Dec 31, 2015 -Soccer Year in Review – upcoming games

 

So we have arrived at the end of 2015 and boy what a year in Soccer both locally and around the world.  Starting at home Carmel FC added a new Director of Coaching as former EPL standout Paul Telfer came over from the Indy 11 to take over our club and lead it into the new year.  We have already seen some good changes and look forward to the future. A new board is taking over at the club as former Director Andy Fray is handing over the reigns after guiding the club thru our huge growth stages.  A million thanks Andy – folks have no idea the time and effort you put in at this VOLUNTEER Position as Director and sometimes Coach and Asst Coach since 2010 at Carmel FC.  As one of the founding coaches of our club way back in 2009 – I have seen the time, the organization, the endless

andyfray
Andy Fray

 

hours of work, and effort he put forth in making this club what it is today.  I think it’s a testament to him that his role will be filled by no fewer than 5 people as they move the club forward into 2016.  If you see Andy on the fields – give him a smile and a huge THANKS, he deserves it.

A huge step for Carmel FC this year was the advancement of our U14 and U13 Gold Girls teams to the Regional Finals of President’s Cup this past summer.  Coaches Cecilia Lacerda (U14G) and Ray Benton (U13G), did a great job of leading this great group of players to the highest level any Carmel FC team has ever advanced.  Ray’s now U14 girls won the Premier Division in the fall and is on track to be our first team to play in MRL. (3rd team to be invited – Lacerda’s now U15s and founding coach Will Ellery’s U14 girls a couple of years back qualified).

U13 and 14 Girls Advanced to President’s Cup Regional Finals in St. Louis.

Locally, the Carmel High School Boys soccer team advanced to the Semi-State Championship game (FINAL 4), dropping a heart breaker to eventual state champion Center Grove 2-1. The Hounds ended the year with a 17-3-1 record.  Senior Andreas Roslender was named 2015 Indiana High School

CHSboysBoys State Player of the Year. This amazing accomplishment marks only the fourth time in Greyhound Soccer history that a player has been named the Indiana Player of the year. Andreas was also named to the All-State 1st Team along with Senior Goalkeeper Justin Faas. Senior Defender Michael Hargis was named 2nd Team All-State and Senior Midfielder/Forward Evan Shaw was named 3rd Team All-State.

On the professional side – the Indy 11 struggled through their second season and finished 9th overall – the same as their inaugural  year in the league (maybe it was more lack of funds for players than coaching).  They have hired new head coach – Tim Hankinson to lead them into their 3rd season, while Tim Regan stays on as an assistant.

Indy native Lauren “Cheney” Holiday retired after helping the US Women Win their 2nd World Cup this summer in Canada. Also retiring just this past week was former Florida Gator and the all Time leading scorer in International Soccer US Forward Abby Wambach.

Ok I will have to move my Around the World Year in Review to Next Week. Happy New Year to your and yours!  The Ole Ballcoach – Shane Best

Around the World

Toe Poke Awards of the Year  – ESPNFC

Football New Year’s Resolutions – ESPN FC

Social Media Awards ESPN FC

EPL Season Review in 90 seconds

Jolly ESPN FC – United should keep Van Gaal

Brewin – ESPN Pep’s Arrival will make 2016 Yr of the Manager in the EPL

Liverpool takes down Leicester City

Leicester City is Forrest Gump

Top Saves of Week 19

Heroes and Villains: Ozil

shines, Matic flames out
– Miller: Missed chances rule day for Man City-Leicester
– Mitten: Man Utd fans torn over Van Gaal | Player Ratings

Top 5 Prem keepers | Ozil a master

Chicharito in Top Form

 USA

McIntyre: 2015 one to forget for Klinsmann, United States

US Year in Review – Jason Davis – was it really that bad?  ESPN FC

Top 10 Soccer Stories of 2015 – Grant Wahl – SI

Year in Review – US Women Win the WC – Avi Creditor SI

USWNT take spotlight as US Men Struggle in 2015 – Peter Nolan Got Soccer

Planet Football – Avi Creditor Podcast

Former Gator and Alltime Leading International Scorer Abby Wambach at Peace after Walking Away from US Ladies – SI

Indiana Star Lauren Holiday Retires –Indy Star

Indiana’s own Lauren Cheney Holiday retires after a decade on US Women’s World Cup Winning team SI Grant Wahl

The Lauren Cheney Story  – Indiana Soccer

Former Gator and All Time International High Scorer- US Forward Abby Wambach retires at Right Time –Grant Wahl SI

MLS

3 things about MLS End of 2015  Armchair Analyst -MLS soccer.com

NYRB Mat Miazga was Young player of the Year –MLS Soccer.com

Top MLS Bloopers

MLS 1st Weekend and US Soccer Games in Feb/Mar/April

Indy 11

Best of the Indy 11 2015

Indy 11 add experienced Players

Indy 11 Add New Head Coach Tim Hankinson

Indy 11 New Hire –Bloody Shambles

Bloody Shambles Squad comments

Bloody Shambles 2015 review and analysis

Target Man Soccer Impressed with Tim Hankinson

IndyEleven.com: Tim Hankinson Appointed Head Coach of Indy Eleven (official press release)

Indianapolis Star: Indy Eleven’s new coach says roster changes on the way

1070TheFan.com (AUDIO): Meet the new head coach of the Indy Eleven

WIBC.com (AUDIO): Tony Katz Introduces the New Indy Eleven Manager

WTHR.com (with VIDEO): Hankinson brings 36 years of coaching experience as new Indy Eleven head coach

Bloody Shambles Soccer: It’s Tim Squared for 2016

Bloody Shamles Soccer: A Conversation With Tim Hankinson

Midfield Press: Indy Eleven announce Tim Hankinson as new manager

Target Man Soccer: Hankinson makes good first impression ahead of busy offseason

RabbleTV (AUDIO): Indy Eleven name Tim Hankinson head coach

INside Indiana Business: Indy Eleven Names Well-Traveled Head Coach

Soccer America: Indy Eleven hires globetrotter Hankinson

Big Apple Soccer: New Man in Charge

http://www.indyeleven.com/standings

Indy 11 bring back Keller and Goalie Cardona

Brad Ring Returns in midfield

Kravitz on Indy 11

MUST SEE GAMES

Sun Jan 3 -11:00 a.m., NBCSN: Everton vs. Tottenham

Tues, Jan 5  3 pm beIn Sport Cap1 Cup Semis Stoke vs Liverpool

Wed, Jan 6   3 pm beIn Sport – Cap 1 Cup  Everton vs Man City  –

GAMES THIS MONTH

 Saturday, January 2

7:45 a.m., NBCSN:        West Ham United vs. Liverpool

10:00 a.m., TV TBD:      Arsenal vs. Newcastle, Leicester City vs. Bournemouth, Manchester United vs. Swansea, Norwich vs. Southampton, Sunderland vs. Aston Villa, West Bromwich vs. Stoke City

12:30 p.m., NBC:           Watford vs. Manchester City

Sunday, January 3

8:30 a.m., NBCSN:        Crystal Palace vs. Chelsea

11:00 a.m., NBCSN:      Everton vs. Tottenham

Tues, Jan 5

3 pm beIn Sport Cap1 Cup Semis Stoke vs Liverpool

Wed, Jan 6

3 pm beIn Sport – Cap 1 Cup  Everton vs Man City  –

Sat, Jan 9

FA CUP

7:45 am  Fox Sports 1   Wycomb Wanderers vs Aston Villa

10 am  Fox Sports 1      Arsenal vs Sunderland

10 am FS2                    Doncaster Rovers vs Stoke City

12:30 pm beIn Sports    Barcelona vs Granada

12:30 pm FS 2                          Man United vs Sheffield United

Sun, Jan 10

FA CUP

11 am Fox sports 1       Tottenham vs  Leicester City

Tues, Jan 12

2:45 pm  NBCSN           Newcastle United vs Man U

Wed, Jan 13

2:45 pm NBCSN            Man City vs Everton

3 pm                             Liverpool vs Arsenal

3 pm                             Tottenham vs Leicester City

Sat, Jan 16 

7:45 am  NBCSN           Tottenham vs Sunderland

10 am  NBCSN              Man City vs Crystal Palace

10 am USA?                  Chelsea vs Everton

Sun, Jan 17

9 am  NBCSN                Liverpool vs Man U

11:15 am NBCSN          Stoke City vs Arsenal

Sat, Jan 23

7:45 am NBCSN            Norwich vs Liverpool

9:30 am Fox Sports 1    Hoffenhiem vs Bayern Leverkusen

10 am NBCSN               Man City vs Southampton, Leicester City vs Stoke, Crystal Palace vs Tottenham,

12:30 NBC                    West Ham vs Man City

5 pm espn2?                USWNT vs Ireland

Sun, Jan 24

8:30 am NBCSN            Everton vs Swansea

11 am NCBSN               Arsenal vs Chelsea

Sun, Jan 31

3:45 pm                        US Men vs Iceland

Fri, Feb 5

10:15 pm                      US Men vs Canada

Tues, Feb 16

Champions League

2;45 pm  FS 1               PSG vs Chelsea

2:45 pm FS2                 Benefica vs Zenit St. Pete

Wed, Feb 17

2:45 pm FS1                 Roma vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm FS2                 Gent vs Wolfsburg

Thurs, Feb 18

Europa League

1 pm Anderlecht vs Olympiachos, Dortman vs Porto, Fioreentina vs Tottehman, Midtiland vs Man U, Villarreal vs Napoli

3 pm Ausburg vs Liverpool, Sporting Portugal vs Bayern Leverkusen, Valencia vs Rapid Vienna, Galatasaray vs Lazio

 Tues, Feb 23

Champ League

2:45 pm FS 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich

8 pm  FS1? Queretaro vs DC United

10 pm FS2? Seattle Sounders vs Club America

Wed, Feb 24

2:45 pm  FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City

2:45 pm  FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid

8 pm Tigres UNAL vs Real Salt Lake

10 pm LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna

Tuesday, March 1:

D.C. United vs. Querétaro, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

Wednesday, March 2: 

Club América vs. Seattle Sounders, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

Sunday, March 6: 

Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)

Los Angeles Galaxy vs. D.C. United, 10:00 p.m. (UniMás, Univision Deportes)]

Friday, March 25: 

Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier, time TBD (beIN Sports,)

Tuesday, March 28:

United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier, time TBD (ESPN2,-Columbus, OH)

Top 10 soccer stories of 2015

BY GRANT WAHL SI EmailPosted: Tue Dec. 29, 2015

Soccer never stops. Even now, when most of the world’s leagues are dormant at New Year’s, the English Premier League is powering through one of its busiest stretches of the season. Soccer’s continuously spinning wheel is one thing that makes the sport great, but the end of the calendar year is always a good time to look back and look forward.I’ll have my predictions for 2016 later in the week, but for now, here are my top 10 soccer stories of 2015:
1. U.S. Women Win World Cup
For the first time since 1999, the U.S. raised the Women’s World Cup trophy, and it happened in an astonishing way: A four-goal barrage against Japan in the first 16 minutes of the World Cup final, with Carli Lloyd capping her first-half hat trick with a goal from midfield.The 5-2 triumph captivated an average U.S. TV audience of 27 million, the most ever to watch a soccer game in the U.S., and set off a nationwide celebration that included a ticker-tape parade in New York City. My favorite WWC story was sitting down with Lloyd in Los Angeles two days later and hearing her talk about her truly hardcore training methods—and even practicing shots from midfield more than a decade earlier.

2. Loretta Lynch Nails FIFA
Corruption allegations have dogged FIFA for years, but everything changed May 27 when Swiss agents (working with the U.S. Department of Justice and its attorney general, Lynch) raided the fancy Zurich hotel housing FIFA honchos and made a series of arrests connected to racketeering, wire fraud and money laundering conspiracy. Within days FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced he would be leaving his post—FIFA would ban Blatter and UEFA president Michel Platini, the two most powerful people in world soccer, for eight years—and by the end of the year more than 40 soccer officials and marketers had been charged in the U.S. investigation. It’s hard to think of many situations in which far-reaching U.S. power would be embraced by the rest of the world, but this was one of them.

3. U.S. Men Fall Flat
After a 2014 in which the U.S. men exceeded expectations at the World Cup, 2015 was an annus horribilis by just about every measure. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team finished fourth in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, including a stunning semifinal loss to Jamaica, and squandered its chance at redemption with a 3-2 extra-time loss to Mexico in the playoff for a Confederations Cup spot. Even the Under-23 Olympic team disappointed, losing to Honduras with a Rio 2016 berth on the line and forcing the U.S. into a playoff with Colombia in March. None of those failures impacts qualifying for World Cup 2018, which got off to a decent start, and the year did include road friendly wins at Germany and the Netherlands. But the aura surrounding Klinsmann dimmed considerably in 2015, and his U.S. team lost much of its identity. •​​ WAHL: USMNT must regain its identity in 2016 as disappointing year ends

4. Barcelona Rises to New Heights
The best club team in the world resides once again in Catalonia. Barcelona’s titles in 2015 included the UEFA Champions League, the Spanish league, the Copa del Rey and the FIFA Club World Cup. Lionel Messi returned to being the premier player on the planet, and his trident with Neymar and Luis Suárez produced some of the most sublime soccer we have ever seen. It’s one thing to have tremendous talent on your team (see: Real Madrid), but it’s another thing to achieve chemistry with that talent, and Barcelona has found a way to do it.
5. Mourinho Wins Premier League, Fired Seven Months Later
Rarely have we ever seen a team fall from champion to also-ran as quickly as Chelsea did in 2015. Mourinho’s team won the Premier League title by eight points in May, and even if the Blues didn’t play their best soccer last spring, nobody would have predicted they’d be just above the relegation zone in late December—and without Mourinho, who was fired December 17. What went wrong? Plenty. Several players stopped performing at a high level. Mourinho appeared to lose the locker room. And Chelsea lost its famous balance as the defense began conceding goals left and right. It was a reminder that at the highest level things can go off the rails with alarming speed, even for the best teams.

6. Surprise: Portland Timbers Rule MLS
This was one of the most parity-filled years in the history of MLS, and if a team got hot at the end of the season you figured it might have a chance at winning the MLS Cup title. That’s exactly what happened with Portland. The Timbers beefed up their defense before the season by acquiring Nat Borchers, and coach Caleb Porter made a major tactical change late in the season to move Darlington Nagbe centrally. It worked like a charm. Portland (the West’s No. 3 seed) survived the craziest penalty-kick shootout in MLS history in the knockout round against Kansas City (which hit three posts on two spot kicks which could have eliminated the Timbers), and Portland was solid the rest of the way, including on the road. The giant fan reception and parade from the rabid Portland fans back home was a cool moment to witness.

7. Abby Wambach Retires
The greatest goal-scorer in the history of international soccer decided to hang up her cleats after raising her long-awaited first World Cup trophy, finishing her career with a World Cup and two Olympic gold medals. Wambach didn’t have the starring role for the U.S. at Canada 2015 the way she had in previous tournaments, but she was still a driving vocal force for the team, and she handled her diminished playing role with dignity throughout. Wambach also continued to speak her mind, sometimes eloquently (as when she talked about the importance of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision on the day of the World Cup quarterfinals) and sometimes much less so (as when she criticized Klinsmann’s use of dual nationals she called “foreign”). But that’s all part of it with Wambach, who will always let you know what she thinks.

2015 a year to forget for the United States national team

There was a palpable sense of relief around the U.S. national team following last month’s scoreless tie in Port of Spain, Trinidad, in the Americans’ second World Cup qualifier of the 2018 cycle.Most of this was down to the valuable point that the sputtering U.S. squad had just managed to secure on the road. But at least some of it may have been because when the final whistle sounded at Hasely Crawford Stadium on Nov. 17, it officially marked the end of 2015 for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team.This has been a long 12 months for the coach and his players, no question about it. And while it wasn’t all doom and gloom, you can be sure than Klinsmann and squad are happy to put it behind them.We’re looking forward to 2016, too. But before the calendar flips, let’s reflect on the five biggest moments of this year.

January camp spat

The national team’s annual year-opening training camp in California is usually low on drama, but things got interesting in a hurry in 2015. U.S. Soccer scheduled a friendly in Chile just two weeks after the MLS-heavy group convened in the Los Angeles area, and after the Americans lost 3-2 to extend its winless run to five games, Klinsmann called out unnamed playersfor arriving to Los Angeles in what he said was less than optimal shape.That led to a near-revolt in the locker room, multiple sources told ESPNFC, and it turned the squad’s second and final match of the camp — in early February against Panama — into what USSF president Sunil Gulati later described as feeling like a must-win. The Americans did, comfortably, on goals by veterans Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey. Dempsey’s strike was set up by newcomer Gyasi Zardes, who would go on to lead the team with 19 appearances (along with DeAndre Yedlin), tying Claudio Reyna’s two decade-old mark for a first-year player. The victory eased any lingering tension within the squad, but the early controversy proved to be a sign of things to come.

Historic wins against global titans

The U.S. went 1-1-1 in its next three games, beating Mexico 2-0 in San Antonio on April 15 after a loss at Denmark and a tie in Switzerland in late March. When the Americans returned to Europe in early June, they pulled off two of the most impressive results in the program’s 102-year history.First, the U.S. beat the Netherlands for the first time in five tries, winning 4-3 in Amsterdam. Then Klinsmann’s current team shocked his former one, as the Americans defeated world champion Germany in Cologne. Never before had the Yanks topped Die Mannschaft on its own turf. The visitors came from behind in both games (they trailed twice against the Dutch) and both unlikely wins came late, with then-22-year-old striker Bobby Wood notching the decisive goals in each match.However notable, those wins came in friendlies that took place after the long European club seasons were over, and they proved to give the fans watching back home false hope about the state of the team, as the U.S. — without Wood (club commitments) and fellow young frontrunner Jordan Morris (injury) — went on to disappoint at the CONCACAF Gold Cup the following month.

The Gold Cup debacle

At his pre-match press conference in Trinidad, Klinsmann again brought up the Gold Cup without being asked about it, and again he suggested that calls that went against the U.S. during the July tournament were the reason for its fourth-place finish. That’s not true.The U.S. was atrocious throughout the regional championship before going out to a quick, athletic, opportunistic Jamaican team in the semifinals. The hosts created the fewest chances of any team in the first round, including Canada, the only participant that didn’t score a single goal.In the third place match against Panama, the Americans were outshot 25-5 overall (and 12-2 on goal). Defensively, they appeared incapable of avoiding simple breakdowns, like this one in the opener against Honduras. There were some questionable referee decisions, to be sure. But none were truly game-changing, unlike the ones that went against Panama and Costa Rica in knockout games against eventual champion Mexico.The U.S. got exactly what it deserved at the Gold Cup, a competition it was favored to win beforehand. Instead, El Tri took the title, setting up an intriguing one-game playoff in October for a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia a year before the main event.

CONCACAF Cup loss to El Tri

This edition of North America’s Clasico was billed as the biggest since the U.S. upset its border rival in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, and it was. But while the U.S. and Mexico have mostly met on even terms this millennium, El Tri had all the momentum heading into the match at the Rose Bowl.The U.S. came in off an ugly 4-1 spanking versus Brazil a month prior and was the home team in name only, with the vast majority of the 93,723 who showed up in Pasadena wearing green. The U.S. showed plenty of its trademark fight when the game began, defending like their lives were at stake and equalizing twice before losing, 3-2, on Paul Aguilar’s spectacular volley with two minutes to go in extra time.The result was a just one, however, as interim Mexico manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferretti outcoached Klinsmann by using a three-man forward line that pinned the Americans into their own half for long stretches..The defeat was the national team’s most bitter since Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley four years ago, and it rightly left the U.S. coach under more pressure than at any time during his tenure. The scrutiny only intensified in the days that followed, as Klinsmann sent star defender/midfielder Fabian Johnson back to his German club, Borussia Monchengladbach, and publicly chastised him for substituting himself late against Mexico.

Some bright spots along the way

A lopsided win against tiny St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the point in Port of Spain helped the Americans end the year on an acceptable note, but there’s no avoiding the fact that the Americans failed their two biggest tests of 2015.Although the Gold Cup and CONCACAF Cup losses will understandably linger in the memory, the truth is that the national team is primarily judged only at World Cups. With an aging core — World Cup vets Dempsey, Kyle Beckerman, Jermaine Jones and Tim Howard (who retuned to the squad in September after a year-long hiatus) are all 32 or older — this was always going to be a transitional year for the national team.And there were bright spots in 2015 that bode well for the future. Attackers Morris, Wood and Zardes established themselves as regular contributors. For all the talk about an impotent offense, the U.S. actually scored plenty; their average of 2.1 per game was the second-highest since the modern era began in 1990.Yedlin compiled more assists (five) by a player 22 or younger since Landon Donovan had that many in 2004. And the U.S. quietly cap-tied five dual-nationals, with Ventura Alvarado, Greg Garza, Matt Miazga, Alfredo Morales and Darlington Nagbe all appearing in a competitive match for the first time. Bank on the new generation playing an even bigger role in 2016.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

U.S. team year in review — it wasn’t really that bad, was it?

Noah Davis, ESPNFC

Was 2015 really that bad for the United States men’s national team?

In 2015, they went on the road and defeated Germany and the Netherlands, teams that sat first and sixth, respectively, in FIFA’s world rankings at the time. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad finished the year on top of their World Cup qualifying group, set up to qualify easily for the Hexagonal round.The Americans integrated a few talented new faces like Gyasi Zardes, Darlington Nagbe and Matt Miazga, players who can make a significant impact on the road to Russia and beyond. Near the end of the year, the head coach seemed to (finally) learn from past mistakes, deploying sensible lineups that put players in familiar positions where they could succeed.So why are many men’s national team supporters calling 2015 a failure?”I think that the negative probably overshadowed [the positive] a little bit,” former national team forward Brian McBride said in looking back at the year. On one hand, this is an understandable perspective. The Americans failed to win the Gold Cup, finishing a disappointing fourth, and then lost the CONCACAF Cup against Mexico, a defeat that means they won’t play in the 2017 Confederations Cup. There were other low points as well, notably a 4-1 thrashing at the hands of Brazil, a game in which the U.S. never had a chance. On the field, the Stars and Stripes looked stagnant at times and lost in others.But on the other, let’s maintain perspective. While losing the Gold Cup hurts — and finishing fourth is an embarrassment — the defeat isn’t a large setback in the grand scheme. Not reaching the Confederations Cup means the U.S. misses out on some experience playing in Russia, but there’s no proven connection between competing in that tournament and success at the following year’s World Cup, which is the only thing that really matters. At least some of the on-field inconsistency is the byproduct of trying to install new players within the team.Was it ugly? Yes. Did Klinsmann find some answers or some way to succeed in the future? Perhaps.One key is Nagbe, a promising player who donned the red, white and blue for the first time. “I think that he’s a player who we haven’t seen come through our national team in a very long time,” McBride says. “He’ll continue to grow. He’s a very young player who keeps getting better and better.”Former national teamer and current ESPN color man Taylor Twellman agrees. “Nagbe has the tools to be a special player, especially now with his confidence in the central midfield spot. He looks to be a true No. 8 who doesn’t lose possession and, more importantly, he puts in work defensively. His inclusion will no doubt help Michael Bradley.”Nagbe, who earned eligibility late in the year and still hasn’t started a game for the U.S., was a bright spot, but his eventual impact remains unknown. In fact, none of what happened in 2015 means much now. “I think this year was not so much a progression as it was a fact-finding for Jurgen and everybody to start to figure out how the team is going to shape up,” McBride said.By definition, the year was a time to experiment, a period in which Klinsmann and his staff have the luxury of time. If a team is going to have a down year, the one following the World Cup is the best time to do so. The question now is whether the troubles in 2015 were simply small missteps or indicative of larger issues.Before the final two matches of the year, I would have been inclined to worry that they were the latter, that Klinsmann and his staff (but mostly Klinsmann, who is absolutely the leader and final decision-maker) were following the wrong path. Those thoughts changed during the games against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago. And really, it was about one player specifically.Fabian Johnson, one of the most talented (if not the most talented) members of the U.S. squad, usually plays left midfield for Borussia Monchengladbach. For the United States, however, he had been playing everywhere: right-back, left-back, right midfield, left midfield. Switching positions constantly is a difficult thing to do, especially at the international level, where players have little time to train together, and Johnson, who had an October blowout with Klinsmann, was tired of being shuffled around.In the two World Cup qualifiers, the coach deployed his skilled charge at left midfield and left him there. Johnson looked comfortable and played well. The decision to listen to his player and take Johnson’s wishes into account is something Klinsmann hasn’t done in the past. It’s a small thing but perhaps a sign that he’s willing to learn.”I don’t think Klinsmann went through this year and didn’t learn anything,” Twellman said. “Now, in saying that, will we see those signs when 2016 comes around?”That is the big question. How much did Klinsmann learn from the struggles of 2015 and how much will he apply those lessons going forward? We won’t know until the Americans take the field again — they play Iceland in a friendly on Jan. 31 — but the last two matches of the year were encouraging.Looking ahead, the U.S. has more World Cup qualifying followed by the Copa America Centenario in the next six months. They should defeat Guatemala, winning a home-and-home series that would qualify them for the final round of 2018 qualifying. As for the Copa America, which sees the best in CONMEBOL come to the U.S., it will be a huge test for Klinsmann, the type of tournament that can show signs of progress. If the Americans do well, they’ll quiet the critics. But even if they don’t, it’s still a team trending in the right direction.If Nagbe gets integrated more fully into the starting XI, if Johnson plays well on the left wing, if Zardes scores a goal or two and if the team continues to find its way into becoming a cohesive unit, the stumbles of 2015 look more palatable, like successful experiments rather than abject failures.Noah Davis is a Brooklyn-based correspondent for ESPN FC and deputy editor at American Soccer Now. Twitter: @Noahedavis.

2015 Year in Review: World-Cup winning U.S. women’s national team

BY AVI CREDITOREmail  SI Posted: Updated: Thu Dec. 24, 2015

The U.S. women’s national team had one objective in 2015 and it was met in entertaining fashion in Canada.The USA’s return to the winner’s podium at the World Cup restored the Americans’ place back atop the world, following a 5-2 win over Japan at Vancouver’s B.C. Place. The result exacted revenge for the 2011 final (although the USA did beat Japan in the Olympic gold medal game in London as well), and it cemented the ’15ers’ place in history. While 2015 spelled the end for the USA’s 16-year World Cup title drought, it also spelled the end for four veterans’ careers. Abby Wambach, Lauren Holiday, Shannon Boxx and Lori Chalupny all retired, going out on top.

Here is the year in review for the USWNT:

HIGHLIGHTS

It doesn’t get much higher (actually, it doesn’t at all) than winning the World Cup. The U.S. women returned to greatness in Canada, winning a tough group, getting a favorable path in the early knockout rounds, surviving Germany and then overwhelming Japan to win a third World Cup title.Jill Ellis’s squad endured somewhat of an uneven, rocky road in the group stage, but insertion of Morgan Brian into the central midfield helped other dominoes fall into place. It took a couple of moments of good fortune in the semifinals against the Germans to help the USA reach the peak. Celia Sasic’s missed penalty was followed by a foul on Germany that looked to have taken place outside the box but was called as a penalty for the U.S. Carli Lloyd calmly dispatched it, and the U.S. never looked back.WAHL: USWNT turns in final performance for the ages   The championship was met with quite the reaction at home, as the U.S. left Vancouver for a victory rally in Los Angeles and then headed across the country for a parade down the Canyon of Heroes in downtown Manhattan. It all culminated with a trip to the White House to visit President Barack Obama in late October amid the team’s victory tour of friendlies.Prior to the World Cup, the U.S. captured the Algarve Cup, beating France in the final and returning to form after some early wobbles.  SI’s BEST PHOTOS: World Cup final | NYC victory parade | Cover outtakes

LOWLIGHTS

It wasn’t all trophies and victory laps for the U.S. women. Hope Solo remains involved in a domestic abuse case with her nephew and half-sister, the facts of which are still in dispute. She was suspended early in the year for 30 days for her role (missing a pair of games), and the case could cloud her 2016 after the lower court’s decision to throw it out was reversed by the Washington state appeals court.The turf-equality dispute was thrust back into the spotlight after U.S. Soccer was forced to cancel its friendly in Hawaii because of unplayable field conditions. The trip was even more costly, as Megan Rapinoe tore her ACL in training for that match, and her availability for they Olympics is up in the air.On the field, Holiday’s retirement is hardly a lowlight by definition, but the fact that the USA is losing a 28-year-old star midfielder in what could be a continuation of her prime can’t be seen as a plus. And whilethe fanfare and and tribute to Wambach in New Orleansprovided a fitting farewell for the world’s all-time leading international goal scorer, the U.S. wound up losing to China 1-0, snapping a 104-game unbeaten streak on home soil.  WAHL: Holiday retires a champion after decade of dedication

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Carli Lloyd

Lloyd’s dominant World Cup knockout stage was one for the ages and has been well documented. Goals in every knockout match. A hat trick in 16 minutes in the final. A goal from the center circle in the final. It was stunning to behold, and its legend will only grow with time.Lloyd is a finalist for FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year, an award she’s likely to claim in Zurich next month to pair with her U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year honors, which she won last week (and her SI Sportsperson of the Year finalist nomination!). Her play didn’t relent when she returned to NWSL either, as she was voted the league’s Player of the Month for July. Lloyd has prided herself on rising to become the world’s best, and in 2015 she did just that. A strong second place goes to Becky Sauerbrunn, the stalwart center back who was overlooked by FIFA in just about every way on its World Cup player shortlists and World Player of the Year shortlist. As great as Lloyd was, it was the USA’s stout defense that carried the team through the group stage, and Sauerbrunn (along with Julie Johnston, Ali Krieger and Meghan Klingenberg) was at the center of it all. Sauerbrunn also won a second straight NWSL title, helping FC Kansas City to a repeat while sending Holiday out with a second trophy in about three months.

GOAL OF THE YEAR: Lloyd’s third vs. Japan

Like it was even a question. From the center circle, in the final, for the hat trick:​There’s little time for the U.S. to rest on its laurels. Olympic qualifying takes place in February, and if all goes according to plan, the U.S. will be defending its Olympic gold in Rio against some motivated competitors. The nucleus of the team and its backbone–the defense–remains intact, but with Wambach, Holiday, Boxx and Chalupny gone (and it’s yet to be determined what the future holds for 40-year-old captain Christie Rampone), there’s a bit of a changing of the guard.While Wambach’s minutes and production can be replaced, there will be a leadership void that she leaves behind. The likes of Crystal Dunn, Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnet and Stephanie McCaffrey were integrated into the squad during the victory tour, and they’ll all be looking to cement their places for the future. Should the U.S. qualify for the Olympics, as expected, Ellis will be taking an 18-player roster with her to Brazil, and she’ll have some tough personnel calls to make. If Rapinoe’s injury keeps her from Brazil, that’s a huge blow in the quest for a fourth straight gold medal.After Olympic qualifying, the U.S. will reportedly be tested in a four-team friendly tournament that includes world powers Germany, France and England. That will provide an ample barometer for where the defending world champions stand ahead of their next major tournament.

U.S. WNT Claim the Spotlight as U.S. Men Struggle in 2015

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Peter Nolan  Got Soccer

As we look back on the year 2015 in American soccer the spotlight shines brightest on the World Cup winning U.S. WNT and most harshly on their male counterparts.The women’s national team added a third star to its jersey, with Carli Lloyd, Abby Wambach, Hope Solo and company finally taking their place alongside the legendary 99ers led by Mia Hamm, Julie Foudy, and Michelle Akers as World Champions.The men were always going to come in a poor second to the women’s nats, and while Jill Ellis and her squad set an unreachable bar for Jurgen Klinsmann’s crew, the men fell far below even Klinsmann’s own targets.Coming off of a Round of 16 exit at the 2014 World Cup that was considered a success by most, if a step forward by only some, the U.S. MNT failed dismally as the host nation at this summer’s Gold Cup.As defending CONCACAF Champions, the Yanks would have advanced to the 2017 Confederations Cup if they could match 2013’s Gold Cup victory.Klinsmann had repeatedly spoken of how important it was to qualify for the World Cup walkthrough in Russia and had named winning the Gold Cup alongside Olympic qualification as his program’s top priorities for 2015.But the U.S. played like a team that hadn’t gotten the memo, advancing from Group play without impressing before hammering a weak Cuban side 6-0 in a match that inspired false hope that all was well.That all was not well was made abundantly clear when Jamaica eliminated the U.S. 2-1 in the semifinal. That loss was then compounded when a disinterested home team dropped the third place game on penalty kicks to Panama.At the time, U.S. coach and Technical Director Klinsmann made much of Jamaica’s improvement, of the region’s improvement, but we must go back to 2000 when the U.S. were eliminated by guest competitor Colombia to find a worse finish in the Gold Cup for the Americans.Klinsmann’s job security was called into question by many in the media, but USSoccer President Sunil Gulati stood by his man, claiming, “there are no parallels at all,” to Bob Bradley who was fired to make way for Klinsmann after losing the 2011 Gold Cup final to Mexico.Never mind that Klinsmann’s World Cup ended at the exact same stage as Bradley’s had, in extra time in the round of 16, Gulati was right. Elimination in the semifinals to Jamaica, followed by a poor performance versus Panama was not a parallel performance to elimination by Mexico in the 2011 final, it was clearly worse.Regardless, the coach was safe, and the U.S. had one remaining route to Russia 2017, a showdown with Mexico in the first ever CONCACAF Cup.The U.S. showed heart in losing in front of huge, mostly pro-Mexico crowd at the Rose Bowl but despite forcing overtime the Americans were badly outplayed before falling 3-2 and missing out on the Confederations Cup.So how are things looking for that other U.S. MNT goal, qualifying for the Olympics? Not great, frankly. A 2-0 loss to Honduras on the same day the senior side lost the CONCACAF Cup to Mexico makes October 10, 2015, a day to forget in U.S. MNT soccer, and it leaves the Americans facing a two-game set in March versus Colombia for one last shot to make it to Rio.Should the U23 team fail to get past Colombia, and the Americans will be underdogs, they would join the 2012 team, that missed out on the London Olympics as the second group on Klinsmann’s watch to fail to qualify for the Olympic games.Klinsmann labelled that group “a lost generation.” Will this generation be lost too?The U17 side offered little encouragement when it was unable to get out of group play in the U17 World Cup in Chile. That result, coupled with a failure to even qualify in 2013, saw coach Richie William replaced by former Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth.The one ray of light in the youth set up on the men’s side came from a talented U20 squad. The Young Yanks were eliminated on pk’s by eventual champions Serbia, but the talent at this age group appears abundant and several of the U20’s will be in the reckoning for the March showdown with Colombia.Then there was the U.S. WNT. With the World Cup memories so vivid for U.S. soccer fans it might surprise some to remember the struggles the team endured in the run-up to World Cup glory.Although English born, Jill Ellis has long been a servant of the U.S. Women’s soccer program and so it was no huge surprise when Ellis moved up from assistant to interim to full-fledged head coach after Tom Sermanni’s dismissal in 2014.It was not all smooth sailing for Ellis and a loss and drw to Brazil in December. followed by a distressing 2-0 loss to France in February, caused alarm in many quarters.Ellis seemed unsure of her best formation and players as Alex Morgan struggled to regain fitness and then form and age and a certain staleness began to set in.The U.S. were still the U.S. but teams like Germany and France seemed more likely champions when the Women’s 2015 World Cup kicked off in Canada last June.Lineup problems persisted as Morgan never quite hit stride and all-time leading international goal scorer Abby Wambach seemed to age before our very eyes.Group play proved a chore for the Americans who advanced with two unimpressive wins and a draw. A scrappy 2-0 win over Colombia saw the Yanks move on to the quarterfinals with Morgan and Lloyd providing the goals.That Lloyd scored from a penalty hardly mattered, the midfield marksman was on the scoresheet and she was just getting started. Lloyd had been shackled with a defensive midfield role early in the Cup, and the U.S. attack suffered.While the U.S. defense in front of Hope Solo had been rock solid it had been left to winger Megan Rapinoe to provide what little spark and creativity the Americans could muster in the early going.Now Lloyd approached Ellis and asked for the freedom to do her thing and to Ellis’ everlasting credit she turned Lloyd loose.The effect was immediate and the 99ers, and the 91 team too, were about to get some company. Lloyd would score six goals in the final four matches including a brilliant hat-trick that finished off Japan before they ever got started in the World Cup Final.Lloyd had plenty of help as Ellis finally hit on the right combination, a combination that saw off China and Germany before felling Japan.Things were fairly quiet on the Women’s side of the youth competitions, although we did get a glimpse of the future when Mallory Pugh led the way as the U.S. advanced to the U20 Women’s World Cup by winning the CONCACAF U20 Championship.Pugh was brilliant and will be worth watching when she goes up against the best at the U20 WWC in November and December in the somewhat unlikely locale of Papua New Guinea.The U17 Women’s World Cup will also be up for grabs in 2016, with CONCACAF Qualification this March in Grenada.

So there it is, 2015. The WNT started in turmoil and went on to win the ultimate prize, the Word Cup. The Olympics are next and the U.S. will be expected to at least finish among the medals, as it seeks to defend the title it won four years ago in London.And the men. 2015 was a bad year but the soccer calendar always seems to provide another chance at redemption and 2016 is no exception.World Cup Qualification got underway early this year with a facile 6-1 win over St. Vincent and the Grenadines followed by a 0-0 tie at Trinidad and Tobago.After the draw with T&T, we were greeted with the by now expected justifications. We were told how good Trinidad and Tobago is, how tough it is to qualify from CONCACAF, etc, etc.

Clint Dempsey’s bewildering omission was explained away and four points happily collected. We move on.  2016 also brings Copa America Centenario to our shores. The United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, and Panama will compete alongside the giants of South America in the 100th year of the CONMEBOL Championship all across the U.S.A.  It is a historic moment for soccer in the United States and a good showing offers Jurgen Klinsmann and the U.S. MNT a chance at redemption. Can they take it?

Manchester United should stick with Louis van Gaal – David Moyes

Louis van Gaal should be given more time to succeed as Manchester United manager — according to his sacked predecessor, David Moyes.Moyes was given a six-year contract when he succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford in 2013 but lasted less than 10 months before he was fired with United in seventh place.Van Gaal’s team are now sixth after going out of the Champions League, going eight games without a win and losing four of their last five matches.But while the Dutchman is under pressure, Moyes believes that he has a huge rebuilding job as United adjust to life without Ferguson and former chief executive David Gill and urged executive vice-president Ed Woodward to keep faith with the 64-year-old.”After Sir Alex the job was always going to be very difficult. It was going to take time. It was a rebuilding job at Manchester United,” Moyes told the Clare Balding Show on BT Sport 1.”And you have to remember that David Gill left who was a big influence at Manchester United. And I think even what Manchester United stand for is that they keep their managers. They have always supported their managers who have been before.”So I hope they stick with Louis van Gaal. He deserves more time. It is still a work in progress for him. He has made some signings and from my experience in Spain it will take time for players from abroad to settle in.”So I think they should stick with it. They don’t want to become a club which continuously changes their manager.”Moyes had a better win percentage as United manager than Van Gaal, but the former Ajax, Barcelona and Bayern Munich head coach achieved a fourth-placed finish last season.Van Gaal, who has been in charge for 17 months, insisted after Monday’s 0-0 draw with Chelsea that he will not resign and said he has the backing of his players and the United board.

Pep Guardiola’s arrival will make 2016 the year of the manager in England

ESPN FC’s Gab Marcotti responds to reports suggesting Pep Guardiola’s possible move to Manchester City next season.It took less than 48 hours for Jose Mourinho’s intentions to be revealed after he was jettisoned by Chelsea. “He will not be taking a sabbatical, he isn’t tired, he doesn’t need it, he is very positive, and is already looking forward,”read a statement from representatives Creative Artists Agency last Saturday lunchtime. “Jose will remain living in London.”No return to Portugal for anything other than a family break, no lobbying for a lucrative contract in Turkey at Christmas and only the faintest whisper of a return to Real Madrid to succeed favourite foe Rafa Benitez.Instead, Mourinho will remain in the country that, in the age of the superstar coach, has become the place to be. If he is to prove that the last four months, where Chelsea slid from champions to relegation battlers, were but a blip, then England — the place that during his six-year absence at Inter Milan and Real Madrid he would regularly describe as his “natural habitat” — is where he would like to show it.The English Premier League’s pretensions of being the best league in the world are being ruined by its clubs’ performances in the Champions and Europa Leagues, and the absence of the likes of Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar. Still, 2016 looks like being a year where the management game’s elite make their homes in England.The money is good, as a multi-billion-pound TV deals flow in, and the competition is stronger than anywhere else. No English champion has defended their title since Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United made it three in a row in 2009. Winning a title in England is a much-desired addition to a football manager’s resume.Pep Guardiola, his departure from Bayern Munich confirmed for the summer, holds the key. At Manchester City, clear favourites to land Guardiola’s signature, even current incumbent Manuel Pellegrini has admitted that he wants the former Barcelona coach to succeed him “because I love this club.”And Guardiola’s potential availability may well have slowed United’s haste in sacking the struggling Louis Van Gaal and turning to a freely available Mourinho. ESPN FC sources suggested that United officials have “upgraded” their contact with the Guardiola camp.Down in London, football’s rumour-mongers have increased the chatter thatArsenal are considering joining the chase if either Arsene Wenger decides to step aside this summer or Guardiola takes a sabbatical, as he did after leaving Barcelona in 2012 before heading to Germany the next year. That timeline would fit in with Wenger’s retirement schedule.Though Wenger has been critical of the Guardiola announcement and its possible side effects on his fellow managers, he did not spare his admiration for the Catalan’s genius capabilities. “He wants his team to play football in a positive way,” Wenger said. “I respect that highly.”Meanwhile, Chelsea have Guus Hiddink temporarily in charge as options are considered. Owner Roman Abramovich has tried to lure Guardiola to Stamford Bridge before. The club’s transfer business of the summer of 2012, in which ball players like Eden Hazard and Oscar were added to lighten the touch of a previously muscular team, looked like an act of attempted seduction, as did the employment of two stop-gaps in Roberto Di Matteo and Rafa Benitez, yet Guardiola chose Bavaria. The newspaper talk is of a “money is no object” bid from Abramovich this time.Guardiola will end up disappointing three such suitors, perhaps all four should he instead look to recharge his batteries. Whatever his choice, the big names see England as the promised land. “The important managers always want to work here in the Premier League,” Pellegrini said this month. “It is impossible not to want to work here — especially if you have experience of working in other leagues.”Setting aside triple Champions League winner Carlo Ancelotti — Guardiola’s replacement at Bayern who did a two-year stint at Chelsea from 2009 to 2011, it is possible that the jigsaw puzzle could place big-name coaches at each major English club. Jurgen Klopp is already at Liverpool. His October appointment had the look of pre-emptive opportunism, as Liverpool shunted aside Brendan Rodgers to make sure that they got to the two-time Bundesliga champion first.Mourinho’s refusal to dig out Manchester United in the fashion he has derided other opponents has long pointed to a reluctance to offend the brass at Old Trafford. Should Louis van Gaal’s collapse in credibility force the club to make a decision, then the Portuguese looks in pole position, Pep permitting. The chance of Mourinho and Guardiola rivalling each other in one city looks like box-office gold.”We don’t know what will happen in the future, but now there is no agreement,” said Mourinho’s agent Jorge Mendes this week, hardly quelling speculation by doing so. There have been revived links with Paris Saint-Germain since Mourinho’s sacking, but the French capital has the look of a fall-back.For Mourinho’s former post at Chelsea, another Mendes associate is widely rumoured to be on the shortlist. Diego Simeone’s links with Atletico Madrid, a club where plenty of Mendes clients play, are strong and may take considerable persuasion to be broken. But the Argentinian’s aggressive philosophy and rebel stance rather reminds of the first iteration of Mourinho at Chelsea from 2004 to 2007.Should Simeone stay on in Spain, Antonio Conte, currently managing Italy and holder of three Serie A titles with Juventus, is another possible candidate. He, like Simeone, does not speak fluent English, but the lucrative lure of English football might soon change that.With or without them, 2016 looks like being the year when England becomes home to the football world’s coaching A-list.John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter@JohnBrewinESPN.

Armchair Analyst: Three Things about … MLS at the end of 2015

December 30, 20151:02 PM ESTMatthew DoyleMLSsoccer.com

  1. The formation of a shift

The funny thing is: It didn’t happen overnight. It never does. But it still feels like it because of who took home the silverware.

What I’m talking about is, of course, MLS teams shifting away from the classic 4-4-2 as a default formation. In 2014, the Montreal Impact won the Canadian Championship playing in a 4-4-2; the Seattle Sounders won the Supporters’ Shield and US Open Cup double in the 4-4-2; and the LA Galaxy polished off a run of three MLS Cups in four years playing yet another variation of the 4-4-2.

It didn’t matter that most of the league had edged away from that formation, because the teams that dominated it were lining up with two forwards.Fast forward a year, and here’s how it went: The Vancouver Whitecaps won the Canadian Championship playing a 4-2-3-1; Sporting KC won the US Open Cup playing a 4-3-3; the New York Red Bulls played a 4-2-3-1 en route to their second Shield in three years; and the Portland Timbers morphed from a 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 down the strech, riding a solidification of the midfield and flank penetration to the franchise’s first piece of significant hardware: the 2015 MLS Cup.In all, 16 MLS teams played either the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3 as their standard formation, and a tactical shift naturally followed. More creative input came from the central midfield, as the league’s list of top chance creators shows:

Player

Chances Created (inc. assists)/Chances Created from Open Play/Big Chance Created

Javier Morales

84

58

7

Sacha Kljestan

79

56

6

Cristian Maidana

79

51

4

Matias Perez Garcia

78

39

3

Federico Higuaín

76

49

7

Benny Feilhaber

70

48

10

Brad Davis

69

36

4

Darlington Nagbe

67

65

2

Diego Valeri

64

34

2

Sebastian Giovinco

62

44

8

Davis is the last of a hibernating breed, the playmaking wide midfielder. Giovinco is a pure second forward – not a midfielder nor a winger – and no one else at that spot even cracked the top 30 in chance creation.

A year ago, various attackers like Landon Donovan, Thierry Henry, Davis, Lloyd Sam, Robbie Keane and Obafemi Martins were all near the top of that list. This year, it’s almost all No. 10s.

  • MORE ANALYST: On-field evolution and the role of the No. 10

They’re No. 10s of a different stripe, to be fair: Kljestan excels in the final third with his misdirect passes while Feilhaber sits deeper, sending in through balls; Maidana drifts wide to bend in crosses and Morales is a warlock who will not age until people start destroying horcruxes – new formation, new teammates, new defensive responsibilities? Doesn’t matter, the dude’s still gonna be among the league leaders in chances created. (I’m saving that as a macro for next year’s article, and 2017’s, and 2018’s, etc. etc. ad infinitum.)Simply put: If you didn’t have some sort of a classic No. 10, one able to take strings of possession and develop creativity out of midfield, then you probably weren’t going to compete with the league’s best.A year ago that wasn’t true.

 Shining the Shield

Kljestan was at the heart of the Red Bulls’ run to the Supporters’ Shield, their second such trophy in the last three years. He finished with 8 goals and 14 assists, leading the league in passes both attempted and completed in the final third.Why does that matter? Because it explains how the Red Bulls played: pressing high and hard, relying upon the brains and fitness of their central midfield (Kljestan, Dax McCarty and Felipe) to smother opposing teams, refusing to let them build directly out of the back. That, in turn, allowed the backline to compress the field, which led to sequences of play like this:

Kljestan buried a goal moments later, capping a six-minute stretch during which Orlando City weren’t able to cross the midfield stripe. New York got goals from everyone in their front four, including 17 from forward Bradley Wright-Phillips.The No. 2 team in the East, Columbus Crew SC, vanquished RBNY in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs behind their own 4-2-3-1 and balanced attack. Led by Kei Kamara at center forward and wingers Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram, Crew SC gave No. 10 Federico Higuain free rein, with their fullbacks encouraged to overlap higher and harder than any pair in the league.

Out West, another 4-2-3-1 team, FC Dallas, posed the stiffest competition in the Shield hunt. Led by their own magical No. 10, Mauro Diaz, Dallas equaled New York’s 60 points, but came up just short on goal differential.

The lack of an elite, BWP-class finisher was one of the big reasons for that. Another was that while Kljestan, Feilhaber and Higuain each logged over 2,700 minutes, Diaz was on the field for just under 2,000. When he played FCD were 14-5-5, and when he didn’t they were 4-5-1.Those types of margins are how trophies are won or lost.

  1. To The Cup!

The team that beat Dallas in the playoffs were the West’s No. 3 seeded team, the Portland Timbers. And as is customary in Portland, 2015 was weird.How weird? Their 41 goals scored were the lowest total of any playoff team, and their +2 goal differential was worst in the conference. That number actually lived in the negative until a 4-1 victory over Colorado in the regular season finale – a win that broke a two-month-long home scoreless drought.In the midst of that home streak, Portland naturally became a road juggernaut, going 4-0-1 in their final five away from Providence Park. They carried that form into the postseason, stomping Vancouver 2-0 at BC Place in the Western Conference Semifinals before taking a 2-2 draw out of Dallas in the second leg of the Conference Championship.nd then came the coup de grace: A 2-1 victory at MAPFRE Stadium over Columbus, making Portland the first team since the 2002 Galaxy to win the Cup in their opponent’s house. The Timbers took a page out of New York’s book, with high pressure leading to the first goal and a midfield turnover leading to the second.

What’s Next?

I expect at least a couple of teams to experiment with variations on the 3-5-2 next year. Toronto FC in particular seem to have the personnel for it, and I could convince myself a reconstructed LA Galaxy might be headed in that direction as well. Bruce Arena’s been married to the 4-4-2 for a long time, but he’s been willing to play the 3-5-2 when necessary – such as during the 2002 World Cup knockout rounds against Mexico and Germany.And let’s remember that the 3-5-2 basically exists in order to swamp opposing No. 10s. In a league that’s basically built around that position, it makes sense for someone to run against the grain, right?

We’ll see if any brave souls among the ranks of MLS coaches feel the same way. We’re putting a cap on the 2015 season here, but players report to training camp for 2016 in less than three weeks. The planning has, most certainly, already begun.

Best of MLS 2015: New York Red Bulls’ Matt Miazga was our Breakout Player of the Year

December 29, 20156:00 PM EST

First, a few ground rules. Having a breakout year is not the same as making a first impression. For example, Orlando City rookie forward Cyle Larin made a first impression with his 17 goals. But he didn’t have a breakout year because he wasn’t in MLS the year before. Having a breakout year is also not the same as extending an upward trajectory. For example, Crew SC’s Ethan Finlay extended his upward trajectory with his 12-goal, 13-assist season in 2015, which came on the heels of an 11-goal, 7-assist season in 2014. But he didn’t have a breakout year because he had already broken out.To have a breakout year, you had to be on the scene last year but not really make much of an impact until this year. It’s kind of a backhanded compliment. Here is our breakout player of the year in MLS, as voted by the MLSsoccer.com editorial staff.

MLSsoccer.com’s Breakout Player of the Year: Matt Miazga, NY Red Bulls

What a year Matt Miazga had in 2015. After making just seven appearances in 2014, the tall center back became a mainstay on the Red Bulls back line in 2015, playing in 30 games (regular season and playoffs) and finishing second among defenders in minutes played. He also scored his first goal (see video above) and proved to be one of the top aerial defenders in the league.He also rose quickly through the ranks of the US national team. He started for the U-20 US teamthat reached the quarterfinals of the U-20 World Cup in May. Then he was one of the few bright spots for the Olympic qualifying team that failed to earn an automatic berth to Rio 2016. Finally, in November, he made his full USMNT debut in a World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent & the Grenadines. This month, he was named U.S. Soccer’s Young Male Player of the Year.  Recently, there have been reports that Miazga could go abroad next year, and given his success in 2015, you can understand why the likes of EPL giants Chelsea and current EPL leaders Leicester City have been mentioned as possible suitors. But nothing is done, and we certainly look forward to seeing if he can extend his upward trajectory next year.

Honorable Mention

Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas — The smooth, 20-year-old box-to-box midfielder saw his minutes double in 2015, plus he scored his first MLS goal (and his second and third) and added a couple of assists. A favorite of our analyst Matt Doyle, Acosta also captained the US at the U-20 World Cup.

Tim Melia, Sporting KC — Through his first five seasons, the 29-year-old goalkeeper played in six MLS games. In 2015, he started 23, solving SKC’s frustrating goalkeeper issues. Along the way, he posted eight shutouts and was fourth in the league in save percentage.

cropped-cfc-tyler.jpg

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The Ole Ballcoach – Coach Shane Best

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