’s top teams use whatever edge they can to create a unique home field advantage. Mexico plays nearly every home game at Estadio Azteca, a legendary venue that sits more than 7,000 feet above sea level and requires teams to deal with the effects of altitude. Central American squads like Honduras and Panama host games in the middle of the day amidst sweltering tropical heat and humidity. 

This month, the same gamesmanship will be deployed by the United States. While the U.S. Men’s National Team has enjoyed raucous home crowds through the first eight games of the Octagonal, the new January international window provides opportunity for another edge: winter weather in the middle of the country.The USA will play both its home games this slate in the bitter cold of Columbus, Ohio — a familiar fortress with plenty of history — and St. Paul, Minn. — a potential new polar stronghold. “We expect to embrace the conditions, enjoy the conditions, and really be able to take it to our opponents in the big picture of this window,” said USMNT head coach Gregg Berhalter during his press conference following last week’s roster announcement.While the air above may dip into the single digits, the field below the players feet should be in great shape thanks to the well-seasoned grounds crews at Lower.com Field in Ohio and Allianz Field in Minnesota. Their extensive efforts will make these chilly contests possible as they maintain a quality surface in the face of potential inclement winter weather. “For Thursday’s match against El Salvador, you can expect a uniform surface when it comes to playability, especially during winter in Ohio,” said Ben Jackson, Director of Grounds for Columbus Crew. “The field will not look as aesthetically pleasing this time of year. However, the pitch and subsurface should have good lateral and vertical strength as a result of the heating system. Air temperature shouldn’t have a significant effect on the field quality.” Special underground heating systems at the venues in Columbus and Minnesota will ensure that the grass stays high-quality and playable for matches of this caliber. At Lower.com Field, the underground heat has ensured a field temperature in the mid-50s since early December and U.S. Soccer has rented out additional grow lamps ahead of Thursday’s match. The Twin Cities’ underground heat and grow lights have kept its playing surface warm, growing and free of snow for almost all of the new year. In fact, the technology ensures that both fields have a “just watered” type of play due to the condensation of the warm field and cool air. “No matter how much snow we get in the lead-up to the game, our underground heat and lamps can melt it,” said Allianz Field Groundskeeper Mitch Ronning. “We’ve dealt with plenty of snow before here. “We are utilizing our hydronic field heat system to warm up the subsurface temperatures to help ‘wake up’ the plant from the winter and also the field heat is helping melt some of the snow that is on the field.“We will also be using field covers to cover the playing surface once snow is removed to help trap some of that heat for the plant and more so give the field protection from the cold temps.” Ronning described the process of trapping the heat as “similar to that of a human using a blanket in bed at night to keep them warm” and is confident the process will help ensure the field is as good as possible.

 Cold temperatures provide one challenge for field maintenance, but snow brings another wrinkle. While fans may dream of winter wonderlands akin to the 2013 Snowclasico game in Commerce City, Colo., the grounds crews have measures in place to keep the playing field clear of any kind of wintry mix.Heating technology will keep the fields snow-free in the run-up to the game and can easily melt matchday dustings. With any kind of accumulation as kickoff draws closer, both crews prefer to avoid using plows in order to avoid potential damage to the field. While shovels serve as the main tool for heavy snowfall when game time looms, Minnesota also employs a thick cover to lay over and protect the field that a plow can drive over. If it really starts to come down, both stadiums have red paint on reserve to mark out more visible field lines.Fans should enjoy cover from the elements as most seating at Lower.com Field and Allianz Field falls under the protection of overhangs. U.S. players will have the comfort of specially purchased heated seat cushions on the bench, but the squad stands more than ready to take on the arctic elements.

“You know what? I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold,” said USMNT defender Walker Zimmerman. “I want the snow. I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So, I think the guys are ready to embrace it, and it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise as well.”

FORTRESS COLUMBUS: DETAILING THE USMNT’S HISTORY OF SUCCESS IN CENTRAL OHIO

THE USMNT RETURNS TO COLUMBUS’S LOWER.COM FIELD FOR USA-EL SALVADOR, PRESENTED BY VOLKSWAGEN, ON JAN. 27 (7 P.M. ET ON ESPN2, UNIMÁS AND TUDN)

MICHAEL LEWISJANUARY 24 2022

When the U.S. Men’s National Team hosts El Salvador in Columbus in a FIFA World Cup Qualifier on Jan. 27 (7 p.m. ET; ESPN2, UniMás, TUDN), the visitors must overcome more than the wintry weather expected for the Concacaf Octagonal match.Los Cuscatlecos will be challenged by the USMNT’s tradition of success in the central Ohio city.Welcome to Fortress Columbus.A place the USMNT loves to call home, no U.S. city comes close to the record 11 qualifying matches hosted there, and the team’s record speaks for itself.Since playing its first WCQ match in Columbus back in 2000, the USMNT hold a 8-1-2 record including the four memorable “Dos a Cero” victories against Mexico that have largely defined the team’s dominance against El Trí on home soil since the turn of the century. In those 10 games, the USA has outscored its foes, 16-4, while registering seven shutouts.A fortress indeed, according to USMNT legend Landon Donovan.”I think people may need to make sure they don’t conflate the stadium with what was really the successful piece of it, which is the people in Columbus and people who traveled into Columbus,” Donovan, who enjoyed his share of victories in Columbus, told ussoccer.com recently.”For the longest time, we didn’t have a place in our country where we knew we were going to have a home field advantage. Forget about location. The home field advantage is dictated by the people in the stands. The people of Columbus and of Ohio and whoever would travel in made those games what they were and gave us a true homefield advantage, certainly for the first time in my playing history. I think most players even before me would agree.”A former assistant of Gregg Berhalter with both the Columbus Crew and U.S. Men’s National Team, current Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff — whose heroics as a substitute made the first 2-0 win against Mexico possible back in 2001 — also has fed on and soaked in the high-energy atmosphere.”The history of the game against Mexico and that turning point originated right there in Columbus,” he said. “I’ve been at some of these other matches in Columbus. It’s full of energy. The fans understand what role they play, and they understand the history of the game. That’s continued to resonate with the fan base in Columbus. When the national team is in your city, it’s important to carry the message, to carry the weight, to carry the energy, because you’re playing for a lot.”

A TRADITION IS BORN
After playing Costa Rica to a scoreless draw in the first qualifier on Oct. 11, 2000, the USMNT found their footing on Feb. 28, 2001, in a 2-0 triumph over El Trí in a match played in frigid, 29-degree temperatures that are likely to be replicated in Thursday’s match against El Salvador.Wolff, who had just four caps and one goal under his belt entering the match, replaced an injured Brian McBride in the 15th minute. After latching onto a Clint Mathis long ball, Wolff scored one of the most important goals in USMNT history two minutes into the second half when he rounded Jorge Campos before slotting home into the empty net.He turned playmaker in the 88th minute, beating defenders Claudio Suarez and Alberto Macias on the right side of the box and before finding Earnie Stewart, who put the ball home from 12 yards.Wolff said that coming on as a substitute helped him. “Really having not to think much probably was a good thing because you just go in react, rely on instincts,” he said. “I was fortunate enough to play against Mexico in Los Angeles at the end of at the end of 2000. So, there was some familiarity there. Certainly, competing against Mexico, whether it was a hostile crowd or a home crowd.”

WATCH: USMNT BEGINS “DOS A CERO TRADITION IN COLUMBUS | FEB. 28, 2001

Donovan, 18 at the time, had a front row seat on the U.S. bench to the proceedings, witnessing one of the signature moments in USMNT history. The atmosphere left an indelible impression with him.”I had never seen a crowd like that rooting for an American team,” he said. “It was just so eye opening for me at a young age. That certainly holds a special place in my heart even though I wasn’t even on the field that day.”Four years later, Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley’s tallies lifted the USA to another 2-0 win against Mexico, a result that came with the added bonus of clinching qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup. In 2009, Michael Bradley’s brace helped the USA to a third-consecutive “Dos a Cero” home qualifying win against Mexico to open the final round of qualifying with another 2-0 victory.The “Dos a Cero” tradition against El Trí continued in 2013 as the USMNT again booked a spot at the World Cup with a 2-0 triumph against their rivals. Donovan had a big say in that match as his corner kick set up the first goal by Eddie Johnson in the 49th minute before he celebrated his own in the 78th minute. Goalkeeper Tim Howard produced some stellar saves late in the first half when it was still scoreless. 

WATCH: USA BOOKS 2014 FIFA WORLD CUP TICKET | SEPT. 10, 2013

 “Anytime you win a game to qualify for the World Cup, and it happens to be against Mexico, it’s hard to top that,” Donovan said. “That was a very memorable night.”In 2016, Mexico broke the streak, using a last-minute header by Rafa Marquez to earn a 2-1 win against the USA in the opening match of the final round of 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying.Beyond the wins against Mexico, Columbus has also served as a welcoming place for the team to recover after difficult road results.Only four days after losing an early lead and suffering a 2-1 semifinal round defeat at Jamaica on Sept. 7, 2012, the USMNT returned to Historic Crew Stadium, using Herculez Gomez’s 55th minute free kick to earn an emotional 1-0 win on the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.The team faced a similar scenario during the semifinal round in 2016. A poor performance led to a disappointing 2-0 defeat in Guatemala, pushing the team’s back against the wall for advancement when it faced Los Chapines again four days later in Columbus.The home crowd again provided the perfect backdrop to the USA’s resounding 4-0 thumping of Guatemala on March 29, 2016, a match that also marked then 17-year-old Christian Pulisic’s senior team debut. 

 A NEW VENUE

While the streak against Mexico ended, Columbus’s importance to the USMNT continued last fall as the team hosted Costa Rica in its first match at brand-new Lower.com Field on Oct. 13In a similar situation to the 2012 matches against Jamaica, the USMNT landed in Ohio on the back of a 1-0 defeat at PanamThough the side surrendered a first-minute goal to Keysher Fuller, the boisterous Columbus crowd willed a thrilling comeback. The USMNT equalized behind Sergiño Dest’s 25th-minute wonder strike  before the right back set up the game-winner in the 66th minute. The Barcelona defender sent a short pass to Tim Weah on the right side of the penalty area, where the Lille forward drilled a shot that hit the right post, then caromed off goalkeeper Leonel Moreira before entering the net.The tally went into the record books as an own goal by the keeper. Moreover, it gave the USA the win and three more important points on the Road to Qatar.On Thursday against El Salvador, the USMNT will be prepared to build on their winning tradition at Fortress Columbus.

Scouting El Salvador

The USMNT heads into its second match against La Selecta. By Brendan Joseph  Jan 25, 2022, 7:00am PST  S&S

The United States Men’s National Team churned through 2022 World Cup qualifying, and is now in the back half of the schedule. Carrying 15 points from eight matches, Gregg Berhalter has his squad on pace to claim a spot in Qatar, although any stumble could result in a ticket to the inter-confederation playoffs. The upcoming fixture against El Salvador will be contested at Lower.com Field in the historically significant city of Columbus, Ohio.This is the 26th meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding an 18-1-6 advantage. The last match-up occurred in September at the start of qualifying, ending in a scoreless draw. El Salvador is at seventh place in the eight-team CONCACAF table with a 1-4-3 record, eight points out of the playoff spot. Despite an impressive 1-0 win over Panama and the aforementioned opening result, the lack of victories has made a spot in Qatar all but out of reach.La Selecta is led by former U.S. international Hugo Pérez, who was appointed to the manager role in April of 2020. The 58-year-old has compiled a 7-9-6 record while in charge. His focus appears centered on turning over the player pool, giving experience to younger talents, and building toward the future. The team prepared for the upcoming match with December friendlies against Ecuador and Chile, as well as three closed-door scrimmages against local club sides.Pérez named a 23-player squad for the upcoming international window. Joshua Pérez, a former U.S. youth international, is absent. The manager is attempting to find a balance between talents both from abroad and within the domestic Primera División, continuing to add new talents at a steady rate.

***

GOALKEEPERS (2): Kevin Carabantes (FAS), Mario González (Alianza)

DEFENDERS (7): Roberto Domínguez (Chalatenango), Alexander Larín (Comunicaciones), Ronald Rodríguez (FC Tulsa), Bryan Tamacas (Alianza), Eduardo Vigil (Firpo), Rómulo Villalobos (Municipal), Eriq Zavaleta (Toronto FC)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Eric Calvillo (El Paso Locomotive), Darwin Cerén (Houston Dynamo), Enrico Dueñas Hernández (Vitesse), Bryan Landaverde (FAS), Christian Martinez (San Carlos), Marvin Monterroza (Alianza), Narciso Orellana (Alianza), Kevin Reyes (FAS), Alex Roldan (Seattle Sounders)

FORWARDS (5): Nelson Bonilla (Port), Cristian Gil (Metapán), Jairo Henríquez (Aguila), Walmer Martinez (Monterey Bay), Joaquín Rivas (Tulsa Roughnecks)

***

Pérez alternates between various forms of the 4-4-2 and 4-5-1 formations, preferring the former during the Octagonal. Outside of a few fixtures, he has stuck to the same lineups, a healthy mix of veterans and recent introductions to the program. Over the past few matches, the strategy has involved long balls, crosses, and shots from distance. The defense has demonstrated a susceptibility to commits fouls in less than desirable areas and on set pieces.

Projected El Salvador Starting XI (via LineupBuilder.com)

Mario González has started at goalkeeper for every match during the Octagonal, a trend that appears unlikely to change. The 24-year-old made his senior international debut last June and became established as the number one with a wide array of acrobatic saves. A touch undersized at 6’0”, his tendency is to stay on the line, avoiding challenging for crosses and fast breaks. In a recent interview, he expressed little pressure for the upcoming fixture and is unbothered by the potential of a cold Ohio winter.Described “as one of the top young center backs in CONCACAF,” Ronald Rodriguez is a relatively new member of the squad, starting in five qualifiers since debuting for the squad last summer. A few days ago, the 23-year-old secured a move from Club Deportivo Águila to FC Tulsa. He is a dangerous target on set pieces and drills the ball around the field. His partner should be Eriq Zavaleta, another recent addition to the squad. The former U.S. youth international had an up-and-down season for a struggling Toronto FC but can be an asset in a possession-based build-up.Alexander Larín should start at left back, a consistent lineup presence for Pérez. He is an attack-minded player and has a tendency to shoot, while also serving as the designated free kick taker. On the opposite side of the formation is Bryan Tamacas, a 26-year-old on the books at domestic Alianza. His specialty is making bombing runs into the final third, picking out a cross or cutting inside with a sharp dribble.Midfield is the strongest group in the El Salvador formation. In a curious case, Christian Martínez had his senior international debut in March of 2021, suiting up for Costa Rica. A few months later, he switched to La Selecta and has made several appearances at the six. His full-body tackles are complemented by steadiness in the build-up and incisive long balls that open up opposing defenses. If Pérez opts for a more defensive posture, Darwin Ceren is the logical inclusion for anempty bucket. The 32-year-old is responsible for jump-starting the attack, facilitating possession and funneling the ball up the field. If a more advanced player is required, Marvin Monterroza fits the bill and provides quick combination with teammates.Vitesse winger Enrico Duenas Hernandez has appeared in every qualifier. The 20-year-old former Dutch youth international is a methodical mover of the ball, waiting and spinning until selecting the correct pass. The other side of the field features Alex Roldan, who has served as captain in recent matches. His ability to play a diagonal ball to the back post is dangerous, while also sneaking into the box for the occasional finish.Proving that formations are fluid and positions are mere suggestion, Águila winger Jairo Henríquez has slotted into a striker role. He contributed three goals and three assists in 2021, while also facilitating possession with constant movement. Joaquín Rivas has been his main partner during qualifying but is scoreless thus far, a disappointing run after scintillating form at the recent Gold Cup. The 29-year-old has a tendency to drift behind defenders, find empty space, and claim more than his share of headers.El Salvador achieved an impressive result in the first Octagonal fixture, holding the USMNT to a scoreless draw at home. Since then, the two nations have moved in different directions, with World Cup qualification appearing a distant dream for La Selecta. This is an important match for Gregg Berhalter, as anything less than three points would be seen as the true squandering of an opportunity.The match is scheduled for Thursday, January 27th at 7:00 p.m. Eastern, 4:00 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include ESPN2, TUDN USA, UniMás, and FUBO TV (free trial).

What next for Christian Pulisic at Chelsea?

Joe Prince-WrightMon, January 24, 2022, 3:00 PM

LONDON — It feels like USMNT star Christian Pulisic is truly at a pivotal stage of his career with Chelsea in the Premier League.Deep into his third season at Chelsea, Pulisic, 23, has been an unused substitute in their last two Premier League games.He could have been rested after he started six Premier League games in a row over the busy festive period and played at wing-back, as a false nine and in his usual left-wing spot as Chelsea’s squad was decimated by injuries and illness.But there’s also a growing sense that it could mean playing second fiddle is his role at Chelsea as long as Thomas Tuchel is in charge. Tuchel has recently criticized his attacking unit for lackluster displays and Christian Pulisic hasn’t played since his own lackluster outing at Manchester City.There are also growing whispers that Pulisic may be thinking about leaving Chelsea this summer to go elsewhere and be ‘the main man’ at another European giant, as reports consistently link him with a move to Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and others.

Is Pulisic at the right club at the wrong time?

Right off the bat, let me say this: Pulisic could easily stay at Chelsea for a few years under Tuchel (who seems likely to stay at Stamford Bridge longer than most Chelsea managers…) and be just fine.But is just fine enough?Christian Pulisic is a generational talent for the USMNT. In a World Cup year, does he want to go into Qatar in December (assuming the USMNT qualify…) with 10 starts, two goals and one assist to his name in the 2022-23 Premier League season?No. He doesn’t. He is ambitious and looked annoyed (who wouldn’t be?) at not coming off the bench in Chelsea’s 2-0 win at home against Tottenham on Sunday.It is not the first time Pulisic has battled with being out of the squad at Chelsea. But the other battles mostly happened when he was much younger and just settling in.Frank Lampardtook a while to warm to him and Tuchel has admitted openly that he loves having Pulisic as an option off the bench to make an impact. Pulisic should (and definitely does) want more than that.Now he is back fully fit, everything seems to be right for Pulisic at Chelsea. Except for the style of play and his playing time. Those are two big factors.

Is now the right time to move on?

In Tuchel’s usual 3-4-2-1 system it is all about the wing backs providing the width and wide attackers cutting inside to get on the ball. Pulisic loves to stay wide and dribble inside with the ball. He isn’t able to do that often at Chelsea due to their playing style.With the 4-1-4-1 system Tuchel used against Tottenham he may be able to do that more off the left, but then he has to get past Callum Hudson-Odoi, Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Mason Mount just to get into the starting lineup.Those star names, and even Romelu Lukaku, have been criticized heavily by Tuchel in recent weeks for not producing enough in attack. But Christian Pulisic is the only one of them who hasn’t played a single second of action since Tuchel spoke those harsh words following their defeat at Man City on Jan. 15.

As long as Tuchel is around it feels like playing time will continue to be a battle for Pulisic at Chelsea. It’s not that Pulisic isn’t rated at the club. It’s that his output has been impacted by injuries and he has scored 20 goals and added 10 assists in 96 appearances. That averages out to one goal involvement in just over every three games.Is that enough? Has Pulisic been given enough of a chance by Tuchel, in his preferred position? There are other questions we should look into around how well his style of play suits the Premier League.Pulisic’s name is massive in the global game. His potential is massive. Chelsea are a massive club in the best and most-watched league on the planet. All of this should add up. He has shown glimpses of his brilliance, as recently as his superb lobbed finished against Liverpool on Jan. 2, and especially in games against Real Madrid and Porto in Chelsea’s run to UEFA Champions League glory last seasonIt just hasn’t been exactly what all parties wished for. And that’s okay.But it makes you wonder if, after three seasons at Chelsea, he may move on this summer in search of somewhere where he will truly become a global superstar. Bayern Munich? Barcelona? Liverpool? Will he have the same issues there? Or maybe he moves to the next group of clubs down to be a true star on a team that really, truly needs him?With two years left on his contract this June, Chelsea know they will be able to demand top dollar for the USMNT star this summer and then his transfer value will diminish if he doesn’t sign a new deal.These next few months feel huge in determining whether or not Christian Pulisic’s future remains at Chelsea.

I think the game play, and the sharpness, and things like that are always going to come a little bit later. So coming to this camp, I’ve actually felt really, really good. I feel like there’s definitely still some things that are a little bit fast and things that I want to continue to work on. Continuing to get sharp in front of goal is obviously, a big one for myself. That’s a big part of my game. So I’m definitely not quite at a hundred percent where I was before the injury, but I’m feeling really, really good.

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1/21/22 USMNT vs El Salvador Thurs 7 pm ESPN2, vs Canada Sun 3:30 paramount, McKennie, Sargent on fire in Europe, Harmonica Pete dies

US vs El Salvador Thurs 7 pm ESPN2, @ Canada Sun 3 pm on Paramount+. 

So the next round of Qualification is here – and they include at home Thur, Jan 27-  7 pm on ESPN 2 vs El Salvador and former Westfield/Indiana U star Eriq Zavaleta in Columbus (we going!), Sun Jan 30 at 3:30 pm on Paramount+ @ Canada (coverage starts at 2 pm I think) and Tues, Feb 2 at 7:30 pm on FS 1 vs Honduras.  If the US can secure 2 wins and tie at Canada – qualification will all but be assured.  Two wins and loss in Canada will keep things interesting as Canada (16), US (15), Mexico (14) and Panama (14), Costa Rica (9) lead the way in World Cup Qualifying.  Anything less and things will get interesting – as only the top 3 teams qualify with the 4th team having a playoff to advance.  For those going to Columbus, join us with the American Outlaws Thursday pre-game at Brother’s Bar & Grill – we are headed that way around 2:15 pm.  

My pick for Starters vs El Salvador Thurs

Pulisic/Pepi/Aaronson

McKinney/Musah

Adams

Antonee R/M Robinson/Zimmerman/Dest

Steffan  (I start Turner vs Canada though-used to the cold)

US Full Roster for Qualifiers

GOALKEEPERS (4): Sean Johnson (New York City FC; 9/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Zack Steffen (Manchester City/ENG; 26/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 13/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Reggie Cannon (Boavista/POR; 22/1), Sergino Dest (Barcelona/ESP; 15/2), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 1/0), Mark McKenzie (Genk/BEL; 8/0), Chris Richards (Hoffenheim/GER; 6/0), Antonee Robinson (Fulham/ENG; 15/3), Miles Robinson (Atlanta United; 15/3), DeAndre Yedlin (Galatasaray/TUR; 71/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 23/2)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Kellyn Acosta (LAFC; 45/2), Tyler Adams (RB Leipzig/GER; 22/1), Luca De la Torre (Heracles/NED; 4/0), Sebastian Lletget (New England Revolution; 33/8), Weston McKennie (Juventus/ITA; 28/8), Yunus Musah (Valencia/ESP; 11/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 30/0)

FORWARDS (8): Brenden Aaronson (Red Bull Salzburg/AUT; 15/5), Paul Arriola (DC United; 42/8), Jesus Ferreira (FC Dallas; 5/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 40/10), Christian Pulisic (Chelsea/ENG; 42/17), Timothy Weah (Lille/FRA; 18/2), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 66/14)

 US Goalkeeper Matt Turner to Arsenal? 

Huge news that American Goalkeeper Matt Turner is being wooed by Arsenal to be a backup and perhaps challenge for the top spot (man that would bring me full scale into being a Gunner).  Honestly I know this is a World Cup year and we don’t want to take a chance that both of our keepers (Turner and Steffan) are backups in the EPL. But Turner has to take the chance if he wants to make it big-time. Its been amazing that after years of having 2 to 3 starters in the EPL in between the pipes over the past 2 decades – that we can’t seem to place a starter in the EPL since Guzan left Villa. Perhaps it’s the requirement that keepers use their feet more than being great shot stoppers these days.  I happen to disagree with that – but that’s the way of the soccer world right now.  Let’s hope Turner can take this chance and work his way into the starting line-up soon.  Here he talks about how he feels at camp for the US.

Sad news that Pete DuPre, a World War II vet affectionally known as “Harmonica Pete” for playing the National Anthem at numerous US games passed away this week (read more) about this great veteran and huge US soccer supporter (here he was with the US ladies in 2019).  In Europe, McKinney scored again as he could arguably be Juventus’s best player over the past week even the past few weeks, and in the Championship

Antonee Robison scores for Fulham in 6-2 win – he and Tim Ream are playing 90 every game for the top team in the Championship by a mile.  Oh and Josh Sargent has scored his first 2 goals in the EPL today for Norwich @ Watford. Goal #1  (Wait Coach B somebody call up Josh and Bring him in for this next week).   Where the US Players are playing this weekend is in The Ole Ballcoach.    

McKinney has scored 2 goals for Juve this past week

Games to Watch this Weekend

Man United vs West Ham leads the weekend games on Saturday at 10 am on Peacock of course while they show New Castle vs Leads (who cares) on USA Network.  Everton’s free fall will probably continue as they host Aston Vila at 7:30 am on USA and Man City will certainly kill Southampton on NBC at 12:30 pm..  In Germany at 10 am Hoffenheim and American’s Chris Richards and newly Signed 18 year old Dallas right back Justin Che will host Dortmund (Reyna still  hurt).  Sunday Arsenal host Burnley at 9 am on USA before moving the good game Chelsea and Pulisic maybe? Hosting Tottenham in a top 4 Battle on Peacock!!  Germany gives us the All American line up with RB Leipzig and Tyler Adams hosting Wolfsburg and center back John Brooks at 9:30 am on ESPN+.   The African Cup Sweet 16 also starts up Sunday at 11 am and 2 pm on FuboTV, I hear, and finally American superstar midfielder Weston McKinney and Juventus travel to Milan at 2:45 on Paramount+. 

(See where all the American’s overseas are playing below). 

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 21

3 pm  USA                            Watford vs Norwich (Stewart)

Sat, Jan 22 

7:30 am  USA                      Everton vs Aston Villa

9:30 am ESPN+                   Hoffenheim vs Dortmund

10 am USA                           Newcastle vs Leeds

10 am Peacock                   Man United vs West Ham

12:30 pm NBC                     Southampton vs Man City

Sun, Jan 23

9 am  USA                             Arsenal vs Burnley 

9 am  Peacock                     Cyrstal Palace vs Liverpool

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

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 1

11:30 Peacock?                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham 

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 2

2:45 pm Para+                    Milan vs  Juventus (McKennie)

Thurs,  Jan 27

7 pm ESPN2                         USMNT vs El Salvador (Columbus) WCQ

7 pm Para+                          Jamaica vs Mexico WcQ

8 pm Para+                          Honduras vs Canada

Sun,  Jan 30

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Game 3

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters – Game 4

3 pm Paramount+/Telemundo    USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Feb 2

7:30 pm FS1                        USMNT vs Honduras

2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET

Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET

Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN

USA 

Weekend Guide to US Players overseas Viewing

Who Starts Thurs?  – S&S

USMNT January qualifying roster: questions and possible solutions ASN

US Roster – SBI Soccer

Sources: Arsenal keen on USMNT’s Turner

Chill index could be ‘high risk’ for USMNT game

USMNT progress report: How McKennie, Pulisic and European stars measure up

McKennie continues strong run, Pepi starts, EPB impresses and much more

Orlando to host USMNT’s March WC qualifier

Capacity cut in half for USMNT trip to Canada
WWII veteran ‘Harmonica Pete’ DuPre dies at 98; USWNT pays tribute to ‘dear friend’

VAR added for CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers

LAFC trade for USMNT’s Acosta from Rapids

Leeds United reportedly have £15 million offer for USMNT attacker Brenden Aaronson rejected
Sources: Belgian side Brugge eyes Chicago GK
  Jeff Carlisle

James Sands “gelled quick” in positive Rangers debut SBI

Antonee Robinson caps off latest Fulham rout with sublime strike

Hoffenheim signs Dallas’ Che on 18-month loan

State of the USMNT Ahead of Next World Cup Qualifiers

USWNT great Michelle Akers hopes NWSL coaching gig opens doors

 EPL

Chelsea vs Tottenham live: How to watch, stream link, team news, 

Liverpool beat Arsenal, get Chelsea in Cup final
Jota, Liverpool’s depth shows Arsenal how far they have to go
James Olley
Unvaxxed Madrid, Chelsea stars face UCL exile
  James Olley
Dropping points becoming the new normal for Chelsea
  ames Olley
Ralf Rangnick reaction: De Gea heroics, Ronaldo sub anger, Man Utd 

Antonio Conte: Tottenham’s only season target is to ‘fight’, give 

WORLD

Ivory Coast send reigning champions Algeria crashing out of Africa Cup of Nations
Aubameyang ‘completely healthy’ after heart scare

FIFA set to enforce limits on player loan transfer system

Abraham puts Roma in Italian Cup quarters after Lecce scare

‘I won’t give in to blackmail’ – Dembele responds to Barca

Athletic Bilbao stuns Barcelona in extra time
Messi left out of upcoming Argentina squad
Adriana Garcia

Arsenal eye USMNT, New England Revolution keeper Matt Turner — sources

12:18 PM ET  Jeff Carlisle James Olley

Arsenal has submitted an offer to the New England Revolution for United States men’s national team goalkeeper Matt Turner, sources confirmed to ESPN.

ESPN television analyst Taylor Twellman first reported on the potential deal Thursday.

A second source with knowledge of the discussions added that the proposed transfer fee is comparable to the £5.5 million ($7.5 millon) Manchester City paid for Zack Steffen back in 2019, a deal that potentially reached £7.3m ($10m) with add-ons.MLSSoccer.com first reported the proposed fee for Turner.If the deal is consummated, Arsenal anticipates Turner having a “significant role” with club, a key factor ahead of the current New England keeper’s expected participation in the 2022 World Cup.

The expectation is that current backup goalkeeper Bernd Leno will depart at some stage, potentially leaving Turner to compete with Aaron Ramsdale for the starting spot. A deal for Turner would enable Arsenal to allow Leno to depart this month. Leno lost his place to Ramsdale, a £32m ($43.6m) summer signing from Sheffield United, earlier in the season and has made just four appearances since Aug. 28, all in cup competitions.

However, sources have told ESPN that a combination of Leno being overlooked for Arsenal’s Carabao Cup semifinal against Liverpool and the club’s third-round exit from the FA Cup has led to the German pushing for a move away from Arsenal this month. Sources have told ESPN that Newcastle United could be a possible destination for the 29-year-old, while Inter Milan has previously expressed an interest, and Leno has also been linked with a move back to Germany.

Arsenal has three promising young goalkeepers on their books in Arthur OkonkwoJames Hillson and Karl Hein but views Turner as someone with more experience who is ready to be a competitive understudy to Ramsdale.

Turner has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the last several years. In 2016, he went undrafted and signed as a free agent following a successful trial. Following a pair of loan stints with second-tier side Richmond Kickers, he took over New England’s starting spot in 2018 and has been a mainstay ever since, making 107 league, cup and playoff appearances. He was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021, a campaign in which he was also named the MVP of the MLS All-Star Game.Turner has 13 appearances for the U.S. national team — all in 2021 — and backstopped the U.S. to the Gold Cup title while winning the Golden Glove award as the tournament’s best goalkeeper.

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Gearing up for international work

Last weekend before the “real” matches start.  By jcksnftsn  Jan 21, 2022, 9:28am PST

It’s the last weekend prior to the international break, the USMNT roster should be released shortly, and there are a good number of games to keep an eye on this weekend for players who are being called in, as well as some of those who might be on the fringes. Here’s what the weekend has in store:

Saturday

Brest v Lille – 11a on beIN Sports

The best news of the week for the USMNT might have been the return of Tim Weah to the field on Wednesday. Weah saw 22 minutes as a sub off the bench in his first action in six weeks. His return to the field was a welcome sight for fans of the USMNT heading into the upcoming matches. Weah has been a key contributor for the team recently, including scoring the team’s only goal against Jamaica and picking up the assist in the opening goal for the team’s 2-0 win over Mexico. Weah was being used heavily by his club prior to injury and while it looks like they are taking the prudent approach of easing him back in, their transfer activity would seem to indicate that they have plans for him to fill a significant role.

Other notes:

  • Pellegrino Matarazzo’s Stuttgart are in a tight relegation battle, with just five points separating their current 17th place position (and automatic relegation) and 11th place Bochum. This weekend at 9:30a on ESPN+, they will face 6th place Freiburg, who are coming off a 4-1 win over Hoffenheim.
  • Julian Green and Greuther Fürth are in serious relegation trouble, though they have drawn three straight matches to jump from four to seven points. This weekend, they face Mainz, who are solidly mid-table with 27 points. The match will be played at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Ricardo Pepi picked up his first start last weekend and while it wasn’t exactly what he would’ve hoped, Augsburg did pick up a point against Frankfurt. The task gets a bit tougher against third place Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Indications are that Borussia Dortmund plan to hold Gio Reyna out through the international window, but Chris Richards has started five of the past six matches for Hoffenheim. The two teams face off at 9:30a on EPSN+.
  • Joe Scally has returned for Borussia Mönchengladbach, who are themselves dangerously close to the relegation zone and gave up three goals as they were eliminated from the DFB-Pokal by Hannover on Wednesday. ‘Gladbach now face a Union Berlin side that has a top four finish in their sights. This match will also be on ESPN+ at 9:30a.
  • Matthew Hoppe has a handful of minutes from Mallorca’s past two matches amidst rumors that the club would like to send him out on loan to get more playing time, but they apparently are having trouble finding a taker in the Spanish second tier. Mallorca face Villarreal at 10:15 on ESPN+.
  • Tanner Tessmann and Gianluca Busio have done a bit of a switch, with Tessmann now seeing more minutes as Busio’s have been reduced. Venezia face Inter Milan at noon on Paramount+.
  • Konrad de la Fuente’s Olympique de Marseille side face Lens at 3p on beIN sports. Konrad missed the clubs last match with a “knock” and his return is unknown.
  • Yunus Musah has seen an uptick in minutes recently with four straight starts across all competitions. Valencia face Atletico Madrid at 3p on ESPN+.

Sunday

RB Leipzig v Wolfsburg – 9:30a on ESPN+

Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig face off against John Brooks and Wolfsburg in a matchup that features two Americans and perhaps the two most disappointing Bundesliga sides this season. Wolfsburg came into the season off a 2020-21 campaign that saw them qualify for Champions League action, but have stumbled mightily. They fired their manager in late October and replaced him with Florian Kohfeldt. Shockingly, Kohfeldt hasn’t seemed to be the answer either. Wolfsburg won their first two fixtures after he replaced Mark van Bommel, but haven’t won a match since and they currently sit dangerously close to the relegation zone. The club snapped a six-game losing streak when they drew with Hertha Berlin last weekend, but failed to find the back of the net yet again in the scoreless draw. They have scored just three goals in their past seven matches.

While Wolfsburg’s season has been bad, it’s possible that Leipzig’s has been even more disappointing. The club had dreams of challenging Bayern Munich for the league title, but halfway through the year that dream is over, and they now must work themselves back into a Champions League qualifying position. The team has won their past two league matches and currently sit in seventh place, three points back of Hoffenheim for that final Champions League spot.

Other notes:

  • Richy Ledezma and PSV take on Ajax at 8:30a on ESPN+ in some top of the table Eredivisie action Sunday morning. Currently, PSV hold a one point lead in the standings.
  • Nicholas Gioacchini and Montpellier face Monaco at 11:05 on beIN Sports. Gioacchini continues to see substitute minutes on a regular basis for his club.
  • Chelsea FC have seen their dreams of a league title disappear with their loss to Manchester City last weekend, but can put some ground between themselves and Tottenham for Champions League positioning when the two clubs meet in a top five matchup at 11:30a on Peacock. Christian Pulisic was an unused sub in the team’s 1-1 draw with Brighton & Hove Albion on Tuesday and should be fresh and ready to go against Spurs.
  • Weston McKennie remains the most in form US player, and his Juventus side have a crucial matchup with second place AC Milan on Sunday at 2:45p on ESPN+. Currently, Juventus trail Atalanta by a point for fourth place.
  • There is the opportunity for a US v US matchup in La Liga on Sunday afternoon when Deportivo Alavés face FC Barcelona at 3p on ESPN+. However, Matt Miazga could be in trouble after his awful gift to Real Betis on Tuesday, and Sergiño Dest needed Barcelona to go into extra time before he was able to see the field as a left winger.

USMNT January qualifying roster: questions and possible solutions

The USMNT January qualifying roster probably won’t contian many surprises but there are complicated questions regarding the form and fitness of players as well as COVID concerns. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks at the issues in various areas of the field and looks at what he thinks will be the roster. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  JANUARY 19, 2022

IN A FEW DAYS, United States national team manager Gregg Berhalter will announce his roster for the upcoming January World Cup qualifiers. Not too many surprises are expected and the roster should be based heavily on the October and November windows along with possible inclusions from the December and January camps.There is also a contingent COVID plan that the team has to have in the event that a number of players test positive. Late inclusions into the squad will probably have to be domestically based given the geographic proximity.With the format reverting to a three-game window, a roster size between 26-29 is what I am expecting. Here is a look at the considerations with the roster fast approaching

GOALKEEPERS
Unless there are late injuries or COVID issues, this area of the field seems rather set as Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, and Sean Johnson should be the call-ups.The standby list could include U.S. U-20 standout Gaga Slonina, Ethan Horvath, and even veteran Brad Guzan should be on the list if a late keeper is needed (although Horvath might be available to be added late given that he’s based abroad).

 FULLBACKS

 Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson are the likely starters. Robinson is in outstanding form for Fulham and is a lock. Dest is in a murky time with Barcelona but has played well for the U.S. national team and has a big role under Berhalter. It seems very unlikely he is dropped.The backup positions seem less clear and there are concerns over a bunch of options. Also, Berhalter might call more than four fullbacks – opening the door for other options.
On the right side, DeAndre Yedlin has lost his starting spot at Galatasaray  but still boasts a ton of experience. Meanwhile Reggie Cannon is playing for Boavista but as a right central defender in a 3-4-3 formation. The one other option that is in the mix on the right side is Brooks Lennon who started in December and is involved in the January camp.n the left after Robinson is very much up in the air – as Berhalter recently said there is an opening. Sam Vines has been ahead of George Bello since the start of the Gold Cup and it’s hard to see that being changed. Vines has enough experience with the team and is playing regularly enough to predict he will go.Uncapped Joe Scally seems like a safe bet given that he is playing and the experienced veterans are not. He should be added as cover on both the left and the right side.With Dest, Robinson, Vines, and Scally that makes four I feel good about. There is a bit of a battle between Yedlin and Lennon, but Yedlin should probably make it due to his experience and that makes five.The wild card here is DeJuan Jones. Berhalter singled out the athletic New England Revolution fullback as having a strong camp so far. That comes on the heels of a great season. Jones is right-footed but typically plays on the left side.Could Jones replace Vines? It is entirely possible. Jones also seems like a guy who could be added if there is a positive COVID-19 test among the fullbacks. I don’t have him in right now (with the above mentioned five making it) but it will not surprise me at all if he sneaks into the roster – either initially, or if there is a need for an addition during camp.

 CENTRAL DEFENDERS

 There are a lot of questions in central defense – both in terms of the number of players Berhalter will take and the players Berhalter will take.Chris Richards, Walker Zimmerman, and Miles Robinson have been starters in key games for this team since October. It’s hard to see that changing despite MLS being in offseason.The big question is whether John Brooks will return to the team. Berhalter cited his tough run of form for being left off the November. While Wolfsburg’s is in a nosedive, Brooks has actually played decently – not great, but a slight improvement. I think given that Brooks is in-season, he will probably be called back.In terms of other possibilities, Mark McKenzie and Tim Ream are probably the next two out. If Berhalter goes with five central defenders, Ream makes the most sense now since he’s playing regularly right now and playing regularly. McKenzie’s playing time has been too inconsistent lately.This will probably chance in the months ahead. Erik Palmer-Brown is having a resurgence in France. Aarn Long is near his comeback. James Sands is in the mix too although it looks as if he is a midfielder for Rangers at the moment. Cameron Carter-Vickers continues to be steady in Scotland.For now, we’re saying Brooks, Zimmerman, Robinson, and Richards get the call for January.In terms of COVID contingency, I think Henry Kessler and Austin Trusty are on standby as both are domestically based and have been with the team recently.

 MIDFIELD

 First, how many midfielders will Berhalter take? The best guess is seven or eight. The first three are very easy to nail down.Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah are locks if healthy. McKennie has been the best American player in the game since Pulisic lifted the Champions League trophy and he’s responded very well to adversity after being dismissed from the U.S. camp in September.

Acosta is a logical backup for the No. 6 or No. 8 and if he is playing well in camp, he will go. Gianluca Busio has also had his stock rise this year, even before joining Venezia from Sporting Kansas City. His minutes might be on the decline at Venezia lately but he’s in the mix.That brings us to five. The remaining spots are tougher to predict. We also don’t think Gio Reyna will make this roster and be an option.There is always a debate over Luca de la Torre, who is starting and playing well for a Heracles team that is hoping to avoid a relegation battle. For this camp, given the season, we think he’s in.Even when the U.S. team was playing with many backups at the Gold Cup, Roldan was typically coming off the bench (he didn’t start vs. Canada, Jamaica, Qatar, or Mexico). In World Cup qualifying, he’s a bench option too. He has a defined role of being an energy sub off the bench – no matter the situation. It’s a well-defined role and one he’s embraced. I think he’s in.If Berhalter wants to take one more midfielder, will he take Sebastian Lletget? Possibly although his role has been declining (he was an unused sub in November and wasn’t in the squad vs. Costa Rica in October) and we’ve seen with Berhalter that players slowly fade out.If it isn’t Lletget and Berhalter wants to take one more midfielder, who are the other options? Maybe Cole Bassett who scored in December and just made the move from Colorado to Feyenoord. If he wants more of a deeper midfielder (which might be smart given that Adams is playing on a yellow) he could bring in Yueill, Sands, Tanner Tessmann, or even Johnny Cardoso.For now, we think Lletget has the position albeit with a declining grip. In the months ahead, there will be increased competition from players based both domestically and abroad.I’ll predict eight midfielders on this roster: Adams, McKennie, Musah, Acosta, Roldan, de la Torre, and Lletget.In terms of a COVID contingency of domestic-based players who can be added last minute, I think Yueill and Djordje Mihailovic are on standby.

 FORWARDS/WINGERS

 Right now, I think nine attackers rounds out the team. This is on the larger side given the uncertainty of some players.The locks are Christian Pulisic and Brenden Aaronson on the wings and Ricardo Pepi at the No. 9.Regarding the other wing options, I think it will be Paul Arriola, Tim Weah, and Jordan Morris – all are on the bubble. Weah only just returned from a six-week injury but could be a bench option. Jordan Morris is back in the mix and healthy, albeit rusty.In terms of the No. 9 options after Pepi, the mostly likely call-ups seem to favor Gyasi Zardes and Jesus Ferreira (who can also help on the wing). Daryl Dike has only recently joined a new club and Jordan Pefok has been out of the team since September. Pefok was playing well in December but has been only playing friendlies since then. Matthew Hoppe was on the Gold Cup and October qualifying roster but has only just returned for Mallorca.

The U.S. men’s national team returns to World Cup qualifying action in less than two weeks, and the trio of upcoming matches will give the Americans a golden opportunity to climb within striking distance of the World Cup berth they so desperately crave.

Two home games against two of the teams near the bottom of the Octagonal standings gives Gregg Berhalter a great chance to help his team secure at least six points in the next window, with seven or nine points also possible if the Americans can knock off current Octagonal leaders Canada.

There are challenges in the upcoming window, though, including the reality that the USMNT’s MLS-based contingent isn’t in-season, which will give Berhalter some difficult decisions to make.

It is a safe bet the USMNT will continue to lean on its European-based contingent, but we shouldn’t expect the MLS-based players to suddenly be put on the bench. At least not all of them.

There is also the matter of squad rotation, and while the memories of the disappointing loss in Panama in October will surely resonate as Berhalter plots out his plan for personnel across three matches, we are still very likely to see major changes at some point in the three-match window.

Before we can get into discussions about which players will start in which games, we have to consider which players will actually get the call for the upcoming qualifiers. The current USMNT camp featuring MLS-based players will have some

Here is the 27-player roster we could see Berhalter calling up for the January/February World Cup qualifiers:


Projected USMNT World Cup Qualifying Roster SBI Ives Galarcep

Goalkeepers

Matt Turner, Zack Steffen, Sean Johnson

No change to this group, with Ethan Horvath still not earning minutes at Nottingham Forest. Zack Steffen’s hold on the starting spot should remain secure, though you wonder if Berhalter will consider starting Turner for one of the three matches.

Missed the Cut: Ethan Horvath, Gabriel Slonina, Bill Hamid

Defenders

Sergiño Dest, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Antonee Robinson, Reggie Cannon, Chris Richards, John Brooks, Sam Vines, James Sands

Will John Brooks make his return to the USMNT fold? Based on form, the Wolfsburg defender absolutely should be one of the four or five central defenders called in, but only Berhalter knows what he has planned for the upcoming window. MLS not being in-season should lead to a limiting of MLS central defenders to Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman, with Aaron Long unlikely to be ready to contribute just yet.We include James Sands in this group due to his versatility, and with the caveat that he only earns the call if Berhalter brings in a larger-than-normal squad into camp. Sands has joined Scottish giants Rangers, so he should be fit and ready to go for the upcoming qualifiers if he gets the call.At fullback, Sergiño Dest hasn’t played in more than a month, but Berhalter has gone on record saying he isn’t worried about the Barcelona fullback’s availability. DeAndre Yedlin has fallen out of favor at Galatasaray and hasn’t played in a month either, which opens the door for Reggie Cannon to return. Cannon is starting regularly for Boavista, andJoe Scally is coming off a bout with COVID-19 and only recently returned to action for Borussia Moenchengladbach, which will likely keep him behind the established veterans already in the fullback mix, but if Berhalter decides to bring a fifth fullback, Scally’s versatility could earn him a spot.Missed the Cut: Aaron Long, Matt Miazga, Mark McKenzie, Tim Ream, Joe Scally, DeAndre Yedlin, Brooks Lennon, Shaq Moore, Cameron Carter-Vickers, George Bello, DeJuan Jones

Midfielders

Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah, Sebastian Lletget, Gianluca Busio, Cristian Roldan, Kellyn Acosta

The usual suspects should get the call in midfield, though you wonder whether Berhalter will consider going with fewer than three MLS-based central midfielders and turning to someone like Luca De La Torre, who is currently in the middle of his season and more match-fit than someone like Cristian Roldan.Tanner Tessmann is an interesting option. He has seen his playing time increase at Venezia, and his qualities as defensive midfielder make him a good alternative if Tyler Adams or Kellyn Acosta were not available. Acosta’s experience edge keeps him in the squad even though he isn’t in-season.

Missed the Cut: Luca De La Torre, Djordje Mihailovic, Tanner Tessmann,  Christian Cappis, Jackson Yueill

Forwards

Christian Pulisic, Brenden Aaronson, Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Tim Weah, Daryl Dike, Josh Sargent

The big questions here are whether Gio Reyna makes the trio and which striker/strikers will join Ricardo Pepi in camp. The Reyna decision isn’t an easy one because he hasn’t played in more than four months, and Berhalter couldn’t be blamed for not wanting to rush him back. Bringing him into camp to be around the squad and to continue his rehabilitation wouldn’t be a bad move, but actually playing him in the upcoming qualifiers when he will not have featured yet for Borussia Dortmund would be a questionable move.Another question to ponder is whether Tim Weah will be ready to contribute in the upcoming qualifiers. He only recently returned to action for Lille after missing more than a month with a thigh injury, and while we didn’t initially have Weah listed, his return to the field this week would give him time to be part of Berhalter’s setup so we have added him as a 27th player.As for as striker goes, Daryl Dike has completed his move to West Brom and is in-season, making him a good option to pair with Pepi, but will Berhalter take the opportunity to bring Josh Sargent back into the fold? Sargent has been earning regular playing time for Norwich City, but he is still searching for his first Premier League goal. It wouldn’t be a bad time to bring him back into the mix.

Missed the Cut: Gio Reyna, Paul Arriola, Gyasi Zardes, Jordan Pefok, Matthew Hoppe, Konrad De La Fuente, Nicholas Gioacchini, Jesus Ferreira

Chill index could be ‘high risk’ for USMNT World Cup qualifying match vs. El Salvador

Jan 19, 2022ssociated Press

A kickoff temperature of about 25 degrees is forecast for the United States‘ World Cup qualifier against El Salvador at Columbus, Ohio, on Jan. 27, with a wind chill index approaching what the U.S. Soccer Federation’s health guidelines call “high risk for cold-related illness.”

Walker Zimmerman views winter weather as a prime opportunity for himself and his American teammates. He remembered back to March 2013, when he viewed on television the infamous Snow Clasico, a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica during a blizzard at Commerce City, Colorado.”I was even talking to my wife over the break,” the 28-year-old defender said Wednesday. “I was like, you know what? I want it to be freezing. I want it to be cold. I want the snow. I want to be a part of something so iconic that I saw and I really remember growing up. And that’s exciting to me. So I think the guys are ready to embrace it, embrace the cold. And it will be a really good environment for us fan-wise, as well.”AccuWeather forecast the 7 p.m. temperature in Columbus next Thursday will be 24 to 26 degrees with winds from the west at 4 to 14 mph and a 40% chance of snow showers. The forecast for the Jan. 30 qualifier against Canada at Hamilton, Ontario, calls for temperatures from 22 to 24 and winds at 5-10 mph for the 3 p.m. start, with a 10% chance of snow flurries.

The forecast for the Feb. 2 qualifier against Honduras at St. Paul, Minnesota, which starts at 6:30 p.m. CST, is for 18-20 degrees, winds of 7-14 mph and a 30% chance of snow flurries.

“The staff on the national team do a tremendous job, and we have full confidence in them to prepare us,” winger Paul Arriola said after training in Phoenix, where Wednesday’s high temperature was 70.”Obviously, we have our duties as professional players and players on the national team to be as ready as possible for every condition. I’ve done it before and I think most of most of the players on this team have, and I think it’s an opportunity for us.”

CONCACAF Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Canada816+8
2 – USA815+7
3 – Mexico814+4
4 – Panama814+2
5 – Costa Rica89-1
6 – Jamaica87-4
7 – El Salvador86-6
8 – Honduras83-10
1-3 qualifies; 4 into playoff

U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, who plans to announce his roster Saturday, expects a home-field advantage.”If it’s tough for us, and we have guys playing in Europe in cold weather,” he said, “what’s it going to be like for Honduras, who’s coming from Honduras midweek, coming from 85-, 90-degree temperatures?”Under Recognize to Recover, announced by the USSF in December 2015 as a “comprehensive player health and safety program,” a wind chill temperature index of the type forecast includes a “recommended action” to “consider modifying activity to limit exposure and allow for more frequent chances to re-warm.”A 25-degree temperature with a 5 mph wind produces a 19 wind chill, which is orange on the USSF index and termed “moderate risk for cold-related illness.”The USSF recommends to “provide additional clothing, cover as much exposed skin as practical, and provide opportunities and facilities for re-warming.”If the wind increases to 10 mph and the wind chill drops to 15, the index would be in the red zone, calling for modified activity. A drop to 15 degrees and a wind increase to 10 mph would move the alert level to black, which is termed as “extreme conditions.”The recommendation for that level is “cancel or attempt to move activities indoors.”Federations pick sites of home qualifiers. Nicholas Noble, spokesman for the regional governing body of North and Central America and Caribbean Association Football, when asked about World Cup qualifying in September responded: “CONCACAF does not manage or run these matches, FIFA does, along with the individual federations.”FIFA spokesman Bryan Swanson did not respond to an email seeking comment.”Our event staff and coaching staff worked hand in hand on the venue selection,” USSF CEO Will Wilson said. “Obviously the venues that are coming up, we’re comfortable with their mitigation processes.”The fields in Columbus and St. Paul are heated, and the USSF said it is confident players will be protected from the elements. Hamilton’s Tim Hortons Field has artificial turf.Dr. George Chiampas, the USSF’s chief medical officer and a member of FIFA’s medical committee, said cold is easier to acclimate to than heat and humidity. Mitigation will include heated benches and hand warmers.Midfielder Sebastian Lletget, a California native traded from the LA Galaxy to the New England Revolution last month, thinks the qualifiers are “going to help me kind of get accustomed.”

Preparing for Major League Soccer’s playoffs with the Revolution in November was beneficial for goalkeeper Matt Turner, who started the first five U.S. qualifiers.

“Understand that mentality and what it takes to succeed in those moments,” he said. “So for me, it’s embracing the cold. It’s keep up my focus sharp for the moments when I’m called into action and just have fun with it. I mean, this is America. This is the beauty. We could play in 90 degrees and we can play in zero degrees in the same time of year. It’s a pretty cool thing.”

USMNT’s European stars: How McKennie, Pulisic, Scally & Co. measure up in 2021-22

1:36 PM ET  Bill Connelly   ESPN Staff Writer

In 1990, after the United States‘ first appearance in the FIFA World Cup in 40 years, forward John Harkes signed with Sheffield Wednesday, a second-division English club. That was a big deal. While the U.S. player pool had growing promise, Europe wasn’t really taking notice. Tab Ramos would play for Real Betis for a couple of years in the mid-1990s, Eric Wynalda for FC Saarbrucken and Bochum, and Claudio Reyna for Bayer Leverkusen and Manchester City (among others). But the signings were few and far between. It was pretty easy to keep track of all of them.

A generation later, in the “good problems to have” category, fans of American men’s soccer officially have far too many players to track in Europe. With the World Cup in Qatar less than a year away, and with the qualification process entering the home stretch — six matches remain for the USMNT, beginning with a match next Thursday against El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio — let’s look at which Americans are thriving overseas, which are battling a tough stretch and who’s in form with the World Cup on the horizon.

Heat check: How’s the core doing?

Gregg Berhalter’s team has been far from perfect in qualifying to date, playing mostly exciting ball at home but showing an abundance of caution on the road, losing at Panama and drawing at El Salvador and Jamaica. The U.S. is sitting in second place and, barring a total collapse, is in good shape to either qualify with a top-three finish or, if it finishes fourth, play in June’s inter-confederation playoff against the Oceania champion, likely New Zealand.

That’s not terrible considering Berhalter hasn’t actually seen his core lineup on the pitch even once. Primarily because of ill-timed injuries, the quintet of attackers Christian Pulisic and Gio Reyna, midfielders Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams, and fullback Sergino Dest have yet to play together in qualifying. Might that change soon?for the USMNT in qualifying, both because of how much he has controlled the midfield and because of how frequently he’s been out: he’s been available for only four of eight matches. The 23-year old has also been in incredible form of late for Juve, scoring four goals (two in the past week), creating 18 chances and recording 73 ball recoveries over his past 15 matches. After a rough patch in October and November, Juve has gained steam alongside him, taking 20 points from its past eight league matches and losing only to Inter in the Italian Super Cup.

Christian Pulisic, Chelsea. Good news: Pulisic is playing regularly again. Injuries and form issues rendered him a minimal part of the Chelsea rotation for a while — and limited him to 197 minutes in World Cup qualifying — but over the past two months he has played 879 minutes in 15 matches for the Blues, and with the club battling some severe injury issues, he has proved versatile, logging minutes everywhere from center-forward to right wingback.

The less good news: Perhaps in part because of the lack of a stable role, he’s not producing a ton, scoring just twice with two assists in these 879 minutes. But his underlying numbers are encouraging: after a slow start to the season, he is averaging 0.46 xG+xA (expected goals plus expected assists) per 90, nearly equal to last season’s 0.48, though still inferior to the 0.63 he produced during an ultra-promising 2019-20 campaign. Things are trending in the right direction, but he’s not in his best-ever form just yet.Tyler Adams, RB Leipzig. It says something about how young the USMNT is that Adams, 22 years old, feels like the steady, stalwart veteran. He has logged 93% of minutes so far in qualifying and has shown a proclivity for putting out fires. At Leipzig, however, he has had a ton of fires to put out. RBL has struggled mightily in transition defense despite his steadiness in winning duels and intercepting passes.

Sergino Dest, Barcelona. The 21-year old’s second season at Barca has been an odd one. On the pitch, Dest has produced: 22 chances and 5.2 xG+xA in 1,414 minutes in all competitions from an offense-friendly right-back role. But he has battled a number of injuries and missed time with a positive COVID-19 test in early January, and Barca’s new manager, Xavi, doesn’t appear sold on the youngster. The club recently welcomed 38-year-old Dani Alves back, all while Dest has been the subject of transfer rumors. If healthy, he remains a torrid and dangerous player for the USMNT in attack, but his club future might be in doubt.

Gio Reyna, Borussia Dortmund. The wait continues. The 19-year-old was in outstanding form before suffering a hamstring injury in the first World Cup qualification match, and he has yet to play since.

Brenden Aaronson, Red Bull Salzburg. Injuries to Pulisic and Reyna opened a door for Aaronson at the national team level, and he has taken advantage. Only Adams has played more minutes for the U.S. in World Cup qualification, and Aaronson has scored twice. He also has produced strong form for Salzburg despite a finishing funk, scoring twice in Champions League qualification, dishing the ball for four assists in league play and recording monstrous levels of pressure. The 21-year-old has found himself in the Red Bull system — a good incubator for developing talent — and his performance for the U.S. has eased the burden created by key injuries.

Antonee Robinson, Fulham. The 24-year-old left-back has recorded 521 minutes in World Cup qualification and leads the U.S. with nine chances created thus far; he also scored a key goal against Honduras. At the club level, he’s playing a key role for Fulham in buildup and in transition. He’s got two goals (including one on Tuesday) and four assists for by far the best attack in England‘s second division, and his 139 ball recoveries is by far the most of any fullback in the Championship. It appears Fulham’s stay in the second division might be a short one, and he’s a major reason why.

Zack Steffen, Manchester City. Steffen remains in a battle with Matt Turner for first-choice U.S. keeper, and he remains Pep Guardiola’s second choice at Manchester City. He has done well when given the chance: in six matches in all competitions for City, he has recorded 1.6 goals prevented (xG for shots on target conceded minus actual goals conceded) with a 76% save percentage. He has given up two goals in three World Cup qualification matches, but one was an absolute screamer from Jamaica’s (and West Ham United‘s) Michail Antonio.

Grade: Incomplete

Compared with other positions, center-forward is not one of great depth for the U.S., but two promising youngsters have made January moves overseas.

Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg, and Daryl Dike, West Bromwich Albion. Pepi (19) and Dike (21) are only getting started with their new clubs — they’ve combined for only three matches, 145 minutes, three shots, zero goals and two chances created thus far. The two have shown similar strengths and weaknesses: They position themselves well and finish with aplomb, but they still have work to do when it comes to link-up play and shot creation. Both now have excellent opportunities to make headway in that regard.Pepi and Dike aren’t the only Americans getting their footing with new clubs. Defender/midfielder James Sands made his Rangers debut on Tuesday, midfielder and recent Hermann Trophy winner (given to the best college player in America) Dante Polvara signed with Scotland‘s Aberdeen, winger Chris Mueller just moved from Orlando City to Scotland’s Hibernian, and 18-year-old FC Dallas defender Justin Che is moving to the Bundesliga’s Hoffenheim on a loan-to-buy deal.

Stock rising

Things change quickly in the American player pool. Pepi, for instance, went from making his USMNT debut in September 2021 to becoming the first-choice forward by October and joining the Bundesliga in January — a year ago, that turn of events wouldn’t have seemed even remotely plausible. But his name isn’t the only one on the rise. Quite a few young Americans have made the most of European moves, and some now seem like much more realistic options for a Qatar trip than they did not too long ago.

Joe ScallyBorussia Monchengladbach. After making just four appearances for NYCFC, the full-back moved to Gladbach in 2021; he not only made his first-team debut this fall at age 18 but also became a regular presence in the lineup. He has made 21 appearances in all competitions, scoring once, creating 18 chances, winning 54% of his duels and proving solid on both the left and right. He has yet to appear in World Cup qualification, but he’s making himself awfully hard to ignore.

Gianluca BusioVenezia. Listed at 5-foot-6 and 143 pounds, the 19-year-old seemed like the type who might need to bulk up and ease his way in when he was acquired by Venezia in August. Nope! The midfielder has already made 20 Serie A appearances, and although he still has some catching up to do physically — he isn’t a duels-heavy player and doesn’t draw a lot of contact — he is a safe ball-progressor who steps well into opposing passing lanes. If he can hang in Serie A, he can hang in CONCACAF and Qatar.

Chris Richards, Hoffenheim (via Bayern Munich). After making a handful of appearances with Bayern, the 21-year-old spent most of the 2021 calendar year with Hoffenheim in search of playing time. It seems to be paying off. Hoffenheim is a surprising fourth in the Bundesliga, and Richards has been a major component, showing major aerial prowess and winning 61% of his duels. His buildup play is fine, and he has recorded 181 minutes over three World Cup qualification matches as well.

The U.S. is blessed with quite a few solid center-backs, but Richards could play himself into a spot in the World Cup (assuming, of course, that the U.S. qualifies).

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Mark McKenzie, Genk. A 22-year old former Philadelphia Union star, McKenzie has played 180 minutes in qualification thus far — 90 at left-back, 90 at center-back — and both his versatility and his league form could keep him in the rotation. His play for Belgian heavyweight Genk has been a bright spot; his team has disappointed a bit (it’s all the way down in eighth place), but he has proved integral from an intervention standpoint and in buildup play.

A few others are in strong form in 2021-22 as well. Among them: Luca de la Torre (13 minutes in qualifying) has recorded 143 ball recoveries and created 18 chances in midfield for the Eredivisie’s Heracles; left-back Sam Vines is establishing strong defensive bona fides for Royal Antwerp (currently third in Belgium); and although Greuther Furth is having a rough first season in the Bundesliga, midfielder Timothy Tillman has been a bright spot, scoring once and creating 14 chances.

Stock falling (or at least not rising)

Josh SargentNorwich City. The rise of Pepi and Dike seems to have coincided with a fall of sorts for 22-year-old Sargent, who moved from relegated Werder Bremen to potentially soon-to-be-relegated Norwich City in the Premier League. After managing just five goals and two assists in 2,518 Bundesliga minutes last season, he has yet to record either in 985 EPL minutes. (He did score twice against Bournemouth in the League Cup, at least.) He’s getting plenty of reps and could still make this move work, but it hasn’t just yet.

Julian Green, Greuther Furth. One of the major components of Furth’s promotion run last season — the 26-year old midfielder scored nine goals with 36 chances created — Green was in position to potentially force himself into the American rotation with a strong Bundesliga campaign. Instead, he has played in only 11 of Furth’s league matches and created only nine chances. (Like Sargent, he did score in cup play.)

Green’s role as a steady, possession-based ball-progressor was negated by the fact that Furth never had the ball to progress, and he has played only 27 minutes since the start of December.

Yunus MusahValencia. Musah’s story has been an interesting one. He has made 54 cup and league appearances for Valencia since his September 2020 debut, but although he’s thrilling to watch on the ball, he hasn’t produced a ton, and in 461 league minutes this season he has zero goals and just four chances created. But he has created eight chances with two assists in nine national team appearances over the past year. He pairs well with the physical McKennie, and one assumes he’s still high on the priority list for Berhalter. It’s just that his league form makes that a bit of a leap of faith.

Tim Weah, Lille. Like Musah, 21-year old Weah has made more of an impression with country than club this season. He was brilliant against both Mexico and Jamaica in November’s qualification window, recording a goal and an assist and seemingly playing at a different speed from everyone else on the pitch. He hasn’t scored for Lille since last February, however. He is creating a decent number of chances (12 in 966 league and Champions League minutes), so his stock isn’t really down down, but after having been given extra minutes and responsibility with the defending French champions, he hasn’t made the most of it just yet.

In France, a couple more young Americans have struggled to stand out. Forward Nicholas Gioacchini (21) has contributed a couple of assists in 295 minutes as a Montpellier sub but has yet to score in six shots, and while 20-year-old Konrad De La Fuente (72 minutes in World Cup qualification) started out well at Marseille (two assists in August), he hasn’t contributed a goal or assist since.

Midfielder Alex Mendez moved from Ajax to Portugal‘s Vizela last summer and has created 12 chances, but with zero goals or assists, in 764 minutes thus far. Meanwhile, Tanner Tessmann, teammates with Busio at Venezia, has provided a few pressures but not a ton of other contributions in 630 minutes in Serie A and the Coppa Italia.

Serviceable veterans

While the USMNT is enjoying a wave of contributions from younger players, there are still some veterans who are both putting together decent seasons and holding out hope for inclusion in a theoretical World Cup squad later this year.

John Brooks, Wolfsburg. Long an assumed member of the roster, Brooks has played only 135 minutes in World Cup qualification because of iffy form. But while Wolfsburg as a whole has been terribly disappointing this season — it finished fourth in its Champions League group and pulled just one point from its past seven Bundesliga matches, falling to 14th in the table — Brooks has still been, well, Brooks. He’s still solid in the air (61% aerial success rate), good at stepping in front of progressive passes, good at being physical but avoiding fouls, and, yes, a little heavy of foot and vulnerable to quick transitions at times.

Berhalter has a ton of interesting center-backs to consider, but Brooks will likely remain a solid option throughout 2022.the 2014 World Cup among the talent pool. Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

DeAndre Yedlin, Galatasaray. With Dest limited by injury, Yedlin has played a larger role than many expected in World Cup qualification, recording 361 minutes in seven matches. The 28-year-old also remains a speedy option for Galatasaray. He is something of an anti-Dest — he contributes more in the defensive portions of the right-back position but is far less effective in ball progression. But Berhalter clearly still appreciates him, and he remains solid enough to play regularly for the Turkish heavyweight.

Jordan PefokYoung Boys. After making a number of appearances for the U.S. in the spring of 2021, Pefok evidently fell down Berhalter’s pecking order. He played 109 minutes in the first two qualification matches (zero goals, three shots) but hasn’t been called up since. He’s maintaining strong club form, however, scoring twice for Young Boys in Champions League play and scoring 11 times in 17 matches in the Swiss Super League.

If Pepi and Dike both do well in their new clubs this spring, it might be difficult for Pefok to work too far up the pecking order in 2022, but he remains sturdy and sound.

There are quite a few other veterans still carving out solid roles in Europe, including defenders Matt Miazga (Deportivo Alaves via Chelsea) and Shaq Moore (Tenerife); fullbacks Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Reggie Cannon (Boavista); midfielders Duane Holmes (Huddersfield Town) and Ian Harkes (Dundee United); and forward Christian Ramirez (Aberdeen). Thus far, only Moore has seen time in World Cup qualification play.

Still waiting for a shot

It doesn’t always immediately work out for a young player at a new club. Many are waiting their turn, from PSV Eindhoven‘s Richy Ledezma to Caen-via-Manchester City’s Erik Palmer-Brown, but let’s focus on two in particular:

Matthew HoppeMallorca. On Jan. 9 last year, Hoppe came out of nowhere to score a hat trick and lead Schalke 04 to the victory that ended its 30-match league winless streak. He suddenly landed on the USMNT radar and soon scored his first goal for his country, at age 20, against Jamaica in the summer’s Gold Cup. By September, he was joining a LaLiga club. It was a bit of a whirlwind, but all momentum has ground to a halt since. He has made only four appearances, for a total of 112 minutes, for Mallorca. He has created three chances and attempted two shots in those minutes, but he’s still waiting to make an impression.

Bryan Reynolds, Roma. Jose Mourinho is not known for leaning heavily on young players, so it wasn’t necessarily a good omen for Reynolds when Mourinho took over at Roma this year. Sure enough, after playing 285 minutes in the 2020-21 Serie A season, the 20-year-old has played just one in 2021-22. He’s been the subject of many potential loan deals this January, but none has come to fruition yet. He could certainly use the action, though — after debuting for the USMNT in a March 2021 friendly, he didn’t play again until he was made available for December’s friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina.

State of the USMNT Player Pool Entering the Next World Cup Qualifiers

A big three-match window is on the horizon for the U.S. as it attempts to qualify for the World Cup, and a number of variables surround the available players to be called in.

It’s almost that time again for the U.S. men’s national team.When we last saw the Americans—at least the first-choice batch—they were wrapping up a four-point November World Cup qualifying window, which included a familiar 2–0 home win over Mexico before a satisfactory if not unimpressive 1–1 draw at Jamaica. That left the U.S. in second place in Concacaf’s eight-team table, where the top three automatically go to the World Cup and the fourth-place finisher goes to Qatar in June for a one-game playoff against Oceania’s representative for a final spot in the 32-team field.There’s plenty at stake when qualifying resumes next week, with the U.S. continuing its second lap through the regional pool by hosting El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio, facing Canada in Hamilton, Ontario, and then returning home to St. Paul, Minn., for a date vs. Honduras. It’s the reverse fixtures of the opening three-game window of qualifying in September, and the points that could nudge the U.S. closer to Qatar are there for the taking, with the two home matches coming against the worst two teams in the table. First-place Canada will be weakened some following the word that Alphonso Davies is out while recovering from a case of myocarditis discovered following his recent experience with COVID-19.But what about the state of the U.S.? For the last 10 days, 20 MLS-based players have been training in Phoenix, where they’ll wrap up the first portion of camp Jan. 21. Some of that group will stay on and move to Columbus, where they’ll be joined by the U.S.’s abroad-based contingent. Given the time of year on the club calendar, all are in a different place when it comes to form and fitness. Winter breaks or offseasons for some leagues coupled with recent injuries, fresh transfers, the omicron coronavirus variant and other variables make for one unique set of player circumstances.“What we’ve learned is expect the unexpected,” U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter said recently. “You never know who is going to be available to play in each game. You have to be willing to adapt.” With a roster reveal for the looming matches in the offing, here’s a positional look at the U.S. player pool and where things currently stand:

GOALKEEPERS

Zack Steffen may still be second choice at Man City and relegated to domestic cup duty, but he’ll enter this camp finding himself in a rare position: having played a competitive match more recently than Matt Turner. Not like it has mattered even when Turner was in season with the New England Revolution. After watching the reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year start the first five qualifiers, Steffen has gotten the call ever since and should be expected in goal vs. El Salvador. NYCFC’s Sean Johnson appears to be in the lead for the third GK spot, though that’s not set in stone for the long haul; it’s just a product of the current state of the competition. Nations League final hero Ethan Horvath hasn’t played a minute for Nottingham Forest since Sept. 15, while 17-year-old Gabriel Slonina projects as a longer-term prospect. Including the Chicago Fire youngster as part of the team going to qualifiers could be a chip to play as he weighs his options between the U.S. and Poland, but Berhalter hasn’t typically dangled roster spots in that way and would keep Slonina for the trio of qualifiers only if he earns it through his play in camp—where he’s been with Turner and Johnson—over the last couple of weeks.

DEFENDERS

In the center, Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman were the big winners of the fall, emerging as the top-choice tandem as John Brooks struggled for form at Wolfsburg. But the former two have been out of season since their teams were eliminated from the MLS playoffs in November, and Brooks could find himself back in the mix—even if it’s not a starting role—along with Chris Richards and Mark McKenzie from the Europe-based contingent.The accelerated return of Aaron Long is another piece of the puzzle. Brought into camp in November and December to continue his rehab from a torn Achilles suffered last May, Long seems to think he’ll be ready to contribute as soon as next week.“I feel great. I mean, I’m not even eight months out yet, but I feel really good,” Long said late last week. “Just got to keep getting fit and hopefully—and I got [two] more weeks until the qualifier, so yeah, should be good to go.” “Good to go” might be overstating it, especially with Berhalter indicating earlier last week that Long was more likely to be match-fit for the three final qualifiers in March, but if he really is back and can feature at his previous level, it’s an unexpected bonus.Out wide, things may be ironically more settled on the left than the right. Antonee Robinson is a lineup fixture again for Fulham—he had a goal and an assist on Tuesday—which is in first place in England’s second tier and chasing promotion. Sam Vines has made 10 starts for Antwerp since making the move to Belgium, while the versatile Joe Scally and George Bello are the other alternatives. Vines and Scally took part in camp for the last two qualifiers but did not play.On the right, Sergiño Dest hasn’t been playing for Barcelona, which presents a bit of a problem. Dest’s last minutes were in the first half of Barça’s Champions League group finale against Bayern Munich on Dec. 8. He’s been hurt and had a case of COVID-19, which hasn’t helped his cause, but it adds a wrinkle for Berhalter as he considers how—and whether—to use one of his most dynamic players entering the final third. Behind Dest, dependable veteran DeAndre Yedlin hasn’t gotten off the bench in Galatasaray’s last four games, while Reggie Cannon, on the flip side, has reemerged as a starter at Boavista but has yet to play a minute in qualifying.Brooks’s and Yedlin’s carrying yellow cards into the three-match window also necessitates more depth at their respective positions, given that one more yellow for either would mean a one-match suspension.

MIDFIELDERS

Weston McKennie is in his best form of the season for Juventus, with goals in consecutive games and Tottenham transfer rumors swirling as the January window hits its second half. He, Yunus Musah and Tyler Adams are in line to command the midfield, though Adams needs to be wary of missing any time given his yellow-card status.

Beyond them, of the reliable MLS trio of Sebastian Lletget, Kellyn Acosta and Cristian Roldan, two have been traded (Lletget to the New England Revolution, Acosta to LAFC), and, digging a little deeper, James Sands secured a loan from NYCFC to Rangers. Save for Sands, who made his debut for Rangers on Tuesday, all have been inactive since their clubs’ seasons ended, leaving them with only U.S. camp time to stay fit.Gianluca Busio came on strong in the fall but has made just one start in Venezia’s last four matches in all competitions. Luca de la Torre remains a lineup fixture for midtable Dutch side Heracles, but Berhalter hasn’t shown much of an affinity for him during qualifying. Perhaps that will change with the second line of central midfielders out of season.

https://b7115208cbb636629166a834f33175ab.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html FORWARDS

There’s a lot to unpack here, especially in the wide areas. Christian Pulisic is fit, but he has recently been spending time on the field for Chelsea pigeonholed into wingback and false-nine roles instead of operating more exclusively in his accustomed attacking spot on the wing. Gio Reyna, who hasn’t played for club or country since the U.S.’s first qualifier, on Sept. 2, is likely to be held out until the international break, according to Dortmund coach Marco Rose. Tim Weah has also been out injured for Lille—though he returned to full training Tuesday—and is an injury doubt for the upcoming camp as well. Brenden Aaronson isn’t hurt, but Salzburg has been off since Dec. 11 for the Austrian Bundesliga’s winter break, and save for club friendlies, he won’t have had any match time in the six weeks leading into the El Salvador game. (The Athletic reported Tuesday that Leeds United is looking to buy him during the transfer window and had a $20 million bid rejected.)

Those are the U.S.’s four top attacking talents out wide, and there are questions of a varying nature about all of them and their readiness for the intense matches to come. A wild card to watch is Konrad de la Fuente, the Marseille winger who started in El Salvador in the first qualifier but hasn’t returned for either of the subsequent windows. https://b7115208cbb636629166a834f33175ab.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html In the center, Ricardo Pepi is getting settled at Augsburg, where he has looked rather comfortable in his first matches in Germany, even if he hasn’t scored just yet (and hasn’t scored for anyone since his stellar fall for the U.S. and goal vs. Jamaica). The competition there isn’t all that fierce at the moment. Josh Sargent continues to struggle for Norwich City, while Daryl Dike just moved to West Brom and is getting acclimated. Jordan Pefok, like Aaronson, has his club on winter break, though his final impression before the stoppage was a four-goal performance for Young Boys in Switzerland. Matthew Hoppe just returned from a long-term injury for Mallorca, earning his first minutes since Sept. 22 in back-to-back brief stints off the bench. It remains Pepi’s place to lose. 

The four MLS forwards currently in camp—Jordan Morris, Paul Arriola, Jesús Ferreira and Gyasi Zardes—could all proceed to the next phase, especially considering the expectation of an expanded squad and the need for more options. Arriola, for what it’s worth, has been linked with a move from D.C. United to Mexico’s Club América.

Written Q&A: Jordan Morris

The USMNT and Seattle Winger Opens Up on a Big 2022 Ahead with the USMNT and Seattle      Grant Wahl Jan 18 

Grant Wahl:

Our guest now is Jordan Morris, the Seattle Sounders winger who’s in the U.S. men’s national team’s January camp ahead of three big World Cup qualifiers starting at the end of the month. Jordan, it’s great to see you. Thanks for coming on the show.

Jordan Morris:

Yeah, of course. No worries. No problem.

Grant Wahl:

Lots to talk about here. You’ve been in both the December and January U.S. camps after coming back from your ACL injury. One thing I always like to ask players is, how has this camp been so far? And are there any players that have stood out to you in a good way so far?

Jordan Morris:

Yeah, it’s been a great camp so far. Good to get back with the group. And I think it’s always, obviously, important before these big games coming up to get together, to get the fitness in. I think that’s been a big component of this camp is since this group isn’t playing games, getting that fitness component in and hopefully putting ourselves in a good spot to make that qualifying roster. 

But I think a lot of players have been doing really well. DeJuan [Jones] has come in. He’s kind of the newer face that I haven’t seen quite as much of. And I’ve been really impressed with him. I think he’s done a really good job. So everyone’s doing well and working hard.


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Grant Wahl:

I realize it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be on the roster for the World Cup qualifiers, but if you do make it, what kind of role would you be hoping to have?

Jordan Morris:

Any role. Of course, the goal is to be part of that group. And I think throughout my whole recovery, throughout these last two camps, I’ve just been trying to work really hard to get my fitness levels back up, to get my sharpness back up coming out of a long-term injury and, of course, wanting to be a part of that qualifying group at the end of the month. 

But whatever role I’m asked to play, if I do make that team, I’ll of course play happily. I know having been out for a while that things might not be going perfectly for me now. I know there’s things I need to continue to work on. I’m actually feeling really sharp this camp, feeling fit, feeling like my touch on the ball has gotten a lot better. But whatever role that I’m asked to play, if I do end up making the squad, I will, of course, happily play. And that’s what I love about this group is it’s just guys fighting and working for each other.

“When you have [being able to play] taken from you, you just realize how much you love the game, how much you truly appreciate it. And when I came back again, it just made that so much more clear. Not that I did this before, but you don’t ever take a day for granted. And I’m just grateful for the opportunity to be playing again.” — Jordan Morris

Grant Wahl:

I’m sure you’ve had discussions with Coach Gregg Berhalter. What has he told you about what he wants from you right now?

Jordan Morris:

Before the December camp I had a discussion with him that, like I mentioned, just getting my fitness and my sharpness back up, because I was fortunate enough to come back this year. And that was my goal was to try to get back and play at the end of the season with the Sounders. But we lost pretty quick there in the playoffs, so I didn’t get too much game time. 

And so just getting back and being able to take part in the friendly in December and just getting that fitness and that sharpness back is really important. And in terms of on the field, I think it’s similar to before the injury, what I felt like I could bring was stretching teams, getting in behind, using my pace to disorganize the opponent. And so I think it’s more of the same in terms of what I can bring to the table.

Grant Wahl:

At this moment, how close do you feel like you are to being back at your best?

Jordan Morris:

I think there’s definitely a little ways to go. I actually feel really, really good this camp. I felt like it’s been a big step up from even December fitness-wise, sharpness, touches on the ball. I think, of course, when you’re going through a rehab, and I’m super grateful for the staff in Seattle. They pushed me really, really hard. So the fitness level, when I came back, I actually felt really good. 

I think the game play, and the sharpness, and things like that are always going to come a little bit later. So coming to this camp, I’ve actually felt really, really good. I feel like there’s definitely still some things that are a little bit fast and things that I want to continue to work on. Continuing to get sharp in front of goal is obviously, a big one for myself. That’s a big part of my game. So I’m definitely not quite at a hundred percent where I was before the injury, but I’m feeling really, really good.

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1/14/22 Pulisic and McKennie on fire in Europe, USMNT+USWNT in Camp, Man City vs Chelsea Sat 7:30, Spanish Cup Real vs Athletic Club Sun 1:30

US Men Prepare for Most Important Round of Qualifiers

The MLS based contingent of players is training in LA – battling for a spot in this next round of qualifications in late January.   Huge games include at home Thur, Jan 27-  7 pm on ESPN 2 vs El Salvador and former Westfield/Indiana U star Eriq Zavaleta in Cincy (we going!), Sun Jan 30 at 3:30 pm on Paramount+ @ Canada and Tues, Feb 2 at 7:30 pm on FS 1 vs Honduras.  If the US can secure 2 wins and tie at Canada – qualification will all but be assured.  Two wins and loss in Canada will keep things interesting as Canada (16), US (15), Mexico (14) and Panama (14), Costa Rica (9) lead the way in World Cup Qualifying.  Anything less and things will get interesting – as only the top 3 teams qualify with the 4th team having a playoff to advance.  Berhalter is still evaluating the ever changing group of European based US stars to determine who will be ready.  Word is Right Wingers Gio Reyna and Tim Weah will both probably not be ready – while Serginio Dest and Tyler Adams haven’t been seeing much playing time lately.   Of course both McKennie at Juventus (here he is scoring in the Cup Final loss for Juve), and Pulisic are returning to form for Chelsea (see this tying goal vs Liverpool).  Of course our 18 year old new #9  –Pepi just signed with FC Ausberg in Germany which might keep him off the roster – with fellow #9 Jordan Pefok rotating back in from Young Boys.  Fellow forward Daryl Dike signed with West Brom and it will be interesting to see if that prepares him for a WC roster spot later.  Interesting news out of Bayern Munich that Canada’s superstar Alphonso Davies is out with “a slight myocarditis,” or a heart inflammation, after he contracted COVID-19.  That leaves his status for hugely important qualifiers later this month, including the home game against the US, up in the air. 

Christian Pulisic Scored the tying goal vs Liverpool

 What Countries Have Already Qualified For The World Cup this November? 

  1. Qatar
  2. Germany
  3. Denmark
  4. Brazil
  5. France
  6. Belgium
  7. Croatia
  8. Spain
  9. Serbia
  10. England
  11. Switzerland
  12. Netherlands
  13. Argentina

US Women Bring Young Group to Camp for She Believes Cup

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has called in 25 players for the team’s first training camp of the year, a group that includes Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman.  Rodman, 19, the NWSL’s 2021 Rookie of the Year, is accepting a call-up for the first time. But she isn’t alone in terms of uncapped players, with Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury also taking part in the camp. San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma is joining the team for the second time at the camp, which will be held in Austin, Texas. The camp will run from Jan. 19-28, and while there are no friendlies scheduled in conjunction with the gathering, Andonovski is keen to get a look at some rising stars ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, which will take place in mid-February.”Without any matches that we need to prepare for, we can get in some more intense trainings and full-field scrimmages, which is great as we need to give this group as many chances as possible to play together in a national team environment,” said Andonovski.

The roster also sees the return of several veterans, including goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Kelley O’Hara, midfielder Samantha Mewis and forward Mallory Pugh. Naeher has been out since injuring her knee in the Olympic semifinal.  I am still amazed that disgraced former US Soccer President  Carlos Cordeirois back and running to be US President against current US President – former US Ladies player Cindy Parlow Cone – nice letter from her here and below in The Ole Ballcoach

JANUARY TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (9): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Imani Dorsey (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Grima (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current)

Games to Watch this Weekend

Man City hosts Chelsea and Christian Pulisic who looks to start this Sat morning at 7:30 am on Peacock (sure they are putting games on USA – just not the good ones!!!).  The two teams top of the table and any chance Chelsea or Liverpool would have to catch city would start with a win this weekend vs a Covid struck Manchester City. No word who will be out for City but Pep is expected back after missing the midweek game with a positive test.  Pulisic should start as he was held out of cup play on Wednesday and has returned to form and appears to be healthy.  (Preview below) Also Saturday, Aston Villa and head man Steven Gerrard host Man United and CR7 who backed the manager this week at 12:30 pm on NBC.  Sunday the Spanish Cup Final features Real Madrid vs Athletic Club at 1:30 on ESPN2.  Real Madrid has righted the ship and sits firmly top of the table while Barca and Atletico (who lost to Athletic Club in the semi’s) are squandering.  Also the only good game of the day in the EPL is of course on Peacock (sure they are putting the shit games on USA Network but not the good ones) at 11:30 am as Tottenham hosts Arsenal in the North London Derby – a key battle for top 4 contention.  (See where all the American’s overseas are playing below).  

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Jan 14

8 am be:IN Sport                Senegal vs Guine (African Cup)

2:45 pm USA                       Brighton vs Crystal Palace 

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

Sat, Jan 15 

7:30 am  Peacock              Man City vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

9:30 am ESPN+                   Stuggart vs RB Leipzig

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

10 am USA                           Newcastle vs Watford

12:30 pm NBC                    Aston Villa vs Man United

12:30 pm ESPN+                MGladbach (Joe Scally) vs Bayer Leverkusen

2:45 pm Paramount+       Juventus (McKinney) vs Udinese

Sun, Jan 16

9 am  USA                             Liverpool vs Brentford  

9 am Para+ Venezia (Bussio, Tessman) vs Empoli

1:30 pm ESPN2                  Real Madrid vs Athletic Club (Spanish Cup)

2:45 pm Para+                    Atalanta vs Inter

3 pm ESPN+                        Villareal vs Atletico Madrid  

Tues,  Jan 18

3 pm  USA                            Brighton vs Chelsea (Pulisic)  

3 pm CBS SN                        Juventus (McKinney) vs Sampdoria

Weds,  Jan 19

2 pm beIN Sport                 Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria

2:30 pm  USA                      Leicister City vs Tottenham  

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Valencia vs Sevilla

Thurs,  Jan 20

2 pm beIN Sport                 Mali vs Maurintania  

2:45 pm  ESPN+                 Arsenal vs Liverpool (League Cup)

Fri,  Jan 21

3 pm  USA                            Watford vs Norwich (Stewart)

Sat, Jan 22 

7:30 am  USA                      Everton vs Aston Villa

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

10 am USA                           Newcastle vs Leeds

10 am Peacock                   Man United vs West Ham

12:30 pm NBC                     Southampton vs Man City

Sun, Jan 23

9 am  USA                             Arsenal vs Burnley  

9 am  Peacock                     Cyrstal Palace vs Liverpool

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

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 1

11:30 Peacock?                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham  

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Sweet 16 – Game 2

2:45 pm Para+                    Milan vs  Juventus (McKennie)

Jan 25-

Fri,  Jan 27

7 pm ESPN2                         USMNT vs El Salvador (Columbus) WCQ

7 pm Para+                          Jamaica vs Mexico WcQ

8 pm Para+                          Honduras vs Canada

Sun,  Jan 30

11 am fubo tv                     African Cup Quarters – Game 3

2 pm fubo tv                        African Cup Quarters – Game 4

3:30 pm Paramount+       USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Feb 2

7:30 pm FS1                        USMNT vs Honduras

2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET

Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET

Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN

US Men  

Breaking down Dike’s West Brom move: What it means for his USMNT, World Cup hopes

Berhalter: Status for key USMNT stars still unclear

American’s Abroad – mid-week review

US players Weekend in Review

Americans Abroad Weekend Rewind: Adams, Miazga, and more

Matthew Hoppe returns to action for Mallorca after three-month absence

Year In Review – ASN

US Ladies

Trinity Rodman accepts first USWNT call-up
Washington Spirit star Trinity Rodman gets first USWNT call-up

U.S. Soccer: No single-pay plan yet for teams

Cone on Cordeiro: I’m right person for U.S. Soccer

Letter from US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone

Why FIFA’s push for a biennial World Cup hurts the women’s game

EPL

Catching Man City: How Chelsea, Liverpool, Man United & Co. can close the gap
Manchester City vs Chelsea: Odds, prediction, history, form, projected 

Klopp wants one-game League Cup semis in future

Liverpool vs Arsenal final score: Arteta’s 10-men keep clean sheet in 1st leg

Cristiano Ronaldo urges Manchester United to change mentality

Man Utd must finish in top three, says Ronaldo

Chelsea aim to clip Man City’s wings

Lacklustre Liverpool show Salah’s true value

Klopp searches for striking solution at Liverpool

Coutinho won’t be rushed into action, says Gerrard

WORLD   

As stars speak out over fatigue, is football nearing breaking point?

Canada’s Alphonso Davies sidelined with ‘slight myocarditis’ after COVID infection
Cameroon advances at AFCON behind red-hot Aboubakar’s brace 

Refereeing chaos tarnishes image of Africa Cup of Nations

Porto Coach’s Son scores in Extra Time
Athletic Bilbao down Atletico to reach Spanish Super Cup final

Messi, Kane to rebound, Real Madrid to decline: Soccer’s notable under-performers and over-performers

MLS & Indy 11

VOICES: SAM JONES One reason every MLS team should feel optimistic as 2022 preseason begins

ARMCHAIR ANALYST: MATT DOYLE  What each Western Conference team should be worried about in 2022

VOICES: SAM JONES Where Lorenzo Insigne fits into MLS’ most consequential signings

Every MLS team’s 2022 New Year’s wishlist

Indy 11 Schedule is Released

USMNT weekend viewing guide: A Premier matchup

Christian Pulisic and Chelsea look to gain ground on Manchester City.

By jcksnftsn  Jan 14, 2022, 8:47am PST

The USMNT club schedule is starting out a little rough this weekend, as Marco Rose has said that Gio Reyna will not participate in Borussia Dortmund’s match on Friday.Reyna’s continued absence for his club is casting some real doubt on his availability for the USMNT in the upcoming window. With your Friday ruined, let’s jump right to Saturday where we have a good slate of action.

Saturday

Manchester City v Chelsea FC – 7:30a on Peacock

Manchester City already hold a 10 point lead for the EPL title, making Saturday’s visit to the Etihad a bit of a “must win” for Chelsea if they want to make a push for the league title. A loss would drop them 13 points back, while a victory would pull them within 7. Faced with a similar situation two weeks ago in their matchup with Liverpool, Chelsea had to settle for the home draw as Christian Pulisic’s first half stoppage time goal drew the two clubs level at 2-2, which would remain the final score. While the result wasn’t what Chelsea would have hoped, the match was an excellent one, as was Pulisic’s goal.

Christian was an unused substitute midweek as Chelsea came into their Carabao Cup Semifinal match with Tottenham leading 2-0 on aggregate and saw things out smoothly with a 1-0 win. The fresh legs seems like a good indication that Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has plans to use Pulisic over the weekend in this marquee matchup.

Other notes:

  • Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig got a much needed 4-1 win over Mainz a week ago and will look to build on that as they face Stuttgart at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • John Brooks and Wolfsburg have lost 8 straight across all competitions and currently sit just 2 points out of relegation playoff position. They face Hertha Berlin, who sit one point ahead of them on Saturday morning at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Chris Richards and Hoffenheim will travel to Union Berlin and look to maintain their Champions League qualifying position in 3rd place. Union Berlin currently sit in 7th, but 3 points back of Hoffenheim. The match will also be on ESPN+ at 9:30a.
  • Josh Sargent missed his club’s midweek match due to the birth of his first child. He’ll look to overcome his sleep deprivation to find the field and the scoresheet as Norwich City face Everton at 10a on Peacock.
  • Matthew Hoppe returned from a long absence (he hadn’t seen the field since September) and saw 16 minutes for Mallorca in their 2-0 loss to Levante last weekend. This weekend, Mallorca will face Espanyol at 10a on ESPN+.
  • Joe Scally missed last weekend’s matchup with Bayern Munich but could be available again this weekend as Borussia Mönchengladbach face Bayer Leverkusen at 12:30p on ESPN+.
  • Weston McKennie and Juventus face Udinese at 2:45p on Paramount+. McKennie played the full match, including both extra time periods, on Wednesday as Juve lost to Inter Milan in the Supercoppa Italiana despite McKennie’s goal.

Sunday

Augsburg v Eintracht Frankfurt – 9:30a on ESPN+

Ricardo Pepi stepped right off the plane and onto the field as he saw 30 minutes in his first match with FC Augsburg. The team scored early only to cough up the lead by giving up two goals in the last 10’ of the half. Pepi came on looking for some instant impact that would draw his club level, but they failed to create the necessary chances and gave up another goal in stoppage time and lost by a 3-1 score. While the outcome isn’t what player or club would have hoped, it was good to see Pepi get some minutes as soon as he was eligible. He will have his first home experience this weekend with Augsburg, though it will be without fans in the stands as the Bundesliga continues their COVID restrictions.

Other notes:

  • Yunus Musah saw the start for Valencia FC against Real Madrid on Saturday in a 4-1 loss. Valencia now face Atlético Beleares in their next Copa del Ray matchup on Sunday morning at 6a on ESPN+.
  • Nicholas Gioacchini’s Montpellier face Strasbourg at 9a on beIN Sports Connect. Gioacchini has not seen the field in the past month.
  • Tanner Tessmann got a rare start and Gianluca Bussio was an unused substitute midweek in Venezia’s 2-0 loss to Atalanta in the Coppa Italia. The club will look to rebound against Empoli at 9a on Paramount+.
  • Julian Green’s Greuther Fürth face Arminia Bielefeld at 11:30a on ESPN+. Green has primarily taken a substitute role recently, including just a couple minutes last weekend in the team’s scoreless draw with Stuttgart.
  • There is potential for a rare American vs. American matchup in Ligue 1 when Konrad de la Fuente’s Olympique Marseille meet Tim Weah’s Lille at 2:45p on beIN Sports. Unfortunately, Weah is also struggling with injury and seems unlikely to be available.

USMNT Notes: COVID-19’s Impact on Camp and Canada; Dest, Reyna’s Outlooks

The U.S. is continuing its preparations for three vital World Cup qualifiers, navigating the circumstances of the pandemic and bracing for the addition of Europe-based talent.

The U.S. men’s national team’s MLS-based contingent continues to prepare for three World Cup qualifiers, the first of which is two weeks away from Thursday. And while more will come into focus in the coming week about what that squad will look like in full, the omnipresent coronavirus wild card continues to loom.Upon arrival screening in Phoenix, there were a small number of positive tests, though manager Gregg Berhalter has had mostly a full complement of the 20 players he called in for this portion of camp, which runs through Jan. 21, available before the abroad-based players arrive. No cases have been contracted at camp itself, and Saturday will be the first time that all 20 players will be on the training field together, U.S. Soccer confirmed. But the threat of more cases, as the omicron variant continues to spread and as players from abroad travel back to the U.S., will be a factor as the coach ponders the size of his squad that’ll face El Salvador on Jan. 27 and travel to Canada for a Jan. 30 bout before returning home ahead of a Feb. 2 clash with Honduras.”COVID has hit us in this camp,” Berhalter said earlier this week. “There have been some cases of guys entering camp with COVID. Fortunately, most are asymptomatic and it’s just about a little bit of a waiting game. But that’s our reality, that’s what all sports teams are dealing with. So we’ll be ready to adapt. We will have a contingency plan in place. We’re not exactly sure how many players extra we’ll take, but we’re going to be thorough and make sure we have a roster that can compete. Because from all indications, this thing spreads quickly, although people aren’t necessarily—at least what we’ve seen—there hasn’t been a ton of sickness, but it has been spreading.”The U.S. has already endured some pre-omicron, COVID-19-related instances, with Zack Steffen testing positive ahead of a September World Cup qualifier in Honduras. Christian Pulisic (Aug. 2021), Weston McKennie (Oct. ’20) and Sergiño Dest (Dec. ’21) are among those who have previously tested positive as well, with Dest returning to training for Barcelona and joining the club in Saudi Arabia for the Spanish Super Cup.There is also the matter of how protocols abroad impact the proceedings. While the U.S. will play in the friendly, if not frigid, confines of Ohio and Minnesota in the first and third matches of the upcoming qualifying window, the second one takes place in Canada, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just deemed a level-four, very-high-risk destination.That won’t impact the U.S.’s travel plans, though, U.S. Soccer confirmed, with the only caveat being that players must be fully vaccinated in order to make the trip, as per Canadian regulations. As of now, boosters are not part of the language, and Sports Illustrated understands that the overwhelming majority of the national team player pool is fully vaccinated. But for those who may not be and are called into camp anyway, travel to Canada will be a nonstarter.Another way protocols could impact the match is crowd size. Current rules regarding the stadium capacity at Tim Hortons Field in Hamilton, Ontario, expire three days before the U.S.’s match there, leaving the degree of home field advantage for the first-place Canadians very much unclear. As with most things these days, the situation for the Canadian Soccer Association remains fluid.The U.S., which faced USL Championship’s Phoenix Rising in a scrimmage Thursday, will also face Grand Canyon University and Sporting Kansas City with the current batch of players before the next phase of camp begins.As it relates to two of the U.S.’s most influential talents abroad:Dest‘s destiny

The author of one of the U.S.’s most important goals in World Cup qualifying is in a bit of a quandary. He hasn’t played for Barcelona in over a month, with his last appearance ending in a halftime substitution against Bayern Munich in the club’s Champions League group finale (an injury and COVID-19 have played a part in that). That 38-year-old Dani Alves is getting the call over him surely isn’t a confidence-builder, and neither is being left out of Barça’s squad altogether for Wednesday’s thrilling Super Cup defeat to Real Madrid. With the transfer window open, the rumor mill is abuzz, with the latest suggesting a loan to Chelsea, where he would theoretically team with Pulisic, could be in the works. With the window closing during the FIFA international window, it could make for an intense few days for the versatile fullback. However it works out, Dest has Berhalter’s backing.“He’s a competitor and he’s a guy that I can see waiting for an opportunity, and when he gets his opportunity, performing well,” Berhalter said this week. “He’s resilient, and he has the right mindset to do it. He’s been working hard. He had a little injury setback at the end of the year with his back, but he’s committed to making it work.” Reyna still not ready

Gio Reyna hasn’t played for club or country since injuring his hamstring in the U.S.’s first World Cup qualifier on Sept. 2, and despite returning to training with Borussia Dortmund, he’s not going to be in uniform for Friday’s Bundesliga match vs. Freiburg, coach Marco Rose said. That leaves awfully little time for Reyna to get into match shape for three intense qualifiers. Berhalter said earlier in the week that it was “too early to tell” whether Reyna and Tim Weah (thigh injury), would be called in. If neither is, it would deplete the options on the wing considerably, with Weah filling in so admirably and vitally for the U.S. in the fall.Dortmund has one more match, in the DFB Pokal vs. St. Pauli next Tuesday, before Berhalter names his squad, but it could very well be the case that the U.S. finds itself without one of its key attacking stars for another set of qualifiers.

Tuchel praises Pulisic for valuable versatility for Chelsea

 

Pulisic scored the tying goal vs Liverpool

Christian Pulisic has been called on to play a number of different roles for English Premier League side Chelsea this season and manager Thomas Tuchel has credited the American’s contributions in the squad as he continues to play wherever needed.Pulisic has been used as a forward, winger, midfielder, and wingback for the defending Champions League winners this season, not shying away from opportunities to be on the field. Due to a mixture of injuries and form within the squad, Tuchel has provided chances for Pulisic to play at Chelsea after speculation about his future in London heading into this new year.The 23-year-old has started in six of the last eight matches for the Blues, including five straight in Premier League play, scoring one goal and registering one assist. Pulisic’s versatility has provided the U.S. men’s national team star with a new opportunity to prove his worth to Tuchel and continue developing at the highest level in England and Europe.“Yes it’s true we moved him around a little bit, but in the end they want to play, and it’s a good thing if they can play more positions,” Tuchel said about Pulisic in his pre-match press conference Tuesday. “You can always argue I would have been more consistent or better if I had one clear position, but maybe then you have less minutes or you face even more competition, because up front we have two or three players in every position.“So first of all it’s a good thing, it was also a bad sign because it means we had trouble on the left and right wingback with injuries and he helped us out there,” Tuchel added. “We are happy with the impact that he has. He can play a lot of minutes, he needs to play a lot of minutes, he has a physical ability that can help us.”Pulisic’s performances have continued to impress down the stretch, helping the Blues advance in the Champions League, FA Cup, and sit on the verge of reaching the Carabao Cup Final. He recently helped Chelsea thump Chesterfield in FA Cup play on Saturday and score a magnificent goal against Liverpool in a 2-2 draw in league play.Tuchel will continue to push for the best out of Pulisic as Chelsea aims to get back into the Premier League title race as the Blues also prepares for the Champions League Round of 16 in February. Pulisic hasn’t disappointed since returning to full fitness and Tuchel has backed him to continue improving with more minutes under his belt.“Of course everybody wants him to have numbers, everybody wants him to be effective, and we can improve everybody, we can improve on that,” Tuchel said. “And from there we go, this is the situation.”Chelsea visits Tottenham on Wednesday in the second leg of the Carabao Cup semfinals before traveling to EPL leaders Manchester City on Saturday.

Chelsea aim to clip Man City’s wings

Chelsea need a repeat of their Champions League final victory over Manchester City to rekindle their Premier League title challenge with the English champions threatening to build a realistically unassailable lead just days into the new year.An 11-game winning run has taken City 10 points clear of the Blues at the top of the table, while third-placed Liverpool are 11 points back with a game in hand.Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel appeared to be the one coach with an Indian sign over Pep Guardiola with three wins in quick succession towards the end of last season, culminating in lifting the European Cup in Porto.However, City’s 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in September proved to be a telling turning point in the campaign at a time when Chelsea led Guardiola’s men by three points.In contrast to City’s formidable form, Chelsea have faltered during the busiest spell of the Premier League season, winning just one of their last five games.A coronavirus outbreak over Christmas combined with a series of injuries played its part in restricting Tuchel’s options, but they have bounced back over the past week to comfortably see off Tottenham 3-0 over two legs to reach the League Cup final.”Here at Chelsea we don’t make selections of trophies, we go for everything,” said captain Cesar Azpilicueta.”The big ones have more impact, but what we all want is to be able to celebrate silverware with the fans at the end of the season.”City’s own mass Covid outbreak affecting 21 players and staff fell fortunately for the league leaders over a period of just one game in 14 days.  Guardiola was one of those to test positive and was absent for a 4-1 win at Swindon in the FA Cup last weekend as a result, but is expected to return to the touchline on Saturday.  Liverpool can take advantage of dropped points for one or both of the sides above them in the table when they host Brentford at Anfield.  However, the Reds will have to cope without Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane, who are away at the Africa Cup of Nations.

– Top 4 up for grabs –

If the title race has descended into a procession over the past month, the race below the top three for a place in next season’s Champions League has heated up. West Ham have moved back into the top four on the back of three straight wins and will be confident of extending their advantage over fifth-placed Arsenal when they host Leeds on Saturday, who they comfortably beat in the FA Cup last weekend. Tottenham are four points back on the Hammers but would go above them should they win two of their three games in hand. However, Spurs are in desperate need of a response from their meek exit in the League Cup when Arsenal visit for the first north London derby played in front of a full house at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday.  The Gunners have shot back into contention for a return to the Champions League as young talents such as Bukayo Saka, Gabriel Martinelli, Martin Odegaard, Emile Smith Rowe and Aaron Ramsdale have flourished since a miserable start to the season.  But Arsenal’s poor record on the road against the other members of the traditional top six has returned with crowds this season. Mikel Arteta’s men were thrashed at City and Liverpool and blew a lead to lose 3-2 at Manchester United in December. United also need to get back to winning ways in the league to remain in the hunt for the top four when they face Aston Villa for the second time in a week.  Villa were the better side despite losing 1-0 in the FA Cup at Old Trafford on Monday and have made the most exciting moves in the transfer window so far with Philippe Coutinho and Lucas Digne in line to make their debuts.

Daryl Dike’s wild ride: What USMNT striker’s move to West Brom means for his national team hopes

Jan 12, 2022  Bill Connelly ESPN Staff Writer

There was a moment in December when, for the first time in two years, Daryl Dike got a moment to reflect. After two years of nonstop soccer, he had earned one.From scoring for Virginia in the NCAA finals against Georgetown in December 2019, to going fifth in the MLS SuperDraft in January 2020, to scoring eight times in 22 matches for Orlando City, to making his national team debut, to taking on a sudden loan move to Barnsley, to scoring nine times for the Tykes as they nearly earned promotion to the Premier League for just the second time ever, to scoring his first goal for the U.S. national team in June 2021, to suffering a shoulder injury that knocked him out of the USMNT rotation, to returning to MLS in the fall and scoring 11 goals in 19 matches, Dike finally stole a moment to breathe.”Physically, it was important,” he told ESPN, “but mentally, being able to look back at going over to England, being with the national team, playing in the Gold Cup, playing with Orlando as well, it was a nice period, for sure.”Even by soccer’s standards, however, Dike’s offseason was brief. On Jan. 1, the first day of Europe’s winter transfer window, England’s second-division West Bromwich Albion signed Dike from Orlando City for $11 million.With Dike moving to England and Ricardo Pepi signing with FC Augsburg in the German Bundesliga, the two most promising young strikers in the American player pool — with the 2022 World Cup just 10 months away — are taking on European challenges at the same time. And as far as Dike is concerned, his ambitions have only grown stronger with each level of success.”At the beginning, I always had big goals,” he said, “I always wanted to play in the Champions League, I wanted to play in World Cups, and those are still my goals. But I think those goals are so much more reachable now, and I can maybe even reach them quicker.”Throughout this process, seeing how quickly I’ve grown in just two years, I think all those goals can happen much sooner than I thought.”

A high-caliber scorer

You can’t blame Dike for dreaming big considering how quickly he became a standout in the most important area for a center-forward to stand out: scoring goals.During his half-season Championship stint (21 matches), Dike’s nine goals landed him in the league’s top 25 and tied for the most among those age 20 and under. And while he missed a decent chunk of the 2021 MLS season, playing just 1,415 minutes — scoring leader Valentin Castellanos, by comparison, played 3,083 for NYC FC — among those with at least 1,400 minutes, Dike was fourth in goals per 90 minutes (0.70) behind only DC United‘s Ola Kamara (0.94), LAFC‘s Cristian Arango (0.90) and the LA Galaxy‘s Chicharito Hernandez (0.88). All three are at least five years older than Dike, who scored just two fewer goals than Pepi in 682 fewer minutes.It took Dike a little while to rediscover his top form after his August bout with injuries, but he scored five non-penalty goals in his last 10 matches for Orlando. His ability to carve out space in the box and put shots away stood out to Barnsley manager Valerien Ismael, and with Ismael now at West Brom, it was the primary reason the club sought him out.”Dike has everything we need from the No. 9 position,” Ismael told local media upon Dike’s signing. “He has energy, strength — he challenges defenders — and he scores goals. I worked with him at Barnsley and I know him very well. He has the mentality.”At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, he also has the physicality.”Rather unsurprisingly, it’s his power and physique that first catches your eye,” said ESPN analyst and professional scout Tor-Kristian Karlsen. “He’s really extreme in those departments. Having those attributes in a forward — he’s almost a one-man attack at times — obviously give you some clear advantages: The opponents wouldn’t want to leave him [one-on-one] against their centre-backs.  “He’s not just an athlete, though. I think he’s developing well in terms of where to pick up the ball, and his spatial awareness in and around the penalty area is improving, too.”While his skills and high activity levels initially took him pretty far, the key to Dike’s ability, thriving quickly in new situations, came from his ability to learn quickly.”I think at the beginning of my career, it was just about going into the box and hoping that the pass could come to me,” Dike said. “I’ve been blessed to have great teammates around me, who have some chance creation [ability], and with Valerien, with Oscar [Pareja, Orlando City’s coach], with [USMNT manager Gregg] Berhalter, all of these people have made it a big emphasis for me to be able to find myself in spaces, being able to make runs behind the back line, being above to find spaces in the box with double movements and making my shots easier in terms of getting in a better position.”Ease of shots is an interesting subject. Dike overachieved his expected goals (xG) levels in each season in MLS and the English Championship. At each step along the way, he produced between 4.4 and 4.7 xG but turned that into eight or nine goals. There will almost certainly be some regression to the mean in his future: He has overachieved his xG figures by 47% since the start of 2021, which is the second highest among all players to have scored 20-plus goals in all competitions. (The highest: Leandro Damiao, of Japan’s Kawasaki Frontale, at plus-71%.)Even if he turns out to be one of the best finishers in the game, that ratio will likely fall to at least the plus-30% range or so in the future. If he offsets that with a higher shot volume, however, he will continue to thrive.A higher shot volume, however, will require more touches and more involvement in the overall game.

The rest of his incomplete game

Whether or not there is forthcoming regression, Dike’s scoring ability is top-notch for such a young player. Here are some of his percentile ratings over the past 365 days — versus other forwards — according to the scouting reports at FBref.com (powered by StatsBomb):

  • Goals per 90 minutes: 89th percentile
  • Non-penalty goals per 90: 75th percentile
  • Goals per shot: 94th percentile
  • Goals per shot on target: 96th percentile
  • Average shot distance: 92nd percentile
  • xG per 90: 68th percentile

Even if his finishing is still running a little hot, the ability stands out. He creates opportunities from close distances and puts the ball in the net.

Everything else, however, remains a work in progress:

  • Touches per 90: third percentile
  • Shot-creating actions* per 90: 15th percentile
  • Passes attempted per 90: second percentile
  • Passes completed per 90: third percentile
  • Pass completion rate: 53rd percentile
  • Passes received per 90: fifth percentile
  • Assists per 90: 31st percentile
  • Progressive carries per 90: 19th percentile
  • Pressures per 90: 32nd percentile
  • Successful pressures per 90: 16th percentile
  • Pressures per 90 in the attacking third: 62nd percentile

* StatsBomb defines shot-creating actions as “the two offensive actions directly leading to a shot, such as passes, dribbles and drawing fouls.”

“Perhaps the one key area to improve is for him to make a consistent mark on the game,” Karlsen said. “He tends to drop in and out of the action, and he can be somewhat impatient at times — as in, always wanting to make the early, direct run and finish the attacks, even when the movements around him aren’t quite there yet. In that sense, he might at times be too direct in his decision-making.”Dike is well aware of the work still to be done.”My biggest focus, of course, is scoring goals, movement into the box and things that a striker needs to have in terms of instincts and everything,” he said. “But one thing I personally would love to be able to do better is my combination play, my linkup play, in terms of holding the ball up and getting involved a little bit more in the game rather than maybe just finishing at the end. How can I hold the ball up? How can I improve my technique to connect with my attacking midfielders and bring the game up to me?”Throughout the season in Orlando, I think Oscar, the coaching staff and even the players like [veteran winger] Nani, they kept pushing me to get better, and I think it was showing. I felt myself improving. I felt myself being able to get on the end of more things, my movements, my touches. Everything continued to improve, and for me, that’s obviously something that’s super exciting.”

What awaits at West Brom

West Brom has been one of the better teams in the Championship after last spring’s relegation from the Premier League. It’s fourth in the table, firmly involved in the promotion race. But while the Baggies’ defense has been excellent — they’re first in goals allowed per match, second in xG allowed and first, by far, in shots allowed per possession — they have lacked, in a very specific way, in attack.The Baggies are averaging just 1.24 goals per match, 10th in the league and worst among the top five teams in the table. While their raw statistics aren’t terrible — second in shots attempted per possession, ninth in xG per shot — their shots have been wayward. Looking at the xG for shots on target (xGOT) divided by total shots per target, they rank 20th out of 24 teams. Loose translation: They don’t shoot well. They don’t place the ball well when they get a shot on goal.

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“We need someone to show up and score the goals,” Ismael told the media Sunday after West Brom’s 1-1 draw with Cardiff City, in which the Baggies managed just three shots on target from 13 attempts. “This is what we are missing at the minute. This is why we signed Daryl Dike, to give us a better opportunity to score goals and win games.”As with Ismael’s Barnsley last season, West Brom plays an intensely vertical style. It’s a style in which Dike thrives, and if he finishes chances as he has for the past two years, his addition could make a massive difference in the promotion race.Dike will also be asked to do his fair share of pressing in Ismael’s system, and it appears he learned from it the last time around. After recording 10.6 pressures per 90 minutes (5.8 in the attacking third) according to Statsbomb during his 2020 MLS season, he returned and averaged 13.6 (8.3) in 2021. His pressure success rate went down, but the increased activity level was encouraging.”I think in terms of pressing, one thing that I have learned from people is, pressing smarter rather than harder,” Dike said. “At the beginning of my career, I think I would sometimes just run to press, and sometimes maybe it wasn’t a smart situation. After understanding systems more and listening to my coaches, that’s something I think I have improved on: when to press as a group, when the team’s ready and those kinds of principles.”With the national team and with Valerien, we are all constant pressure, constant pressure. We’re gonna wear the other team down.”

What this could mean for the USMNT

Dike made his national team debut in January 2021, just before his Barnsley loan was confirmed. By the summer, it looked like he might become a mainstay during World Cup qualification. He scored once in a 4-0 friendly win over Costa Rica in June, then twice in a Gold Cup win over Martinique in July. But his injury limited his effectiveness in the Gold Cup; after attempting four shots against Martinique, he managed just five, all from longer distances (by his standards) in his last three appearances.He has yet to play for the U.S. since. Berhalter did not bring him in for any of the three qualification windows this fall and passed him over for December’s MLS-heavy friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina. The coach explained the latter decision by saying, “He’s beat up. He needs recovery. The most important thing at this time for Daryl is to get rest and recovery that he can focus on coming back in January and building himself up again.” But during qualification, Berhalter made a point to emphasize the word “verticality.””We want more verticality,” Berhalter told CBS Sports in September. “We want players that can stretch the opponent’s back line, run behind the opponent’s back line.”It was confusing, then, that he didn’t bring Dike in, considering his success in Ismael’s system. Regardless, two World Cup qualification windows remain — the U.S. plays El Salvador and Honduras at home and at Canada from Jan. 27 to Feb. 2, then at Mexico and Costa Rica and at home versus Panama in late March — and Dike is still hopeful about inclusion.”In terms of [Berhalter’s] plans, I mean, I think he values me, and I think that’s something you always want to have in a coach,” Dike said. “You always want a coach who believes in you and values you. I think he looks at what I am, and he looks at the quality I have, and he tries to push me. That’s all I could ever ask for.”

USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter: Status for Gio Reyna, Tim Weah for World Cup qualifiers still unclear Jan 10, 2022

Midfielder Giovanni Reyna and forward Timothy Weah remain uncertain for the United States‘ next three World Cup qualifiers, which start Jan. 27 with a match against El Salvador at Columbus, Ohio.Reyna has not played in any matches since injuring his right hamstring during the opening qualifier at El Salvador on Sept. 2. He dressed for the first time since then when Borussia Dortmund played Saturday at Eintracht Frankfurt but did not get into the match. Weah, who scored in the 1-1 draw at Jamaica in a November qualifier, injured a thigh during training with Lille on Dec. 3, two days after his last match.”With Gio and Tim, it’s too early to tell,” coach Gregg Berhalter said Monday. “We have 14 days until they come to camp, and those 14 days will be important.”Major League Soccer players are training at national team camp in Phoenix through Jan. 21, and several of them will travel to Columbus, where Europe-based players report Jan. 24.Midfielder Weston McKennie and defender Miles Robinson return from one-match suspensions caused by cards.Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, midfielder Tyler Adams, defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin and forward Jordan Pefok carry yellow cards from the first eight qualifiers and would face a one-match suspension with an additional yellow card.”What we’ve learned is expect the unexpected,” Berhalter said. “You never know who is going to be available to play in each game. You have to be willing to adapt.”The U.S. plays at Canada on Jan. 30 and hosts Honduras on Feb. 2 at St. Paul, Minnesota. With six games per team left, Canada leads with 16 points, followed by the U.S. (15), Mexico and Panama (14 each), Costa Rica (nine), Jamaica (seven), El Salvador (six) and Honduras (three).The top three teams from North and Central America and the Caribbean qualify, and the No. 4 nation faces the Oceania champion — likely New Zealand — in a playoff for another berth. A January window for qualifiers is unusual, added only because the coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of the final round by a year. MLS players and even some based in Europe are in the midst of lengthy layoffs. Midfielder Brenden Aaronson‘s FC Salzburg has been off since Dec. 11. Defender Sergino Dest has been struggling for playing time at Barcelona since Xavi Hernandez was hired as coach in November, but Berhalter sounded as if Dest’s national team position was secure.”He’s a competitor and he’s a guy that I can see waiting for an opportunity, and when he gets his opportunity, performing well,” Berhalter said. “He’s resilient and he has the right mindset to do it. He’s been working hard. He had a little injury setback at the end of the year with his back, but he’s committed to making it work.”  Players at the training camp will have three closed-door scrimmages, a regimen aimed to get them close to 90 minutes by the end.”Then we’ll be able to tell,” Berhalter said. “The most important thing is that we can put a team on the field that can compete at a high level, because we know that’s what World Cup qualifying games are about.”Defender Aaron Long, recovering from a torn right Achilles tendon on May 15, is at his third straight training camp. He might not be ready for a game until the final three qualifiers in March.”I’m not sure he’s going to get there, but hopefully he’ll be close,” Berhalter said. “Hopefully in March we’re having different conversations.”Berhalter said there have been positive coronavirus tests among players arriving at camp.”Fortunately, most are asymptomatic and now it’s just about a little bit of a waiting game,” he said. “But that’s our reality, and that’s what all sports teams are dealing with.”

CONCACAF Table

GPPTSGD
1 – Canada816+8
2 – USA815+7
3 – Mexico814+4
4 – Panama814+2
5 – Costa Rica89-1
6 – Jamaica87-4
7 – El Salvador86-6
8 – Honduras83-10
1-3 qualifies; 4 into playoff

Trinity Rodman accepts first USWNT call-up for January camp

Jan 12, 2022Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

U.S. women’s national team coach Vlatko Andonovski has called in 25 players for the team’s first training camp of the year, a group that includes Washington Spirit forward Trinity Rodman.Rodman, 19, the NWSL’s 2021 Rookie of the Year, is accepting a call-up for the first time. But she isn’t alone in terms of uncapped players, with Washington Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Kingsbury also taking part in the camp. San Diego Wave defender Naomi Girma is joining the team for the second time at the camp, which will be held in Austin, Texas. The camp will run from Jan. 19-28, and while there are no friendlies scheduled in conjunction with the gathering, Andonovski is keen to get a look at some rising stars ahead of the SheBelieves Cup, which will take place in mid-February.”Without any matches that we need to taper for, we can get in some more intense trainings and full-field scrimmages, which is great as we need to give this group as many chances as possible to play together in a national team environment,” said Andonovski said.”We understand that some of the players are coming off a break, so we’ll keep that in mind as we hit the ground running in 2022 for what will be a very important year for these players and our team.”Andonovski’s roster also sees the return of several veterans, including goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, defender Kelley O’Hara, midfielder Samantha Mewis and forward Mallory Pugh. Naeher has been out since injuring her knee in the Olympic semifinal. Rodman, the 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year and 2021 U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year, at 19 is still age-eligible for the 2022 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. She was called up for the Australian friendlies in November, but opted out. The daughter of former NBA player Dennis Rodman, she has nine career U20 international goals in just seven caps and likely would have played in the 2020 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup had it not been canceled due to the pandemic.”She was one of the most exciting players in the league this past season, and she proved that she can be impactful at the professional level in NWSL. And now with that, she earned a call-up for the national team,” Andonovski said about Rodman.”Now, we don’t want to rush anything. We obviously have to be patient. She’s still young player, but we do want to expose her to the environment where she can get her feet wet a little bit, and get used to the environment, get used to my coaching and the players that she’s around, and hopefully she can continue growing and show that what she was able to do in the league, she can do that at the international level.”Andonovski said a replacement for Catarina Macario — who was originally on the roster until the draw in the French Cup came out that pitted Lyon against PSG — would be announced before Thursday.”We decided that the best for Cat would be if she stays in, in France, and plays the game against Montpelier and prepares after that and plays the game against PSG in the round of 16,” Andonovski said.”And instead of coming here, traveling overseas, a couple of trainings and then going back or travel again and play in a game. So overall to two exceptional games for Cat, good experience, high stress, intense games, it’ll be overall better for her.”

JANUARY TRAINING CAMP ROSTER BY POSITION:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS (9): Alana Cook (OL Reign), Abby Dahlkemper (San Diego Wave FC), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars), Imani Dorsey (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC), Naomi Grima (San Diego Wave FC), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign), Kelley O’Hara (Washington Spirit), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit)

MIDFIELDERS (7): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Jaelin Howell (Racing Louisville FC), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign), Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Samantha Mewis (Kansas City Current), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

FORWARDS (6): Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit), Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC), Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC), Lynn Williams (Kansas City Current)

USWNT Takes Youthful Approach to Start of World Cup, Olympic Qualifying Year

A number of veterans have been left out of January camp, despite the qualifying tournament for two big events taking place in six months.

Six months out from the tournament that will determine whether the U.S. women’s national team qualifies for the 2023 World Cup and 2024 Olympics, a number of the squad’s household names are missing from camp. But, as coach Vlatko Andonovski explains, that’s by design.The U.S. women gather in Austin, Texas, for their annual January camp starting next Wednesday, and while it won’t feature any matches, it will still be a proving ground. A post-Olympics transition process that began in the fall will be accelerated in earnest, as a number of younger—and in one significant case, new—players take to the stage. Out are the likes of Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe (Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz and Crystal Dunn are out as well, but for medical reasons), while Trinity Rodman gets her first call-up after her breakout campaign in the NWSL to headline the group called in.“Without any matches that we need to taper for, we can get in some more intense trainings and full-field scrimmages, which is great as we need to give this group as many chances as possible to play together in a national team environment,” Andonovski said in a statement. “We understand that some of the players are coming off a break, so we’ll keep that in mind as we hit the ground running in 2022 for what will be a very important year for these players and our team.”That important year will continue next month with a watered-down version of the SheBelieves Cup (Czech Republic, Iceland and New Zealand are not quite the Brazil-, Germany-, France-, England-level of opponents that have traditionally been part of the competition) with an eye on July’s W Championship, a new Concacaf event that combines the qualifying process for two marquee global events into one competition.The U.S. and Canada received byes to the final stages of the tournament, while 30 other nations will compete in a group stage starting next month, with the winners of each of the six five-team groups joining them in the eight-team competition.The W Championship is split into two groups of four, where the top two teams in each group qualify straightaway for the 2023 World Cup in New Zealand and Australia, while the two third-place teams go into FIFA’s intercontinental tournament. Separately, the winner of the competition qualifies automatically for the 2024 Olympics, while the second- and third-place finishers go to a playoff for the region’s other berth in Paris.When asked Wednesday, Andonovski didn’t indicate whether he was or wasn’t a fan of the new setup, but it does put more emphasis on rounding out his core group and force him to make some pretty immediate choices when it comes to which newcomers to incorporate and which veterans to lean on for matches with multiple layers of pressure.The true newcomer next week is Rodman, who was vital in the Washington Spirit’s NWSL title run. Andonovski isn’t placing any immediate expectations on the 19-year-old’s shoulders, but with Carli Lloyd retiring and other U.S. attackers aging, there’s a role to be seized.”Trinity, obviously, is one of the most exciting players in the [NWSL] this past season,” Andonovski said on a media conference call. “She proved that she can be impactful at the professional level and now with that she earned the call-up for the national team. We don’t want to rush anything. We have to be patient, but we do want to expose her to the environment where she can get her feet wet a little bit, get used to the environment and my coaching.”

The Awful Optics Surrounding U.S. Soccer’s Presidential Election

aomi Girma and Jaelin Howell, the top two picks in last month’s NWSL draft, are also part of the youth movement. Andonovski explained how he laid out a short-term plan ahead of the U.S.’s November camp that the aforementioned veterans wouldn’t be included through the winter, saying, “these players are not out of the picture by any means,” and should be expected to rejoin the fold as soon as the SheBelieves Cup.”A lot of things depend now on how well the newer players do,” Andonovski added.As for those not included for pre-planned coaching reasons, Ertz is “not physically ready to perform in camp” after recovering from her knee injury, while the 36-year-old Sauerbrunn had a setback after undergoing a procedure to freeze her eggs. After conversations with her and the medical staff, Andonovski said, “if she gets back fit, healthy and she’s able to play minutes, for SheBelieves she will be considered for that camp.For Dunn, who is due to give birth in May, Andonovski said there have been no discussions regarding her return-to-play plan, indicating that those would take place when appropriate. The importance, he said, is on her having a healthy delivery and baby before the player and medical and high-performance departments discuss the future. But he did fully expect her return at some point down the line, presumably well after the W Championship.One other player omitted was Catarina Macario, who was initially going to be included. But after her club, Lyon, drew PSG in the round of 16 of the Coupe de France, it was decided that she should remain at her club and play in the high-intensity environment that will provide.As a result, here are the players who will compete in camp, looking to further cement their places for the matches of great importance this summer:

Letter from US Soccer President Cindy Parlow Cone

January 12, 2022

To our fans:

2021 was a year of both great promise and challenge.

On the field, our National Teams continued to excel at the highest levels across all competitions. For the sixth consecutive year, our Women’s National Team finished the year ranked No. 1 in the world, winning the 2021 SheBelieves Cup and earning a Bronze medal at the Olympics. And our Men’s National Team set a record for most wins in a calendar year, winning the Concacaf Nations League and Concacaf Gold Cup and entering the new year in a strong position to qualify for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup in Qatar.Last year was an important year for our leadership team at U.S. Soccer as we worked to establish a stronger foundation to support the long-term growth and evolution of soccer in the United States. These efforts were headlined by our new, landmark agreement with Nike announced in November – which represents the most significant commercial partnership in the history of U.S. Soccer, as well as one of the largest investments in soccer around the world. Although progress was made on several fronts in 2021, the year was also marked by profound challenges, including the allegations of unconscionable abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in the National Women’s Soccer League. U.S. Soccer hired former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General of the United States Sally Yates to lead an independent investigation into this matter. As she and her team do this important work, we remain committed to giving them the access and resources they need to follow the truth wherever it may lead.2021 also saw U.S. Soccer continue to work toward resolution of the litigation brought by the Women’s National Team. U.S. Soccer remains committed to resolving this case outside of court for the long-term benefit of the sport at all levels. We would happily agree to settle so that we can focus on working together to chart a more positive and collaborative path forward.

Identical Contract & Equalizing Prize Money
As we have over the last several months, U.S. Soccer will continue to share regular updates on our efforts to reach new labor agreements that equalize FIFA World Cup prize money between our Women’s and Men’s National Teams. I speak for our entire leadership team when I say we are ready and willing to meet with both groups of players as often as needed to get these deals done.In September, we offered identical contract proposals to the men’s and women’s players associations, with the goal of aligning both teams under a single collective bargaining agreement (CBA) structure. Our proposal ensured that our Women’s and Men’s National Team players remain among the highest-paid in the world, in part by providing a first-ever revenue sharing structure. In November, we sat down with both unions together for the first time ever and proposed good faith solutions for achieving this goal.While we haven’t received a commitment from either union to move forward with a single pay structure, we have been encouraged that they are willing to join us in discussions about that possibility as we continue to negotiate separate CBAs with each for now. Additionally, we are still focused on taking the important step of equalizing FIFA World Cup prize money, and will not agree to any collective bargaining agreement that does not include that commitment from the two unions.

USWNT CBA Negotiations
We have been encouraged by the constructive nature of our recent CBA negotiations with the Women’s National Team. These discussions have benefited greatly from the consistent and active participation of the women’s players at the bargaining table. Last month, we agreed to extend the negotiation window under their current CBA until March 31, 2022. We believe this development reflects our collective ability to work together and the urgency of both sides to reach a new agreement.

USMNT CBA Negotiations
We still have much work ahead of us in our negotiations with representatives for the Men’s National Team, and we hope they continue to engage in these important discussions. Given their vocal support for our shared commitment to equal pay and the fact that they continue to play under a CBA that expired over three years ago, we trust the Men’s National Team shares our goal of equalizing FIFA World Cup prize money and sense of urgency about getting a deal done.

Looking Ahead 
To find a solution, particularly on equalizing FIFA World Cup Prize money, we need everyone off the sidelines and into the game. We will continue to invite the Men’s National Team to participate in each of our bargaining sessions with the Women’s National Team, including five sessions this month alone, and we hope that the men’s recent participation signals their willingness to be more regularly involved moving forward.We strongly believe it is in everyone’s best interest to find a way to equalize FIFA World Cup prize money and move forward with a single pay structure – and to do so as soon as possible.As we build on important progress made in 2021, our commitment to you – our fans – is that we remain laser-focused on putting these remaining building blocks in place for the good of the game at all levels of play. We continue to be inspired by your passion and are enormously grateful for your support.With every new year comes new opportunities, and we look forward to what we can achieve – together.

Best,
Cindy Parlow Cone
U.S. Soccer President

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1/7/22 FA Cup Weekend on ESPN+, Roma vs Juve Sun, African Cup starts, USWNT Cup 2/27

FA Cup Action leads the English Action this weekend – while

Tons of FA Cup play on ESPN+ this weekend – Sat starts at 7:30 with recently relegated Fulham and American defenders Robinson and Tim Ream take on Crystal Palace and former NYCFC coach Veira.  Pulisic and Chelsea host Chesterfield at 12:30 pm.  Dortmund may well have Claudio Reyna back at 12:30 pm as they host Frankfort and Timmy Chandler.  Real Madrid will host Valencia at 3 pm on ESPN+.    FA Cup play has Norwich and Stewart traveling to Charlton Athletic at 9 am right before Nottenham Forest hosts Arsenal at 12:30.  Somebody will upset somebody here – its what happens in the FA Cup but the question is who is it – you have to watch to see.  Sunday – Roma hosts Juventus and Weston Mckennie on Paramount plus, while Inter will host Lazio at 2:45 on Para+.  Monday Man United host Villa at 3 pm on Monday followed by Liverpool vs Arsenal on Thursday. (not sure what they will do about the cancelled first round game last week?). 

African Cup Starts this Week on beIN Sport

The first Africa Cup of Nations to be played in Cameroon since 1972 begins Sunday when the hosts begin Group A play against Burkina Faso at 11am ET.A tournament ripe with Premier League players and prospects holds sway over an entire continent for nearly a month until the final is staged Feb. 6, and we’ve got your schedule and standings here. There has not been a repeat winner or finalist at AFCON since Egypt won at home in 2006 before claiming the 2008 tournament title in Ghana and the 2010 edition in Angola, with Algeria and Senegal holding hopes of bucking that trend in February. Kickoff dates: Jan. 9 – Feb. 6 with select games on beIN Sport.

US Women Set to Host Weakest She Believes Cup Ever in Feb

The US announced the line-up for the She Believes Cup this Feb and it’s the weakest grouping of teams ever compiled for this tourney.  The highest ranked team is #16 Iceland, along with #22 New Zealand and the #24 Czechs. According to The18 it appears that England has countered the US and invited the best teams in the world to play at the same time in Europe as #8 England, #3 Germany, #9 Spain and #6 Canada will face off in England. Not sure what the heck the US brass are doing but lining up 2nd rate European Competition doesn’t do much for anyone – especially a revamping US team.  Heck our first game is not even on TV as it is being played at 11 pm ET?  Come on US Soccer WTH??  Speaking of US Soccer You may recognize former U.S. Soccer Federation president Carlos Cordeiro as the man who, in March 2020, amid the USWNT’s equal pay lawsuit, released a sexist open letter claiming that a men’s player “carries more responsibility” than a women’s player. Well, less than two years after he was forced to resign amid backlash to his blatant misogyny, Cordeiro is now expected to run to reclaim his old job. Can’t make this sh!t up. I certainly hope that electorates of US Soccer are not stupid enough to elect this idiot again.   Interesting story on how having a Men’s World Cup every 2 years – would do serious damage to the Woman’s World Cup – valid points. 

2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
#16 Iceland vs #22 New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
#1 USWNT vs #24 Czech Republic, 11pm ET

Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET

Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN

USA

MLS LAFC Hires former USMNT Steve Cherundelo as head coach after Bob Bradley left for Toronto.  The US Men have opened the MLS Camp – for preparation for the late January WCQ Window with matches vs El Salvador, Canada and Honduras.  Again this is just the MLS guys keeping in shape to join the normal European contingent of players who will come in late in January. 

Goalkeepers: Sean Johnson (New York City), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago), Matt Turner (New England)

Defenders: George Bello (Atlanta), DeJuan Jones (New England), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls), Miles Robinson (Atlanta), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville)

Midfielders: Kellyn Acosta (Colorado), Cole Bassett (Colorado), Djordje Mihailovic Montreal), Sebastian Lletget (New England), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Jackson Yueill (San Jose)

Forwards: Paul Arriola (D.C.), Jesús Ferreira (Dallas), Jordan Morris (Seattle), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus)

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Jan 8 

7:30 am  ESPN+                 Fulham (Robinson, Ream) vs Crystal Palace  (FA Cup)

12:30 pm ESPN+                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Chesterfield

12:30 pmESPN+                 Dortmund vs Frankfort (Chandler)

3 pm ESPN+                         Real Madrid vs Valencia

Sun, Jan 9

9 am  ESPN+                        West Ham vs Leeds United FA Cup 

9 am  ESPN+                        Charlton Athletic vs Norwich (Stewart) FA Cup 

12:30 ESPN+                       Nottenham Forest vs Arsenal 

12:30 Para +                        Roma vs Juventus (McKennie)

2:45 pm Para+                    Inter vs Lazio

2:45 pm Para+                    Lyonnais vs PGS

3 pm ESPN+                         Villareal vs Atletico Madrid  

Mon,  Jan 10

3 pm ESPN+                         Man United vs Aston Villa (League Cup)

Thur,  Jan 13

2:45 pm ESPN+                   Liverpool  vs Arsenal (League Cup)

3 pm ESPNDes , +               Atletico Madrid vs Athletic Club (Spain Cup)

Fri,  Jan 14

8 am be:IN Sport                Senegal vs Guine (African Cup)

2:45 pm USA?                     Brighton vs Crystal Palace 

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

Sat, Jan 15 

7:30 am  USA                     Man City vs Chelseas (Pulisic)

12:30 pm NBC                     Aston Villa vs Man United

Fri,  Jan 27

7:30 pm ESPN2                  USMNT vs El Salvador (Columbus)

Sun,  Jan 30

3:30 pm Paramount+       USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Feb 2

7:30 pm FS1                        USMNT vs Honduras

WORLD


Successful World Cup, women’s game grows: Marcotti’s 2022 wishes
 
Gabriele Marcotti
Watch out, Zlatan! Mbappe closing in on Ibra after scoring 200th career goal
Chris WrightAfrica Cup of Nations schedule, standings, odds, how to watch, more
Africa Cup of Nations poses massive challenges for host Cameroon

Premier League players at the Africa Cup of Nations

 

EPL

Midseason grades for every Premier League team

Will USMNT star Pepi be Augsburg’s answer to Lewandowski?  Tor-Kristian Karlsen
Chelsea and Liverpool still excite, even if title is a foregone conclusion
 
Mark Ogden

Premier League New Year’s resolutions for all 20 clubs

Arsenal’s two minutes of chaos hand Man City huge advantage in title race  James Olley
Lukaku ‘sorry’ for Chelsea ‘unhappy’ comments

Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings

MLS
LAFC names Cherundolo as new manager
 
Jeff Carlisle

LAFC hand Cherundolo a chance, but can he succeed on a bigger stage?  Jeff Carlisle
Steven Cherundolo to be named LAFC’s new head coach, replacing Bob Bradley

MLS sells Real Salt Lake to Palace part-owner Blitzer

USA

Watch Christian Pulisic’s brilliant goal to bring Chelsea and Liverpool even at two

West Bromwich Albion signs Daryl Dike on permanent transfer  By Brendan Joseph
USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi completes $20 million transfer to Augsburg; is this a good fit?

Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings

Sources: Cordeiro eyes U.S. Soccer post again  Caitlin Murray and Jeff Carlisle

Rapinoe blasts Cordeiro’s ‘caveman levels of misogyny’ amid plans to run for USSF prez

Bold USMNT predictions for 2022Donald Wine II S&S

2021 in review: Did our bold USMNT predictions come true?  S&S

Gab Marcotti’s 2022 soccer wishes: Successful World Cup, stakeholders work together, women’s game grows

Jan 1, 2022Gabriele Marcotti  Senior Writer, ESPN FC

Just as was the case 12 months ago, soccer exists amid mankind’s fight against an enemy few could imagine would ever become real. But there is hope…

Most are a little better off than at this time last year and, if there is some light to have come out of the darkness, it is that maybe we realized how much we have in common and what we can achieve when we band together and trust in each other.It is a lesson that can — hopefully — be transferred to football, which, at the very top of the game, stands divided and uncertain. And that is where my 30 wishes for 2022 begin.

Gab’s wishes from: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014


1. That the powers that be — whether FIFA, the confederations, clubs, leagues, players, broadcasters or agents — realize the stakes and find a way forward together. “United we stand, divided we fall” is not just a cliché; it’s the reality of what will happen if no effective deal is found before the international match calendar resets in 2024. Everyone wants to shape football’s future, which is great. Realistically, though, everyone needs to sacrifice something to make it happen.

2. That, speaking of the international match calendar, we’ll be open-minded. For example, keeping the existing number of games, while reducing the number of windows (and therefore both travel for players and disruptions to club football), strikes me as a common-sense solution. Being against it just because the “other side” has promoted it or because it’s “against tradition” is silly and irresponsible.

3. That folks understand FIFA’s mission and don’t just make the usual puerile cracks about money and corruption. The world governing body exists to develop the game, which costs money — money for the men’s and women’s game, as well as federations, pitches, youth development and more. Many member associations receive the bulk of their funding from FIFA, so it should not surprise us if such federations back anything that brings them more money, such as a biennial men’s World Cup.

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4. That FIFA continues to be transparent about how money is allocated but also reviews the system to make it fairer. Progress has been made in holding federations to account for what they receive, but more needs to be done regarding where money goes. A portion of FIFA funds is allocated for specific projects, and another goes, in equal parts, to every federation. Regarding that latter part, it’s simply unfair that tiny countries such as, say, Montserrat or Liechtenstein get the same amount as Pakistan or Nigeria. It might be unpopular — because it might cost votes — but it’s the right thing to do.

5. That the Qatar World Cup takes place successfully and runs as smoothly as possible. Every four years, around this time, we hear about problems with host nations, citing unfinished stadiums, infrastructure, crime and more, but this edition is a 32-team tournament essentially taking place in one city of 2.2 million people. Nothing so big has ever been attempted in a place so small.

6. That, if the powers that be realize Qatar 2022 will struggle logistically, they have the courage to find a solution while there is time. Michel Platini back in the day and Gianni Infantino a few years ago floated the idea of Qatar sharing the World Cup with some of its Gulf neighbours. It was rebuffed, mainly because relationships between Qatar and the likes of United Arab EmiratesBahrain and Saudi Arabia were terrible to the point that they were blockading the country. That’s over now, so if turning the tournament into a regional event by shifting games to Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, Jeddah or Manama helps alleviate the logistical pressure — from hotel rooms to training facilities — it should be seriously considered.

7. That whatever improvements to human rights — regarding migrant workers and local residents — have come to Qatar as a result of hosting the World Cup don’t simply disappear once the circus rolls out of town. And, on the contrary, that they become entrenched and accepted, not just there but throughout the entire region.

8. That the game comes up with a coherent solution to the issue of player workload and fixture congestion, one that recognises there is no one-size-fits-all outcome. Elite players play too many games and would like to play fewer. Most of those at lower levels would love to play more. There’s a way to rebalance this, so find it.

9. That those who run clubs realize simply playing more games isn’t the best way to increase revenue. That’s why the Champions League expanded and why clubs don’t want to see the size of their top flight reduced. But you get diminishing marginal gains when simply adding fixtures and, sometimes, sometimes, less is more. At the top end, having fewer matches — but making each a bigger deal — would be beneficial and possibly just as lucrative, if not more so.

10. That when UEFA reintroduces financial fair play rules, they have the right balance, plus teeth and transparency. FFP was suspended due to COVID-19, and that was reasonable, but its return must come with realisation that the landscape isn’t that of 10 years ago. You need a system that looks forward and encourages investment and growth, while at the same time making it sustainable. You need a better enforcement mechanism, and you need buy-in from the public, which means making all the figures transparent and open to all. Money is the main tool for competition, so there is no reason to shroud it in secrecy.

11. That FIFA’s new transfer regulations on agents involve full transparency so clubs, as well as individuals, can be held to account. They likely won’t, because FIFA says European privacy laws don’t allow it. Fine, challenge them: Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and many agents want openness too.

12. That the opportunity is taken to ban sovereign wealth funds from buying clubs. Such a fund’s job is to look after the money of a country’s citizens, who, unlike with a private equity fund, don’t get to choose where their money is invested. And unlike a private equity fund, governments can be toppled or voted out. That’s a recipe for neither fairness nor stability. I’m not picking on Manchester CityParis Saint-Germain or Newcastle; they can be given an exemption or be made to sell over time. But there’s no valid reason for this to continue. Clubs should be owned by members, who freely choose to take a stake, or by private companies, whose shareholders make that choice with their own money.

13. That leagues regulate partnerships between clubs and providers of cryptocurrencies and nonfungible tokens (NFTs). I have nothing against either — in fact, I own some cryptocurrency myself — but some of what is going on looks like little more than pump-and-dump operations using club brands for legitimacy and club loyalty to sucker in fans. Caveat emptor and buyer beware? Sure, but legitimate cryptos and NFT providers also get fleeced.

14. That the European Super League and its proponents go away and have a long, hard think. I know they retreated with their noses bloodied, and some are still fighting, but if their only solution for making the game better is trying to impose their will on others, that’s no solution.

15. That we realize that although a superleague was wrong for Europe — especially in how it came about — that does not necessarily apply elsewhere. I use the term loosely, but if you take it to mean some sort of open pan-continental competition — without permanent places that, for some, might replace domestic competition — it might not necessarily be a bad thing for some parts of the world.

16. That at some point we answer the basic question of what we want football to be, whether purely a part of the entertainment business or some sort of communal social trust. The European Court of Justice might end up answering it on behalf of all of us, but I’d rather the game got there first. If it’s purely a branch of the entertainment business, then we don’t really need FIFA, confederations and national associations. Clubs can band together to write their own rules and create and run their own competitions, without any oversight or accountability to anyone, other than their customers (sorry, fans…). If it’s a communal social trust, like public education or law enforcement or national parks, then the system has to be open to all, with solidarity and with elected leaders who make decisions for the entire pyramid. The best outcome, as I see it, isn’t at either end of the continuum; it’s somewhere in between. But we need clarity.

17. That match officials explain decisions, including admitting errors, so that fans can better understand. The key word here is explain, which is different from justify. From VAR to on-pitch referees, too often we don’t know why or how a decision was taken. When Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi make mistakes, we accept them as such. If referees were allowed to speak more openly, we might accept errors more readily.

18. That the last bastion of protectionism in the game — referees — be removed. The best leagues in the world attract talent from all over, from players and coaches to sporting directors, owners, physios and so on. But, with very few exceptions, refereeing remains a de facto closed shop. Strictly speaking, you don’t need to be Italian to referee in Serie A or English to referee in the Premier League, but you do have to be part of those countries’ refereeing associations. In practice, that rules out most foreigners unless they want to start near the bottom of the pyramid. Leagues should be free to hire the best they can find.

19. That the battle against racism, sexism, anti-gay behaviour and other bigotry continue to attract more and more support. There are many ways to fight the fight, so let’s not get bogged down on what might be performative or lip service. Instead, let’s do more to be inclusive; the world is changing for the better, and the game needs to keep up.

20. That women’s football be given a chance to grow on its own, marking its own path, rather than simply copying the men’s game. It went under the radar somewhat, but FIFA took a big step last month when it split out the commercial operation of its male and female competitions. There is no valid reason the strategy for growth among women — where, in real terms, the elite game is a few decades old — should be dictated by those who had a century-long head start.

21. That we get a biennial Women’s World Cup. Club football drives the men’s game, but we know international football drives it for the women; you only need to look at attendances and viewership of elite women’s leagues versus World Cups and continental championships to understand this. A biennial World Cup, plus a strong Nations League in each confederation, is the way forward, at least in the short term.

22. That we learn the lesson of the Chinese bubble. Remember the sport’s boom and president Xi Jinping’s 2016 ambition to win the World Cup in the next 15 years and become a world superpower by 2050? That looks unlikely to happen, given the team that won the Super League in 2020 was dissolved a few months later. There’s a lesson to be learned about growth being organic, sustainable and, above all, not top down.

23. That Christine Sinclair sticks around a few more years, making it tougher for Cristiano Ronaldo to break her international scoring record. OK, I jest. It’s apples and oranges, obviously. Ronaldo broke the men’s record in 2021 and is now at 115 goals for Portugal. Sinclair has 188 for Canada and, since I want Ronaldo to keep playing and breaking records for a long time, I like to think that reaching Sinclair’s mark — whatever it might be — should keep him going for many years.

24. That we one day we find out the truth about why Lionel Messi is no longer a Barcelona player. It might take forensic accounting. It might take truth serum. But I’d love to know what happened, because I simply don’t buy the explanation we got. Messi was in tears at leaving and later said he was never asked to play for free, while Barca president Joan Laporta said the club did everything to keep him. Maybe I’m wrong, but it just doesn’t add up.

LIVE ON ESPN+ (SELECTED GAMES)

THURSDAY, JAN. 6
• Zaragoza v Sevilla (11:55 a.m. ET)
• Arsenal v Liverpool (2:40 p.m. ET)
• Majadahonda v Atletico (3:25 p.m. ET)

25. That somebody explains to me whether Karim Benzema got really good all of a sudden or whether all the wise, highly paid football folk at Real Madrid over the past 13 years didn’t see what they had on their hands. Benzema was 21 when he arrived at the Bernabeu. For the first four years, he was in and out of the line-up. For the five after that, he played third fiddle in the BBC, doing the groundwork for fellow front men Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo. For the past three years, Benzema has been one of the best centre-forwards in the world and, finally, has gotten credit. How does that work?

26. That however well Manchester United do under interim boss Ralf Rangnick, they wait until the end of the season to choose whether he should be made permanent manager. They made that mistake before when, for absolutely no reason, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer got the full-time job three months before a decision was needed. Once bitten, twice shy, you’d think, but with this club you just don’t know. You’ve got a plan, stick to it. Take all the time you have to decide whether Rangnick should stay on the bench, whether he should take some kind of technical director role or whether you want to say “auf wiedersehen.”

27. That Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Mueller either stay or go out together. They’ve defined the past decade at Bayern Munich, are 33 and 32 respectively, and will both be out of contract in June 2023. Devising the right exit strategy for superstars isn’t easy. If they’re not going to stay, as a fan of both players, I’d rather Bayern just ripped off the Band-Aid.

28. That Juventus‘ majority shareholders, the Exor company, hold the folks running the club to account, not just for events on the pitch but for the negative publicity received. When you’re the biggest and most successful club, many folks will be jealous and dislike you, but over the past few seasons — from the Super League debacle to Luis Suarez‘s Italian language exam and a false accounting investigation — this club has received too much avoidable negative publicity.

29. That Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland continue to do what is best for them. Some argue that having family members influence your career can be detrimental, and in some cases that’s true. But with these two, it feels as if every step has been carefully designed with a long-term view. Haaland could have moved directly from Salzburg to a mega-club and made much more money. Mbappe could have moved to Real Madrid when he left Monaco. Instead, both took their time. And both face a major decision in 2022: Mbappe is a free agent, while Haaland might as well be, since he has a release clause far lower than his market value.

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-club bandwagon simply because that is what is pumped relentlessly onto screens. Yes, this is copied-and-pasted from previous years, but it’s worth repeating. And it’s the one wish over which we have the most control.

Why U.S. Soccer Couldn’t Get Half-Decent Teams For 2022 SheBelieves Cup

TRAVIS YOESTINGJANUARY 5, 2022  The18

THE COMPETITION LEVEL IN THE 2022 SHEBELIEVES CUP IS BY FAR THE WORST THE TOURNAMENT HAS EVER SEEN.

Despite pandemics and lawsuits, one constant for the U.S. women’s national team lately has been the SheBelieves Cup. Every year since 2016, the USWNT has hosted some of the best teams in the world in a four-team competition aimed at inspiring young women. Unfortunately, the 2022 SheBelieves Cup looks like it’ll be the least inspiring yet. U.S. Soccer unveiled the schedule for the 2022 SheBelieves Cup on Wednesday. As usual, the top-ranked USWNT is the main attraction. The rest of the three-team field, in years past filled by other top-10 teams, now doesn’t feature a single team in the top 15. Iceland, New Zealand and the Czech Republic will be in California and Texas to play in the 2022 SheBelieves Cup next month.Last year, Argentina was a late replacement for Japan, which pulled out of the 2021 SheBelieves Cup because of Covid-19 concerns. It marked the first time a team ranked above 13th in the world had participated in the competition. This year, all three of the USWNT’s opponents are ranked above 13th in the world. Iceland leads the pack with a No. 16 ranking followed by New Zealand (22) and the Czech Republic (24). Only Argentina last year (31st) has competed in the SheBelieves Cup with a lower ranking than these three nations.It’s a disappointing reality for the competition, which used to be comprised of top teams like Germany, France, England, Brazil and Japan. The U.S. couldn’t even entice reigning Olympic champion Canada to come south for the competition.So why is the 2022 SheBelieves Cup so disappointing compared to previous tournaments? Other competitions have proven more enticing.The biggest women’s competition early in 2022 is the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, held in India from Jan. 20-Feb. 6. This made it extremely unlikely the U.S. would be able to get top teams like Japan, Australia or South Korea to come to the States (plus the U.S. has played the latter two a lot recently). It makes sense Asian countries will want to focus on the tournament that is serving as 2023 Women’s World Cup qualifying. The harder pill to swallow is England starting its own February tournament to compete with the SheBelieves Cup — and immediately becoming the better competition.The English FA will host the inaugural Arnold Clark Cup during the same time period as the SheBelieves Cup. The four-team, round-robin competition is basically identical to the SheBelieves Cup, only without the U.S. This year, Germany, Spain and Canada will join England in Middlesbrough, Norwich and Wolverhampton. All four of those nations have previously competed in the SheBelieves Cup, but chose to compete in Europe ahead of the Women’s Euro 2022 this summer.You can’t blame these other countries for joining these other competitions, but it certainly will make for a boring 2022 SheBelieves Cup. Simply put, the USWNT will be expected to cruise past these three opponents without even getting out of first gear. The last time the U.S. dropped points to a team ranked 16th or lower in anything other than a friendly was a 2-2 draw with Colombia at the 2016 Olympics. But that doesn’t mean the competition will be a total waste of time. This is the perfect opportunity for coach Vlatko Andonovski test out younger players ahead of the Concacaf W Championship this summer. Iceland, New Zealand and the Czech Republic will provide more similar tests to what the U.S. will see in the Concacaf tournament, which will serve as qualifying for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. 

2022 SheBelieves Cup Schedule

Feb. 17 — Carson, California
Iceland vs. New Zealand, 8 p.m. ET
USA vs. Czech Republic, 11 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Feb. 20 — Carson, California
USA vs. New Zealand, 3 p.m. ET (ABC)
Czech Republic vs. Iceland, 6 p.m. ET

Feb. 23 — Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs. Czech Republic, 6 p.m. ET
USA vs. Iceland, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)

The 2022 SheBelieves Cup could be a chance for Trinity Rodman to break into the national team after she refused to go to Australia for the November 2021 friendlies. It could be a chance for Mal Pugh to prove she can be a World Cup starter. It could be the moment Catarina Macario announces herself as the best player on the USWNT. Who knows, maybe it’ll be a farewell tournament for Megan Rapinoe. Regardless of who is playing, we’ll still eagerly watch anytime the U.S. women’s national team takes the field. It’s disappointing this year’s tournament doesn’t feature the same high quality as previous editions, but it’s still international soccer, and it’s a great opportunity for the nations who were invited. The 2022 SheBelieves Cup comes at a bit of an awkward time. NWSL players report to their clubs for preseason training on Feb. 1, only to join up with the national team for a couple of weeks before starting the Challenge Cup in March. But the SheBelieves Cup will once again be a launching point for the USWNT in a calendar year, and I’ll never complain about more soccer to watch, even if the matches end up being snoozefests. 

SheBelieves Cup: USWNT announces field for February tournament

Nicholas Mendola

Wed, January 5, 2022, 12:51 PM

The United States women’s national team will be overwhelming favorites to comfortably win the 2022 SheBelieves Cup next month in California and Texas.The FIFA-ranked No. 1 USWNT will face No. 16 Iceland, No. 22 New Zealand, and No. 24 Czech Republic in what will be a challenging but relatively-straightforward tournament for a team moving into a new era with the retirement of Carli Lloyd and progress of Catarina Macario and Trinity Rodman.The Yanks have won the last two SheBelieves Cups and still have Alex Morgan, Becky Sauerbrunn, Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, and a host of magnificent talents and boast a tremendous record against the field.The USWNT is 16-1-1 all-time against New Zealand, has 12 wins and two draws in 14 matches against Iceland, and beat the Czech Republic in their only meeting back in 2000.Czechia won one match in 2021, against Cyprus, and was beaten 4-0 by Iceland. The Icelandic team only lost twice last year, to Italy and the Netherlands, and also boasts a win over Japan in the Netherlands plus a draw with Italy.New Zealand beat South Korea in a November friendly but lost all of its 2021 matches including a 6-1 pasting by the USWNT at the Olympics.The tournament should give USWNT boss Vlatko Andonovski a terrific opportunity to continue growing the experience levels of the next generation leading up a World Cup year in 2023.Andonovski has 28 wins, five draws, and two losses in an exceptional start to life at the helm but his Bronze Medal at the Olympics was only likely that color because of a lack of star turns from veterans in Tokyo.The program is tasked with identifying its next long-term goalkeeper — Jane Campbell seems the front runner — and will continue to develop Tierna Davidson, Alana Cook, Macario, Sophia Smith, and others.The United States has won four-of-six SheBelieves Cups and every field was significantly stronger than February’s cast.

2022 SheBelieves Cup schedule

Feb. 17 in Carson, Calif.
Iceland vs New Zealand, 8pm ET – ESPN
USWNT vs Czech Republic, 11pm ET

Feb. 20 in Carson, Calif.
USWNT vs New Zealand, 3pm ET – ABC
Czech Republic vs Iceland, 6pm ET

Feb. 23 in Frisco, Texas
New Zealand vs Czech Republic, 6pm ET
USWNT vs Iceland, 9pm ET – ESPN

Midseason grades for every Premier League team

Joe Prince-Wright  Mon, January 3, 2022, 6:55 PM

We’ve hit the midway point of the Premier League season and with the FA Cup break coming up, now is a good time to reflect on the first half of the campaign and dish out some grades.

Ah yes, the gradebook is open.From teams starting fast and floundering to others building momentum slowly, it has been a crazy first half of the 2021-22 Premier League season.Riveting? Yes. Fun? Absolutely. Predictable? Anything but.With all that in mind, below I’ve dished out a grade for each of the 20 Premier League teams based on their play so far and have some analysis on each.

Latest Premier League news

Premier League’s winners and losers of the Festive Fixtures Ralf Rangnick: Manchester United ‘overloaded’ as Wolves ‘deserved… Manchester United vs Wolves final score: Red Devils tamed at home

Arsenal: B+

There has been a ton of progress at Arsenal this season and I didn’t see it coming. Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, Martin Odegaard, Aaron Ramsdale and Albert Sambi Lokonga were the big summer additions and I thought the Gunners needed a few more new players in. But the likes of Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli, Gabriel and Bukayo Saka have been superb, alongside Ramsdale, Odegaard, White and Tomiyasu all becoming regulars. After a poor start to the season Arsenal have fought back admirably and Mikel Arteta should be applauded for getting the balance between youth and experience right, while also creating a new culture at the club. On the pitch they’re fun to watch and the next step is beating some of the big boys. Arsenal are serious top four contenders in the Premier League and that is a massive step forward.

Aston Villa: C

A poor start led to Dean Smith being fired and after the end to last season, there weren’t many complaints. The decline had been a gradual one over the last 12 months and hiring Steven Gerrard gave this talented Villa squad a proper kick up the backside. New signings Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia have taken time to settle in but John McGinn and Emiliano Martinez have been superb and Villa look like a comfortable midtable team. That is where they should be and if Gerrard can add a few key attacking players, next season they could push for a top six finish.

Brentford: A

What an addition to the Premier League the Bees have been. The new boys are pushing for a top 10 finish (23 points from 19 games so far), have given the big boys a real run for their money at home and they have an entertaining, full-throttle style of play. Manager Thomas Frank is a breath of fresh air too and Brentford are pretty much everyone’s favorite second team. If Ivan Toney and Bryan Mbeumo can get firing up top again a top 10 finish is not out of the question. Remarkable.

Brighton and Hove Albion: A-

Graham Potter’s side have been excellent so far this season and should be even higher in the table than ninth. The Seagulls play lovely stuff and were soaring early in the season as they edged tight games. They then hit a bumpy few months as goals dried up and they kept drawing games. Now they are back on track and pushing for European qualification. If Neal Maupay and Leandro Trossard can keep creating and scoring Brighton will easily finish in the top 10.

Burnley: D

A very poor season so far for the Clarets. Sean Dyche’s side are struggling to score goals (even though summer signing Maxwel Cornet has been sublime) but their play is more adventurous this season. They’ve won just one of their opening 17 games and sit in the bottom three, but are just two points from safety. Is this the season Burnley finally get relegated from the Premier League?

Chelsea: B

What a weird season this has been for Thomas Tuchel and Chelsea so far. They looked like the pacesetters early on and most believed they would win the title. But then Romelu Lukaku was injured and since then he’s spoken out about being unhappy and the wheels have come off due to injuries and coughing up late goals after not putting chances away. Chelsea sit 10 points off league leaders Man City but it feels like they could mount a huge winning streak in the second half of the season. Can they get their title bid back on track?

Crystal Palace: B

Patrick Vieira’s side are a lot of fun to watch and they are comfortably above the relegation zone. That is much better than most predicted and Conor Gallagher has been sensational, while Palace could be much higher in the table had they not conceded so many late goals. The big win at Man City was the highlight and Palace are no longer a counter-attacking team as they can mix things up and keep the ball. This young squad will do well and Vieira is an underrated manager.

Everton: D-

After such a great start under Rafael Benitez things have gone south. Badly. Injuries to Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison haven’t helped matters and they are just above the relegation battle. There have been some bright spots recently with a win against Arsenal and draw at Chelsea, but there’s isn’t much to smile about at Goodison. Benitez’s style of play isn’t great to watch and Everton’s entire squad needs an overhaul (once again), especially in defense. What a mess.

Leeds United: C-

Marcelo Bielsa’s side have too much quality to go down and injuries have hit them hard this season as they’ve had a bit of a second season slump. Being without Patrick Bamford and Kalvin Phillips for large chunks of the season has been rough and they have endured some heavy defeats. That said, they are well clear of the relegation zone and should be just fine.

Leicester City: C

A very peculiar season for the Foxes as Brendan Rodgers’ side have secured some big wins but they’ve been wildly inconsistent. Defensive injuries have hit them hard and they were knocked out of the Europa League, which was a huge shame. Jamie Vardy started off on fire but has struggled in recent weeks and they haven’t found any rhythm at all. Despite all of that they look primed to push for a top eight finish once again. Not bad, all things considered.

Liverpool: B

Jurgen Klopp had the Reds in a title fight until just before the festive period but some bad results and injuries have hit them hard at just the wrong time of the season. Liverpool will still be in the title race in the second half of the season and that is largely due to the brilliance of Mohamed Salah who has been consistently excellent and is  the best player on the planet right now. Defensively there have been some teething issues and midfield injuries has disrupted their flow. When they are fit and firing on all cylinders, Liverpool can still beat anyone in the Premier League and Champions League.

Manchester City: A-

A run of 11-straight wins through November and December has once again underlined the incredible squad depth Pep Guardiola has at his disposal. There were a few poor results early in the season but that was largely due to players not being up to speed after a busy summer. Jack Grealish has struggled to settle but City are clicking through the gears and Kevin de Bruyne is back to his best. City are threatening to runaway with the title as they aim to secure a fourth Premier League crown in five seasons.

Manchester United: D-

Just so many issues to sort out. So many. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lost his job after plenty of poor defeats and United sit in seventh place in the table, four points off the top four with a game in-hand. That doesn’t sound bad but the displays under interim boss Ralf Rangnick haven’t been good and there is talk of issues behind-the-scenes with the playing squad. David de Gea has won so many points for them and they look unorganized, Bruno Fernandes Harry Maguire are both having a nightmare and they look so disjointed and unable to control games. Add in the fact that Raphael Varane, Jadon Sancho and Cristiano Ronaldo have arrived and can’t seem to help consistently and this is a squad of very talented players that is underachieving massively. United were supposed to be battling for the Premier League title, not trying to sneak into the top four.

Newcastle United: F

An awful season so far. Steve Bruce was fired and Eddie Howe replaced him amid the Saudi Arabian-led takeover. One win from 19 games would usually see them cut adrift but remarkably they are just two points from safety as they enter the second half of the season. Newcastle can survive but they need to buy a new defense in January and hope Callum Wilson, Jonjo Shelvey and Allan Saint-Maximin stay fit. If all of that happens then then could just stay up. Just.

Norwich City: D-

The hugely likeable Daniel Farke was fired and Dean Smith hired and Norwich are hanging in there better than most people expected. They are three points from safety (four if you count goal difference) but don’t look like they will score enough goals to stay up. New additions are needed in January to give themselves a chance but will that actually happen? Probably not. Smith has to get the best out of Billy Gilmour, Teemu Pukki and Ozan Kabak to give themselves a chance of staying in the Premier League.

Southampton: C

After losing Danny Ings, Ryan Bertrand and Jannik Vestergaard last summer many people believed Saints would be relegated. They’ve actually done okay. James Ward-Prowse continues to be their main man and some of the youngsters Ralph Hasenhuttl has signed are very, very good with Tino Livramento and Armando Broja excellent. If Saints can keep improving defensively and put away a few more of their chances they can push for a top 10 finish. But if they start to struggle again at the back they could be sucked into a relegation battle. Big month or so coming up.

Tottenham Hotspur: C+

Nuno Espirito Santo didn’t last long despite a great start and now Antonio Conte is in charge, there’s a whole new dimension to Spurs. They are tough to beat and are grinding out wins and that is what it is all about under Conte. Harry Kane has yet to hit his stride and the balance of this team isn’t quite there yet. That said, Spurs are in the top four battle and are two points off fourth-place Arsenal with two games in hand. You’d fancy Conte to push them into the top four and Spurs should have brought him in this summer. Now they have, watch out.

Watford: C-

Xisco was fired after a very decent start and that was very much a Watford move. Claudio Ranieri has struggled since replacing him and although they are starting to look better defensively, it will be a relegation battle this season for the Hornets. Ranieri’s boys are very dangerous in attack as Emmanuel Dennis has been exceptional and Josh King and Ismaila Sarr (injured for the last month or so) cause problems. Watford have to shore things up at the back if they want to push away from the bottom three.

West Ham United: A-

Another sensational season for the Hammers, so far. David Moyes’ side have beaten Chelsea and Liverpool at home and are in the Europa League last 16 after a fine European campaign. Their small squad has largely stayed fit but injury issues with Michail Antonio, Kurt Zouma and Angelo Ogbonna threatened to derail their top four push. They’re still hanging in there and Declan Rice has been marvellous in midfield. The Hammers looked set for another top six finish and that would be an amazing achievement.

Wolverhampton Wanderers: A-

Did anybody see this coming? Wolves look very good under Bruno Lage as they play a more expansive style and have had some great results. Raul Jimenez is slowly getting back to his best and their 3-4-2-1 system is tough to break down. They draw a lot of games and the next step is taking more opportunities. They sit in eighth place and are seven points off the top four. Could they surge towards the Champions League spots in the second half of the season?

Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings

Joe Prince-Wright  Sun, January 2, 2022, 1:32 PM·3 min read

Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings were so much fun to dish out as plenty of superstars shone at Stamford Bridge in a classic Premier League encounter.  After Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah scored early to put Liverpool into a 2-0 lead, against the run of play, Chelsea came flying back before half time.  Mateo Kovacic scored a worldie to make it 2-1, then USMNT star Christian Pulisic made it 2-2. Both teams had chances to win it but goalkeepers Edouard Mendy and Caoimhin Kelleher stood tall, as a draw wasn’t great for either team as they aim to chase down Manchester City in the title race.  Below are marks out of 10 with the full Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings.

Chelsea player ratings

Edouard Mendy: 8 – Two fine stops from Salah and Mane in the second half. Solid.

Trevoh Chalobah: 6 – Poor mistake for Mane’s goal, but recovered well. Came off with a knock.

Thiago Silva: 6.5 – Solid as ever as he tried to calm things down. Did a job on Jota to keep him off the ball.

Antonio Rudiger: 6.5 – No marauding runs forward but did his job at the back.

Cesar Azpilicueta: 7 – Did well at RWB and RCB after he was smashed in the face by Mane early on. Kept his cool.

N’Golo Kante: 8 – He was everywhere, once again. Brilliant midfield display as he swept everything up. Lovely assist for Pulisic’s goal.

Mateo Kovacic: 8.5 – Stunning volley to start Chelsea’s rally. Lovely flicks and passes. On another level.

Marcos Alonso: 6.5 – Deliveries weren’t at his best and Salah did him on his goal, but always an option as he surged forward.

Mason Mount: 7 – Some nice passes and movement to knit midfield and attack together.

Christian Pulisic: 6.5 – Scored a crucial goal but missed a big chance early on. Never gave up and finished the game at RWB.

Kai Havertz: 6 – Didn’t get too many chances, but helped Chelsea look a lot better in attack. Maybe he will start over Romelu Lukaku?

Substitutions
Jorginho (70′ on for Chalobah): 6 – Settled things down and used all of his experience.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (79′ on for Havertz): 6 – Couldn’t get behind the Liverpool defense after coming on up top.

Liverpool player ratings

Caoimhin Kelleher: 8 – Youngster did superbly. Denied Pulisic twice, the first a great save at 0-0. Only 23 and has a bright future.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 6 – Clearance early on led to Pulisic’s chance. Couldn’t get forward much.

Ibrahima Konate: 6 – Solid enough, but still settling in at center back. His positioning was a little off at times.

Virgil van Dijk: 6.5 – Won plenty of balls in the air and calmed things down in the second half.

Kostas Tsimikas: 6.5 – Quality of his crosses not quite there but flew forward all the time. Standing in well for Robertson.

Jordan Henderson: 6 – Not his best game but kept battling away. Leadership skills key.

Fabinho: 6 – See above. Caught in possession in bad areas a few times, which is unlike him. Tough to play against Kovacic and Kante.

James Milner: 6 – See above. All three Liverpool central midfielders struggled to dictate the tempo but they battled away.

Mohamed Salah: 8 – Brilliant goal and could have scored a lovely chip in the second half but Mendy denied him Now he’s off to represent Egypt and Liverpool will miss him massively.

Diogo Jota: 6 – Very, very quiet as Thiago Silva and Rudiger did a job on him.

Sadio Mane: 6.5 – Lovely finish for his goal and Mendy denied him a second. But lucky to stay on the pitch after his early challenge on Azpilicueta.

Substitutions
Naby Keita (69′ on for Milner): 6 – Didn’t get on the ball but worked hard.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (69′ on for Jota): 6 – See above. A few times he could’ve launched counters.
Curtis Jones (90′ on for Mane): N/A

Africa Cup of Nations schedule, standings, odds, how to watch, more

Nicholas Mendola  NBC Sports Wed, January 5, 2022, 1:30 PM

The first Africa Cup of Nations to be played in Cameroon since 1972 begins Sunday when the hosts begin Group A play against Burkina Faso at 11am ET.A tournament ripe with Premier League players and prospects holds sway over an entire continent for nearly a month until the final is staged Feb. 6, and we’ve got your schedule and standings here.There has not been a repeat winner or finalist at AFCON since Egypt won at home in 2006 before claiming the 2008 tournament title in Ghana and the 2010 edition in Angola, with Algeria and Senegal holding hopes of bucking that trend in February.Algeria beat Senegal 1-0 in 2019 to triumph in Egypt and become the seventh nation to win multiple AFCONs, following Democratic Republic of Congo (1968, 1974), Ivory Coast (1992, 2015), Nigeria (1980, 1994, 2013), Ghana (1963, 1965, 1978, 1982), Cameroon (1984, 1988, 2000, 2002, 2017), and Egypt (1957, 1959, 1986, 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010).Below you’ll find the tables, schedules, how to watch info, and outright odds for the winner of AFCON.

2021 Africa Cup of Nations group tables

Group A

Burkina Faso
Cape Verde
Cameroon
Ethiopia

Group B

Guinea
Malawi
Senegal
Zimbabwe

Group C

Comoros
Gabon
Ghana
Morocco

Group D

Egypt
Guinea-Bissau
Nigeria
Sudan

Group E

Algeria
Ivory Coast
Equatorial Guinea
Sierra Leone

Group F

Gambia
Mali
Mauritania
Tunisia

How to watch Africa Cup of Nations in USA

Kickoff dates: Jan. 9 – Feb. 6
Location: Cameroon
TV Channel: BeIn Sports (select games)
Stream: BeIn Sports Xtra

2021 Africa Cup of Nations (in 2022) schedule

Sunday, January 9

Cameroon vs Burkina Faso, 11am ET
Ethiopia vs Cape Verde, 3pm ET

Monday, January 10

Senegal vs Zimbabwe, 8am ET
Morocco vs Ghana, 11am ET
Guinea vs Malawi, 11am ET
Comoros vs Gabon, 2pm ET

Tuesday, January 11

Algeria vs Sierra Leone, 8am ET
Nigeria vs Egypt, 11am ET
Sudan vs Guinea-Bissau, 2pm ET

Wednesday, January 12

Tunisia vs Mali, 8am ET
Mauritania vs Gambia, 11am ET
Equatorial Guinea vs Ivory Coast, 2pm ET

Thursday, January 13

Cameroon vs Ethiopia, 11am ET
Cape Verde vs Burkina Faso, 2pm ET

Friday, January 14

Senegal vs Guinea, 8am ET
Morocco vs Comoros, 11am ET
Malawi vs Zimbabwe, 11am ET
Gabon vs Ghana, 2pm ET

Saturday, January 15

Nigeria vs Sudan, 11am ET
Guinea-Bissau vs Egypt, 2pm ET

Sunday, January 16

Gambia vs Mali, 8am ET
Tunisia vs Mauritania, 11am ET
Ivory Coast vs Sierra Leone, 11am ET
Algeria vs Equatorial Guinea, 2pm ET

Monday, January 17

Cape Verde vs Cameroon, 11am ET
Burkina Faso vs Ethiopia, 11am ET

Tuesday, January 18

Malawi vs Senegal, 11am ET
Zimbabwe vs Guinea, 11am ET
Gabon vs Morocco, 2pm ET
Ghana vs Comoros, 2pm ET

Wednesday, January 19

Egypt vs Sudan, 2pm ET
Guinea-Bissau vs Nigeria, 2pm ET

Thursday, January 20

Ivory Coast vs Algeria, 11am ET
Sierra Leone vs Equatorial Guinea, 11am ET
Gambia vs Tunisia, 2pm ET
Mali vs Mauritania, 2pm ET

Sunday, January 23 – Wednesday, January 26 —- Round of 16

Saturday, January 29 – Sunday, January 30 —- Quarterfinals

Wednesday, February 2 – Thursday, February 3—- Semifinals

Sunday, February 6 — Third-place game and Final

12/24/21 Happy Holidays to All, US Men beat Bosnia Move to #11 in World, Holiday Game schedule from EPL

So we finally got a Free month Account for Apple TV and watched the first 2 seasons of Ted Lasso.  OMG – now our favorite show !!  All I can saw is Be a Gold Fish !!   

US Men Win

So the US Men finished out the year with most wins in 1 year as they notched their 17th win with a last minute 1-0 win over a 10 man Bosnia last week.  The win helped launch the US into the Top 11 in the World in FIFA’s World Rankings -1 above defending World Cup winner Germany.  The US men needed a tap in at the 87th minute mark as MF Cole Bassett tapped in a deflection shot from Louisville left back Jonathan Gomez just 5 minutes after checking in to claim the winner for the US.  The US dominated possession 78-22 especially in the 2nd half after a Bosnia player was sent off for a dirty tackle late in the first half.  The US welcomed winger Jordan Morris back for the first time in 2 years as he seems to have mostly recovered from his MCL tear last winter in England.  Overall the youngsters looked pretty good except for US Young Player of the Year Ricardo Pepi who missed a tap in and continued his scoreless run of US games to 4 overall.  Again the US dominated play – but just couldn’t break down the camped in Bosnian’s in the 2nd until the end.  Cardoso started at the 6 and was horrific giving way EVERY single pass he made until finally giving was to a better Jackson Yuell.  Roldan had some decent combos but continued to show why Musah is 10 times than he ever dreamed of being.  (Yes an 8 can take the ball forward like Musah and unlike Roldan).  Not sure why Acosta plays every game as he once proved he can’t play the 8  – his service on free balls was like a 14 year old and his passing in the middle – lets just say he’s a fine emergency sub dmid for Adams – but it was another full waste to see him in the attacking #8 slot where he should never see the field for the US.  Oh well  – we did get a chance to see Henry Kessler in the back with Walker Zimmerman in the middle and the 2 were fantastic.  In fact Kessler’s pinpoint passing out of the back was reminencent of what John Brooks used to do before he lost his touch and his speed earlier this year.  Bello was ok at best on the left back while Brooks Lennon the 18 year old from Atlanta United had some good moments but nothing spectacular on the right side back in his debut.  Turner did turn in his record setting 9th shutout for the US in one year.  All in all the game really sucked and I am sorry I watched it – but I am a sucker and this was just a nice little warm up game so who cares..  The MLS boys will be back for another 2 week camp in January as Berhalter prepares to ready the team for the critical 3 game qualifying window in late Jan and early Feb vs El Salvador (in Columbus), Jan 27, Canada on the road Jan 30 and Honduruas in Minnesota Feb 2.

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0) 

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)  

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

EPL Leads the Holiday Schedule and moves to USA Network Jan 1  

Boxing day leads the EPL into extremely congested Holiday schedule with games every day of the week and of course cancelations for Covid all around.  Check the full schedule below as games run on NBCSN and USA Network and of course the pay Peacock until games officially flip to USA Network on New Year’s Day as NBCSN will be no more.  Of course USA Network has about 3 times the cable subscribers which should lead to more fans watching in the US as we move into 2020. With all the Covid issues – American Christian Pulisic has been thrust into a starting role as the #9 for Chelsea – with some success and of course some frustrations.  He’s not a #9 – but at least he’s getting game time.  Sunday 12:30 Boxing Day has Chelsea traveling to Aston Villa vs Steven Gerard’s team.  Tues gives us a battle of top 6 battler Arsenal vs Southampton at 10 am on NBCSN , followed by Leicester vs Liverpool @ 3 pm on NBCSN. New Year’s day/weekend gives us a USA Network set of powerhouse games with Arsenal hosting league leaders Man City at 7:30 am Sat, followed by Chelsea hosting Liverpool at 11:30 am on Sunday. 

Interesting Perspective on the power of Soccer here — Soccer punctuated a WWI Christmas truce between British and German soldiers. 

Congrats to former Indy 11 GK Jordan Farr for his run in the playoffs and being in the running for the Save of the Week for the year Honors in USL.

Indy 11 launches its first WSL team with 3 former Carmel High school  players on the roster.  Katie Soderstrom, Krisina Lynch and Molly McGlaghlin all played their club ball for Indiana Fire in Indy will suit up for the Indy 11s inaugural womens season.   

Indy Eleven has penned the first three players to its inaugural women’s senior team roster. Forwards Katie Soderstrom and Kristina Lynch, and midfielder Molly McLaughlin are among the first players signed in USL W League history. Get to know the club’s first signings here!

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sun,  Dec 26

10 am NBCSN                      West Ham vs Southampton

10 am USA                            Tottenham vs Crystal Palace

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

3 pm NBCSN                        Brighton vs Brentford 

Mon,  Dec 27

3 pm NBCSN                        New Castle United vs Man United

Tues,  Dec 28

7:30 am NBCSN                  Arsenal vs Wolverhampon

10 am  NBCSN                     Southampton vs Tottenham

12:30 pm NBCSN                Leeds United vs Aston Villa

3 pm NBCSN                        Leicester City vs Liverpool 

Wed,  Dec 29

2:30 pm Peacock                Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Brighton 

3:15 pm NBCSN                  Brentford vs Man City

Thur,  Dec 30

3 pm NBCSN                         Man United vs Burnley

Sat, Jan 1

7:30 am USA                        Arsenal vs Man City 

10 am  USA                          Watford vs Tottenham 

12:30 pm USA                     Crystal Palace vs West Ham United 

Sun, Jan 2

8 am ESPN+                          Getafe vs Real Madrid

9 am  USA                             Everton vs Brighton   

11:30 am USA                     Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Liverpool 

3 pm ESPN+                          Mallorca vs Barcelona 

Mon,  Jan 3

?? ESPN+                               Man United vs Wolverhampton (league cup semis)

?? ESPN+                               Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Tottenham (league cup semis)

Thur,  Jan 6

12:30 pm Paramount+      Milan vs Roma

2:45 Para+                            Juventus (McKennie) vs Napoli

Fri,  Jan 7

2:30 pm ESPN+                    Bayern Munich vs MGladbach (Joe Scally) 

Fri,  Jan 27

7:30 pm ESPN2                   USMNT vs El Salvador

Sun,  Jan 30

3:30 pm Paramount+        USMNT @ Canada

Tues,  Jan 27

7:30 pm FS1                         USMNT vs Honduras

USMNT

U.S. can take away plenty of positives from low-key Bosnia friendly Kyle Bonagura

Bassett nets late goal in U.S. win over Bosnia

US Men End Positive Year with 17th Win – SI Brian Straus
Experimental, young USMNT beats Bosnia in friendly

Cole Bassett’s late goal gives U.S. men’s soccer team a record-setting victory

USA v Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2021 Friendly: What we Learned  By Adnan Ilyas

2021 USMNT December Friendly: USA 1-0 Bosnia-Herzegovina – Camp Candycane delivers a white elephant

https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/three-takeaways-as-usmnt-close-2021-with-win-over-bosnia-herzegovina?fbclid=IwAR1eGuz-7GUjbCRfaiyXpNHEpuUwlfAkhuSarfY-Z2l3yGFRbavgrwjVLdQ

https://www.mlssoccer.com/news/usmnt-player-ratings-bassett-roldan-and-zimmerman-impress-in-win-over-bosnia

USMNT’s Pepi: Olympic snub a ‘turning point’
USMNT striker Pefok scores 4 for Young Boys in Swiss league

USMNT Yunas Musah Scores in Copa Del Rey – SI  

Previewing the U.S. U-20 cycle: decent starting point but a lot of work ahead with little time

Mexico loses appeal of two-match stadium ban  

EPL 

Alisson relives goal that saved Liverpool’s season
Premier League to play on during Covid chaos

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

Can Thomas Tuchel stop the slide at Chelsea?
Ian Darke
Thomas Tuchel fumes at COVID rules as Chelsea drop more points

Tottenham vs Liverpool final score: Thrill-a-minute 4-goal draw

Why NBC Sports Network’s Shutdown This Month Could Be a Sign of Cable TV’s Bleak Future

WORLD

World Soccer’s Top 10 Stories of 2021
Bundesliga hits the halfway point and everything that’s new is old

Lewandowski bags record as Bayern go nine points clear in Germany

Barca’s young guns deliver late win over Elche, Atletico undone by Sevilla

Juve battle through fog to win at Bologna, Roma down Atalanta

Buffon: Juventus lost ‘DNA’ after Ronaldo arrival

Will Europe-South America plan to curb FIFA’s World Cup revamp do more harm than good?

USMNT Caps Memorable, Productive 2021 With One Last Late Winner

The USMNT has its sights on securing a return ticket to the World Cup, but first, a more experimental set of players with varying individual outlooks put an appropriate cap on the year.BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

For six hectic and challenging months, the U.S. men’s national team played games of consequence—finals and qualifiers contested in packed stadiums or hostile environments that offered a shot at a regional title, or priceless progress on the road to the World Cup. Then came Saturday night. In a rare and relatively quiet December friendly that served as an anticlimactic conclusion to a memorable year and a bridge to what’s expected to be another one, the Americans barely but deservedly defeated 10-man Bosnia-Herzegovina, 1–0, at the LA Galaxy’s Dignity Health Sports Park. U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter’s squad was stocked almost entirely with MLS players looking to stay fit during the domestic offseason, while 61st-ranked Bosnia brought a collection of Premijer Liga hopefuls and started eight international debutants.Cole Bassett, the 20-year-old Colorado Rapids midfielder, made his own international debut as a second-half substitute and scored the only goal on an 89th-minute rebound.Played outside a FIFA international break, this was not a game of consequence. And it showed. Atmosphere and precision were lacking and the pace frequently flagged. But there was a chance the match would resonate in the record book and, more importantly, when World Cup qualifying restarts at the end of January. That was reason enough to play it. And if you’re going to play, you may as well try to win. So Berhalter fielded about as strong a lineup as he could, deploying qualifying regulars like Matt Turner, Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta, Cristian Roldan and Ricardo Pepi against the modest Bosnian XI. He also sent Seattle Sounders star Jordan Morris back onto the field in a U.S. jersey for the first time in two years. Getting Morris closer to World Cup fitness as he returns from ACL surgery was, by itself, another good reason to play this month. He went 77 minutes and was threatening on several occasions in the first half.“He’s trying to work off that rust and he’s doing a great job,” Berhalter said of Morris. “I’m excited to see what he can do in January. Hopefully it ends up being with the qualifying team.”Saturday’s victory was the national team’s 17th this year (17-2-3). That set a new program record, breaking the mark established in 2013. For just about everyone but Bassett, the satisfaction that accompanies that achievement will last a lot longer than memories of the night it was achieved. “In the end, we have something to be proud of,” Berhalter said. “We know there’s a lot of work still to be done, but happy with the effort of this group—particularly to show the resiliency to keep fighting and keep competing.”The Americans can be proud, but new challenges are coming quickly and this match was more about setting the stage. The U.S. is in second place (4-1-3) in Concacaf’s qualifying Octagonal, only one point out of first but also just one above fourth, which would mean a winner-take-all, one-game playoff next June in Qatar against a team from Oceania. By the time the Americans face El Salvador, Canada and Honduras Jan. 27-Feb. 2, Berhalter’s MLS contingent would have been dormant for months. He had to build that bridge. So there was a two-week camp in Southern California punctuated by Saturday’s game, and there will be two more weeks of training before the FIFA window officially opens next month. “The whole idea is to keep the guys moving, especially guys in Major League Soccer,” Berhalter said Friday when explaining his goals for this winter. “Then we have another three weeks off where they have a program to do, and then we get back into camp. … So we’re hitting the ground running [in January] and it’ll be a very similar focus. Because if we want to compete like we do in this [qualifying] window, it’s going to be essential to have these guys fit.”But while focused on fitness against Bosnia, the U.S. appeared to forget about finishing. The match nearly hinged on the Americans’ inability to convert their chances, especially in the first half. Pepi missed a sitter in the 14th minute, misjudging and then whiffing on a beautiful low cross from U.S. debutant Brooks Lennon, the Atlanta United right back. Pepi, who was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Player of the Year earlier Saturday, made a massive splash this fall when he tallied three goals across two qualifiers. But he hasn’t scored since—that’s a stretch of five internationals and four MLS matches.Morris nearly struck in the 31st minute, but his diving, point-blank header was well saved by Bosnia’s Nikola Ćetković. The visitors were reduced to 10 eight minutes later, when Amar Begić, a 20-year-old playing in his first senior international, was ejected after tackling Acosta late and high. The U.S. failed to capitalize, however, and created little during a second half marked by lots of possession (the U.S. finished the game with 73.5%), little final product and subs by both sides. The Americans relied primarily on crosses and were rarely threatening. Berhalter called the red card “the worst thing that happened” during the match because it prompted Bosnia to play more compactly.The subs, or “solutions,” as Berhalter likes to call them, finally came to the rescue late. Gyasi Zardes won a loose ball and touched it back to Jonathan Gomez, the Louisville City fullback who’s on his way to Real Sociedad. The 18-year-old whipped in a dangerous shot—its pace and accuracy were noticeable on a night of shanks and slices. Bosnia’s goalkeeper could only knock it down, and Bassett was there to finish it off. He also scored five MLS goals in 2021. “Cole’s a guy that shows up and scores goals. We were seeing that during the week with his finishing ability and he showed that again tonight,” Berhalter said, adding that assistant coach Anthony Hudson, who used to manage the Rapids, advocated for Bassett’s 78th-minute entry.It was a fitting end to a year in which so many games with far greater stakes were won late, from the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals clinched in extra time to three qualifying victories sealed in the final 25 minutes. It’s become part of this program’s identity, and Berhalter will hope the newest addition to that list offers some momentum going forward as well.“All this group is, is a point on the timeline of the USMNT. It’s a very special heritage. To be part of this is very special, and to really embrace that,” Berhalter said Saturday. “And when the guys had the opportunity to be able to get the win today, to have the record for wins in a year, they embraced it. It wasn’t pretty, but you saw the grit and determination that they needed and we pulled through.”

USA vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2021 friendly: Man of the Match

 veteran’s big return earned the honors.  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Dec 20, 2021, 7:00am PST

ended their 2021 with a 1-0 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina on Saturday night. The 89th minute goal by Cole Bassett was the difference for the USMNT in a match where Bosnia’s Amar Begić received a straight red card in the 40th minute. Despite the man advantage, the USMNT left it very late with the Bassett goal to set the record for wins in a calendar year.

There were a few notable performances, but overall the SSFC community rated the players with mostly 5s and 6s. It was the performance of a veteran that earned the top honors, as Jordan Morris had the highest rating and won SSFC Man of the Match with his play.

Here’s how you in the SSFC community rated everyone’s performance:

Jordan Morris – 6.88

Walker Zimmerman – 6.65

Matt Turner – 6.59

Cole Bassett – 6.43

Jonathan Gomez – 6.30

Henry Kessler – 5.57

Bryan Reynolds – 5.52

Brooks Lennon – 5.41

Johnny Cardoso – 5.23

Jesús Ferreira – 5.06

USMNT goals for 2022 World Cup year: Qualify, play the best players, figure out style, escape the group

https://a.espncdn.com/photo/2021/1217/r952263_1000x667_3-2.jpg

Dec 17, 2021Ryan O’HanlonWhat a weird year, huh? You can apply that to anything, of course, and the United States Men’s National Team was no exception.

First, they scraped by Honduras at home in the semifinals of the Nations League, saved by a last-minute header from Jordan Pefok. Then they played Mexico toe-to-toe, came back multiple times, won 3-2 in extra time and got pelted by beers. Then their European stars all went home, but they won the Gold Cup anyway, beating Mexico in the final, again. And a full-strength Mexico, to boot: Napoli‘s Hirving Lozano, Ajax’s Edson Alvarez, Atletico Madrid‘s Hector Herrera were all there!

It didn’t seem to matter who was on the field. Gregg Berhalter’s team were the kings of CONCACAF once again.And then… World Cup qualifying started. A scoreless draw at El SalvadorSure, any road point is a good point. A tie at home with CanadaHey man, Alphonso Davies is the best player in North America. A 1-0 halftime deficit in Honduras? Anyone have Bruce Arena’s phone number? And then, as we all remember, they rolled off four goals in the final 45 for a three-goal victory. That was followed by a dominant win against Jamaica, and all was well again.

Psych! Then they got dominated in Panama, losing, 1-0 and… OK, you probably get the pattern now. Next was an easy win over Costa Rica, then was a truly dominant dos-a-cero against Mexico, and then was a wet fart in Jamaica that ended 1-1, but probably should’ve been a loss.

When it comes to the U.S. men, the sky is always falling, the team is always rising — all at the same time. With one friendly left against Bosnia to go in 2021, it’s been a successful, if chaotic, year for the USMNT. So, it’s time to look ahead: What do we want to see from the team in 2022?

1. Just qualify, OK?

It doesn’t matter how, JUST DO IT.

Right now, CONCACAF has four teams fighting for three automatic spots. With six games remaining, Canada’s on 16 points, the U.S. on 15, and Mexico and Panama tied at 14. No-one else has more than nine points, and no-one outside of those four teams has a positive goal differential. But if the US somehow slips outside of the top three, they just need to avoid total collapse in order to finish fourth, which would mean a one-game playoff against the winner of the Oceania region: likely New Zealand.

2. Get your best players on the field together, just one time!

The main reason to be hopeful of a better tomorrow for a team that hasn’t reached the quarterfinals of a World Cup in two decades — and, you know, missed the last one completely — is the quality of the player pool. More specifically, it’s because of five guys.

There’s Christian PulisicChelsea‘s $70 million man. There’s Giovanni Reyna, who doesn’t turn 20 for nearly another full year and has already started 32 Bundesliga and Champions League games for Borussia Dortmund. There’s Sergino Dest, a starter at Ajax and then Barcelona. There’s Weston McKennie, a starter with Juventus. And there’s Tyler Adams, who scored a winning goal in the Champions League quarterfinals and has been one of Europe’s best swiss-Army knives for RB Leipzig.

They’re all 23 or younger. They’re all consistently playing for some of the biggest clubs in the world. And they’ve never appeared on the field together for the USMNT.

3. Figure out the center-forward spot

Uh, what? We’ve got Ricardo Pepi, dude.

Pepi is a great… prospect. He’s only 18, and he’s already scored 15 goals and played more than 2,500 minutes for FC Dallas. Players who play that much and produce that often at a young age tend to turn out pretty well. But that’s the future — not now, when the U.S. still needs to qualify for, and then play in, a World Cup.

Over the past calendar year, per the site FBref, Pepi ranks in the 90th percentile of MLS strikers in non-penalty goals… and no other attacking-related categories. At the site American Soccer Analysis, they’re created a stat called “goals added” (G+) that quantifies all of a player’s on-ball actions to determine how much value he adds to the team. Over the past season, Pepi added minus-1.95 goals to FC Dallas. How? Because he scores some goals and just doesn’t really contribute anywhere else on the field. Even his goal-scoring is a little inflated, too, as he’s on a bit of a finishing hot streak: 13 goals on 10.1 xG.

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In World Cup qualifying, it’s been a similar story. He’s scored three goals on 2.45 xG and he’s averaging 28 touches per 90 minutes — the fewest of all 34 players (including keepers) who have appeared in the Octagonal for the U.S. so far.

The wider tactical trend, too, is away from these kinds of “goals-only” center-forwards and toward more well-rounded players who contribute in all phases of play. Or: the kind of players the U.S. currently has lots of.

In addition to those five stars, Brenden Aaronson and Tim Weah are both playing significant minutes at Champions League clubs this season, and they’ve both spent time at center-forward for Red Bull Salzburg and Lille respectively. Pulisic has also moon-lit as a false 9 at Chelsea. None of them are pure goal scorers, but for the U.S., they’re all getting on the ball as often, or more often, in the box than Pepi does.

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Dan Thomas is joined by Craig Burley, Shaka Hislop and others to bring you the latest highlights and debate the biggest storylines. Stream on ESPN+ (U.S. only).

With Pulisic and Reyna back in the picture, there might only be three attacking spots available between the two of them, Aaronson and Weah. That’s four players, performing at a high level at the highest level. Should three goals in six games be enough to prevent Pepi from falling behind any of them in the pecking order?

4. Play one (1) normal game

Broadly speaking, the USMNT looks like a modern soccer team: they push the ball into the final-third and then keep it there by pressuring their opponents into turnovers. Through eight games, they’ve completed the largest proportion of final-third passes in their matches (known as “field tilt”) and only El Salvador has held its opponents to a lower pass-completion percentage.

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This is who they were against Mexico. They pushed the field tilt to 62 percent, and they’re the only team to hold El Tri below an 80-percent completion percentage. While the two trophy wins over Mexico were helter-skelter chaos, this was just controlled dominance: 18 shots to 8.

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But despite that game’s characteristics hewing closer to the team’s average qualities, it’s really the only match that’s looked like that. The opener against El Salvador was a wild track meet, where the U.S.’s average uninterrupted possession lasted for 5.4 seconds and 44 percent of their passes were played forward — the shortest time and most passes across the eight matches.

In the next match against Canada, the possessions lasted for 12.5 seconds and they played 25 percent of their passes forward — longest and least across the eight matches. And against Honduras, the field was tilted toward their opponents (45 percent for the US). Against Jamaica, the match featured just 87 possessions, compared to an average of 95 across all the games. Against Panama, that dipped down to 84 as the U.S. played a bunch of long balls and allowed their opponents to complete over 80 percent of their passes.

Things looked pretty good against an ancient Costa Rica team and Mexico, before the re-match with Jamaica, where the US allowed a PPDA (essentially, opponent passes allowed per defensive action in your attacking third) of 26.63. Their average across the eight games is 9.92.

Do you want to press and possess? Do you want matches where the ball is turning over constantly? Do you want to force passes forward? Do you want to move up the field slowly? Do you want to absorb pressure and counter?

All of the best national teams have some kind of identity; you know, roughly, how they’re going to play. Three years into Berhalter’s tenure, we still have no idea what the U.S. is going to look like in any given game.

5. Pick a keeper and stick with him

Matt Turner is just a much better shot-stopper than Zack Steffen. It’s an inarguable fact.

Per Stats Perform, the average keeper would be expected to concede 10.74 goals from the shots Turner faced in his 11 starts for the U.S. in 2021; he allowed four. Steffen, meanwhile, has faced shots worth 4.52 goals in his six starts, and he’s allowed five. Put more simply, Turner has started 11 matches and conceded four goals. Steffen has started six and conceded five. Their performances for their club teams, dating back to Steffen’s time in Columbus, backs this all up, too. Turner is one of the best keepers in league history; Steffen was a below-average shot-stopper.

After starting Turner for the first five matches of qualifying, Berhalter switched to Steffen ahead of the home match against Jamaica because of his ability on the ball. “We were looking at the games and how they were unfolding and were saying there’s more possession that we can be keeping in these games that we’re not,” Berhalter said at the time. “We think Zack is stronger with his feet, and we made that decision based on that.”

While I might not agree with this value judgment — stop over-complicating things, Turner will save more goals than Steffen — I think Berhalter needs to be aware of the argument he’s making here and stick to it.

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There was already a seemingly needless keeper controversy when Turner got benched for Steffen the first time around; the U.S. doesn’t need another one. The reality behind this decision is that the U.S. is going to concede goals that Turner would have saved. We saw it against Costa Rica and Jamaica already.

That’s going to keep happening, too — and it’s going to raise questions over the position again — but Berhalter is arguing that the hidden value in Steffen’s feet will more than make up for the goals he concedes. And if he’s not arguing that, well, Turner never should have lost the job in the first place.

6. Go for a run in Hamilton…

One of my personal favorite subplots of this qualifying cycle is Berhalter’s pre-game routine. Before the match against Canada, he was spotted running through downtown Nashville in his full USMNT get-up, holding his phone in his hand, while a couple fans cheered him on. Other USMNT supporters have told me they’ve spotted him doing similar cardio work through various other downtown metropoli that have hosted qualifying games this cycle.

I have a lot of questions: Can we get the guy some wireless headphones? How ’bout some shorts with pockets? Perhaps some attire that doesn’t scream “I AM USMNT MANAGER?” Or maybe he wants to be spotted? I don’t know. It’s all very strange, but if it’s truly a necessary pre-game ritual that Berhalter has adopted, then I want to see him do it, conditions be damned, before the upcoming Canada match in late January, in Hamilton, Ontario.

7. … and win a game there while you’re at it

The idea that “any road point is a good point in CONCACAF” was maybe true when the USMNT didn’t have Champions League starters up and down the roster, plus a number of backups also playing overseas. But it shouldn’t be now. Despite playing a much harder home schedule so far — i.e. they played Canada and Mexico at home — Berhalter’s side have been way stronger Stateside.

– Home: 68.5 percent field tilt, 1.90 xG/game, 0.67 xG against/game
– Away: 52.5 percent field tilt, 1.10 xG/game, 0.97 xGA/game

That’s somewhat sobering reading given the road matches against Canada and Mexico still to come, but quite simply, the U.S. now has easily the best and deepest player pool in CONCACAF. They should be able to go anywhere in North America — Hamilton, Costa Rica, and yes, the Azteca in Mexico City — play on their own teams, and win a game.

8. Get out of your group

There’s a long way to go, but the next World Cup is already less than a year away. A lot can change over that span. Injuries will happen — bad form will, too — while stars and starters can also appear out of nowhere. But the U.S. has reached a point where even if one of its top prospects doesn’t pan out or one of its main stars misses a major tournament, there’s still enough talent to make up for it.

Given how young the roster is and where the next tournament will be, 2026 seems like the World Cup to target for the U.S. to really do some damage. But according to just about any rating system out there, the U.S. is currently one of the 16 best teams in the world. They’ve got 12 months to prove it.

USMNT’s Ricardo Pepi: Olympic squad snub a ‘turning point in my career’

Dec 17, 2021Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer

Roughly nine months since being left off the United States‘ Olympic qualifying roster, USMNT and FC Dallas striker Ricardo Pepi called the snub a turning point to his season.”It just made me hungry,” Pepi said Friday. “It made me hungry to go on for the year. To do good for my club, do good for the national team and it was a turning point, for sure, in my career.”Pepi was included in the initial 31-player training camp ahead of the CONCACAF men’s Olympic qualifying championship in Guadalajara, Mexico, in early March, but didn’t make the cut when the roster was trimmed to 20 players. The team failed to qualify for the delayed Tokyo games and three of the four forwards on that roster — Jonathan Lewis, Benji Michel and Sebastian Soto — have not been involved in the mix for the senior side.Since being left off the squad, though, Pepi has experienced a meteoric rise that has seen him establish himself as the starting No. 9 for the United States during World Cup qualifying. Pepi is one of a handful of players expected to start in Saturday’s international friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina in Carson, California, that is being used to keep the players sharp ahead of next month’s three-match qualifying window.After scoring 13 goals for FC Dallas in 2021, Pepi has been the subject of speculation about a European transfer, but he stayed coy about his club plans, steering the focus toward the USMNT.”That moment is not yet to be decided,” Pepi said. “I feel like I have a game here ahead of me and that’s my main focus at the moment. I feel like we got to focus on the game and whatever happens is gonna happen, but we just got to be patient.”Pepi, 18, chose to play for the United States over Mexico in August and since appeared in six qualifying matches and scored three goals.The United States roster also includes Jonathan Gomez, a former teammate of Pepi in the FC Dallas academy and with North Texas SC in USL League One. Like Pepi, Gomez has the option to play for Mexico or the United States, and trained with El Tri during the summer. He is headed to Real Sociedad in Spain when the transfer window open in January after spending the last two seasons with Louisville City in the USL Championship.Pepi called Gomez’s decision about his international future a person one and that he is willing to be a sounding board for him or anyone faced with similar decision.”I’m always open to talk to them,” he said. “I always try to just tell him, ‘Do whatever you think is best. Go with your heart.”

CBS to Air Six Champions League Round-of-16 Matches on Broadcast TV

ANDREW GASTELUM Six Champions League round of 16 matches, including both home and away PSG-Real Madrid and Liverpool-Inter fixtures, will air on CBS’s main TV channel this winter. The round-of-16 fixtures were announced—twice—earlier this month after UEFA’s first draw was nullified after Manchester United was erroneously drawn with a team from the same group and left out of Atlético Madrid’s pot.  While a redo of the draw might have deprived fans of a Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Lionel Messi showdown in the original PSG-Manchester United fixture, CBS will still show Messi on its main channel for the first knockout game when PSG faces off against Real Madrid on Feb. 15. CBS will also broadcast the return fixture on March 9. Along with both Liverpool-Inter fixtures on Feb. 16 and March 8, CBS will also show the Chelsea-Lille first leg on Feb. 22 and the Atlético Madrid-Manchester United first leg on Feb. 23 on broadcast television. Meanwhile, the Sporting Lisbon-Manchester City, RB Salzburg-Bayern Munich, Villarreal-Juventus and Benfica-Ajax fixtures will be shown on streaming service Paramount+.

Here is the full English-language schedule for the Champions League round of 16 (all times ET): 

Tuesday, Feb. 15:
PSG vs. Real Madrid, CBS/Paramount+, 3 p.m.
Sporting Lisbon vs. Manchester City, Paramount+, 3 p.m.

Previewing the January transfer window: which Americans could be on the move?

We are a little more than a week away from the January transfer window opening and ASN’s Brian Sciaretta gives his thoughts on many American players who could receive transfer intereest in the weeks ahead. 

THE JANUARY TRANSFER WINDOW will soon be upon us and a bunch of Americans could be on the move – both within Europe, also moving from domestic leagues to abroad. Here are a look at some players we thing could be on the market.Of course, it’s important to note that not all players will move. This isn’t a comprehensive list either as some names will pop up unexpectedly. We’ve also already seen some announced moves like Chris Mueller to Hibernian and Kyle Duncan to Oostende. But here is a look at some players we thing could the subject of transfer interest for the January window.

 RICARDO PEPI

This is the big fish in the pond regarding a potential move. The FC Dallas forward was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Player of the Year for 2021 and that was a no-brainer. The El Paso teenager scored 13 goals for FC Dallas along with three big World Cup qualifying goals for the U.S. national team. While he struggled a bit towards the end of the season for Dallas and also with the U.S. team in November and the December friendly, he still has huge potential to make a big move.Dallas is surely not going to sell him for cheap and will be looking for something north of $13 million. With COVID adversely affecting the budget for a lot of teams in Europe, the market his smaller for unproven players like Pepi. Only a few teams can afford him and there are several good forwards to be had.It’s a tricky situation. Dallas wants to get paid. Pepi wants to move, but needs to move to a place where he can play. The U.S. national team needs Pepi to play. In a World Cup year, the need to get this decision right for all parties is magnified. There is also the potential that perhaps Pepi remains in Dallas through the summer when more teams could have a better understanding of their budget and Pepi would at least be playing heading into the March qualifying window.There is genuine interest in Pepi and a lot of the many reports with clubs like Ajax are accurate. But, there is also a lot of moving parts to consider.

 JOHN BROOKS

It’s been a tough season for John Brooks who is in the last year of his contract with Wolfsburg. He’s been benched for long stretches, including most of December, and BILD recently ran a negative article about him with information that sounded like it came from within Wolfsburg, directly or indirectly.Brooks, 28, has a huge salary north of $3 million per year and the BILD could be public negotiation from Wolfsburg, or it could be a way to usher him out the door in January. In the last year of his contract, his transfer price isn’t that high right now.He’s a bit inconsistent, but when he’s on his game he is a very good central defender. Someone will take a chance on him, and Wolfsburg is playing so poorly (with or without Brooks in the lineup) the time might be right for all parties to go their separate ways.

JAMES SANDS

By any standard, James Sands had a great year. In 2021, the 21-year-old from Rye, New York won the Gold Cup with the U.S. national team and won MLS Cup with NYCFC. In both finals, against Mexico and Portland respectively, Sands was sharp over separate 120-minute outings.Sands has the versatility to play both defensive midfield and central defense but in 2021, he did well in both. He has also played his way onto the edge of the U.S. national team but is just outside of the main group.With NYCFC having won MLS Cup, his value has never been higher, and he has accomplished everything he can domestically. It seems like the time for him to try something else and NYCFC should be open to selling him. It would look good for the club’s academy players to be willing to sell a player who has severed the club well.Where is a realistic landing place for Sands? He might be able to do well in the lower portion of the Bundesliga. The Eredivisie is difficult for its high minimum salary requirements for non-EU citizens. Belgian teams make a lot of sense given the fewer non-EU restrictions, but do those clubs have money to spend? The Championship might also be a good option and he could probably obtain a work-permit.

 BRYAN REYNOLDS

 To state the obvious, it hasn’t been a good situation for Reynolds at Roma under Jose Mourinho. The club was even willing to let him join the U.S. national team for a rare December camp. Reynolds probably won’t transfer less than a year into his move to Roma but a loan, perhaps a long 18-month loan, seems like it would make sense. With a long loan, an option to buy could be justified since teams will know what they are getting.Reynolds could stay in Italy for a loan, but a loan to Germany or, more likely, Belgium makes the most sense. Reynolds was only a starter for FC Dallas for three months before is transfer to Roma at the tail of 2020. He didn’t play much in 2021. He still needs a lot of coaching for his development and there is also a lot of rust having not played much in over a year. He has a high upside but is very much a longer-term project. The first step is to get out of Roma, even for a loan (the longer, the better).

 REGGIE CANNON

 Reggie Cannon was close to leaving Boavista last summer but a move to Fulham was not completed in time. It only makes sense that another attempt at a move could be in the works and his situation isn’t much different from last season. He’s had a few good games (including his most recent game) for Boavista but has been in and out of the lineup for most of the past few months. He’s also dealt with an injury.With the uncertainty of COVID continuing, more teams in Portugal would love to sell non-essential players for cash. Cannon would probably like to move on as well and put himself into a more secure and better spotlight as he’s losing ground in the national team player pool.Like most non-EU dual citizen American players, Germany, the Championship, Belgium seem like the safest bets.

 AUSTON TRUSTY

 Earlier this week, Will Forbes reported a pending transfer that Auston Trusty was going to transfer from Colorado to Arsenal (two teams with common ownership). Whether such a move happens, it makes sense that he would have interest as an athletic, left-footed central defender.  Trusty, 23, is coming off a very good season for Colorado which he helped to a first-place regular season finish in the Western Conference. After a few mixed seasons which saw him depart Philadelphia for Colorado, Trusty got his career back on track in 2021. As a teenager, he was rated to the point where he was one of the rare youth players who made both a U-17 and U-20 World Cup team.

DARYL DIKE

 Daryl Dike, 21, has been first-team professional for only 18 months. In that time, he has scored 28 goals in 4277 minutes at the club level (he’s also scored three goals for the U.S. national team). That is an outstanding start to a professional career.He had a great loan to Barnsley but faded a bit towards the end of the Championship season. After some rest, and then a subsequent recovery after a shoulder injury he suffered at the Gold Cup, Dike continued to impress at the end of the 2021 season with Orlando.ike will eventually be in Europe full time, but him moving this window seems like it could go either way. Among all the options, another loan to England would make the most sense. He’s done wll there, and a bunch of Championship teams could see him as part of the solution to a promotional campaign. Then it will come down to Orlando including an option to buy and it would probably be more realistic than last year.

SERGINO DEST

It’s been a wild month for Sergino Dest. He got a new manager in Xavi and then there were reports that Barcelona was going to work with Dest intensely on tactics. Then there was another report that the club would look to sell him along with three other players in January. Then he was dropped from a lineup in La Liga. After Barcelona was bounced from the Champions League, Dest picked up an injury and Xavi said that he was missing games due to the injury and not because of transfers.The news is all over the place. So, what makes sense?Barcelona needs cash and, in normal times, Dest would be seen as an asset that could generate some much-needed money.  But there are fewer teams that can spend money right now. Barcelona wants to start a rebuild and Xavi wants to build the team in the way he sees fit – as opposed to getting the team he inherited to work. Barcelona isn’t going to win La Liga this year and finishing in the Champions League spots is also an uphill climb. What would hurt the rebuilding effort is making rushed and poor decisions – and unloading Dest in a buyers’ market could be costly.I think Dest could be sold, but Barcelona isn’t going to be quick to unload him either. If they don’t get a high price, they’ll wait until the summer. If Dest moves, it’s going to be to a big club that can match or exceed what Barcelona paid for him (€26 million). It’s a numbers game right now.

 WESTON MCKENNIE

 There have been rumors for most of the season linking Weston McKennie with moves – most commonly to a wide variety of Premier League teams. After his disappointing dismissal from the U.S. national team camp in September, the rumors became more prevalent. That made sense.But McKennie has responded very well since then. He’s played well, there have been no negative reports about him off-the field, and he serves a purpose under Max Allegri’s system. Juventus won’t win the scudetto, but the club is in the knockouts of the Champions League and McKennie could serve a purpose in those games adding physicality and energy.This isn’t to say Juventus won’t entertain offers, but I still think he stays. He serves a role on the team under Allegri and he’s not easy to replace. McKennie might be a perfect fit for a number of Premier League teams, but it is just as likely (or more likely) that Juventus doesn’t see the need to sell him.

TYLER ADAMS

One of the most important players on the national team, Tyler Adams has seen his minutes decline at RB Leipzig in what has been a disappointing season for both Adams and the club. On top of that, Jesse Marsch was fired, and Adams lost a manager who was familiar with him dating back to his days with Red Bulls II in USL.Leipzig is probably going to want to make a lot of changes to the current squad. There have been rumors linking Adams to teams – Arsenal being one, but there have been other teams mostly in the Premier League. It’s possible but the likely bet is that he remains through the season.As for if he does move, he is likely to have a wide variety of suitors in each of the top five leagues.

DJORDJE MIHAILOVIC

Djordje Mihailovic, 23, recently had a career revival in his first season in Montreal and he looked like the promising player many expected prior to his ACL tear at the tail end of the 2017 season.In 2021, Mihailovic scored four goals and added 16 assists – the second highest total in the league behind Carles Gil. He has an EU passport and recently trailed with Bologna in Serie A – which might drum up some interest. But even if he doesn’t go to Bologna, it seems like by letting him train in Italy, Montreal is open to explore a sale. 

COLE BASSETT

Bassett, 20, missed out on the U-20 World Cup due to COVID cancelling the tournament but he went on to have a nice season anywhere. The young Colorado Rapid homegrown was a key contributor to the team which finished first in the Western Conference in the regular season. He recently earned his first cap with the full national team and scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Bosnia & Herzegovina.He’s wanted to make the move abroad for awhile but has been patient in making sure it’s the right opportunity. In the summer, he turned down a move to Benfica because it was mostly a move that would have started him off at the reserve level.Colorado is a club that will sell if the price is right and the club did well to sell Sam Vines to Royal Antwerp in August. Bassett won’t be held back but will a club step to the plate and make a real offer that both pays Colorado a fair sum and offers Bassett a real shot at first team minutes?   

CADEN CLARK

Caden Clark’s story is well known. He has been with the New York Red Bulls but earlier this year was signed by RB Leipzig (and promptly loaned back to New York for the remainder of the season). A lot has changed in the meantime. Clark’s minutes with New York haven’t been consistent since his appendectomy over the summer and Leipzig has had a disappointing season that has already resulted in head coach Jesse Marsch’s dismissal.Clark is set to train with Leipzig in January before returning to the states for a camp with the U.S. U-20 team – which will likely be a key player this cycle.If Clark is deemed to not be in the plans for Leipzig right now, what is the next step? It would either be a return to the New York Red Bulls, a lower-tier in Germany, or Red Bull Salzburg. Salzburg frequently gets mentioned and there is a reasonable case as the club is flying on all cylinders in the Austrian Bundesliga and can afford to give other players minutes. The lower tiers in Germany make sense as long as it is geared towards giving him minutes – which isn’t a guarantee on a loan.A return to the New York Red Bulls is a distinct possibility and it would be interesting to see if Gerhard Struber has plans to increase his minutes. Such a return would probably only run through the first half of the season followed by a midseason evaluation.ne benefit would be that it would allow him to attend U.S. U-20 camps and take a lead role in that team’s huge qualifying tournament in June.

MILES ROBINSON

This is a curious one in American soccer as Robinson is a legitimate U.S. national team player. He’s developed well in Atlanta but earning a move is tricky. Atlanta United is not FC Dallas in terms of transferring player because Atlanta considers its top players valuable (i.e. spending $11 million for Luis Araujo after he helped Lille win Ligue 1 last season). Atlanta is serious about winning and its fanbase is one of the largest in the league. Robinson is a key part of what the team wants to do.Robinson will soon be 25. So essentially, he will have to be sold as the final product as he has one more deal left in his prime years. He has a lot of things going for him – elite athleticism and a decent reading of the game. A move to a “Big Five” league is certainly within reach – although maybe not the Premier League. But if it’s predominantly midtable teams that are interested, can they meet Atlanta United’s asking price.While offers may not be in, it’s a safe bet a number of teams are taking a good, hard look at Robinson.

GEORGE BELLO

Bello, 19, now has multiple years as a starter for Atlanta United and is a skillful left back. He needs some work with his tactics, but he checks a lot of boxes, and he plays a position of need for many teams.  At his age, teams will be betting on his upside – which he has shown to be potentially high.Atlanta would certainly sell Bello for a less than Miles Robinson and that could open the door for a lot more different clubs – probably outside of the “Big Five” but still at a good club. 

TYLER BOYD

Tyler Boyd arrived in Turkey in 2019 with Ankaragucu and was terrific. He made a big transfer to Besiktas but that didn’t really work out. It was followed by loans to mid/lower half teams in the Super Lig where, aside for a few brief moments of solid form, has seen him fail to stand out.There are rumors that the LA Galaxy could be interested, and that would make sense for Boyd to perhaps continue to be paid well and play with a team that has hopes of winning. It’s hard to see of what his other options would be, and he could do far worse than join the Galaxy.

OTHER NAMES

There are going to be a bunch of names that will be in the rumor mill, but at this point don’t seem like having much of a chance- but again, that could always change.Brenden Aaronson has seen his same linked with a bunch of really big clubs – one was AC Milan. But Red Bull Salzburg is in the knockout stages of the Champions League. Shipping Aaronson off when the club is at its highest ever moment seems like selling the team, its fans, and Aaronson himself short. These opportunities are valuable and the club would be making a rather big statement that it isn’t serious about competing if it sells off its starting No. 10.  There has been a lot of talk also about Christian Pulisic but the American hasn’t really been able to get going this season at Chelsea due to injuries and COVID. Plus, a team like Chelsea needs depth with COVID ripping through many teams in Europe. Chelsea might eventually sell Pulisic, but a midseason sale during a time of schedule congested and COVID uncertainty seems unlikely – unless a huge offer comes in.Would BSC Young Boys sell Jordan Pefok? Perhaps. He recently scored four goals in one game and, while he is limited in his skillset, a dominant aerial threat and a powerful target in the box will always attract suitors. It’s hard to see Young Boys asking for a king’s ransom since they’re out of Europe.In Scotland, Ian Harkes is a player to watch as he is having his best professional season at Dundee United and probably wouldn’t be that expensive. His UK passport would allow him to move to England without the need for a work permit. 
In Germany, Taylor Booth is almost certainly going to be looking for a loan to get first team minutes. It seems unlikely he is going to make Bayern Munich’s first team anytime soon but he is good enough to start elsewhere – as he did earlier in 2021 with St. Poelten (which was relegated out of the Austrian Bundesliga). Booth headinig out on loan to a mid-tier league like Austria (again), Portugal, or the 2.Bundesliga, etc. seems like a good bet. In Philadelphia, Anthony Fontana is out of contract after he declined to sign a new deal with the Union. Unsurprisingly, his minutes declined as the season went along but his career minutes show that he is a productive player. Leaving on a free transfer has its risks since free players are cheap and clubs could simply be taking a flyer on them. But Fontana has an Italian passport and has wanted to try Europe. He could get that chance although it would probably be a low level.

In South America, one player to keep an eye on is Alan Sonora. The New Jersey-born central midfielder has spent his entire career in Argentina and is coming off his best season in 2021 with Independiente.At 23, he is a late bloomer but Independiente is one of the better teams in Argentina. It wouldn’t be surprising to see an ambitious MLS team make a move for him. MLS teams have been actively involved in Argentina for the last five years and Sonora has the benefit of not taking a foreign spot. He also is the same profile of a lot of players from Argentina who have come into the league with TAM money and perhaps that will be floated in Sonora’s direction.

Previewing the U.S. U-20 cycle: decent starting point but a lot of work ahead with little time

The U.S. U-20 cycle is underway and the current national team camp is part of that with eight players on Gregg Berhalter’s roster. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta looks at the U.S. U-20 team in detail at the start of the cycle with just a few camps planned ahead of a big summer tournament that will serve as qualifying for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTAPOSTEDDECEMBER 17, 20217:30 PM U-20 analysis

THE 2023 CYCLE for the United States U-20 national team got underway last month with the hiring of new head coach Mikey Varas and the team’s first camp, the Revelation’s Cup in Mexico. The progress of team continued in December with eight age-eligible players invited to take part in the current full national team camp. Next month the U-20 team is expected to have its second camp.After the team was essentially dormant from all on-field activities for 22 months from January 2020 through November 2021, it is embarking on a critical eight month stretch which will conclude in the summer of 2022 when the team participates in a single tournament that will serve as qualification for both the 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics (with the Olympics being a tournament the team hasn’t qualified for since 2008).While the full national team prepares for its final two windows of World Cup qualifying and continues to be the top story for the federation, the U-20 cycle will also be important for the program’s future. In 12 months, the 2022 World Cup will be over, and the United States will be looking for meaningful competitions ahead of being a co-host in 2026.
The 2023 U-20 World Cup and the 2024 Olympics are going to be important tournaments ensure that the pipeline of young players continues to stay involved in program. The Olympics, in particular, would be a good way to build up public enthusiasm over the program ahead of the World Cup on home soil.So, it’s important. But how does the U-20 team look six months away from this important double qualification tournament.The answer? Pretty good.There are already a lot of players who aren’t just first-team professionals, but impact players. In older cycles having impact players at the start of the cycle was rare.Also, there aren’t many players who are clearly beyond the U-20 level this cycle. Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Gio Reyna were never going to play in the U-20 World Cup. Tyler Adams was never going to play in the U-20 World Cup of his age group (he only played while playing up an age group in 2017). This cycle, the only debatable player right now is Ricardo Pepi.On the flip side, there are holes in the player pool. At the youth levels with only two birth years in a cycle, it is often hard to build a complete team with solid depth at every position. Some positions lag with coaches filling the voids with weaker players or players playing out of position.Here is a look at the various positions and where they stand. It’s not an complete list of the player pool but it is a look at the top players and some of the players who could emerge. As with the U-20 level, the player pool can shift quickly and new players can emerge almost out of nowhere.

 GOALKEEPING

 The 2015 cycle was the best the U.S. team has ever been in this position with Zack Steffen and Ethan Horvath both in the player pool. Since then, it hasn’t been great and the 2019 cycle featured David Ochoa playing up a cycle. Ochoa would have been on the 2021 cycle too but since he defected to Mexico, the U-20 team hasn’t produced many goalkeepers who have been first-team players at the club level.
his year’s U-20 team is at the strongest starting point for goalkeeping since 2015.

Gaga Slonina has enjoyed more attention than perhaps any other U-20 goalkeeper at the start of a cycle. In August, he became the starting goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire at just 17 and earned three clean sheets (including two against eventual MLS Cup winners NYCFC). He’s shown a nice upside and it is very rare to see a 17 year old earn a starting goalkeeping position on any first team.

This cycle has surprising depth Jeff Dewsnup, 17, has done well with the Real Monachs (and is a Real Salt Lake (homegrown) and could challenge Slonina. Chris Brady, also of the Chicago Fire, and Fulham’s Alex Borto are also strong contenders.

CENTRAL DEFENSE

This should be pretty big concern for the U.S. U-20 team at the moment. The U-20 team has been successful in 2015, 2017, and 2019 with three straight runs to the quarterfinals of U-20 World Cups. That success has been built on top central defenders.

In 2015 it was Matt Miazga, Cameron Carter-Vickers, and Erik Palmer-Brown. In 2017 it was Palmer-Brown, Carter-Vickers, and Justen Glad. In 2019 it was Chris Richards, Mark McKenzie, and Abubakar Keita. If the 2021 cycle happened, the starters probably would have been Atlanta United’s George Campbell (who has shown solid promise), and Jonathan Tomkinson (who has been making the bench recently for Norwich in the Premier League). Some of those players earned caps with the full national team but all are, at worst, good professionals. That’s a high level.

The 2023 cycle has some promising central defenders but doesn’t have the strong degree of certainty the last three four cycles have had.

Justin Che has been probably the most highly rated central defender of this age group and he’s currently in camp with the full national team. The problem, however, is that he is not getting many reps at the central defense position. FC Dallas played him at right back and he played both right and central defense while on loan with Bayern Munich’s youth teams earlier in the year.

Kobi Henry has also done well to boost his stock. He played nearly 1500 minutes this year for an Orange County team that won the USL Championship. He had a pretty good Revelations Cup in November and, by virtue of that, was called up to the full national team for the current December camp. At this early stage, he should be considered a front runner for a spot on the team.

Building up depth, or hoping depth emerges, is critical in the next six months for the team. Right now, the options seem to be at the USL level. LA Galaxy II defender Jalen Neal and San Jose Casey Walls struggled at the Revelations Cup but the performances from that camp need to be taken with a grain of salt given the makeshift nature of the team and coaching staff. But this position needs more work heading into January. Union defender Brandan Craig, Tacoma Defiance’s Cody Baker, Atlanta United’s Efrain Morales, and Fort Lauderdale CF (Inter Miami academy) defender Ethan Hardin, and Wake Forest Prince Amponsah are a few players who could be within the pool in the months ahead.The central defense pool has also been altered by the decision of two players to represent other countries. Red Bull Salzburg’s Bryan Okoh has always been tied to Switzerland and remains a part of the Swiss U-21 team. LAFC’s Antonio Leone, meanwhile, has played for the U.S. at the youth levels but has recently opted for Mexico’s U-20 team.

LEFT BACK

The U.S. U-20 team is in great shape at left back and this is the second straight cycle where it is a strength (in 2021, the U-20 team would have featured John Tolkin and George Bello whereas in 2019, Sam Vines was cut but he has progressed nicely).For the current 2023 cycle, the starting job will likely fall to Jonathan Gomez who was recently with Louisville City but will be heading to Real Sociedad in Spain in January. There is one caveat, however, as Gomez could still opt to play for Mexico (he played in Mexican camps in 2021). While he would be in Europe, it is hard to see his club denying his release for youth camps as it would allow him to play in meaningful games throughout the year.

Kevin Paredes is one of the top players in the U-20 pool and has played as a left back for DC United when using a wingback formation. He’s also played as a winger at times and with the U.S. national team in December camp (prior to leaving injured) he played as a winger. If Gomez is on the U-20 team, sliding Paredes into the winger position will get both Gomez and Paredes on the field into comfortable roles.Aside from those players, DC United homegrown Jacob Greene is an option and was on the roster at the Revelations Cup. Philadelphia Union II’s Anthony Sorenson, Atlanta United’s Caleb Wiley, and Inter Miami’s Noah Allen are all potential options as well.

RIGHT BACK

Normally a very deep position for the United States, right back is thin for the U.S. U-20 team.The first question will be whether Justin Che plays as a central defender or as a right back. He is likely a starter for the U-20 team at either position at the start of the cycle.Michael Halliday made first team appearances with Orlando City this year where he played well at times and struggled at other times. Still, that is not a bad starting point for a player of his age group and he should be in the mix.Sporting Kanas City homegrown Kayden Pierre was on the Revelation’s Cup roster and he is in the mix at the start of the cycle although he could be overtaken in 2022 if he still is with the club’s reserve team. The same could be said for FC Dallas homegrown Collin Smith who had a nice season with North Texas in USL. Smith is at a youth-friendly team in Dallas and could get looks if he continues to perform well.Mauricio Cuevas was most recently with the LA Galaxy II but is now unattached presumably to look for a move to Europe. He remains a potentially solid option after previously playing with the U.S. U-17 team before the shutdown but he hasn’t had many games recently.Born at the end of 2004, Erik Dueñas is one of the younger players in the current pool but has signed a homegrown deal with LAFC – where he made two appearances. Within the organization, he was coached by one of the best ever American right backs in Steve Cherundolo. He is in the middle of a long-term injury recovery but could emerge later in the cycle. 

DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD

Defensive midfield is going to be important for this team but right now there isn’t a lot of depth.

This week, the New York Red Bulls signed Daniel Edelman to a homegrown contract, and it was a big move for both the player and the club. He is a highly rated U-20 player and should get first team minutes with New York next season. As a very good defensive No. 6 player, he is the best player at that position for the U-20 team and he probably will be an important part of the team.

Jeremy Garay signed a homegrown deal with DC United this past year and was part of the U.S. team at the Revelations Cup and played pretty well in the 2-1 loss to Mexico. He has also represented El Salvador but he will likely stick with the U.S. team if that road is open for him and he’s in the mix for the U-20 team.

The Seattle Sounder duo of Daniel Leyva and Reed Baker-Whiting are also under consideration. Leyva might struggle with his mobility and physicality while Baker-Whiting is very young and eligible for the following cycle.

CENTRAL MIDFIELD

The strength of this U-20 team lies central midfield, both the No. 8 and the No. 10, as well as the wingers.

Philadelphia’s Jack McGlynn and DC United’s Moses Nyeman are the top options at the start of the cycle. McGlynn being part of a trio of Philadelphia Union players on this team, he earned a lot of first team minutes in 2021 and should be playing even more in 2022. Nyeman will need to play more for DC and his game is still rounding out. But his passing is very good and if he can add more defense, he’ll be in good shape.

 There are still positions up for grabs in central midfield. Zach Booth (brother of Tyler Booth) at Leicester City and Rokas Pukstas at the U-19 team for Hadjuk Split are in the pool but others will emerge in 2022. Kenan Hot wil have some interesting decisions ahead after leaving the Red Bulls set-up and going on overseas trials. He has spent time with U.S. youth national teams in the past before COVID and played the last half of 2021 wiith Hartford Athletic. 

ATTACKING MIDFIELD

The heart of this U.S. U-20 team is in the attacking midfield positions. This is where the team is deepest and strongest.

Caden Clark of the New York Red Bulls (and possibly RB Leipzig) and the Philadelphia Union’s Paxten Aaronson are at the top of the list and both have shown their class this year. Clark might also drift back into a No. 8 role because he has that versatility. He’s also effective in the press – which Mikey Varas will probably look to use. But both are locks to be on the team and see a lot of minutes in big games.

Quinn Sullivan, also of the Philadelphia Union, is one of the stronger 2004-born players in the pool and he gives Varas an option at the No. 10 as well as out on the wings.

Diego Luna of the El Paso Locomotive put up solid numbers in the USL Championship and had a decent Revelations Cup where he scored a classy equalizer against Mexico. For now, he is in a good spot to start the U-20 cycle.

The Chicago Fire’s Brian Gutierrez is also probably in a good position with the U-20 team and he earned decent reviews for his performance at the Revelations Cup and should be in line for call-ups early in 2022.

Head coach Mikey Varas will probably take January and possibly the second camp of 2022 to explore deeper options. That could open the door for Schalke’s Evan Rotundo, the LA Galaxy’s Victor Valdez, or Tacoma Defiance’s Juan Alvarez – who are all on the younger side from the 2004 birth year.

WINGERS

This is another position of strength for the U-20 team with several players already performing well at a high level.

Kevin Paredes will likely play as winger as opposed to a left back and he would easily be a starter at left wing. The DC United homegrown was a regular starter, when healthy, at the first team level and was strong on both sides of the ball.

Cade Cowell is another player who should feature regularly with the U-20 team and could be a starter. The San Jose homegrown is very physically strong and that could be tough to stop at the U-20 level. One caveat is that he could see time at the No. 9 under Varas given the lack of options at that position.

Dante Sealy is currently on loan at PSV from FC Dallas and is a regular with Jong PSV where he has five goals in 16 appearances and 876 minutes. On top of this, he has worwked with head coach Mikey Varas at Dallas and understands his system – which should give him an edge.

There are other wingers who could play their way onto the team Christian Torres would be a strong candidate, but the LAFC winger most recently opted to play for Mexico at the Revelations Cup.  

Colorado Rapids homegrown Dantouma Toure spent 2021 on loan at the Colorado Switchbacks and had a pretty good season. He recently went on training stints at Rangers and Arsenal in December and should be a player that gets a look early in 2022 with a chance of playing his way onto the team.

CENTER FORWARD

The center forward position for this U-20 team is very much up in the air. While it is thin, the best overall American for this age group plays the No. 9 in Ricardo Pepi.

Pepi’s involvement in this team is complicated. Right now, the full U.S. national team is his priority and he has started the team’s most important World Cup qualifiers to date. That will continue through the end of qualifying in March (assuming the U.S. team doesn’t have to play in the intercontinental playoff).

But the U-20 qualification tournament is in the summer. Is it conceivable that U.S. Soccer would decide to send Pepi to the qualification tournament to give the U-20 team every chance for success? While unlikely, you can’t completely rule it out. He wouldn’t miss any decisive games for the full national team this summer and looking ahead into next cycle, U.S Soccer is going to want its teams playing in important tournaments building up to the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

The fact that this tournament will serve as qualification for the Olympics could be a deciding factor to send Pepi with the U-20 team and end the federation’s Olympic drought. He most likely won’t play at the U-20 World Cup but the Olympics in 2024 would be a different story.  This country loves the Olympics and that would be a great way to build up enthusiasm for the World Cup team.

The gap between Pepi and the next best options is wide right now.

Malick Sanogo of Union Berlin made his U.S. debut at the Revelations Cup and is an option. Once a goal scoring machine at the U-17 Bundesliga level, his numbers have declined at the U-19 Bundesliga level (two goals in nine games, 732 minutes, both goals coming in one game against Werder Bremen’s U-19 team).

Minnesota United’s Patrick Weah was once considered a back-up option but he will be sidelined until late 2022 with a torn ACL.

Missael Rodriguez was on the Revelations Cup roster as a surprising inclusion. The Chicago Fire homegrown is yet to make his first team debut but earned the Golden Boot for the U-19 MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs with a tournament-high six goals in five matches. He should remain in the mix with the U-20 team given the shallow player pool.

Tyler Wolff could also get a look and the Atlanta United homegrown (and son of Austin FC head coach and former U.S. international Josh Wolff) and his numbers were solid with Atlanta United 2 (six goals in 10 games) and he even made a few limited appearance with the first team.

Darren Yapi is a Colorado Rapids homegrown who has spent time on loan with the Switchbacks and previously played for the U.S. U-17 team. He’s now with Arsenal on a training stint and could be an option for Mikey Varas.

It’s clearly not a deep position for the U.S. team as there aren’t many options who are getting first team minutes either at the MLS level or at a similar or higher level in Europe. It might be a situation where Varas has to explore using a player out of position at the No. 9 – such as Cade Cowell.

OVERALL THOUGHTS

This is very interesting team that has some players starting off the U-20 cycle in great shape. Paredes, Clark, Che, Cowell, Slonina, Aaronson, and McGlynn have all impressed at the MLS level. There are a number of positions where it looks like the U.S. team should be able to match up well with a lot of good teams.But there are also weak areas and having a shaky central defense is probably the worst area for a youth team to be unsettled. Mikey Varas will have to manage that situation well for the team to have success. He also needs Daniel Edelman to pan out in the defensive midfield because he can help protect the backline.The striker position is also not in great shape, but it is manageable. The possible (albeit unlikely) addition of Pepi would change that completely.Right now, the U-20 team has to be viewed in two segments. From now through qualifying, and (if successful) from qualifying through the U-20 World Cup.

CONCACAF did the U.S. team a huge favor by having the qualifying take place in the summer and also by having it serve as qualifying for the Olympics. Few players should be denied a release to participate. MLS teams have typically been cooperative and Euro teams typical grant players a release in the summer as youth national teams give young players a chance to play meaningful games.

For this qualifying tournament, Mikey Varas should be able to have his top choice of players except for Pepi. If the U.S team is successful, the cycle can continue and Varas can build his team as new players emerge and others fade.

As with any U-20 team, the player pool changes very, very quickly. Players emerge in the matter of weeks and months, while others fade just as quickly. If you look at any previous cycle, the projected Best XI rarely resembles the Best XI come the U-20 World Cup.

Everything now, however, is about qualifying for the U-20 World Cup and the Olympics. Mikey Varas doesn’t have a lot of time and he will only have a few camps to put his team together. He has a decent starting point but a lot of work needs to be done to figure out the players who should be on the roster and to build a tactical plan and team chemistry. There should be enough talent to get it done but it’s far from a sure thing.

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12/17/21 US Men vs Bosnia Sat 8 pm FS1, MLS NYCFC Champs, Champ League Sweet 16 Set

US Men (MLS Group) vs Bosnia Sat 12/18 8 pm FS1

The US Men have a friendly tomorrow vs Bosnia Herzogova at 8 pm on FS1.  The men made up of all US based players have been in camp for about 10 days already as they get a chance to put their names in the hat for the all important Qualifiers in January.  A ton of youngsters in the group but the return of winger Jordan Morris who missed all of last year with a knee injury might well lead the group.  Expect to see him start along with Pepi and probably Cade Cowell up front.  I am interested to see if Justin Che gets anytime at right back along with how many youngsters Berhalter plays in midfield.  Would be cool to see Cole Basett or Jordan Cardoso at the attacking mid (8 slot).   I am thinking the US wins this one 2-1 maybe.   WTW4  

 Shane’s 11 to start vs Bosnia Sat night  

Morris/Pepi/Cowell

Bassett // Roldan

Acosta

Bello, Long, Zimmerman, Che

Turner

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0) 

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)  

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

MLS Cup Finals –NYCFC beats Portland 2-1 in PKs

Wow what a final – when my Timbers scored in the 94th minute with just seconds left before the whistle blew – I collapsed to the floor in joy.  Of course NYCFC recovered and despite some hairy moments when Portland seemed to have it won – NYCFC held on and took it to PKs.  NYCFC GK Andre Blake – playing in his first playoffs – was spectacular as his 2 saves on the first 2 shots – won it in PKs for the New Yorkers.  Anyone who saw the game – saw what is heralded as THE BEST soccer experience in the US for MLS soccer.  The Timber Army was every bit as glorious as I remember when I joined them for their first MLS Cup win in Columbus in 2015.   So disappointment city for me and my Timbers – but huge congrats to NYCFC with the win and Championship.  Maybe this will help them get a soccer specific stadium built rather than playing in Yankee Stadium. 

Champions League Sweet 16 Set – Games Feb 15- Mar 16

RB Salzburg vs Bayern Munich
Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City
Benfica vs Ajax
Chelsea vs Lille
Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United
Villarreal vs Juventus
Inter Milan vs Liverpool
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid

Sad to see the news that former Man City and current Barcelona striker Sergio Arguero’s career is over due to a heart condition discovered last week.  Crazy what is going on in England and across Europe with the Covid Game Cancellations – hopefully that doesn’t kill the normally busy holiday match schedules.  Matthew McConehey says soccer is Alright Alright Alright.  Huge congrats to Lindsay Horan for winning US Ladies Player of the Year and Trinity Rodman for winning young player of the year.  Also huge news that NWSL is now going to pay all the Ladies salaries and US Soccer will no longer be paying those wages – so they can be paid the same way the men are – by game and result rather than salary. Hopefully NWSL stays afloat and everything works out for all!

BIG GAMES TO WATCH  

(American’s in parenthesis)

Fri,  Dec 17

2:45 pm ESPN +                  Bayern Muchen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

3 pm beIN Sport                 PSG vs Lyonnais (Coupe De France) 

Sat, Dec 18 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Brighton

9 am CBSSN                 Atalanta vs Roma

9:30 am ESPN+             Hoffenhiem vs Mgladbach (Scally)  

10 USA                          Aston Villa vs Burnley

10:15 am ESPN2           Real Sociadad  vs Villarreal

10 am NBCS                 Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12 noon CBSSN            Bologna vs Juventus (McKinney)

12:30 NBC                    Leeds vs Arsenal 

12:30 ESPN+                 Hertha vs Dortmund (Reyna)

8 pm FS1                       USA Men vs Bosnia

Sun,  Dec 19

7 am NBCSN                        Everton vs Leicester City

9 am NBCSN                        Chelsea (Pulisic)  vs Wolverhampton

11:30 NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Tottenham 

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Sampdoria vs Venezia (  )   

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Milan vs Napoli      

Tues,  Dec 20

3 pm ESPN+                         Arsenal vs Sunderland  English Cup

Weds,  Dec 21

2:45 ESPN+                          Liverpool vs Leicester City  

2:45 ESPN+                          Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Athletic Club vs Real Madrid

Sun,  Dec 26

2:45 ESPN+                          Liverpool vs Leicester City  

2:45 ESPN+                          Brentford vs Chelsea (Pulisic)

3:30 pm ESPN+                   Athletic Club vs Real Madrid

US Men

 WTW4 US vs Bosnia S&S  

Scouting Bosnia S&S

Who Stands to Gain the Most From USMNT’s December Camp?
Transfer news: Christian Pulisic wanted by Barcelona

Orange County SC’s Kobi Henry eager to make his mark during early call-up to USMNT

Transfer news: Juventus could sell USMNT’s Weston McKennie

Bundesliga wrap: USMNT’s Richards stoppage-time hero for Hoffenheim

Yanks Abroad – Last Weekend  –

MLS Final

NYCFC lift MLS Cup! How Ronny Deila’s team beat Portland Timbers

View from the pitch: How MLS Cup went down at Providence Park

VOICES: GREG SELTZER MLS Cup 2022 predictions: Your (very) early guide to top contenders
MLS end of season awards: a fiasco in Miami and Glesnes’ thunderbolt

“It was really a perfect match”: Pat Noonan leads FC Cincinnati

Champions League Round of 16- Feb 16


PSG to face Real Madrid in Champions League last 16 after draw farce

Barcelona to play Napoli in Europa League knockout play-offs

NWSL & US Ladies

Horan and Rodman win US POY

Horan: ‘Surreal’ to be named U.S. Soccer’s Female POTY

Rodman: Young POTY award ‘doesn’t feel real’
The Rush: Alex Morgan on joining Wave FC and stopping abusive coaches in sports

USSF, USWNT union deal averts strike  ESPNF Caitlin Murray
Alex Morgan is heading home to Cali, will play for San Diego Wave FC

US Soccer, USWNTPA extend CBA, end NWSL salary allocation system

EPL & World


England drawn against Italy and Germany in UEFA Nations League

Barcelona striker Sergio Aguero announces retirement due to heart condition

Sergio Aguero — Impish striker who became a Manchester City icon

Aguero retires with great legacy that is so much more than just his iconic goal
  Mark Ogden
Three talking points from the Premier League weekend

Ronaldo fires Man United in front of Norwich City

Jurgen Klopp: Liverpool relief like curing tooth pain; Gerrard talk is no worry

Tuchel: Chelsea ‘lucky’ to beat Leeds

Real Madrid’s win vs. Atletico feels decisive in LaLiga title race
  ESPNFC Gabriele Marcotti
Real Madrid move 13 points clear of Atletico after derby stroll

Clemson wins NCCA men’s soccer title, beats Washington 2-0

USA vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2021 friendly: What to watch for

An opportunity for a win to close out 2021.  By Donald Wine II@blazindw  Dec 17, 2021, 7:00am PST

The United States Men’s National Team complete their 2021 busy calendar tomorrow night in Carson, California when they host Bosnia & Herzegovina in a friendly at Dignity Health Sports Park. The USMNT enter the match with a 2021 record of 16 wins, 2 defeats, and 3 draws, and they’re looking for 1 more in the win column. Standing in their way is Bosnia & Herzegovina, the 61st ranked team in the world but one that presents an interesting matchup for the USMNT. With a young roster in camp, it will give some valuable experience to some American players looking to make the most of their opportunity in a USMNT uniform.

Latest Form

USA

D (1-1) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-0) – Mexico – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-1) – Costa Rica – World Cup Qualifying

L (0-1) – Panama – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-0) – Jamaica – World Cup Qualifying

Bosnia & Herzegovina

L (0-2) – Ukraine – World Cup Qualifying

L (1-3) – Finland – World Cup Qualifying

D (1-1) – Ukraine – World Cup Qualifying

W (2-0) – Kazakhstan – World Cup Qualifying

What To Watch For

Seize the moment. This is a prime opportunity for several players to make an impact on the match as well as show head coach Gregg Berhalter that in an important 2022, they will be ready when their number is called. It may be a friendly, but expect to see several guys play hard to show they can be a dependable option moving forward.

Take control in the midfield. Bosnia enters this match with a roster that has a combined 8 international caps from 5 players. You could argue that the most experienced part of the roster for the USMNT is in the midfield. That’s where the USMNT need to control the tempo of the match and keep consistent pressure on Bosnia’s defense.

Capitalize on scoring chances. Bosnia may be a team that hasn’t played well lately, but they have a system that normally tries to bog down opponents and limit their scoring chances. Scoring when the opportunity presents itself is something the USMNT is always working to improve. This will be a good test to see if the young kids can put the ball in the back of the net when it’s at their feet inside the box.

Lineup Prediction

With so many young players in camp along with some veterans, it presents some interesting options for Gregg Berhalter. In the end, this is what we predict we will see in the form of a starting lineup tomorrow:

Cowell// Pepi // Morris

Roldan /Bassett

Acosta

Bello/Zimmerman / Che / Gomez 

Matt Turner is the only goalkeeper with experience in camp and the arguable #1, so he gets the start. Justin Che gets the start alongside MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman, with George Bello at left back. If Kevin Paredes had been healthy, he likely would have recevied the start at right back. Instead, it’s dual national Jonathan Gomez who we should expect to see on the right side of the back line.In the middle, Berhalter goes with some experience, with Kellyn Acosta operating at the 6 and Cristian Roldan at the 8. Cole Bassett also gets the nod to provide some speed in the middle.   Up front, Ricardo Pepi gets the start ahead of Gyasi Zardes, who we should expect to see as a substitute later in the match. Jordan Morris is back with the national team and starts on the right wing, with Cade Cowell getting the start on the left.

Prediction

Bosnia’s lack of experience shows in this match, with the USMNT getting out in front early and carrying it throughout the match. The USMNT wins by a 3-0 score.

Who Stands to Gain the Most From USMNT’s December Camp?

A friendly outside of the international calendar isn’t the greatest litmus test, but it is a proving ground regardless—especially in the middle of a World Cup qualifying cycle.

AVI CREDITOR  SI  Any friendlies outside the FIFA calendar tend to be a bit weird. That’ll be especially true in the middle of World Cup qualifying for the U.S. men’s national team group gathered to face Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday. The competitive stakes are low, the rosters unorthodox, the motivations varying and the potential long-term impact a bit all over the place. Take last year’s December camp for the U.S., for example. Of the players in the starting XI that featured vs. El Salvador in Fort Lauderdale some 53 weeks ago, one now represents Mexico (Julián Araujo) and another plays for Canada (Ayo Akinola). Of the entire match-day squad, only six have gone on to be regular participants in World Cup qualifying (Brenden Aaronson, Paul Arriola, Sebastian Lletget, Mark McKenzie, Walker Zimmerman, Kellyn Acosta). Suffice it to say, it was not exactly the A Group. Nor is it for the U.S.—and its opponent—this time around.The team the Americans are facing at Dignity Health Sports Park outside Los Angeles is not the one that could call on the likes of Edin Džeko, Miralem Pjanić and Sead Kolašinac. It’s a young, almost entirely domestic-based side with a total, combined tally of 10 caps. As experimental as this U.S. group is—and it is very hodgepodge, mixing new elements and domestic-based players who have been relied upon in qualifying—Bosnia’s takes things to another level. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t gains to be had.Speaking to his team in its first gathering (as shown through U.S. Soccer’s Behind the Crest video series), U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter laid it all out quite bluntly.”What are our objectives of this camp? Optimize fitness levels as we approach [the January] window. We’re doing this camp for you guys, because we realize that if you guys want to play any part in January qualifiers, you need this. Because you need to be fit. Trust me, if you’re not fit enough, you’re not going to be able to play, because we know what those games are about; you guys have been around, you know what qualifiers are about,” Berhalter said.”Then we want to expand the USMNT player pool. Think about all the new guys that are in this camp. It’s fantastic. We love seeing new faces. But what I’ll tell you guys, we want to do this, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. That’s going to be up to you guys. We’re looking for guys that aren’t taking plays off, that are using every single training session to get better and are competing in every single training session.”The message has seemingly gotten across.There’s a lot of young players in this camp, me included. We’re treating it as if it were a normal camp, and everyone’s here to work hard to prove to Gregg that we’re here to stay,” said Taylor Booth, a 20-year-old midfielder who trains with Bayern Munich’s first team but plays competitively for its reserves, under former Argentina international Martín Demichelis.For others, the camp isn’t a first impression. Between Zimmerman, Acosta, Ricardo Pepi, Jesús Ferreira, Matt Turner and Cristian Roldan, there’s a number of players who have played varying roles in World Cup qualifying so far. They’re the ones to whom Berhalter is referring when he addresses the players that are in to stay fit.The newbies and established players who are returning from injury layoffs are whom this camp is really for from a long-term potential standpoint, though. D.C. United’s versatile Kevin Paredes was one of the more intriguing players in camp, but an ankle injury suffered in training will keep the 18-year-old out of contention. But who else stands to gain something in the long run by capping a strong camp with a sound showing vs. Bosnia? Here are three to watch. Jordan Morris

Morris is in his first U.S. camp since tearing his ACL last February, and it’s clear this period is effectively an audition for a spot that Berhalter has loosely been reserving for him should he return to form. Even with Morris out with his injury, he was name-checked regularly as a guy who has earned his place among the core players, and the way Berhalter spoke of him upon revealing his roster for this camp was of a manager eager to give the forward a shot.”If we don’t bring him into this camp, he has no chance of playing in qualifiers,” Berhalter said. “So our job now is to work with him these next four weeks when we’re in camp, to get him ready to see if he can make an impact in World Cup qualifiers. We know his talent level. We know what he brings to the team. He gives us a different dimension, and it would be nice to get him in a place where he can perform in these games. But we just don’t know yet.”The U.S. doesn’t need the 27-year-old Morris to be a starter, but seeing what he’s capable of doing will determine whether he’s still valuable enough at this juncture to be part of the picture.”He’s looking sharp,” said Roldan, Morris’s teammate for club and country. “He’s probably the first one to tell you that the speed of play was a little bit fast initially [when returning with Seattle], but I think it’s slowing down for him and the amount of games that he got that were kind of unexpected were really nice. So him being back in the mix is really nice to see. He’s doing really well and playing like he never left.”He admits, understandably so, that he’s still in the process of getting back to top form, and given he’s nine months removed from ACL surgery, that he’s playing at all—let alone participating in a national team camp—is pretty remarkable. “I was just getting back when we got knocked out of the playoffs, so I think this camp is a great opportunity to get back in with the group and continue to get my sharpness and my fitness levels back up heading into a big year next year,” Morris said.

Jonathan Gómez

Despite Antonee Robinson’s improved play and Sergiño Dest and Joe Scally’s versatility, left back is still, all these World Cup cycles later, not a set position for the U.S. Enter Gómez, the 18-year-old who is headed to Real Sociedad after this camp following a standout run at Louisville City in the USL Championship. A dual-national with Mexican eligibility, Gómez is the latest to be wanted by both sides of the rivalry in recent months (Pepi picked the U.S.; Araujo, David Ochoa and Efraín Álvarez opted for El Tri). It’s wise of Berhalter to put out the senior-team feeler now. While that ultimately didn’t pan out for Araujo, it’s a no-risk invitation with a potential high reward.”It’s important for us to get a good look at him,” Berhalter said. “Left back has always been an issue of depth for us. And we think he’s a talented player and we think he could be ready to make an impact now. So it will be great to see him and great to get to work with him.”

Booth profiles as a box-to-box midfielder on the U.S. despite playing at right back for Bayern Munich II, which he said was designed for him by Julian Nagelsmann to give him a more direct pathway to the first team, at a position where depth isn’t as overwhelming. He’s aiming to break through into a position on the U.S. that is largely solidified, but between injuries, coronavirus and other variables, you never know when a strong first impression will lead to something greater, and versatility can only help a player’s case when roster sizes are finite.”He’s got quality,” Roldan said. “He’s a player on the ball you want in the half spaces; you want him dribbling at players. He’s just really smooth on the ball, and now it’s about him understanding the system, understanding what Gregg wants, what our team needs from him so that he can transition into this squad really smoothly, but, man, he’s got quality. He’s a player that can change rhythm and disorganize the opponent.”Will a good showing in a friendly vs. Bosnia Lite be the end-all? Probably not. Chris Mueller scored twice against El Salvador in December 2020, returned for the subsequent January camp and hasn’t been back since. But now’s the time for Booth and players of his ilk to plant the seed that they belong—either for the remainder of the current cycle or as potentially foundational pieces for the next one.

USA vs. Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2021 Friendly: Scouting Bosnia and Herzegovina

he USMNT closes the year against European competition. By Brendan Joseph  Dec 16, 2021, 5:00am PST

 for the traditional winter camp, an opportunity for mostly domestic talents to gain experience and become further acquainted with the program. The training period closes with a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. The match is being contested outside of an official FIFA window, reducing the potential strength of both sides.This is the third meeting between the two nations, with the USMNT holding a 1-0-1 advantage. In 2013, Jozy Altidore scored a hat-trick to secure a 4-3 victory. Five years later, the sides played to a scoreless draw.Zmajevi (The Dragons) are enduring a dismal year, having won two out of 12 matches. The 2022 World Cup qualification campaign ended with a fourth-place finish in Group D, faint hope extinguished by losses to Finland and the Ukraine. Local press described the performance as “the weakest in [the country’s] independent history for all major competitions.” Bosnia has failed to reach the group stage twice since debuting in 2014.Bosnia is managed by Ivaylo Petev, a 46-year-old with previous stops at Ludogorets Razgrad, Levski Sofia, Limassol, Dinamo Zagreb, Omonia, Al Qadsiah, Jagiellonia Białystok, and the Bulgaria national team. This past January, the Bulgarian was appointed to the position, signing a contract through 2022 after predecessor Dusan Bajevic “failed to reach the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.” Since missing out on the World Cup, his employment status is tenuous, with the Executive Board of the Football Association not planning to reveal a decision until “after the New Year’s holidays.”Petev named a young and inexperienced 18-player roster for the friendly. The domestic Premijer Liga contributed all of the call-ups. The squad has a combined total of eight senior caps, representative of the non-FIFA window and pandemic restrictions. Almedin Ziljkić was held out “due to back problems.”

“Certainly, some more players would receive invitations, but the problem was that they were not vaccinated,” said the manager. “I have said many times that there are many interesting young players in the Premier League and most of them on this list are under 23. We are interested in how they will play in the national team jersey and against a quality national team. I expect maximum fighting spirit and commitment, because this is a chance for everyone to show the potential he has. It also gives us the opportunity to see who we can count on in the future.”

***

GOALKEEPERS (2): Belmin Dizdarević (Sarajevo), Nikola Ćetković (Borac)

DEFENDERS (7): Selmir Pidro (Sarajevo), Numan Kurdić (Sarajevo), Aleksandar Vojnović (Borac), Hrvoje Barišić (Zrinjski), Josip Ćorluka (Zrinjski), Vedran Vrhovac (Željezničar), Ajdin Nukić (Tuzla City)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Andrej Đokanović (Sarajevo), Amar Begić (Borac), Igor Savić (Zrinjski), Marijan Ćavar (Široki Brijeg), Mehmed Ćosić (Velež), Haris Ovčina (Velež), Sasa Maksimović (Sloboda)

FORWARDS (2): Jovo Lukić (Borac), Sulejman Krpić (Tuzla City)

***

Petev alternates between the 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formations. He cited the USMNT’s speed and strength, intending to deploy a lineup that matches the opponent. While Bosnia is using a second-choice squad, the tactics of a deep defensive line and methodical, possession-based build-up should remain constant.The goalkeeper position is a toss-up between two young starters in the Premijer Liga. Borac Banja Luka’s Nikola Ćetković has experience at the youth international level. Belmin Dizdarević of Sarajevo is enjoying a strong run of form with seven shutouts in 17 matches. The latter is composed when stopping short-range shots, getting to everything within an arm’s length. He can also kick the ball to the opponent’s box, which is impressive and catches back-lines on the wrong foot.While towering veteran Hrvoje Barišić is available, Petev will likely opt to give younger players experience. After a half-season loan in Albania, Numan Kurdic has assumed a starting role for Sarajevo. The 22-year-old goes to ground often, diving in to stop advancing attackers. He has the opportunity to play next to Vedran Vrhovac of derby rivals Željezničar. His passing is an asset during the build-up, matched by frequent solo dribbling runs into space.Josip Ćorluka of Zrinjski, an attack-minded right back, appeared in a Nations League fixture against Italy last year. He pushes deep into the final third and fires in crosses, already contributing five assists this season. The other side of the field features Selmir Sidro from Sarajevo, who made his senior international debut in March against Costa Rica. The 23-year-old is a decent dribbler, plays long passes from his own half, and manages to disrupt counter-attacks with contact-free interceptions.The defensive midfielder position is taken by Andrej Đokanović, a 20-year-old that has already won the league and cup twice, well on the way to 100 club appearances. After claiming the ball, his immediate instinct is to make a vertical pass, attempting to break the opponent’s lines. This friendly is a massive opportunity for the young six who is looking to become a more frequent inclusion for the national team.Over the summer, Marijan Cavar returned home after three-and-a-half years on the books at Eintracht Frankfurt and Greuther Fürth, having failed to make an impact at either club. The former captain of the Under-21 team is trying to regain career momentum in his first senior call-up since 2018. On his best days, he is a hard tackler and facilitator of possession, the most active player on both sides of the ball. His partner in the midfield could be Igor Savić, a top domestic talent with four goals for league-leading Zrinjski. Not only standing out due to above-average height, his smooth movement and incisive passing are crucial if Bosnia is going to win the match.Tuzla City right winger Ajdin Nukić is one of the most experienced players on the roster with two caps, both from friendlies this year. He covers his entire half of the field and racks up assists, preferring to sneak behind fullbacks to play a cross but also drifts inward for the occasional finish. The left winger role can be filled by Sasa Maksimović, who tends to stay closer to the center of the field and serve as another striker. The native of Brčko fights hard for second balls, often regaining possession after a turnover.Sulejman Krpić is enjoying a solid season for Tuzla City after moving over from Romanian side Astra Giurgiu. The 30-year-old has the opportunity to earn his first senior cap. He runs the channels and beats out defenders for headers. The manager could also opt for the younger Jovo Lukić, a 6’4” target man that is dangerous on crosses and when holding possession.Results from winter camp can be a mixed bag, but Bosnia could put up a fight as local talents attempt to display the strength of the domestic league. For some players, these non-FIFA window friendlies are their sole call-ups to the national team, never to be included long-term. The run of play tends to be a little more disconnected than normal as there is less continuity and chemistry. The USMNT should emerge with a victory due to having more experience than the opponent, although surprises are known to happen.The match is scheduled for December 18th at 8:15 p.m. Eastern, 5:15 p.m. Pacific. Viewing options include FS1, UniMás TUDN, and Fubo TV (free trial).

UEFA Champions League last 16 draw: Schedule after ‘void’ draw

  • Joe Prince-Wright  Mon, December 13, 2021, 9:20 AM EST·3 min read

The initial UEFA Champions League draw for the last 16 has been declared void, as a technical issue caused chaos as European soccer’s governing body performed the draw in Switzerland.But the second draw of the day proved successful. Thank goodness.After a technical glitch which incorrectly paired Villarreal with Manchester United in the last 16, footage has appeared which showed United not being placed in the draw to face Atletico Madrid and Liverpool also not being correctly placed into a pot.UEFA then confirmed that the draw would be conducted again at 9am ET on Monday. Here is the statement in full:

“Following a technical problem with the software of an external service provider that instructs the officials as to which teams are eligible to play each other, a material error occurred in the draw for the UEFA Champions League Round of 16. As a result of this, the draw has been declared void and will be entirely redone at 1500 CET.”And here is a look at what happened:

Who fared well?

As for the officially official draw, all four Premier League teams will be very happy with their Round of 16 ties.

Liverpool face Inter Milan, Manchester City were paired with Sporting Lisbon and Chelsea drew Lille (just like they did in the void draw), and Manchester United were drawn against Atletico Madrid after being paired against PSG in the initial draw.That will be a huge sigh of relief for Man United, and Atletico, as the latter drew Bayern Munich in the now infamous ‘void draw’ earlier on Tuesday.PSG against Real Madrid is the tie of the round as two heavyweights collide.Below are details for the Champions League draw, with the full schedule, dates, how to watch, latest odds and more.

How to watch UEFA Champions League live, stream and start time

Kick off: Last 16 games take place Feb. 15 to Mar. 16
Online: Live updates via NBCSports.com
How to watch: Paramount+

UEFA Champions League draw for last 16 – Full schedule

RB Salzburg vs Bayern Munich
Sporting Lisbon vs Manchester City
Benfica vs Ajax
Chelsea vs Lille
Atletico Madrid vs Manchester United
Villarreal vs Juventus
Inter Milan vs Liverpool
Paris Saint-Germain vs Real Madrid

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12/10/21 MLS Finals Sat 3 pm ABC Portland vs NYCFC, Madrid Derby Sun, Champ League Sweet 16 Set, US Men next Sat

MLS Cup Finals – Portland Timbers vs NYCFC – 3 pm on ABC

The Portland Timbers are headed to their 4th MLS Cup and for the first time ever THEY ARE HOSTING NYCFC on Saturday at 3 pm on ABC   What a send off it would be for Portland legends Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco to win the MLS Cup on their home field in what could be their final seasons in green. 

Obviously the Timbers Army is one of the best supporters sections in the US and rivals those in England and Europe for rowdiness.  From the Tifos, to the inventive chants to the wonder of Timber Joey cutting a log with a 4 foot Chainsaw after every goal  – Portland’s Providence Park is Special.  NYCFY has been playing tremendous having won 7 straight before making their unlikely run thru the Eastern Conference to the finals.  NYCFC got lucky to face a COVID devastated Philly Union team last weekend as they were down 7 starters – of course NYCFC was also missing their superstar Valentin Castellanos who should make a huge difference for them on Saturday.  A Timbers win would give them 2 MSL Cup Titles matching their Cascadian Cup archrivals Seattle.  I like Portland to pull off a tough 2-1 match in the end.  LETS GO TIMBERS !!  A TV audience of millions will be in for a real treat this Saturday – be sure to add it to your Saturday plans!!  All About the Victory Log.   Want to get a tear in your eye and help understand the Timber family click on this link – You Are My Sunshine – Timber Jim.  
2021 MLS Cup predictions: Will New York City FC or Portland Timbers emerge as champions?

MLS Cup preview and predictions: Will Portland celebrate Timbers triumph?
  ESPN

MLS Cup brings Portland’s Providence Park party to life  Jeff Carlisle

MLS scores 17-year high in post-NFL Thanksgiving slot

Airing immediately after an NFL game, a Major League Soccer playoff match (Colorado-Portland) averaged 1.85 million viewers on FOX Thanksgiving Day — the largest MLS audience on a single network since 2004 (DC-San Jose: 1.97M). Keep in mind MLS has attracted larger combined audiences across multiple networks, including 2.01 million for the 2016 MLS Cup.

EPL, MLS viewership up

As of last week, the ongoing English Premier League season was averaging 609,000 viewers across NBC Sports’ English and Spanish-language networks — up 14% from last year and the highest at this point of the season since 2015-16.

In other soccer action, the recently-completed MLS regular season averaged 276,000 viewers across the ESPN family of networks — up 18% from last year (233K) and the networks’ most-watched season under their current media rights deal. The Univision family of networks averaged 245,000 (+22%) also a new high. Viewership on Fox Sports increased 4%, though exact figures were not immediately available. Shifting to national team play, the November 12 United States-Mexico World Cup qualifier averaged 2.9 million viewers on Univision and 1.32 million on ESPN2 and the November 16 Jamaica-United States match drew 200,000 on Universo (English-language coverage streamed on Paramount+).

US Men (MLS Group) vs Bosnia Sat 12/18 8 pm FS1

The US Men have a friendly next week vs Bosnia Herzogova next Saturday. Dec 18 at 8 pm on FS1.  The men made up of all US based players have been in camp for about 7 days already as they get a chance to put their names in the hat for the all important Qualifiers in January.  A ton of youngsters in the group but the return of winger Jordan Morris who missed all of last year with a knee injury might well lead the group.  Expect to see him start along with Pepi and probably Cade Cowell up front.  I am interested to see if Justin Che gets anytime at right back along with how many youngsters Berhalter plays in midfield.  Would be cool to see Cole Basett or Jordan Cardoso at the attacking mid (8 slot).  

Shane’s 11 to start vs Bosnia Next Weekend

Morris/Pepi/Cowell

Bassett // Roldan

Acosta

Bello, Long, Zimmerman, Reynolds/Che

Turner

USMNT ROSTER For DEC (CLUB; CAPS/GOALS)

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0) 

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)  

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in the playoffs for San Antonio and is up for Save of the Playoffs for USL – vote here !!!  Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note as it appears Jordan has not been invited to return to the Indy 11.  I have NOTHING GOOD to say about that. 

Games to Watch this Weekend

Sat gives us a German matchup of American’s as RB Liepzig and hopefully Adams will face MGladbach and right back Joe Scally on ESPN+ at 9:30 am.  Chelsea and Pulisic will travel to Leeds at 10 am on USA Network while Liverpool welcomes Aston Villa and new coach former Liverpool Gerrard at 10 am on NBCSN.  Of course MLS cup is 3 pm on ABC.  Sunday gives us the Madrid Derby as Real will host Atletico at 3 pm on ESPN+.  Real Madrid stand well atop of La Liga while Atletico are 10 pts back in 4th. 

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 11 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Wolverhampton

9:30 am ESPN+             RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Mgladbach (Joe Scally)  

10 USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leeds 

10 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Norwich (Stewart) vs Man United 

12:30 ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Stutgart

3 pm ABC                     Portland Timbers vs NYCFC MLS Finals 

Sun,  Dec 12

9 am NBCSN                        Brighton vs Tottenham 

10:15 am ESPN+                Osasuna vs Barcelona (Dest)

11:30 NBCSN                       Crystal Palace vs Everton

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Napoli vs Empoli

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Inter vs Caglairi                    

3 pm ESPN+                         Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Tues,  Dec 14

3 pm NBCSN                        Man City vs Leeds

Weds,  Dec 15

3 pm NBCSN                        Arsenal vs West Ham 

Thurs,  Dec 16

2:45 pm NBCSN                  Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Everton

3 pm Peacock                      Liverpool vs New Castle

Fri,  Dec 17

2:45 pm ESPN +                  Bayern Muchen vs Wolfsburg (Brooks)

3 pm beIN Sport                 PSG vs Lyonnais (Coupe De France) 

Sat, Dec 18 

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Brighton

9:30 am ESPN+             Hoffenhiem vs Mgladbach (Scally)  

10 USA                          Aston Villa vs Burnley

12 Paramount+               Bologna vs Juventus (McKinney)

10 am NBCS                 Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Leeds vs Arsenal 

12:30 ESPN+                 Hertha vs Dortmund (Reyna)

8 pm FS1                       USA Men vs Bosnia

Sun,  Dec 19

7 am NBCSN                        Everton vs Leicester City

9 am NBCSN                        Chelsea (Pulisic)  vs Wolverhampton

11:30 NBCSN                       Liverpool vs Tottenham 

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

12 noon CBSSN                   Napoli vs Empoli

2:45 pm CBSSN                   Milan vs Napoli      

MLS Finals Sat 3 pm ABC 


2021 MLS Cup predictions: Will New York City FC or Portland Timbers emerge as champions?

MLS Cup preview and predictions: Will Portland celebrate Timbers triumph?
  ESPN

MLS Cup brings Portland’s Providence Park party to life  Jeff Carlisle
Blanco ‘ready’ for MLS Cup after ‘miracle’ recovery
  Austin Lindberg
NYCFC borrow Portland playbook, meet MLS’ model club in final
  Dan Hajducky
The Timbers face an MLS Cup final and their city’s troubling history with race

New York eye Timbers upset in MLS Cup final

The days of Lampard and Pirlo have gone for NYC FC. And the team is better than ever

Timbers shut out Real Salt Late for Western title, MLS final berth

NATIONAL WRITER: CHARLES BOEHM  Diego and Yimmi Chara making MLS Cup a family affair

Gio Savarese: MLS Cup 2021 will show soccer’s growth in Portland, United States

BETTING ODDS  MLS Cup 2021 Odds: Will Portland or NYCFC have the edge?

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philly 5dJeff Carlisle

Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  Kyle Bonagura

MLS CUP: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game
Las Vegas closing in on MLS franchise; Aston Villa owners involved

Revs ace Gil named MLS MVP

EPL & WORLD


USMNT, MLS legend Chris Armas to join Manchester United coaching staff

Klopp: Gerrard will manage Liverpool one day  6hAramide Oladipo
Gerrard’s Liverpool return starts audition to replace Klopp
Mark Ogden

Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid preview: The best attack in Spain takes on a team in transition   ESPN Bill Connelly
Real Madrid aim to tighten grasp on La Liga in derby against Atletico

Leon edge Atlas in Liga MX final thriller

Daughter provides update on legend Pele in hospital: He’ll be home for Christmas

Champions League 

Champions League talking points: Barca’s new low, group stage MVP1dESPN

Champions League breakout XI: Nkunku, Nunez and more1dTor-Kristian Karlsen
Chelsea stumble at Zenit to lose top spot in UCL; superb Christian Pulisic assist (video)

brahimovic’s Champions League hopes take a curtain call as AC Milan fade out against Liverpool3dMark Ogden

Barcelona’s Champions League exit shows just how far they have fallen2dSam Marsden
Atletico grab unlikely last 16 Champions League spot

Xavi angered by Barcelona UCL exit: ‘This is our reality and it p—– me off’

Tuchel miffed by Chelsea’s focus in costly draw2dReuters
Villarreal survive Atalanta fightback to claim final last 16 spot

Europa League group results: Leicester, Celtic out; West Ham, Rangers advance

USMNT

Who should the USMNT start vs Bosnia & Herzegovina? By Justin Moran

With the USMNT camp underway, Morris discusses his comeback and goals

Report: FC Barcelona’s Sergino Dest wants Bayern Munich move  By CSmith1919

Weston McKennie is back at Juventus training after recovering from knee injury  December 9, 2021 by Larry Henry Jr

Jordan Morris grateful for USMNT return after two years away

European Weekend Preview: Madrid Derby, Gerrard’s Anfield return, and more.

Aaronson joins McKennie and Pulisic in American contingent heading to UCL Round of 16
USMNT’s Dike using snub as ‘fuel’ for January return
  1dColin Udoh

MAKING THE CASE: Christian Pulisic for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Weston McKennie for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Yunus Musah for Chipotle U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Kellyn Acosta for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Gianluca Busio for Chipotle U.S. Soccer Young Male Player of the Year

MAKING THE CASE: Brenden Aaronson for BioSteel U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year

Santos’ Acevedo, Galaxy’s Araujo showed they could help Mexico’s World Cup quest  1dCesar Hernandez

LADIES

Who should the USWNT schedule for SheBelieves Cup?  By Donald Wine II

Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris set to join new NWSL teams  By Parker Cleveland
Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris want to win NWSL championship with Gotham FC

Sam Kerr levels pitch invader during UEFA Women’s Champions League match between Chelsea and Juventus

2021 MLS Cup predictions: Will New York City FC or Portland Timbers emerge as champions?

USA TODAYFri, December 10, 2021, 1:16 AM

Major League Soccer’s 26th season will come to a close with Saturday’s MLS Cup (3 p.m. ET, ABC and UniMás).For the third time in seven seasons, the Portland Timbers are in the league’s championship game. However, this is the first time that the Timbers will host MLS Cup at their venerable home stadium, Providence Park, and in front of their famous supporters group, the Timbers Army. The Timbers won MLS Cup in 2015 in Columbus against the Crew, but were defeated in the 2018 title game by Atlanta United.New York City FC – which joined MLS as an expansion team in 2015 – is appearing in its first MLS Cup.- an the Timbers win a title on their home turf, or will NYCFC cap a remarkable postseason run with its first league championship?

MLS CUP: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

Here is how USA TODAY Network experts see MLS Cup 2021 going down:

Pat Brennan, Cincinnati Enquirer: NYCFC 2, Portland Timbers 1. Portland has an obvious edge in hosting the 2021 MLS Cup final at Providence Park, but New York City FC regains a more important edge with the return of Valentin Castellanos, the best goal scorer that will be on the field for both teams. Prior to Castellanos’ red card against the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference semifinal and subsequent suspension for the conference final win against the Philadelphia Union, the 2021 Golden Boot winner was in-form with two playoff goals (vs. Atlanta and New England). He’ll be grateful to see competition again in the championship match after his suspension. NYCFC took out Philadelphia without Castellanos, so it’s hard to imagine them getting knocked off from their title push with him back in the fold.

Drake Hills, The Tennessean: Portland Timbers 2, NYCFC 0. MLS Cup final experience and home-field advantage will play a big part in this outcome, but so will Felipe Mora. Portland’s Chilean striker has 12 goals to his name this year and one can vividly envision Providence Park erupting in uncontrollable elation after a Mora goal to break the scoring deadlock. There’s too much of a force from the Timbers, even though NYCFC’s “Taty” Castellanos will be returning from his one-game suspension in the Eastern Conference final. Portland will get weird on Saturday and the Timbers will lift its second MLS Cup.

Jacob Myers, The Columbus Dispatch: NYCFC 2, Portland Timbers 1. Toward the end of their careers, what a send-off it would be for Diego Valeri and Sebastian Blanco to win MLS Cup on their home field. But I’m going with the upset on the belief that New York City has slightly better offensive firepower than Portland. This pick is somewhat of a bet that Valentin Castellanos comes back from a suspension with vengeance and will be the most dangerous man on the field. New York gets its first major pro sports championship since 2011.

Jim Reineking, USA TODAY Sports: Portland Timbers 2, NYCFC 1. Let the Cascadia trash talk begin! With a victory Saturday, the Timbers would match their bitter archrivals, the Seattle Sounders, with two MLS Cup victories. The Timbers will enjoy as good a home-field advantage as any MLS Cup participant has enjoyed (Seattle in 2019 and Atlanta in 2018 also come to mind) at Providence Park and in front of the raucous Timbers Army. Not only will NYCFC have to contend with that, but the cross-country trip and third playoff game in 12 days are a big ask for a game of this magnitude.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLS Cup 2021: Portland Timbers-New York City FC title game predictions

MLS Cup preview and predictions: Will Portland celebrate Timbers triumph or can NYCFC win first title?

ESPN

Two hundred and thirty-eight days ago, 27 teams had visions of lifting MLS Cup. That dream has long been extinguished for all but the Portland Timbers and New York City FC, who contest the league’s showpiece event on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, stream live on ABC).

For the first time, the Rose City hosts the final, the atmospheric Providence Park the backdrop for the Timbers’ third MLS Cup appearance in seven years. It’s a dream locale for the league, and a matchup that will see either dancing in the streets in one of its most fervent markets, or a long-awaited payoff for a glamour club in NYCFC who have shifted strategy from star power to growth potential.

Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC

Even before an $85 million renovation projec expanded Providence Park’s capacity to 25,218 prior to the 2019 season, the Timbers had one of the best home atmospheres in Major League Soccer. The historic site had served many purposes since its original construction was completed in 1893, but over time it evolved into somewhat of a spiritual home for soccer in the United States.

Even with the modernization that came with expansion, the stadium — tucked into the Goose Hollow neighborhood — kept its historic charm. Despite the presence of turf, it’s a venue fitting for the biggest stage the league has to offer. Despite the gloomy weather expected on Saturday as Portland hosts MLS Cup for the first time, the atmosphere should be a point of a pride for the league.

What a difference one result or four points can make.

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philly 5dJeff Carlisle

Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  Kyle Bonagura

Had the Timbers lost to Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference final or finished with fewer points than NYCFC, MLS Cup would have been played at Yankee Stadium, and while playing in the largest media market in the country would have had its benefits, even a sold-out Yankee Stadium would have been an awkward look on TV.It’s not unusual that both NYCFC and Portland were better at home during the regular season, but few teams in the league had such a wide discrepancy between home and away performances than the two left standing. NYCFC had twice as many points at home (34) as they did on the road (17), while Portland’s split (35/20) was similar. That on its face is reason enough to cast the Timbers as the favorites to claim their second MLS Cup, following their first that came with a 2-1 win at Columbus in 2015.

MLS LIVE ON ESPN NETWORKS, APP

“I’ve heard it is a very good atmosphere, but there is nothing more fun than playing in a stadium with a good atmosphere,” NYCFC coach Ronny Delia said. “We have to deal with the noise to be playing away, but we have been playing away against the best team in the league (New England) and did well. And it was also quite noisy there and also in Philadelphia. This is maybe a step up when you’re talking about noise but I think we have players through these things many times.”As of Wednesday, Delia said he hadn’t settled on a starting XI. The only change he confirmed was obvious: After missing the conference final against Philadelphia due to a red card, Golden Boot award winner Valentin Castellanos will return to the lineup. That should certainly provide a spark to the NYCFC that was stagnant in long stretches against the Union.

Portland has reinforcements in attack, too. Dairon Asprilla missed the conference final due to a red card and Sebastian Blanco was an unused sub due to injury. It still remains to be seen how effective Blanco can be coming off a hamstring injury, but given that he was available over the weekend it’s reasonable to expect him to have some kind of role on Saturday.

During the regular season, NYCFC and Portland played with conflicting styles. Only four teams possessed the ball with a higher percentage than the Pigeons (52.99%), while no team played on the counter more than Portland, who had the lowest possession percentage in MLS (44.9%). Still, they ultimately got to the same place: NYCFC’s 64.65 xG ranked No. 2 in MLS, while Portland’s 56.18 was No. 4 — and they both scored 56 goals, which ranked only behind New England (65) and Sporting Kansas City (58). — Bonagura

Predictions:

T Whatever defensive frailties plagued Portland during the regular season have been fixed in the playoffs, with just one goal conceded in three games. Granted, the Timbers haven’t faced an attack like NYCFC’s, especially with Castellanos back in the lineup. But with Blanco and Asprilla returning to play at least a role in Saturday’s match, and with Providence Park in full voice, look for the Timbers to prevail. — Carlisle

N NYCFC already beat the best regular-season team in league history on the road in these playoffs, so winning at Portland certainly is a reasonable outcome. Just not likely. Portland simply plays at another level at Providence Park and with the support it can expect on Saturday, that carries the day. — Bonagura

T For anyone who has never been to a Timbers game at Providence Park, the easiest description of the atmosphere is the anti-Yankee Stadium for NYCFC games. The fans, including the sizable Timbers Army, will be on top of NYCFC, and it should be the most raucous crowd the Timbers have played in front of since before the pandemic. Also: Since MLS eliminated the neutral site host for MLS Cup in 2012, the home team has won all except two: when the Timbers won in Columbus in 2015 in a strange game, and when the Seattle Sounders FC won on penalty kicks in Toronto after a scoreless slog in 2016. Home-field advantage in MLS matters. The Timbers’ defense is a concern, and will struggle if Castellanos has a good game, but coach Giovanni Savarese usually figures it out. — Murray

T  It certainly feels like the stars have aligned for Portland. It’s hosting its first final, as it seems Diego Valeri‘s time in Stumptown is winding down. It would be fitting to send the four-time MLS All-Star and one of three players in league history with both 80 goals and 80 assists into the sunset with another Philip F. Anschutz Trophy. Fortunately, both heart and head say this is the Timbers’ to take. — Hajducky

T It’s rather remarkable that NYCFC, whose road form in 2021 was pedestrian at best, went to New England and then Philadelphia to knock off the Eastern Conference’s two best teams. What lies in wait in Portland, though, will be something else entirely. Saturday’s MLS Cup stands to be the most atmospheric, emotional contest in the league’s history, and if that fervent fan support doesn’t get the Timbers up for the contest, I don’t know what will. — Lindberg

USMNT weekend viewing guide: Winter Finals

MLS Cup Final action on Saturday afternoon and an American matchup in Italy

By jcksnftsn  Dec 10, 2021, 12:09pm PST

Welcome to a lovely winter weekend, where there is limited action on Friday. However, there is a full day Saturday, including the MLS Cup Final and American vs. American action in Italy in addition to our usual slate of Bundesliga games and a smattering of matches from Spain and England. Let’s get it started by jumping in to that Saturday action.

Saturday

Portland Timbers v New York City FC – 3p on ABC

The Portland Timbers will represent the Western Conference in the MLS Cup Final on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, they have no USMNT representation to speak of, so let’s jump straight over to NYCFC, who represent the Eastern Conference and also have a smattering of USMNT players in their midst. The third keeper at the last couple of USMNT camps has been NYCFC’s starting goaltender Sean Johnson, who gave up one goal and had three saves against the Philadelphia Union’s second squad in the Eastern Conference Final. James Sands also started the match and played the full 90. Digging a little deeper, 19-year-old right back Tayvon Gray went the full 90 as well.

Other notes:

  • Josh Sargent also gets the broadcast network treatment when Norwich City take on Manchester United at 12:30p on NBC. Sargent will of course be facing off against new Manchester United assistant….Chris Armas?!?

Streaming overseas:

  • Chris Richards got his first start in five matches in Hoffenheim’s 3-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend. This weekend, his club will face Freiburg at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Gio Reyna remains out while his Borussia Dortmund side face Bochum at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Your American head-to-head Bundesliga matchup of the weekend sees Tyler Adams and RB Leipzig facing Joe Scally and Borussia Mönchengladbach at 9:30a on ESPN+. It will be Leipzig’s first league match since replacing Jesse Marsch.
  • Christian Pulisic came on as a sub and picked up an assist midweek in Chelsea’s disappointing 3-3 draw with Zenit Saint Petersburg. The club will be looking to bounce back from two straight disappointing matches, including their loss to West Ham last weekend, when they face Leeds United at 10a on Peacock.
  • Matt Miazga will be looking for his first start in seven matches when Deportivo Alavés face Getafe at 10:15a on ESPN+.
  • Germany isn’t the only country getting a taste of Americans vs. Americans this weekend, Italy also gets in on the action as Weston McKennie’s Juventus face Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann, and Venezia at Noon on Paramount+.
  • John Brooks was yanked at the half in Wolfsburg’s 3-0 loss to Mainz last weekend and did not start the team’s Champions League loss at the hands of Lille. His club will face Stuttgart and the remaining American coach Pellegrino Matarazzo at 12:30p on ESPN+.

Sunday

Osasuna v FC Barcelona – 10:15a on ESPN+

It looks like Sunday could be a relatively quiet day but Sergiño Dest and Barcelona will take on Osasuna mid-morning. Dest’s role with the club has become fairly uncertainly unfortunately. The right back was a halftime sub amid rumors that club and player would both be open to a move. Barcelona suffered a 1-0 loss to Real Betis last weekend and a 3-0 defeat to Bayern Munich in Champions League play, crashing out of the competition without making it to the knockout rounds. They now sit in seventh place, six points back of qualifying for next season’s edition of the competition.

Streaming overseas:

  • It seems that Timothy Weah is injured again and will be out for the remainder of 2021. His club face OIympique Lyonnais at 7a on beIN Sports.
  • Julian Green and Greuther Fürth face Union Berlin at 9:30a on EPSN+. Fürth are on pace for a historically bad Bundesliga campaign so check this one out if you like watching train wrecks.
  • Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt face Bayer Leverkusen at 11:30a on ESPN+. Chandler has started five straight matches for Frankfurt across all competitions.
  • After a year off, Richie Ledezma made his return from injury to appear for Jong PSV last weekend. He then was included in the squad for the senior team’s Europa League clash with Real Sociedad, though he did not make it off the bench. PSV face NEC at 2p on ESPN+.

Champions League talking points: Barcelona’s new low, group stage MVP, dream round-of-16 clash

Matchday six of the Champions League brought the group stage to a close. Three teams — AjaxBayern Munich and Liverpool — qualified for the knockout phase with a 100% record while ChelseaManchester City and Manchester United ensured that the Premier League will be fully represented in the round of 16.

But not all of Europe’s big clubs had it their way: Barcelona will join Borussia Dortmund in the latter stages of the Europa League, while AC Milan finished bottom of their group.

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We asked Gab Marcotti, James Olley and Alex Kirkland to answer some of the big questions arising from this week’s matches.

What caught your attention on matchday 6?

Marcotti: Porto vs. Atletico Madrid was obviously an old-school slugfest, right down to the brawls and the late goals. Porto were hard done by and Atletico confirm themselves as everyone’s favorite villains. I also found it weird that RB Leipzig, with nothing to play for, beat Manchester City (who also had nothing on the line, but Pep Guardiola put out a good team). Liverpool showed that energy and fresh legs (as Jurgen Klopp said) can matter more than quality, if the mindset and motivation is right.

Olley: Thomas Tuchel getting angry. The 11 months he has been in charge of Chelsea have been an almost undiluted success, but, following on from a sticky patch in the league, he saw his team surrender top spot in Group H at the death as Zenit St Petersburg equalised in the 94th minute on Wednesday. Finishing in first place is never a guarantee of an easy round-of-16 draw, but Tuchel has bemoaned the Blues’ sloppiness in “the details” of late and this is another example.

Kirkland: Barcelona’s group stage elimination for the first time in 21 years. Yes, it felt inevitable — they were never going to go to Munich and win, even with Bayern already through and the match being played behind closed doors — but the manner of the 3-0 defeat was yet another reminder of just how far Barca have fallen. “This is our reality … it has to be a turning point,” coach Xavi said. Winning the Europa League would be a start, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: this Barca team might not even find themselves among the favourites for that competition.

Marcotti: Sebastien Haller. Duh. Not only did he score in every round — with 10 goals in total, including four in one match at Sporting CP — but he helped Ajax top their group with six wins out of six games. And, without him, I’m not sure they even qualify.

Kirkland: It’s hard to look beyond Haller, who scored in all six of Ajax’s group games — a feat previously only achieved by Cristiano Ronaldo — on his debut in the competition. Otherwise, it’s the usual suspects such as Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski and Liverpool’s Mohamed SalahReal Madrid‘s group-stage success felt more collective than individual. Their outstanding players were dotted around the team and stepped up at key moments: Karim BenzemaVinicius JuniorToni Kroos and Eder Militao.

Olley: Haller is the obvious candidate. Alex and Gab make the case for him perfectly so for the sake of variety, I’ll go for Ronaldo. The Manchester United star — who is ranked No. 2 among the world’s top forwards in ESPN’s FC 100 for 2021 — single-handedly dragged into the knockout phase, scoring three times against Atalanta as United took four points from the Italians when they deserved none. He even helped give caretaker boss Michael Carrick a winning start at Villarreal. He turns 37 before the round of 16 begins, and there is almost a constant danger of United overindulging him, but Ronaldo remains the man for the big occasion.

In light of the Super League breakaway attempt, does the Champions League show there is no need for change?

Kirkland: The climax to this group stage was genuinely thrilling, with big names like Barcelona, Dortmund, Milan and Sevilla eliminated and it felt like there were few games with nothing riding on them. Matches that the Super League’s backers would prefer never to see take place threw up proper shocks: Young Boys beating Manchester United or Sheriff Tiraspol winning at the Bernabeu in September. But it’s also true that the nature of the group-stage format mean those upsets don’t tend to matter much — United and Madrid both ended up topping their groups. What absolutely doesn’t count as improvement is the catastrophic reform that UEFA plans to implement in 2024, abolishing the group stage in favour of a “Swiss model” league which will mean even less drama.

ESPN FC 100

For the sixth straight year, ESPN presents its annual ranking of the best men’s players and coaches! A collection of Top 10s features No. 1s from six clubs, with 41 new entries and 28 nationalities. Read

Marcotti: Well, it’s changing format anyway as we move to the “Swiss model”. Personally, I thought things were fine as they were in terms of groups-to-knockout format. Yes, there are some games of no consequence at the end. But just think how many of those we have in domestic leagues across Europe every week. In any case, the Super League wasn’t ever really about format as much as it was about cost control, financial redistribution and access.

Olley: The current format is probably the most bloated version of the Champions League that can exist while still retaining a sufficiently competitive element throughout. It isn’t ideal, but it looks better than the incoming “Swiss model.” And, at the very least, the surprise results achieved by Sheriff, Young Boys and others only underline the flawed arrogance of the biggest clubs trying to make the European Super League a closed shop.

The round-of-16 tie you want to see is…

Marcotti: Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain would be tasty. And I would love the idea of Salzburg’s young guns taking on the old master, Ralf Rangnick, at Manchester United.

Olley: Real vs. PSG would obviously be brilliant, but what about Chelsea vs. Bayern? Thomas Tuchel vs. Julian Nagelsmann, Chelsea back at Bayern in the stadium where they beat them to win the whole thing 10 years earlier. Maybe being back on German soil might even reignite Timo Werner

Kirkland: Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain, please: it could be dubbed “the Kylian Mbappe derby,” and it would be a chance to see what Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid are made of. Sure, they’re top of a weakened LaLiga, but are they really much better than Zinedine Zidane’s side were last year? This tie would help us find out. If not, I’ll take Madrid vs. Chelsea, a rematch of last season’s semifinal, for the same reason.

With the USMNT camp underway, Morris discusses his comeback and goals

Jordan Morris is back with the USMNT in December after making his return from an ACL tear he suffered while with Swansea City in February. The Seattle winger has taken some important steps recently but whether he is ready to help the U.S. team will be determined in the weeks ahead. ASN’s Brian Sciaretta reports. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  DECEMBER 09, 2021  4:10 AM

THE UNITED STATES NATIONAL team is currently assembled in California with a roster that is a blend of mostly domestic players with various levels of experience ranging from young U-20 players to established veterans.Jordan Morris, 27, is among the more experienced American players on the roster with 39 caps. But unlike many other veterans, Morris needs this camp to justify that he is ready to help this team when World Cup qualifying resumes at the end of January.On December 18, the U.S team will host Bosnia & Herzegovina and if Morris plays it will be his 40th cap. Through his first 39 caps, the Seattle native has 10 goals playing mostly on the wings. The problem for Morris, however, has been injuries. Back in February, Morris tore his ACL in his fourth appearance on loan with Swansea City in England. The loan was terminated and Morris returned to the United States for surgery in LA.“I remember when I was going down to have my surgery, I flew to L.A,” Morris recalled. “On the plane ride down, I was working on kind of my goal sheets for this year and next year trying to bring some positivity into things. And part of my goal this year was to get back on the field before the season ended and get back into a national team camp before next year.”Both of those goals ended up happening. Morris returned to the field for the Seattle Sounders on November 1 and ended up making three appearances to conclude the season. He managed to start his final outing in the playoffs and play 104 minutes as Seattle lost in a shootout to Real Salt Lake following a 0-0 deadlock.Morris said that he in terms of fitness, he feels like he is at a pretty good level but his sharpness still has a ways to go.“It’s definitely still part of the part of the process,” Morris said. “I’m only probably nine months out from my surgery now and so was able to get back on the field a little bit earlier than what was maybe first anticipated – which is great. But things are still going to be coming… My fitness is at a pretty good level. It’s the sharpness and getting all that back… I’m feeling pretty good with it, but definitely understand that I have more to go.”Prior to the start of camp, Gregg Berhalter discussed Morris and his recovery. While he was happy to have Morris back with the team but that he simply doesn’t know yet whether he is ready to help the team in World Cup qualifying. After this camp, there will be a January training camp leading up to the international window for key domestic players.Whether Morris remains with the team for the big three qualifiers is an open question.

“If we don’t bring him into this camp he has no chance of playing qualifiers, right?” Berhalter said. “So our job now is to work with him these next four weeks and then when we’re in camp to get him ready to see if he can make an impact and help in qualifiers. We know his talent level, we know what he brings to the team, it gives us a different dimension and it’d be nice to get him in a place where he can perform in these games but we just don’t know yet, so we’ll have to wait and see when he’s in camp. He’s made a lot of progress with Seattle they did a great job of getting him back on the field.”While at camp, Morris will get the opportunity to also be a veteran leader in addition to being a player who has a lot to prove. On the current team there are eight players eligible for the United States U-20 national team in 2023. Many of these players are coming off their first full season as a first-team professional.Morris has been following the progress of the team and the player pool during his recovery for most of the year. He is encouraged by where the team currently sits in the Octagonal round of qualifying but admits that it has been hard to watch and not be at a point where he can be settled for selection.or now, Morris is happy to be at the point where he can at least fight for an opportunity. Unfortunately, injuries are nothing new for Morris. His recent ACL tear was the second of his career. He also suffered a different knee injury at the 2017 Gold Cup which forced him out of the remaining World Cup qualifiers – which ended with the team’s failure to book at place in Russia.Morris has had had an uneven career because of injuries but is now trending up. When looking at where he wanted to be on the eve of his surgery in February, he has made great progress. But now, the next steps will be just as hard.“I think the team has done so well in some difficult environments to get really good results,” Morris said. “I obviously wasn’t part of those games. But watching from afar, it was really difficult and wishing I could potentially be out there playing.”“Throughout my rehab, getting back to be part of the national team – that was the main goal, to recover, get back to my best as quickly as possible and try and get back in with this group because that just means everything,” he added. “For me, it’s just doing what I what I normally do – trying to stretch teams, get in behind, use my speed to unbalance teams and stretch things a bit. I’m just grateful to be back in this camp and looking forward to continuing to work.”

Who should the USMNT start vs Bosnia & Herzegovina?

Do you prioritize keeping players fresh, or seeing new faces? By Justin Moran@kickswish  Dec 10, 2021, 6:00am PST

The USMNT roster is out for December Camp ahead of a friendly next Saturday against Bosnia & Herzegovina. 26 players are available for selection, but only 11 can start. Gregg’s stated camp goals are to keep players fresh so they’ll be ready for World Cup qualifiers in late January, and to evaluate new players.The roster has many players who are positionally flexible. On the left is the roster mapped out in Gregg’s typical 4-3-3 with a single 6, dual 8s and no number 10, based on which positions players were listed in the roster announcement (FW/Mid/Def). On the right is all players available at each position, including which players could play as a single 6, a 10, and an 8 (whether single 8, dual 8s, or double-pivot behind a 10). The permutations are nearly endless.

Starting points

Let’s start with a couple easy picks:

  • Ricardo Pepi will likely start up top
  • Matt Turner likely in net
  • Aaron Long & Walker Zimmerman seem the obvious CB pairing, although Long’s fitness level is unknown
  • Kellyn Acosta seems likely to start either as a 6 or an 8
  • Jordan Morris seems likely to start out wide

That leaves left back, one wing spot, and the midfield up for discussion.

There’s a good chance Jonathan Gómez will be in Spain before the game on the 18th. JoGo told WDRB.com he expects to arrive in Spain between Dec 7th and 14th. If JoGo is available, it would certainly be exciting to see him start, and Kevin Paredes could be pushed up higher to play on the wing. If JoGo is gone, Paredes could see the start at left back. George Bello is on the roster, and has 5 caps this year, but has not been convincing in World Cup qualifying so far, and was left off the November roster. Bello still has a bright future, but this game might be better served by gathering some information on JoGo or Paredes.  Options abound in the midfield and out wide. The lack of midfielders on the roster suggests that Berhalter could start Johnny or Yueill at the 6, with Acosta as an 8. Clark, Ferreira, Paredes, and Roldan seem the most likely to start out wide opposite Morris. Cowell could as well, but he was a bit disappointing at Revelations Cup with the U-20s.

Double pivot?

This roster has a lot of players who are capable of playing as dual 8’s in a double pivot, and several whose best position is probably a number 10 (Ferreira, Clark, Booth). Could this be an opportunity to try out a new shape? One of the biggest problems in the U.S. player pool is not having a like-for-like Tyler Adams replacement. One possible solution to that problem is to switch to something closer to a 4-2-3-1 formation, with two holding midfielders and one creative attacking mid. This friendly provides the perfect chance to test that shape, if Berhalter is interested in doing so.

New faces, new spots

This camp includes many players who haven’t played much under Berhalter, many of whom are positionally flexible. Here are some different tests Gregg could run during this game:

  • Jonathan Gómez at left back (if he sticks around for the game)
  • Kevin Paredes as left back or winger
  • Bryan Reynolds at right back
  • Johnny as a solo 6 or in a double pivot
  • Bassett as a dual 8 or winger
  • Caden Clark as a 10, dual 8, or winger
  • Taylor Booth in a double pivot, as a 10, a dual 8, or out wide
  • Ferreira as a 10, dual 8, or winger

Obviously Berhalter won’t be able to run all these tests in one game. I also think he should try to avoid having players in more than one position if the game, to the extent possible, so their instructions can be clear. There’s also the question of how many variables should be in play, and how many controls. Pepi, Turner, Zimmerman, and Acosta are likely to be controls, at the very least.

Here’s one lineup that would keep several players fresh, while also testing out some new faces and trying a different shape:

Garber: Las Vegas the favorite to Join MLS Next  to

The race for the 30th MLS expansion team has a clear leader now, and while we may not know for a while which market will secure the spot, what is clear is that the league is looking West, only one of the markets that previously held down the role of expansion favorite.Talks between MLS and prospective ownership groups in Las Vegas are “making progress”, Don Garber confirmed in his State of the League Address on Tuesday. Garber acknowledged that Las Vegas is the current frontrunner, though not the only market in contention for the league’s 30th expansion spot.In addition to Las Vegas, MLS is also “still in discussion with other markets” including Phoenix and San Diego, Garber confirmed. Phoenix also has a USL side and would be seeking first-time involvement in the top-tier league while San Diego recently announced a new NWSL expansion side, the San Diego Wave.One market that was not mentioned by Garber was Sacramento, which has plummeted out of the expansion picture due to the city’s inability to secure an ownership group with enough financial muscle having had prospective investors pull out of the project. The billionaire tandem of Wes Edens and Nassef Sawris filed to trademark for a soccer team named the Las Vegas Villains earlier in 2021 and Garber confirmed the league is working with Edens on the Las Vegas possibility. Bill Foley, owner of the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights had been interested in joining the MLS expansion race, but recently confirmed that he has withdrawn from consideration.Las Vegas has become a sports boomtown in recent years, with the NFL’s Raiders relocating to Las Vegas and opening a state-of-the-art stadium. The NHL’s Vegas Knights have also been a success.“I am just blown away by what’s going on in Las Vegas and I’ve been in the sports business for a really long time. I didn’t see it coming.”Garber acknowledged that the league has examined expansion in Las Vegas for many years. He said the league met in its early years with former Las Vegas mayor Oscar Goodman about possible expansion.“We’re very bullish about the market and we’ll continue to plow forward,” Garber said. “I can’t really comment on what our stadium plans are at this point because there’s still fluid. But you know, hopefully sometime in the next couple of months, we’ll have more to talk about.”

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12/06/21 MLS Finals Sat 3 pm ABC Portland vs NYCFC, UCL Tues/Wed, US Men tix for Columbus Jan 27 on Sale  

Tix on Sale for US Men to Play in Columbus Thur Jan 27 7 pm vs El Salvador Anyone interested in roadtripping? If so reach-out  — I think I can get American Outlaw tickets (up to 4) around $75-$80 each.  

MLS Cup Finals – Portland Timbers vs NYCFC – 3 pm on ABC

I gotta chance to watch both MLS Conference Finals this weekend – and wow is Portland a hotbed of Soccer.  The Portland Timbers are headed to their 4th MLS Cup and for the first time ever THEY ARE HOSTING on Saturday at 3 pm.  The Timbers Army is one of the best supporters sections in the US and rivals those in England and Europe for rowdiness.  From the Tifos, to the inventive chants to the wonder of Timber Joey cutting a log with a 4 foot Chainsaw after every goal  – Portland’s Providence Park is Special.  A TV audience of millions will be in for a real treat this Saturday – be sure to add it to your Saturday plans!!  All About the Victory Log

Great crowds were on hand for both Conference Final games – Portland’s Timber Army was in rare form as 25K were on hand for Portland’s solid 2-0 victory over the Cinderella Real Salt Lake.  Highlights Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake

Philly’s 20K park was full to the brim and the Sons of Ben (supporter’s section) sounded much louder than just 20K.  While the atmosphere was great the youngster of Philly gave NYCFC all they could handle for 80 minutes before finally falling 3-1.  Philly was missing 11 players (6 starters) due to Covid protical which just left them too undermaned.   Highlights Philly Union vs  NYCFC

Champions League Group Stage Final Round – Barca, AC Milan, Atletico could be out? 

Several of Europe’s biggest teams are staring at early exits UEFA Champions League as the final round of the group stage kicks off to headline this weekend’s Soccer on TV and Online.  Barcelona, AC Milan and Atletico Madrid are some of the teams still fighting for knockout round survival heading into the final group matches. Group B has been locked up by Liverpool, leaving Atlético Madrid, AC Milan, and Porto to decide who will join them. As things stand, Porto controls its own with a win over Atlético Madrid. It might feel like a stretch, but the Portuguese powerhouse held Atlético scoreless in the September matchup and has a reputation to protect after making it to last year’s quarterfinal round.AC Milan has to find some sort of magic trick to hand Liverpool its first loss in UCL play this year, but if it can, the possibility is there to move up to second and secure the chance to fight another day in the knockout round if Porto can’t take care of business.Wednesday’s Bayern Munich – Barcelona matchup is a hard one to gloss over, and the stakes are high. Barca hasn’t exactly struck fear into the world’s elite this year, and you probably wouldn’t want to bet on them beating the German giant, but it could spell the end of their UCL campaign if they don’t. A loss plus Benfica win (which is likely) over Dynamo Kyiv will render Barcelona Europa league contestants for the first time ever.Here is a look at This Week’s Top 5 Matches to Watch, as well as a full rundown of This Week’s Soccer on TV and Online:

This Week’s Top 5 Matches to Watch

1. Bayern Munich vs Barcelona – Barcelona is effectively eliminated if it can’t pull off an upset.

2. AC Milan vs Liverpool – Milan needs a lot of help to avoid heading to the Europa ranks, but crazier things have happened. Can they muster up an upset in an effort to control what they can?

3. Wolfsburg vs. Lille – John Brooks and Tim Weah are both vying for a place in the knockout rounds, but only one of the USMNT teammates will go through, and this one will decide which makes it.
4. Mexico vs Chile – Back-to-back losses in World Cup Qualifying have El Tri looking out of order. Can Mexico course correct with something better against a respectable CONMEBOL opponent?

5. Napoli vs Leicester City – The Europa League isn’t what either team would like to be battling in, but from the neutral point of view, this is a fun matchup that should serve as a good test for both teams. Who comes out on top?

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in the playoffs for San Antonio and is up for Save of the Playoffs for USL – vote here !!!  Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note as it appears Jordan has not been invited to return to the Indy 11.  I have NOTHING GOOD to say about that. 

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tuesday, Dec 7

UEFA Champions League

12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –      PSG vs Club Brugge
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –          RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Manchester City (Steffan)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –           AC Milan vs Liverpool
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Ajax vs Sporting CP
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Porto vs Atlético Madrid
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Shakhtar Donetsk vs Sheriff
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –             Real Madrid vs Inter Milan
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Borussia Dortmund vs Beşiktaş

Wednesday, Dec 8

UEFA Champions League

12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –      Zenit vs Chelsea (Pulisic)
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –          Juventus vs Malmö FF
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Lille (Weah)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Salzburg (Aaron) vs Sevilla
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Atalanta vs Villarreal
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Benfica vs Dynamo Kyiv
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –             Bayern Munich vs Barcelona (Dest)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Manchester United vs Young Boys (Pfuk)

9 p.m. –TUDN USA, TUDN.com –               Mexico vs Chile

Thursday, Dec 9

UEFA Europa League

12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –          Real Sociedad vs PSV
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Sturm Graz vs Monaco
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –   Napoli vs Leicester City
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Antwerp vs Olympiakos Piraeus
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Olympique Lyonnais vs Rangers
12:45 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –        Fenerbahçe vs Eintracht Frankfurt
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Genk vs Rapid Wien
3 p.m. – Paramount+, Galavision –                 Celtic vs Real Betis
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN USA –             Lazio vs Galatasaray (Yedlin)
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Ferencváros vs Bayer Leverkusen
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –           West Ham United vs Dinamo Zagreb
3 p.m. – Paramount+, TUDN.com –               Olympique Marseille vs Lokomotiv Moskva

Sat, Dec 11 

7:30 am NBCSN           Man City vs Wolverhampton

9:30 am ESPN+             RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Mgladbach (Joe Scar?)   

10 USA                          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Leeds  

10 am NBCSN??           Liverpool vs Aston Villa

12:30 NBC                    Norwich (Stewart) vs Man United  

12:30 ESPN+                 Wolfsburg (Brooks) vs Stutgart

3 pm ABC                     Portland Timbers vs NYCFC MLS Finals 

Sun,  Dec 12

9 am NBCSN                      Brighton vs Tottenham  

10:15 am ESPN+                Osasuna vs Barcelona (Dest)

11:30 NBCSN                      Crystal Palace vs Everton

11:30 ESPN+                       Frankfort vs Leverkusen

2:45 pm CBSSN                  Inter vs Caglairi                    

3 pm ESPN+                     Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid

Please Consider the Carmel Dads’ Club Annual Fund This Holiday Season

Champions League

Barca, Atletico in danger of Champions League exit
Atletico troubles bring fresh scrutiny on Simeone ahead of Porto decider

Ancelotti: Madrid as good as Man City, Bayern
Klopp ‘must’ rotate for Champions League trip to Milan

MLS Super Cup Finals

MLS analysis: Portland downs RSL convincingly, NYCFC slips past undermanned Union  ASN Brian Sciaretta
New York City beats Covid-hit Union to reach MLS Cup final

 Portland Timbers’ MLS dream becomes a reality  ESPN FC Kyle Bonagura 
Portland beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 to reach MLS Cup final

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philly ESPN FC Jeff Carlisle

Charra part of the heart and Soul of Portland

Bob Bradley looks to Turn things Around in Toronto  

EPL

Report: USMNT, MLS legend Chris Armas set to join Manchester United coaching staff
Ralf Rangnick on Ronaldo’s work rate, Manchester United press in win

Tuchel questions Chelsea focus after shock defeat at West Ham

USA / World

 Berhalter’s 26-player December camp roster mixes veterans and youth  ASN Brian Sciaretta

Marsch out at Leipzig as most Americans struggle throughout Europe  ASN

Leipzig bring down the curtain on Marsch’s unhappy tenure
Jesse Marsch out as RB Leipzig coach after five months

Lewandowski nets double as Bayern down Dortmund to go four points clear

Barca, Atletico in danger of Champions League exit

Martyn WOOD  Sun, December 5, 2021, 10:59 PM·4 min readXavi Hernandez faces his first critical test as Barcelona coach with the club at risk of failing to make the Champions League knockout stages for the first time in two decades.A goalless draw at home to Benfica last month left Barca with their destiny in their own hands, but with a much trickier final game away to Group E winners Bayern Munich.Spanish champions Atletico Madrid have their work cut to secure one of the five unclaimed last-16 tickets after three defeats on the spin, while all four teams remain in the hunt in an unpredictable Group G.

AFP Sport looks at what’s at stake going into the final round of Champions League group games:

Ballon d’Or backlash from Bayern?

Barca find themselves on the ropes ahead of Wednesday’s trip to Germany, but it could have been far worse were it not for Benfica forward Haris Seferovic’s glaring miss in stoppage time at Camp Nou.

Bayern are one of three teams with a perfect record in this season’s competition, and Robert Lewandowski’s perceived Ballon d’Or snub may give the star striker extra incentive to prove a point.

Xavi suffered his first defeat as Barca coach on Saturday against Real Betis. He rested key players with a view to the game in Munich, where victory would guarantee Barca go through as runners-up in Group E, extending their 20-year run of reaching the knockout phase.A youthful Xavi was establishing himself as a mainstay of the midfield when Barca exited in the first group stage of the 2000-01 competition.  Failure to secure maximum points would open the door for Benfica to pip them to second place, with the Portuguese needing to beat Dynamo Kiev in Lisbon.

Three-horse race and four-way showdown

Porto, AC Milan and Atletico will battle it out for the second qualification spot behind Liverpool in Group B.

Two-time former European champions Porto hold a one-point edge over both rivals ahead of the visit of Atletico. Milan host a Liverpool side that Jurgen Klopp could rotate heavily ahead of a busy festive schedule.

Last season’s Europa League winners Villarreal, beaten at home by two late Manchester United goals on matchday five, go to Atalanta knowing they will advance at the expense of the Italians if they avoid defeat in Bergamo.

Austrian champions Salzburg appeared to be coasting through after accruing seven points in three games, but back-to-back away losses mean they could still miss out. Salzburg can seal a knockout berth with a draw at home to Sevilla, who in turn would qualify if they win.

Lille top Group G with eight points and will progress if they get a point at Wolfsburg. The Germans are last in the section but victory would send them through instead. 

Already in the last-16 pot

Eleven clubs are assured of their place in the last-16 draw on December 13, five of which have already clinched top spot. Erik ten Hag’s impressive Ajax will attempt to complete a perfect group stage for the first time in club history at home to Sporting, certain of second above Borussia Dortmund irrespective of Tuesday’s results.

Manchester City cannot be caught by Paris Saint-Germain in Group A, while Real Madrid have a two-point lead over Inter Milan in Group D ahead of their Bernabeu showdown.

Holders Chelsea, who go to Zenit Saint Petersburg for their final Group H game, will nail down top spot if they match Juventus’ result at home to Swedish outfit Malmo.

Ralf Rangnick made a winning start to his spell as United’s interim manager and is safe in the knowledge his team will move on as winners of Group F come what may against Switzerland’s Young Boys.

Europa League consolation

All third-placed clubs will drop into the Europa League, but a revised format now sees them face the group runner-ups from the second-tier tournament in a play-off round before the last 16. Sheriff Tiraspol, losers of three straight games after shocking Real in September, will continue their European adventure in the Europa League, as will Dortmund and Zenit.  RB Leipzig look favourites to finish third behind City and PSG despite parting ways with coach Jesse Marsch. The Germans are level on points with Club Brugge but have the head-to-head advantage prior to their home game with Pep Guardiola’s side.

MLS Cup Playoffs 2021: Saturday Dec. 11: Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC, 3 p.m. ET (ABC, UniMás)

USA TODAY  Sun, December 5, 2021, 8:10 PM· The matchup for the 2021 MLS Cup is set.  The Portland Timbers – winners of the Western Conference – will host New York City FC – winners of the Eastern Conference – at Providence Park on Saturday, Dec. 11 (3 p.m. ET, ABC). For Portland, this is the club’s third MLS Cup, winning the league title in 2015. NYCFC, meanwhile, is making its first appearance in the championship game.  MLS CUP: Ranking every Major League Soccer championship game

Here is the 2021 MLS playoff schedule with dates, times and television information. Live streams for ABC/ESPN games available on Watch ESPN; FOX games on FOX Sports Live. Games also available to be live streamed on fuboTV.

MLS CUP

  • Dec. 11: Portland Timbers vs. New York City FC, 3 p.m. ET (ABC, UniMás)

CONFERENCE FINALS

CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

ROUND 1

Which teams have won MLS Cup?

2020: Columbus Crew over Seattle Sounders (Mapfre Stadium), 3-0

2019: Seattle Sounders FC over Toronto FC (CenturyLink Field), 3-1

2018: Atlanta United over Portland Timbers (Mercedes-Benz Stadium), 2-0

2017: Toronto FC over Seattle Sounders FC (BMO Field), 2-0

2016: Seattle Sounders FC over Toronto FC (BMO Field), 0-0 (Sounders won penalty shootout, 5-4)

2015: Portland Timbers over Columbus Crew (Mapfre Stadium), 2-1

2014: Los Angeles Galaxy over New England Revolution (StubHub Center), 2-1 (extra time)

2013: Sporting Kansas City over Real Salt Lake (Sporting Park), 1-1 (SKC won penalty shootout, 7-6)

2012: Los Angeles Galaxy over Houston Dynamo (Home Depot Center), 3-1

2011: Los Angeles Galaxy over Houston Dynamo (Home Depot Center), 1-0

2010: Colorado Rapids over FC Dallas (BMO Field), 2-1 (extra time)

2009: Real Salt Lake over Los Angeles Galaxy (Qwest Field), 1-1 (RSL won penalty shootout, 5-4)

2008: Columbus Crew over New York Red Bulls (Home Depot Center), 3-1

2007: Houston Dynamo over New England Revolution (RFK Stadium), 2-1

2006: Houston Dynamo over New England Revolution (Pizza Hut Park), 1-1 (Dynamo won penalty shootout, 4-3)

2005: Los Angeles Galaxy over New England Revolution (Pizza Hut Park), 1-0 (extra time)

2004: D.C. United over Kansas City Wizards (Home Depot Center), 3-2

2003: San Jose Earthquakes over Chicago Fire (Home Depot Center), 4-2

2002: Los Angeles Galaxy over New England Revolution (Gillette Stadium), 1-0 (extra time)

2001: San Jose Earthquakes over Los Angeles Galaxy (Crew Stadium), 2-1 (extra time)

2000: Kansas City Wizards over Chicago Fire (RFK Stadium), 1-0

1999: D.C. United over Los Angeles Galaxy (Foxboro Stadium), 2-0

1998: Chicago Fire over D.C. United (Rose Bowl), 2-0

1997: D.C. United over Colorado Rapids (RFK Stadium), 2-1

1996: D.C. United over Los Angeles Galaxy (Foxboro Stadium), 3-2 (extra time)

Portland Timbers’ Major League Soccer dream becomes a reality

Dec 5, 2021  Kyle BonaguraESPN Staff Writer

Portland Timbers midfielder Santiago Moreno settled the ball with his chest and turned centrally. He had received the pass near midfield and suddenly found himself in acres of space with teammates flanking him on both sides. He drove toward the penalty box and when the defenders didn’t close out, he released a shot from just beyond the penalty arc.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper David Ochoa has his post covered, but Moreno’s shot ricocheted off the post, into Ochoa and back into the net. “What a perfect moment to score his first goal,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said.The strike put Portland up 2-0 in the 61st minute and, with the way Savarese’s side had been playing, it might as well have been lights out. The Timbers still had to see out the match, but it was at that moment when the raucous crowd at Providence Park could start to taste it: The Timbers were going to MLS Cup. Half an hour later it was official.And not only that, by virtue of their regular season points total, the Timbers will host whoever comes out of the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia Union or New York City FC.Reaching MLS Cup isn’t new territory for the Timbers — they won it in 2015 and were runners up in 2018 — but Saturday’s return trip will be the first time they will play host to Major League Soccer’s grandest stage.For Savarese, that has been the dream since he started managing the team in 2017.”The dream became a reality,” he said. “And the only way this became a reality is because of the hard work everyone has put in this year and all these years that have been here. To be able to win this game tonight and host MLS Cup is something that we feel very proud and excited about.”It also provides the Timbers with plenty of reason to be confident headed Saturday’s game. During the regular season, only the New England Revolution — which set the league’s single-season points record — won more games (12) than Portland did at home (11). The combination of one of the league’s most enthusiastic fan bases with a turf playing surface has turned Providence Park into a fortress.”It’s definitely very important for us to be home,” said Timbers forward Felipe Mora. “Just being with our fans here, they make us feel great at home. So that’s going to be really important to play in the final.”As the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference, Portland took an unlikely path to get here. It opened its playoff run with a 3-1 win against Minnesota United before beating top-seeded Colorado Rapids 1-0 on the road to earn another home game in Saturday’s conference final. Both Philadelphia and New York City went into the playoffs with better seeds, but were just off the Timbers’ regular-season points total (55).

Sloppy defending from Salt Lake in the fifth minute gave Portland the cushion it was looking for. A poor effort to clear the ball from seven yards in front of goal by Aaron Herrera put the ball at Mora’s feet and his quick reaction sent the ball back toward goal beyond Ochoa’s reach.Portland got the win despite its best attacking player, Sebastian Blanco, watching from the bench. With another week to recover from a hamstring injury that was initially thought to have kept him completely out of the lineup against RSL, he figures to have a good shot at being back in the starting XI.The loss spells the end of the line for RSL, but what a magical run it was. The team was moments from being eliminated on Decision Day only for Damir Kreilach’s last-minute goal to keep the season alive. Then came the historic win-without-a-shot game to advance through Seattle and a strong showing to knock off Sporting Kansas City.

“I couldn’t be more proud of being a part of this group,” RSL interim head coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “Nobody gave us a shot when the season started and no one gave us a shot when the playoffs started either. And so to have the mental toughness to overcome the perception of who we are is fantastic. You can always look at things from either perspective, but I couldn’t be more proud of the effort and commitment of this group that I was able to lead.”As usual, MLS Cup will run through a team from the Pacific Northwest. No team other than Portland or Seattle has represented the Western Conference since 2014.

NYCFC’s depth outlasts COVID-stricken Philadelphia as MLS Cup calls for Bronx Blues

8:03 PM ETJeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

From the moment word emerged that 11 Philadelphia Union players would miss Sunday’s Eastern Conference final due to MLS health and safety protocols, attention was rightly focused on the five starters who would sit out.The likes of goalkeeper Andre Blake and captain Alejandro Bedoya would be spectators. So would three fourths of the usual backline, with center-backs Jack Elliott and Jakob Glesnes as well as left-back Kai Wagner also out. But the knock-on effect was that the Union would have precious little depth to change the course of the match should that be required. Opponents New York City FC were missing some key players as well, most notably MLS Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos, but it was obvious that manager Ronny Deila had more resources on his bench than counterpart Jim Curtin. In the end, that proved to be the difference, as New York City came from behind to win 2-1 thanks to substitute Talles Magno‘s late goal, and set up an MLS Cup showdown on Saturday with the Portland Timbers (3 p.m. ET, stream live on ABC).Conference finals are rarely remembered, save by the fans of the teams who win them, even if there is a contrived trophy presentation at the end. MLS Cups make more of an impression. But such was the gutty performance by the Union — as well as NYCFC’s comeback — that Sunday’s encounter will likely stick in the memory a bit longer than most.The circumstances alone made for a unique matchup. Word emerged Friday that the Union were hurting in terms of personnel. On Saturday, there was confirmation that 11 players would be out, and there was concern that the game might devolve into a farce unbecoming of a conference final. For Curtin, even filling out his lineup card was a challenge.”When I was writing in the team messages at the beginning of the game there are a couple of names I didn’t know how to spell quite yet, so I had to do some peeking at the backs of jerseys, which is a situation that was unique for sure,” he said.Fortunately, that blowout scenario was avoided. While Deila was complimentary of the Union players who took the field, and noted that Philadelphia’s style didn’t change, he admitted that the home side’s depleted numbers did change the mental dynamic of the match.”It has a different pressure to us to be more, ‘We have to win,’ instead of, ‘Amazing to win,'” he said.Perhaps that explains the rather tepid nature of the first half, when NYCFC had the vast majority of the ball but never really threatened the Union goal. In fact, Philadelphia’s patchwork backline led by Aurelien Collin — who had played one minute of competitive soccer for Philadelphia the past two seasons — looked comfortable for the better part of an hour. And when Kacper Przybylko forced an own goal from Alex Callens in the 63rd minute, it really looked like the Union would get their “Rocky” moment.But after scaling the mountain, the Union’s legs weren’t strong enough to stay there. The lead lasted all of 110 seconds, with Maxi Moralez hammering home a rebound to bring NYCFC level. From there, the Blues were running downhill.”I think we needed to get a period to get the crowd into it, to have a five-minute window where now it puts a little stress and pressure on New York City,” said Curtin. “Maybe they start to throw numbers forward and we can hit them on the counter.”By then, Deila had already made a trio of substitutions, turning to record signing Magno, Gudmundur Thorarinsson and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, all of whom helped tip the balance toward the visitors. Thorarinsson got forward with greater effect than Malte Amundsen, while Tajouri-Shradi and Magno perked up the Blues’ attack in the final third.As for Curtin, he was hamstrung, with little in the way of options as his valiant band of starters was gassed.”They had some weapons that came off the bench that I’ll just say are expensive,” said Curtin.The most expensive one of all delivered with less than two minutes of normal time remaining. Thorarinsson robbed Olivier Mbaizo, and fed Magno — a $8 million midseason acquisition — to fire home the game-winner from close range in the 88th minute.The goal was cruel on the Union, especially given that Nathan Harriel sent a free header over the bar just minutes earlier. But it seemed deserved for an NYCFC side that slowly turned up the pressure after halftime.”I think we were the dominant team in the second half,” said Deila. “And we knew that in the last minutes of the game, we will get more space and [create] more chances, and we did. The substitutes worked really, really good. You saw how fresh they were.”Curtin is the kind of manager who isn’t one to give into excuses, but he couldn’t help but let his mind drift into what-if scenarios. Nine months of sweat and effort went down the drain due to a virus that remains stubbornly part of American life. Without going into specifics, and stressing how he’s a firm believer in science, Curtin felt that the league’s COVID-19 protocols could do with some tweaking given “we had 11 guys that are healthy to play a soccer game that aren’t here because they have a version of sniffles.”He added, “You’re at a loss for words, man. I just feel bad for the guys that weren’t here, because again, they had incredible seasons. COVID sucks. I don’t know how else to put it. The protocols are the protocols, but could they be updated, adjusted for common sense? I don’t know. Again, it hurts.”In response to Curtin’s comments, a league spokesperson said, “Infectious disease experts and science drove the decision regarding why 11 Union players were listed in the MLS Health and Safety protocol.”That pain will linger for a while in Philadelphia. Meanwhile, it is NYCFC who will move on to MLS Cup.”What we have done so far, it’s been just amazing,” Deila said. “But the biggest one is coming on Saturday.”

Marsch out at Leipzig as most Americans struggle throughout Europe

Jesse Marsch is out as the Leipzig manager. Many American players in Europe struggled with the notable excpetions of Chris Richards, Sam Vines, and Christian Ramirez. Overall it’s been a tough several months for Americans abroad and ASN’s Brian Sciaretta walks you through it all. 

BY BRIAN SCIARETTA  DECEMBER 05, 2021  10:45 PM

YET AGAIN, IT WAS another bad weekend for Americans abroad. It’s become a disappointing trend over most of the past few months and it should be a concern as many of the European leagues reach their midway point. A few good performances aside, this weekend was lackluster and the top story is that the top American club coach in the game lost his job.

 MARSCH OUT AT LEIPZIG

 Jesse Marsch is out as the RB Leipzig head coach after the club lost to Union Berlin 2-1 on Friday. Marsch was not actually on the bench for this game as he has missed the last three games due to COVID. Still, he was making the major decisions and relaying them to the staff. Tyler Adams started in the game and actually had an assist on Leipzig’s goal – although it was largely an individual effort.With the loss, Leipzig fell to 11th place in the Bundesliga while are also struggling to finish third in their Champions League group just to qualify for the Europa League.The leash Marsch had in Leipzig was short.  After winning two Austrian Bundesliga titles with Salzburg, Marsch moved to a Leipzig team which was the runners up in the Bundesliga the last two seasons.But the team was far different. Top players were sold as Dayot Upamecano and Marcel Sabitzer were sold to Bayern Munich and Ibrahima Konaté was sold to Liverpool. Marsch was brought in knowing he would be more tied with the Red Bull system than his predecessor Julian Nagelesman and he did so with a less talented squad. Marsch’s team dropped points at times where they shouldn’t have but the Wisconsin native wasn’t even allowed to get to the transfer window and essentially begin building his own team.Was it a harsh decision? Yes. But this is how European soccer works among the top teams in the top five leagues. Fellow American manager Pellegrino Matarazzo has struggled a bit with Stuttgart this season but he remains at the club because expectations aren’t quite as high. At big clubs, expectations are high and decisions sometimes aren’t fair. This isn’t the first time a manager a club of this level was treated with a rash decision.As for Marsch, he will land on his feet. Whether or not it is in Europe remains to be seen. He has served as an assistant manager before and that might be an option. He probably could also get a first team head coaching job as vacancies might open during the winter. With two Austrian Bundesliga titles, two Austrian cups, plus a long list of impressive young players he has managed (like Erling Haaland for starters), he will catch someone’s eye. With numerous MLS gigs still open and with the demand at an all-time high for coaches who know the league, it is easy to see teams willing to spend a lot on Marsch (LAFC is definitely the top job open domestically).It certainly is disappointing to see an American trailblazer like Jesse Marsch suffer a setback but almost all coaches get fired at some point. He won’t be unemployed for that long.

 ARMAS TO BECOME MAN U ASSISTANT

 On Monday morning, Taylor Twellman broke the news that former United States national team midfielder Chris Armas would join Ralf Rangnick’s staff at Manchester United as an assistant coach. Rangnick was hired as an interim head coach for the remainder of the 2021/22 season after the club fired Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.Armas was on Jesse Marsch’s staff from 2015 to 2018 and his career highlight came in 2018 with the New York Red Bulls when Marsch left for Europe halfway through the season and Armas guided the club to the Supporters Shield. Armas was later given the job on a full-time basis but was fired in 2020 when the club began to struggle. He was hired as Toronto FC’s head coach ahead of the 2021 season but was fired 11 games into the season after winning just once.

In addition to coaching RB Leipzig, Rangnick had previously served as head of sport and development for Red Bull GmbH – which included a role overseeing the New York Red Bulls. During this period, New York won three Supporters Shields. It was at this time where Rangnick likely became familiar with Armas while he was a top assistant to Jesse Marsch.Regardless of how his two previous head coaching gigs ended, this is a massive opportunity for Armas to continue to learn and develop as a coach at an environment in Manchester United under an importnt figure like Ralf Rangnick. 

WHAT WENT WRONG THIS WEEKEND?

 Unfortunately, Marsch losing his job was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of rough news for Americans abroad (both Europe and South America).Two of the top American players remained out with injuries. Gio Reyna was still out for Borussia Dortmund and he did not play in the club’s 3-2 loss at home to Bayern Munich. Weston McKennie avoided a serious injury last weekend when a knock to his knee forced him out of a 1-0 loss to Atalanta. The Texan, however, was not in the 18 for the club’s 2-0 win over Genoa on Sunday.

Joe Scally at just 18 has been a model of consistency for Borussia Monchengladbach this season but he learned a hard lesson on Sunday when the club dropped a 6-0 decision at home to a very good Freiburg team. Like every player on M’Gladbach, Scally went the distance but did not have a good game. He was only at fault for Freiburg’s second goal, but he also wasn’t able to help his team push forward and help dictate the pace of the game. This was a useful learning lesson for a young player. A team that can beat Bayern Munich 5-0 can also lose to Freiburg 6-0.

Staying the Bundesliga, Pellegrino Matarazzo is the only American manager in a top league and his Stuttgart team blew a 2-0 lead at home to Hertha BSC in what was a 2-2 draw.

Mainz blew past Wolfsburg 3-0 on Saturday. John Brooks started for Wolfsburg but he struggled and was one of three Wolfsburg players pulled to start the second half.

Julian Green did not get off the bench for Greuther Furth in an embarrassing 7-1 loss to Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday. Furth remain on pace to be one of the worst Bundesliga teams in history with just one point and a -34 goal differential after 14 games. Whether it is good or bad that Green did not play is a debate simply not worth having. He can’t be in a good place in an environment like this and the fact that all he has to look forward to is the 2.Bundesliga next season is not idea to the progression of his career.

In the Premier League, Christian Pulisic played the final 12 minutes for Chelsea in a 2-1 derby loss away at West Ham. Pulisic was relatively uninvolved and was on the field for West Ham’s winner. Zack Steffen did not get off the bench for Manchester City in a 3-1 away win over Watford.

Last-place Norwich dropped a 3-0 decision on the road to Tottenham in an expected result. Josh Sargent was dropped from the starting XI but played the final 22 minutes. He had one big miss on the team’s best scoring chance of the game but otherwise was quiet. It’s been a rough season for Sargent and his biggest problem is confidence. If he buried the sitters, he’d be in a better frame of mind and better form.

In La Liga, Sergino Dest made his first start for Barcelona under new manager Xavi. Dest, like many of his teammates, struggled in a 1-0 loss at home to a very good Real Betis team. Barcelona needs a ton of work to become one of the elite teams in the world again. Dest was unable to get forward very much or create anything dangerous from the right side. He will get more opportunities, but this is a tough assignment with an anxious and disappointed fanbase which will probably push for massive overhauls.

On Friday, Matt Miazga went as an unused sub for Deportivo Alaves in a 2-1 loss on the road to Genanda. Alaves sit just two points above the relegation zone.

On Sunday, Yunus Musah played the final six minutes plus stoppage time for Valencia in a 2-1 away win over Celta Vigo. Musah had just three nonconsequential touches in his brief outing. The only other news from La Liga is that Matthew Hoppe remains out injured for Mallorca.

In Serie A, it was an absolute disaster for Venezia when they hosted Hellas Verona on Sunday. Both Gianluca Busio and Tanner Tessmann started this game on the bench. The game couldn’t have started any better for Venezia which had a 3-0 lead at halftime. That is when the wheels completely fell off. Hellas Verona rallied with three quick goals and Venezia was reduced to 10 players. Busio came in in the 64th minute and Tessmann came in in the 75th to help stop the bleeding – but they were unsuccessful as Hellas Verona found an 85th minute winner.

Venezia still sit five points above the relegation zone and that is better than expected given where the club was after the first few games of the season. But their positive momentum has been halted and three straight losses have hurt. It remains to be seen if the heartbreaking nature of this loss will linger.

Also in Serie A, Bryan Reynolds was an unused sub for AS Roma in a 3-0 loss at home to Inter Milan. Jose Mourinho only used two subs in the loss. Reynolds will join the U.S. national team’s December camp at some point, but it remains unclear when Mourinho will let him go.

In Ligue 1, Tim Weah did not participate in Lille’s 2-1 win over Troyes, but his was likely due to rest ahead of the midweek Champions League game. Erik Palmer-Brown remains out injured for Troyes.

Marseille lost to Brest 2-1 at home on Saturday. Konrad de la Fuente started but was ineffective and was subbed out at the 57th minute mark. The Miami area native has struggled to make an impact for the past six weeks. Still the club see the upside are are continuing to let him play and work through it. The loss, however, might force a change. 

In Belgium, Chris Durkin earned the start for St. Truiden and played 82 minutes but the Richmond, VA native wasn’t able to help his team avoid a 2-1 loss at home to upstart leaders Union St. Gilloise.

In Portugal, U.S. national team right back Reggie Cannon was an unused substitute for Boavista as they conceded a stoppage time equalizer to Maritimo to play to a 1-1 draw at home.

In the Eredivisie, Luca de la Torre and Heracles hold the last automatic survival place after dropping a lethargic 1-0 decision to Heerenveen. 

In the Swiss Super League, Jordan Perfok started for BSC Young Boys as they hosted Servette on Saturday. Pefok was subbed out at halftime (with Young Boys up 1-0) due to a teammate’s red card forcing a defensive tactical shift. The tactical adjustment did not work and Servette rallied for a 2-1 win. The four-time defending Swiss champs, Young Boys are nine points behind leaders FC Zurich and are in fourth place.

In Turkey, U.S. national team right back DeAndre Yedlin started and played 89 minutes for Galatasaray in a 1-1 draw at home with Altay. Yedlin picked up a yellow card and wasn’t bad, but this has been a disappointing season for Galatasaray, which expects to compete for the title every season. But in 2021/22, Galatasaray are in seventh place and 16 points behind Trabzonspor.

At the very bottom of the Turkish Super Lig, things are worse for Tyler Boyd. He remains a starter for Rizespor but rarely making any sort of positive impact. On Saturday, he played 66 minutes for Rizespor in a 4-0 loss to Fenerbahce. The club sit dead last and are eight points deep in the relegation hole. Boyd is at the club on loan from Besiktas who would love to unload him as soon as they can.

In Argentina, Alan Sonora has been having a good season for Independiente but was off his game and struggled in a 1-1 draw with San Lorenzo on Sunday night.

In Serie B, Andrija Novakovich was an unused sub for Frosinone in a 1-1 draw with Ternana.

In the Championship, Matthew Olosunde made his first start of the season – playing right back for Preston North End but wasn’t able to help his team achieve a result in a 1-0 loss on the road to Blackburn.

Finally, at the top of the Championship, Tim Ream and Fulham were unable to take advantage of a big opportunity when hosting second place AFC Bournemouth at Craven Cottage. Ream played well but a 1-1 draw to Bournemouth is disappointing despite the result keeping Fulham atop the table. Antonee Robinson missed the game with an illness.

 RICHARDS SURGES FOR HOFFENHEIM

 While most of the weekend was dismal for Americans abroad, the one American who managed to put in a top performance in one of the top European leagues was Chris Richards. It came at a good time for Richards who was making his first start for Hoffenheim since October 23 and came through with a performance that showed why he should be starting for Hoffenheim.In a 3-2 win over Eintracht Frankfurt (which fellow American Timothy Chandler started in the loss), Richards was not at fault for either of Eintracht’s goals. Defensively, he was solid and won just about every lose ball which he had a chance to win. He frequently intercepted Eintracht’s passes into the box and was solid in nearly every facet of the game except for his long-balls out of the back.Richards was not in a great place heading into this game as he had lost his starting spot with Hoffenheim. Still, he was a regular off the bench (not common for a central defender) so it was clear that he was eventually going to get another chance. In this game, he seized his opportunity.

 RAMIREZ’S BIG OUTING FOR ABERDEEN

 Heading up to Scotland, Aberdeen’s Christian Ramirez remains one of the Scottish Premierships best goalscores this season and the former Houston Dynamo, LAFC, and Minnesota United forward bagged two for his club in a 4-1 win over St. Mirren. Those two goals gave him eight goals in the Premiership this season and 11 in all competitions for Aberdeen since transferring from Houston in June.Ramirez’s first goal (Aberdeen’s second goal) was a really impressive finish.It will be intresting to see what happens to Ramirez after this season. He’s no doubt going to be in demand by a club who could use someone to help immediately.

 VINES IMPRESSES FOR ANTWERP

 Sam Vines hasn’t always been solid for Royal Antwerp since completing his transfer from the Colorado Rapids in August – following winning the Gold Cup with the U.S. national team. His integration was slowed by a broken collarbone and he missed six weeks.But Vines has been solid more times than he’s been off and he has locked down the starting left back job for Royal Antwerp, which now sits in second place in Belgium’s First Division.n Sunday, Vines went the distance in a 1-0 away win over last-place Beerschot. His numbers were decent. What has been particularly striking about Vines and his early steps at Antwerp is that he’s become more of a conventional left back. At Colorado and with the U.S. national team, he was very offensively minded. At Antwerp, he is defensively minded. While there have been concerns over this area of his game, his defense has been solid. Now, if/when he reintroduces his offense to the mix, he could be very, very effective as a top left back in the Belgian league.

 ANYTHING ELSE GOOD?

 There is no sugar coating that this weekend was mostly entirely negative for Americans abroad. There still were some other net positives aside from Richards, Ramirez, and Vines.Mark McKenzie returned to the starting lineup for KRC Genk and he played the entire game in a 1-1 draw with KV Mechelen. Genk are likely to be disappointed by this result as KV Mechelen were reduced to 10 players in the 62nd minute with the score 1-1 but were able to bunker their way for a draw. McKenzie wasn’t tested much defensively and was on the ball a lot. It was a big positive to see him return to the starting XI even if he wasn’t tested all that much.

In Ligue 1, Nicholas Gioacchini played the final 22 minutes for Montpellier in a 1-0 win over relegation battling Clermont Foot. Playing right wing, he had just nine touches but was aggressive in trying to get the ball forward.

In the Austrian Bundesliga, Brenden Aaronson was not expected to play for Red Bull Salzburg as it was hoped he could rest ahead of the Champions League this week. The runaway leaders found themselves trailing 1-0 at the hour mark and Aaronson came into the game in the 63rd minute. Salzburg ended up rallying for a 2-1 win. While Aaronson was not directly part of either of the goals, he helped his team keep up pressure to earn the win – which kept them 12 points ahead of 2nd place Wolfsberger.

In the Scottish Premiership, Cameron Carter-Vickers returned to the starting lineup for Celtic on Saturday against Ian Harkes and Dundee United. Carter-Vickers missed the last game due to “personal issues.” Carter-Vickers ended up having a very good game and picked up a rare assist in a 3-0 win. Hakres was good for Dundee United but his club was simply overmatched. 

NOTES FROM ELSEWHERE

 In the Danish Cup, Emmanuel Sabbi started and played 63 minutes for OB Odense in a 2-0 away win over Randers. Christian Cappis played the final 13 minutes for Brondby in a 2-0 home loss to Midtjylland.

In the Austrian Bundesliga, Thomas Roberts was an unused sub for Austria Klagenfurt in a 1-0 away win over TSG Tirol.

On Monday, Joel Sonora and Banfield will visit Newell’s Old Boys. Johnny Cardoso and Internacional will host Atletico MG.  Shaq Moore and Tenerife will visit Cartagena.

Finally, a big congratulations for Duane Holmes who had a very good reason to miss Huddersfield’s 1-1 draw with Barnsley on Saturday.

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

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

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

 

Attend a Free 20-Minute Webinar on Nursing Bridge Programs

12/03/21 MLS Champ Finals Sat 6:30 FS1, Sun ESPN 4 pm, USL Orange Co, US Ladies split, US Men tix, UCL next week  

The US Ladies win 1 and tie 1 vs Austrialia

So the youngsters went to the land down under and after dominating in a solid 3-0 win in the first game – struggled with a 1-1 tie in the 2nd game as a late deflection let the US down.  The scoring got started in the 4th minute for the USWNT, once again by Ashley Hatch. After an Aussie turnover around midfield, Lynn Williams led a quick counter with a pass to a streaking Midge Purce, who collected it right on the endline. From there, she was able to find an open Ashley Hatch, who slotted it home for the opening goal.It was the 2nd consecutive early goal for the NWSL’s Golden Boot winner against Australia. She opened up her international account in the first game against the Matildas last weekend with a goal after 24 seconds.USWNT goalkeeper Casey Murphy, making her second straight start, continued to show quick reflexes between the posts. She was able to make a huge save in the 21st minute to keep the lead for the USWNT.Both teams had chances in the first half, but the USWNT were the better team. Purce had a couple additional chances to add to the USWNT score total in the 1st half, but close misses kept the score 1-0 at the half.

MLS Conference Finals Are Here West – Portland vs Real Salt Lake Sat 6:30 pm on FS1 and Sun Philly hosts NYCFC 3 pm on ABC

And then there were four. The MLS Cup playoffs conference semifinals saw Supporters’ Shield winners and record points scorers New England Revolution upset on home turf. On the other side of the bracket, fellow No. 1 seed Colorado Rapids were similarly dumped from the postseason in front of their fans. The playoffs started with a field of 14 teams. Among the 10 clubs eliminated, the four with the most regular-season points all are now watching from home, including my beloved Seattle Sounders.  It’s been dramatic knockout soccer full of upsets, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to stop now that we’ve reached the conference final stage.   Full Preview Here   Playoffs Bracket

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in the playoffs for San Antonio and is up for Save of the Playoffs for USL – vote here !!!  Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note as it appears Jordan has not been invited to return to the Indy 11.  I have NOTHING GOOD to say about that.  Meanwhile Orange County FC the team that knocked Jordan’s San Antonio out of the playoffs won it all on the road over the Tampa Bay Rowdies Sun night on ESPN 3-1.

Tix on Sale for US Men to Play in Columbus Thur Jan 27 7 pm vs El Salvador

Anyone interested in roadtripping? If so reach-out  — I think I can get us up to 4 American Outlaw tickets around $75-$80 each.   

Please Consider the Carmel Dads’ Club Annual Fund This Holiday Season

Carmel Dads’ Club is growing! Since 1959, our nonprofit organization has continued to expand to meet the needs of the Carmel community, and we hope to continue to foster that growth as we move into 2022. While still recovering from the unique challenges of the past few years, our Carmel Dads’ Club members have come rushing back to youth sports programming in full force. The organization welcomed more than 13,000 participants in 2021 – a record setting milestone. It’s our goal at Carmel Dads’ Club to not only meet the expectations of our members, but to exceed them. To stay in a position where we can offer a quality youth sports experience to any child in Carmel who is interested, we have worked diligently for many years to open a new facility at Mark Badger Memorial Park. In January, that dream will finally become a reality. With the ability to host all twelve CDC sports (plus new programming), the new 130,000 square foot facility will usher in the next chapter of Carmel Dads’ Club. As with any other organization, growth comes with new commitments and larger responsibilities. From organizing and running leagues to maintaining our facilities, a tremendous amount of work goes into coordinating twelve different sports with programming ranging from pre-k to high school. That’s where we need your help.

Our Annual Fund Drive makes sure we have the financial means to keep our non-profit organization running smoothly. Please Consider the Carmel Dads’ Club Annual Fund This Holiday Season

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Sat, Dec 4  

7:30 am NBCSN          Chelsea (Pulisic) vs West Ham United   

10 USA                        Wolverhampton vs Liverpool   

12:30 pm                     Dortmund vs Bayern Munchen

12:30 NBC                   Watford vs Man City

6:30 pm FS1                Portland Timbers vs Real Salt Lake MLS Finals  

Sun  Dec 5

9 am NBCSN                Man United vs Crystal Palace

11:30 NBCSN             Aston Villa vs Leicester City  

3 pm ABC                   Philly Union vs NYCFC MLS Finals

Tues/Wed Dec 7 & 8  – Champions League Group Stage Finals  

More to come later

MLS Conference Finals Sat/Sun

MLS playoffs conference finals preview and predictions
No owner, no coach, no star: RSL are MLS playoffs’ team of destiny
  Caitlin Murray

NYCFC reaches Conference final after penalty shootout win over No. 1 Revs
MLS rival reportedly looking to buy out Union head coach Jim Curtin

Ronaldo considered purchasing MLS franchise

US Men


USMNT names MLS-heavy squad for Dec. camp
 
Jeff Carlisle ESPN FC
U.S. men’s soccer roster skews young ahead of friendly to cap exceptional year

USMNT names MLS-heavy squad for Dec. camp
Tyler Adams: USMNT working hard to work hard, erase entitlement mentality (video)

How family put Adams on the path to soccer stardom

EPL


Premier League top three set for titanic title battle

Man Utd job too good for Rangnick to turn down

10 things we learned in the Premier League – Matchweek 14

Manchester United vs Arsenal final score: Three things we learned

World  

Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund preview: What to watch for in Der Klassiker  Bill Connelly   
Germany reimposes COVID-19 attendance limits, mask rules amid surge

Bayern Munich waiting on Goretzka for Dortmund clash

PSG wait for Messi to find Ballon d’Or form with Neymar out

Denmark’s Eriksen back in training after Euro heart-attack

Why Messi’s Ballon d’Or win shouldn’t make you angry

US Ladies & NWSL   

USWNT, Australia battle to 1-1 draw in final friendly of 2021

Red Stars trade Ertz, Gorden to Angel City FC for expansion draft protection

Sam Mewis traded to Kansas City Current

US Players overseas

Saturday

West Ham United v Chelsea FC – 7:30a on NBCSN

Christian Pulisic appears to be fully recovered from injury as he started and went 90’ on Wednesday in Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Watford. Minutes management could mean he doesn’t start again three days later as the club face West Ham but it would be surprising if he doesn’t see at least some time. Currently there is a tight three team race between Chelsea, Manchester City, and Liverpool for the top of the of the table with just two points separating the three clubs, but it’s Chelsea who have the advantage and currently sit in the top spot. Their opponent this weekend will be West Ham who currently sit in fourth place, and while they are seven points out of first they are also in their own tight race as they hold a one point edge on Arsenal for the fourth and final Champions League qualifying position.

Other notes:

  • Bryan Reynolds has been making the bench again but has not seen minutes for Roma. The club face Inter Milan in a marquee matchup at Noon on CBSSN.
  • Bobby Wood came on an scored the late match winner for Real Salt Lake who will now face the Portland Timbers at 6:30p on FS1 in the Western Conference Final.

Streaming overseas:

  • John Anthony Brooks and Wolfsburg look to make their own move up the table as they face Mainz at 9:30a on ESPN+. Currently Wolfsburg sit in seventh place, two points back of Freiburg for fourth and two points ahead of Mainz in ninth.
  • Chris Richards seems to have slipped into some sort of regular substitute role for Hoffenheim who face Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Julian Green and Greuther Furth will look for their second point of the season when they face Bayer Leverkusen at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Sergino Dest is also on some uneasy footing as rumors out of Barcelona indicate that he has work to do to solidify his position with the club. Dest has returned from injury but was an unused substitute last weekend in the teams 3-1 win over Villarreal. Barcelona face Real Betis at 10:15a on ESPN+.
  • It’s a top of the table clash for Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at 12:30p on ESPN+ but Giovanni Reyna remains unavailable for Dortmund who have dealt with a number of injuries this season but remain just one point back of Bayern.
  • Timothy Weah started and picked up an assist on Wednesday in Lille’s 2-1 win over Stade Rennais. Lille remain in 12th place but just six points back of fourth place Nice. This weekend they will face Troyes at 1p on beIN Sports.

Sunday

Philadelphia Union v New York City FC – 3p on ABC and ESPN Deportes

The Philadelphia Union and NYCFC get the primetime broadcast treatment this weekend in the Eastern Conference MLS Cup final. The match brings together the two remaining clubs with the most potential USMNT interest as well. The Union continue to give playing time to some of their youngsters including Leon Flach, Jack McGlynn, and Paxten Aaronson, none of whom have broken into the senior USMNT side but all three of whom could have an impact down the road. Philadelphia advanced to the Eastern Conference Final thanks to a shootout victory over Nashville as Nashville were unable to convert any of their four attempts while McGlynn and Jack Elliott each buried theirs.

NYCFC also advanced to the final thanks to a shootout victory as USMNT third keeper Sean Johnson saved the New England Revolutions second shot and Matt Turner was unable to keep out any of the four well taken shots by NYCFC. James Sands and Tayvon Gray also started the match for NYCFC with Sands playing a midfield role and Gray playing 120’ at right back.

Streaming overseas:

  • Josh Sargent has started the past two matches for Norwich but is still looking for his first goal contribution for the club. The club has eight points from their last four matches but remain in the relegation zone as they face Tottenham Hotspur at 9a on Peacock.
  • Gianluca Busio, Tanner Tessmann and Venezia will look to bounce back from a 4-0 loss to Atalanta, their second straight loss, when they face Hellas Verona at 9a on Paramount+.
  • Pelegrino Matarazzo’s second Bundesliga season with Stuttgart is not going as well as their first season, currently the team sit in 15th place, tied on points with Augsburg for the relegation playoff position. The team continues to find ways to score but their 23 goals conceded is second worst with only Greuther Furth (39!) behind them. The club face Hertha Berlin this weekend in what looks like could be an important relegation battle. The match is at 9:30a on ESPN+.
  • Joe Scally and Borussia Monchengladbach face Freiburg at 11:30a on ESPN+. Despite making his Gladbach debut this season Scally leads all field players in minutes this season and is the only one to have started every match.
  • Weston McKennie’s has apparently dodged a bullet as his scary looking knee injury turned out to be relatively minor. Juventus face Genoa at 2:45p on ESPN+.
  • Yunus Musah started Valencia’s Copa del Ray match against CD Utrillas and picked up a goal and assist in the 3-0 victory over the tiny club from a town of 3,000. Probably not a career defining moment but you take what you can get.

MLS playoffs conference finals preview and predictions: Who will contest MLS Cup?

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And then there were four. The MLS Cup playoffs conference semifinals saw Supporters’ Shield winners and record points scorers New England Revolution upset on home turf. On the other side of the bracket, fellow No. 1 seed Colorado Rapids were similarly dumped from the postseason in front of their fans.

The playoffs started with a field of 14 teams. Among the 10 clubs eliminated, the four with the most regular-season points all are now watching from home.It’s been dramatic knockout soccer full of upsets, and there’s no reason to believe that’s going to stop now that we’ve reached the conference final stage. ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Kyle Bonagura, Caitlin Murray, Dan Hajducky and Austin Lindberg preview both of this weekend’s matches, predicting which clubs will participate in the league’s showpiece event on Dec. 11 (3 p.m. ET, stream live on ABC) and whose players will be anxiously awaiting the 2022 preseason while chewing on the bitter taste of defeat.

Eastern Conference final

2. Philadelphia Union vs. 4. New York City FC (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET; live on ABC)

Sunday’s final isn’t the one most predicted, but it still features two of the better teams in the Eastern Conference.

The Blues have done well to make it this far, taking out No. 5 Atlanta and top-seeded New England along the way, but Sunday’s match will be NYCFC’s ultimate test. New York was already without Anton Tinnerholm (torn Achilles) and Keaton Parks (blood clot surgery), but now it will be without Golden Boot winner Valentin Castellanos due to the pair of yellow cards he picked up against the Revs. James Sands is an injury worry as well. Castellanos’ absence is every bit as big as it looks, as the Argentine scored in both of NYCFC’s playoff wins so far.

So who will step in to take his place? In the two games Castellanos missed this season, Talles Magno deputized, although he seems to have fallen out of favor of late. Ismael Tajouri-Shradi could also step in. He has been effective as a super-sub/spot starter in his four seasons with NYCFC, and tallied seven times in 2021, although most of his playing time came as a wide midfielder.Heber is a more like-for-like option, but a substitute role seems more likely. The Brazilian returned to the field in September after recovering from a torn ACL in his right knee, but has logged just 95 minutes in seven Philadelphia will be at close to full strength now that defender Olivier Mbaizo has cleared the league’s health and safety protocols, and the question for the Union is the same as always: Where will the goals come from? Kacper Przybylko — the Union’s version of the Phantom Menace — is the most likely source, having scored 12 times during the regular season. The team’s defenders, Jakob Glesnes foremost among them, are capable as well. But keep an eye on Daniel Gazdag. The scorer of Philadelphia’s equalizer against Nashville perked up over the last month of the regular season, and he’ll need to be at his best against a stingy NYCFC defense. — Carlisle

Predictions:

NYCFC showed their resilience in surviving the last moments against New England — when they were essentially down to nine players — and then prevailing on penalties. But the Union always seem to find a way, and with Castellanos sidelined, the home side should prevail. — Carlisle

As tempting as it is to pick NYCFC after they knocked off New England, it’s hard to go with the Pigeons without Castellanos in the lineup. This Philadelphia team isn’t as good as the one that won the Supporters’ Shield a year ago, but it’s good enough to win MLS Cup. — Bonagura

New York City FC is a very good team plenty capable of going to Chester, Pennsylvania, and staging an upset — but it becomes difficult without Castellanos. Remember, he was the one who scored NYCFC’s second goal in their 2-2 draw to the Revs on Tuesday. The Union still don’t have the big-game players you can count on to score goals when the stakes are high, but they do have Andre Blake, runner-up for Goalkeeper of the Year, who ought to keep them in it long enough for Philly to find a game winner at home. — Murray

A round of applause to NYCFC for that howitzer of a match against New England. I said going in that anything other than a Revs victory would be an upset of historic proportions. That’s exactly what we got in one of the most entertaining MLS matches in recent memory. Unfortunately for NYCFC, they lost Castellanos to a red card in the process and youngsters Sands and Tayvon Gray got banged up. Conversely, Philadelphia stopped red-hot Nashville in its tracks, Blake holding it scoreless in a PK shootout. This feels like Philly’s match to lose. — Hajducky

Look, being without Castellanos puts NYCFC on the back foot before a ball has been kicked, but they’ve already lost Tinnerholm and Parks for the season. Ronny Deila’s team is no stranger to the next-man-up philosophy, and with the likes of Moralez and (the admittedly maddeningly inconsistent) Medina in place to shoulder the attacking burden, I think the Bronx outfit has what it takes to spring another upset. — Lindberg

Western Conference final

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4. Portland Timbers vs. 7. Real Salt Lake (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET)

If Real Salt Lake are to extend their magical playoff run and reach MLS Cup, it will represent a significant reversal of fortune from the regular-season series against Portland. The Timbers swept all three meetings between the clubs, outscoring RSL 12-4 in the process, with all of them coming in August or later. In Salt Lake’s last trip to Portland, the Timbers won 6-1 in what was one of the most lopsided games in MLS all year.

This isn’t the regular season, though, and since the playoffs began the unpredictable nature of a knockout competition has been on full display. After being held without a shot and still advancing against Seattle via penalties in the first round, RSL were better against Sporting Kansas City. They created the better chances and erased an early 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 on a stoppage-time goal from Bobby Wood. Both wins came without Albert Rusnak, who tested positive for COVID-19, but the captain will return for the game against Portland.

The Timbers return to the conference final for the fourth time since entering MLS in 2011, with the latest coming in 2018. After a tough stretch in October, Portland ran off three straight wins to end the regular season before a 3-1 win against Minnesota United and 1-0 defeat of the top-seeded Colorado Rapids to open the playoffs. Portland will be without midfielder Sebastian Blanco due to an apparent hamstring injury and forward Dairon Asprilla, who was red-carded late against Colorado. Those two combined for 17 goals during the regular season, ranking second and third on the team behind leading scorer Felipe Mora— Bonagura

MLS LIVE ON ESPN NETWORKS, APP

Predictions:

RSL have ridden the role of underdog all the way to the Western Conference final, but are they really the underdog now? They’re getting players back and Portland will be without Blanco and Asprilla. It’s the playoffs, and Diego Valeri is chomping at the bit to play a bigger role, so of course the Timbers will win. — Carlisle

With Rusnak expected to be back in the lineup for RSL and the Timbers without Asprilla and Blanco, the scales tip back toward the visitors. Salt Lake is clinging to that team-of-destiny vibe, and it would be very MLS for a team that snuck into the playoffs with an interim coach to play for MLS Cup. — Bonagura

I bet against RSL twice already, and twice I got burned in my predictions for it. This might be me upsetting the soccer gods and messing with their destiny, but I’m going with RSL here. Sure, their head coach quit in the middle of the season to become an assistant at a less dysfunctional club. Sure, two MLS clubs have found new owners in the past year and RSL still sit without a buyer after their previous owner walked away amid allegations of racism and sexism. Sure, the Timbers were consistently better than RSL all year long. But why can’t RSL go to Portland and pull out the sort of upset MLS is known for? If Blanco, the heartbeat of the Timbers, is injured, all while Asprilla — also known as “Mr. November,” a nickname that covers October through December — is out with a red card, then RSL have a fighting chance. After the Washington Spirit won the NWSL last month amid similar chaos, I believe RSL can do the same in MLS. — Murray

It’s remarkable that Real Salt Lake are even here. Their manager left in late August — taking a baffling demotion to assistant coach with Seattle — the team’s ownership is in flux, and they eked past perennial title contender and first-round opponent Seattle in a penalty kick shootout while registering zero shots. But they also outshot, out-possessed and outplayed Sporting KC in the conference semis. Interim manager Pablo Mastroeni has his feisty squad believing it’s them against the world and, hell, maybe it is. I’m a sucker for a Cinderella story; the Carl Spackler-ian Real Salt Lake move on to the final. — Hajducky

Consider yourselves jinxed, Utahns. Sorry. But without Blanco, Portland has lost the stir that’s mixed its drink for the final three months of the season. RSL have the belief and the momentum to take their Cinderella run all the way to MLS Cup. — Lindberg

USMNT calls up MLS-based players ahead of friendly vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina

11:00 AM ET  Jeff CarlisleU.S. soccer correspondent

United States men’s national team manager Gregg Berhalter has named a 26-man, Major League Soccer-heavy roster to a training camp ahead of a Dec. 18 friendly against Bosnia & Herzegovina.Players will begin reporting to camp in Carson, Calif. on Dec. 5. The camp is being held ahead of a trio of World Cup qualifiers starting in late January, and is intended to keep MLS players fit now that the offseason has begun for most of them.The match against Bosnia falls outside of a FIFA international fixture date, leaving players who are still in-season largely unavailable. Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Berhalter said: “It’s essential that when we hit the field [for the next World Cup qualifier] on Jan. 27, we have guys that are ready to compete at a World Cup qualifying level. So this camp is essential to have.”We understand that guys have been playing all year, they’re fatigued, and that’s why the program will be slightly different. But we’ve got to keep them moving and looking forward to competing against Bosnia on Dec. 18.”The group is highlighted by MLS Defender of the Year Walker Zimmerman of Nashville SC, and MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Matt Turner of the New England Revolution.

Among recently called up players who won’t make the trip include Orlando City SC striker Daryl Dike and Atlanta United FC defender Miles Robinson.

On Dike, Berhalter said: “He’s beat up. He needs recovery. The most important thing at this time for Darryl is to get rest and recovery that he can focus on coming back in January and building himself up again.”The roster also contains 12 uncapped players. Of the 26 players called in, five play outside of MLS, including two who played last season in the USL Championship in Louisville City defender Jonathan Gomez and defender Kobi Henry of recently crowned title-winners Orange County SC.Gomez is the latest dual national to be involved in a tug-of-war between the U.S. and Mexico squads, having already represented both countries at youth level. He recently secured a transfer to LaLiga side Real Sociedad, and will join them officially from Jan. 1.”It’s important to start bringing these guys up to the senior team and give them that experience. With Jonathan, he’s also U-20 eligible. He wasn’t at that camp, but you know Jonathan’s a guy who’s going to be going overseas in January, it’s important for us to get a good look at him,” Berhalter said.The other non-MLS players are Roma defender Bryan Reynolds, Internacional midfielder Johnny Cardoso and Bayern Munich II forward Taylor Booth.There is also a recall for New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long, who missed most of the 2021 MLS season due to a torn Achilles tendon.Berhalter also said he is close to finalizing ex-FC Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez as an assistant, after Nico Estevez officially took over the Dallas job on Thursday.

GOALKEEPERS (3): John Pulskamp (Sporting Kansas City; 0/0), Gabriel Slonina (Chicago Fire; 0/0), Matt Turner (New England Revolution; 12/0)

DEFENDERS (11): George Bello (Atlanta United; 5/0), Justin Che (FC Dallas; 0/0), Jonathan Gomez (Louisville City; 0/0), Kobi Henry (Orange County SC; 0/0), Henry Kessler (New England Revolution; 1/0), Brooks Lennon (Atlanta United; 0/0), Aaron Long (New York Red Bulls; 21/3), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; 0/0), Bryan Reynolds (Roma/ITA; 1/0), Auston Trusty (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Walker Zimmerman (Nashville SC; 22/2)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Kellyn Acosta (Colorado Rapids; 44/2), Cole Bassett (Colorado Rapids; 0/0), Johnny Cardoso (Internacional/BRA; 2/0), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders; 29/0), Jackson Yueill (San Jose Earthquakes; 15/0)

FORWARDS (7): Taylor Booth (Bayern Munich II/GER; 0/0), Caden Clark (New York Red Bulls; 0/0), Cade Cowell (San Jose Earthquakes; 0/0), Jesús Ferreira (FC Dallas; 4/2), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders; 39/10), Ricardo Pepi (FC Dallas; 6/3), Gyasi Zardes (Columbus Crew; 65/14)

USWNT, Australia battle to 1-1 draw in final friendly of 2021

An unlucky deflection is the difference.

The United States Women’s National Team settled for a 1-1 draw against Australia Tuesday at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle. A late deflected goal by the Matildas’ Kyah Simon proved to be the difference in a match where the USWNT once again focused on getting some much-needed experience for the younger players on the team.

Starting XI: 18-Casey Murphy; 23-Emily Fox (19-Imani Dorsey – 77’), 12-Tierna Davidson, 5-Alana Cook, 3-Sofia Huerta (14-Emily Sonnett – 86‘); 10-Lindsey Horan, 17-Andi Sullivan (4-Becky Sauerbrunn – 86‘), 16-Rose Lavelle; 6-Lynn Williams (8-Ashley Sanchez – 81’), 7-Ashley Hatch (13-Morgan Weaver – 70’), 11-Midge Purce (22-Kristie Mewis – 70’)

Unusued Subs: 1-Jane Campbell

The scoring got started in the 4th minute for the USWNT, once again by Ashley Hatch. After an Aussie turnover around midfield, Lynn Williams led a quick counter with a pass to a streaking Midge Purce, who collected it right on the endline. From there, she was able to find an open Ashley Hatch, who slotted it home for the opening goal.

It was the 2nd consecutive early goal for the NWSL’s Golden Boot winner against Australia. She opened up her international account in the first game against the Matildas last weekend with a goal after 24 seconds.USWNT goalkeeper Casey Murphy, making her second straight start, continued to show quick reflexes between the posts. She was able to make a huge save in the 21st minute to keep the lead for the USWNT.Both teams had chances in the first half, but the USWNT were the better team. Purce had a couple additional chances to add to the USWNT score total in the 1st half, but close misses kept the score 1-0 at the half.Australia’s Sam Kerr provided some scary moments for the USWNT early in the 2nd half, with a couple scoring opportunities for the Matildas. One shot went wide for a goal kick, while the second one drew a corner kick.Lynn Williams was incredible for the USWNT throughout the match. While she did not score a goal, she had the hockey assist on Hatch’s goal, and she had several moments where she was dangerous with the ball at her feet. In the early part of the second half, she had a beautiful curling shot on goal that Aussie goalkeeper Lydia Williams had to do well to send the ball wide for a corner kick.There was a nervy time for the USWNT in the 68th minute, as Casey Murphy took an extra touch on a back pass and almost had the ball deflected into the goal by Aussie forward Hayley Raso.The substitutes started to come on late for the USWNT, and in the 80th minute, one of them had a terrific chance on goal. Morgan Weaver, who subbed on for Ashley Hatch in the 70th minute, had a chance at a breakaway, but had the ball taken away by Aussie defender Steph Catley.In the final 10 minutes, despite a lot of pressure, the USWNT were able to withstand the Aussie attack, providing some more scoring chances of their own. However, bad luck found its way to the back line super late in the match. In the 88th minute, Kyah Simon fired a shot that took a wicked deflection off substitute Becky Sauerbrunn that Casey Murphy had no chance of stopping, and the Matildas had the late equalizer.In the 2nd minute of stoppage time, the USWNT thought they had the game winner, as Tierna Davidson fired a beautiful cross into the box that Lindsey Horan hammered home. However, Horan’s goal was rightfully called back for offside. Despite a final chance, the USWNT and Matildas settled for the draw.The USWNT finish 2021 with 17 wins, 2 losses, and 5 draws. That included a SheBelieves Cup title and a bronze medal in the Olympics. In 2022, the focus will be on qualifying for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, and the USWNT can enter the next year knowing that they have some incredible young players that just need the opportunities on the field to be great.

Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund preview: What to watch for in Der Klassiker, Germany’s biggest game

6:31 PM ET  Bill ConnellyESPN Staff Writer

Derbies, rivalry matches and clasicos serve as useful mile markers over the course of a long soccer season. They give us an excuse to check in on two key teams, see how everything is going and see what has happened since the last time said teams met. With the Bundesliga’s Der Klassiker — Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Dortmund — resuming Saturday in Dortmund (watch LIVE, 12:30 pm ET, ESPN+), let’s indeed do some checking in.

What’s happened since the last time these German heavyweights last faced off? To answer this question, I both dove into the statistics and spoke with former Bayern Munich and German national team captain Philipp Lahm.

The teams are separated by just one point in the Bundesliga table

Since Bayern’s 3-1 win over BVB in Germany‘s Super Cup on Aug. 17, Bayern’s sixth straight win in the head-to-head series, both teams have battled injuries and random bouts of inconsistency. Borussia Dortmund have seriously missed star striker Erling Haaland, absent for six Bundesliga matches and three Champions League matches with injury. But other core players like left-back Raphael Guerreiro, winger Gio Reyna, midfielders Emre Can and Mahmoud Dahoud, attacking midfielder Thorgan Hazard and defender Mats Hummels have all missed time as well, while burgeoning star midfielder Jude Bellingham also suffered a minor injury last week; his status for Saturday is uncertain.

As the midway point of the season approaches, first-year manager Marco Rose has barely had a chance to field his full, first-choice lineup, even in practice. We therefore haven’t yet gotten a clear vision of what Rose wants to implement in Dortmund, either. “He’s had the rather poor luck of having a great many injuries to deal with,” Lahm said. “For that reason he might have experimented around a bit, and it hasn’t always worked well. I believe he’s still in the process of finding the right system that fits for Dortmund, but for that, again, he needs healthy players.”BVB’s issues mostly snuck up on them in Champions League play, where they began with two wins, but lost three straight matches by a combined 10-2 and were relegated to the Europa League knockout rounds. But even with a diminished lineup, they’ve managed to eke out key wins in league play, most recently winning 3-1 in Wolfsburg last Saturday.Bayern’s issues haven’t been quite as significant, and they certainly haven’t impacted the club’s Champions League status: the 2020 European champions have won all five of their group stage matches so far by a combined 19-3. But 2-1 losses to Eintracht Frankfurt and Augsburg provided some unexpected dropped points, and they were eliminated from the DFB-Pokal in jarring fashion via a 5-0 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach.New manager Julian Nagelsmann, who himself missed a couple of matches due to a positive coronavirus test, has been forced to juggle his lineups, particularly in the midfield.Joshua Kimmich has missed time due to quarantine and a positive coronavirus test — he’s out for Saturday’s match as well. Right-back Benjamin Pavard, who often tucks into a midfield role during buildup play, missed the first month of the season with an ankle injury, Corentin Tolisso missed the next month with a calf issue, and now summer acquisition Marcel Sabitzer has suffered a calf injury as well. Bayern still have Leon Goretzka, with Tolisso and Pavard both available, but they might not enjoy the same midfield advantage they typically do against BVB.Despite Bayern’s better form in Europe, the two teams are indeed separated by just one point in the Bundesliga table, and nobody else is within six points of the top. While the league has produced some pleasant surprises, it’s easy to see this as a two-team race.”Some teams have surprised me — Freiburg being one of them,” Lahm said. Freiburg are in fourth place and could have been higher if not for recent one-goal losses to Bochum and Bayern. “They’ve been doing an excellent job so far. But I believe that the championship will be decided between Bayern and Dortmund. I think Leipzig and Leverkusen have left some points behind, so I believe it will be a Bayern-Dortmund thing at the end.”A winner on Saturday would lead the way into Matchday 15.

BVB’s poor injuries luck has been offset by good fortune in league play

Rose’s side have overachieved their expected goal figures to date — they’re averaging 2.1 xG per match and allowing 1.6, but in terms of actual goals, they’re scoring 2.5 and allowing 1.5. The over-achievement comes primarily from Haaland, who has managed to score 10 league goals on 7.1 xG in just 557 Bundesliga minutes — the equivalent of 6.2 full matches. But the defense is perhaps lucky not to have suffered more mishaps: while they are ninth in the league in goals allowed and sixth in shots allowed per possession (0.12), they are 11th in xG allowed and 16th in xG allowed per shot (0.14).Rose’s style is one of ball control, but the juggled midfield has left them as vulnerable as ever to counterattacks.As one would expect, BVB have been a profoundly different team with and without Haaland. “Erling Haaland is an extremely important player for Borussia Dortmund,” Lahm said, “not just in terms of his football skill, but also in terms of his attitude, what he does for the team, what he does for the other players, pulling them along, infecting them with his enthusiasm and really helping them all to get better.”When Haaland is in the lineup, they are prolific and free-flowing — in his seven league matches, they have averaged 2.6 points per game and 3.3 goals with 1.9 goals allowed. Without him, they’re more conservative, averaging 1.7 goals, but allowing just 1.0 and still squeezing out 2.0 points per game.The Norwegian striker’s presence is obviously impactful, but Donyell Malen‘s recent play has to be encouraging, too. The 22-year old, who arrived from PSV Eindhoven in July, has scored only twice in league action, but those goals came in his last two matches. His shot volume has slowly increased as well.”He’s joined a new club, it’s a new league, so things take their time,” said Lahm. “He’s certainly a player of excellent skills, and a player you simply need to let play and you need to give some time to. Things take time.”alen’s 23-yard firecracker in the 55th minute against Wolfsburg gave BVB a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, and it’ll be interesting to see how he fits into Rose’s plan with Haaland back to full strength.

Despite the shuffled midfield, meanwhile, Bayern remains Bayern

They are statistically dominant, even in losses. Bayern average 3.0 xG per match (0.9 more than second-place RB Leipzig) and 3.2 goals (0.7 more than BVB). They attempt far more shots per possession than anyone else, and average the highest xG/shot in the league. In all competitions this season, star striker Robert Lewandowski already has 25 goals in 20 matches, winger Serge Gnabry has eight goals, do-it-all Thomas Muller has six goals and 12 assists, and a resurgent Leroy Sane, moving back to his natural left wing — he played on the right for previous manager, Hansi Flick — already has nine goals and nine assists.”I believe Julian Nagelsmann simply saw where Leroy Sane can play with the utmost self-confidence and placed him back there,” said Lahm of Sane’s improvement. “Also, a player who changes clubs like Leroy a year ago, it’s important to gain that self-confidence by simply being allowed to play several matches in a row. There can be good matches and bad matches amongst them, but that kind of approach can reinstate the confidence in a player.”Sane has played 1,442 minutes in all competitions this year, nearly 60% of what he logged all of last season (2,454).Bayern are almost as dominant defensively, allowing both the fewest shots per possssion and lowest xG per shot. They also have the most set-piece goals and have allowed the fewest; thanks in part to the addition of Dayot Upamecano from Nagelsmann’s former club, RBL, they can challenge opposing attackers with almost shocking success. Left-back Alphonso Davies has won 80 of his 123 duels this season (65%), while Upamecano and fellow centre-back Lukas Hernandez have combined to win 80 of 120 (67%). Their DFB-Pokal loss to Gladbach, in which they allowed a steady stream of high-quality scoring chances, was the exception to basically every rule.In Nagelsmann, Bayern have found a natural successor to both Pep Guardiola (who managed the club from 2013-16) and Flick (2019-21).”I believe that Julian is quite a fan of Guardiola’s and has taken his model,” Lahm said. “Bayern under Guardiola became this kind of varied approach: sometimes three [at the back], sometimes four, sometimes four in a defensive mode, sometimes three in an offensive mode. Nagelsmann is a young, very modern type of coach, and with Guardiola kind of having left his mark on the Bundesliga I think he’s become quite a model to follow.”As one would expect, they’ve been less impressive without Kimmich, the No. 2 midfielder in the ESPN 100. They indeed lost to Augsburg on Nov.19, and they achieved bare-minimum advantages in wins over Dynamo Kyiv in the Champions League (2-1) and Arminia Bielefeld (1-0).”Obviously Kimmich is an extremely important player for Bayern Munich,” said Lahm. “That is true today, and certainly also in the future with Goretzka. If such key players, such as Kimmich, are missing during a top match, that’s something not to be taken lightly. That certainly does not help.”

This has only been so much of a rivalry of late

While Bayern won only six of 10 in the series between Nov. 2016 and Aug. 2019, they’ve since won six in a row by a combined 18-7. BVB is good at taking the fight to the German champs, taking leads of 2-0 (in Munich) and 1-0 (in Dortmund) in last season’s league clashes, but Bayern reeled them in each time. Over these six matches, Bayern has averaged 16.3 shots and 2.5 xG per match to BVB’s 8.2 and 1.2. They’ve enjoyed higher xG in five of six matches, more touches in four and a higher pass completion rate in five.BVB has an opportunity with Haaland’s return and a Kimmich-free Bayern midfield, but it’s hard to bet against a winning streak. “Haaland is back after his injury, so that is definitely an important factor,” Lahm said, “and also they’ll be playing in Dortmund in their own stadiums, so I expect this to be a very close match.”But I personally have my bets on Bayern Munich.”That’s usually a pretty good bet.

Expect plenty of fresh faces as new Indy Eleven coach Mark Lowry rebuilds roster

Kevin Johnston  Special for IndyStar  11/20/21

– There are two general methods for soccer coaches when it comes to roster construction and tactics. Coaches can seek out players who fit their desired system, or go the more square-peg-round-hole route by adapting a system to fit their roster.As far as those two schools of thought go, newly appointed Indy Eleven manager Mark Lowry is firmly in the former camp. The 36-year-old Englishman likes square pegs to go in square holes, and round pegs in round holes.”The players that we bring in will reflect the vision that I have of how the team should play,” Lowry said. “That’s non-negotiable. I believe in having good players, but I believe in more having players that fit how you want them to play. Talent alone doesn’t win games.”With the rebuild here, with the need to instill an identity and establish those things, I will get to put my kind of fingerprint – or my footprint – on the roster, bring players in that reflect what I want in the team and can get it done and execute it.”

More Indy Eleven:Indy Eleven push back Eleven Park site announcement

After hinting that a few players on his inherited roster are already under contract for 2022 during an appearance on 107.5 The Fan’s “Kevin and Query” this week, Lowry told IndyStar he expects significant turnover beyond the handful of returnees. “I think that’s probably pretty obvious to everybody,” he said. “Everyone’s been involved in the game for a while. Players understand how it works. Clubs and front offices understand how it works every season.” Six of those returnees were revealed by the club this week: forward Manuel Arteaga, midfielders Nicky Law and Ayoze, and defenders Karl Ouimette, Neveal Hackshaw and Jared Timmer. Expect quite a bit of change beyond that core group. After missing the playoffs the past two seasons, it’s perhaps a necessary approach for the Eleven to take. “We have some great, great holdovers from last season,” he added. “There are a few of them (whom) I’m excited to get to work with. But there’s also room for us to kind of grow as a club and grow as a team, and bring players in to kind of begin a new era and bring that success back to Carroll Stadium.”Lowry’s familiarity with Indy dates back to the NASL days, having served as both head and assistant coach with Jacksonville Armada FC.Lowry also has a background as a scout in addition to youth academy coaching experience. He’s worn many different hats within the game, skills he said will serve him well at a club that’s branching out with a women’s team and an academy side. “We believe the process of finding our next head coach was worth the considerable due diligence taken in recent months, which involved interest from more than 250 candidates from across the soccer world,” said Eleven president and CEO Greg Stremlaw in a statement. “We firmly believe in Mark’s ability to again make Indy Eleven one of the elite USL Championship competitors on the field and burnish our credentials as one of the league’s premier organizations. ”Lowry boasts a stellar track record in his three seasons in the USL Championship having guided his former club, El Paso Locomotive FC, to the postseason all three years, including a pair of trips to the Western Conference final. The young head coach appears aware of the task at hand and confident he’ll restore the club back to its winning ways. “Teams need to hate coming to Indy to play Indy Eleven,” Lowry said. “It can’t be nice for teams. We need to create that atmosphere and that environment.”

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11/23 Champions League today/Wed, US Ladies Fri 11 pm FS1, MLS Playoffs continue, USL Champ Game

The US Ladies take Youngsters to Australia for Fri 11 pm game

The USWNT will take 2 young 6 foot GK’s and along with a host of new young forwards for their 2 games in Australia Friday night at 11 pm on FS2 and Again Tues at 4 am on ESPN. 

U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CAPS/GOALS) –VS. AUSTRALIA:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 7), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 43/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 6/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 7/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 197/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 61/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 106/24), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 66/17), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 31/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 20/2)

FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 7/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 43/13), Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0)

Champions League Matchday 5

Champions League play returns with American’s stars McKinney for Juventus traveling to Chelsea Tuesday at 3 pm on Paramount plus to face teammate Christian Pulisic (fresh of this goal in 20 minutes over the weekend) winner wins their group.  Lille and Tim Weah will also host RB Salzburg and Brendan Aaronson at 3 pm Tuesday with both teams needing just a win to qualify.  Serginio Dest and Barcelona with new coach Javi will try to stay alive vs Benefica while Villarreal and Man United will battle for a the top spot at 12:45 in their group.  With two rounds remaining in the Champions League group stage, it’s all to play to reach the knockout rounds — or book a consolation place in the Europa League. Here’s the state of play across all eight groups, showing what each team needs to maintain hope of progressing.   Read it all in the Ole Ball Coach

MLS Playoffs Continue Tues

Nashville will host Orlando City in the East at 8 pm on FS1, while the Defending Champ Seattle Sounders will host Real Salt Lake at 10:30 pm on FS1.  Playoff soccer is worth the watch in MLS! Playoffs Bracket Matt Turner – NE Rev and USMNT Goalkeeper was named GK of the Year in MLS – see story below!

NWSL Washington Wins Championship in Louisville

What an exciting final it was in Louisville as the game went to extra time with USWNT defender Kelly O’hare winning the game in extratime on a fantastic header to give the Washington Spirit the win over the Chicago Red Stars 2-1.  Its been a tumultuous season for the NWSL – but the final has things looking up as a good crowd was on hand and a CBS audience looked on Saturday.  San Diego and LA bring expansion teams in for next season which should add some excitement for the league.

Indy 11 Goalkeeper’s Run Ends

Indy 11 Goalkeeper Jordan Farr excelled in a 2-1 shootout loss to Orange City for San Antonio late Saturday night.  Farr stood on his head and made some fantastic saves before finally succumbing in the shootout 5-3.   Hopefully some MLS teams are taking note!  Meanwhile the USL will wrap up its season Sunday night on ESPN2 or ESPN+ with the Tampa Bay Rowdies hosting Orange County SC at 8:30 pm.  

BIG GAMES TO WATCH

(American’s in parenthesis)

Tues  11/23    UCL

12:45 pm EST              Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern Munich  Paramount+

12:45 pm EST             Villarreal vs. Manchester United  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Barcelona (Dest) vs. Benfica Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              BSC Young Boys (Pfuk)  vs. Atalanta Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Lille (Weah) vs. RB Salzburg (Aaronson) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sevilla FC vs. VfL Wolfsburg (Brooks)  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Malmö vs. Zenit St Petersburg Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs. Juventus (McKennie) Paramount+

8 pm FS1            Nashville vs Orlando City MLS Playoff

10:30 pm FS1    Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake  

Wednesday, November 24  UCL

12:45 pm EST              Beşiktaş vs. Ajax Amsterdam   Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Inter Milan vs. Shakhtar Donetsk Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Club Brugge vs. RB Leipzig (Adams) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-Germain  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST             Atletico Madrid vs. AC Milan  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Liverpool vs. FC Porto  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Sheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid  Paramount+

Thursday, November 25 (Europa)

12:45 pm EST              Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Lazio Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Galatasaray (Yedlin) vs. Marseille Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Red Star Belgrade vs. Ludogorets Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              FC Midtjylland vs. Braga Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Real Betis vs. Ferencvaros Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Bayer Leverkusen vs. Celtic Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              SK Rapid Wien vs. West Ham United Paramount+

12:45 pm EST              Dinamo Zagreb vs. Genk (  ) Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Brondby vs. Lyon Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Rangers vs. Sparta Prague Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              PSV Eindhoven vs. SK Sturm Graz Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              AS Monaco vs. Real Sociedad Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Leicester City vs. Legia Warsaw Paramount+

3:00 pm EST                Olympiacos vs. Fenerbahçe  Paramount+

03:00 pm EST              Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Antwerp Paramount+

11 pm FS1          USWNT vs Australia

Sat, Nov 27

7:30 am NBCSN          Arsenal vs New Castle 

7:30 am ESPN+           Fulham (Robinson) vs Preston North End

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

10 USA                         Liverpool vs Southampton 

12 noon CBSSN?        Juventus (McKinney) vs Atalanta

11 am beIn Sport         Lille (Weah) vs Nantes

7:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Louisville City USL

10 pm ESPN+              Orange City vs San Antonio (Jordan Farr Indy 11 GK)

Sun  11/28  

9 am NBCSN                Man City vs Westham 

11:30 NBCSN             Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Man Uniteded 

11:30 ESPN+               RB Leipzig (Adams) vs Leverkusen                  

3 pm ESPN+                Real Madrid vs Sevilla

3 pm ABC                    Sporting KC vs TBD   MLS Playoff

5:30 pm ESPN             Philly Union vs TBD  MLS 

8:30 pm ESPN+          Tampa Bay Rowdies vs Orange County SC

Tues  11/30   

4 am ESPN                   USWNT vs Australia

7:30 pm FS1                New England vs NYCFC   MLS Playoff

Wed 12/1

2:30 pm Peacock         Chelsea (Pulisic) vs Watford

3:15 pm  NBCSN        Everton vs Liverpool

Thurs  12/2

3:15 pm  NBCSN        Man United vs Arsenal 

PARAMOUNT PLUS Live TV, Soccer & Originals Starting price: $4.99/mo. Features Champions League, US Men’s National Team, CONCACAF WORLD CUP Qualifying, , Serie A, Europa League Free Trial

US Men

 Behind The Crest: USMNT Revives “Dos a Cero” vs. Mexico

Ricardo Pepi’s Story (video)

How US Players Did this Weekend

U.S. Overtakes Mexico as Concacaf’s Top Team in FIFA Ranking

Champions League 

Chelsea vs Juventus: How to watch, team news, odds, prediction

COVID-19: De Bruyne to miss three games

Xavi unfazed by possible UCL exit: Let me dream
Xavi’s winning Barcelona debut, Vlahovic magic vs. Milan: Weekend review
  ESPN
Villarreal vs Manchester United: How to watch, team news, odds, 

MLS

Playoffs Bracket

Orlando Readies for Nashville Matchup

Three Takeaways from Philadelphia’s playoff win over NYRB

Blanco & Reynoso: Argentine playmakers central to Portland vs. Minnesota playoff game

HIGHLIGHTS: Portland Timbers vs. Minnesota United FC | November 21, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: New York City FC vs. Atlanta United FC | November 21, 2021

HIGHLIGHTS: Sporting Kansas City vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC | November 20, 2021

Seattle Sounders give update on Lodeiro, Ruidiaz, Joao Paulo fitness before RSL clash

LAFC, head coach Bob Bradley mutually agree to part ways

New England Revolution’s Matt Turner named 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year

Report: Jozy Altidore to depart Toronto FC

EPL


Why Solskjaer’s Man United tenure fell apart
 
Rob Dawson
Man Utd malaise runs deeper than failed managers

Reports: Pochettino wants to become new Manchester United boss

Manchester United manager search: Who will replace Solskjaer?

Antonio Conte: Tottenham turnaround shows players are buying in

NWSL

Washington Spirit beat Chicago Red Stars to win their first NWSL championship

NWSL Ends Its Season of Reckoning With High Hopes and a Worthy Final
NWSL final: Washington Spirit a fitting champion after overcoming year of turmoil
  itlin Murray
Coach of NWSL’s Red Stars resigns amid report of emotional abuse

NWSL Final features USWNT Players

Champions League group stage: what every team needs to go through

Nov 3, 2021Dale JohnsonGeneral Editor, ESPN FC

With two rounds remaining in the Champions League group stage, it’s all to play to reach the knockout rounds — or book a consolation place in the Europa League. Here’s the state of play across all eight groups, showing what each team needs to maintain hope of progressing. Group winners and runners-up qualify for the Champions League round of 16, with third-placed teams dropping into the Europa League preliminary knockout round. Teams that finish bottom are eliminated from Europe.

QUALIFIED FOR UCL ROUND OF 16: Ajax, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Liverpool

ELIMINATED: Besiktas, Malmo, RB Leipzig

GROUP A
Nov. 24: Manchester City vs. Paris Saint-GermainClub Brugge vs. RB Leipzig
Dec. 7: RB Leipzig vs. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain vs. Club Brugge

Group A

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man City4301+89
2 – PSG4220+38
3 – Brugge4112-64
4 – Leipzig4013-51

Manchester City: Need a point to go through, and can secure top spot with a win at home to PSG.

Paris Saint-Germain: Will be through with two draws, or if Club Brugge fail to win either of their remaining games.

Club Brugge: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of qualifying.

RB Leipzig: Have been eliminated from the Champions League and must win away to Club Brugge to stay in contention for a place in the Europa League.GROUP B
Nov. 24:Liverpool vs. FC PortoAtletico Madrid vs. AC Milan
Dec. 7: FC Porto vs. Atletico Madrid, AC Milan vs. Liverpool

Group B

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Liverpool4400+812
2 – Porto4121-35
3 – Atletico4112-24
4 – Milan4013-31

Liverpool: Have qualified as group winners.

FC Porto: Will be through on Matchday 5 if they win at Liverpool and Atletico lose to AC Milan. Four points will also be enough.

Atletico Madrid: Know that at least a draw at home to AC Milan will definitely keep their fate in their own hands ahead of the trip at FC Porto on Matchday 6. Could be eliminated if they lose to Milan and Porto beat Liverpool.

AC Milan: Must win both their remaining games to have a chance of staying in the Champions League, but their best hope may be to edge third and drop into the Europa League. Will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Atletico.

GROUP C
Nov. 24: Besiktas vs. AjaxSporting CP vs. Borussia Dortmund
Dec. 7: Ajax vs. Sporting CP, Borussia Dortmund vs. Besiktas

Group C

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Ajax4400+1212
2 – Dortmund4202-46
3 – Sporting4202+26
4 – Besiktas4004-100

Ajax: Have qualified and need a point to win the group.

Borussia Dortmund: Dortmund hold second place on head to head, which means a win at home to Sporting will send them through. A draw would leave them needing a win at home to Besikas to seal second place.

Sporting CP: Victory at home to Dortmund by 2+ goals will send them through to the round of 16 on Matchday 5.

Besiktas: Are out of the Champions League and will be eliminated completely if they fail to beat Ajax or Borussia Dortmund avoid defeat against Sporting.GROUP D
Nov. 24: Inter vs. Shakhtar DonetskSheriff Tiraspol vs. Real Madrid
Dec. 7: Real Madrid vs. Inter, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. FC Sheriff

Group D

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Madrid4301+69
2 – Inter4211+37
3 – Sheriff4202-16
4 – Shakhtar4013-81

Real Madrid: Must win away to FC Sheriff to guarantee qualification on Matchday 5, while two draws from their remaining two games would also send them through.

Inter Milan: Will be through with a game to spare should they beat Shakhtar and FC Sheriff fail to beat Real Madrid. Four points will also see them through for certain.

FC Sheriff: Will be out if they lose to Real Madrid and Inter beat Shakhtar. They may need to hope Inter fail to win and it goes down to the final day for a place in the knockout stages.

Shakhtar Donetsk: Are going to have to win both their remaining games and hope other results go their way if they to have a chance of going through or dropping into the Europa League.

GROUP E
Nov. 23: Dynamo Kiev vs. Bayern MunichBarcelona vs. Benfica
Dec. 8: Bayern Munich vs. Barcelona, Benfica vs. Dynamo Kiev

Group E

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Bayern4400+1512
2 – Barca4202-46
3 – Benfica4112-44
4 – Dynamo4013-71

Bayern Munich: Have qualified for the round of 16, and need a point to win the group (or can do so with a defeat if Barcelona fail to win at home to Benfica).

Barcelona: Will be through with win a win at home to Benfica on Matchday 5.

Benfica: Must avoid defeat to Barca to stay in contention. Two wins guarantees second place.

Dynamo Kiev: Have to win both remaining games, and hope Barca lose at home to Benfica, to have any chance of staying in the Champions League. They could yet overtake Benfica for the Europa League slot with a win in Portugal on Matchday 6.GROUP F
Nov. 23: Villarreal vs. Manchester UnitedYoung Boys vs. Atalanta
Dec. 8: Atalanta vs. Villarreal, Manchester United vs. Young Boys

Group F

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Man Utd4211+17
2 – Villarreal4211+47
3 – Atalanta412105
4 – Y Boys4103-53

Manchester United: Will be through with a win away to Villarreal in their next match. Four points from the two games will also guarantee progress.

Villarreal: Will definitely be through if they beat Man United by 2+ goals or 1-0.

Atalanta: Can guarantee a place in the round of 16 with two victories, and four points would be enough if Villarreal lose to Man United.

Young Boys: Still in contention but need to win at home to Atalanta to have any realistic hopes of finishing inside the top 2. If they lose to Atalanta, they are sure to finish bottom of the group and exit Europe.

GROUP G
Nov. 23: Lille vs. FC SalzburgSevilla vs. VfL Wolfsburg
Dec. 8: FC Salzburg vs. Sevilla, VfL Wolfsburg vs. Lille

Group G

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Salzburg4211+27
2 – Lille412105
3 – Wolfsburg4121-15
4 – Sevilla4031-13

FC Salzburg: Will be through with a win at Lille on Matchday 5, and that will seal top spot if Wolfsburg fail to beat Sevilla. Two draws will also send them into the round of 16.

Lille: If they can win at home to Salzburg, a point away to Wolfsburg would be enough to send them through.

Wolfsburg: Are sure to still be in contention on Matchday 6, when a win at home to Lille will guarantee at worst a place in the Europa League.

Sevilla: Will be out of the Champions League if they lose at home to Wolfsburg, and also be sure to finish bottom should Lille win at home to Salzburg.

GROUP H
Nov. 23: Chelsea vs. Juventus, Malmo vs. Zenit St Petersburg
Dec. 8: Zenit St Petersburg vs. Chelsea, Juventus vs. Malmo

Group H

GPWDLGDPTS
1 – Juventus4400+712
2 – Chelsea4301+59
3 – Zenit410303
4 – Malmo4004-120

Juventus: Have qualified, and need a point away to Chelsea to seal top spot.

Chelsea: Need a point to go through, and would also progress with a loss at home to Juve should Zenit fail to beat Malmo. Must beat Juventus to have a chance of topping the group.

Zenit St Petersburg: Must win both their remaining games, and hope Chelsea lose to Juve, to go through. Would also need to beat Chelsea by 2+ goals to win the head to head.

Malmo: Are out of the Champions League and must beat Zenit by 5+ goals to overtake them on head to head and have the best chance of finishing third and dropping into the Europa League.

Champions League predictions, Matchweek 5 (from Joe Prince-Wright)

Tuesday

Dynamo Kiev 1-3 Bayern Munich
Villarreal 2-2 Manchester United
Chelsea 2-1 Juventus
Barcelona 2-1 Benfica
Sevilla 1-1 Wolfsburg
Malmo 1-2 Zenit
Lille 2-0 RB Salzburg
Young Boys 1-3 Atalanta

Wednesday

Besiktas 0-3 Ajax
Inter 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting 1-3 Dortmund
Man City 3-2 PSG
Atletico Madrid 1-2 Milan
Liverpool 3-1 Porto
Clube Brugge 2-1 RB Leipzig
Sheriff 0-4 Real Madrid

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 1 results

Sevilla 1-1 Red Bull Salzburg
Young Boys 2-1 Manchester United — Solskjaer, Maguire reaction
Lille 0-0 Wolfsburg
Villarreal 2-2 Atalanta
Chelsea 1-0 Zenit Saint Petersburg — Tuchel reacts, praises Lukaku
Malmo 0-3 Juventus
Barcelona 0-3 Bayern Munich
Dynamo Kiev 0-0 Benfica

Besiktas 1-2 Borussia Dortmund
Sheriff Tiraspol 2-0 Shakhtar Donetsk
Inter Milan 0-1 Real Madrid
Atletico Madrid 0-0 Porto
Club Brugge 1-1 Paris Saint-Germain
Liverpool 3-2 AC Milan — Klopp reaction
Man City 6-3 RB Leipzig — Grealish reactionSporting Lisbon 1-5 Ajax

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 2 results

Shakhtar Donetsk 0-0 Inter Milan
Ajax 2-0 Besiktas
Real Madrid 1-2 Sheriff Tiraspol
AC Milan 1-2 Atletico Madrid
Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Sporting Lisbon
Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 Man City
Porto 1-5 Liverpool
RB Leipzig 1-2 Club Brugge

Wednesday

Atalanta 1-0 Young Boys
Zenit 4-0 Malmo
Wolfsburg 1-1 Sevilla
Bayern Munich 5-0 Dynamo Kiev
Red Bull Salzburg 2-1 Lille
Juventus 1-0 Chelsea
Benfica 3-0 Barcelona
Manchester United 2-1 Villarreal

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 3 results

Tuesday

Besiktas 1-4 Sporting
Club Brugge 1-5 Man City – Recap
PSG 3-2 RB Leipzig – Recap
Ajax 4-0 Borussia Dortmund
Shakhtar Donetsk 0-5 Real Madrid – Recap
Inter Milan 3-1 Sheriff
Atletico Madrid 2-3 Liverpool – Recap + Klopp reaction
Porto 1-0 AC Milan

Wednesday

RB Salzburg 3-1 Wolfsburg
Barcelona 1-0 Dynamo Kiev
Lille 0-0 Sevilla
Benfica 0-4 Bayern Munich
Chelsea 4-0 Malmo
Zenit 0-1 Juventus
Young Boys 1-4 Villarreal
Man United 3-2 Atalanta – Recap

UEFA Champions League group stage Matchday 4 results

Tuesday

Malmo 0-1 Chelsea – Pulisic returns
Wolfsburg 2-1 RB Salzburg
Dynamo Kiev 0-1 Barcelona
Sevilla 1-2 Lille
Bayern Munich 5-2 Benfica
Juventus 4-2 Zenit
Villarreal 2-0 Young Boys
Atalanta 2-2 Man United – Ronaldo grabs a point for United

Wednesday

AC Milan 1-1 FC Porto
Real Madrid 2-1 Shakhtar Donetsk
Sporting Lisbon 4-0 Besiktas
Man City 4-1 Club Brugge – Recap
RB Leipzig 2-2 PSG
Borussia Dortmund 1-3 Ajax
Sheriff 1-3 Inter Milan
Liverpool 2-0 Atletico Madrid – Recap

USMNT’s Roller Coaster Remains on Track for World Cup Qualification

After beating Mexico and tying Jamaica, two windows remain for the U.S. to book its trip to Qatar next fall, and the outlook is a positive one.

BRIAN STRAUS  SI 

 says something about the U.S. men’s national team that members were disappointed by Tuesday’s 1–1 World Cup qualifying draw in Jamaica. Points are tough to come by on the road in Concacaf, but this young squad doesn’t put a cap on its confidence, expectations or ambition.“I felt like we could’ve won every game so far in qualifying,” midfielder and de facto captain Tyler Adams said in Kingston.But it also says something about the Americans that they haven’t—that they struggled to impose themselves on a less talented Reggae Boyz squad and may have been fortunate to escape with a point. Although the U.S. took an early lead on a goal by Tim Weah, the hosts replied with a breathtaking strike from West Ham United’s Michail Antonio, then successfully bypassed the U.S. press with a series of long balls before nearly winning the game with a late header that was ruled out by the referee.Qualifying is a roller coaster, coach Gregg Berhalter said. So was the tie in Kingston and the November window at large, which began with last week’s 2-0 dismantling of Mexico in Cincinnati. That isn’t just coach speak. It’s an accurate assessment. The U.S. is now just past the midpoint of Concacaf’s Octagonal, which will send the top three finishers directly to the Qatar World Cup and an additional side to an intercontinental playoff.It’s been almost all ups and downs, from the lows of the frustrating home draw with Canada, Weston McKennie’s September suspension and the whole team’s awful night in Panama, to the historic highs of that brilliant second half in Honduras, the comeback against Costa Rica and then the next-generation “Dos a Cero” in Cincinnati. Through it all, Berhalter has started 30 different players and given 26 their World Cup qualifying debut. It’s been a struggle at times, and the 4-1-3 record could, and maybe should, be better. But it’s also quite an achievement for a young team that’s learning as it goes. Toss in the fact that the Americans so frequently take the field without many of their highest-profile players (Gio Reyna and Sergiño Dest missed this month’s games and a recovering Christian Pulisic was a second-half substitute), and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, or at least satisfied, with the performance so far.The U.S. is in second place with six qualifiers remaining, and it’s on pace to reach Qatar.“I think we’re on the right track,” Berhalter said in Kingston. “[We’re] basically having to get the guys experience on the fly. We’re playing an Olympic-age team. The average age again was Olympic-eligible—22 [and 341 days]. It’s really learning as you go, and the guys have done a great job adapting to that. We’ve had very strong home performances. We’ve gotten five points on the road already, in four games.“We’ll use the winter and spring of ’22 to hopefully get qualification, but the guys have been great,” the manager continued. “When I look at the year of ’21 in general, you know we lifted two trophies. We’re in the position where we want to be (in) World Cup qualifying. We’ve won 16 games already [tying the single-year U.S. record]. The guy have done a great job. It’s all down to them and their commitment to the program.”But like the response to Tuesday’s tie, there should be a bit of concern woven in to the optimistic outlook. Second place is good. It’s also somewhat treacherous. Although there’s now some separation between the top four and bottom four in the Octagonal, the U.S. is only one point above fourth place, which would mean a one-game, neutral-site playoff against a team from South America, Asia or Oceania next June (the draw is Nov. 26). A worst-case scenario of a trip to Qatar, a potential site, for a winner-take-all game against the likes of Uruguay or Japan with a World Cup berth on the line is hovering over the horizon.Among the six games remaining for the U.S. are the three that arguably are the toughest on the Octagonal schedule: at Canada on Jan. 30, and then at Mexico (March 24) and at Costa Rica (March 30). The Canadians are vastly improved and undefeated in qualifying, and the difficulty of winning in Mexico City and San José is long established. The U.S. is a combined 0-21-4 in World Cup qualifiers in those two inhospitable cities. And so the margin for error at home is pretty much gone, and a point or two on the road very well may be necessary as well. There’s still a lot of work left to do.

What Vlatko Sees in USWNT Roster Newcomers

The U.S. women’s national team is gearing up for Nov. 27 and 30 friendlies in Australia, where they haven’t played in 21 years.Twenty-one is also the age of the current roster’s youngest player (Sophia Smith). The squad, which was announced Tuesday morning, is full of the next generation, in fact. Of the 22 players, 12 have 10 international caps or fewer. Five don’t have any caps at all.“Part of the reason why we picked some of the younger players, or some of the inexperienced players, is to give them a taste of what this environment is all about and also to show them that they have potential to be on the World Cup team, and I think that’s the best motivation they could have,” said USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski.

THE USWNT’S FULL ROSTER HEADING TO AUSTRALIA LATER THIS MONTH, ACCORDING TO A PRESS RELEASE TUESDAY.

Mallory Pugh and Trinity Rodman were also invited to join the roster but opted out due to undisclosed reasons.

The frontrunner for NWSL Rookie of the Year, Rodman has yet to make an appearance with the senior national team. Her presence would have added to a young offense that already has three rookies.

Defense is the only position that doesn’t have any uncapped players. Alana Cook heads to Australia with two caps, while Emily Fox has six and Sofia Huerta seven.Let’s take a closer look at the particular areas of the field Andonovski is keen to rebuild and the players he is eager to see.

CASEY MURPHY AND BELLA BIXBY

In the absence of Alyssa Naeher, who is out with a knee injury, veteran Jane Campbell will lead the goalkeeping trio that includes the North Carolina Courage’s Casey Murphy and the Portland Thorns’ Bella Bixby, each with no caps.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to put those young goalkeepers in the top and challenging environment and to put him through some adversity and see how they deal with it,” Andonovski said. “I think that Australia’s an incredible team … We’ll find out very fast who is cut for big games under pressure.”Bixby had a standout season in the NWSL, starting 16 matches and recording nine clean sheets to earn a nomination for the league’s Goalkeeper of the Year.“She’s done a very good job individually to keep those shutouts, so she’s one of those players that needs an introduction to this environment,” the coach said.Bixby and Murphy were teammates on the national U-23 team from 2017-18. Murphy also started on the U-20 squad.Andonovski is familiar with Murphy after coaching her with OL Reign (then Reign FC) in 2019. He saw her improve on a weekly basis and, after watching multiple videos to evaluate her progress this year, has noticed her continued development with the Courage. In North Carolina’s quarterfinal game against the Washington Spirit on Sunday, Murphy made 13 saves to send it to extra time, where the Courage eventually lost.“We’re glad to say that she’s ready for the next level of her career,” he said.

ASHLEY SANCHEZ

With zero caps for the USWNT, Ashley Sanchez steps onto the pitch as the only novice in the midfield.

The 22-year-old, however, has a multitude of experience with the youth program, from the U14 level all the way through U15, U17 and U20. Competing in the U17 and U20 FIFA Women’s World Cups in 2016, she became the first player in U.S. history to play in multiple World Cups in the same year.

Andonovski has been following Sanchez’s progress with Spirit closely all season.“Some of the things that she’s developed first and foremost is she’s better at the things that she was good at,” Andonovski said.Specifically, Sanchez thrives at solving problems under pressure, whether it’s finding tight spaces, connecting with the front line or getting back on defense.“I think that she she’s becoming a little bit more of a rounded player,” Andonovski said.

FORWARDS

The attacking third will feature the most youth, as five of the six forwards have 10 caps or fewer. While Lynn Williams leads the offense with 43 caps, Bethany Balcer and Morgan Weaver will look to get their first.“The forward position is an area where we felt like we need to increase the competition,” Andonovski said. “And not just the competition; we need to increase the overall experience of the players. We have to give them games like this.”The coach seems to be taking into consideration player performances in the NWSL, where five of his forwards have seven league goals or more to rank among the top 10 scorers. Ashley Hatch won the NWSL’s Golden Boot award with 10 goals during the regular season.Weaver of the Portland Thorns appears to be the outlier, with just one goal in 19 NWSL games this season. But stats aren’t everything. Similar to Williams, the 24-year-old is a workhorse off the ball and puts defenders under a lot of stress.Balcer, the 2019 NWSL Rookie of the Year in her third season with the OL Reign, has been a weapon on attack. Five of the nine goals she’s scored this season have come by way of headers. She’s also the first player from an NAIA school to have made an NWSL roster. At Spring Arbor University from 2015-18, Balcer had 129 goals in 98 appearances.

GAME TIMES

The first match will kick off on Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. local time in Sydney. For North America, that’s Nov. 26 at 11 p.m. ET on FS2.The team plays again Nov. 30 at 8 p.m. local time, or 4 a.m. ET on ESPN.

ANDONOVSKI NAMES 22 PLAYER ROSTER FOR USWNT MATCHES IN AUSTRALIA TO END 2021

BIOSTEEL TRAINING CAMP ROSTER INCLUDES 10 TOKYO 2020 OLYMPIANS AND 12 PLAYERS WITH 10 CAPS OR FEWER

NOVEMBER 9 2021

ON THE PITCH

CHICAGO (Nov. 9, 2021) – U.S. Women’s National Team head coach Vlatko Andonovski has named 22 players for the trip to Australia that will feature two matches against the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup co-hosts to end the 2021 schedule.

The roster features 10 members of the 2020 Olympic Team and 12 players with 10 caps or less — including five uncapped players — and has an average age of 26.3 years. Andonovski will choose 18 players to suit up for each of the two matches.

The first match will take place at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Saturday, Nov. 27 at 3 p.m. local time (Friday, Nov. 26 at 11 p.m. ET on FS2) and the second will be at the McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle on Tuesday, November 30 at 8:05 p.m. local time (4:05 a.m. ET on ESPN).

“We still have a few players out with injuries, so this roster is a mixture of players with a lot of experience in World Cups and Olympics, some who have been a part of the program for a while but who are looking to make their mark in international soccer and a few who are getting a first chance with the National Team in an event like this,” said Andonovski. “We’ve turned the page towards 2023 World Cup qualifying and rarely do we get the chance to test young players in environments filled with adversity, so we need to take advantage of what these two games will offer us. It’s exciting to get a chance to see all these players together in our environment and give them a chance to play against one of the best teams in the world.”

Twenty-one of the 22 players on the roster play in the National Women’s Soccer League with 17 on teams that made the NWSL playoffs. Midfielder Catarina Macario, who has scored eight goals in her past nine games with Olympique Lyon in France, is the only player on the roster not playing domestically.

The U.S. Women’s National Team has not played in Australia for 21 years. The most recent visits were in 2000, a year in which the USA played in three different competitions in Australia, the final one being the Sydney Olympics where the USA earned a silver medal. Football Australia expects large crowds for both matches.


U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER BY POSITION (CAPS/GOALS) – NOVEMBER MATCHES VS. AUSTRALIA:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC; 0), Jane Campbell (Houston Dash; 7), Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage; 0)

DEFENDERS (7): Alana Cook (OL Reign; 2/0), Abby Dahlkemper (Houston Dash; 77/0), Tierna Davidson (Chicago Red Stars; 43/1), Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC; 6/0), Sofia Huerta (OL Reign; 7/0), Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC; 197/0), Emily Sonnett (Washington Spirit; 61/0)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC; 106/24), Rose Lavelle (OL Reign; 66/17), Catarina Macario (Olympique Lyon, FRA; 12/3), Kristie Mewis (Houston Dash; 31/4), Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit; 0/0), Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit; 20/2)

FORWARDS (6): Bethany Balcer (OL Reign; 0/0), Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit; 2/0), Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC; 7/2), Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC; 10/1), Lynn Williams (North Carolina Courage; 43/13), Morgan Weaver (Portland Thorns FC; 0/0)

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

  • The roster features 10 players who won bronze medals at the 2020 Olympics and six who were on the team that won the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
  • After 36-year-old veteran defender Becky Sauerbrunn, followed by 30-year-old midfielder Kristie Mewis. The youngest is 21-year-old forward Sophia Smith.
  • There are only two players on the roster age 30 or older — Sauerbrunn and Mewis. The average age of the remaining 20 players will be 25.6 years on the first match day in Australia.
  • The average caps per player on the 22-player roster is 32.
  • Andonovski called up two uncapped goalkeepers in six-foot Bella Bixby of Portland Thorns FC and six-foot-one Casey Murphy of the North Carolina Courage. Both have had quality seasons with their respective clubs and Murphy made a playoff record 13 saves in 1-0 quarterfinal playoff loss to the Washington Spirit on Nov. 7.
  • This is the first time the USWNT has ever had two goalkeepers six-foot or over on one roster.
  • While Murphy has yet to earn a cap, this will be her sixth event training with the full USWNT. Most recently, she was in with the USA for the trip to Sweden and France last April and she was the starting goalkeeper for the USA at the 2018 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. This is Bixby’s first full WNT call-up, although she does have experience with the Under-23 USWNT in 2017 and 2018 when she was known as Bella Geist, prior to her marriage.
  • Both goalkeepers join 2020 Olympian Jane Campbell, who has seven caps and who earned a shutout against South Korea on Oct. 26 in Minnesota.
  • Sauerbrunn is by far the most experienced player on the roster with 197 caps, and she is joined by 2020 Olympic Team center back partners Dahlkemper (77) and Tierna Davidson (43) as well as outside back Emily Sonnett (61), who played in two matches in Japan. The other three defenders have a combined 15 caps.
  • Seven of those caps belong to Sofia Huerta, who has been playing outside back of late for OL Reign and is the only player in women’s soccer history to have played for the USA and Mexico at the senior level. Huerta switched associations in 2017 and earned her caps over 2017 and 2018 but has not been back with the WNT until this trip.
  • Huerta was tied for the NWSL lead in regular season assists this year with six.
  • Alana Cook, also of OL Reign, earned one of her two career caps in 2021, playing the full 90 against Colombia on Jan. 22.
  • The other defender is Emily Fox of Racing Louisville, who played well in both of the USA’s most recent matches, against South Korea in October, in which she earned her fifth and six caps.
  • The midfielders are perhaps the most experienced position group. Andi Sullivan (20 caps) and Ashley Sanchez (0 caps) of the Washington Spirit are the only two of the six midfielders who were not at the 2020 Olympic Games.
  • Sullivan’s experience with the senior National Team dates back to 2016, when she was a junior in college at Stanford. Sullivan started at defensive midfield in the USA’s most recent match against South Korea on Oct. 26.
  • This will be the third full WNT camp for Sanchez, who made history by being the first American to play in both the FIFA Under-17 and Under-20 Women’s World Cups in the same cycle, something she did in 2016. She also attended the October 2020 training camp in Denver and was called into one training camp under Jill Ellis in March of 2016. She also attended the U.S. WNT Identification Training Camp in December of 2019.
  • The group of forwards features just one Olympian in Lynn Williams, who had a goal and an assist in the quarterfinal victory over the Netherlands in Japan and who has 13 goals in her 43 career caps.
  • The other five forwards have a combined 19 caps and three international goals, two for Margaret Purce and one for Smith.
  • Of the six forwards, four of them – Bethany Balcer, Ashley Hatch, Smith and Morgan Weaver – were at the U.S. WNT Identification Training Camp in December of 2019. Aside from the ID camp, this will be the second full USWNT event for Balcer and the first for Weaver.
  • Hatch was awarded the Golden Boot this season as the top scorer in the NWSL with 10 goals while also scoring the game-winner in the 1-0 quarterfinal playoff victory over the North Carolina Courage on Nov. 7. Balcer and Margaret Purce finished the regular season with nine each while Williams and Smith had seven scores each. Smith led the league in shots with 72 and shots on goal with 36.
  • Hatch earned her first cap in 2016 in Sandy, Utah in a 16-minute performance against Switzerland when she was still playing at BYU. She earned her second in 2018 vs. Mexico.
  • Eight of the 10 NWSL clubs have players on the roster with Portland Thorns FC having five. OL Reign and the Washington Spirit have four each and the Houston Dash has three.
  • Eleven players on the roster have represented the USA in a FIFA Women’s World Cup at the youth level.
  • Three players on the roster were named to the NWSL Team of the Month for October: Huerta, Hatch and Purce.
  • Five players on the roster are up for end-of-the season 2021 NWSL Awards.
  • MVP: Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit) and Margaret Purce (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Defender of the Year: Alana Cook (OL Reign)
    Goalkeeper of the Year: Bella Bixby (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Rookie of the Year: Emily Fox (Racing Louisville)

NWSL final: Washington Spirit a fitting champion after overcoming year of turmoil

Nov 20, 2021Caitlin Murray

In a National Women’s Soccer League season that will be remembered more for its leaguewide off-field problems than its splendid play on the field, the Washington Spirit became a fitting champion Saturday, beating the Chicago Red Stars 2-1 in a thrilling extra-time finish.

To say that the Spirit’s road this season to the final was a rocky one would be an understatement. The NWSL stepped in and banned their coach after player allegations of abuse failed to prompt the team’s owner to act. A power struggle between that owner and another investor ensued, with the players publicly demanding the team be sold. And the Spirit had to forfeit two regular-season games after a COVID-19 outbreak, earning a hefty fine for protocol violations too.

In a word, the Spirit’s season has been chaos. But the only way the Spirit could come back from a goal deficit and beat the Red Stars on the league’s biggest stage was not by ignoring the chaos swirling around them — the players simply had to embrace it. “It’s been a lot of different emotions but we’ve been leaning into them and soaking up the chaos and seeing what we could do with it,” Spirit captain Andi Sullivan said. “I don’t think you could create something else like it.”You probably wouldn’t want to either — the Spirit were hardly the only team in the NWSL dealing with off-field problems this season — but the Spirit’s unique ability to use the uncertainty to their advantage means there is no better team to go down in NWSL history as the 2021 champion.”People have no idea what we’ve all gone through,” veteran defender Kelley O’Hara said. “The resiliency and perseverance of every single player on this team is pretty incredible and something that I haven’t had on any NWSL team I’ve been on. It’s the best feeling ever to be ending on a win.”In the first half, however, it looked like perhaps an emotional toll had finally caught up with the Spirit. Whether it was the weight of the stakes or the drain of their off-field turmoil, something tamped down some of the Spirit’s flair and flashiness, which had carried them through the playoffs to the final.

Trinity Rodman, the 19-year-old breakout who was named Rookie of the Year, looked frustrated as she created dangerous moments for the Spirit but couldn’t tap into her previous magic. In the 11th minute, she had only to get around center-back Sarah Gorden for a breakaway, but the NWSL Defender of the Year poked the ball away. Later, after some ball circulation to create space for Rodman, she pulled the trigger from the top of the box, but it went straight to goalkeeper Cassie Miller.

“I was extremely frustrated with myself and our movement of the ball,” Rodman said. “Once you can get out of your head and keep focusing on the next pass, the next shot, the next ball, that’s gonna get you to the end.”Since early in the match, Rodman was seen at times bent over clutching her side as if she were cramped from overexertion — but she never stopped. She leaned in even more and single-handedly shifted the match’s momentum, leading a Spirit turnaround in the second half. It started in the 62nd minute when Rodman fired a rocket off the post from well outside the box, a chance that seemingly rattled the Red Stars’ back line. Three minutes later, Rodman took on three defenders, finally breaking free with a nutmeg through the last defender’s legs before another shot from distance. But her key contributions would be assists that followed, not goals.In the 66th minute, Rodman slipped a ball to Tara McKeown, who was fouled in the box, earning a penalty that Sullivan buried to equalize. After the match moved to extra time, Rodman lofted a long ball to the back post in the 97th minute, finding O’Hara’s head. It was O’Hara’s first goal of the 2021 season.”We never quit,” Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe said. “We never gave up on each other and that second half shows who we are.”For the Red Stars, it was a brutal end after it looked as though they’d overcome their own set of challenges.Coming into Saturday, they were already missing starters Julie Ertz (left thigh), Casey Krueger (illness), Alyssa Naeher (right thigh) and Kealia Watt (right knee). Within 12 minutes, captain and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo had to come off with an injury, replaced by Makenzy Doniak. More bad luck struck before the half, when Mallory Pugh went down with injury — but, as has become the Red Stars’ identity, they stayed locked in and scored in first-half stoppage time, despite being down a player. Arin Wright (nee Gilliland) lofted a long cross to the back post and Rachel Hill nodded it home.After losing the 2019 NWSL championship and the 2020 Challenge Cup, the Red Stars have now lost their third consecutive final.”It’s been hard because we’ve had that taste in our mouth of losing a final like that,” said Morgan Gautrat (nee Brian), one of Chicago’s most consistent players this season. “It’s why we go to practice every single day and we play every minute like it’s the last.”For anyone who didn’t know about the Spirit’s off-field problems or the reckoning in the NWSL at large, Saturday’s final had all the normal trappings of a celebratory finish to the regular season: full stands at Lynn Family Stadium in Louisville, Kentucky; supporters for each side banging drums and cheering; players putting in a high-level, competitive, focused performance. “The crowd brought it — there were some people heckling me,” O’Hara said, laughing.But there were hints of the shadow cast by the tumultuous season that preceded the final. Local fans of Racing Louisville took it upon themselves to bring some large hard-to-miss signage for the Spirit: “We support Spirit fans. Sell the team, Baldwin.” Spirit fans who made the trip brought their own signs urging majority owner Steve Baldwin to sell amid a public and ugly power struggle for control of the club. Baldwin, who stood by former Spirit coach Richie Burke even as players alleged abuse, has been pitted against Y. Michele Kang, the female minority owner who has earned the backing of Spirit players.Other signs scattered throughout the stadium offered even weightier slogans like “Listen. Believe. Protect.” And “#NoMoreSilence. Support NWSLPA.”Those signs were, of course, a reference to Burke, the coach accused by Spirit players of berating them with cruel name-calling and racial remarks. When Baldwin caught wind that journalists were looking into it, he claimed Burke had health problems and gave him a front-office job instead of firing him, which prompted the NWSL to step in and ban him. But the signs were also a reference to a larger backdrop of abuse and mistreatment of players that forced a reckoning in the NWSL this year.The most shocking allegations came against former Portland Thorns coach Paul Riley, who two players said forced them to kiss as he watched, sent them lewd photos and showed up to film session in his underwear. A player filed a formal complaint in 2015, and Thorns owner Merritt Paulson and general manager Gavin Wilkinson let Riley quietly leave the club in what was framed as a routine non-renewal after poor on-field results. Riley quickly landed a new job, and was fired last month only when the players shared their stories publicly for the first time. The NWSL’s commissioner, Lisa Baird, resigned last month under fire for refusing to investigate Riley earlier this year.

“It’s been a really long year for every team, for different reasons — a bunch of adversity on and off the field, and it’s necessary to make this league better,” Gautrat said, reflecting on Saturday’s final. “But I do think it was a great showing — 120 minutes of end-to-end soccer, good goals and excitement.”The NWSL championship wasn’t even supposed to be in Kentucky. It had originally been scheduled to be played in Portland, Oregon, the city that has nicknamed itself Soccer City, USA — but to accommodate a national noon East Coast broadcast slot, it would be played at 9 a.m. local time, which drew outrage from players and fans. The mishandling of the allegations against Riley from the Portland Thorns front office didn’t make the location any more attractive.But that the players managed to force the league to move its marquee event some 2,000 miles away was yet another testament to the power of the players. In a professional league, players shouldn’t have to get involved in fixing off-field problems as often as NWSL players have, but they’ve risen above the challenges repeatedly, as the NWSL final put on full display.That’s as true for the Spirit players as anyone else, as no club has dealt with more problems — at least in public — this year. It’s fitting that the Spirit have been the best team in the NWSL at coming back after conceding a goal first: their whole season has been a comeback of sorts. They haven’t lost since Burke was finally fired months ago, a hot streak that carried them to the final, and on Saturday they made enduring a season of messiness well worth it.”We’ve been in playoff mode since the end of the September — we controlled what we could control, and that was winning,” O’Hara said. “Here we are.”

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