12/16/16 Wow Seattle Wins 1st MLS Cup, Champ League Sweet 16 Set, Renaldo wins POY, Indy 11 NASL future still in doubt?

So first Wow Seattle – my Sounders Gang Green –finally win an MLS cup.  Two months ago they fired their coach Sigi Schmidt and lost US Superstar Clint Dempsey (heart issues) for the season.  They also picked up Nick Lodiero as a true #10 and the rest as they say is history.  After 120 minutes of  honestly being dominated by Toronto at home, 20 shots and 8 on goal to zero shots actually on goal – the Sounders won the game on the 6th shot in the shootout 5-4.  Disappointing to see the showcase the Superbowl of American soccer come down to a zero/zero tie and a shootout after 120 minutes of truly exhilarating soccer.  Altidore was just barely off target all night long as he man-handled the center of the Seattle defense but his shots and his amazing header at the 114 minute mark which was unbelievably saved by the Seattle keeper Stefan Friei (formerly a Toronto keeper) the SAVE OF THE YEAR in MLS were not able to find the back of the net.

The over capacity crowd of nearly 40,000 red clad and maybe 3K Seattle supporters in the upper corner provided a raucous atmosphere unlike few in US professional sports.  And Fox Network and Fox Sports 1 I thought did a fine job with pre-game, post game and in game Coverage.  I would have like to have seen more shots of Seattle’s Crowd – last year in Columbus the green of Portland on the endline was overwhelming and this year is seemed to disappear because of the camera angles simply not scrolling over the portion of the crown until the shootout.  Still overall I thought it was a well delivered final.  Honestly if there was a true soccer god – Toronto deserved to win it in OT on the Jozy Altidore header but soccer can be a cruel sport in that the better team doesn’t always win.  Still make no mistake that Toronto introduced itself as MLS Soccer Royalty this season and should be a force to deal with especially at the FORTRESS in Toronto for a long time to come.

As for Seattle what can you say but perseverance was the middle name of this team, and on this night – they found a way to win on the road after beating the West’ best team in Dallas and its 2nd best team in Colorado on their long quest to their first title.  Seattle has long been a bastion of soccer in America since joining the MLS 7??? years ago – and for some like me just the chance to watch the GREEN Masses on TV is enough to make me a fan.  But for Seattle to make the run this year – with so many things going wrong by mid-season was a bit of a miracle.

Congrats to Renaldo who rode the World Cup win and Champions League win with Real Madrid to win his 4th Ballon d’OR  – Player of the year edging out Messi and Greizmann of Atletico.  Renaldo and Real Madrid will go for their 2nd straight World Club Cup Trophy in 3 years as they face Japanese club  on Saturday morning at 5:30 am on Fox Sport 1.  That will be followed by Man City hosting Arsenal on NBCSN at 11.

Champions League ROUND OF 16 DRAW:

The first legs will take place on Feb. 14, 15, 21 and 22, and the second legs will take place on March 7, 8, 14 and 15.

Manchester City v Monaco
Real Madrid v Napoli
Benfica v Borussia Dortmund
Bayern Munich v Arsenal
Porto v Juventus
Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid
Paris Saint-Germain v Barcelona
Sevilla v Leicester City

A quick glance at the Champions League Sweet 16 gives us some Intriguing games as poor Arsenal gets the raw end of the draw with a match-up against German power Bayern Munich.  Man City seems to have an easier draw with Monaco and Leicester City gets one of the easier Spanish teams in Sevilla.  The other battle of huge teams features Barcelona vs PSG – though PSG is not the team they were over the past 2 years.  I want to take this time to wish everyone a safe and Happy Holiday’s and a Happy New Year !


Seattle Win leaves both teams in disbelief ESPN FC McIntyre

Frei’s Transcendent Save Sparks Sounders to 1st MLS Cup Grant Wahl SI

Gritty Seattles Improbable Run – Graham Parker with hi-lites

Sounders Finally Make MLS Cup Breakthru – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Win was unbelievable –Morris

Toronto vows to come back stronger next year – Graham Parker EPSN FC

Save of the Year in MLS – MLS Cup History

How Seattle and Toronto can avoid post MLS Cup Hangover – Arch Bell ESPNFC

Indy 11/NASL

The Game of Soccer in America – what about the American players?

What Does the Future hold for NASL and the Indy 11 – Indy Star

NASL Future and whats happening

Statement about 2017 season and NASL?

Vote best 11 Moments of 2016

Champions League

The Draw

Arsenal get Bayern Munich Screw

Real MAdrid Advances to World Club Cup

EPL + World

World Rankings

EPL Predictions

Loris Blunders cost Liverpool the Win again

Costa Strike keeps Chelsea on top




Sat. Dec 17

7:30 am NBCNS            Crystal Palace vs Chelsea

9:30 am FS1                   Red Bull Leipzig vs Heatha BSC –

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Juventus vs Roma

Sun,  Dec 18

5:30 am Fox Sport 1 FIFA CLUB WORLD CUP – Real Madrid vs Club America  SET THOSE DVRs

11 am NBCSN                Man City vs Arsenal

Mon,  Dec 19

2:45 pm NbCSN           Everton vs Liverpool

Weds,  Dec 21

2 pm FS1                           Red Bull Leipzig vs Bayern Munich

Sat,  Dec 31

12:30 pm NbCSN        Liverpool vs Man City

Weds,  Jan 4

2:45 pm NbCSN           Tottenham vs Chelsea

Rumors swirl as future of NASL, Indy Eleven remains unclear

Matthew Glenesk , matthew.glenesk@indystar.com6:54 p.m. EST December 15, 2016

It’s been more than a week since the United States Soccer Federation postponed its sanctioning announcement regarding the North American Soccer League – home to the Indy Eleven – and the United Soccer League.On Dec. 6, the USSF said it was delaying its decision seven to 10 days. Friday is Day No. 10. So where do things stand?Well, that’s a question with no clearer answer than a week ago.NASL, which has lost three teams this offseason, is tenuously holding onto its second-division status. USL, which continues to grow and has the backing of Major League Soccer, lies in the third-tier of U.S. Soccer with hopes of moving up to Division 2. However, both leagues would need concessions from USSF to satisfy Division 2 requirements.Reports Thursday from Empire of Soccer and Big Apple Soccer cited sources claiming the NASL plans to stave off dissolution and will compete in 2017 with eight to 10 teams.”That is the goal,” the source told Michael Lewis of Big Apple Soccer. “Not every ‘I’ is dotted or T’ is crossed.”Which teams would make up that eight to 10 club projection is unclear.

  • Defending league champions New York Cosmos disputed reports the team had folded despite canceling all player contracts and furloughing front office staff.]

The Carolina RailHawks franchise rebranded last week as North Carolina FC, eyeing a future bid at MLS expansion, but didn’t commit to either the USL or NASL in its announcement.

ll this club turmoil doesn’t paint an optimistic picture for the future of the NASL.Cosmos chairman Seamus O’Brien told The Guardian this week that playing in a league with fewer than eight teams is not an option for them.“There are a number of folks with the NASL, many of my colleagues there that believe in the future. It’s not that we don’t believe in the future of the league – it’s just that we can’t play in a seven-team league,” O’Brien told The Guardian. “As a business, you’ve got to react to that. And that is what we have done. We are trying to tidy everything up as professionally as we can in the interim and look for how to move forward, that’s what we are here to do.”Puerto Rico FC president Thomas Payne echoed those sentiments to Nipun Chopra, an Indy-based soccer blogger, and cited a potential USL-NASL merger as a potential option.“A league with only 5 to 6 teams is not competitive and not meaningful, and ultimately not something we’re interested in,” Payne told Chopra. “This is why we hope this merger will happen, or we’ll continue to explore our other options.”A merger between the two leagues was shot down at a board of governors meeting earlier this month, according to Sports Illustrated.So where does that leave Indy Eleven?A report by Sports Illustrated last week suggested Indy Eleven were one of three NASL teams ready to leave for the USL.After last week’s USSF announcement to postpone its NASL/USL decision, Indy Eleven released a statement which didn’t mention either league.“To our fans & partners. We cannot thank you enough for your incredible patience as these unique circumstances continue to be resolved. Know that Indy Eleven continues to plan ahead for the 2017 season at Carroll Stadium and that we provide updates as possible.”Part of the holdup could be the potential negotiations of exit fees for clubs leaving the NASL. FiftyFive.One delved deeper into that aspect Thursday. Wes Burdine of FiftyFive.one writes:”The current stalemate is a high-stakes soccer version of the prisoner’s dilemma. Each club that is currently viable needs to have a league to play in for the 2017 season. However, to discourage defection, the NASL made the cost of leaving its league very high under normal circumstances. And that creates a strong financial incentive to stay as long as possible before jumping ship. Leave the NASL too early and risk paying millions in exit fees. Jump too late and a club may find itself without a league to play in, suspending play for its first team for an entire season (at best).”The NASL operates in near secrecy, so gathering information on particulars is hard to come by. FiftyFive.One got its hands on 2014 league paperwork, and while things may have changed since then, if the 2014 bylaws are taken into account, the two most recent defections (Ottawa and Tampa Bay to the USL), would have been required to pay $1.5 million each, according to FiftyFive.One.”The remainder of clubs, assuming they decide before December 15, would have to pay out $2 million each, unless the league drops below seven teams, at which point a club would only have to pay $25,000 to exit.”So what’s happening with the NASL?Like we said earlier, that’s a question with no clearer answer than a week ago.Stay tuned. From Indy Star

Seattle’s MLS Cup triumph leaves Toronto and the Sounders in disbelief

TORONTO — As one would expect, the scene in the Toronto FC and Seattle Sounders locker rooms couldn’t have been more different after the Sounders beat TFC 5-4 on penalty kicks to win MLS Cup on Saturday night after 120 scoreless minutes.Champagne flowed on the victors’ side. Tears did on the other. Despite the contrast in emotions, the one feeling players on both teams seemed to share was disbelief.After all, the hosts had the better of the play all night long. They managed 19 shots in all, seven of them on goal, while Seattle became the first squad in 21 MLS Cups not to put a single attempt on target. Yet when it was over, it was the Reds left wondering how they had been beaten in this typically chippy title decider. Meanwhile, the Sounders were almost sheepish about the good fortune that landed them their first championship. They knew they stole this one, not that they really cared.”It can be a cruel game sometimes,” Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley, one of two TFC players to have his penalty saved by match MVP Stefan Frei in the tiebreaker, said afterward. “The margins are so small. We were strong and brave and went after the game in a hard way, from the first minute to the 120th. On a different night, if you get a goal — if you get the first one — you probably get a few more. But that’s the game. That’s how it goes.”The home side could have gone ahead just two minutes into the contest, when Jozy Altidore whistled a low shot just wide of Frei’s net after a neat combination with Sebastian Giovinco. The Reds absolutely should have scored in the first extra-time session, but Frei magically parried Altidore’s looping header around the post.”That save was darn near impossible, and he pulled it off,” said Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey, a onetime MLS keeper.”It looked like it was going to go in, and then all of a sudden here comes his paw,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer added in his post-match news conference. “I think we were fortunate to get the game to penalty kicks.”No doubt. And as Altidore pointed out, “it’s a game of luck at that point.”Even Frei, who spent five seasons with TFC before being traded to Seattle three years ago, admitted that the outcome was harsh on his former club.”I have to say I’m not a big fan of PKs,” Frei said. “I guess somehow you have to decide the game, but for me football is a team sport. That’s the beauty of it. It sucks that it has to come down to an individual.”This isn’t to say the Sounders don’t deserve credit for their win. They were able to limit TFC, which had scored a gaudy 17 goals in five playoff games to reach the final, mostly to half-chances in front of an overflow crowd of 36,045 at frigid BMO Field, putting them in position to take the honors.”They always had numbers around the goal and around the box when we got into those areas,” Toronto coach Greg Vanney said. “We just couldn’t get that final pass to someone who could finish it. A game like that needs a goal sometimes to loosen up one of the teams defensively. The longer the game went on, the harder they were protecting their goal.”They came into a tough place and held strong and came away with the win. Congratulations to them for doing so.”It always takes at least a little luck to hoist a trophy, though. And for whatever reason, all of it seemed to be on the visitors’ side on this night, from Frei’s save to the spot kicks that were missed by Bradley — who was flawless the rest of the way — and defender Justin Morrow and even to the winning kick by Sounders defender Roman Torres, who had failed to convert a penalty in practice the day before. “I’m glad he missed that one and not the one today,” Frei said.”I thought they dominated us, to be honest,” said Seattle midfielder Cristian Roldan, who absentmindedly wrung out a champagne-soaked Sounders scarf as he spoke to reporters, smiling faces all around him.Down the hall in TFC’s dead-silent space, Toronto native Jonathan Osorio, his eyes still red from crying, struggled to compose himself as he fielded questions.”We controlled the whole game,” he said, his voice breaking. “You lose on penalties in a game where the other team didn’t have a shot on goal. What can you say?”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN. 

Stefan Frei’s transcendent save sparks Seattle Sounders to first MLS Cup

QUICKLY-In an instant, MLS Cup turned on its head, when Jozy Altidore’s looping header that was earmarked for the upper right-hand corner of the goal was swatted by a soaring Stefan Frei.

GRANT WAHLSunday December 11th, 2016

TORONTO — Here’s one great thing about sports—and, especially, about soccer. You can slog through a night of mostly nothing, of missed chances and utterly unmemorable exchanges, and then out of nowhere comes a moment so transcendent that you know it’ll be seared into your cortex for as long as you roam this earth.That’s what happened on Saturday here in the 2016 MLS Cup final. Seattle and Toronto played a tense but unfulfilling game, the kind where even neutrals shake their heads and wonder when it’s going to get good. At one point toward the end of regulation, before the penalty kicks, Seattle star Clint Dempsey (out due to a heart condition) informed coach Brian Schmetzer on the bench that the Sounders didn’t have a single shot on goal.He was right. It was a record low for an MLS final.But then in extra time of a 0-0 game, something truly magical happened, the kind of moment that can redeem an otherwise stultifying night. Toronto’s Jozy Altidore received a cross and unspooled a looping header back across the Seattle goal. It looked certain to be the goal that would put Toronto ahead in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 36,000 mostly TFC fans.Time froze.So did the feet of Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. He had already moved from the near-post to the center of the goal with the flight of the cross, and now Altidore, who had scored in a record five straight playoff games, was heading the ball back across the area from where he had just come.If you stop the video and look at the expression on Frei’s face, there’s a moment when something fires in his brain and you can see a look of engagement take hold. It’s a completely different expression than the one Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois had recently when teammate Gary Cahill sent an own-goal looping past him. Courtois’s gaze was one of despair. Frei’s was one of possibility.As the ball that would determine the fate of the 21st MLS Cup final hung in the air, Frei exploded back to his left, took leave of his feet and stretched with the grace and determination of a soccer Nureyev. Somehow he thrust his left hand behind him and to the ball, parrying it wide of the goal.“Well done by Jozy trying to go against the side where I’m coming from—it’s probably exactly how you want to hit that one,” Frei said. “Sometimes as a goalkeeper you feel like you’re not going to get to a ball, but you never know until you try. I tried to keep my feet moving and give it my best shot.”From his vantage point on the sideline, Toronto coach Greg Vanney saw Altidore hit the ball and thought it was heading for the back of the goal.“I thought the ball had eyes for that corner it was heading toward,” Vanney said, “and I thought [Frei] was maybe caught a little bit in the middle of the goal and wasn’t going to get there.“But just because it was kind of looping and it didn’t have a lot of gas behind it, it just gave him enough time to set his feet and get back across the goal. It seemed like he almost pulled it out from behind him in some ways. It was one of the great saves I’ve seen in a big moment. Because that goal to me ends the game.” Seattle’s Jordan Morris was nearly speechless about it afterward. “An unbelievable save,” he said.How often does Frei find himself reaching behind himself to make a save?“Usually something will have broken down for you to do that,” he explained. “But sometimes it’s just ‘throw technique out the window’ and just try to make the save.”Frei would use his same left paw to make a save on Michael Bradley’s attempt in the penalty-kick shootout, the one that finished in the sixth round with Justin Morrow’s kick off the crossbar and Román Torres’s confident trophy-winning clincher for Seattle.nd so the Sounders won a final without having a single shot on goal. But that hardly means they didn’t earn it. Frei allowed this to happen with that save in extra time. And to hear him tell it, that defining moment came down not just to a man straining to make the save. It came down to all the practices and all the games since Frei came to Seattle, after two years of injuries and coaches’ choices had led Toronto, of all teams, to trade him away three years to the day before Saturday’s final.Frei thanked not just his goalkeepers coach, Tom Dutra, but also his Seattle goalkeeper backups, Charlie Lyon and Tyler Miller, and the Seattle organization for “their simple belief in me to give me a chance in Seattle. At that point I had been on the bench or rehabbing for two years. So for them to take a chance and then go through growing pains but keep on reassuring me that ‘you’re the man, we’ve got your back, we believe in you,’ it allowed my confidence to come back.”“You need people around you to believe in you so that you believe in yourself.”That belief paid off in extra time here, when Frei made the greatest high-stakes save in MLS history.

Toronto FC heartbroken but resolved to rebound, fight for MLS Cup in 2017

TORONTO, Canada — The pain on the faces of Toronto FC’s players was palpable. How could it not be after the most crushing of losses, 5-4 on penalty kicks to the Seattle Sounders on Saturday after a scoreless MLS Cup final that really shouldn’t have been?The Reds had their chances to go ahead in the match both early and late and send a record BMO Field crowd of more than 36,000 long-suffering fans into the frigid night air celebrating the championship season they’d been dreaming about since they arrived in the league a decade ago.They couldn’t do it.”Some days a team can dominate all they want and the ball just won’t go in the net,” red-eyed Reds midfielder and Toronto native Jonathan Osorio told reporters afterward. “It wasn’t meant to be for us this year.”On another night, TFC forward Jozy Altidore might have been holding the Cup and MVP trophies when it was over. But he flashed a shot wide in the opening moments and was denied by Sounders keeper Stefan Frei’s ungodly save in the first extra time period; Frei ended up taking home the hardware instead. And when the contest went to the tiebreaker, there was a sense in the stadium — and on the sideline — that the Reds had squandered a golden opportunity.”In all honesty, when it comes down to penalty kicks, I was a little bit numb,” coach Greg Vanney said during his post-match news conference. “By that time, the game was gone in a sense. I was in a position where I was disappointed with penalty kicks.”Such a hard-fought season and this game in particular, and for it to end in penalty kicks, it’s just not the way you want to finish a game like that.”Whenever the suffering eventually wears off, though — and whenever big-spending TFC inevitably does take a title — 2016 will be looked back upon as the season when the league’s most historically hard-luck club finally turned its fortunes around.”There are a lot of lessons to take away from this run that I think will only make us better going into next year and stronger as a group as we try to get back to this and come away winners,” Vanney said.Sometimes teams have to lose to win. It took seven consecutive postseason failures for the Sounders to reach the summit. Toronto used the embarrassment of being routed by rival Montreal in the club’s first playoff game in 2015 to help it get to this year’s title match, beating the Impact along the way. Getting this close to glory cuts so deep; the idea for the hosts is that they will redouble their efforts in an attempt to avoid ever feeling that way again.That was the message in TFC’s dressing room, and it wasn’t just lip service.”This one is going to sting for a little while, there’s no two ways about it,” TFC captain Michael Bradley said. “Every guy here is going to have to take the time to get over this one, to let it hurt, let it frustrate you, let it anger you.”But ultimately, the hope is that at some point when you can start to process it all, that both individually and collectively we’re able to use this as even more fuel for what we’re trying to do. That we use it to make us even more determined and make sure that the group is able to use this. Not only are we coming back to this point, but when we do get back to this point we’re better for it and we’re ready to take the next step.”

Stefan Frei came up with the biggest save of MLS Cup, batting away Jozy Altidore’s looping headed effort.

There’s no reason in the world the Reds can’t do it. Toronto’s three designated players, Altidore, Bradley and Sebastian Giovinco, are all still on the right side of 30. A revamped defense that posted three shutouts in six postseason games (including on Saturday) will have an extra year of experience together. Vanney, whose cool demeanor and tactical acumen impressed greatly during this run, will be an even better coach. The Reds have gone from being the most dysfunctional organization in MLS to enjoying one of their best runs over the past three seasons.This is not the same old TFC, even if the heartbreaking ending is a familiar feeling for its supporters. The Reds will be back.”I’m proud of the team, I’m proud of the organization,” Altidore said. “The whole city was behind us and you kind of feel like we let them down, but I don’t think we did. I think we showed them what this could be.”There’s a long period now to reflect, refuel and try to get back at it again. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but at the end of the day, we’ve made a lot of steps forward as a club.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN T

MLS Cup win against Toronto helps validate staying with Seattle – Morris

Jordan Morris called his Seattle Sounder team’s penalty-kick shootout win in the MLS Cup final against Toronto FC “unbelievable,” adding that he was thrilled to have stayed with his hometown club instead of making a move to Europe after graduating from Stanford.Morris, 22, was a homegrown player for the Sounders, but had trained with Bundesliga club Werder Bremen after winning the national championship in college and ultimately chose to play in MLS.Although he and his Seattle teammates were largely held in check during 120 minutes of regular and extra time against Toronto, the team prevailed 5-4 in the shootout, making for a dream ending for the player whose father is the Sounders’ team doctor.Morris said after the match: “It’s been an unbelievable year with a lot of ups and downs, but those two championships are something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid. It’s been amazing. “I love it here [in Seattle]. I love being able to play for my city and represent my city and play for the best fans in the league and play in front of my family. It’s been an absolutely unbelievable year and this just kind of caps it off. “It was a very tough game, it was cold, this is a tough environment to come into, and all credit to Toronto, they are a very, very good team and they made it really difficult for us.”But the thing about this team is we are a team and we always fight. Everyone is fighting until the last minute and at the end we were probably playing for PKs a little bit and thought we could win that way, which we ended up doing.”Seattle didn’t register a shot on goal during the match, but were kept in it by finals MVP Stefan Frei, who saved a sure Jozy Altidore goal in extra time and made a save on Michael Bradley’s PK attempt to help set up the win for the Sounders.Frei was equally ecstatic following the match, crediting his teammates for not giving up even when they were out of playoff contention as the MLS regular season entered its final weeks.”It’s just about not quitting, you know,” Frei said. “We put so much hard work into this. It’s a credit to our keeper coach and my fellow keepers, we push so hard on a daily basis and I think that save [on Altidore] was a culmination of that.The former Toronto FC keeper went through some hard times during his spell in Canada, but admitted that those hard times helped get him to the position he is in today.”It was amazing. I think success feels like success when you go through hard times and hardship,” Frei said. “I’ve always been fortunate to have good people around me and help me out and help me bounce back and they’ve got me into this situation today and we wanted to make the best of it and I think we did make the best of it and we’ll celebrate that.”As an athlete I think confidence is everything and once we strung a couple of results together, I think that confidence started picking up. We made an incredible achievement just making it into the playoffs, but we didn’t want to stop there we wanted to make history. “[Penalty kicks] are such a brutal thing you know. I love football for it being a team sport, but it’s gotta come down to something right? Roman [Torres] on the night. A big center-back to step up and be calm cool and collected and the rest is history.”Follow @ESPNFC on Twitt

How Seattle and Toronto can avoid a post-MLS Cup hangovers in 2017

MLS Cup 2016 is done and dusted, and now thoughts turn to 2017. Champions Seattle Sounders and runners-up Toronto FC will be keen to not suffer the post-MLS Cup blues that afflicted 2015 finalists Columbus and Portland in 2016. But how? Injuries are a given; every MLS team will see players miss time in the treatment room. But there are various other factors at play. Here are three steps that the Sounders and TFC can take to avoid a post-cup slump.

  1. Address roster needs ASAP

The large majority of MLS teams have had nearly a six-week advantage over Seattle and Toronto when it comes to offseason planning, so both clubs need to work quickly to get their rosters firmed up for 2017 and try to avoid mistakes, such as the ones made by Portland last winter. The Timbers never recovered from the departures of left-back Jorge Villafana and winger Rodney Wallace. Their replacements, Chris Klute and Lucas Melano, respectively, failed to meet expectations, and a team that only conceded 39 goals in 2015 ended up coughing up 48 in 2016.For Seattle, adding depth up front will be a must. The status of Clint Dempsey’s heart ailment is still uncertain, and there is a good chance that Nelson Valdez leaves the club. The Sounders could also use some help on the wings, so that area of the pitch will have to be a priority of general manager Garth Lagerway.Some depth in defense would be wise too. After struggling for most of the season, Tyrone Mears did well down the stretch and in the playoffs. But he’s 33 years old, so Seattle should look to shore up the right-back position.Making sure Armando Cooper returns in 2017 needs to be one of the main priorities for Toronto FC. The Panamanian midfielder arrived over the summer on loan from Arabe Unido and extending that loan or perhaps an outright purchase would make sense. Cooper is so effective in Greg Vanney’s 3-5-2 and is just the type of player whose play can make the difference between a loss and a draw on the road. Should free agent Will Johnson also depart, bringing in some more experience in midfield would be wise.Like Seattle, defensive depth would help Toronto stave off any dips in 2017. Drew Moor was terrific in 2016 playing in the middle of a three-man back line, but he’ll be 33 when the season starts. A sturdy, versatile backup for Moor would be welcomed.

  1. Limit the road woes

Out of the 34 away matches played this season by Portland and Columbus, the two teams combined for a paltry two wins, and both of those by the Crew. After a 2015 season in which they earned 23 points away from Providence Park, Portland mustered a mere six points in 2016. Columbus was not much better; 22 points in 2015 turned into 10 points in 2016.In 2016, Toronto matched Portland’s 23-point road haul, while Seattle’s late charge saw them conclude the regular season with 16 points. Keep in mind that a single road win for Portland would have made all the difference in making the playoffs, as opposed to becoming the first MLS Cup champion to miss the next postseason since 2006.

  1. Spare us the drama

Outside of injuries, there is nothing that can throw a team off course more than bad chemistry and off-field issues, and Columbus and Portland had their healthy share of it in 2016. The Crew’s 2016 will largely be remembered for the bizarre dust-up between Kei Kamara and Federico Higuain back in May. Two players who were so integral to Columbus’ 2015 run suddenly could no longer co-exist, and days later the joint-top scorer in MLS for 2015, Kamara, was shipped to New England. There’s no question that impacted Columbus’ season.There were extracurricular headaches in Portland too, namely with the drunken driving arrests of Liam Ridgewell and Jake Gleeson in October, which wrapped up the Timbers’ disappointing season.Toronto remained a steady, drama-free bunch in 2016 thanks in large part to hard-working veterans like Michael Bradley, Moor and Johnson. However, if a European club swoops in and tries to pluck Bradley away, there would be a leadership vacuum in the TFC locker room.Seattle’s chemistry really came alive in their late-season charge, with the dance-loving Roman Torres leading the way after his return from injury. Will we see the same post-match boogie in 2017 now that they are champions? Or will the hunger and music fade together? Maintaining that cohesion stands to be Brian Schmetzer’s biggest challenge in his first full year as coach.Arch Bell covers CONCACAF 

UCL draw delivers big games like Bayern vs. Arsenal and lots of pressure

Take a deep breath and remind yourself: We have nine weeks, one transfer window and a whole load of holidays to run between now and the moment the Champions League anthem rings out and these teams actually stride on the pitch for the Round of 16.The landscape could be a whole lot different, for better and for worse. That said, neutral viewers got served up the two blockbuster clashes they — and broadcasters, sponsors or anyone who likes to see a potential winner out early — wanted.Paris Saint-Germain and Barcelona pits two juggernauts in a high-stakes collision. Unai Emery may be a knockout competition specialist but PSG are adding up to less than the sum of their parts right now. Success in the Champions League (and knocking out Barcelona) may be his best shot at a lifeline. Equally though, Luis Enrique may have a lot more credit stored up, but his deeper squad and domestic rotation has drawn criticism. With Barcelona already six points off the pace in La Liga, an early exit might prompt some at the Camp Nou to reconsider the way forward.The pressure extends to Bayern and Arsenal, too, albeit in different ways. For Arsenal, it’s five straight seasons of Round of 16 exits and there’s obviously a cruel irony that after finally winning their group, they get stuck with the Bavarians. The Gunners’ European record hasn’t impacted Arsene Wenger’s job security and that likely won’t change here, but he knows the clock is ticking and he won’t have too many more shots at the big one.Over at Bayern, Carlo Ancelotti knows his job is probably safe — the Bavarians tend not to be trigger-happy — but having overcome a slow domestic start, he knows a misstep here won’t help his transition out of the Pep Guardiola Era, particularly given his reputation as a Champions League specialist.Speaking of Guardiola, on paper Monaco is a wonderful draw for his Manchester City side after conceding four goals in their last league game. More than most, though, he ought to be aware that Leo Jardim’s uber-tactical counterattacking style is precisely what has outdone City in recent weeks. He needs to find countermeasures.Rational observers know better than to ascribe too much importance to a knockout competition like this one but then owners, fans and media are often not overly rational. And there is little question that Champions League success can provide a lifeline; it would be somewhat ironic for Guardiola given his three years in Munich when he dominated domestically but missed out in Europe.In many ways, that will be the theme for Roger Schmidt and Diego Simeone when Bayer Leverkusen face Atletico Madrid. Both (particularly Simeone) have a strong enough legacy at their respective clubs that failure here won’t bring the sack. But it’s the converse that applies: with hiccuping starts domestically, a run in the “big cup” could turn a mediocre campaign into a success.Nuno Espirito Santo at Porto also had a star-crossed start to the season. He too will be judged more on domestic matters (his team are currently four points behind leaders Benfica) but tripping up Juventus would give him some serious sporting capital. It would also be hugely disappointing for Max Allegri in his third season in charge. Indeed, given the enormous investment on veterans in the summer and the club’s belief that they need to take advantage of this window of opportunity, a false step at this stage could be costly come the end of the season.So are there also managers who can relax a little bit, knowing the pressure is off?Sure. Claudio Ranieri for one. Leicester City have made history getting this far, just as they did winning the Premier League last year. His reckoning, if it comes, will be on the home front. Given the circumstances (lack of serious summer spending, his first season in Europe), his opponent Jorge Sampaoli could chill a little bit knowing the benchmark for Sevilla this season is La Liga, where they’re doing well. (That said, anyone who has seen him prowling the touchline knows all too well the man doesn’t really relax, ever.)Benfica coach Rui Vitoria, too, is in as solid position. He won the league and reached the CL quarterfinal last season, he’s top this season and facing a Borussia Dortmund side that blow hot and cold under Thomas Tuchel. Dortmund’s youth and frenetic style of play make them one of the more unpredictable sides (for better and for worse) in Europe and Tuchel, in his all-important second season at the Westfalen, knows he needs to find some consistency. There is little question that the screws are wound tighter on him than on his counterpart.Finally, there’s Napoli and Real Madrid and here, Napoli and coach Maurizio Sarri has little to lose. They won their group and the draw was cruel to them; all they can do is pit their wits against the defending champions and hope the Bernabeu alumni (Jose Callejon and Raul Albiol) extract a modicum of revenge. Heck, you wonder if Sarri will call upon his predecessor, Rafa Benitez, for some intel and whether Rafa will want to share some pointers given that this time last year, he was on the hot seat at Real.Speaking of which, Zinedine Zidane is obviously under pressure like every Madrid boss before him. But given their lead in La Liga, the 35-game unbeaten run, the fact that he won it last year and that he’s Florentino Perez’s hand-picked choice, you figure it’s not quite ratcheted up to 11 as it might have been with some of those who came before him.Managers come and go based on what happens in Europe. It shouldn’t be that way, not to this degree at least, but it often is. That’s why the stakes are so high for so many. But as we said at the top: Two months can be an eternity. And it can all look so different come early February.Gabriele Marcotti is a Senior Writer for ESPN FC, The Times and Corriere dello Sport. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti. 

Chelsea stil No. 1 in Power Rankings, Real Madrid No. 2, Juventus No. 3

  1. Chelsea(no change)

To win a league title, sometimes you have to nick a result when not at your best. Chelsea did that twice last week, first against West Brom and then at Sunderland. Back-to-back 1-0 victories mean Antonio Conte’s men have won 10 straight league games.

  1. Real Madrid(no change)

Real Madrid refuse to lose these days as Zinedine Zidane’s side extended their unbeaten run to 36 games with a last-gasp win over Deportivo and then handling Club America 2-0 in the Club World Cup on Thursday morning. What’s truly remarkable about their form is how they find different ways to win: Sergio Ramos’ injury time header secured the victory on Sunday while Cristiano Ronaldo turned in a superb 90 minutes against the Liga MX side in midweek. Ignore them at your peril.

  1. Juventus(no change)

When Torino opened the scoring on derby day, it looked like Juventus might lose for the second time in three league games. However, Gonzalo Higuain picked a good time to end a Serie A goalless run dating back to October by scoring twice in an eventual 3-1 win.

  1. Barcelona(+1)

After three straight league draws, Barca needed a boost, and a trip to bottom-of-the-table Osasuna provided just that, though it took almost an hour to break through. In the end, Luis Enrique’s side cruised to a 3-0 win with Lionel Messi scoring twice.

  1. Roma(+1)

In the battle of second and third in Serie A, Roma prevailed 1-0 against Milan. The win was built on a fine goalkeeping display by Wojciech Szczesny, who saved a penalty to set the stage for Radja Nainggolan’s winning goal. Next up for Roma? Juventus.

  1. Bayern Munich(+1)

Since a blip at the start of November, when they took one point from two games, Bayern have reeled off three straight wins. The latest, which when combined with a Leipzig loss took them back to the top of the Bundesliga, was an emphatic 5-0 triumph vs. Wolfsburg.

  1. Nice(+2)

Nice were knocked out of the French Cup midweek vs. Bordeaux but not to bother: After all, it just means that Lucien Favre’s league leaders can concentrate on securing what would be a miraculous Ligue 1 title. Last weekend, Les Aiglons swooped into the Parc des Princes and took a 2-0 lead over Paris Saint-Germain. Though Unai Emery’s side eventually rallied for a 2-2 draw, the result was yet more proof at how this team can more than handle their own in French football this season.

  1. Benfica(new)

The best team in Portugal continue to stay out in front of the competition, beating their nearest rivals Sporting CP 2-1 in last weekend’s derby. Goals by Eduardo Salvio and Raul Jimenez secured all three points. Rui Vitoria’s side are four points clear atop the table as the season approaches the halfway point.

  1. RB Leipzig(-5)

The surprise Bundesliga leaders suffered their first defeat of the season — an equally surprising 1-0 reverse at relegation-threatened Ingolstadt. Ralph Hasenhuttl’s side are now second, but they retain a healthy six-point advantage over third-placed Hertha Berlin.

  1. Sevilla(new)

Jorge Sampaoli’s first European management job couldn’t be going better as Sevilla continue to flourish under his intense tutelage. Sitting comfortably in third place just a point behind Barca, they got back to winning ways last weekend with a 3-0 win at Celta Vigo, with Vicente Iborra coming off the bench to score an improbable hat trick. This team is still a work in progress, but it’s safe to say they’re ahead of schedule.Dropping out: Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan

Los Blancos arrived to Yokohama on Sunday, where they’ll try to win their second Club World Cup trophy in three years.

Zidane’s “brutal truth” policy had the French manager admitting an unconvenient fact: he is rather unfamiliar with their Club World Cup opponents next Thursday.  Back-to-back CONCACAF Champions, Club América, will be the team Los Blancos will battle against in order to reach a spot in the tournament’s final. As uncomfortable as it may seem, Zidane revealed he’s had barely a glimpse of the Mexican club’s tactics prior to Thursday’s game.”I watched their games along with my staff. I saw their game against the Korean side, a Derby they played recently and one more Cup match and that’s it. Honestly, I knew nothing about them until a few weeks ago. We have to sit down, analyze them and decide how we’ll play against them,” Zidane stated.Club América is the most-winning team in Mexico. Las Águilas (The Eagles) have won 12 league titles in their 100-year history, and they have already sealed their spot in the Apertura 2016 final, but had to postpone that matchup to play in the Club World Cup. The Mexican side has racked up 16 straight games without a loss, all of them under current coach Ricardo La Volpe, who took the job back in September as Ignacio Ambriz’s replacement.Speaking about the competition’s format, Zidane revealed that Los Blancos will have to deal with a number of issues if they want to add one more trophy, especially due to jet lag and other reasons.”This tournament is different from the one I played. Added to that, we’re a bit tired after the long flight here. We followed the advice of experts that prepared this trip, but to be honest with you, I’m really tired,” Zidane added.


tobin-poy-heath-winnerDec 13, 2016

CHICAGO (Dec. 13, 2016) – Tobin Heath and Ashley Sanchez have been voted the 2016 U.S. Soccer Female and Young Female Player of the Year, respectively.Heath, who has long been a fan favorite for her entertaining style of play and dynamic work with the ball, wins the award for the first time in her ninth year with the U.S. Women’s National Team. She won after earning 40 percent of the vote. Crystal Dunn came in second with 34 percent.

“It’s obviously an honor to win an award like this, especially when you look at the list of amazing players who have won it before,” Heath said. “This year was a difficult one for our team, but overall we played some great soccer so it’s humbling to be recognized individually. I’m just proud to be in the company of all the great players that were nominated and all of the players that played for the USA this year. I couldn’t have accomplished anything without the support of my teammates and my coaches, and while it was a fun year for me personally, I’m excited not only about my own future, but also the future of this team as I know we have a lot more room to grow and many more goals to achieve.”

This year saw the 28-year-old Basking Ridge, N.J. native elevate her game to an even higher level. Heath played in 22 games, scoring six goals while recording eight assists tying for second-most on the team with Dunn. Both numbers were career bests for Heath, who this year competed in her fifth world championship for the USA. She played 1,747 minutes in 2016, good for second-best on the team.

Heath was one of the USA’s best players at the 2016 Olympic Games where she recorded two assists. In her fourth season playing for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns FC, Heath finished the year with 10 assists – a new league record – in only 14 appearances for the club – while helping PTFC to the regular season title. She was named to the NWSL Best XI.

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12/9/16 MLS Finals Seattle vs Toronto Sat Night 8 pm on FOX, NASL in trouble, Champ League Draw Sweet 16 Draw Mon

MLS Finals Seattle vs Toronto Sat Night 8 pm on FOX, NASL in trouble?

 So its time for the finals in the MLS – with 2 of the most popular and best teams in MLS going head to head as Toronto with (Altidore, Bradley, Giavinco and Indy youngster Eriq Zavaleta) host the Seattle Sounders on Saturday night 8 pm on FOX (yes Fox not Fox Sports but Fox).  Now Fox Sports will have pregame starting at 7 pm and post game after of course.  And again I don’t care what the soccer purest say – Playoff Soccer is really cool –and I plan to be watching to see if young American Jordon Morris (yes Dempsey is still out with the heart ailment) can bring a title home to the best soccer city in America – Seattle!!  Make your plans now to clear your schedule Sat night or set those DVRs as this one should be a doozy at the 40K full BMO Field in Toronto.

Got a chance to watch El Classico and boy does Ramos know how to finish things late or what?  Another almost 90th minute header to tie the game with Barca was just what Real needed to garner the tie at Camp Nou.  I also got a chance to watch the Chelsea v Man City match –and what a job the Chelsea coach has done with Chelsea.  It’s a completely different team now with basically the same players as they solidified their top spot in the EPL.

So on my Christmas wish for the Indy 11 is that they have a league to play in next season.  Sad to hear the issues with NASL and the Cosmos – and perhaps the decline of the league?  I have no doubt the Indy 11 will land somewhere.  Perhaps a move to USL – with rivalries in Cincy, Louisville, Nashville and will be the best move for the club.  Already the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Ottawa, OKC, and San Antonio have basically bolted to the USL.  Got my fingers crossed.


Who will win the MLS Cup?  ESPN FC

David Villa is MPV

Legacies are at Stake

How’d they Get here TFC

5 Reasons TFC will Win – Arch Bell

Why Seattle Will Win – Arch bell

MLS will consider Playoff Changes for 2017

MLS not to blame for NASL issues –Garber Says

Toronto wins Classic in OT at home –must see video here is you didn’t see –best playoff game ever

Jordon Morris Goal Sends Sounders to MLS Final

Seattle Rides Wave of belief to MLS Finals Finally

3 Reasons Seattle Won ESPN Jeff Carlisle

Seattle Advances to 1st MLS Cup – SI

Toronto becomes Model MLS Franchise ESPN FC

Classic Match-up in Final with 2 of the top teams in MLS


American fan caught wearing a Chelsea shirt to Everton Game is Ostracized

Indy 11/NASL

Statement about 2017 season and NASL?

Vote best 11 Moments of 2016

Champions League

Dream Matchups in Round of 16?  Video


Sat,  Dec 10

9:30 am FS1                   Bayern Munich vs  Wolfsburg 

10 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs Stoke City

12:30 pm NBCSN        Leicester City vs Man City 

8 pm FOX                                                 MLS Finals – Toronto vs Seattle

Sun,  Dec 11

7 am NBCSN                   Chelsea vs West Brom

9:30 am FS1                   Borussia Mgladbach vs Bayern Leverkusen  

9 am NBCSN                   Man United vs Tottenham

9 am beIN Sport          Torino vs Juventus

9:30 am FS2                   Schalke vs Bayern Leverkusen

11:30 am NBCSN         Liverpool vs West Ham 

Mon,  Dec 12

3 pm beIN Sports       Roma vs AC Milan

Tues,  Dec 13

2:45 pm NbCSN           Everton vs Arsenal

Weds,  Dec 14

2:45 pm NbCSN           Middlesborough vs Liverpool

3 pm ??                             Crystal Palace vs Man United

Toronto vs. Seattle: Which of league’s biggest clubs will win MLS Cup?

As we gear up for Saturday’s MLS Cup final, ESPN FC asks league contributors Jason Davis and Arch Bell to look exclusively at Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders to shed some light on who’s best positioned to lift silverware on Saturday night at BMO Field.

Do Toronto and Seattle have anything left?

Jason Davis: Even if Toronto FC wasn’t buoyed by hosting MLS Cup, there would be plenty of reason to believe it had enough left to win the title. Still, the long break before the game comes as something of a mixed blessing. On one hand, it allows both Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to recover from minor injuries. On the other, it could leach away the form and confidence that has carried them to this point.

Arch Bell: Considering Seattle handled the international break between the conference semifinals and finals so well, I see no reason why there should be any worry about the two weeks between their win in Colorado and Saturday night. If anything, the break will allow some of their recently injured players, such as Roman Torres and Jordan Morris, to heal further. Seattle will be ready to go.

Lessons learned from regular-season matchups

JD: If TFC learned anything from a 1-1 draw with Seattle back in July, it’s that Morris is a dangerous player. A weakened Toronto team went up a goal at BMO Field, only to see its lead erased when the rookie split a pair of defenders, stopped on a dime and curled in a right-footed shot. Both teams will look very different on Saturday, but Morris will be there, and Toronto will be wary.

AB: Not a whole lot. The two teams played with vastly different squads in a 1-1 draw on July 2 than the ones we’ll see on Saturday. There was no Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore for TFC, plus Armando Cooper had not yet arrived. While for Seattle, ex-coach Sigi Schmid still had the pre-Nicolas Lodeiro Sounders in a 4-3-3, and Torres was out injured. It’s hard to glean much from their only meeting this season.

What one player on your team will cause trouble for your opponent?

JD: Despite the presence of Giovinco, the answer is Altidore. Giovinco is always dangerous, but Altidore’s form is otherworldly at the moment. Every aspect of his game — from his touch to his hold-up play and beyond — has been excellent during TFC’s playoff run. Seattle has the physical center backs necessary to deal with some of what Altidore can do, but the forward’s vision and passing are impossible to counteract completely.

AB: Lodeiro. The Uruguayan international is the ultimate playmaker and makes the Sounders attack go. Whether from the run of play or on set pieces, Seattle is a pass away from scoring if Lodeiro is over the ball. Oh yeah, and he’s a clinical finisher, as evidenced by his four playoff goals.

What one player on the opposing team should you be afraid of?

JD: Lodeiro has taken MLS by storm since arriving in late July and helped Seattle push all the way to MLS Cup. Toronto will need devote serious resources to stopping the Uruguayan, a choice that necessarily opens up space and opportunity for other Sounders players. That’s how good Lodeiro is, and how wary of him Toronto must be; due to his dynamic ability to impact the game all over the field, shutting him down comes first.

AB: Giovinco. Altidore was a beast in the conference final versus Montreal, but Seattle’s two big center backs should have better success against the U.S. international. Giovinco’s wizardry creates a different headache altogether, since the former Juventus man is so good at spinning off defenders or creating space for himself. Seattle cannot afford any lapses when Giovinco is in the area.

JD: Toronto has already shaken its reputation as MLS’ most historically incompetent franchise with this run to the final. But a victory at home in front of the TFC faithful would only further establish the club as one of the league’s elite. Spending without winning is just another form of failure; an MLS Cup championship would elevate Toronto into a select group in one fell swoop.

AB: Everyone knows how big the Seattle-Portland rivalry is in MLS, so last season when the Timbers left Columbus with the 2015 MLS Cup in hand, it had to have stuck to the ribs of all Sounders fans. But redemption awaits, and a championship would be a sweet reward for Seattle followers who have put up the best attendance numbers in the league. More important, they would regain top-dog status in Cascadia.


JD: Toronto 2-1 Seattle. With the support of the crowd and the firepower at its disposal, this is Toronto’s championship to win. Altidore’s form and a smart defensive plan will be enough to get TFC two goals (one on a set piece) and a title.

AB: Toronto 1-2 Seattle. Seattle’s late-season and playoff momentum will be put to the test by a rowdy home crowd and the TFC attack, but the visitors will hold firm, as Lodeiro’s two assists will pace the Sounders to a first-ever title.


Wiebe: MLS Cup is about more than hardware – legacies are at stake

December 8, 20166:43PM ESTAndrew WiebeSenior Editor

TORONTO – Twenty years from from now, a group of middle-aged men will gather to celebrate history. They’ll come from all over, bringing wives, sons, daughters, even grandchildren together to remember a moment of sporting glory that transcended themselves.They’ll tell stories, forgotten details resurfacing as they take turns driving the narrative. They’ll walk out on to the pitch for old time’s sake, highlights from long ago flashing across a massive video screen as triumphant music and soundbytes pulse through stadium speakers. They’ll wave to an adoring crowd, and mothers and fathers will tell their children about these men, the legends who captured the star stitched above the crest on the jerseys they wear proudly.These men will forever be known as MLS Cup champions, but they’ll also understand titles are about far more than the gaudy rings they wear on their fingers to commemorate that frigid December night at BMO Field. They’ll know that night was about more than a trophy, more than a ring, more than another entry in a dusty record book.They’ll know that night gave birth to a legacy, personal and collective, that lived on long after they said goodbye and their careers came to a close. Those men will be 2016 MLS Cup Champions, and that night has yet to come.On Saturday at BMO Field (8 pm ET; FOX and UniMas in the US; TSN and RDS in Canada), either Toronto FC or the Seattle Sounders will lift MLS Cup for the first time, writing the final chapter of a story that will be told for decades, a story that elevates men who kick a ball for a living to conquering heroes. They will be the winners. The losers will watch as the confetti falls and celebrations unfold in front of them. They’ll be remembered, too, as the team that inspired a city but fell just short.And while the margins on Saturday night will be razor thin, the implications are glaring and obvious. Sports are about defining moments, and none delineates between winner and loser more clearly than a championship game.Would Landon Donovan be universally remembered as the best American soccer player of all-time without the five MLS Cup championships he won with the San Jose Earthquakes and LA Galaxy? Without the record five goals he scored in those games? Without the big-game resume that screams, ‘I’m the best this league has ever seen, and I’ve got a handful of rings to prove it,’ would the league mint an MVP trophy that bears his name and image?

Would Bruce Arena, the godfather of US soccer coaches who is currently taking a second crack at the US national team job, be given that honorary title or considered for that job (again) without the two MLS Cups he won with D.C. United or the three he lifted with the Galaxy alongside Donovan? Would his coaching tree have branches across the country and globe without those triumphs?

How would our perception of the Revolution, five-time MLS Cup runners-up and never champions, change had a few of those finals gone New England’s way? Might the MLS careers of Steve Nicol, Taylor TwellmanShalrie Joseph and Steve Ralston be remembered differently with a championship or two (or three or four)?

We know the answers to those questions. Championships change everything.


Michael Bradley doesn’t need to be reminded that he could be the captain to deliver Toronto FC the title that could complete the club’s transformation from laughing stock to regional powerhouse. Lifting the Phillip F. Anschutz Trophy on Saturday night could be the defining moment of his MLS – and perhaps even club – career. It could make him a Toronto icon.


Jordan Morris could be the hometown star who did what so many before him could not and bring MLS’s ultimate prize back to Puget Sound. He could, at just 22 years of age and in his first year as a pro, seal his place in Seattle and Sounders lore, a young man forever close to the hearts of a city full of soccer fans who helped redefine the MLS paradigm.


Sebastian Giovinco could lay claim to the unofficial title Best MLS Player of All-Time should he cap off the most productive two-year span in the history of the league with a championship. Nicolas Lodeiro could be the savior who finally took the Sounders to the summit.


Jozy Altidore could prove his doubters wrong by capping off an MVP-worthy and potentially record-setting postseason with the Cup itself. Unfair as it might be, Clint Dempsey could be remembered in Seattle for the game his body wouldn’t let him play.

Seattle general manager Garth Lagerwey could prove he’s more than Real Salt Lake’s moneyball title in 2009, a man who can spend big and win big, too. His equivalent in Toronto, Tim Bezbatchenko, could inspire Theo Epstein comparisons for his relative youth, innovative approach and turnaround of a moribund franchise with unbridled ambition and rabid support but little to show for it.Sounders fans could finally parade through downtown Seattle with the prize they’ve coveted above all others, a prize their arch rivals beat them to just last year. Reds fans, meanwhile, could claim the legitimacy they’ve craved since the very beginning, sweet redemption for all those seasons they showed up to watch a team destined to implode in the most painful way possible.Anything could happen. Only one thing will.For two clubs and two cities, Saturday night will change the course of their sporting history. Twenty years from now, one will look back on Dec. 10, 2016 fondly, memories flooding back with the sharpness and clarity that comes with victory. The other will wonder what might have been.That day has yet to come, but there’s more than hardware at stake. Legacies ride on it.


Five reasons why Toronto FC will beat the Seattle Sounders in MLS Cup

With Saturday’s MLS Cup tilt between Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders now just days away, ESPN FC takes a look at five reasons why Toronto will take home the championship.

  1. Giovinco makes it go

Simply put, Sebastian Giovinco is a difference maker every time he steps on the field — 17 goals and 15 assists in 28 regular-season games say it all. Rarely does he ever have a bad day and Saturday’s tilt should be no different. His low center of gravity will make defending difficult for Seattle center-backs Chad Marshall and Roman Torres, and with zero goals in the two legs versus the Montreal Impact, the former Juventus man is poised for a big-time performance in MLS Cup.

  1. Altidoreen fuego

Jozy Altidore delivered arguably the finest performance of his career in Toronto’s second-leg extra-time victory over the Montreal Impact. A big, physical test awaits against the Sounders’ aforementioned center-backs, but the confidence with which the United States international is playing is undeniable. For a player who has been riddled with hamstring and fitness issues, his energy in 120 minutes versus the Impact was impressive. Another outing like that on Saturday and it’s hard to see TFC losing the cup.

  1. The better bench

While Seattle does have options, Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney has better offensive weapons at his disposal on the bench. Tosaint Ricketts has been terrific this postseason, with two goals and an assist, while Benoit Cheyrou filled Giovinco’s shoes with aplomb to tally the series winner versus Montreal. If the two teams are tied entering the final quarter hour, the introduction of Ricketts or Cheyrou could prove decisive for the Reds.

  1. A strong spine

In Toronto’s 3-5-2, one of the things that stands out immediately is the strength of the team’s spine. The five-man midfield is led centrally by Michael Bradley, while the three-man defense boasts Drew Moor at center-back. An MLS Cup winner in 2010, Moor has the calm and experience that Toronto will need in the back while coping with Seattle’s dangerous attack. Bradley similarly marshals the Toronto midfield, while Clint Irwin is also a steady hand in goal.

  1. Red storm rising

With 36,000 expected to attend MLS Cup, BMO Field will be a cauldron on Saturday night. The rowdy Toronto faithful played a big part in pushing their team past Montreal, and now with the chance to snap a 23-year title drought in all major North American sports, Toronto fans will assuredly be at their loudest. In terms of fan atmosphere, it has the makings to be the most memorable final in MLS Cup history.Arch Bell covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .


Five reasons why the Seattle Sounders will beat Toronto FC in MLS Cup

With Saturday’s MLS Cup tilt between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC now just days away, ESPN FC takes a look at five reasons why Seattle will take home the championship.

  1. Lodeiro leads the way

He has only been in Major League Soccer for a few months, but Nicolas Lodeiro has quickly risen to the top as one of the league’s best players. The Uruguayan playmaker sets Seattle’s table and his inch-perfect crosses into the area will pose problems for the Toronto FC defense. There is no denying the importance of the former Boca Juniors man to his side and the feeling is that he will get the better of Michael Bradley in midfield.

  1. Big game Jordan

Whether at the collegiate, international or club level, Jordan Morris has a knack for coming through in the clutch. He scored the winner in the United State’s last victory against Mexico, a 2-0 friendly win back in April 2015, and bagged a brace in the final to help lead Stanford to last season’s College Cup. And, of course, he came up huge with his winner in the semifinal second leg at the Colorado Rapids. This is a player who thrives in the big moments.

  1. The land of Oz

There will be no bigger test for Sounders defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso than neutralizing TFC danger man Sebastian Giovinco. Luckily for Seattle fans, Alonso is one of the best in the league at his position; he’ll tackle, deflect or block passes and frustrate opponents to no end. To boot, he’s an accurate passer. The Cuban veteran can still cover a lot of ground and assuming his knee is healthy, he can be the guy to finally halt Giovinco.

  1. The boys in the back

Chad Marshall and Roman Torres make up one of the most intimidating center back pairings in the league and should enjoy more success than Montreal had in stopping TFC forward Jozy Altidore. Their experience should provide the Sounders with some needed calm in the back. Each player can also be an X factor on set pieces. With Lodeiro capable of serving up a perfect ball on a free kick, a goal via header from Marshall or Torres would be no surprise.

  1. Destiny’s child

There is just something about this Seattle side that screams destiny. Other Seattle teams have had more talent, but this squad has gotten hot at the right moment and is brimming with confidence. They took down Supporters’ Shield winner FC Dallas and then went to Colorado and became the first team all season to beat the Rapids on their home turf. With players who have played in soccer’s biggest games (Lodeiro in the Argentine Superclasico vs. River Plate and Nelson Valdez for Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich), the Sounders will be unflappable on Saturday night in Toronto.

MLS will consider playoff format changes for 2017 season

MLS will consider changing its playoff format in 2017, with regular season record serving as the first tiebreaker in the conference semis and finals among the possible tweaks, the league’s Vice President of Competition told ESPN FC on Thursday.”I think we believe that the format we have now works, but we’re always open to improving as much as we possibly can to make it exciting for fans and fair for our clubs,” MLS VP Jeff Agoos said in a phone interview three days before Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders meet in the MLS Cup final.”Every year we have a discussion over our playoff format.”LS has changed its postseason set-up frequently during its 20-year history. The playoffs have grown from eight to 12 participants as the league more than doubled in size. Two new teams, Atlanta United and Minnesota United, will grow the circuit to 22 members in 2017.The league’s technical committee will discuss possible changes from the drastic — such as introducing a group stage similar to what is used in tournaments like the Copa America or World Cup — to the comparatively benign — like eliminating away goals as the primary tiebreaker in two-leg series — it meets next month.Whether that’s a World Cup-style format, whether that’s single elimination like March Madness, whether we keep the format we have now — those are all things that are on the table and open to discussion,” Agoos said. “If they can improve our playoffs, we’ll certainly take a very hard look at it.”The away goals tiebreaker was introduced in 2014 to mixed reviews.”When we didn’t have away goals, people were criticizing us for that,” Agoos said. “Now that we do have away goals, people are criticizing us for having them.”That rule ensures fewer series are determined by extra-time or penalty kicks. But it can also limit how much home teams are willing to attack, especially if the aggregate score is tied late in the decisive contest.”We will be discussing the away goals rule in our January meetings, as we’ve done in the past,” Agoos said.Only two of 12 two-leg series have been decided by away goals over the past three seasons. Nonetheless, Agoos said there is a growing sentiment to consider using regular season record as the first tiebreaker instead.”I think this will be the first year we really try to put a focus on the higher seed advancing,” he said. “We’ve had some technical directors that have wanted to have that discussion. But we will also look at different alternatives.”Whatever modifications are adopted, if any, they won’t be made lightly.”We’re very reluctant to change things unless there’s a real strong sentiment one way or the other,” he said.”We changed our playoffs a number of times, and we want to create some level of consistency so our fans understand,” Agoos continued.”But that doesn’t mean we won’t change it if we think it’s the right thing to do.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.



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12/2/16 MLS Finals set Seattle vs Toronto, El Classico Sat 10:15 am, Arena New US Coach Finally, Champs League Tue/Wed 12/6+7


Ok folks I don’t care what the soccer purest, the Euro elite say – Playoff Soccer is Cool.  After witnessing a Semifinal in person for the Indy 11 and the MLS finals last season in Columbus and now after watching THE most Exciting Soccer Game I have seen this season – Toronto defeating Montreal in OT at BMO in the freezing rain Thursday night I am here to tell you Playoff Soccer can be pretty fantastic.  This winner advances game came down to a goal in the last 10 minutes to tie it up for Toronto at 5-5 on Aggregate.  Then in OT Altidore made a magical turn and run delivering the assist to take the lead followed by an insurance goal and Toronto advances to host the MLS Finals versus my Seattle Sounders next Saturday night 8 pm on FOX (yes Fox not Fox Soccer).  The title match features some of the best and most recognizable stars in MLS including local/IU star Toronto’s Eriq Zavaleta as the 2 teams will battle for their first title as neither of the storied franchises (among the most popular in both the Western and Eastern Divisions) has ever been this far before.  Make your plans now to clear your schedule next Sat night or set those DVRs as this one should be a doozy at the 40K full BMO Field in Toronto.

Looking ahead to this weekend El Classico features Barcelona hosting Real Madrid Sat at 10:15 am on beIN Sport as Barca looks to cut into the 6 pt lead the Madridistas currently hold in La Liga I like Barcelona at home in what is almost a must win for them as close to ½ billion people will watch around the world.  In the EPL – Man City hosts Chelsea in a battle of top 2 teams Sat AM at 7:30 am on NBCSN. Champions League returns Tues/Wed this week with 4 of the 16 slots in the Knockout round still available for 7 teams.

US Soccer finally did what had to be done and fired Klinsmann last Friday (right after I finished my story LOL).  I had hope when the German was hired and while he did some good things while in charge of US soccer – has he really moved the needle forward?  Honestly this past year – I think the US has looked as bad at times as at any point in the last 15 years and no further along with the PROGRESSIVE Soccer that Klinsy promised.  Now its up to the coach who some consider the best US coach ever – Bruce Arena to pick up the pieces and get the US to the World Cup.  Do I think we will qualify – sure – honestly I also think the team will play better now that Bruce is in charge.  Expect him to actually settle on a line-up and have players understanding what their role is on the team.  I certainly expect him to continue to use the German American players like Brooks and Johnson but lets hope Timmy Chandler has seen his last game in a US Jersey.  I will be interesting to see what he does for a line-up but in my mind the 4-4-2 has served us well with Altidore and Woods up top.  The defense needs to find a steady left and right back so Johnson can move up to wing to compliment Pulisic.  Don’t be surprised to see to changes in the middle as the Jones/Bradely tandum has shown to be a major weekness.  Not sure what he does with Bradley but I think if we want to get ready for Russia in 2 years Jones needs to become a super sub not a starter so we need to find a new two-some in the middle of the park somehow.  Bruce has 3 months to get his group ready for the next qualifiers in what will be key games in qualifying top 3 in Concacaff.


Sat,  Dec 3

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach

10:15am beIN Sport Barcelona vs Real Madrid 

Tues, Dec 6

Champions League

2:45 pm ESPN2            Bayern Munich vs Athletico Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Barcelona vs Borussia M’gladbach

Weds, Dec 7

Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Real Madrid vs Dortmund 

Sat,  Dec 10

12:30 pm NBCSN        Leicester City vs Man City 

8 pm FOX                                                 MLS Finals – Toronto vs Seattle


Toronto wins Classic in OT at home –must see video here is you didn’t see –best playoff game ever

Jordon Morris Goal Sends Sounders to MLS Final

Seattle Rides Wave of belief to MLS Finals Finally

3 Reasons Seattle Won ESPN Jeff Carlisle

Seattle Advances to 1st MLS Cup – SI

Toronto becomes Model MLS Franchise ESPN FC

Classic Match-up in Final with 2 of the top teams in MLS


Classy Goodbye from Klinsy

5 Things Bruce must do

US Pulls plug on the Grand Klinsmann Experiment – SI Straus

Klinsmann undone by arrogance  USA Today

Why Bruce is the perfect guy to replace Jurgen USA today

Interesting Responses on Twitter

Which Players have New International Life with Bruce in Charge? SI

All part of why he was fired – SI Straus

How Alex Morgan’s Family Invested in her Soccer Future


Liverpool Goes Top but Contino Injury a worry

Chelsea’s is Contes Team Now  ESPNFC

Swansy wins 5 goal thriller for Bradley’s first win 5-4

US Manager Bradley gets first win for Swansea

Swansea player Ratings


El Classico –Barca struggling

Barca needs the Win more

El Classico subdued but still important

Argentina/Brazil 1 & 2 in the World US down to #28 lowest in 12 years

Germany Wrap-up

Serie A – Italy wrap-up

Juve -Alves and Bonucchi hurt as they lose

Best Goalie Saves Oct 16

Best Goalie saves Last Week

Indy 11/NASL

League Meetings Start – Are the Cosmos/League folding?  ESPNFC

Year in Review – Goalkeeper

Year in Review – the Defense


Fri,  Dec 2

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Napoli vs Inter

2:30 pm Fox Sport 1                         Mainz vs Bayern Munich

Sat,  Dec 3

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Borussia Dortmund vs Borussia Monchengladbach

10 am NBCSN                 Tottenham vs Swansea

10 am CNBC                   Crystal Palace vs Southampton

12:30 pm NBC              West Ham vs Arsenal

10:15am beIN Sport Barcelona vs Real Madrid 

12:30 pm FS2                Red Bull Leipzig vs Schalke

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Juve vs Atalanta

Sunday, Dec 4

8:30 am NBCSN            Bournemouth vs Liverpool

9:30 am Fox Sports 1 Darmstadt vs. Hamburg SV

11 am NBCSN                Everton vs Man United
11:30 am Fox Sport 1 Augsburg vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Tues, Dec 6

Champions League

2:45 pm FS1                   Man City vs Celtic

2:45 pm ESPN2            Bayern Munich vs Athletico Madrid

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Barcelona vs Borussia M’gladbach

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games??

Weds, Dec 7

Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Real Madrid vs Dortmund 

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Tottenham vs CSKA Moskva

2:45 pm Fox States? Leverkusen vs Monaco

2:45 pm ESPN2            Olympic Lyon vs Sevilla

2:45 pm ESPN3             Porto vs Leicester City

2:45 pm ESPN3            Juventus vs Dinamo Zagreb

Thurs, Dec 8

Europa League

1 pm FS1                          Zorya vs Man United

Sat,  Dec 10

9:30 am FS1                   Bayern Munich vs  Wolfsburg

10 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs Stoke City

12:30 pm NBCSN        Leicester City vs Man City 

8 pm FOX                                                 MLS Finals – Toronto vs Seattle

Sun,  Dec 11

7 am NBCSN                   Chelsea vs West Brom

9:30 am FS1                   Borussia Mgladbach vs Bayern Leverkusen

9 am NBCSN                   Man United vs Tottenham

9 am beIN Sport          Torino vs Juventus

9:30 am FS2                   Schalke vs Bayern Leverkusen

11:30 am NBCSN         Liverpool vs West Ham 

Mon,  Dec 12

3 pm beIN Sports       Roma vs AC Milan

Tues,  Dec 13

2:45 pm NbCSN           Everton vs Arsenal

Weds,  Dec 14

2:45 pm NbCSN           Middlesborough vs Liverpool

3 pm ??                             Crystal Palace vs Man United

Thurs, Dec 15  –           FIFA CLUB WORLD CUP

5:30 am Fox Sport1   Real Madrid vs ??

El Clasico: Everything you need to know about Real Madrid vs. Barcelona

Saturday’s Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid is the latest in a long line of epic clashes between Spain’s top two clubs. With Real holding a six-point advantage over their rivals, a win for Zinedine Zidane’s side could prove decisive in the title race. Here’s what you need to know.

MADRID — As many as half a billion fans are expected to watch Saturday’s Clasico at the Camp Nou on television as Cristiano Ronaldo’s high-flying Real Madrid travel to a Barcelona team increasingly reliant on their superstar Lionel Messi to save their season.

Form guide and team news

Barcelona (WWWWDD): The hosts enter the game having been held to draws in each of their past two league games.

Real Madrid (WWWWWW): Barca’s stumbles have allowed Madrid, winners of six straight in La Liga, to pull away in the title race.

As for who will play on Saturday, Barca hope to have Andres Iniesta available following a month-long absence through injury. Jordi Alba is nursing ankle and knee knocks but could yet play. The home side’s formidable front three of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar are all fit.As for Real Madrid, well, one part of their attacking triumvirate will not be in action due to Gareth Bale’s long-term ankle injury, though Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema are available. Midfielder Toni Kroos is also out.

Real are focused on the title

Zinedine Zidane’s side are in a position they’ve not been in for a long time. They currently sit six points ahead of Barcelona — they have not been further in front since 2012 and that was after El Clasico. It was also the second meeting that season, won in the spring as the season headed into the final weeks.That night, Ronaldo’s goal at the Camp Nou completed a 2-1 victory that effectively won them the title; afterwards, Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola congratulated Madrid on being league champions. That was the only league title Madrid have won in the past eight years. Too long, they know. It’s been striking to the players and the manager at a club whose identity has been built through the European Cup, a competition they almost feel is their own, and one they have won twice as many times as their greatest rivals, explicitly say that the league is the priority this season.And so, El Clasico tends to define the season; this time it might go a very long way to actually deciding it. Win and Madrid would be nine points clear, with a head-to-head advantage, too. Barcelona would have to do four games’ worth of catching up. And yes, there are 25 games to go but that would be a huge gap. “A fist on the desk,” Nacho called it.The Catalan side are also in a position they’ve not been in for a long time. They’ve experienced something similar(ish) from the other side a few times in recent years, but not so early in the season. When these two teams last met, everyone knew that if Barcelona won, the title race would be over. They lost 2-1 and, as it turned out, it was still over although it got mighty close.That night, April 2, 2016, a run of 32 games without a Barcelona defeat came to an end, but they still won the league. They didn’t need to win then; they need to win now. Pessimism has taken hold.”If we win on Saturday, things will look different,” Gerard Pique said. But? But “if we lose, things will become very complicated.” The defender admitted: “Madrid have the luxury of being able to lose. We don’t.”Luis Enrique said: “It would be over the top to kill us.”Some fear that a defeat would kill their title chances.

How are Madrid playing?

It’s hard to really put your finger on it. Madrid are unbeaten in 32 games, a brilliant run whichever way you look at it, and yet some doubts linger, odd though that sounds. Ridiculous, in fact. They have rarely dominated in the spell, only occasionally really sparkled. That said, the variety and strength in depth is quite astonishing. No other team in Europe’s big five leagues is still unbeaten. They drew four games in a row, granted, but just when it seemed set to go wrong, just when it felt like maybe they were being found out, Madrid started winning again and never stopped. When the game that everyone declared a first real test came around, they passed it brilliantly, beating Atletico Madrid 3-0. They went to Atletico, the team that don’t concede, and put three past them. Another hat-trick from Ronaldo.

Barca are struggling badly

Madrid’s upcoming away fixtures are about as tough as it gets, offering hope that they will drop points: Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and Celta in that order. That gives Barcelona the chance to make up ground but, with 27 points from 13 games, this is their worst start to a season since the Frank Rijkaard era.Barca drew with Real Sociedad at the weekend and their manager even said that was a “miracle,” so comprehensively had they been outplayed. After the match, Piqué talked about “attitude” and insisted: “If we play like this it will be very difficult to win the league.”That game was the worst, Luis Enrique said, but it was not really a one-off: Messi had produced a mind-bending display to pull them through against Sevilla, they had been fortunate in Valencia, they were unable to score against Málaga and they have been beaten twice. At Celta, they were overrun. Something that used to happen very rarely is being repeated now. El Clasicois an obligation, but an opportunity to. “A chance to rebel,” Javier Mascherano called it.

Will Zidane go for the jugular?

It’s a big decision for the Madrid boss. In the absence of one or more of the “BBC” — Bale, Benzema and Cristiano — he has tended to take the opportunity and add an extra midfielder, as he did so effectively against Atletico. So, with Bale out, expect something similar.But how does the lead at the top of the table impact his decisions? Does it mean caution? A desire to ensure (in so far as you can ever ensure anything) that they do not see that lead reduced and the title race opened up? Or does it mean that he will be tempted to go for it and leave Madrid in a position about which most could have barely dreamed? In big games, he has tended to tighten up.

It’s never ‘just a game’

After 114 years of the biggest footballing rivalry in the world, one thing is clear: no game has what this game has in terms of sport, politics, society and identity. “Just football?” one headline ran a few years back. They knew the answer: Madrid-Barca is never just football. But the football is the best, too. So are the players: you have to go back two decades to find a FIFA World Player of the Year winner who hasn’t played for Madrid or Barcelona.This game really is Spain’s derby: it’s not just that government figures show that over half of all football fans here declare themselves Madid or Barcelona supporters, it’s that even those who support someone else almost always support one of these two as well or at least have a non-negotiable preference for one or the other. They weren’t always the biggest, but they are now. And that’s not going to change.

Real’s historical edge

This will be the 232nd competitive Clasico although it’s only really over the past 10 years or so that they’ve started calling it that, a term borrowed from Argentina. It used to be the derbi.It’s pretty close, too: Barcelona have narrowed the gap in recent years but just when it looked like they might even it up, Madrid pulled away again. Madrid have won 93, Barcelona 90 and there have been 48 draws. Oh, and Madrid and Barcelona have scored 390 and 376 goals respectively.The chances of this finishing 0-0 are slim: the last time that happened was Nov. 2002, some 39 games ago. So, that’s jinxed it. Sorry.

The man in black

Well, he’ll be in yellow, the supporting actor so often elevated to lead role. This time, it’s Carlos Clos Gómez’s turn.Usually, the storm around the referee is decidedly ugly. Clos Gómez, curiously enough, has given both Barcelona and Real Madrid more yellow and red cards than their opponents over the games he has taken charge; there can’t be many referees with a record like that. Barcelona have never lost a league game with him, in 20 games; Madrid have won the same number — 18 — but lost four.These stats don’t really mean anything, per se, but try telling everyone that in Spain. Classy as ever, Zidane tried but they didn’t really listen. With depressing inevitability, there are some already moaning about the refereeing in this clasico, a game that hasn’t happened yet.

The return of Iniesta

Enrique would have liked him to play some minutes in the Copa del Rey in Alicante this week but he was suspended. He is, though, training fully with his teammates and his manager says he is “fully fit,” so it seems likely he will play his 34th clasico: more than anyone else, ever. They have missed him; that midfield looks very different with him in it.”We have missed him muchísimo,” Sergi Roberto said. “He is pure Barcelona.” The Barcelona that some have missed of late? After all, Iniesta doesn’t just play; he makes others play too. Over the past two years he has become a kind of combined Iniesta and Xavi Hernandez, the Barca legend with whom he combined so well for so long in midfield.”He has the same ability as Xavi to keep the ball but he also has the ability to go past people,” Enrique says. “Pure magic”, his manager called him. As for Piqué, arguably Barcelona’s outstanding player this season, he insists that, “relax, I’ll be there.”

Don’t forget the benches

Barcelona spent over €100 million on strength in depth: of their five recent signings, only one (Umtiti) was really seen as a starter but so far, it hasn’t worked. At Madrid, meanwhile, 19 different players have scored this season: of the outfield players, only the injured Casemiro and curious case Fabio Coentrao have not got goals. They have had injuries — of the team that started the Champions League final in May, only Dani Carvajal has not suffered an injury this season and he suffered on that night — and yet they have overcome them all. Sometimes, in fact, they have even looked better.Will they miss Bale, out for at least the next two months? Of course they will. Only they have done a good job of not missing anyone. Casemiro was the one they thought they would miss most, the man with no replacement. But after an uneven start, Mateo Kovacic has stepped up.

Enrique vs. Zidane

“We’ve got the best squad since I have been here… but we’re still stuck with the same lump as a manager,” Enrique said. The knives are out, that’s for sure. But then there’s always been a slightly odd sense that people don’t trust him. He has been here before and, he said, “you all ended up climbing on the bandwagon.” In 2014-15, it was a treble-winning bandwagon. The following season came a double-winning one.As for Zidane, the victory over Atlético was very much his success. Tactically, he surprised everyone with Isco just behind Ronaldo and read it right: at last, a Madrid derby where they weren’t outnumbered in midfield. Until then, most assumed that Zidane — soft, smiling, smooth, serene Zidane — was good with the group but maybe not much of a coach despite winning the European Cup. Now, it seems he has won almost all of them over. 32 games, remember. Top of the table. A European trophy.Statistically, it’s the best start to a managerial career that anyonehas ever had in Spain. Forza Football ran a poll this week: Is Zidane a lucky guy or tactical genius? The latter won, 73-27.

Players to watch? Try all of them

No game on the planet has this much talent — even without Bale, even if Iniesta doesn’t start in the end, even with Alvaro Morata and Toni Kroos still injured. Isco’s position will be especially interesting; will he be entrusted with a key role again? And will it be in what Zidane calls his “natural position,” No. 10, one that normally doesn’t exist in Madrid’s set-up?If Iniesta doesn’t play, that “other” midfielder will be under pressure to perform. Who will it be? Andre Gomes, Arda Turan or Rafinha? Denis Suarez is the player who appears best suited to their style, and best able to support Sergio Busquets in midfield. But no one has been as decisive as Rafinha, whether winning the ball back or scoring goals. For Madrid, Luka Modric’s return is cause for celebration.

But don’t forget those two

Forgive the stating-the-bleeding-obvious answer, the men to watch are clearly Ronaldo and Messi, the embodiment of their clubs for so long now. And they still are.The constituency is incredible, really. Ronaldo first came to Madrid in 2009. Seven years and 26 clasicos have passed since then. Plenty of players have been and gone, too: fourteen of those who started his first clasico are no longer around. Stars have come: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bale, Neymar, James Rodriguez, Suárez, Isco. And they have had had an impact: Ibrahimovic scored the winner in Ronaldo’s first Clasico, Bale got that Copa del Rey final goal, Suárez scored the winner last year. Yet no one has had an impact like Ronaldo and Messi. No one has managed to eclipse them.Last year for the first time, it looked like something was shifting: arguably, Suárez was La Liga Player of the Year and Bale seemed to be becoming Madrid’s most decisive footballer. But here we are again. Them, again. Men who have marked an era, scoring just short of 600 La Liga goals between them. Top scorers in their clubs’ histories, two of the three top scorers in clasico history, too — Alfredo Di Stéfano stands between Messi, in first with 21 goals, and Ronaldo, in third with 16 — and the top two scorers in this league the season too.And so it goes on.Sid Lowe is a Spain-based columnist and journalist who writes for ESPN FC, 

Title-starved Toronto beats Impact in instant classic to advance to MLS Cup

TORONTO — If Toronto FC’s enthralling 5-2 win over the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conference final second leg wasn’t the best playoff match in Major League Soccer’s 21-season history, it was close.The only other game that’s even in the conversation is a 2003 affair between the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes that the Quakes — who would go on to hoist the MLS Cup that year — won on a second-leg golden goal after trailing 4-0 on aggregate earlier in the decisive contest.Yet even that famous comeback by the Quakes, which took place on a narrow, pockmarked field inside a college football stadium in what was a lifetime ago for the league, didn’t have the big-time atmosphere that backdropped this match, let alone the constant momentum swings that turned Wednesday’s tilt into an instant classic.The Impact, who led the first leg 3-0 at one point, held a 4-2 advantage in the total-goals series after Dominic Oduro opened the scoring in the 24th minute in the decisive second match. But TFC roared back through Armando Cooper and Jozy Altidore to make it 4-4 before half-time and swing the series lead on away goals in their favor.Montreal edged in front once again on Ignacio Piatti’s strike early in the second half before Nick Hagglund’s powerful header sent the series to extra time, where Toronto scored twice and ultimately prevailed. TFC, which had never won a playoff game before this season, will now host the Seattle Sounders on Dec. 10 in MLS Cup. Still, the drama of how it got there won’t soon be forgotten by any of the 36,000 in attendance who watched through 120 minutes and a downpour at BMO Field.”There were so many twists and turns along the way. Down 1-0, up 2-1, 2-2,” Reds captain Michael Bradley said after the game, noting the added tension of the final 25 minutes, when another Montreal away goal would’ve required the hosts to score two more to advance.”At 3-2, it was on a knife’s edge because obviously we were pushing, we were the team that was still for the most part getting chances, but one play the other way, and all of a sudden we have a lot to do.”In most two-leg playoff series, an early goal by the visitors to go up by two overall would have been a hill too high to climb for the home side. But even after Oduro and the Impact struck first, Montreal never seemed in control and TFC never seemed likely to give up. Still, coach Mauro Biello rued the three set-piece goals his team gave up. And the Impact’s inability to find another tally before the extra period — during which time away goals don’t serve as the tiebreaker — was their undoing.”We’re disappointed,” Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush said. “We had the advantage, lost it, and got it again. Lots of emotions throughout the game. Toronto deserved the win — I think that they were the better team, especially in the overtime session — and I think that if we were to win the game, we had to do it in regulation, when the away goals gave us the advantage. Unfortunately, they capitalized on their chances in overtime.”As the drama unfolded during the match, TFC coach Greg Vanney was too busy concentrating on what he could do to influence the outcome to appreciate the craziness on display. Indeed, it was two of Vanney’s three substitutes, Benoit Cheyrou and Tosaint Ricketts, who scored in the 98th and 100th minutes to seal the victory.When it was finally over, though, Vanney, who spent 10 seasons in MLS as a player, was able to take a larger view of the contest’s — and the series’ — place in league lore.”The game tonight was a roller coaster,” Vanney said. “It went from obviously giving up the first goal, which wasn’t in the plan, to fighting back and getting back on top coming into half-time. So we’re preparing to lock down the game, and lo and behold we give another one back. … It’s been a stressful week just trying to do everything I can to make the guys feel like they’re ready to go in this game. They proved they were ready and then some.”Once I took a step back from the celebration, [I could appreciate] the excitement of the two games, the quantity of goals, the amount of attacking and back-and-forth and twists and turns,” Vanney said. “I can’t imagine that the experience of emotions that people went through, that there aren’t a lot of new soccer fans. For me, it’s the most exciting playoff event that I’ve ever been a part of or that I’ve ever seen.”On that front, he’s far from alone.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC.

Jordan Morris’ goal helps Sounders reach their first MLS Cup final

Jordan Morris scored in the second half and the Seattle Sounders advanced to the MLS Cup final for the first time with 1-0 win at the Colorado Rapids on Sunday.Morris’ strike in the 56th minute opened a two-goal advantage for the Sounders after last week’s 2-1 win in the first leg, and they advanced 3-1 on aggregate while handing the Rapids their first home loss of the season.The Rapids, entering the game knowing they needed a goal, had all of the early pressure as Jermaine Jones lashed an early shot off-target before his glancing header from a corner also fell wide of the net.Midway through the first half, Kevin Doyle had a chance when he raced onto a long pass, but his ball through the six-yard box went untouched.Jones remained dangerous, looping another shot high following a corner and delivering a cross to Shkelzen Gashi, who had space in the box but decided to try for a spectucular volley that he could not keep on target.Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer, who took over in midseason after Sigi Schmid was fired, decided to show more signs of attack after halftime and was rewarded by Morris’ goal within 11 minutes.Nelson Valdez played Morris in on goal with a through ball, and the former Stanford star took a touch before beating Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath with the outside of his boot.Morris stayed down after colliding with MacMath, who was playing in place of the injured Tim Howard, but he quickly returned to action after having his knee taped on the sideline.Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso was not so fortunate after picking up an injury and had to be replaced by Oniel Fisher in the 74th minute.With Morris’ goal, Colorado needed two goals to force extra time but despite increased pressure could not find a clear opportunity in the final quarter-hour.Seattle has qualified for the playoffs in each of their eight seasons in MLS but had never before made the final. The Sounders had twice made it to the conference final but fell to the LA Galaxy in both 2012 and 2014.They will host the Dec. 10 final if the Montreal Impact hold on to beat Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference final. Toronto will host the final if it can overturn a 3-2 deficit in the second leg on Wednesday.

Seattle riding a wave of belief, hard work and luck to MLS Cup final

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. — Brian Schmetzer had just been asked what he made of leading the Seattle Sounders to their first MLS Cup final, especially given the struggles the team had earlier this season.”I’m very proud of this franchise,” he said. Then his voice quivered, and his eyes welled up.He then said, “The fans deserve that. They deserve it.”Schmetzer’s sense of Sounders history runs as deep as anybody’s. When a reporter mentioned that the Sounders played in two NASL championship games in the 1970s, Schmetzer quickly corrected him, saying there was one in the 1980s as well. Schmetzer ought to know, as he was part of the Seattle team that lost the 1982 Soccer Bowl against the New York Cosmos 1-0. He was also the team’s manager in 2005 and 2007 when the Sounders won championships in what was then known as the USL First Division.On Sunday, Schmetzer and his players added to the team’s history. The Sounders rode Jordan Morris’ second-half goal, along with some rugged and at times desperate defending, to claim a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids in the second leg of the Western Conference finals, and a 3-1 aggregate triumph.”The significance of this is it’s now, and we are creating these moments,” he said later, having regained his composure.”The moment that we created for the 200-plus fans that drove or flew all the way here on a holiday weekend to Colorado, to the 40,000-plus fans we have every home match, it’s very significant.”It’s significant to the fans that were watching us in Memorial Stadium back in the ’70s. It is significant. It’s another chapter, but we’re not finished yet.”We have to make sure that all of this culminates with something really big, really great, a really special moment that people will take for many years.”Schmetzer is right of course, but in some respects, Seattle has already done something special this season. Back in late July, the Sounders were in ninth place, had just fired manager Sigi Schmid, and hired Schmetzer on an interim basis. Never mind an MLS Cup final appearance, a spot in the playoffs seemed to be pure fantasy. Nothing was going the team’s way.But Schmetzer rallied his side. Sure, the acquisition of Nicolas Lodeiro revived the team’s attack, even after Clint Dempsey was sidelined with a heart ailment. Roman Torres returned from a knee injury to help solidify the back line. Young players like Cristian Roldan and Morris expanded their games and emerged as players who could be counted on. Even Nelson Valdez, the poster child for Designated Player busts, regained his scoring touch once the playoffs started.Yet Schmetzer deserves his share of credit for getting the team pointed in the right direction again, and convincing the Sounders that what seemed impossible was indeed possible.That said, Schmetzer has had help of a different sort. Seattle has arguably had better teams in its MLS past, the 2014 Supporters’ Shield-winning side in particular. But there was something that always scuttled the Sounders’ MLS Cup dreams. There would be injuries to key players, like Ozzie Alonso or Mauro Rosales. Or there was a loss of form for individuals at the wrong time.Now, after seven years of MLS Cup playoff disappointment, fate, it would seem, has finally decided to smile on the Sounders. The team is mostly healthy, though Dempsey and Brad Evans can still be counted as significant losses.Seattle has peaked at the right moment. And it sure helps if your opponents start seeing attributes like health and form evaporate. If you find yourself benefiting from a dubious refereeing decision or two, so much the better. That dash of luck hasn’t been lost on Seattle, though it’s been the residue of hard work as well.”Those are all variables that are difficult to kind of align so that they come into play at the right time when we need it,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said.”But I think for us this year, that’s what happened. We had do-or-die games for the last three months of the season.”I think it instilled a good work ethic to win playoff games. Our confidence soared. We had guys healthy.”All those things I think are factors that you need to be in your favor in order for you to have a chance of winning the trophyIt also helps when you have a goal scorer like Morris. Much like the team itself, Morris had his ups and downs during the regular season. But along the way, he has shown a greater ability to ride out difficult moments during games and stay engaged.That attribute was on display in the second leg. Morris had been battling a stomach virus for the previous two days, and looked short of his peak. But the best goal scorers in the world have a knack for converting the one chance they get in a game, and that was what Morris did Sunday, neatly putting away Valdez’s pass.”The kid is not only strong physically, dealing with the [diabetes] that he has, but he’s also strong mentally, and I think that was what you saw today,” Schmetzer said.Morris even gamely carried on after taking a knock from Colorado goalkeeper Zac MacMath right after scoring. Morris lay on the ground for several minutes, and that led to an exchange with the Sounders’ team doctor, Dr. Michael Morris, who yes, is also Jordan’s father.”He just came out and was checking that all the ligaments were in there, but he was pushing where the guy cleated me,” the Sounders forward said. “I never yell at my dad but I was kind of yelling at him there.”Morris convinced all involved that he was OK, and then finished out the 90 minutes. When asked about his ability to better deal with such challenges, Morris indicated the only change is in his head.”I think I’m just playing with more confidence, and confidence is going to help you play whether it’s at the beginning of the season or the end of the season,” he said.”You try not to think about those things, but your play on the field is going to be about your confidence, and I just feel confident that the guys have been so supportive and helped me through tough times, and so I’m just playing with more confidence.”The same can be said for the Sounders, and now they’ll carry that belief into their first MLS Cup final.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Toronto vs. Seattle presents some intriguing matchups in MLS Cup

On Sat night Dec. 10, the city of Toronto will host the MLS Cup final for the second time, but the circumstances couldn’t be more different from the previous encounter back in 2010. That edition featured two nondescript teams in the Colorado Rapids and FC Dallas and was largely bereft of atmosphere.This time around, two high-profile sides will be featured in Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders. And if Wednesday’s edge-of-your-seat victory by TFC over the Montreal Impact in the Eastern Conf final is any indication, the energy from the BMO Field crowd should be off the charts.As for the game itself, there are intriguing matchups all over the field, and even on the bench. Here’s a quick breakdown of what can be expected in MLS Cup.

 The coaches

Neither Toronto’s Greg Vanney nor Seattle’s Brian Schmetzer was expected to reach the final as coach, but for different reasons. In some quarters, Vanney wasn’t expected to last the season, with reports overseas emergingthat he was going to be replaced by a foreign coach. But the TFC brass rightly opted for stability, and that has proved to be the correct call. Vanney not only has successfully melded the team’s designated players with its more humble elements, but he’s also made some astute tactical changes along the way — most notably a switch to a 3-5-2 — that have proved highly effective.Schmetzer wasn’t even a head coach at the start of the season, serving as Sigi Schmid’s assistant. But when Schmid was fired with the team in ninth place in the Western Conference, it was Schmetzer — with the help Nicolas Lodeiro’s midseason arrival — that turned the team around. He’s managed to push the right buttons as well, helping young players like Cristian Roldan and Jordan Morris grow while also squeezing some goals out of Nelson Valdez, who had been a disappointment before the playoffs. Most of this has been done, mind you, with star forward Clint Dempsey sidelined by a heart ailment.

Seattle’s attack vs. Toronto’s defense

Since Lodeiro’s arrival in late July, the Sounders have been heavily reliant — some would say too reliant — on the Uruguayan. But there’s no doubting Lodeiro’s effectiveness, and his mobility will pose an immense challenge to Toronto midfielder Michael Bradley. The U.S. captain will need to avoid getting pulled out of the center too much, but Vanney’s recent insertion of Will Johnson into the lineup should give Bradley some help in this regard.Another critical piece will be Morris. Toronto’s wing-backs, Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow, love to get forward, and with Morris excelling on the wing in recent matches, his runs in wide areas could force them to stay home more than usual. And Morris’ speed alone will be a threat to Toronto’s back line, which struggled to defend transition opportunities against the Impact. Emerging force Roldan and Andreas Ivanschitz — who has been battling injuries but started the second leg against the Colorado Rapids — will also be relied upon to take some of the creative burden off of Lodeiro.Seattle did look vulnerable to high pressure in the second leg against Colorado, with Tyrone Mears and Roman Torres often forced to just boot the ball long instead of playing out of the back. That is an approach that Toronto might want to make use of, especially with a partisan crowd cheering them on. If Beitashour and Morrow can contribute in this manner, it could have the effect of rendering Lodeiro and Morris ineffective.Toronto’s attack vs. Seattle’s defenseJozy Altidore’s performance in both legs against Montreal was immense, as he bullied the Impact’s back line. Fortunately for Seattle, it has two center-backs in Torres and Chad Marshall who don’t mind engaging in physical battles. The pace and elusiveness of Sebastian Giovinco is another matter. Seattle’s defenders will need to avoid getting into too many one-on-one encounters with the Italian. That will require Osvaldo Alonso to be at his tenacious best while also getting help from Roldan and outside backs Mears and Joevin Jones.Toronto feasted on set pieces in the Eastern Conference final triumph over Montreal, but Seattle’s size in the back should see it compete on more level terms in this department.Finals often see supporting players pop up to take the role of hero. For Toronto, Armando Cooper could very well be that player. The Panamanian is the most creative player operating in TFC’s three-man midfield and has shown an ability to stay strong on the ball and wriggle out of difficult situations.Bradley remains TFC’s metronome in attack, despite encountering some peaks and valleys in his performances. There have been moments when he has lost some critical physical battles, including one in the run-up to Montreal’s first goal on Wednesday. But his ability to pick out teammates over distance is a key element of Toronto’s attack.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. 

Champions League – Results and What they Are Playing For on Final Group Day

Twelve teams are through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16, with seven more vying for the four remaining berths when the group stage concludes on 6 and 7 December.

  • Through:Atlético Madrid (group winners), Barcelona (group winners), Leicester City (group winners), Monaco (group winners), Arsenal, Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund, Juventus, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid
  • Can qualify on matchday six:Benfica, Beşiktaş, København, Lyon, Napoli, Porto, Sevilla
  • Cannot finish in top two: Basel, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Celtic, Club Brugge, CSKA Moskva, Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kyiv, Legia Warszawa, Ludogorets Razgrad, PSV Eindhoven, Rostov, Sporting CP, Tottenham Hotspur
  • Qualified for UEFA Europa League round of 32: Borussia Mönchengladbach
  • Will finish fourth: Celtic, Club Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, Dynamo Kyiv
  • Full standings
  • TUESDAY 6 DECEMBER: all kick-offs 20:45CET

All information in this article is subject to final confirmation from UEFA. These examples may not cover all potential situations.

Group A: Basel (2 points) v Arsenal (11, through),  Paris Saint-Germain (11, through) v Ludogorets Razgrad (2)

  • Paris have the head-to-head advantage over Arsenal on away goals so will clinch first place with a win or as long as the Gunners do not overtake them on points.
  • Ludogorets have the head-to-head advantage over Basel on away goals so will seal third spot with a victory. Basel need to finish ahead of Ludogorets on points or will come fourth.

Group B: Dynamo Kyiv (2) v Beşiktaş (7), Benfica (8) v Napoli (8)

  • Napoli beat Benfica on matchday two so will qualify with a draw. Whoever wins that game will go through in first place, and both will be through regardless if Beşiktaş lose.
  • Beşiktaş qualify with a win and would top the group if the other match is drawn. If Beşiktaş draw they will only progress if Napoli lose, since Benfica have the head-to-head advantage over the Turkish side, unlike the Serie A club.
  • Dynamo will finish fourth.


Group C: Manchester City (8, through) v Celtic (2), Barcelona (12, through) v Borussia Mönchengladbach (5)

The positions are settled: Barcelona first, City second, Mönchengladbach third, Celtic fourth.

Group D: PSV Eindhoven (1) v Rostov (4),  Bayern München (9, through) v Atlético Madrid (15, through)

  • Atlético have won the group with Bayern second.
  • PSV must beat Rostov to pip them to third place.
  • WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER: all kick-offs 20:45CET

Group E: Bayer Leverkusen (7, through) v Monaco (11, through), Tottenham Hotspur (4) v CSKA Moskva (3)

  • Monaco have won the group with Leverkusen second.
  • CSKA need to defeat Spurs to finish above them in third.

Group F: Real Madrid (11, through) v Borussia Dortmund (13, through), Legia Warszawa (1) v Sporting CP (3)

  • Madrid require a victory against Dortmund to pip them to first place.
  • Legia have to beat Sporting to overhaul them in the race for third.


Group G: Porto (8) v Leicester City (13, through), Club Brugge (0) v København (6)

  • Leicester have won the group.
  • København have a head-to-head advantage over Porto on away goals so will come second if they win and Porto do not.
  • Brugge are consigned to fourth position.

Group H: Lyon (7) v Sevilla (10), Juventus (11, through) v Dinamo Zagreb (0)

  • Juve are through and will top the group if they win or if Sevilla fail to win (due to Juve’s superior head-to head record).
  • Lyon must overcome Sevilla by a margin of two goals or more to grab second ahead of their visitors. Sevilla won 1-0 at home so OL must better that victory in order to overtake their guests. One-nil would not be enough for Lyon as Sevilla would have the superior goal difference in all matches. Any other Lyon win by a one-goal margin and Sevilla go through on head-to-head away goals.
  • Dinamo will finish fourth.

New York Cosmos and NASL working to survive as league meetings open

The future of the North American Soccer League appeared to be in peril on Tuesday, as club owners and potential investors met for crisis talks in Atlanta.The NASL, which operates as a second-tier league under MLS, ended the 2016 campaign with 12 teams, but recently saw the Ottawa Fury and the Tampa Bay Rowdies leave for the third-tier USL, while Minnesota United is set to join MLS next season. Numerous reports have said the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers and Rayo OKC are in financial trouble.But the biggest blow of all could come from the league’s marquee franchise, the New York Cosmos. A report early on Monday stated that the Cosmos would be shut down. This comes on the heels of an Empire of Soccer reportthat the Cosmos had furloughed much of its front office staff.However, a club source denied that the Cosmos had ceased operations.”We’re in league meetings over the next couple of days,” said the source. “Based on the outcome of those meetings, then we’ll make a decision on the club’s future.”Another club employee added, “We’re working, but there’s no point in selling tickets when there’s no games scheduled. There’s a lot that’s up in the air.”The Cosmos have been a success on the field, winning three league titles since joining the NASL in 2013. Attendance has been another story. This season, the club averaged just 3,775 at Shuart Stadium at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, which saw them ranked eighth out of 12 teams and below the league average of 4,734.It would appear that the NASL has a stark choice in front of it. It could shut down and see some of its teams be absorbed by the USL — which is angling for Division II status — or it could attempt to carry on.According to one former NASL team executive, the Cosmos, and chairman Seamus O’Brien, have no interest in moving to the USL, and see themselves as a Division I franchise. They had hoped to accomplish that through the growth of the NASL.The Cosmos could have joined MLS in 2012, but rather than spend $100 million or so on an expansion fee to join the league, the Cosmos wanted to invest that money in the club’s infrastructure. To that end, the Cosmos submitted plans to the state of New York to build a stadium near Belmont Park in 2012, but four years later, the Cosmos and three other bidders have yet to hear back from the state’s Empire Development Corp. to see which proposal will get approved.”O’Brien’s vision is media, television rights, and with the Cosmos being a global brand, he saw the club as being at the forefront of that,” said the source. “That’s where he saw the future, so for him, the USL is just not an option. No second-division league in this country has ever been on TV. It just doesn’t happen.”That’s why the big issue for them was [the NASL] getting first-division status so they could sell sponsorships and TV rights deals. They didn’t just want to have a team. For now, they didn’t really care how many fans showed up. They were trying to get a stadium built and get TV rights down the road.”One source attending the meetings in Atlanta indicated that new owners for the Cosmos were being pursued, and that four investor groups interested in starting NASL expansion teams were also in attendance. It was unknown how far along those talks are.The prospect of new teams entering the NASL hasn’t done much to ease the sense of impending doom surrounding the league. If the Cosmos are shut down, and Ft. Lauderdale and Oklahoma City fold as well, then the NASL would be left with just seven teams, including the expansion San Francisco Deltas, who are set to come on board in 2017.According to standards for Division II leagues as set forth by the U.S. Soccer Federation, a second-tier league must have eight teams in its first season, 10 teams by its third year, and 12 teams by its sixth year, though a USSF spokesman confirmed that exceptions have been made in the past for the NASL.A USSF board meeting is set for next week, and a USSF spokesman said that “a review of all [U.S.] leagues is on the agenda.” At a roundtable with reporters earlier this month, USSF president Sunil Gulati said, “I’m fully confident based on the meetings that I’ve had that [the NASL] will go forward.”The current incarnation of the NASL was formed out of a split among teams in the USL. A hybrid league existed for the 2010 season, before the NASL emerged as a standalone entity for the 2011 campaign, and it positioned itself in direct competition with MLS.The league was much more decentralized, had no salary cap, and began competing with MLS for players. That strategy proved to be unsuccessful, as there was always the threat that MLS would start poaching the NASL’s best franchises. The Montreal Impact, part of the NASL’s inaugural season in 2011, had already committed to joining MLS. Minnesota United will now follow suit next season.Another NASL team, the San Antonio Scorpions, positioned itself as an MLS candidate, but the team folded in 2015, and its stadium was sold, paving the way for a new USL entry owned by Spurs Sports & Entertainment.Much of the NASL’s funding came from a now-disgraced sports marketing firm, Traffic Sports USA, who at one time had ownership stakes in three teams. When Traffic USA president Aaron Davidson, who also was chairman of the league’s Board of Governors, was indicted for his part in the FIFA corruption scandal, his involvement with the league ceased.But separating the NASL from Traffic’s sizable investment proved more difficult. Just last week, a report in The Telegraph stated that Traffic offloaded all of the Class B shares it owned in the league.The hope was that the settlement would spur more investment in the league. The coming days will determine if that indeed comes to pass.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. 

Klinsmann Undone by Arrogance – USA Today Nate Scott 

Jurgen Klinsmann is out.U.S. Soccer announced on Monday afternoon that it was parting ways with Klinsmann following two consecutive World Cup qualifying defeats, including a humiliating 4-0 loss to Costa Rica.In looking back at where things went wrong, a clear narrative comes through: There were too many promises, and not enough tangible changes. In the end, Klinsmann’s arrogance did him in.Klinsmann had a tall order when he came in as the USMNT coach and U.S. Soccer technical director in 2011 — not only was he tasked with taking the men’s national team to the next level, he was responsible in overseeing a new, bold youth development plan that would foster the next generation of American talent. Klinsmann’s resume was dazzling. He had coached the mighty Germany national team, as well as mega club Bayern Munich. No longer would U.S. Soccer settle for a good American coach. It was setting its sights on the world.Klinsmann came in saying all the right things. It was time for the country to think bigger. He preached a bold vision: American players should no longer settle for MLS teams — they must reach for bigger European clubs. The national team would become more ambitious, more stylish, more forward-thinking. They wouldn’t be content to sit back and defend. It was a brand new day in American soccer.He even demanded more of the fans. He challenged America to become a nation where soccer fans would confront American players in the grocery store when they missed a sitter. He wanted his players hungry, challenged, pushed forward to greatness, and a collective nation behind them. It was all so exciting.And then it all slowly came apart. Klinsmann’s promises for a new stylish, attacking style of soccer failed to materialize. His harsh comments about MLS soon grew into a rift, especially after the domestic league kept improving, paying its players more, getting better. All of a sudden seriously talented players were popping up in the league, but Klinsmann seemed to still have his eyes set on Europe.This all came to a head before the 2014 World Cup and Klinsmann made his decision to leave Landon Donovan behind, a decision that may have been justified at the time but seemed to many fans to be a crass way to send a message about what was expected of American players.Klinsmann’s teams put in uneven performances, and his maddening tactical gambles did nothing to inspire confidence in American supporters. Perhaps what was most frustrating was the seeming lack of development — for all the talk of an exciting new style of play, the team sure looked to play a lot like it did in the past. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but American fans had been promised more, and they weren’t getting it.Perhaps most importantly, Klinsmann never quite figured out how to perform both his roles as head coach and technical director at the same time. As head coach, he was responsible for picking the best players available to him and getting results. As technical director, he was in charge of pushing the sport forward in America. These two were often at odds with one another — Klinsmann would call out a player (or entire league in MLS’ case) publicly, a fair thing to do from a technical director looking toward the future. Then, as head coach, Klinsmann would be stuck wondering why those called-out players were so reluctant to trust him.In the end, Klinsmann is responsible for his own undoing. He couldn’t get the most out of his teams, and he never figured out how to perform both roles he’d been given adequately. In a small twist of irony, it was also his call for a more demanding national team fanbase that brought about his end. Seeing what was happening, he lashed out, saying those same American fans he challenged weren’t smart enough to understand what he was trying to do.  That arrogance smacked the most. The fans got smarter, they got more demanding, and when he wasn’t delivering, they pushed for his ousting. In the end, he got what he wished.

Bruce is the Right Guy

By: Nate Scott | November 22, 2016 7:50 am  

He isn’t the sexiest pick, but Bruce Arena is the right man for the USMNT job right now.If Arena is named the next head coach of the U.S. national team, as USA TODAY Sports‘ Martin Rogers reported is likely to happen this week, it will be a smart decision from U.S. Soccer. It will also be the safe one, but in this instance, safe isn’t a bad thing. And safe isn’t a boring thing. In this case: Safe is smart.As long as Arena is only being hired to see the team through Russia, this makes sense. He’s well liked and connected in U.S. Soccer, he’s gotten better as a coach in his decade gone from USMNT, and he can do a job for now. He’s also the perfect answer to Jurgen Klinsmann, who was fired on Monday after six years as the head coach of the USMNT.Why is Arena the smart choice? Well, for one, he’s a fantastic manager, someone who’s shown an ability to win at every level. His Los Angeles Galaxy teams over the last decade have produced some of the most gorgeous, free-flowing, attacking soccer in MLS. He’s shown an ability to work with established veterans and rising stars, young and old alike.He brought along Gyasi Zardes into the first team and into the national team picture, had great success with Giovani dos Santos and Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard, and got the last bit (and more) out of Landon Donovan. He convinced Robbie Rogers to come out of retirement following Rogers’ decision to come out as gay, then helped Rogers reinvent himself as an outside defender (and one of the best in the league).Arena is also a smart choice because of his close ties with MLS, which is an underratedly important part of everything going on right now. Klinsmann spoke negatively of the domestic league many times, a decision he made to try and push players to top leagues, perhaps not realizing that by doing so he was alienating a great portion of his talent pool (and not realizing how quickly the level of MLS was improving). Arena will have no such problems. And while he will have to explain his comments about foreign-born American playersto his team, I highly doubt he’ll make the mistake of continuing to express that opinion, as Klinsmann did with his negative view of MLS throughout his tenure.

The complaints that Arena is merely a re-tread, a running back of a coach who already had his shot with the team from 1998-2006, are fair. U.S. Soccer should be looking forward, not backward. But for now, if this is merely a stewardship position to see the team through the 2018 World Cup, I’m on board. From there, U.S. Soccer can get more ambitious, perhaps bringing in someone like Oscar Pareja, the FC Dallas coach who’s shown a unique ability to foster and develop young talent and build attacking teams.This is all about the situation. The U.S. is in the middle of a qualifying campaign and can’t bring in someone right now who wants to tear the thing down and start fresh. The team needs someone who knows the players, knows the organization, and can get results quickly. That’s Arena.It’s been a decade since he was in charge of the USMNT, and he’s only gotten better as a manager. He’s more adaptable, more forward-thinking, and has built some beautiful teams in Los Angeles. If he can resist the urge to bring back his old favorites (I love Donovan but now is not the time), he’s the right choice to get the U.S. to Russia.

Which players have new international life in Bruce Arena’s USMNT?

ALEXANDER ABNOSTuesday November 22nd, 2016

In the space of a week, the complexion of the U.S. national team has changed entirely. Gone is the eternally-optimistic, build-for-the-future ethos of Jurgen Klinsmann, undone by a duo of bad results in World Cup qualifying and prior events that signaled that his project simply wasn’t quite working out the way U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati thought it should.In his place is the pragmatic solution: Bruce Arena, back as national team manager for the second time, with a simple mandate: Correct the course of the team in World Cup qualifying, and lead it to success in Russia in 2018. Hanging in the balance of the change, of course, are the players. “No names are off the table,” Arena insisted in a Tuesday conference call with reporters following his hiring announcement. “However, I’d say it’s highly unlikely that we’re going to bring many new players into the program. We’re at a time when we need to get results.” In other words, Arena’s changes will likely be incremental, not sweeping.With that in mind, here are the players who could benefit from the change in leadership atop the U.S. men’s national team–and some who could find themselves on the way out of the picture sooner rather than later.


Players who could benefit 

Dax McCarty, New York Red Bulls

Among Klinsmann’s missteps as U.S. national team coach was his dead-set insistence on playing Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones together in central midfield. This happened regardless of formation or tactics so long as both were even remotely healthy, and doing this created a sudden lack of experienced depth at the position. In the meantime, Jones and security blanket Kyle Beckerman got up there in age (Jones is 36, Beckerman is 34), and McCarty was developing into MLS’s best all-around midfield facilitator. However, the Red Bulls linchpin never received a cap under Klinsmann despite getting a handful under Bob Bradley (the last coming in 2011). Arena will be well aware of McCarty’s talents, having been a coach in MLS for almost the entirety of McCarty’s pro career. The Red Bulls captain has a great reputation as a teammate around the league, and is good enough of a two-way player that he would be capable of stepping in as a starter when Bradley is injured, unavailable, or badly out of form. He plays within himself, works for the team, and has shown willingness to mentor younger players; The quintessential Arena player.

Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City

In his previous stint as U.S. manager, Arena was known to reward players for consistently good MLS performances with a chance at the national team level. That’s how Clint Dempsey began his national career as a young player, and how players like Jimmy Conrad and Brian Ching were able to be valuable contributors as first-time call-ups despite being MLS vets. For Klinsmann, those situations happened far less often. Feilhaber was the prime example of this, with the midfielder receiving no call-ups since 2014 despite racking up 28 combined assists in the 2015 and 2016 regular seasons (in the league’s top three both times). A personality clash between Feilhaber and Klinsmann may have had a lot to do with Feilhaber’s absence, and the players’s pointed comments toward Klinsmann before the start of the 2016 season certainly didn’t help. On a Tuesday conference call with reporters, Arena indicated that those incidents won’t have much bearing on Feilhaber’s future. “I think they and others are good players,” said Arena in response to a question about Feilhaber and Queretaro left back Jonathan Bornstein. “We’re going to give those type of players an opportunity to be back in the national team program.”Based on play alone, Arena would be crazy not to. For a team that has talented strikers but often lacks the dynamism to break teams down in the final third, a creative presence like Feilhaber would be a welcome addition.

Matt Hedges, FC Dallas

Count Hedges in the “undeservedly spurned” camp along with Feilhaber and McCarty. The FC Dallas man has been an every-game starter for FC Dallas since his first season in the league, became club captain in 2014, and was named the 2016 MLS Defender Of The Year. That’s an impressive résumé, but it only earned him one cap under Klinsmann—a substitute appearance against Panama in a February 2015 friendly. Unfortunately for Hedges, Arena will already find the cupboard well-stocked with center back options. John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, and Steve Birnbaum have all gotten time under Klinsmann, and while all have experienced dips in performance, all have proved they belong at the international level. Still, look for Hedges to get a shot to break into that group, where he could earn a role similar to Birnbaum or, perhaps, displace Gonzlaez or Besler if either is off his game. Earning a first-choice starting nod alongside Brooks and Cameron is unlikely in this cycle, but you never know.

Robbie Rogers, LA Galaxy

Whereas McCarty, Feilhaber, and Hedges could earn roles on the national team thanks to their good MLS performances, count Rogers as a player that will benefit for some slightly different reasons. For one thing, he fills a position of need. Klinsmann never sufficiently addressed the U.S.’s gaping hole at left back in his five years at the helm of the national team, evidenced by playing Besler there this year, despite the fact that he hasn’t played there at any level since his rookie year with Kansas City in 2009. Rogers started his career (and earned 18 U.S. national team caps) as a winger, but has been a dependable member of Arena’s Galaxy teams at left back since returning to the league in 2013. In 2016 he even showed some flexibility by switching to right back to make room for Ashley Cole.There are a few other players who could benefit the same way: Jorge Villafaña, Bornstein and Justin Morrow, for instance. But none of those players has the trust of Arena the same way Rogers does, having worked with him at the Galaxy for years. That is all to say nothing of Rogers’ considerable skill set, which balances hard defensive work with intelligent runs forward and consistently good service from wide positions.

Ethan Horvath, Molde | Bill Hamid, D.C. United

Like Rogers, Horvath and Hamid are the players best-positioned to take advantage of a positional weakness. With Tim Howard injured (and aging) and Brad Guzan struggling to get time at Middlesbrough, the U.S. goalkeeper position is as wide-open as it’s been in several generations. Klinsmann declined to groom a true successor to the Howard/Guzan duo, which means Arena may decide to do so in the team’s first games under his watch.

Horvath is inexperienced at the full international level, but he has been getting consistent time as the No. 1 for Norwegian power Molde, and has experience training with the group under Klinsmann. However, Arena is a coach that values experience very highly, so Horvath’s age (21) may count against him. Hamid isn’t that much older at 25, but he already has six seasons of strong play as D.C. United’s No. 1 under his belt. Based on that and his superb shot-stopping ability, he may be the one to come out the best from this leadership change.

Players who could suffer 

Timmy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt

Chandler’s form for his club has never translated into consistent success with the U.S. Klinsmann insisted that Chandler was the right play over DeAndre Yedlin in the November qualifiers, and based on how Chandler was playing for Eintracht Frankfurt alone, he may have had merit in that call. But time and time again, Chandler failed to deliver with the national team, and it doesn’t appear the switch was going to flip anytime soon. Fullback isn’t the USA’s deepest position, so it’s likely Chandler remains in the conversation at the very least, but Arena needs to be turning to players who can perform when called upon, not those whose potential fails to materialize on a different stage.

Kyle Beckerman, Real Salt Lake

Over and over, Klinsmann found ways to praise Beckerman the same way: “A pure giver.” Klinsmann wasn’t wrong in that assessment—Beckerman performed a valuable role for the U.S. when he was used, shielding the back line and distributing the ball effectively. However, Beckerman is now 34, and after an uneven season with Real Salt Lake, Arena could decide that Beckerman’s time with the national team is finished. That’s due in no small part to the play of younger options that are more likely to be able to continue at the 2018 World Cup, including Perry Kitchen and McCarty. Beckerman should be considered one of Klinsmann’s success stories in his time as U.S. manager, but it’s looking more and more like his time may be up.

Chris Wondolowski, San Jose Earthquakes

Similar to Beckerman, it seems from the outside that Wondolowski stuck around in Klinsmann’s U.S. squads mostly because of intangibles. Wondo may still be a reliable goalscorer at the MLS level, but outside of a few flashes with the U.S., there was never much reason to believe that he’d be an automatic starter (again, age has something to do with that). Aside from his locker room presence, the primary reason to bring Wondolowski to a World Cup would be for his goal-scoring instinct in the box and…well…He shouldn’t be in contention for a 2018 spot, so Arena would be well within his right to drop him.

Julian Green, Bayern Munich

One of the many contradictions of Klinsmann’s tenure was his insistence that playing regularly at club level is a must for any national team player. Green’s inclusion on the 2014 World Cup squad went directly in contrast to that, as did his continuing call-ups despite a mild uptick in performances with Bayern Munich. There’s no doubt that Green is a talented player, and he’s still young enough that a long and bring national team career could be in his future. But for an Arena-led team that’s trying to win now, one wouldn’t think there would be much use for Green until he finds consistent playing time and good form at the club level.

Michael Orozco, Club Tijuana

If Hedges is to get a shot, someone else will have to make room. Orozco could well be that player, having been given multiple chances to make an impact for the U.S. and never quite seizing his opportunity, save for that memorable game-winner in a friendly vs. Mexico at the Azteca. That’s not to say Orozco won’t still get invited to a camp or two—after all, he is a veteran with international experience, which Arena values. But at this point there aren’t many signs that he’ll be involved in the U.S.’s plan for Russia. He’s sporadically been involved in Club Tijuana’s.

Jermaine Jones, Colorado Rapids

Of all of Klinsmann’s favored players, perhaps no one was as consistently relied upon as Jones. As SI’s Grant Wahl covered recently, Jones wasn’t just a lock to start under Klinsmann, he was usually a lock to play 90 minutes as well. Klinsmann proved as much in the past set of qualifiers, where he played Jones for all 90 minutes of both despite his just having returned from a sprained knee. Jones isn’t likely to be entirely dropped from the national team now that Klinsmann is gone. Ultimately, Arena values quality players with experience, and Jones has all those things in abundance. But Arena is also perceptive enough to realize that Jones’s days as a 90-minutes-or-nothing mainstay are over, particularly since he never really found a way to gel effectively alongside Michael Bradley in the middle of the park.

U.S. Soccer pulls the plug on its grand Jurgen Klinsmann experiment

QUICKLYJurgen Klinsmann promised to lead U.S. Soccer into a new era, but after over five years, his position became untenable for a number of reasons, and he’s been fired.  BRIAN STRAUSMonday November 21st, 2016

Defiant to the last, Jurgen Klinsmann maintained this weekend that a U.S. national team in “a transitional phase” remained on course to reach Russia and that he needed more time to implement his ambitious plans for the program.He’s not going to get it. After all, Klinsmann already has had more than five years, and with next to no tangible improvement evident and the pressure mounting following this month’s historic World Cup qualifying setbacks, U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati finally pulled the plug on U.S. Soccer’s grand experiment. Klinsmann was fired Monday. He departs with a 55-27-16 record (28-13-6 in official competition), one CONCACAF Gold Cup title, plenty of unfulfilled promises and what’s sure to be a complex legacy.“Many are aware of the historic victories … but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes. He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come,” Gulati said in a statement announcing Klinsmann’s dismissal.“While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction.”No immediate replacement was named, though SI’s Grant Wahl is reporting that Bruce Arena will be brought in as soon as Tuesday.“With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth-consecutive World Cup,” Gulati said Monday.Klinsmann’s departure was tough to imagine a month ago, especially for Gulati, who staked so much of his own reputation and the federation’s finances on the charismatic German coach.  “We have not had a coach in 27 years that has started World Cup qualifying and not finished World Cup qualifying,” Gulati said before the U.S. kicked off the 10-game final round. “We’ve never changed coaches in the Hex … and I expect that to be the case here.”But no one expected the defeat, regression and tension that was just around the corner.

Klinsmann told The New York Times this weekend that, “If you really want to move up to the top 15 in the world, you need to have consistency in what you’re doing.” He was referring to his job security, but the comments are ironic considering his approach to managing the national team. On November 11, hours after Gulati offered his vote of confidence, Klinsmann sent the U.S. out to face Mexico in new formation that featured several players, including 18-year-old attacker Christian Pulisic, in new positions. The Americans were overrun in the first half and reverted to a more comfortable 4-4-2 only after veterans Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones requested the change during a stoppage.At the end of a troubling evening, the U.S. had lost to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, for the first time and Klinsmann was blaming Bradley, Jones and defender John Brooks for the defeat. Four days later, the U.S. was destroyed, 4-0, in Costa Rica. Several players appeared unfit or out of place and the capitulation during the second-half in San Jose was stunning to long-time observers of the national team. The U.S. had lost consecutive qualifiers for the first time in 15 years and earned fewer than three points during the first two games of the Hex for the first time.Klinsmann was hired to do more than win games. He was tasked with setting U.S. soccer on a new course—changing and improving the way American players are developed, the way they think about the game and the way they approach their careers.There were some good results along the way. The U.S. won the 2013 Gold Cup in spectacular fashion and finished first in the Hex that same year. Klinsmann proved to be an effective recruiter and enticed several promising dual-nationals to pledge their international futures to the U.S. There were results that remain open to interpretation. The Americans escaped a tough group at the 2014 World Cup and took Belgium to extra time in the round-of-16, but were outplayed by a significant margin in three of their four games. And they finished fourth at the Copa América Centenario this summer with a 3-3-0 record, beating the teams they should beat and losing to Argentina and Colombia (twice) by a combined 7-0.Then there were the results that proved to be part of Klinsmann’s undoing. It’s tough to imagine a coach in just about any other country in the world surviving the equivalent of the fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, which featured a moribund group-stage performance and the first home loss to Jamaica in national team history. Klinsmann lost a qualifier to Guatemala this year, suffered a four-game home winless streak to CONCACAF foes last year and saw his hand-picked coaches fail to qualify for two consecutive Olympics. As technical director, he bears responsibility for national teams at all levels.Additionally, his teams never played the proactive, attacking soccer he promised on a consistent basis. That’s evident via the eye test and is supported by plenty of statistics. For example, over the past three tournaments plus last year’s Confederations Cup playoff, the U.S. was outshot by a combined 292-169.Klinsmann has bristled when these issues are raised. He’s argued that catching up with the sport’s elite takes time—he’s surely right about that—and that those criticizing him don’t necessarily appreciate what soccer at its highest level requires. He maintained those positions this weekend, telling The Times, “What you need to do is stick to the facts. Soccer is emotional and a lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport …. The fact is, we lost two games. There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.”Last summer during the Copa América, he told reporters, “Over time we always said we want to move this program to another level. I think we did that over time. There will be some setbacks and there’s also a lot of explanation from your end that needs to be done to the casual soccer fan or kind of the more emotional soccer fan, so we still go through a lot of education explaining why certain things happen when there is a setback.”Insulated by Gulati’s commitment and the idea that any criticism stemmed from impatience or ignorance, Klinsmann appeared untouchable. But alienating U.S. Soccer’s customers—the fans—became a genuine issue. Public support for the manager has waned in recent months and attendance has been down. And publicly blaming his players following defeats, to say nothing of the constant tactical uncertainty, seemed to be wearing thin inside the locker room.“There’s a need to support each other,” Bradley said following last week’s rout in Costa Rica. “In moments like this, it does you no good to point fingers, to be looking around trying to figure out who you can throw under the bus. That’s not how it works and that’s not what real teams are all about.”Without the fans, without the locker room and with the margin for error in World Cup qualifying now almost gone, Klinsmann’s position was increasingly untenable. If there was a time to cut the cord, it was now. The next qualifiers aren’t scheduled until March, as Gulati said. There were questions about whether Gulati still would have faith that Klinsmann’s vision could come to pass, that more time might do the trick or that he’d share the embattled manager’s view that criticism or pessimism are signs of the very culture he was trying to change. There were questions about whether Gulati would absorb the financial cost of the firing or whether he had tied his own ego, mandate or legacy too closely with Klinsmann. Gulati answered them Monday. There had been one too many plunges on this roller coaster ride, one too many head-scratching decisions, one too many tough results. Faith in Klinsmann had been shaken and couldn’t be recovered. After five memorable, intriguing, controversial years, U.S. Soccer will move forward without the man who promised to lead the way.

Alex Morgan shares how her family invested in her future

By Alex Morgan Posted: 10/10/16 Updated: 11/07/16

Dear seven-year-old Alex,

I know you’re still really little, and that you’re probably too busy kicking the soccer ball out in the yard to pay me much mind right now, but I want you to take a second to look around at what’s happening at home every day.If there was ever a perfect example of a family functioning as a team, it’s Mom, Dad, and the three Morgan girls—Jenny, Jeri and little Alex.Everyone is pitching in and doing their part right now.Mom is the family’s very own version of wonder woman. She just started taking night classes to earn her MBA so she can continue to help provide everything you and your sisters need. (Some nights, when she’s not around to make dinner, Jenny, who is all of 13 years old, fills in … and she’s become a really great cook! You’ll love her chicken enchiladas). Mom has virtually no time off. Monday through Friday, she’s either working or going to school. So her only breaks are on the weekends. But you know better than anyone that she’s not using those days to sleep in or relax. She’s sacrificing her Saturdays and Sundays so you and your sisters can participate in sports.From the time you started playing soccer two years ago, she’s always been the team mom. And not just any team mom — she is, like, the greatest team mom in the history of soccer.It isn’t only that she never misses a game. And it isn’t just the orange slices and strawberries she brings for halftime. She’s doing everything she can to make sure you and your teammates are having fun. In fact, Mom just finished making hair ties for everyone on your team — she even used glitter glue to put each girl’s uniform number on her hair tie. How cool is that?And while Mom is transitioning between homework and hair accessories, Dad has been busy learning everything he can about your sport.He’s always been a baseball guy; he didn’t know the first thing about soccer. But when you told him a few months ago that you’re really starting to love the game, and that it was important to you that he watch you play, he got serious. Fast.Pretty soon he will sign up for referee classes, and he’ll ask you to join him. You’ll have great fun spending time with him and bonding over the sport of soccer. You’ll even get your own whistle and ref some youth games with him. Then, in a few years, Dad will move on to taking coaching classes. He’ll coach you when you’re nine, and, like Mom, he’ll go way beyond the call of duty. He’s going to be out the door every morning at 5:30 to work at his construction company, but he’ll always — always — be home in time to take you to practice. And you won’t ever hear him complaining about it.When you’re 13, Dad will do something that you’ll remember as long as you live. By that point, you’ll have developed into one of the best rec players in Southern California … and you’ll have done it in hand-me-down cleats. You’ll be O.K. with that. But, make no mistake about it, one of the best feelings of your life is going to occur when Dad comes home one day from work and tells you he wants to buy you a brand new pair of cleats.Trust me, you have no idea how cool it will be.He’ll take you to the sporting goods store, walk you back to the shoe department, find a salesperson and then say to that guy, “Can you bring us the very best cleats that you have?”Your mouth will drop when you hear those words. You’ll think you might be dreaming. But it’s going to be real, Alex.And get this: The cleats that salesman comes back with are going to be $320.When you see the price tag, you’re not going to know what to do. You’ll be thinking about all the things your dad could’ve bought for himself with that money—some new pairs of jeans, or replacement tires, or his own pair of top-of-the-line shoes. So you’ll kind of freeze there for a second.”Well, what are you waiting for, try them on,” he’ll say. “What do you think?”You’ll love them, of course. But …

“Dad, they’re sooooooo much money.”He’ll look you in the eye, and smile, and then say, “Let’s get ’em!”And at that moment, if it wasn’t clear already, you’ll realize just how much your parents are investing in you. Honestly, those cleats won’t look much different than a $100 pair—which, of course, would’ve been fine. And that’s the thing. That’s what will make it so amazing. The ones he buys you will have nicer leather than all the others, but the average person wouldn’t know they were special.

You and Dad, though, the two of you will know.He wanted you to have the best. And that will mean the world to you. When you wear them, do everything you can to make your parents proud, Alex. They’ll be proud of you anyway, no matter how well you do, but you know what I mean. Show them how much you appreciate their support, because you’re going to continue to rely on them as you get older.Things aren’t always going to go your way.For a while there after you get the fancy cleats, it will seem like you can do no wrong. You’ll continue to improve for the next few years, but heading into your senior year of high school—very soon after you get called up to the Olympic development program for Southern California and commit to play at Cal — you’ll tear your ACL.It will be your first major injury, and you’re going to be devastated, Alex.But your parents will pull you through. Right after the injury happens, they will mobilize on your behalf. They’ll call around and find you one of the best knee doctors in the entire world to perform your surgery. Then, for the next five months, they will help you in every way possible as you rehab the knee.They’ll leave work to take you to physical therapy, then go back to work, then come back and get you, then take you over to soccer practice—and, yeah, you’ll still show up to every practice, even when you can’t play.Initially, Mom will take several days off work so she can take care of you and help you with your exercises.This will be a running theme throughout your life, Alex. Both Mom and Dad will use up all their vacation days to be with you or to watch you play soccer. Every year, when December rolls around, there will be no vacation days left for them to take an actual vacation.But you know what, that will be O.K. with them, honestly, because they’ll see how skilled you become as you get older. They’ll take so much pride in your accomplishments, and they’ll be there for you, in the stands, as you experience your finest moments on the pitch. When you score your biggest goals and turn around, you’ll always see family members … jumping up and down, going nuts, showing you love.

That’s special. Don’t ever take that for granted.

When you score that huge goal in 2010 against Italy in the 94th minute to help ensure that the U.S. would advance to the World Cup, it will be a moment you always remember—the first time you are a real difference maker for the national team. That will be the point in time when you know for certain that you belong among the best players in the country. And, of course, Dad will be there, in Padova, more than 6,100 miles from where he lives because … of course he will. He’s going to be at every game you play, Alex, no matter where it’s being played.

You still aren’t going to be a starter on the national team at that point. But almost two years later, in Manchester, England, you’ll make it clear to the entire world that you’ve earned your starting spot with the team, and that you’re among the best soccer players on the planet. At the London Olympics, you’ll score the biggest goal of your life to send the American team on to the gold medal match. That goal will come in the 123rd minute, Alex.Wow.And, you’ll be happy to know that your whole family is going to be there to celebrate with you.Plus, get this: You’ll win the gold three days later.Alex, take my word for it, this sporting life you’re about to embark on is going to be incredible. In addition to the gold medal, there will be a World Cup championship in your future. And as a professional, you’ll play before passionate fans in Rochester, Seattle, Portland, and Orlando.All along the way, your family will be there for you. Know that you can rely on them. I realize you’re only seven right now, but look closely, Alex. Things are already moving in a wonderful direction. Sure, Mom’s working a ton, and Dad doesn’t yet know how the game of soccer works.But just you wait.They’re about to become the best soccer parents a girl could have. And all that you will achieve, you will owe to them.


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11/20/16 Time for Klinsmann to go?, Champs League Tues/Wed, MLS Conference Finals Tues/Sun,


Okay – so I have waited over a week since the horrifying loss at home to Mexico in Columbus and the meltdown in Costa Rica before writing.  I wanted to give myself time to calm down before joining the Masses in US Soccer calling for the dismissal of the GERMAN.  Those who have read my notes in the past – know I gave up on “the German” aka our US Men’s National Team coach Juergen Klinsmann long ago. Yes I will admit I was excited 6 years ago when we brought Klinsy in.  I was ready for more progressive soccer, a more attacking style of play.  But that is not what he has delivered.   I am not sure what I hate more – how horrible he is as a game day decider and manager or how smug and more intelligent he is than the rest of the soccer world.  You see Klinsy – despite the fact he has been seriously questioned at every head coaching job he has had – is untouchable in his mind.  His team loses and it’s the players fault, or it was part of the master grand plan to change things.  Listen I appreciate that he has brought in a lot of young players and given looks to a lot of players (especially players who have US parents overseas – read all our German players.)  On paper they are some of the best players we have Brooks, Johnson, Chandler, Johanson. But I think all the tinkering, the uncertainty with the players, the not confiding in players to build a base of players who trust him.  This guy has pulled idiotic move after idiotic move over the past 5+ years (Wondo for Landon in Brazil – really??).  The questionable moves have been countless, the wins impressive at times (Sweet 16 World Cup), Germany, Spain all friendlies mind you, COPA Final 4 appearance. The losses devastating – Gold Cup, losses to Jamaica, Guatemala, first home loss in Columbus, first home loss in home Qualifying, Gold Cup knocked out at Quarterfinals.  Klinsy continues to simply belittle the US fan – and act like we are stupid because we question him like any other coach in the world.  Listen in England heck in any other country playing competitive soccer – he would have been fired after the Gold Cup debacle.  Now – in this man’s opinion its time to cut ties and insure that we not only qualify for the World Cup in Russia – but that we build a good young, cohesive team of players that represent the jersey and play with the heart and skill and guile that American’s have always played with.  Sorry Klinsy you German –  your time should be over !!

MLS gets the Conference Finals started Tuesday night with the All Canadian battle of Montreal and Toronto with US stars Bradley and Altidore starting at 8 pm on ESPN.  Seattle and US youngster Jordan Morris host Colorado who will be without Timmy Howard at 10 pm on Fox Sports 1 – expect a full house in Seattle of over 45K!  Still the best atmosphere in US soccer in my mind.  Sunday Colorado will host the return leg at 4 pm on ESPN, while Toronto host their 2nd leg game next Wed eve 7 pm on ESPN.

Back to Champions League play this week with a few big games on the docket Tues/Wed in Match Day 5 –  The winner of Juventus and Sevilla advances to the knock-out round.  Leicester City and Monaco can advance with home wins as Bayern Leverkusen, Real Madrid, Man City, Benifica and Porto can advance with road wins.   The top seed is at stake for Arsenal as they host PSG Wed at 2:45 pm on Fox Sports1.

Tues, Nov 22

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox States    Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games


Those Questioning me Don’t Know Soccer – Klinsy Says –ESPNFC

Klinsy thinks You US Fans are Dumb –Stars and Stripes

Its Time for Klinsmann to go – Grant Wahl SI

Is it time for Klinsmann to go?  Peter Nolan – Got Soccer

More Reasons for Klinsy to go – FCYahoo

13 Worsts for Klinsy as US Coach

No Positives in Blowout Loss –ESPNFC Doug McIntyre

US Loses – Pressure on Klinsmann – Grant Wahl SI

What now ?  Jason Davis – US Soccer Players

Defensive Lapses doom US – Leaves Klinsy future in doubt –EPSNFC

Embarassing Player Ratings –ESPN

McBride – No Fight in this US team? Video

Klinsy Takes Responsibility for loss Video – 1st time ever  ??

US Asst Coach Tab Ramos Saw Pulisic when he was 11 – Wahl Pod Cast and Story

Despite Injury expect Jones to be there – Wahl SI


Playoff Schedule

What you Need to Know – Montreal vs Toronto

What you Need to know – Seattle vs Colorado

Altidore a Key player in Toronto run to Conference Finals

What if Jordan Morris didn’t Come to Seattle?

Alonso’s Play could lead Seattle to Finals

Lampard confirms he’s leaving NYCFC

Keene Leaves LA as best DP ever

Lampard and Gerrard were a Bust – ESPN FC

Champions League

Champions League This Week What to Watch For

Who can Go Thru on Matchday 5?

Arsenal v Paris

Sporting v Real Madrid

Sevilla v Juventus
Monaco v Tottenham

Celtic v Barcelona

Europa League Thurs What to Watch for


Mexico, Osario – cap tumultuous year with point vs Panama and 4 overall

Spain Late Push shocks England

Pep Guardiola’s Surprising Ban on Player Revealed No Sex after midnight


Tues, Nov 22

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Sun, Nov 27

4 pm ESPN                       MLS – West Con Finals Colorado vs Seattle 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

7 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal  vs Toronto  vs 2nd Leg


Tues, Nov 22

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox States    Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

 Tues, Nov 22

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm ESPN3            Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

Sat, Nov 26

7:30 am NBCSN            Burnley vs Man City

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Hamburger vs Werder Bremen

10 am NBCSN                Liverpool vs Sunderland

10:15 am                          beinSport Real Madrid vs Sporting Gijon

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Chelsea vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox Sport2 Bayern Munich vs Bayer Leverkusen

Sun, Nov27

7 am NBCSN                   Stoke City vs Watford

9 am  beIN Sport        Genoa vs Juve

9:15 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Bournemouth

11:30 am NBCSN         Man United vs West Ham

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Real Sociadad vs Barcelona

4 pm ESPN                       MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

1 pm beIN Sport         Real Madrid vs Leonesa –Copa Del Rey

3 pm beinSport            Man United vs West Ham – League Cup

7 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Toronto  vs Montreal 2nd Leg

Fri,  Dec 2

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Napoli vs Inter

2:30 pm Fox Sport 1                         Mainz vs Bayern Munich

Sat,  Dec 3

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Barcelona vs Real Madrid  

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea  

 Champions League – This Week’s Games !!


Ronaldo returns home
Needing two more goals to reach his century in UEFA club competitions (and with 95 in the UEFA Champions League alone), Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back ‘home’ to Sporting CP with Real Madrid this week. Where better to bring up a milestone than the club where he started his professional career? The 31-year-old’s late free-kick helped turn round a match Madrid seemed destined to lose on matchday one before Álvaro Morata’s added time header sealed a 2-1 win.
Sporting v Real Madrid

Reus fit to feature?
Unable to face Bayern on Saturday due to a heel problem, Marco Reus could make his long-awaited return from an adductor injury as Dortmund look to strengthen their grip on top spot in Group F. “It’s a joy to see him in training,” says coach Thomas Tuchel, with Reus yet to feature this season, and his extravagant gifts could prove valuable against a Legia side that has improved since their 6-0 matchday one loss to BVB. Jacek Magiera has replaced Besnik Hasni in the hot seat and, after their remarkable 3-3 draw with Madrid, the race for a UEFA Europa League berth remains on.
Dortmund v Legia

Can Leicester lift the trophy?
Prior to this season, Leicester had not won a single game in European competition since 1961. However, as Claudio Ranieri’s side proved by winning the Premier League last season, the form book somehow does not apply to them. A draw would confirm their round of 16 place, and – with few expecting them to return to this competition any time soon – move them a step closer to the most improbable title success of all. Could it happen?
Leicester v Club Brugge

Sevilla out to scratch seven-year itch
Top of Group H and still unbeaten, Sevilla need just one point to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2009/10 – when they finished ahead of Stuttgart, Unirea and Rangers. Jorge Sampaoli’s attacking juggernauts have won their last three games in the section since drawing a blank against La Vecchia Signora on matchday one. Beating the Italian champions would also confirm top spot – so what can possibly go wrong? 
Sevilla v Juventus

Spurs hoping to turn corner
Tottenham travel to Monaco having finally ended a run of seven games without victory when a Harry Kane double sparked a 3-2 comeback win against West Ham at the weekend. It was the club’s first success in any competition since 2 October – and it could hardly have come at a better time, with Spurs needing all three points to bolster their Group E prospects. “It was fantastic to see Harry Kane score again,” said manager Mauricio Pochettino. “For me, he’s one of the best strikers in the world.”
Monaco v Tottenham


Big guns meet in north London
Top spot will be the prize on offer when Arsenal reacquaint themselves with Group A rivals Paris Saint-Germain on home turf, having rode their luck before claiming a 1-1 draw in France on matchday one. That result left a bitter taste in Parisian mouths, but Unai Emery feels it will be a different story this time around. “There are things we will change, mainly because we are a better team now,” said the Spaniard, who is hopeful Ángel Di María will be fit to feature. “It’s a game with big actors, great football players – that’s the beauty of it.”
Arsenal v Paris

Atleti aim to bury derby gloom 
“Losing bothers me,” said a rueful Diego Simeone after his Atlético side went down 3-0 in the Madrid derby on Saturday. “It’s not good. I’m hurting for everyone.” The pain of that result was acute, but the Colchoneros can pick themselves up by extending their record as the only team in the group stage with a perfect points tally. Already through following their last-gasp defeat of Rostov last time out, they will aim to make it five wins from five at home to PSV.
Atlético v PSV

Celtic eye 2012 repeat
Celtic fans will be dreaming of a 2012 repeat when Barcelona come to town. It was a famous European night at Celtic Park in the group stage four years ago as goals from Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt sealed a memorable 2-1 victory. Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, may still be having nightmares about his side’s 7-0 loss at Camp Nou on matchday one. “You can park two double-decker buses in front of goal, but the world’s best players always find the space,” he said.
Celtic v Barcelona

Maradona mark in sight for Napoli’s Hamšík
Marek Hamšík has underlined his goalscoring credentials in November with goals against Beşiktaş in the UEFA Champions League and Lazio in Serie A – and for Slovakia against Lithuania in the European Qualifiers. Another strike against Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday would move Napoli’s captain level with Edinson Cavani in third place in the club’s all-time scorers’ list with 104 goals, and edge him closer to Diego Maradona’s record of 115. The 29-year-old said: “I will never be like him, but beating his record would be special.”
Napoli v Dynamo Kyiv

Şenol Güneş’s art lesson
Beşiktaş welcome Benfica looking to leapfrog their fellow Eagles into the top two in Group B – and mindful that they will be through with a win if Napoli fail to beat Dynamo Kyiv. That would be an ideal scenario for Şenol Güneş, who raised a few eyebrows in Istanbul recently by making a bid to become the Henry Moore of football management. “I get asked what I do to mould players, but actually I don’t do anything,” he said. “I just scrape away their rough patches like a sculptor. Dealing with players and laying down principles in a team is the same as educating children. I think it’s something I’m good at.”
Beşiktaş v Benfica

Five teams are through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16, and 12 more go into the fifth set of group fixtures on 22 and 23 November able to join them with a match to spare. UEFA.com explains the permutations.

  • Through: Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Atlético Madrid, Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund
  • Can qualify on matchday five: Benfica, Napoli, Beşiktaş, Barcelona, Manchester City, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid, Leicester City, Porto, Sevilla, Juventus
  • Cannot finish in top two: Ludogorets Razgrad, Basel, PSV Eindhoven, Rostov, Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, Legia Warszawa




USA’s dire start to the Hex shows it’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to go

QUICKLY All of the evidence piling up points to one logical outcome for U.S. Soccer: The time has come to move on from Jurgen Klinsmann.

GRANT WAHLWednesday November 16th, 2016 Sports Illustrated

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — It’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to go.Whether the U.S. men’s national team coach’s boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, ends up agreeing with that opinion remains to be seen. But Gulati certainly didn’t give Klinsmann a clear vote of confidence in the moments after the U.S.’s dumpster-fire 4-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Costa Rica on Tuesday.“We won’t make any decisions right after games,” said Gulati inside the Estadio Nacional as red-clad Tico fans celebrated with glee outside. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation. Obviously it’s not a good start to the Hex, and today in particular was not a good performance.”The U.S. was putrid across the board in the second half, conceding three of the four goals and failing to execute on basic defensive aspects like putting pressure on crosses and marking the recipients of those crosses closely. The midfield gave the ball away too easily. John Brooks, Jermaine Jones, Timmy Chandler and Omar González all had poor games, but this was a total team effort when it came to the failure.Did some U.S. players quit on Klinsmann in the second half? It’s not 100% clear, but the fact that question needs to be asked says a lot in itself.  Here are the facts: The U.S. is in last place in the 10-game CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal with zero points from the first two games—the first time the U.S. has ever lost the opening two games of the Hex (covering a span of six World Cup cycles). Thanks to the comically forgiving tournament format, the U.S. still isn’t in any acute danger yet of missing World Cup 2018. Four of the six CONCACAF teams are likely to make Russia 2018, the top three automatically and the fourth in a playoff exactly one year from now against the fifth-place team from Asia. (Have you ever visited Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates in November? Well, the U.S. might get that chance.)  How low is the bar for qualifying for Russia 2018 from the Hex? Well, keep in mind that Mexico won just two of 10 Hexagonal games in 2013—two of 10!—and still qualified for World Cup 2014. So it’s possible to say now that the U.S. is playing historically bad soccer to start the Hex, and yet chances are still good that the Americans will reach the World Cup.  “When you lose two games, there’s obviously some concern,” Gulati said. “But Mexico qualified [for 2014] with 11 points. There’s a lot of points left on the board, 24 to be exact. As I’ve said the last two cycles, the sequence of games matters a lot, and we’ve had what one would consider our two toughest opponents early … I’d be more concerned if we didn’t have any points and it was some of the other opponents.” The conventional wisdom has always held that Klinsmann would only be fired if and when the U.S. was eliminated from qualifying for World Cup 2018. But now the calculus has changed.It’s time for him to go because Klinsmann set up his team to fail against Mexico with a major formation switch that should have been tested first in a game with lower stakes, a formation switch that left his players unsure and disjointed as a unit. It’s time for him to go because the U.S. was not just beaten but overmatched against Costa Rica, and it’s a giant red flag anytime you’re wondering if the players have quit on their coach.  It’s time for him to go because you can imagine other coaches, including realistic replacements like Bruce Arena, getting more out of the same players than Klinsmann is for a paycheck in excess of $3 million a year. And it’s time for him to go when the captain, Michael Bradley, says other teams have a “clear idea” of what they’re being asked to do, one implication being that the U.S. does not.

Is Klinsmann the right coach to lead this U.S. team forward?“We’ll sit down tomorrow and look at things,” said Gulati.When asked if the results against Mexico and Costa Rica will influence the way he examines the coaching situation, Gulati replied: “Well, do facts matter? The answer is yes. It’s simple. The analysis is always different based on results and what you see. It’s not specific to the coaching situation, it’s just in general. It would be the equivalent of asking Jurgen, ‘Is your view of all the players different today than it was four days ago?’ Of course it would be when you lose two games.”After the U.S.’s 3-2 loss to Mexico in October 2015 capped a miserable year-plus following the World Cup, we suggested that U.S. Soccer would be better off letting Klinsmann keep his job as U.S. men’s technical director and bringing in another person to coach the team.  That idea still makes sense. Klinsmann is a big-picture guy whose talents lie in formulating a long-term plan. But I also think such a move is unrealistic, both on Klinsmann’s end (it’s doubtful he would accept such a demotion) and on that of a new coach (who would be doubtful to accept the job with Klinsmann still hanging around).After Tuesday’s game, Klinsmann called it the most painful loss of his five-year tenure as the U.S. coach. But does he still think he’s the right coach to lead the U.S. team forward?“I think so,” he said. “But I obviously understand when you lose two games, and especially two World Cup qualifiers right after each other, that there will be a lot of your comments. That is just part of the job. It’s part of the game. I told the team at the end, the last cycle we lost here too, so we gave away these three points here as well. We didn’t give away the three points at home against Mexico, so now we are three points behind what we did in the last cycle, and we won the group with 22 points at the end of the day.”“We know we have to come back right away in March against Honduras at home and then away [at Panama].”The crazy thing: If the U.S. were to beat Honduras 3-0 at home in their next qualifier in March, the U.S. would probably be in fourth place—and the fourth place team from CONCACAF is likely to make the World Cup.But the four months that stand between now and March would be plenty of time for a coach to come in and get familiar with everything needed to move forward with the U.S. team. Arena is no stranger to World Cup qualifying, and his contract with the LA Galaxy is set to end next month.Arena would help the U.S. rediscover an identity, one that has eluded this team since the end of World Cup 2014. It’s time to thank Klinsmann for his work. He got the U.S. out of a difficult World Cup 2014 group, and he steered the Americans to the Copa América semifinals this year. He did a terrific job recruiting dual-nationals and spotting prospects like Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Klinsmann also happens to be a really good guy and a World Cup-winning legend as a player.  But it’s time for him to go.

Jurgen Klinsmann thinks we’re being harsh (for treating him as he asked us to)

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo 16 hours ago

After almost every outlet covering soccer seriously called for his firing last week — Yahoo Sports included — United States men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has hit back in a pair of interviews.On Sunday, he told the New York Times that all the critics  were “being disrespectful” and “ignoring the facts,” never mind that the USA lost both its first two World Cup qualifiers in the final round of games that will determine who goes to Russia. And that if you were to actually explore those facts, they would not be kind to Klinsmann or his record.Earlier in the weekend, Klinsmann said to Reuters that “When things go slightly wrong, there are some people who come out and are ready to chop your head off.”Klinsmann is, of course, well within his rights to defend himself. It’s just that in the context of his very own utterances and admonishments, his riposte does not just ring hollow but also hypocritical.Here’s Klinsmann speaking about the need for American soccer culture to hold its national team accountable in 2014:

“If you miss an easy shot in a game, you want the player to go to the supermarket or the butcher shop the next day and have a fan ask them why they missed that shot,” Klinsmann said then at South by Southwest, per USA Today’s For The Win blog. “We’re not there yet. But in the big leagues in Europe and South America, if you miss a shot, you’re held accountable for it. Then you don’t miss it anymore. This is something that will grow over time. The more it grows, the more often fans see [players] in the street and tell them, ‘You were crap yesterday.’ And this is important.”You can trifle with the psychological underpinnings of this motivational technique, but Klinsmann isn’t necessarily wrong about this. A certain social responsibility has helped drive players and national teams to strive for better. Public culpability can be a valuable tool, especially when you’re representing your country. This is a theme he has harped on again and again, for year after year. It’s just that when he has been criticized when results are slow in coming or altogether absent, Klinsmann seems capable of absorbing no criticism at all. Instead, he’ll invariably argue that his critics don’t understand the sport. And that they’re being “disrespectful.”“The fact is, we lost two games,” he told the Times. “There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.” Ah, another Klinsmann trope: If you think he’s doing a bad job, you know nothing.America, as Klinsmann seems to be arguing, needs to mature as a soccer nation to the point where the national team is closely scrutinized. But when his own shortcomings and failures are pointed out, they can’t possibly be coming from someone qualified to deliver that assessment. Or so goes his impossible logic.“A lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport,” Klinsmann said to the Times. But then this is true of every team everywhere. And there comes a point – which is now – where what matters “inside the team” doesn’t really matter when the performances on display and the adjoining results are as bad as the USA’s have been.In both interviews, Klinsmann spoke of the need for patience with a team in transition to find itself. These are odd requests to make, since we’re almost 2½ years into the new cycle, two major tournaments have come and gone since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Americans have already played eight qualifiers and Klinsmann has been in charge for well over five years. He’s not exactly been desperate for time.He also made sure to tell both the Times and Reuters that he’d spoken to President Obama at a German state dinner over the weekend. In the Reuters interview, with the author of the comically one-sided, fawning and uncritical Klinsmann biography “Soccer Without Borders,” the German head coach claims to have received the backing of the outgoing president.“He said, ‘Coach, it didn’t go well in Costa Rica, but it’s only the start of the World Cup qualifying and you’ll get back on the right track,’” Klinsmann claimed. “He understands that it’s a long qualifying process.”We’ll just have to take his word for it. Even though his words tend to be meaningless when they no longer serve Klinsmann himself.Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports.

Is it Time for Klinsmann To Go?

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Peter Nolan

If Sunil Gulati won’t dismiss Jurgen Klinsmann then U.S. Soccer must replace its President with someone who will after the Americans were humiliated 4-0 by Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying Tuesday night in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Coming on the heels of Friday’s 2-1 loss in Columbus to Mexico, the U.S. has now lost the first two games of the Hex, the final round of World Cup Qualifiers.With eight games yet to be played, there is still time for the Americans to right the ship and qualify for Russia 2018, the question emerging from this performance is this; is Jurgen Klinsmann the right man for that job?The U.S. has never won in Costa Rica, so it was always going to be a big ask for the visitors to come away with a point, never mind three, but no one could have foreseen a beatdown of this magnitude.After last week’s inexplicable switch to a formation his team had essentially never used before, Klinsmann reverted to his team’s familiar 4-4-2 against the Ticos. But the coach’s stubborn insistence on staying with Tim Chandler and Matt Besler as his fullbacks seemed a curious one, and neither player repaid Klinsmann’s confidence.But his fullbacks were simply one part of the larger problem. Central defenders John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez played as if they had been introduced in the locker room immediately before taking the field, with Brooks mystifyingly bad on the night.Despite surrendering four goals, emergency goalkeeper Brad Guzan was probably the best American at the National Stadium last night and Tim Howard’s replacement almost got his team to the half with a clean sheet. Almost.Montreal Impact backup Johan Venegas ruined that plan when he sullied Guzan’s clean sheet in the 44th minute after he beat Brooks to the ball when Gonzalez allowed Christian Bolanos all too much time and space to play in his cross.Klinsmann made no changes at the half and his players did nothing with that reprieve. Bolanos, another MLS man with the Vancouver Whitecaps, made it 2-0 in the 68th minute when he powered a header past an abandoned Guzan.U.S. midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were unable to generate any semblance of an attack throughout, with Jones especially prone to turnovers. Some, GotSoccer included, had called for Sacha Kljestan to start this match for Jones, who had to be feeling the effects of two energetic performances after his recent return from injury.Klinsmann stayed with Jones, understandably perhaps, but with the U.S. crying out for someone, anyone, to help gain some meaningful possession and complete a pass or two, Kljestan continued to sit.When Klinsmann did finally go to the bench he removed Christian Pulisic, who with Bobby Wood had provided the few dim rays of hope for the U.S on the night.Lynden Gooch showed some fight when he checked in for Pulisic and the Sunderland youngster could not be implicated for what was about to transpire.Joel Campbell, who had begun the night on the Ticos bench, entered the match in the 67th minute and within 11 minutes Campbell had doubled the U.S. deficit.Both of Campbell’s goals were gifts from the inept American defense as the U.S. did something generally unheard of from the U.S. MNT; it quit. It was not a pretty sight and afterward, Klinsmann told the press “I take responsibility and it is no problem. It is a learning experience for us.”It was an unusual, perhaps unprecedented move from the U.S. manager, who has been criticized in the past for his habit of calling out his players publicly.But it is too little and it is too late. Klinsmann took over this team in 2011 and the time for on the job training has passed. Gulati chased Klinsmann for years before he finally convinced the German legend to replace Bob Bradley, and as recently as Friday night Gulati continued to back his coach and technical director.But Klinsmann got one thing right in Costa Rica, this is responsibility and it is time for Gulati to hold him accountable. And if Gulati won’t, then U.S. Soccer has the responsibility to find someone who will.

  Jurgen Klinsmann says critics calling for his firing ‘don’t understand soccer’

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann says critics calling for him to be fired in the wake of two World Cup qualifying defeats “don’t understand soccer or the team.”Klinsmann said he was not worried about losing his position in an interview with the The New York Times, who cited sources as saying U.S. Soccer could decide the coach’s future as soon as this week.  “I’m not afraid,” Klinsmann said. “What you need to do is stick to the facts. Soccer is emotional, and a lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport. I still believe we will get the points we need to qualify, and I am even confident we could win the group.”The U.S. is at the bottom of the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after losing the first two of 10 games, 2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 away to Costa Rica.But Klinsmann, who earlier on Sunday told Reuters he was “1,000 percent certain” the U.S. would still qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018, dismissed the criticism that has come following this month’s result. “The fact is, we lost two games,” Klinsmann told the Times. “There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.”Klinsmann denied that his players had given up on him despite the lopsided defeat at Costa Rica, where the U.S. has always struggled to perform.”There was nobody giving up at that time,” Klinsmann said. “That was a normal emotional situation when things go wrong. When they get the second goal there, it was like a knock in your neck.”I played those games many, many times. The whole stadium goes bananas. It’s totally human to put your head down for a second. And then they counter us for two more.”Those games will always happen. We just couldn’t stop it, but the players did not stop trying.”Klinsmann looked toward the larger picture and stressed that he and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, with whom the Times reported the coach would meet in the coming days, had an understanding about long-term goals.”I always made it clear to Sunil, if you really want to move up to the top 15 in the world, you need to have consistency in what you’re doing,” Klinsmann said. “If you react emotionally, you will become a roller coaster.”


NOVEMBER 16, 2016

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Nov 15, 2016) US Soccer Players – If you find yourself surprised by the USMNT’s performance in Costa Rica on Tuesday night, you haven’t been paying attention. This USMNT–the USMNT that fell behind to Mexico thanks to a disastrous opening half and saw it’s unbeaten run against El Tri in Columbus come to an end as a result and then laid a massive egg in San Jose against the Ticos in a truly depressing soccer showing–is the new normal. 4-0 is the new normal. This is Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT.Off of the disappointing loss to Mexico on Friday, the Americans headed to Costa Rica licking their wounds and with more than a few questions about the direction of the team. Klinsmann’s 3-5-2 gambit to open the Hex had gone so poorly that any chance at building confidence into the match against another CONCACAF power, on the road, was dead on arrival. Rafa Marquez’s late headed not only gave Mexico a win in Columbus, it drove home the reality that the US is spiraling into dysfunction.That dysfunction was on full display Tuesday night. After escaping the first-half unscathed by sheer luck and Costa Rican benevolence, the US collapsed into a fiery heap in the second-half. Players all over the field looked bereft of the necessary energy and confidence needed to even make a draw possible in San Jose, much less a win.It’s true that the United States has never won in Costa Rica. So on that front the loss shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The Americans have gone to Central American full of confidence in the past, only to see their hopes of three points on the road dashed. Costa Rica’s unique brand of fast, physical play combined with a rabid home crowd is hard to handle. Steaming into San Jose on limited power made this game nearly a foregone conclusion.It’s not the loss that’s makes the game worth talking about. It’s the evidence, for all to see, that this team has quit on Klinsmann. The defensive showing was so atrocious it doesn’t seem real. Talented players, players who can boast of being regular starters in high quality, respected soccer leagues made egregious error after egregious error. Costa Rica has dangerous attackers who don’t need help from the opposing defense to put the ball the back of the net, but they’ll certainly take it.The Americans went to San Jose bearing gifts. If this was a diplomacy mission, then job well done.It wasn’t, of course. It was a soccer game, and one that will have the American soccer media asking difficult questions about Klinsmann’s job security for the next four-plus months. The USMNT won’t play another qualifier until March. That leaves plenty of time to ponder (again) whether Klinsmann is the right man to lead the United States forward.When asked after the game about whether he would consider a coaching change, Sunil Gulati did the usual. He suggested the organization would take some time to sit down and think about the result. That’s probably wise considering the humiliating nature of the scoreline and the dander that is up across American soccer. However, even a ponderous consideration of the USMNT situation doesn’t change the troubling fact that Klinsmann’s team isn’t just failing, it’s failing in embarrassing fashion.How the players are doing at club level resonates. They’re playing excellent soccer domestically. The player pool can’t be turned over any time soon, so at some point the excuses made on Klinsmann’s behalf stop carrying any weight. Other USMNT coaches have put out more competitive teams with half the talent the current boss has at his disposal. The argument that Klinsmann should stay on the job because there’s some notion it’s not his fault is defeatist at the very least. There’s no benefit to holding onto a losing coach. Especially when there’s at least some chance someone else, bringing a fresh set of eyes and a new voice, could improve upon the current state.The are reasons US Soccer might not want to let Klinsmann go. His contract buyout is likely significant, presenting a financial problem for a nonprofit organization that has other teams and programs it has to fund. By signing Klinsmann to a contract extension before the 2014 World Cup, US Soccer locked up the man they thought would transform their men’s program. Instead, they seem to have painted themselves into a corner now that the promised revolution is clearly not coming.Gulati also said when asked about Klinsmann that “facts matter.” The fact is that the United States was never in the game against Costa Rica, four days after they gave away their psychological edge at home against their biggest rival. The facts dictate that Klinsmann should be in serious jeopardy.As for the man himself, it’s hard to tell if he’s even sure anymore. When asked whether he’s still the right man to lead the USMNT forward towards Russia, Klinsmann replied “I think so.”  Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.

Pressure squarely on Klinsmann after Costa Rica thrashes USA in World Cup qualifier

QUICKLY Jurgen Klinsmann is facing the heat after Costa Rica destroyed the U.S. 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in

San Jose. GRANT WAHLWednesday November 16th, 2016

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — Costa Rica demolished the U.S. 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, throwing the continued tenure of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann into question and raising concerns that the Americans may not have what it takes even to qualify for Russia 2018.The brutal loss was the second in a row to start the Hexagonal, the first time the U.S. has ever done that in six editions of the Hex. The remarkably forgiving format—four of the six CONCACAF teams will likely qualify for Russia—means the U.S. still has time to recover and reach World Cup 2018, but it won’t have a chance with continued performances like this one.The Costa Rica goals came from Johan Venegas, Christian Bolaños and two from Joel Campbell, with the last three coming in a 10-minute span in the second half, which blew the game wide open.

Here are three thoughts on the game:


Sunil Gulati has a decision to make

On Friday before the Mexico game, the U.S. Soccer president went out of his way to say that the U.S. hasn’t fired a coach during World Cup qualifying since 1989 and didn’t expect to this time around either. But the loss to Mexico, keyed largely by Klinsmann’s overly risky decision to change up the U.S.’s formation, and a truly abominable performance on Tuesday in Costa Rica have to make you wonder if Gulati is rethinking that statement.There’s plenty of time between now and the next World Cup qualifiers in March for a new coach to come in and get settled, and it just so happens that former U.S. coach Bruce Arena, the most likely coach to come in if a change was made, is out of contract with the LA Galaxy at this point. Will Gulati consider making a move? 

The U.S. misses Geoff Cameron

Cameron is more than just the U.S.’s best center back. He’s also the vocal leader when he’s on the field, organizing the back line and setting up everyone else to take their defensive cues off of him. Cameron doesn’t get enough credit for that, but maybe he will now that the U.S. has lost two straight World Cup qualifiers without him on the field due to injury.The U.S. was a step slow all over the back line on Costa Rica’s opener, from Omar Gonzalez’s lack of pressure on the cross to the space John Brooks gave Venegas on his header. There were other breakdowns on that play, including Jermaine Jones’s poor backpass to Brooks, but it wouldn’t have played out that way had Cameron been on the field.Things just got worse on the succeeding Costa Rica goals: Brooks had an awful night, and Timmy Chandler continued to underperform in a U.S. uniform. Cameron makes other U.S. players better—especially Brooks, who was terrific next to Cameron in Copa América but struggled mightily on Tuesday.

 The U.S. central midfield needs something to change 

Klinsmann stuck with Jones for a long time in this game—too long. Consider: Jones had played close to one full game in 13 weeks due to injury when Klinsmann went with him ahead of Sacha Kljestan against Mexico. At least Jones had plenty of energy against Mexico, but that was absent for much of Tuesday’s game, and he continued to have difficulties completing passes (even some that were unchallenged). Jones should have come off for Kljestan at halftime, but that didn’t happen either.Bradley hasn’t been perfect by any means, but a partnership with Kljestan would have worked better in these games. A lot needs to change between now and next March. Jones and Chandler will be suspended on yellow cards for the next qualifier against Honduras.Will Klinsmann still be around to choose their replacements?

 No positives for Klinsmann or players after U.S.’ shocking loss to Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — There’s a tendency among athletes and coaches, regardless of sport, to try to look on the bright side after a crushing loss. It’s just how they’re built. The highs can’t be too high, nor the lows too low.It’s an attitude that can rub fans who live and die with their teams the wrong way at times. There’s a memorable scene in Nick Hornby’s famous football tome “Fever Pitch” where Hornby, an Arsenal lifer, comes to the upsetting realization that he cares about the results far more than his heroes on the field do.Generally, though, it’s a healthy approach for any professional to take, which is why hearing U.S. players and manager Jurgen Klinsmann talk following the Americans’ 4-0 shellacking by Costa Rica on Tuesday was so jarring. There wasn’t the faintest attempt to accentuate the positive after this one. Basically, there were no silver linings to be found.”We just weren’t good enough,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said after the Yanks suffered their worst defeat yet in a place they’d dropped eight straight heading into the match, the last four by multiple goals, to start the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with back-to-back defeats.”On a night like this, there’s no point in trying to look at it any other way,” Bradley continued. “You have to be big enough and strong enough to just be able to say we weren’t good enough. In terms of understanding what the game was going to be about, knowing how we needed to play in a game that had so much on the line, we didn’t have a good enough night. The reality was we weren’t good enough, and a good team in an environment like this makes you pay.”Did the Ticos ever do that. Backed by more than 35,000 red-clad supporters at Estadio Nacional, the home team took the lead two minutes before halftime when Johan Venegas nodded Cristian Bolanos’ cross past Brad Guzan.Once Bolanos doubled Costa Rica’s advantage with just over 20 minutes to play, the contest was effectively over for an American squad apparently still reeling from Friday’s last-gasp loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio.”I think they really gave us a psychological knock with that goal right before halftime,” Klinsmann said. “But still, you cannot then give away three more in the second half.”Klinsmann was unusually contrite in his postmatch news conference, calling the rout “the defeat that hurts the most in my five years” at the U.S. helm. He even publicly blamed himself for his role in the outcome, something that he has almost never done no matter how much his curious tactical or personnel decisions impacted a particular result.”There’s always things that you think about and say you should have done differently, you should have maybe sent in different players or different formation,” Klinsmann said. “Absolutely you question a lot of things that you have done, and I take full responsibility.”Still, it’s not as though the manager’s rare mea culpa absolves his players of blame. While the Americans have never boasted an elite squad in the 26 years since the returning to the global stage by qualifying for the 1990 World Cup and the six events since, they’ve usually punched above their weight in large part because of a never-die resolve.That determination was nowhere to be found on Tuesday, and especially after the second goal went in.”First, you have to come out here and play for the shirt,” Jozy Altidore said. “You can say whatever you want about tactics or formations, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have the desire to compete and win matchups, the rest doesn’t matter.”Both Altidore and Bradley talked about the need to “look in the mirror” and “have honest conversations” before the U.S. convenes for March’s suddenly crucial contests at home against Honduras and away in Panama. Whether Klinsmann is still in charge then remains to be seen.U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who said last week that he expected the coach to remain the coach at least through the end of qualifying, stopped short of guaranteeing that Klinsmann would keep his job after Tuesday’s performance.”We won’t make any decisions right after games,” Gulati told reporters. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation.”Whoever is on the sideline, though, it will be up to the players and the players alone to climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves when qualifying resumes next year.”Nothing is lost yet, not even close, and anyone that thinks that is sorely mistaken,” Bradley said. “In moments like this, it does you no good to point fingers and to be looking around trying to figure out who you can throw under the bus.”After the darkest four days in recent national team history, that’s about as bright as it’s going to get.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 Defensive lapses doom U.S. in Costa Rica as Klinsmann’s future left in doubt

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — The United States responded to last week’s loss to Mexico by imploding against Costa Rica in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Estadio Nacional, getting dismantled 4-0 by the Ticos on goals by Johan Venegas, Christian Bolanos and Joel Campbell’s second-half brace. Here are three quick thoughts on the match.

  1. Costa Rica thumps U.S. at home yet again

After Friday’s defeat to El Tri in Columbus, Ohio — Mexico’s first win in qualifying in the U.S. in more than four decades — much of the talk in the lead-up to this match was about the opportunity the Americans had to make some history of their own. The Yanks had never won in Costa Rica, going 0-8-1 all-time, including eight straight losses in the country’s capital city. Each of the past four matches between the teams resulted in a multiple-goal defeat for the visitors.But while the U.S. started better than it did during its last visit to the Costa Rican capital three years ago, when it was down 2-0 before the game was 10 minutes old, the final result this time around was significantly worse. It didn’t matter that coach Jurgen Klinsmann went with the same lineup and 4-4-2 formation that had the better of the play against Mexico in the second half in Columbus. The Ticos still dominated the match in every way. The Americans managed just one shot on target all night.More damning was the fact that they didn’t show the resolve that one would expect from a team with its back against the wall. Of all the losses in San Jose over the years, this one was far and away the worst.

  1. Defensive errors doom U.S.

Just when it looked like the Americans might get to halftime with the game still scoreless, Venegas headed the hosts in front two minutes before the break. The frustrating thing from a U.S. point of view was that the wound was largely self-inflicted.Jermaine Jones, a turnover machine all night, put center back John Brooks under pressure with a poor back-pass to begin the sequence. With Timmy Chandler caught upfield, Omar Gonzalez, Brooks’ partner, gave too much space to Ticos attacker Bolanos, who was able to turn and pick out the too-loosely marked Venegas, who easily beat Brad Guzan from point-blank range.That Venegas was Brooks’ man only added insult to injury. The German-American also lost Mexico’s Rafa Marquez in last week’s Hex-opening loss to El Tri, and he looked shaky from the opening whistle, giving the ball away needlessly time and again.The first goal was a psychological blow as much as anything, and it gave the Costa Ricans all the momentum heading into a second half in which they left no doubt about which team was the superior side. Bolanos ran by Chandler for the second. Another Brooks turnover gifted Campbell a breakaway that he coolly slotted past Guzan before the Sporting Lisbon star added a second moments later to complete the USA’s truly embarrassing performance.

  1. Was this Klinsmann’s last game in charge?

The morning of Friday’s loss to Mexico, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said he expected Klinsmann to remain in charge of the national team through at least the end of qualifying. But after the Americans started the Hex with two ugly losses for the first time in program history, Gulati will have to give serious consideration to letting the German coach go.Klinsmann’s lack of tactical acumen and odd lineup choices have confounded his players throughout his five-year tenure, but those players always seemed to bail their manager out by turning in a big performance when his back was against the wall. Not on this night.This was arguably the worst defeat the Americans suffered under Klinsmann, and it turns March’s home match against Honduras — a match that Chandler and Jones will be unavailable for because of the yellow cards they picked up in San Jose — into a must-win. Four months is a long time to dwell on a result like this one.If Klinsmann is the wrong guy, and the evidence now is overwhelming, the salary left on his contract that runs until the end of 2018 can’t be enough to save him. If Gulati is going to pull the trigger on the coach he spent five years luring before finally landing him in 2011, the time to do it is now.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazin 

John Brooks, Timmy Chandler found wanting in humiliating Costa Rica loss

The United States World Cup qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 is in a serious condition after an alarming 4-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Tuesday night.

The Americans were poor from back to front for the entire 90 minutes, as the Ticos avenged the 4-0 walloping the U.S. served them in the Copa America Centenario.

The U.S. now sit rock bottom of the Hexagonal after two games and will have a long time to chew on this defeat until qualifying resumes next March.


There were very few positives, but in the spirit of selecting one, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood showed some creativity in the rare instances that they touched the ball.


Too many to count.

The U.S. midfield failed to generate positive play and were unable to maintain possession due to the constant Costa Rican pressure. How many times was the U.S. able to string together four or five passes?

The number of errors committed by the defense was astounding, with John Brooks in particular having arguably his worst match ever in a U.S. shirt.

Manager rating out of 10

3 — You can understand why Jurgen Klinsmann opted to go with the same 11 players who featured in the second half against Mexico, but by half-time it was abundantly clear that tweaks were needed.

With the U.S. starving for a Sacha Kljestan in midfield or a DeAndre Yedlin on the wing, Klinsmann stuck with his starting XI until it was too late. The manager has a history of rallying his team when the chips are down, but the complete opposite happened in San Jose.

Player ratings: (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Brad Guzan, 6 — Made a pair of huge early saves to deny Johan Venegas and Bryan Ruiz. Was faultless on the goals. Did not get much help from his defenders.

DF Timmy Chandler, 2 — Another struggle for Chandler in a U.S. uniform. A noticeable lack of communication with Omar Gonzalez on the right side of defense. Had a second half slip that nearly gifted a goal. Was beaten by Christian Bolanos for Costa Rica’s second. Sprayed his crosses everywhere. Dismal.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 4 — Got burned by Ruiz early on and had to be bailed out by Guzan. Looked indecisive. Was beaten on a number of headers and allowed Bolanos the time and space to serve up the assist on the Venegas goal.

DF John Brooks, 2 — The titanic defender who was the best player for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario was missing in action on Tuesday night. This was the worst version of the player who performed so poorly at the 2015 Gold Cup. Got nutmegged early on by Venegas but was rescued by Guzan. Errors aplenty throughout and was at fault for the Venegas and Campbell goals. An abysmal display.

DF Matt Besler, 4 — The Sporting KC man was playing out of position and considering the situation, he performed as well as he could. Could only look on helplessly as Campbell got behind him and Brooks for Costa Rica’s fourth.

MF Fabian Johnson, 4 — Spoiled two free kick chances in the first half. For a team that likes to use the set piece as a weapon, Johnson elected to fire one into the wall and then ambitiously tried to beat Keylor Navas on the second. Failed to offer service to his forwards. Anonymous in the second half until his substitution.

MF Michael Bradley, 5 — Not enough positive balls. Seemed like Bradley was either playing balls back or was having to track back after a U.S. giveaway. Corner kicks did not threaten. Was a safety valve when the U.S. ran out of ideas when going forward, which was often.

MF Jermaine Jones, 4 — Gave away possession a lot and also lost a number of duels. Picked up a silly yellow in the first half. The U.S. needed more from the veteran.

MF Christian Pulisic, 6 — Quiet at start, Pulisic earned one of the free kicks wasted by Johnson. Also sent in the dangerous cross for Wood. Didn’t touch the ball much, but offered hope when he actually had it at his feet.

FW Jozy Altidore, 5 — Altidore was left frustrated by Costa Rica’s physicality. His pleading of teammates to push up higher at end of first half summed up his evening. Also doomed by heavy touches.

FW Bobby Wood, 6 — On his only real chance of the first half, was unable to get on the end of a Pulisic cross at the near post. At the end of the first half he made a great run and served up a cross himself that ran right in front of the goalmouth. With more help you wonder what he could have done.


MF Lynden Gooch, 5 — Replaced Pulisic in the 70th minute. With the match lost, tried to summon a consolation goal from the left.

MF Sacha Kljestan, N/R — Came on for Jones in the 73rd minute but never had a chance to leave his mark.

MF Graham Zusi, N/R — Replaced Johnson in the 77th minute. Just a few touches.

Spain’s late push shows Southgate how far England have to go

LONDON — This is how it goes for England, a team seemingly locked in a loop of unending misery. High hopes, great promise, then a kick in the teeth just as the scent of success begins to fill the nostrils.As Isco raced away to celebrate his 95th-minute equaliser for Spain, five minutes after Iago Aspas had seemingly scored nothing more than a consolation goal for Julen Lopetegui’s team, the story of the England football team had been condensed into 90 minutes at Wembley.Gareth Southgate’s players had been bright, energetic and confident. They built a 2-0 lead through Adam Lallana’s ninth-minute penalty and Jamie Vardy’s diving header from Jordan Henderson’s cross early in the second half.Yes, they were forced to endure lengthy periods of Spain dominating possession, but rather than cave in, as England teams have done in the past against superior opposition, they were solid. They held on and displayed the threat going forward that comes with pace and purpose in attacking positions.Then came the sucker punch, with England letting their guard down, failing to display the nous and game management required to succeed at the highest level. Southgate’s glorious coronation as the national team’s new permanent manager was dealt a painful dose of reality.That is no bad thing, however.Southgate, perhaps as early as next week, will be confirmed as Sam Allardyce’s full-time successor after four games in interim charge, and it might work in the 46-year-old’s favour that England’s frailties have been exposed, just as misplaced optimism had begun to grow during an unbeaten run against the collective might of Malta, Slovenia and Scotland.England went to school against Spain and were ultimately taught the lesson that nothing comes easily at the international level.There was really nothing to get excited about against the mediocre opposition England had faced under Southgate prior to Tuesday night, but a game against the dominant force of world football over the past decade will have given Southgate reason for optimism as well as cause for concern.”We played one of the best teams in the world, and I can’t have asked for any more,” he said. “But maybe not winning will be better for us in the long run, knowing what we have to do at this level.”Southgate is a smart cookie — not one to fall for hype or the misplaced arrogance that has often contributed to England’s failings — so he will use Spain’s late fight back to his advantage.He came closer than most to helping England end their wait for silverware with Terry Venables’ team at Euro ’96, and he has admitted to learning key lessons from that experience, in terms of the mindset required to end England’s days as also-rans.Can Southgate inspire this generation of England players to the success that the likes of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson all failed to deliver since the turn of the century?There is quality to work with; the emerging talents of John Stones, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are as promising as any comparable youngsters in the world game. Adam Lallana’s development into a goal-scoring midfielder at international level is another plus.The freedom of movement and pace delivered against Spain, by the likes of Sterling, Jamie Vardy and Theo Walcott, were similar to that which contributed to the 3-2 March victory against Germany in Berlin, when Hodgson’s young team sparked the kind of optimism and excitement that prompted many to believe England could win Euro 2016.That proved to be a false hope, but the ingredients in that victory remain, and at any level, pace and movement are a problem for even the best teams; Lopetegui admitted after the game that England’s “pace and quality on the break” were a concern for his players.One significant absentee against Germany and Spain was Wayne Rooney. Southgate has already displayed the single-mindedness and strength of character to drop the England captain, against Slovenia last month, and he might now be ready to contemplate going without Rooney on a more permanent basis.The 31-year-old, who is neither a forward nor a midfielder, slows the team down and makes England far too predictable. His leadership qualities are valued by Southgate, but Rooney no longer merits a place in the team.Alli, absent through injury against Spain, is a better option in the No. 10 role, while Harry Kane, Rashford, Vardy and Daniel Sturridge are all ahead of Rooney in an attacking sense.Meanwhile, given Jordan Henderson and Dier once again impressed as a midfield pair at Wembley, Southgate is likely to find it harder to accommodate Rooney than leave him out.Results and performances are the ultimate acid test, and neither has been good with Rooney in the team in 2016, so to take England forward, Southgate has to make the big call when the squad next meets up in March.”There is a lot of potential,” Southgate said of his squad after Tuesday’s game. “But there is a long way to go before we can consider ourselves to be a top team.”The building blocks are there, however, and Southgate insists he has shown the credentials to take the job permanently. “I’ve proved that I can handle big occasions,” he said. “Until this run, under this spotlight and in matches like Friday’s against Scotland under intense pressure, you’re never sure how it is going to be. But I’m pleased, and I think the remit we were given has been fulfilled.”The job will only get more difficult, but if anybody was under any illusion as to the size of Southgate’s task, Spain at least did him the favour of bringing that reality into sharp focus.Mark is a Senior Football Writer for ESPN FC.

Neat Note from the Indy 11 owner – mighty classy!!  I thought his handling of the Spring Trophy – bringing it into the stands for the BYB members to touch was one of the coolest things I have ever seen an Owner of Pro Team do!!  Congrats to the 11 !!

Fellow Indy Eleven fans,

With the end of a successful season fresh in everyone’s minds, on behalf of everyone at Indy Eleven I wanted to give our sincerest thanks for your support both on Sunday night at The Championship Final and throughout a historic 2016 for Indiana’s Team.From the first game of the year, a revamped roster fed off your passion and looked to match your intensity, resulting in a remarkable 19 games without defeat at Carroll Stadium in all competitions, including claiming the Spring Season NASL title with a 4-1 victory over Carolina in June. Adding a victory in our first playoff game in club history in front of a sold out crowd made for a perfect ending to a season full of wonderful memories at home.Following that, competing in Indy Eleven’s first NASL Championship Final in New York cheered on by hundreds of fans who had made the trip from Indiana was a special moment for a club only in its third season. Coming within a penalty shootout of taking the NASL Championship to end the year only heightens our focus to build from this foundation and come back with even more desire to win the NASL Championship in 2017.

The special connection between you and our players have made “The Mike” the toughest place to play in the NASL. That’s a relationship we cherish and look forward to building on even more moving into next year.Along with the magic made on the field, there are strong measures of growth for Indy Eleven off the field to take away from 2016. This includes the formation of the Indy Eleven Soccer Foundation, providing support for community projects such as Indianapolis Public Schools’ soccer program, an improved training facility at Grand Park and the debut of the Indy Eleven NPSL development squad. 2016 truly has been a landmark year for Indy Eleven.As we acknowledge these accomplishments, know that your club is working every day to fulfil our mission to win championships with and for the community. Both Indy Eleven and you, our tremendous fans, have grown a lot in three short years, and with your continued support we know bigger and better things are ahead both on the field and in the stands. We hope you will be there to #CueTheSmoke with us every game at “The Mike” in 2017.

Indy Forever,

Ersal Ozdemir
Owner, Indy Eleven Professional Soccer

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

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11/14/16  US Loses to Mexico 2-1 plays Tues Night 9 pm beIN Sport, Indy 11 lose NASL title game in shootout

So wow what a disappointing start to the HEX in a huge loss to Mexico 2-1 in a place where the US had NEVER Loss before Columbus.  We were there and the crowd and atmosphere was the same as always for this game – loud and overwhelmingly US – American Outlaw Strong!  I waited a few days before penning this late Sunday night – as my initial anger at Klinsmann (the GERMAN) for causing this loss and costing the US our perfect record in Columbus was compromised. His attempt at playing a 3-5-2 line-up against a strong Mexico side was both perplexing and maddening?  My biggest question was why now at home in Columbus when the US had been playing so well out of the 4-4-2 for months.  Why now with one of your best defenders (Geoff Cameron out on injury).  Why now with only 3 maybe 4 days to train the new formation?  The 3-5-2 is not something you can train all-stars in half a week?  If this is something we had played in a friendly or 2, trained for 2 weeks before COPA or something – maybe.  But after 30 minutes of just being dominated all of the field (we should have been down 3-0, instead of just 1-0) we finally switch to a 4-4-2 and wah lah -Everything is back to normal.  In fact we dominate the 2nd half of play with chance after chance before finally giving up the winner on a stupid unmarked header (WITH NO ONE ON THE BACK POST???!!!!&&&&????)  Why oh why do teams insist on not having a back post player?? Why?  What the heck else is the extra player doing that you can’t put one on your blind post?  WHYYYYYY??

Anyway back to the game – I thought the US had some good moments and while we didn’t deserve the win after (the German’s) stupid formation change … I truly thought the US did deserve a tie.  I thought the young 18 year old Pulisic (7) was at times the best player for the US on the pitch – though he did miss a chance to equalize on a easy first timer at the end of the 1st half.  I thought he passed a couple of times when he should have shot.  Still you could tell by the way Mexico had 2 sometimes 3 players tracking him that they thought he was the most dangerous play maker on the field.  Bobby Woods (8) was a deserving Player of the Match and was the US most dangerous threat to score time and time again.  Man he’s just getting better and better.  Altidore (6) was ok  – I still think he is just too lazy to play for us – but he had some good combination play and a decent pass to free Woods for the goal.  (though his losing the mark on Marquez at the end essentially cost us the tie).  I thought Jones (5) was rough and tumble in the middle which the US needed to try to thwart the speedy Mexican midfield.  I was surprised he went 90 however.  Bradley (3) played perhaps his worse game in the US jersey and its beyond obvious at this point that pairing he and Jones as co #6s is not the answer.  I am not sure what to do here  – pull Bradley and insert Kljestan and employ Jones as a lone #6?   Pull Jones for Kljestan and let Bradley be the only #6?  Really not sure?  While I was excited to see him as a midfielder, I really thought Johnson (4) looked lost most of the night, left wing nothing much happened, moved to right back behind Yedlin – he made a game saving slide on Cheat-Chi-Rito but otherwise was non-descript.  Yedlin (4.5) is a right back – leave him there.  I thought Timmy Chandler (5) actually had an ok game – though I prefer Yedlin.  Beezler (4) was just ok at left back – listen he’s a central defender and simply is not offensive enough to play the left back spot unless you want to just bunker in.  I thought Brooks was ok – but not spectacular a (5), Gonzales was ok in the air but man he can’t complete a pass to save his life (3.5).  So what’s next for the USA?  Well a 4-4-2 obviously has to be the formation as we travel to Costa Rica Tuesday 9 pm on beIN Sport in an all important match.  Listen the US has never won at Costa Rica and has only tied once in 9 tries.  I think if they can pull of a tie and earn a point that would be an incredible result, but honestly this is a game we should lose on the road.  0-2 to start the hex won’t be great – but it’s a 10 game marathon and the US can still right the ship.  We lost 1 game we should have won or at least tied at home and while the perfect dos a cero record vs Mexico, and lifting the shield of invincibility in Columbus lies at the feet of the German, we still should advance thru the hex unless he pulls more idiotic moves.

Moving to the Indy 11 – it was a disappointing loss in a shootout to the NY Cosmos late Sunday night.  I thought the 11 played well enough to pull off the win in regulation of what was a fairly even game.  Huge shame that game was on CBS Sports Network late on a Sunday night instead of ESPN 2 or ESPNU or something.  The 2,000 seat unfilled stadium was a joke and the camera angles for the game on TV even funnier.  I have seen high school games covered locally with a better production.  If the NASL thinks they deserve to be a Top Flight Soccer league in the US – this was not how to do it.  Still what a fantastic season for our Indy 11, coaches Tim Hankinson and Tim Regan and all the players and the entire Indy 11 Organization. Congrats on a Great Season !!

Got some big games coming up this weekend with Man U hosting Arsenal Sat at 7 am on NBCSN, Dortmund and US youngster Christian Pulisic hosting Bayern Munich at 12:30 pm on Fox Sport 2, and the Madrid Derby with Atletico hosting Real Madrid at 2:45 pm on beIN Sport and Sunday AC Milan vs Inter at 2:45 on beIN Sport.


Carmel FC’s U15 Girls – Gold and Blue took home Championship Trophies from the Fall Fusion Classic last weekend. Congrats ladies and Coaches!



US Needs a Result vs Costa Rica – or Else – NBCSN

US hurt by Formation but there were Postives – ESPN FC – McIntyre

Big Questions for Klinnsman and Bradley –NBCSN

US Hits Low Ebbs in loss – Jason Davis ESPN FC

US Loss caused by Jurgen’s needless Tactical Changes-ESPNFC

Klinsmann throws midfield under bus after Mexico loss

Bradley Laments Gameplan vs Mexico

Player Ratings ESPN FC

Player ratings |

Player Ratings Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes- you rate the players

Pulisic Shows he is Worthy of Hype –Hirsey ESPNFC

Marquez late corner dooms US

No Troubles between US and Mexico Fans

US Ladies Pound Romania

Indy 11

Recap of 0-0 loss in Shootout to NY Cosmos

Indy 11 lose a close one – Indy Star-Kevin Johnson


Tues, Nov 15

3 pm beIN Sports       Bolivia vs Paraguay

6:30 pm beIN Sports  Chile vs Uraguay

9 pm BeIN Sport   Costa Rica vs USA

Sat, Nov 19

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Arsenal

10 am NBCSN                Southhampton vs Liverpool

10 am CNBC?                 Crystal Palace vs Man City

12:30 pm                         NBCSN         Tottenham vs West Ham

Sun, Nov 20

11 am NBCSN                Middlesborough vs Chelsea

2:45 pm beIN Sport  AC Milan vs Inter

Tues, Nov 22

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1     CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm ESPN3             Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Leicester City vs Club Brugge

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS –    West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1       Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm ESPN3            Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

Sun, Nov26

11 am NBCSN                Middlesborough vs Chelsea

2:45 pm beIN Sport  AC Milan vs Inter

4 pm ESPN                    MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

7 pm ESPN                    MLS – East Con Finals Toronto  vs Montreal 2nd Leg

The scenarios are clear for USMNT: secure a result in Costa Rica or else

Leave a commentBy Kyle BonnNov 13, 2016, 11:30 AM EST

If there’s one thing the USMNT knows following a late 2-1 loss to Mexico in Columbus to start the Hex, it’s that only a win on Tuesday will ease up on the pressure.Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done.Winning in Costa Rica has been literally impossible for the United States – they have lost eight World Cup qualifiers in a row in Costa Rica, earning just a single point which came back in 1985. Add in that Los Ticos are on a five-match winning streak including a win over Columbia to finish their Copa America this summer and a friendly triumph over Russia, and the task is daunting.Now, the Stars & Stripes travel to the Central American nation needing victory in the worst way. All three matches in round one of the Hex finished with a winner, leaving the United States three points adrift of anyone else above them in the group. The most devastating result was Panama’s win over Honduras, and while Panama isn’t expected to be a favorite in any other match except the reverse of that fixture, the U.S. still has ground to make up.

According to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index, the loss to Mexico alone slammed the U.S. chances of qualifying for Russia 2018 by over 20%, dropping them from 86% favorites down to an uneasy 69%. A loss Tuesday would likely compound that into a full on free-fall, unless both other fixtures ended in a draw.Despite all this pressure, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t afraid. In fact, quite the opposite: he guaranteed the USMNT would come away from San Jose with points. “The message is very simple, we’ve got to go down there and get a result, which we will do.”They better. While making up a four or six-point deficit with eight matches to go is hardly unheard of, it’s most definitely a position the United States does not wish to see itself in by any stretch. While next international break serves up a relative respite with games against Honduras and Panama, nothing is for certain in the Hexagonal, and any unnecessary pressure during those matches would be counter-productive to otherwise straightforward games.But they’ve been here before. Just in the last Hexagonal, they suffered a significantly more damaging defeat to Honduras to begin the round. A home win over Costa Rica just days later – the famous snow game in Denver – righted the ship.With Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago both clear favorites in their matches against Honduras and Panama, the United States could fall significantly behind if they drop points in San Jose, and hand any points to the opponents in the process, as Los Ticos already sit on three after an impressive first-match victory over the Soca Warriors.Right now, the wound from a last-second loss to a bitter rival is surely fresh, but the actual danger is still relatively minimal. However, the bottom line for Tuesday is clear: a loss against Costa Rica – or even a draw – would add legitimate pressure to the already building uneasiness among fans. Only three points can appease the masses.

Klinsmann formation blunder hurt U.S. vs. Mexico, but there were positives

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Angry. Upset. Disappointed. Frustrated.Those were the adjectives used by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his team Friday after the Americans lost 2-1 to Mexico, and for good reason.The players had every right to be distressed by Klinsmann’s overthought and ultimately unsuccessful decision to employ a 3-5-2 formation — one they had rarely, if ever, used during his five-plus years at the helm.Meanwhile, one can also understand how the manager might be miffed after his defenders left Rafael Marquez alone to nod home the winner — from a corner kick, no less — in the dying seconds of a match they’d eventually grabbed by the scruff of the neck after mercifully switching back to their traditional 4-4-2 alignment.The defeat leaves the U.S. in real danger of starting the 10-game Hexagonal with two consecutive setbacks; the Yanks face a daunting test on Tuesday in Costa Rica, where they have a dismal record of zero wins, one draw and eight defeats in nine qualifiers.Yet however disheartening Friday’s result was for the hosts — it was the national team’s first home qualifying loss in 15 years (a span of 30 games) and its first to southern neighbor El Tri since 1972 — there’s also legitimate cause for optimism.”In the second half we went to something we were more familiar with, and we dominated the game,” said forward Jozy Altidore, who set up strike partner Bobby Wood’s goal just after the break, which cancelled out Miguel Layun’s 20th-minute opener. “We have a young team and a lot of talented guys that will learn from tonight and move forward.”Chief among the up-and-comers is 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, who repeatedly dazzled the capacity crowd of almost 25,000 with his silky skills and fleet feet.Pulisic began the game playing centrally behind front-runners Altidore and Wood, and then moved to the left wing — the spot he usually plays for Dortmund — when Klinsmann made the tactical switch. Wherever Pulisic was, he drew the attention of Mexican defenders, beating them off the dribble almost as often as not.”I thought Christian handled it very well,” Klinsmann said. “He’s trying to find his openings, find some areas where he can explode and take people on.”Wood also continued to show his quality, and not just on his well-taken finish. The 23-year-old enjoyed perhaps his best game for the U.S. and was a little unlucky not to score a second when, after a brilliant turn, his goal-bound shot was stopped by Mexico keeper Alfredo Talavera.Still, the Hamburg player’s touch, hold-up play and clever decision-making were plain to see — Wood was named the Americans’ man of the match — and he will only improve as he matures.Elsewhere, full-back Timmy Chandler settled down and had a solid match after a shaky start, which was mostly the result of Mexico flooding his right side with numbers, which pinned him in his own end early on.And Matt Besler turned in another credible shift at left-back after the formation switch, a spot he’d never really played before filling in for one match during June’s Copa America Centenario.If Besler can make the position his own — his next chance could come as soon as Tuesday in the Costa Rica capital of San Jose — it would enable Klinsmann to deploy the more attack-minded Fabian Johnson further up the field.On the whole, though, Friday’s contest served as a reminder to Klinsmann that his team performs its best when it knows exactly what to expect.”I would not say we were not comfortable with it,” Jermaine Jones said of his coach’s latest experiment, noting that it had worked well in training earlier in the week. “Sometimes you have to try something. But then in the second half I think you saw that we were on their toes and we almost scored the second.”Klinsmann admitted as much afterward himself: “It took us a while to get into the game. We switched back to 4-4-2 after a little bit to correct some things because in the beginning our midfielders didn’t get into the one-on-one battles that we expected them to get into.”Only time will tell if he will stop tinkering unnecessarily and stick with what’s proven to work, and that goes for Tuesday’s encounter at Estadio Nacional as well as the eight matches that will follow when the Hex resumes next March.If it does, that would be the biggest silver lining of all from the latest Columbus Clasico.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactics put U.S in a bind it can’t overcome vs. Mexico

COLUMBUS, Ohio — At the end of the Copa America Centenario, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann seemed to have answered his most vexing questions. The team played out of a 4-4-2, had identified its preferred back four and had determined the best roles for Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, with Bradley sitting deeper and Jones creating mayhem farther up field.At that time, it seemed as if it would be a shame for Klinsmann to blow it up. There was no reason to, especially with two of the most difficult World Cup qualifiers — home to Mexico and away to Costa Rica — looming on the horizon. Yet every so often, Klinsmann the fantasist overrules Klinsmann the pragmatist and decides to do something exotic tactically.That is precisely what he did in Friday’s 2-1 defeat against Mexico. In a tactical blunder, Klinsmann opted for a 3-5-2 or, as he semantically insisted, a 3-4-3. Whatever. The U.S. hadn’t played three in the back since a friendly against Chile nearly two years ago. When asked why he decided to go with the formation, Klinsmann said, “We trained that [formation] and it went really well in training.” Klinsmann added it had nothing to do with Mexico’s approach.Here comes the migraine.The results proved as devastating as they were predictable. For the first 25 minutes or so, the U.S. was overrun, especially on its right side. The defensive spacing was a mess, as clear a sign as any that the formation’s unfamiliarity was causing the side problems. Yes, Mexico is talented but all the more reason to not introduce such radical change with only a few days of preparation. El Tri was getting some fantastic looks, too, finally breaking through when Miguel Layun scored in the 20th minute. Mexico hit the woodwork on two other occasions.”Tactically they do some interesting things and they space themselves out in a really good way,” Bradley said. “So you have to have clear ideas about how you’re going to deal with that and how you’re going to close them down. Then it’s easy to get pulled around and it’s easy to have guys step out of one space to close something down and now that’s the exactly the space that they’re going to end up playing through.”When Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado went down injured in the 26th minute, it was like a boxer being saved by the bell. It allowed both Bradley and Jones to walk over to Klinsmann and plead with him to change the formation. Bradley barely hesitated when asked who suggested the formation change, Klinsmann or the players: “I think ultimately it was among us all. It was clear that it made sense to change.”Loosely translated, it was the players. Credit Klinsmann for going along with it, but he never should have put his team in such an awkward situation in the first place.Once the U.S. made the switch, it not only got the home side back in the game but allowed Bradley & Co. to dominate the second half. The U.S. pulled even through Bobby Wood’s cool finish and had chances to go ahead, only to run into some inspired goalkeeping from Alfredo Talavera. But then Rafa Marquez found space on a late corner, his flick-on header found the back of the net and the U.S. was forced to swallow a 2-1 defeat.That the U.S. recovered is what makes the loss so frustrating. Klinsmann treated the match more like a January friendly than it was a World Cup qualifier. You simply can’t gift an opponent like Mexico 25 minutes of the game and expect to get away with it. The U.S. didn’t.The result saw the end of some impressive streaks. It was the first home loss in a World Cup qualifier for the U.S. since 2001, when the Americans lost to Honduras. It was the first home loss to Mexico in a World Cup qualifier since 1972. There’s no guarantee, of course, that if Klinsmann kept his framework simple, the U.S. would have won. But chances are the U.S. would have started the match on more even footing.Instead, he left his side vulnerable and, rather predictably, Klinsmann blamed his players for the formation’s failure, specifically Bradley and Jones.”The key in that system is that your central midfielders need to get into these one-against-one battles,” Klinsmann said in his postgame news conference. “That’s something that was not happening the first 25-30 minutes. Not Michael Bradley nor Jermaine got into these battles and their players could roam and that really puts difficulties, so that gave them their chances. So we changed it then back because we train different systems, we have that always available.”It calmed down the situation then and I think the second half was really good. If you go back to set pieces, we had ours with Omar [Gonzalez]’s open header there and it could have easily been a goal. But they scored two minutes before the end of the game. That’s how it goes.”But it didn’t have to.Klinsmann didn’t rule out using the 3-4-3 again. But ahead of Tuesday’s match at Costa Rica — where the U.S. only ever achieved a draw, back in 1985 — he should rediscover the pragmatic approach that made the U.S. so successful earlier this year, using some variant of the 4-4-2. That way, come Tuesday, perhaps the U.S. can be the one to break an opponent’s winning streak instead.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Klinsmann reacts to Mexico loss, says midfielders hurt 3-4-3

4 CommentsBy Nicholas MendolaNov 11, 2016, 10:52 PM EST

Jurgen Klinsmann was angry after the United States fell to Mexico in the first match of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Friday.That mostly seemed to relate to the lost points, and not the performance, though Klinsmann refused to say the  3-4-3 was to blame for the early struggles.Well, perhaps it was to blame, he says, but not because of the formation… because of his midfield.  [ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings | Three things ]

Klinsmann thrice mentioned the efforts of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in the first half as problematic, saying they weren’t compact enough to stop Mexico’s flair players.Klinsmann claimed he’d like to see the 3-4-3 again for the opportunities it gives new star Christian Pulisic.“We started the game in a 3-4-3 with Christian Pulisic having all the freedom to roam with the two strikers up front,” Klinsmann said. “The key in that system is the central midfielders need to get into those 1-on-1 battles. No for Michael Bradley, no Jermaine. Their players could roam an they had their chances. So we changed back, and it calmed down the situation. Second half was really, really good.”As for how Pulisic responded to a big start under the bright lights?

“He handled it very well,” Klinsmann said. “He’s trying to find his opening, find some areas where he can explode and take some people on. I think he did very well. In the 3-4-3, he can go either way left-right-middle. I’m sure you will see that every once in a while that system because it suits us. But our midfielders need to win that battle.”The Yanks dominated the game, mostly, after going to the 4-4-2., save for the all-important Rafa Marquez header of a late corner kick. That, Klinsmann says, goes on otherwise strong John Brooks.“We lost him there,” Klinsmann said. “Individual mistake. We had it all designed nicely on the whiteboard, but when a player misses his player being ahead of him, that’s when these goals happen.”So how does the U.S. regroup for Tuesday’s qualifier in Costa Rica against a Los Ticos that won 2-0 in Trinidad and Tobago?“The message is very simple,” Klinsmann said. “We’ve gotta go down there and get a result, which we will do.“It gets a sense of anger in us, urgency. You don’t want to be behind. Costa Rica won tonight so it’s right there. All the qualifying games are difficult. That’s what the players are prepared. If we play the way the second half, I’m not worried.”

Michael Bradley laments lack of “clear ideas” in USMNT gameplan

2 CommentsBy Nicholas MendolaNov 12, 2016, 7:34 AM EST

With Geoff Cameron out with an injury, United States men’s national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann opted to change formation rather than plug a different center back next to John Brooks.It didn’t work.The Yanks went down early against Mexico on the way to a 2-1 loss in Columbus, breaking the vaunted Dos a Cero Hex hex against their bitter rivals in an entertaining game on Friday.That’s largely due to what Klinsmann called a 3-4-3 formation for the first 30 minutes of the game, one that allowed Mexico to dance down the right side of the American defense and saw Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley looking rather off their games.Klinsmann didn’t mention Cameron’s absence in defending his use of the formation, and said they would try it again in the future. He though the 3-4-3 would free up Christian Pulisic, and would work if Bradley and Jones were aggressive in their 1v1 battles. That didn’t work out well, and Klinsmann thrice mentioned those players in his postgame press conference.Jones said the formation looked good in training, but that Mexico sorted it out quickly. Bradley seemed to say it was an error in direction.From the Sporting News:

“Tactically, They do some interesting things, and they space themselves out in a really good way,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said of Mexico. “So you have to have clear ideas about how you’re going to deal with that and how you’re going to close them down, because if you don’t, then it’s easy to get pulled around, and it’s easy to have guys who step out of one space trying to close something down, and that’s exactly the space they’re going to end up playing through.”

Regardless of who’s to blame — and it’s likely a bit of both — Bradley and Jones both had nights to forget. Jones was over aggressive and fortunate not to be sent off just before halftime, while Bradley struggled to carry over any semblance of his wonderful Toronto FC form to Mexico.Next up is a chance to make history: the Yanks have never won a World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica, where they play on Tuesday. Win, and feel good. Draw, and feel okay. Lose, and stare down four months with no points and a place in the Hex cellar. 

U.S. at a low ebb ahead of Costa Rica test; Mexico confidence soars

Following Mexico’s 2-1 win versus the United States in the opening game of the CONCACAF “Hexagonal,” we asked a writer from each side of the rivalry for thoughts on the state of their national team.

What is your reaction to the result?

Jason Davis: A loss to open the Hex, especially versus Mexico, is a bad way to start the campaign to reach an eighth consecutive World Cup. The psychological edge the U.S. once had on Mexico in qualifiers is gone. The team improved in the second half, but Mexico’s early domination falls at the feet of Jurgen Klinsmann. He’s got work to do, especially as postgame comments from the coach and his captain, Michael Bradley, revealed a fundamental disagreement about who was responsible for the failure of the formation used to start the match.Nayib Moran: Although the U.S. national team had a great second-half performance, Mexico was able to muster its first-ever win in Columbus. In the first half, Mexico showcased the type of football favored by Juan Carlos Osorio, which includes pace and passing precision. Carlos Vela and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona kept the U.S. defense busy, while Miguel Layun and Rafael Marquez were able to find spaces to release key passes. There were moments where it looked like Mexico was going to break apart, but it didn’t happen.

Where does this leave your country on the Road to Russia?

JD: The Americans have to avoid any sort of panic because there are nine games left to get the points needed to qualify. That said, with a trip to Costa Rica on Tuesday, there’s a very real possibility the U.S. will be bottom of the table after the second round of matches conclude. It’s not an issue of talent; the squad has more than enough quality to coast to a top-three spot by the time when all is said and done. But, as we saw in the 2014 cycle with Mexico, talent alone doesn’t guarantee anything.

NM: It will be difficult for other CONCACAF teams to get wins on U.S. soil, so this result puts Mexico in a good spot to make this Hex campaign more straightforward than the last. Friday’s first half should set an example for what’s to come; Mexico should play its home games with the same intensity. Scoring more early goals would also set the tone and avoid the issues of four years ago, when Mexico finished with three scoreless draws at Estadio Azteca, one of which was against the U.S.

What is your grade out of 10 for the present mood, and what happens next?

JD: Three. The mood can’t be good considering the way the U.S. played in the first half and the manner in which they conceded the winner. They have never won in Costa Rica and, if the team is lacking any belief in their coach, there’s very little chance of breaking that streak on Tuesday. The leaders within in the team itself — Michael Bradley, plus the likes of Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore — must pull things together in time for an even tougher challenge than the one they faced on Friday. Missing Tim Howard through injury certainly would not help.

NM: Nine. In Panama, Mexico will be without the injured Andres Guardado the suspended Carlos Salcedo, which means players like Nestor Araujo, Orbelin Pineda and Jonathan dos Santos could get some minutes. Raul Jimenez and Marco Fabian could also be involved. Panama won at Honduras to begin their campaign in style but El Tri will travel full of optimism. The pressure has also eased on Osorio, with fans pleased after a period in which the coach was doubted.

Though not decisive, Pulisic showed vs. Mexico that he is worthy of the hype

Christian Pulisic showed he belonged on the U.S. national team Friday night against Mexico in Columbus. He drove forward with Bundesliga bravura. He worked neat combinations with Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood in the final third. He refused to be physically intimidated, holding his ground against body slams, double marking and late tackles.And like every American player who has earned his stars and stripes, he proved he’s capable of a bad touch.It came toward the end of a first half in which the U.S. was outplayed, outthought and outcoached at a venue where the Americans had never previously been out-anything-ed. Pulisic made a run into the box as Michael Bradley’s free kick was headed by Altidore straight at the Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera who, for some reason, couldn’t hold it. The ball fell invitingly for Pulisic, 10 yards in front of goal. All he had to do was put his foot through it and the U.S. and Mexico would be even at 1-1.But the 18-year-old hesitated ever so slightly and, instead of shooting first time, he tried to control the bobbling ball, only for his first touch to take it away from him and into the grateful arms of Talavera. The Ballon d’Or might have to wait for another year.Aside from that one speed bump, though, the rest of Pulisic’s night was a relatively smooth passage for the teenager, on whose shoulders American soccer has seemingly hung everything but the solution to climate change. No pressure, Christian.We’ve been here before, of course — Hi Jozy, Freddy Adu, Julian Green, Gedion Zelalem, DeAndre Yedlin! — but never with a precocious talent who actually appears capable of delivering on those hyperbolic expectations, if given the time and surrounding cast to showcase his gifts.On second thought, maybe we have witnessed this phenomenon before. It is easy to forget the wonder and excitement that radiated throughout the American soccer community at the sight of 20-year-old Landon Donovan shredding defenders at the 2002 World Cup, en route to being named Best Young Player of the Tournament.Donovan had it all — the technical ability, the pace, the guile, the quick-thinking soccer brain, the calm in front of goal — except, perhaps, for the mental fortitude, at least as an adolescent, to make it in the crucible of high-grade European club soccer.It was this putative lack of resolve to push the boundaries of his comfort level, more than anything else, which ensured the best player this country has ever produced would not flourish under Jurgen Klinsman.It is also the essential difference between the way the U.S. coach regards Pulisic, a card-carrying member of Borussia Dortmund’s first team, and Donovan, who tore up Major League Soccer for more than a decade but washed out in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.That Klinsmann risked tactical chaos for the first half hour against Mexico with his newfangled 3-5-2 formation is a measure of how much he values Pulisic’s burgeoning creative role. The system is designed to give him license to roam behind the two strikers, Altidore and Wood, and take advantage of the wonder teen’s ability to dictate a game’s tempo with his penetrative dribbling and precision passing.Even if the gambit proved misguided and Klinsmann was forced to revert to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation, Pulisic didn’t look out of place or over-matched in the furious intensity of central midfield, though it should be noted that he did his best work when switched to the left flank, where he could more frequently get behind the Mexican defense and utilize his dangerous crossing ability.After making his World Cup qualifying debut in the previous round, Mexico was always going to be something of a competitive litmus test for Pulisic. It is one thing to be the best player on the field against CONCACAF minnows such as St Vincent and the Grenadines, but quite another to impose yourself on an opponent that has long been the U.S’ fiercest rival in the region.Then again, if you’ve already managed to enter a Champions League game against Real Madrid in the 73rd minute and have the skill and composure to set up the tying goal, as Pulisic did in September for Dortmund, then you’re unlikely to be cowed by the likes of Rafael Marquez and Javier Hernandez.There were two telling moments, late in the game with both teams desperate to break the 1-1 deadlock, which bode well for Pulisic’s success on the big stage.The first came after he pick-pocketed the ball off a Mexican player in midfield and was surging toward the penalty area when rugged defender Carlos Salcedo launched himself at the American with the full weight of his brawny physique. Pulisic went down in a heap but sprang back to his feet, as if to say “I’ve taken worse hits than that in the Bundesliga.” Salcedo was booked for the foul and eventually sent off in the final minute for time-wasting.Two minutes later, Pulisic was involved in another tussle, this time with Hernandez. The two players converged on a 50-50 ball and it was Pulisic who dug it out after Hernandez had wrapped himself around the teenager in a futile attempt to keep him from breaking away. The crowd roared its appreciation of Pulisic’s grit but, if they hoped he might decide the match with a dazzling highlight-reel winner, they would ultimately be disappointed.Pulisic is not yet the finished article, not yet a refined game-changer at an elite level, but he is far ahead of any of the U.S.’ previously anointed soccer messiahs, with the exception of Donovan.He may also eclipse Landon one day but let’s try to resist American soccer’s knee-jerk tendency to expect too much, too soon. After all, Pulisic is barely 18 and only five months removed from his high school prom. He still relishes his time away from the field where he can indulge in two of his favorite pastimes: Play Station and listening to the musical stylings of Justin Bieber.In that last pursuit, he is not alone. After his authoritative, if not quite defining performance against Mexico, you can count me as a “Belieber” in Christian Pulisic.David Hirshey is an ESPN FC columnist. He has been covering soccer for more than 30 years and written about it for The New York Times and Deadspin.

Bobby Wood scores, PLAYER RATINGS

Mexico arrived in Columbus, Ohio, to open the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying intent on ending the “Dos a Cero” tradition. Thanks to a dominant first half and a late set-piece tally, El Tri did just that in a 2-1 victory over the United States on Friday.


It’s difficult to pull many positives from the match for the U.S., as the team saw a 15-year unbeaten run in home World Cup qualifiers come to an end against its biggest rival. Bobby Wood’s play was the highlight of the evening for the Stars and Stripes, and he combined well with Jozy Altidore in what coach Jurgen Klinsmann will hope is a sign of things to come. If we’re being generous, the United States’ response after the first 45 minutes was good, though playing so poorly in the first half counts among the negatives.


The opening 25 minutes were an absolute disaster for the Americans. A new formation led to mass confusion, especially through the midfield and defense. Though a switch to a 4-4-2 brought some improvement, falling behind a goal at home put the U.S. in the difficult position of chasing the game. A better second half was undone by shoddy set-piece defending when Rafa Marquez slipped to the near post and flicked a late header past keeper Brad Guzan.

Manager rating out of 10

2 — Yes, the U.S. controlled most of the second half and found an equalizer through Wood. But Klinsmann’s tactical plan to start the game, a 3-5-2 that his personnel were not suited for, killed any chance the team had of taking the game to Mexico to open the match. Klinsmann might have played a role in getting his team up for a much better second half, but because his choices led to the atrocious first-half performance, he can’t be given credit there either.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Tim Howard, 4.5 — Forced off in the 40th minute due to injury. Made one excellent save early on, but was unable to get across to stop a deflected shot from Miguel Layun.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 4.5 — Dragged out of position on numerous occasions in the first half because of the unfamiliar three-man back line. Made a couple of solid interventions when required.

DF John Brooks, 5 — Had a decidedly uneven night. Baited into fouls by Mexico too often. Played an excellent pass that led to the American goal, but was beaten by Hirving Lozano late in the game.

DF Matt Besler, 5 — Fought hard throughout his 81 minutes of action and did not shy away from the physical side of the clash. Struggled through the first half, but looked more comfortable at left-back after a formation switch.

MF/DF Timmy Chandler, 5 — Looked lost at wing-back in the 3-5-2 the U.S. rolled out to start the game, but improved dramatically in the second half. Became a crossing threat late.

MF Jermaine Jones, 4 — Looked slow and unfit in the first half, but found the game in the second 45 minutes. Helped the U.S. match Mexico physically, but was very lucky not to see yellow on more than one occasion.

MF Michael Bradley, 4.5 — Clearly uncomfortable with the formation in the first 25 minutes. Misplaced passes throughout the first half before improving in the second.

MF/DF Fabian Johnson, 5 — Lacked sharpness in the first half. Contributed more to the attack in the second and provided a few key defensive moments.

MF Christian Pulisic, 5.5 — Grew into the game in his first big test as a starter. Drew multiple Mexican defenders with every touch.

FW Bobby Wood, 7 — Limited in his influence in the first half, largely because of the dysfunction of the U.S. midfield. Bossed the second 45 minutes alongside Altidore and scored the goal that drew the game level.

FW Jozy Altidore, 5 — Found an understanding with Wood that probably should have delivered more than one goal. Set up one tally with an excellent turn and pass. Looked to have been caught flat-footed on Rafa Marquez’s winning goal.


GK Brad Guzan, 5 — Held down the fort after Howard’s injury and didn’t see much action. Was not at fault for Mexico’s goal.

MF DeAndre Yedlin, N/R — Brought energy as a substitute and tracked back well from midfield. Did not find the rhythm of the game quickly enough.

DF Michael Orozco, N/R — Did not feature prominently.

Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 2-1 defeat to Mexico

6 CommentsBy Eric ScatamacchiaNov 11, 2016, 10:27 PM EST

The United States men’s national team started the Hex with a 2-1 against Mexico on Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.It was a tale of two halves as the U.S. looked out of sorts in a 5-3-2 (or 3-2-2-1-2) formation as Mexico dominated play. Once the U.S. went down a goal it switched to a more familiar 4-4-2 and looked far more comfortable in the second half. However, Rafa Marquez scored late on against the run of play to steal the three points for El Tri.Here’s how the players fared in this hotly-contested matchup.

 USMNT Starting XI

Tim Howard (Off 40′) — 6 — Made a fantastic save on Corona’s shot in the first half, tipping it off the post. Layun’s goal came off a deflection that directed the ball away from Howard. Suffered an injury off a goal kick.

Matt Besler (Off 81′) — 5 — Had a tough task being forced to play out of position and committed a number of fouls.

Omar Gonzalez — 5 — Not great distribution out of the back and missed a wide open header off a corner kick in the second half.

John Brooks — 5 — Had a few testy moments in the first half, including a silly yellow card within the first 15 minutes. Was badly beat on a run by Lozano in the second half.

Timmy Chandler (Off 74′) — 5 — Mexico successfully attacked down his right side throughout the first half, but he had some good attacking moments in the second half.

Fabian Johnson–6 — Looked more comfortable (like most others) when the U.S. switched formations. Had a goal-saving tackle on Chicharito in the second half.

Jermaine Jones — 5 — Had a few nice moments, but looked off the pace at times. That’s to be expected in his first start since the July 4.

Michael Bradley — 4 — An uncharacteristically poor performance from the captain. He wasn’t strong enough on a challenge that led to Mexico’s first goal and struggled throughout to put his influence on the game.

Christian Pulisic — 6 — Played through the middle early on and was his usual self once the team switched formations.

Jozy Altidore — 7 — Great run to set up Wood’s goal. Linked up well with Wood in the second half, winning seemingly every aerial ball he went for.

Bobby Wood — 8 — Didn’t do much in the first half, but came back strong in the second half scoring early on. Continued to wreak havoc on Mexico’s defense along with Altidore.


Brad Guzan (On 40′) — N/A — Could do nothing on Mexico’s second goal and faced little action besides that.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 74′) — N/A

Michael Orozco (On 81′) — N/A

Mexico Starting XI

Alfredo Talavera — 6 — Didn’t face many shots in the first half. Got a hand on Wood’s goal, but could not stop the shot.

Miguel Layun — 8 — Had multiple positive moments in attack, including scoring Mexico’s goal in the first half.

Diego Reyes (Off HT) — 6 — A short shift for Reyes. Picked up an early yellow card for taking down Altidore, but didn’t make any costly mistakes.

Hector Moreno — 6 — Missed a challenge on Wood’s goal.

Rafa Marquez — 7 — It was a quiet night for Mexico’s captain until the 88th minute as his flicked header proved to be the winner.

Hector Herrera — 5 — Not much from Herrera on the night. Tried to draw a foul on Gonzalez in the box, but got a card for simulation.

Andres Guardado (Off 28′) — N/A — Subbed off with an injury in the first half. Didn’t get much opportunity on the ball.

Gio dos Santos — 5 — Directed the attack for Mexico, but didn’t create any dangerous chances.

Jesus Corona — 7 — Nearly scored in the first half, but Howard tipped his shot onto the post.

Carlos Vela (Off 73′) — 6 — Almost doubled Mexico’s lead in the first half with a header off the crossbar.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez — 5 — Made decisive runs to cause trouble for the U.S. defense, but could not find the final touch.

USA vs. Mexico, 2018 World Cup qualifying: Final Player Ratings

The attackers get a little loveby Rob Usry@RobUsry

Nov 13, 2016, 8:30am PST

Well that didn’t go as any U.S. Soccer supporter would have hoped. The Dos a Cero curse has been broken by Mexico and the powers of Fort Columbus washed away in one fell swoop by none other than Rafa Marquez himself.One of the most hated El Tri representatives to American soccer fans for the last decade-plus, Marquez’s 89th minute header sent every Yank home bitter and Mexico to the next CONCACAF Hexagonal match day with three points and the USMNT still looking to get off the mark.As is customary, we put out our poll for the SSFC community to give your own player ratings. Predictably, most of them were pretty dire. However, there were a few bright spots. Here’s how the results turned out:

Man of the Match: Bobby Wood

The man who gave us hope in the 50th minute with his well-worked equalizer got the highest percentage of rating from the community. Bobby Wood’s 7.57 leads the pack, with the 18-year-old phenom, Christian Pulisic, coming behind with a 7.01. They were the only two USMNT players to get over a 7.  Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, the captain went down with his ship as Michael Bradley received the lowest rating of all 13 eligible players. His 3.94 rating was a full rating point below the next lowest player on the field. Oof…  Now, on to Costa Rica where the USMNT hasn’t won…ever. How fun.

Final Player Ratings

GK: Tim Howard – 5.82

RWB: Timmy Chandler – 5.50

CB: John Brooks – 5.83

CB: Omar Gonzalez – 5.00

CB: Matt Besler – 5.17

LWB: Fabian Johnson – 5.82

CM: Michael Bradley – 3.94

CM: Jermaine Jones – 5.37

CAM: Christian Pulisic – 7.01

ST: Bobby Wood – 7.57

ST: Jozy Altidore – 6.62

SUB: Brad Guzan – 5.28

SUB: DeAndre Yedlin – 4.94

SUB: Michael Orozco – NR

Rafael Marquez and Mexico get their revenge, beat the U.S. 2-1 in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mexico finally put an end to “Dos a Cero” on Friday night, defeating the U.S. men’s national team 2-1 to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.Miguel Layun opened the scoring for the visitors with a deflected effort in the 20th minute, but Bobby Wood equalized four minutes into the second half for the hosts. It was left to Rafa Marquez to grab the winner in the 89th minute to give El Tri a valuable victory on the road to Russia 2018. It also marked the first qualifying victory for Mexico in the U.S. since 1972.Here are three thoughts from a pulsating encounter. 

  1. Marquez,El Triget their revenge

For all the concerns that non-soccer overtones would bleed into the match, Friday’s game was not only free of incident but included numerous instances of fans mingling and enjoying the game together. The two teams even posed for a joint team photo before the match. Focus was soon placed on the match by all involved and it proved to be another memorable encounter.Once the game started, it was clear that this was a different Mexico team from the outset. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio had employed psychologist Imanol Ibarrondo to help his side banish its demons and it worked perfectly because Mexico looked a much more confident side than in recent road World Cup qualifiers against its longtime rival. Players like Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela oozed sharpness, and Marquez, who could usually be counted on to lose his head, looked composed even after he was forced to move into midfield when Andres Guardado was subbed out injured in the 28th minute.And yet given the extent to which El Tri dominated the first half, it almost looked as if it would leave two points on the table when Wood equalized. But then Marquez, who has often been the villain in these encounters, popped up to be the hero for Mexico. He evaded the attentions of Jozy Altidore and delivered a flick-on, near-post header that looped into the U.S. net. The visitors also had goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera to thank as he came up with several crucial saves to keep the game level before Marquez’s winner.The match will not only give Mexico a huge boost of confidence, but should also give Osorio some valuable breathing room in terms of his job security. He no doubt wanted this victory given that he once coached in the U.S. until he was fired by the New York Red Bulls in 2009, and he has been under some pressure since his side was humbled 7-0 by Chile in the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.Given how dynamic Mexico looked in attack, this looks to be a team that is headed in the right direction again. Now Osorio and El Tri can bask in a memorable victory.

  1. Klinsmann’s blunder hamstrings U.S.

The huge surprise came before kickoff with the news that U.S manager Jurgen Klinsmann was opting for a 3-5-2 formation with Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler as wing-backs and a back three of Matt Besler, John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez. Mexico’s decision to counter with an attack-heavy 4-3-3 that included Gio Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made Klinsmann’s gambit seem like a risky proposition, especially given the last time the U.S. employed the alignment was in a friendly against Chile in January 2015.The choice proved an unmitigated disaster. The U.S. was second to every ball and seemed all over the place with its defensive spacing, particularly on the right-hand side, which was defended by Chandler. On top of that, the U.S. touches looked heavy, resulting in several turnovers. Mexico was soon looking dangerous on almost every attack. In the 10th minute, Corona shook free but his curling effort saw Tim Howard touch the shot off the post.The U.S. wasn’t so fortunate five minutes later. Layun pounced on a loose ball after Michael Bradley lost possession and his shot took a deflection — the carom was enough to fool Howard as it snuck in just inside his left post.Vela came close to doubling the advantage in the 25th minute when his header struck the bar. Once Guardado had to leave the game a few minutes later, Bradley walked over to Klinsmann and appeared to be pleading with him to change the formation. Change it he did to a 4-4-2 and the U.S. was on level terms in the 49th minute.Altidore did superbly to hold the ball up, fend off a Mexico defender, spin into space and then run at the defense. His pass found Wood near the top of the box and after breaking through a last-ditch tackle, the Hamburg SV attacker swept a left-footed shot beyond Talavera to level the score.Both teams had great opportunities to grab a winner but were repelled by superb goalkeeping and defending at either end. Wood nearly added a second in the 74th minute but his shot on the turn was superbly saved by Talavera. The Mexico keeper was on hand to tip an Altidore free kick over the bar and Johnson then saved the U.S. with a desperate intervention in the 79th minute.The late drama set the stage for old nemesis Marquez to spoil the party for the U.S., but for the Americans, Klinsmann was just as much of a villain.

  1. U.S. heads into Costa Rica match at a low ebb.

 It’s far too early to say that the U.S.’s qualifying effort is in trouble. After all, there are nine games left and it remains one of the giants of the region. But this defeat is a bitter blow and leaves the U.S. psychologically wounded heading into Tuesday’s match in Costa Rica.Complicating matters is the fact the U.S. goes into the match without goalkeeper Howard, who was forced to leave the match because of a suspected groin injury in the 40th minute. Fortunately, Brad Guzan is an able replacement, but the U.S. can’t afford to start Tuesday’s match as slowly as it did against El Tri on Friday night.Avoiding another slow start will be aided by starting the match in a 4-4-2, which remains the team’s best alignment. The formation might be considered out of date by some, but at minimum the U.S. should operate with four in the back and then build its attack from that foundation. The level of comfort the U.S. showed in the second half was evident, further proof that it ought to be used going forward.Of course, that also assumes Klinsmann avoids his occasional penchant for making odd tactical decisions. One can only hope he learned his lesson in Columbus.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

USA vs. Mexico atmosphere positive despite recent election tensions

A charged political environment everywhere else was noticeably and thankfully absent in Columbus

by Matt Lichtenstadter@MattsMusings1 

 Nov 13, 2016, 7:05am PST

The US/Mexico World Cup Qualifier in Columbus is a bucket list item for every US Soccer fan, no matter when the game is or what form the teams are in. But with the recent election results threatening to hang a low cloud over what should be a festival of the sport in this country, would the atmosphere of what otherwise is such a fun occasion be changed for the worst? There were rightfully concerns about what some fans might do in such a charged atmosphere, but thankfully, the story of the game was about just that: the game.There were plenty of Mexican fans that made the trip to Ohio’s chilly capital for the festivities, and they certainly made their presence known. Mariachi bands and Mexican music were ever-present all throughout the Ohio State Fairgrounds, and they all felt like a natural part of the spectacle. The only common chant from American fans to Mexican fans was, predictably, “Dos A Cero” and nothing more.Inside, fans wearing red, white and blue mingled with those wearing red, white and green as if the election hadn’t happened. Outside of the usual friendly banter, more people were focused on tactics, formations, and whose manager is more likely to be sacked first rather than the news cycle. It really felt like the old saying: “There’s soccer, and then there’s everything else”.How would the Supporter’s groups tackle the possibly thorny issue of chants? The American Outlaws made their stance known early on, and their chants were their usual fare, and even amidst rumors their tifo had to be changed due to the election results, for them it seemed like every other US home game. When the US was behind, Mexican fans celebrated and US fans stayed more shocked than anything else, and when Bobby Wood leveled the match, wild celebrations ensued without anything negative to spoil the moment.Maybe the worst of some would come out after Rafa Marquez’s winner after the initial shock and pain of the goal had worn off. Thankfully, and as a testament to most US fans, the worst never did come. My most striking moment came as I was walking out of the stadium. Two fans, one American and one Mexican were ahead of me and the Mexican fan said something to the effect of “Dos A Uno, gano en Columbus”, and the American fan responded by saying “I want to make fun of you, but you guys won so I can’t”. Most US fans were reflecting on the failings of Jurgen Klinsmann’s aborted 5-3-2 formation, or lack of discipline on a corner kick rather than anything negative or political.While it was hard for politics to not be in the spotlight during the build up to the game, by the time Friday had come, most had put their thoughts on the week that had come and gone on the backburner, and used the chance to focus on soccer to do just that, even considering the game and the stakes. While the US and Mexico have one of the most heated rivalries in international soccer, the rivalry has always been friendly, fun and even sometimes self-loathing and almost never vicious or politically charged. Despite what the world tried to throw at Columbus this weekend, soccer’s bubble wasn’t popped or even remotely pierced, to everyone’s credit.

View image on Twitter


It might not have been the result we wanted, but thanks to the fans for a great atmosphere and for respecting the rivalry. #USAvMEX

2:41 PM – 12 Nov 2016

The powerful message of the picture from above shows what makes this rivalry, and this sport so special, and the atmosphere at MAPFRE Stadium certainly helped add to that. Despite the legitimate fears, when the US and Mexico played soccer, everyone thankfully focused on soccer, and left the politics at home. And even after the game, politics remain miniscule compared to Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactical screw-up.

Indy Eleven fall in NASL championship match

Kevin Johnston, IndyStar correspondent11:29 p.m. EST November 13, 2016

It took 90 minutes plus another 30 in extra time and a penalty shootout to separate the  best teams in the North American Soccer League. For Giovanni Savarese’s New York Cosmos club, it was worth every second.The top-seeded and host Cosmos downed No. 2 Indy Eleven 0-0 (4-2) in penalties Sunday night to win the 2016 NASL title at Jamaica, N.Y.For Indy, the runner-up finish caps a hugely successful campaign – a stark turnaround from the team’s bleak first two seasons. Indy came out aggressively Sunday, racking up numerous fouls early. The Eleven got the better of the opening 20 minutes, then the Cosmos settled in and controlled  play.“We started finding more space and we were able to control the ball – to be able to find those areas that we weren’t finding in the first 20 minutes,” Savarese told CBS Sports Network. “Then we created a lot of chances to be able to score.”In the 11th minute, striker Eamon Zayed thought he put the visiting side up when he collected a pass from right midfielder Don Smart, turned and fired a left-footed laser at the Cosmos net. But goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer  saved the effort.Smart served  numerous crosses into the box while also tracking back on defense to make timely tackles and clearances. Twice his shots struck the crossbar. He eventually cramped up in the 88th minute and was subbed out for Duke Lacroix.In extra time, Indy regained some of the momentum it had in the first half, but couldn’t find the back of the net. After 120 minutes plus stoppage time, the match headed to a penalty shootout.Nicki Paterson buried the first penalty for the Eleven, but misses by Zayed and goalkeeper Jon Busch gave the Cosmos some breathing room after the home side drilled its first three attempts. Left back Nemanja Vukovic converted to keep Indy alive, but New York right back Ryan Richter calmly slotted his penalty home to seal it.Indy ended its remarkable season unbeaten at home across all competitions, finishing second in the NASL regular season (15 wins, seven losses, 10 draws, 55 points)  and second in the playoffs.While the future of the NASL appears opaque, the 2017 season is set to proceed as planned. Currently at 12 teams, the NASL will lose Minnesota United, the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies this offseason, but will add the San Francisco Deltas


After 120 minutes of full effort, Indiana’s Team downed in Final in PK’s  Nov 13, 2016


Indy Eleven Falls in Penalties to New York Cosmos in The Championship Final

First Trip to NASL’s Final Falls Short After Scoreless 120 Minutes, 2-4 Loss in PK’s

QUEENS, New York (Sunday, November 13, 2016) – Indy Eleven saw its trademark fight and determination even out the New York Cosmos all evening, but Indiana’s Team would eventually fall short in penalty kicks, dropping its first appearance in The Championship Final tonight at Belson Stadium.After dueling the league’s highest-scoring attack to a scoreless stalemate through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 more of added extra time, New York would make each of its first four penalties in the determining round, giving the Cosmos their third title in four seasons of play in their NASL reboot.

PHOTOS: Click to download pictures from #TheChampionshipFinal from the NASL’s FTP site

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the best moments from #TheChampionshipFinal

STATS: Get detailed Opta statistics from #TheChampionshipFinal via the NASL MatchCenter

Indy Eleven had the first dangerous shot on goal 11 minutes into the game. Midfielder Don Smart centered from the right flank to Eamon Zayed, who settled the ball and turned for a shot that was saved by Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. The Eleven were on the attack again three minutes later. Left-side defender Nemanja Vukovic hit a high diagonal ball that Smart smacked on the volley off the goalpost and out for a goal kick.New York answered back with its best chance in the 18th minute. Juan Arango, the winner of the league’s Golden Ball as most valuable player, found a streaking Yohandry Orozco at the top of the Indy penalty area. But he got under his left-footed shot, which sailed high and wide. In the 29th minute, Cosmos defender Ayoze dropped a long lead pass over the Indy defense that Arango was able to run on to for a shot that Indy goalkeeper Jon Busch jumped to swat away.In the 54th minute, a shot by New York midfielder Ruben Bover, with his second-favorite right foot, tested Busch from about 20 yards out. The Indy goalkeeper was up to the task, first knocking the ball down in front of him, then smothering it to prevent Jairo Arrieta from pouncing.Indy had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 70th. Sinisa Ubiparipovic controlled the ball at the top of the Cosmos penalty area and touched a pass to Smart. Smart ran onto the ball and curved an open, left-footed shot that had Maurer beaten, but rebounded off the angle where the crossbar meets the goalpost.The Cosmos came close four minutes later. Ryan Richter sent a curving cross into the Indy penalty area that Arrieta met with his head, but his effort skittered wide of the near post for a goal kick. Looking for a spark up front, Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese inserted David Diosa as a replacement for Orozco.With a little less than 10 minutes left in regulation time, Richter on the right again sent a dangerous ball into the Indy penalty area. Four players, two from each team plus goalkeeper Busch, converged in a jumble as the ball bounced and skipped wide without being touched by anyone.At the start of second-half added time, an Ubiparipovic free kick from deep on the left flank found the head of Zayed. His effort was deflected over the end line for a corner. Two minutes later, Arrieta crossed from the left to Diosa in the center of the penalty area. His first touch escaped him, but Diosa stayed with the play, turned and hit a right-footed shot that just skipped wide of the near post.Indy went first in the shootout and Nicki Paterson, the Eleven’s final substitute in the game, beat Maurer with a shot inside the far post. Arrieta stepped up for the Cosmos and smacked his shot off the far post and in.Zayed was up next for Indy, but saw his shot hit the far post, skitter along the goal line and out. Adam Moffat took the second kick for the Cosmos and put it right down the middle as Busch dove the other way, giving New York a 2-1 advantage.In a departure from usual practices, Indy coach Tim Hankinson had Busch take the third kick, which he put high and wide. Ayoze gave the Cosmos a 3-1 lead, curing a patented left-footed shot past Busch.The Eleven were in danger as Vukovic kept Indy alive by planting a hard shot in the near, upper corner. Richter then had a chance to ice the game and the championship for New York. He did not fail, hitting a shot low and inside the far post to give the Cosmos the victory.Indy Eleven will return to Indianapolis on Monday afternoon, scheduled to arrive at the Indianapolis International Airport at 2:43 pm via Delta Airlines. Fans are encouraged to welcome back the “Boys in Blue,” while media looking to attend for interviews are asked to contact John Koluder at 317-919-0808 (mobile) to confirm details.

The Championship – NASL Final
(#1) New York Cosmos  0 : 0  Indy Eleven (#2)
New York wins 4-2 on penalty kicks
Sunday, November 13, 2016   Belson Stadium – Queens, NY

Penalty Kicks:
IND – Nicki Paterson (goal)
NYC – Jairo Arrieta (goal)
IND – Eamon Zayed (miss)
NYC – Adam Moffat (goal)
IND – Jon Busch (miss)
NYC – Ayoze (goal)
IND – Nemanja Vukovic (goal)
NYC – Ryan Richter (goal)

Discipline Summary:
IND – Brad Ring (caution) 72’
IND – Colin Falvey (caution) 83’
NYC – Jairo Arrieta (caution) 116’

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch; Nemanja Vuković, Greg Janicki, Colin Falvey (capt), Marco Franco; Dylan Mares (Gerardo Torrado 45’), Brad Ring, Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Nicki Paterson 101’), Don Smart (Duke Lacroix 90’); Eamon Zayed, Justin Braun  Indy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Lovel Palmer, Daniel Keller, Souleymane Youla

New York Cosmos (4-1-4-1): Jimmy Maurer; Ayoze, Carlos Mendes (capt), Roversio (David Ochieng 59’), Ryan Richter; Adam Moffat; Yohandry Orozco (David Diosa 77’), Ruben Bover, Juan Arango, Andres Flores (Danny Szetela 103’); Jairo Arrieta   Cosmos bench: Brain Holt (GK), Jimmy Ockford, Jimmy Mulligan, Eric Calvillo


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

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11/10/16 USA vs Mexico Friday Night 7:45 pm on Fox Sports 1, Tues @ Costa Rica 9 pm beIN Sports, Indy 11 @ NY Cosmos NASL Finals Sun 7 pm, World Qualifiers, Big 10 Finals Sun at Grand Park

So what you doing Friday night oh say about 7:30 pm??  WATCHING THE USA VS MEXICO ON FOX SPORTS 1 !!  So I have been fortunate enough to have been at 3 US vs Mexico Dos a Cero games in Columbus 2005, 2009, 2013 and at the what is still the greatest sporting event I have ever witnessed when the US defeated Mexico in the 80% Mexican filled Soldier Field in Chicago for the 2-1 Gold Cup Victory in 2007.  I have been to 3 College Football National Title Games, 3 Final 4s, a Superbowl, a World Cup (not US games) but nothing beats that 2007 game and Columbus is the Mecca for US soccer fans – and a game that we are very fortunate to have just 3 hours away from us. I will have pics next week – GO USA!! 

It’s a full international break this weekend so no league games but we have South American and European Qualfiers including Colombia vs Chile (James vs Vidal) TODAY at 3:30 pm on beIN Sport followed by Brazil hosting Argentina at 6:45 pm on beIN Sport.  Friday has England vs Scotland at 2:45 pm FS1, France vs Sweden on ESPN2 same time and a pair of CONCACAF games with Honduras vs Panama at 3:30 pm and T&T vs Costa Rica at 6 pm both on beIN Sport.  The US Ladies play a double vs Romania with games tonight on ESPN2 at 10 pm and Sunday on Fox Sports 1 at 9:30 pm.  Of Course the US Men travel to Costa Rica Tuesday 9 pm on beIN Sport. (see the full schedule below).

What a fantastic Saturday at the MIKE last weekend as our INDY 11 defeated Edmonton 1-0 to advance to the NASL Finals on Sunday @ the New York Cosmos.  The sellout crowd was fantastic – especially in the BYB.  The kickoff for the Finals vs the NEW YORK COSMOS is 7 pm Sunday with National Coverage on CBS Sports Network.

Grand Park will host the Big 10 Men’s Soccer Tournament this weekend Nov 11-13.  Friday the Semi-finals will be played at 12 noon and 2:30 pm, with the finals on Sunday at 2 pm.  A huge Boys Soccer Showcase will also be on tap for that weekend.  Carmel FC continues optional Winter Training– for the next month at Murray Stadium at CHS.

Carmel FC Optional Winter Training at Murray

ACADEMY -Tuesdays – Nov 8 & 15; Dec 6 & 13

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U11-U12  Wednesdays – Nov 9 & 16; Dec 7 & 14

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U13 & Older  Thursdays – Nov 10 & 17; Dec 8 & 15

Girls/Boys U13-14: 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm

Girls/Boys: U15 and above 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm

USA vs Mexico

US vs Mexico who has the Edge – Jason Davis- ESPNFC

Armchair Analyst – US vs Mexico – Mat Doyle – SI

Jurgen vs Osorio – who wins?  -ESPN FC

Bradley at the #6 is a Key

Pulisic has to Start for US – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

US Roster is Named

Impact Election will have on the Game – NBCSports

Young US Players get Taste of USA vs Mexico – Brian Straus SI

US Pulisic Absolutely Deserves to Start after starting for Dortmund in  UCL – ESPNFC

The Full Story on young Christian Pulisic by Grant Wahl SI

US Players Oral History of US vs Mexico – ESPN FC –Jeff Carlisle

Jozy Altidore Scoring Streak a Boost for Toronto and US – The Goalkeeper –

US Carter Vickers could be the next young Star

Hear the Words of Dos a Cero Legends Past – SI Grant Wahl

How did Columbus become the HOME of US Soccer?  SI

2001 The Start of Dos a Cero in Columbus-SI

Mexico’s Starting 11?

Ochoa Worried about Mexico’s form 


Thur, Nov 10

3:30 pm beIN Sport                          Colombia vs Chile

6:45 pm beIN Sport                          Brazil vs Argentina   – Argentina on the road in a must win game with Messi back on the team

10 pm ESPN 2         USA Ladies vs Romania

Fri, Nov 11

2:45 pm FS1                   England vs Scotland

2:45 pm ESPN2            France vs Sweden

3:35 pm beIN Sport  Honduras vs Panama

6 pm beIN Sport         T&T vs Costa Rica

7:30 pm Fox Sports 1 USA vs Mexico in Columbus, OH

Sat, Nov 12

11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2 and Fox Deportes: Croatia vs. Iceland
11:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus: Georgia vs. Moldova
11:50 a.m., ESPN3: Austria vs. Republic of Ireland, Turkey vs. Kosovo
2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2, Liechtenstein vs. Italy
2:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Deportes: Ukraine vs. Finland
2:30 p.m., ESPN Deportes: Spain vs. Macedonia
2:35 p.m., ESPN3: Albania vs. Israel, Wales vs. Serbia

Sun, Nov 13

11:45 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus Bulgaria vs. Belarus
11:45 a.m., ESPN Deportes: Luxembourg vs. Netherlands
11:50 a.m., ESPN3: Cyprus vs. Gibraltar, Hungary vs. Andorra, Switzerland vs. Faroe Islands
2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2 Portugal vs. Latvia
2:30 p.m., ESPN Deportes: Belgium vs. Estonia
2:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus: Greece vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina

7 pm CBS Sports Network  INDY 11 @ NY Cosmos –NASL FINALS

9:30 pm Fox Sports 1 United States women vs. Romania, international friendly

Tues, Nov 15

3 pm beIN Sports       Bolivia vs Paraguay

6:30 pm beIN Sports  Chile vs Uraguay

9 pm BeIN Sport   Costa Rica vs USA

Sun, Nov 20

8 pm FS 1                         MLS – West Con Finals 1st Leg

Tues, Nov 22

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals 1st Leg 

Indy 11

What to Watch 4 in the Finals

3 Things From Playoff Win over Edmonton

 World Soccer

Argentina looks to Messi vs Brazil in Life of Death Qualifying Game tonight

Marcotti’s Musings

Toronto’s Giovinco left out of Italy Squad Again for playing in MLS

Liverpool goes top of league

Can Liverpool Win the League? Tony Evans EPSN FC

Hazard Dazzles as Chelsea go top of table

Buffon Joins Serie A 600 Games Club


Timmy Silences Critics with Huge saves in eliminating LA Galaxy

Who will Win Confernce Semi Finals Starting Next Weekend?

Toronto crushes NYCFC 5-0 at Yankee Stadium to Advance

Montreal outlasts NY Red Bulls to Advance to Semis

Colorado rides Howard to Win over Galaxy

New Coach Schmetzer leads Seattle’s run to Conference Final

Despite 2-1 Win Dallas can’t overcome Seattle’s lead

Seattle’s Morris hurt in Playoff Final – may not play vs Mexico

Scores and Playoff Schedule   Conference Finals Return Tues Nov 22 ESPN 8 pm and Sun Nov 27

Playoff Conference Finals


USA vs. Mexico tale of the tape: Who has the edge for the Columbus clash?

The United States takes on Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Friday — a renewal of the hostilities that have come to define the two countries’ fortunes in international soccer over the last 25 years.Not only have the Stars and Stripes never lost to Mexico in Columbus, they’ve defeated El Tri by identical 2-0 scorelines in four consecutive World Cup qualifiers in Ohio. Naturally, the Americans will take a win by any margin on Friday night, but the fans in attendance will be pulling for a fifth instance of the “dos a cero” result.It’s too early to know how Jurgen Klinsmann and Juan Carlos Osorio will set up their starting XIs at MAPFRE Stadium, but the tale of the tape by position (and a few other areas) might give an inkling as to who holds more advantages heading into the colossal clash in Columbus.


Since taking over as Mexico head coach, Osorio repeatedly has turned to Toluca man Alfredo Talavera in goal. Talavera is a fine goalkeeper, and only Guillermo Ochoa fans will find fault with Osorio’s choice, but the 34-year-old lacks the experience in these matches that his opposite number, Tim Howard, brings to the proceedings.Howard was named the starter for Friday’s match by Klinsmann earlier this week, putting to rest any question that the longtime U.S. No. 1 still holds the position over Brad Guzan.Edge: U.S.


Call it a dodge, but picking between the two groups of defenders is made more difficult because of Geoff Cameron‘s injury and Osorio’s tinkering with formation. With a group of defenders made up of mostly of natural center-backs, evidence abounds that Mexico will go with a three-man back line to counter the U.S.’s two-man front line.Cameron’s absence looms large for the USA, but Klinsmann has options. The smart money is on Omar Gonzalez — an experienced international familiar with several of El Tri‘s Liga MX-based attackers — to step into the void alongside the excellent John Brooks. Perhaps a bigger problem for the U.S. is uncertainty at full-back, where Klinsmann is likely to line up two players of middling defensive ability against a side that presents significant danger from the wings.Edge: Even


Traditionally an area of strength for Mexico, El Tri holds a rather clear advantage over the Americans in midfield — allowing for some gray area in how players are labeled in Osorio’s system.Led by PSV man Andres Guardado, Mexico’s midfield has an excellent combination of savvy and skill. Players like Guardado and Jonathan dos Santos do the heavy lifting, leaving the dynamic attacking work to names like Giovani dos SantosMarco Fabian and Jurgen Damm. Osorio does not lack for options here.The American midfield is functional in most areas, but lacks the sheer number of high-quality players that Mexico brings to the table. That is not to suggest that the U.S. is far behind through the midfield, but rather that Klinsmann doesn’t have as much positional freedom with his group. Both sides have exciting young game-changers.Edge: Mexico


Jozy Altidore is in scorching form and Bobby Wood is getting along fine in Germany’s top division, but the advantage at forward still goes to Mexico. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Oribe Peralta bring experience and a knack for scoring important goals to the team, while younger players like Raul Jimenez and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona present imminent danger with their on-the-ball abilities and athleticism.Mexico also has brought Real Sociedad striker Carlos Vela back into the squad. Vela’s wing play and goal-scoring threat make his return a big boost to the squad and yet another excellent option for Osorio — either in the starting lineup or off the bench. Hirving Lozano, 21, is a rising star at Pachuca and has the ability to slice defenses apart with his dribbling and quickness.Edge: Mexico

Head coach

It feels odd to say it considering some of the travails Klinsmann has faced as U.S. head coach, but the German is the more stable, trusted boss coming into Friday’s game in Ohio. A semifinal appearance at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, a reasonably easy stroll into the Hexagonal and the introduction of a number of exciting new players have galvanized support behind Klinsmann as the final round of qualifying begins.This comes as Osorio is under the gun, leading a team notorious for firing head coaches at the slightest hint of trouble. That Osorio survived the humiliating 7-0 loss Mexico suffered against Chile in the Copa America is both a blessing and a curse; while he gets a chance to turn things around, he could also be one loss to the U.S. away from the axe. That hardly breeds confidence, especially considering his reputation as a habitual tinkerer.Edge: U.S.


If there’s one area in which the USA has a clear and unchallenged advantage, it’s in the intangibles. History leans heavily in the Americans’ favor in Hex games in Columbus, and the confidence within the team is relatively high. Mexico has a strong, talented team, but talented teams have arrived in Ohio assured of massive wins only to leave with defeat by the same scoreline every time. If Mexico is going to upend the history in this match, they’ll need to overcome a pro-U.S.crowd and put aside the questions swirling around their manager.Edge: U.S. 

Armchair Analyst: One big question for the USMNT on Friday

November 9, 20165:08PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

The US will face Mexico on Friday afternoon in the opening game of the Hexagonal (7:45 pm ET; FS1 & Univision). It is a hyperbolic stretch to call this, the first in a 10-game qualifying sprint that will hopefully end up with a berth to Russia 2018, a “must-win.”But at the same time, it is dangerously optimistic to assume that this result doesn’t matter. Remember how close Mexico came to elimination last cycle? Remember how obvious the likes of Honduras and Panama have made it that, on any given day, they can compete with or beat the US (2015 Gold Cup, y’all)? I don’t even feel the need to mention Costa Rica — a team that made the quarterfinals of the most recent World Cup, and a team that the US have never beaten on their home turf.Even the group patsies, Trinidad & Tobago, will not be pushovers. They held the US to a scoreless draw in the opening game of the last qualifying round, and they actually topped Mexico’s group at last year’s Gold Cup, before a controversial quarterfinal loss to Panama on penalties.So the narrative is that CONCACAF presents an easy path to the World Cup, but like all narratives it deserves a good dose of scrutiny. Is it easier than, say, CONMEBOL? Yes, by orders of magnitude.But it’s not a given, and dropping points at home is how you end up needing a last-second miracle to preserve your path.With that, here is the big question to ask ahead of Friday:

Will it be a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1?

The US have been better in a 4-4-2, both historically and recently. That should make this fairly straight-forward, right?

Wrong. Part of the US success in the 4-4-2 — especially during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure — has been due to the hybrid attacking ability of Clint Dempsey, who naturally floats around the field looking to combine. He’s been part playmaker, part fulcrum, part hold-up man, and all goal-scorer. Nobody in the history of the US player pool could swap those roles on the fly the way Dempsey did.

That includes Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood, who are both center forwards of varying skillsets. Of the two, Altidore is much more likely to drop into midfield and make plays:

There is, however, a difference between that kind of dropping into the midfield, and the kind that Dempsey was so good at. The weakness of the 4-4-2 in the modern game is the propensity for it to get overrun in possession by teams with three-man central midfielders (which is what Mexico will certainly have). While possession in and of itself isn’t necessarily a path to victory — the US have proved that against Mexico plenty of times, right? — exercising control of the game’s tempo and rhythm in central midfield is.

And a hybrid like Deuce, who could step into midfield on both sides of the ball despite lining up as a forward, gave the US a level of flexibility in the 4-4-2 that most teams don’t have. Neither Wood nor Altidore can replicate it, and while Christian Pulisic might be able to adopt some part of it, he’s much more likely to be used on the wing.That leaves the other option. The 4-2-3-1 has its own host of questions, and here are a few of them:

  • Does Wood start on the wing, where he’s been mostly ineffective?
  • Can Jozy — who’s always been better in a two-forward set-up, handle being a lone forward vs. El Tri?
  • If it’s a double-pivot deep in central midfield,does that undo the progress the US have made since Michael Bradley became the lone d-mid?Click that Bradley link and read it. The argument the numbers make are compelling, and shouldn’t be ignored. Neither should the fact that the central midfield of Bradley and Jermaine Jones have never been equal to the sum of their parts when played together. The big benefit of the double pivot is supposed to be that when one guy pushes, the other covers the space left behind — something that takes repetition and chemistry.These guys have never had the latter, and “lack of chemistry in central midfield” has a long and storied history of leading to USMNT sadness against El Tri:

That’s from five years ago. Here’s one from 13 months ago. They tell largely the same story.And that’s what Klinsmann will have to figure out over the next 48 hours. The US have more talent than they’ve ever been able to boast of before, and every opportunity to keep up the string of Dos-a-Ceros in Columbus.But it’ll have to be earned. And if it’s not, well, nothing’s a given. Not even World Cup qualification out of CONCACAF.

Why Michael Bradley at the No. 6 has been key for the US national team

November 9, 201611:36AM ESTBenjamin BaerAssociate Editor

There has been a ton of debate over the years regarding what Michael Bradley’s best position is.US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has done little to quiet that debate during his tenure, playing the captain as a box-to-box midfielder, an attacking midfielder and as a defensive midfielder at various times.The 29-year-old bounced around all three spots prior to the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. During that time, Klinsmann decided to play Bradley as an attacking midfielder in a 4-4-2 diamond formation. The results of this were somewhat mixed.The US escaped a tough group that included Ghana, a Portugal team that included one of the two best players in the world and Germany, who eventually lifted the trophy in Rio de Janeiro. They then went on to play Belgium into extra time, with the Europeans advancing 2-1 after goals from current Premier League stars Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.While the tournament was considered a success for Bradley and Co., some of the underlying numbers were a bit worrying. The US were out-shot 94-44 and out-possessed 57%-43% over the course of the four games, which is not a formula for long term success.Over the next year, through the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico in October 2015, those issues did not dissipate. In 16 games that Bradley was not played as a defensive midfielder, the US was out-shot 10.13-14.88 and slightly out-possessed.After the CONCACAF Cup, a shift happened. Klinsmann decided to play Bradley as a No. 6, or defensive midfielder, which he had been playing for Toronto FC since the start of the 2015 season. The numbers have seen a notable improvement, which you can see below.

Position Win % Avg. GD Avg. Shot differential Possession
Not No. 6 43.75% +.63 -4.75 49.51%
No. 6 71.43% +1.39 +2.77 55.01%

Bradley is one of the best players on the US national team and the way that he is utilized is important to the team’s overall success. It looks as though Klinsmann has figured out where his captain is best deployed, which could mean that US fans will be celebrating on Friday night.

Christian Pulisic doesn’t need to be the U.S. star vs. Mexico, but he must start

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As hype trains go, the one attached to U.S. midfielder Christian Pulisic has already gone through a few sets of brake pads.Everyone from Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel to U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann to Pulisic’s U.S. teammates have tried to temper expectations. Just last weekend, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard attempted to lower the volume surrounding the 18-year-old.”I think we have to as a whole — as a team, as U.S. Soccer — we need to protect [Pulisic],” he said. “He’s one of these prodigies that comes around every 10 years or so. It’s great. It’s great that he’s playing minutes, it’s great that he wants to shoulder that load, but we don’t need him to be the savior. We need him to play well for us and do good things, but we need to protect him.”The step-by-step approach of Tuchel and Klinsmann over the past year has been utterly sensible. Pulisic has been given increasing doses of playing time and responsibility, but at this point, the plea for caution isn’t working, especially ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against bitter rivals Mexico. In fact, it will be a massive shock if Pulisic doesn’t start the match in Columbus, Ohio, which would be his first against El Tri at any level.Ask Pulisic if he needs to be protected, and one can sense inner conflict.”The competitive side of me wants to just play whenever I get the chance,” he said Wednesday during a roundtable with reporters. “It’s not like I want to hold back, but I understand what people say. At a young age, it is a lot, and this past year has put a big mental strain on me.”I can understand what they mean, just taking it slower, whether it’s not being in every game or every tough situation like that, just to ease me into it. But a part of me thinks that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard because I just want to go out and play. I can see both sides.”At this stage, holding Pulisic back seems dumb indeed, as he has blasted through almost every obstacle in his path. There has been the occasional stumble, such as when he was subbed at halftime during a 2-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen back on Oct. 1. But for the most part, Pulisic’s progression has been shockingly steep and linear.He’s starting matches in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League for a side stocked with high-profile players. He has broken several youngest-ever scoring records for both club and country. Pulisic has seemed to take it all in without showing a shred of self-doubt or anxiety about the expectations placed on him, which at a club such as Dortmund are considerable.Still, Pulisic is like everyone else. He both feels and has wrestled with the pressure.”After, say, I don’t play one game or I don’t have the best game or something like that, I panic. I’m like, ‘What am I doing here? I’m expected to be so much better this,'” he said. “I talk to [my parents], and they’re like, ‘Christian, you’re 18. You have so much to learn.’ It’s just simple stuff like that. Or even if it’s nothing to do with soccer. I’m just over there in Europe.”My dad’s been there with me, but it could be I’m just alone one day and I’m just not feeling good. I’m going to training, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I want to be with my friends, home, going to school, having fun with them.’ Or something like that. It’s just talking to them and kind of understanding that it’s a process. There are definitely hard parts, but the good parts are just way too good.”One man who knows a thing or two about the hype that can be foisted upon a teenager is former U.S. international and Borussia Dortmund forward Jovan Kirovski. In 1992, he signed with Manchester United’s youth team as a 16-year-old and was part of the academy group that included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. He left only because he couldn’t acquire a work permit. He was then transferred to Borussia Dortmund in 1996, where he was part of the side that won the 1997 UEFA Champions League.The expectations for Kirovski were that he would become a star for both club and country, but he never reached those heights. Yet Kirovski’s experience hasn’t curbed his excitement about Pulisic, and he’s among those who think that for the U.S., it’s time to ditch the caution and stop limiting his minutes.”Pulisic is going to have to handle that kind of pressure anyway,” said Kirovski, who covers the Bundesliga for Fox Sports when he isn’t working as the LA Galaxy’s technical director. “Yeah, we can’t get carried away, we can’t be saying he’s the next Lionel Messi, but he’s already proving that he can make an impact. It doesn’t matter how young he is. He’s deserving of being out there on a top team in one of the biggest leagues in the world.”The hype? Yeah, there’s always going to be hype, but if he continues to make an impact, it doesn’t really matter how old he is or how young he is. He’s playing in front of 80,000 people on a world-class team against Real Madrid. He’s handling it pretty well.”Pulisic’s progression at both club and the international level is a welcome development for the U.S., who ever since the start of this World Cup cycle have been searching for the next wave of attacking players. Right now, with Landon Donovan retired from international soccer and Clint Dempsey sidelined by a heart ailment, there really isn’t anyone else in the U.S. pool with Pulisic’s combination of speed, creativity and aggression off the dribble.”They talk about being brave in the tackle or wanting to head the ball, but Pulisic is brave in that he wants the ball in tight spaces. He wants to attack players,” Kirovski said. “He’s very confident. That’s the thing that impresses me most. He gets the ball, and he goes. In our country, we haven’t had that. We don’t have players that are direct and take players on and commit players the way he does.”Pulisic’s ability to strike in transition could be vital against a Mexico team that is expected to have more of the ball, even if it is playing on the road. He’ll have plenty of help, of course. Howard is right: With players such as Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore both operating close to their peaks around him, Pulisic doesn’t need to be the savior. But Pulisic will take on that role if needed, especially given the stakes.”The game doesn’t really get any bigger than this one: U.S. vs. Mexico, Columbus, World Cup qualifying,” he said. “I understand that when I’m here. I can feel the energy in the city just training here. You see banners everywhere and just so much excitement. I’m pumped for the game.”If Pulisic is at his best, it will be Mexico that will need protecting.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Jozy Altidore’s hot scoring streak a boost for Toronto FC and U.S. national team

Updated: NOVEMBER 7, 2016 — 7:58 PM ESTby Jonathan Tannenwald, STAFF WRITER  @jtannenwald  The Twitter handle above is for my general news reporting. My soccer handle is @thegoalkeeper. Contact me there

NEW YORK – When a striker scores 15 goals in a 20-game stretch, the odds are pretty good that he’ll be accused of being in good form.When that player is at the top of the U.S. national team depth chart, and plays a big role in helping his club reach the Eastern Conference final for the first time ever, the odds are pretty good that he’ll be accused by many people.That player, as you’ve probably figured out by now, is Jozy Altidore. The aforementioned 20-game stretch dates back to July 31. It includes two goals in the Americans’ last World Cup qualifier, and a goal each in all three of Toronto FC’s playoff games this autumn.Altidore’s run has impressed a lot of people, as it should. But the Reds’ locker room hasn’t been all that moved, at least publicly.Even after Sunday’s bewildering 5-0 demolition of New York City FC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium – part of a 7-0 aggregate thumping over two games – the team was noticeably low-key.Perhaps that’s because within Toronto’s locker room, there’s a keen awareness of how much scrutiny Altidore has been under throughout his career. Not just in Toronto, a big city with a big-spending soccer team that took 10 years to win a playoff game. It’s been this way for Altidore at every other stop in his club career – to say nothing of the national team.Yes, it would be much more impressive if the 27-year-old was scoring goals in bunches for Sunderland, Hull City, Bursaspor or Villarreal. Heck, if Altidore was scoring goals for any European team he’d be praised to the heavens by those who preach the gospel of the Old Continent’s inherent moral superiority.

But this much is certain: Regardless of what you think of the level of opponent, Altidore has been putting the ball in the net on a consistent basis for the last three months. And a fair few of those goals have been consequential in the moment.For all the ups and downs Altidore has endured – including more than his fair share of untimely injuries – is it not at least fair to give him that?The hundreds of TFC fans who traveled to the Bronx Sunday certainly did, serenading the New Jersey native with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” during pregame warmups. Altidore celebrated the occasion with an assist on the night’s opener and this thunderbolt of a finish later:

Soon after the final whistle, Altidore left the stadium for some more traditional celebrating. It’s too bad he wasn’t around to reflect on his big night, but call it an excused absence.It was left others to speak on his behalf, starting with Reds head coach Greg Vanney.”He doesn’t really deserve scrutiny,” Vanney said. “He’s a player who had some issues in terms of injury [and] sometimes those aren’t the player’s fault. He’s worked incredibly hard to get healthy, to find his form, and you can see what he’s capable of doing – which is something we always knew he was going to be capable of doing.”Implicit in Vanney’s words was the understanding that Altidore hasn’t always done it. Indeed, the droughts have been so glaring at times that they’ve overshadowed the periods of success. And to make matters worse, the droughts have come on some of the biggest stages Altidore has played on.Go back to those four European clubs I mentioned above. Altidore played a total of 116 combined games for them, and scored a total of nine goals. His struggles were laid bare for the world to see, especially during his two stays in England.He has had similarly fallow stretches with the national team, such as a stretch from 2010 to 2012 when he scored just five times in 29 appearances.But when things go right, they go right in a big way. Such as Altidore’s two seasons at Dutch club AZ Alkmaar from 2011 to 2013, when he scored 51 goals in 93 games. That form translated to the national team, as he scored eight goals in 14 appearances in the 2013 calendar year.That stretch is one of the biggest reasons why Michael Bradley politely took exception to my asking him Sunday night how important Altidore’s current hot streak is.”I’m going to give you a little bit of a hard time and say that he’s scored a lot of big goals in a lot of big games going back a long time,” Bradley said. “When people try to act like Jozy became a good player in the last two months – and I’m not saying that’s what you were implying – but in general, the narrative is, in my opinion, not quite accurate.”At the peak of his success at AZ, Altidore got a second chance at the English Premier League with a $13 million move to Sunderland. He failed there, scoring just three goals in 52 appearances in a year and a half or so, came after that.Then came the move to Toronto, where Altidore has had a renaiss-… well, maybe that’s not the right word.Where Altidore rediscovered his fo-

… No, it’s not that either.

Where he took multiple steps down in quality to a league that will never be as good as the English Premier League, so of course it’s not surprising that he has scored 40 goals in 52 games.

Okay, look. I agree that MLS isn’t as good a league as the EPL. So do most of the media that cover the league, most of the fans that follow it, and heck, most of the people who work for it.Read that again. I’ll even print it in big type for you.

I am saying point blank that MLS isn’t as good a league as the EPL.

Are you happy now?I hope so, because here’s the point I really want to make:

It matters when a player is playing with confidence. It especially matters when a striker is playing with confidence. And it matters even more when that striker has Altidore’s natural physical gifts that complement his soccer skills.It matters most of all when all of those things have come together in the lead-up to the U.S. national team’s biggest game of every World Cup qualifying cycle: at home against Mexico in Columbus on Friday (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and Univision). Four days later, the Americans are at Costa Rica (9 p.m., beIN Sports and NBC Universo), the only major CONCACAF nation where they’ve never won.”Jozy going into the national team full of confidence, and – with Michael, who has also been spectacular in the last couple of games – I think the form speaks for itself,” said Vanney, who earned 37 national team caps of his own in a decade-long playing career. “To have each other, and the natural connection they’ve had playing together for years, and the way they’re able to find each other and work together – whenever you put a team together on short notice, you want guys who already have relationships on the field, because it makes putting things together quickly easy. And you want guys who are in form. That’s what they’re going to be in when they show up for Jurgen [Klinsmann].”When attention shifts back to the club scene, Toronto will face up to Montreal in what should be an epic Eastern Conference final series against the arch-rival Impact. The first leg will be at Olympic Stadium on Nov. 22, where a crowd of over 40,000 is likely to be on hand. The second leg will be at BMO Field, which will be jammed to the last inch of its 30,000 capacity.If ever there was a time for Altidore to be at his best, it’s right now. And by the way, Vanney was right about Bradley’s strong performances in the NYCFC series.”We’re very excited,” Bradley said. “You guys probably get sick and tired of hearing me say it, but this is what it’s all about: to play in big games, to play in games where everything’s on the line and where everybody’s watching… You play all year to get to this point, and we have a group of guys who have embraced the challenge in every way. I couldn’t be more proud.”Bradley carries his own burden of struggles in big games, most notably during the Copa América Centenario. The current spotlight gives him his own chance to bury a few of those old demons.Now it’s a matter of actually doing it.

The impact Trump’s election will have on USA vs. Mexico

1 CommentBy Joe Prince-WrightNov 9, 2016, 8:12 AM EST

Make no mistake about it, Friday’s huge 2018 World Cup qualifier between bitter rivals the U.S. and Mexico will be about much more than what happens on the field.Donald Trump being elected as the new president of the U.S. will have a big impact on proceedings.[ MORE: Latinos, immigrants worry 

In the stands and around MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, before, during and after the game, the ramifications of Trump being elected as the new President of the United States of America will be felt acutely and directly.Trump’s vilifying of Mexico and its people throughout his election campaign was one of his main campaign themes. As was his notion of wanting to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but it was seen as a step too far by many. Add in that the value of the Peso plummeted following the announcement of Trump’s victory and Mexico is very involved in this presidential election.You can also bet your bottom dollar that chants of “build that wall!” will be sung by some U.S. fans in Ohio on Friday.Not everyone will agree with it, but more than likely most will sing it. The president elect has also seemingly described many Mexican immigrants in the USA as murderers, criminals and rapists early on in his campaign trail, something many among the USA’s large Mexican-American community haven’t forgot. Neither have the citizens of Mexico.Friday’s game has the potential to become an ugly occasion with political tensions incredibly high at this moment in time. Many Latinos and Hispanics believe Trump’s victory has essentially placed a target on their backs.It also has the potential to become an occasion where two nations come together and unite t worry about the game and forget about all of the other issues for 90 minutes.Could fans of the U.S. and Mexico unite in a moment of extreme uncertainty between the two nations?Mexico’s fans (a few hundred are expected to have tickets but many more will be in and around the stadium) and players were already due to enter a cauldron of hostility in Columbus, just as they always have done in the adopted home of the U.S. national team where chants of “Dos a Cero!” in previous victories from the USMNT haunt everyone connected with El Tri.[ MORE: Premier League, world stars react to election ]

Given the events early Wednesday, the vitriol will be cranked up more than a few notches as the USA and Mexico kick off their opening game of the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region.This game didn’t need any extra spice added to it. Now, thanks to Trump, it has it.Players and management from both teams will try and talk down the political situation and the potential links to their rivalry before the game, which will be helpful. I’ve already spoken to friends going to Columbus who predict that the chants and interactions in the parking lots surrounding MAPFRE Stadium and downtown Columbus will be very unsavory. This unfortunately, like many intense rivalries, happens at many USA vs. Mexico encounters but due to recent events comments about “building a wall” and promises to “make them pay for it” seem a little closer to the bone.The fact of the matter is: the two cultures of the U.S. and Mexico are closely intertwined. That’s what makes the feelings in Friday’s game so complicated.There will be Mexican-Americans in the stands who will not only be hurt by any potential unrest and chants, but also concerned about the future of relations between the USA and its neighbor to the south. What does Trump being in the White House mean for themselves and their families, long-term? Friday is about so much more than a game.Yes, Trump may have done slightly better with the Hispanic vote than expected (around 29 percent of their vote some studies suggest) but his blatant polarizing of Mexico and the USA will fuel the chants and thoughts of some fans in the stadium. Especially after a day full of drinking. There’s no getting away from that fact and TV footage of banners, chants or any unrest will be beamed around the globe.This match between the U.S. national team and Mexico will be seen as a major early indicator as to how Trump’s election has been accepted.Not all USMNT fans will agree with Trump’s election and his ideologies but it is likely many of the locals in Columbus will. In Ohio, the state which has selected the winning presidential candidate in every U.S. election since 1964, they went Republican. Yes, plenty of U.S. fans will travel from across the 50 states to watch this match but the vast majority will be locals from Columbus.That in itself creates an issue as Columbus has a sizable Hispanic community with over 22 percent of its residents classed as Hispanic and the majority of those are Mexicans. You only have to go to a Columbus Crew game to understand the rich Hispanic heritage running through the soccer community in Ohio’s largest city.Friday’s game will hold much greater significance than just three points in the Hex and a battle between bitter CONCACAF rivals.It will also be a measuring stick to see just how deep the divides between the USA and Mexico have become following Trump’s unsavory rhetoric and his unlikely ascension to becoming the most powerful man in the world.

Jurgen Klinsmann vs. Juan Carlos Osorio: USA, Mexico manager watch

Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States meet Juan Carlos Osorio and Mexico to kick off the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying on Friday at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. For both managers, the pressure is on. Who comes into the clash more in need of a result? We asked our experts Jeff Carlisle and Tom Marshall to assess the bosses head-to-head.

How they’re doing

Jeff Carlisle: Unlike earlier this year, Klinsmann is on solid footing as the final round Hexagonal begins. The U.S. reached its goal of making the semifinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, cruised through the remainder of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying and, perhaps most importantly, answered some vexing personnel questions, like the composition of Klinsmann’s back line.

Tom Marshall: Osorio is under pressure. The Mexican media turned on him following the 7-0 loss against Chile in the Copa America Centenario and there have been few kind words about the manager since. Indeed, there have been rumors of replacements and former managers like Miguel Herrera and Hugo Sanchez haven’t exactly been gushing in their praise of the Colombian.

Match expectation

JC: History dictates that this is a match the U.S. is expecting to win. The last time the U.S. failed to beat Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on home soil was back in 1997. Yes, Mexico prevailed in the CONCACAF Cup last year, but Klinsmann has a lot to live up to here.

TM: Expectation and reality can be two different things in Mexico. The expectation is that Mexico will go to Columbus and win. Whenever and wherever El Tri meets the United States, it is expected to earn victory. The reality is that this is Mexico’s most difficult game in the Hexagonal stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. History has taught us that. And the United States is a strong side. Coming away with a point from MAPFRE Stadium would be an excellent start to what should be a tight qualifying campaign.

What’s at stake

JC: A win will allow the U.S. to get off to a tension-free start in the Hex. The U.S. has to play Costa Rica four days later, and if the Americans get only a point out of the match against Mexico, all of a sudden there will be immense pressure heaped upon Klinsmann and the team.

TM: It’s not a personal view, but the narrative around the game from the Mexican perspective is that Osorio’s legitimacy as Mexico manager is on the line. The manager has stressed recently that the players back his methods, his playing philosophy and therefore his right to continue to build something with El Tri.Should Mexico manage to get a result in Columbus it would be a huge boost for Osorio. It would silence some of the fierce critics, especially with Herrera having made no secret of the fact he’d like to return to the national team. A heavy loss, however, would deepen the questions surrounding whether Osorio is the right person to take the team forward. The Mexican federation has never been known for its patience with managers, and Osorio needs his team to send a clear message that another 7-0-style loss is not around the corner.

Quote from manager

JC: “Obviously the Mexico clash is a six-pointer to start the Hexagonal right away. We badly want to continue the tradition of beating them in Columbus.” –Klinsmann

TM: “We see it as a fantastic opportunity to go there and change the story and break that statistic. We’ll play [against] a strong team, with their fans, in a stadium that historically hasn’t been good for Mexico. But the opportunity is exactly that.” — Osorio

Biggest current issue

JC: The absence due to injury of Geoff Cameron is a big blow. While the U.S. has some depth at center-back, he and John Brooks had formed a solid partnership in the back. The rest of the starting XI looks pretty set.

TM: Hector Herrera. The Porto midfielder has been out of form of late and despite being one of the regulars over the last few years, the 26-year-old faces some stiff competition for the start against the United States. Osorio could opt for in-form Marco Fabian, Villarreal’s Jonathan dos Santos or make the bold move to start Chivas’ exciting 20-year-old midfielder Orbelin Pineda.

Aside from Herrera’s role, all eyes will be on Rafa Marquez. The 37-year-old has endured torrid experiences in Columbus, but he surely will be desperate to get a chance of revenge in what will be his last opportunity. Osorio will think long and hard about whether to play the Atlas captain.


JC: That depends on which segment of the fan base you’re talking about. Klinsmann still divides opinion on a massive scale. He also seems perpetually to be one bad result away from being on the hot seat.

Fan rating: 7/10

TM: Mexico fans and media have struggled to grasp what Osorio is attempting to do with El Tri and the wound of the 7-0 loss is still fresh.

Fan rating: 4/10

For rising U.S. talents like Pulisic, Gooch, Carter-Vickers, a first taste of Mexico

BRIAN STRAUSTuesday November 8th, 2016

The latest installment of the USA-Mexico rivalry takes place Friday night, when the CONCACAF foes open the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal against one another in Columbus. Stream the match live via FOX Sports GO or watch on Fox Sports 1 at 7:45 p.m. ET.

Jurgen Klinsmann never has been reluctant to rely on youth. He did so at the 2006 World Cup in his native Germany, where he managed a squad including a tournament-high eight players aged 22 or younger (for comparison’s sake, finalists Italy and France had one combined). And he stuck with that philosophy eight years later, when he trusted in the likes of DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks and Julian Green at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Klinsmann prizes athleticism and fearlessness, and if he sees those qualities in a player, age is secondary. So while the U.S. squad that has gathered in Columbus to prepare for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico has its share of veterans, it also features nine players age 23 or younger (it would’ve been 10 had Jordan Morris not bowed out with a hamstring injury). The scene at Mapfre Stadium, site of four consecutive 2-0 wins, will be new to many as well. Only 11 men on Klinsmann’s squad have qualifying experience against El Tri.“There’s a lot of movement happening. Younger players, I think they start to become more confident and start to become more mature in what they’re doing,” Klinsmann said while unveiling his team. “There is a lot of competition now happening within our roster and that’s why we’re going to start [Monday] with training sessions that will be very intense and very demanding because everybody wants to be so badly on the field when you play Mexico.”The youngest of all will be under the brightest spotlight. Christian Pulisic’s rise continues unabated, and at this point there really is no reason not to start the Borussia Dortmund attacker on Friday. He’s established himself in the crucible of the Bundesliga and Champions League, possesses rare technique and soccer sense and now has nine caps to his name. He hasn’t experienced USA-Mexico, but nothing in his brief professional past suggests he won’t rise to the occasion.“This player’s potential is limitless,” Klinsmann told FIFA.com. “I’ve always said you need to write your own story and he’s doing it right now. I think it’s rare in America for a player to be so developed at such an early age. But in Europe if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. He’s taken things in his own hands. He’s the piece of the puzzle we were hoping for this year and he’s a great example to other young players about how to go for it—to play at the highest level and prove yourself.”Klinsmann elaborated on Pulisic’s potential impact on Sunday.“It changes the dynamic in our team,” the manager said. “Christian can play left, can play right, he can play in the middle—that’s what he’s doing for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, which is huge. So [left back] Fabian [Johnson] and Christian now, they develop a real good relationship and they develop a partnership there where they know where each other is running, they’ve got an understanding of creating attacking patterns, so this is big for us. This is real quality you want to see.”Less will be expected from the other younger/newer players, but Klinsmann said it’s important to have them aboard. Getting a taste of the rivalry, both on the day and in the preparation beforehand, creates comfort down the road.“That’s why we go into these 10 days with 26 players, even if we can only use 23 at the end of the day on the roster, because just this experience to go through these 10 days, through training sessions and then obviously the two games is huge,” Klinsmann said, also referring to the Nov. 15 qualifier in Costa Rica.

The newest of all is 18-year-old Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, who was raised in England but has an American father (a former professional basketball player). Carter-Vickers has played for U.S. youth teams but is uncapped at the senior level and still could switch allegiance. Cap-tying him this month may not be in the cards, but Carter-Vickers doesn’t sound like someone who’s not committed.“Jurgen called me to let me know that I was going to be in the squad. I was over the moon,” he told Tottenham’s website. “It’ll be great to be around the team and see what it’s like to be around a big game like that. Through the youth ranks, I’ve never played against Mexico, and since I’ve been with the USA it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.”Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch, 20, isn’t cap-tied either and is eligibile to play for England and Ireland. The California native has started to get some minutes with the Black Cats, and when called in by Klinsmann for last month’s friendlies in Cuba and Washington, he made the sort of impact the manager wants to see.“The way he kind of came on against New Zealand [in D.C.] was very promising. He has no fear at all. He’s going at people, so this is great to see,” Klinsmann said.“I’m happy to be here,” Gooch told reporters in Columbus. “It’s only my second camp but I want to make sure I do enough because at the end of the day, I want to play. I want to be involved [against Mexico]. It’s a massive game … To play would be a great honor.”Green, 21, has never played in qualifier but has that World Cup goal on his resume and forced his way back into the U.S. picture by making Bayern Munich’s senior squad and scoring against Cuba and New Zealand last month. Midfielder Caleb Stanko, 23, earned his first senior cap in September against Trinidad & Tobago. With Kyle Beckerman out injured and Danny Williams and Perry Kitchen left behind, Stanko will get an opportunity to climb the defensive midfield depth chart. Morris, ironically, was replaced by a 35-year-old forward with even less international experience—LA Galaxy veteran Alan Gordon. Big games won’t be new to Gordon, but USA-Mexico will be.For each of the 15 men yet to face Mexico in a qualifier, from Gordon to Gooch, there will be reminders throughout the week of how important and intense this fixture can be. Defender Omar Gonzalez, who starred in the 2013 Columbus qualifier, said Klinsmann “set the tone [Monday] in his first speech, just saying that from the first training today it’s going to be intense.”Matt Besler admitted that he was “probably naive” when he made his qualifying debut in 2013 at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “Now I know about the history. I know the rivalry and exactly what it takes,” he said.Besler and the other vets will have this week to share those experiences with the first-timers. With Klinsmann, you never know who might wind up on the field.“I would just say that every single play matters,” Besler said when asked what advice he’d impart. “Whether it’s a throw-in or a goal kick or a corner kick, every single play matters. You have to be tuned in at all times and you have to give everything you possibly have every second of the match.” 

Christian Pulisic surprised, deserving of rapid success with U.S., Dortmund

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Christian Pulisic says his meteoric rise with both Borussia Dortmund and the U.S. men’s national team is a bit of a surprise, but added he knows he deserves to be where he is.Pulisic is already the youngest non-German to score in the Bundesliga, and earlier this year became the youngest player to score for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier. Speaking at a roundtable with reporters ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier with rivals Mexico, Pulisic admitted his progress has exceeded even his expectations.”If you asked me last November, where I thought I would be, I would not say, ‘Right I where I am now.’ Obviously I wasn’t expecting it to all go so fast, with things at Dortmund and then the national team,” Pulisic said. “It’s not like, ‘I can’t believe it.’ It’s my dream and it just came faster than I thought it would. But I know I completely deserve to be here.”Pulisic’s father, Mark, himself a former professional player, followed his son to Dortmund and has been a valuable sounding board when things get difficult. So have his coaches.”Mentally, it can be a lot,” said Pulisic about playing overseas. “I think for young players, it is tough at such a young age, dealing with the pressures and stuff like that. Luckily I’ve just had a lot of strong people around me who have helped me through it because I wouldn’t even be close to where I am if I didn’t have the support system that I do.”I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. That’s the really important part about it.”Such has been Pulisic progression that he has almost made things look easy. But he is the first to admit they have been anything but. There have been difficult moments, and some have even come far away from first team matches.Pulisic admitted to feeling panic on occasion after being left out of a matchday squad or not performing on the pitch, which in turn leads to doubt creeping in alongside the pressure of expectation. That’s when he said he relies on those around him to remind him that he’s only 18 and is still learning.He added: “Or even if it’s nothing to do with soccer. I’m just over there in Europe. My dad’s been there with me, but it could be I’m just alone one day and I’m just not feeling good. I’m going to training and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I want to be with my friends, home, going to school, having fun with them.’ Or something like that.”It’s just talking to them, and kind of understanding that it’s a process. There’s definitely hard parts, but the good parts are just way too good.”Pulisic’s success has led many to wonder why other American players who have gone overseas haven’t had similar levels of success. There are plenty of factors of course. Coaches get fired, competition is fierce and adjusting to a new culture is difficult. It makes for a difficult jump.”I took a sacrifice which I think is what a lot of players are afraid of,” he said. “I took the step over to Europe to play at a big club at a young age. I think that’s what’s hard for a lot of people, moving over there. They just can’t see themselves completely moving to a different country and being away from your family all the time, and friends when you’re just in high school.”Obviously I wasn’t even 100 percent sure I wanted to do it, but I had people around me that said, ‘I know that you can make it.’ I wanted to do it, because it was always my dream to be a professional soccer player. I think it’s just taking that big step is what a lot of young players are afraid to do.”Against Mexico, Pulisic will be counted on to provide a heavy dose of creativity to the U.S attack. And he’ll bring the same level of confidence and fearlessness that he’s shown so far for both club and country.”I think it’s just the creative side of me,” he said. “I was always out playing sports in situations that didn’t matter with my friends. I’ve always just taken that, and my dad has always taught me that you never change your game based on a situation.”In a moment, or type of pressure, you just go out and I play like I always do. Because it’s a big moment I’m not going to shy away and not show my talents. I’ll show what I can do and show it every game.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

The Education of Christian Pulisic: Inside the Dortmund, USA rising star’s rapid growth


  • What has gone into Christian Pulisic’s meteoric rise for club and country? The inside story on the growth and rapid maturation of the Dortmund and USA midfielder.

GRANT WAHLWednesday November 9th, 2016

DORTMUND, Germany – Michael Zorc,the sporting director for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, is one of the most respected talent spotters in world soccer. He has to be, since his main competition, Bayern Munich, is blessed with enough wealth not just to buy superstars from around Europe but also to poach Dortmund’s best players, as Bayern has done with brutal repetition over the years.“We have a rival who makes €200 million more per year in revenues,” Zorc explains on a rainy fall day in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. “So we have to have a different approach to compete with them. We have to be quicker and earlier to find young talent.”Dortmund casts a global net in its pursuit of prospects. In January 2014, Zorc sent his scouts to a youth tournament in Turkey to take a close look at the U.S. Under-17 national team and its promising forward, Haji Wright. But a funny thing happened that week: While they were observing Wright, Dortmund’s scouts fell in love with another U.S. player, a slight 15-year-old midfielder named Christian Pulisic. A native of Hershey, Pa., Pulisic (pronounced puh-LISS-ick) possessed a combination of speed, vision and soccer IQ that Zorc had never seen in an American his age before.“We said, ‘Hey, [Wright] is a really good player, but there’s one fantastic, outstanding player [Pulisic],’” Zorc says, “and from this time we followed him and tried to realize the transfer.”Pulisic moved with his father, Mark, to Germany in the summer of 2014, and this year he has broken through with Dortmund and the U.S. national team to become the best American men’s soccer prospect since Landon Donovan. In April, Pulisic scored his second goal in the German Bundesliga, the youngest player ever to do so (at 17 years, 219 days). In September, he was the best player on the field in the U.S.’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying win against Trinidad and Tobago, his first national team start. A week later, Pulisic came on against Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in a UEFA Champions League game and delivered the final pass on Dortmund’s equalizer in a 2-2 tie. Not bad for a kid who would celebrate his 18th birthday on Sept. 18 by attending a Justin Bieber concert in Cologne.Watching Pulisic in full flight on the ball is to witness the real thing. Modern soccer is about speed, skill and quickness of thought, and Pulisic is as relentless as time itself. From his position out wide in Dortmund’s attack, he can drive hard to the byline and deliver a pinpoint cross or cut inside and break down defenders who just can’t keep up. His first touch is a baby’s breath.“I like to think of myself as a creative player,” says Pulisic during an interview in Dortmund’s fan store, where supporters from ages 6 to 56 ask him to sign autographs. “I try to have an impact on every game, whether it’s by making runs or using quick moves to try to get by defenders or making a nice pass to help my team.”Whenever the competition level is raised, Pulisic meets it. In his confidence and even his appearance, he’s a post-millennial version of Tom Cruise’s Maverick taking out the MiGs in Top Gun.“He’s fearless,” says Dortmund teammate Nuri Sahin. “He has so much speed, but what I like the most is his first touch. When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”Adds Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel: “He’s the kind of guy who’s very self-confident and showed his talent on the pitch and doesn’t show any nerves under pressure. That’s a wonderful combination.”Now the world is noticing, too. Pulisic recently signed a lucrative deal through 2022 with Nike, which is aching to find the first U.S. men’s soccer superstar, and he was the subject of offers in last summer’s transfer window from Liverpool, Red Bull Leipzig and other clubs worth as much as $20 million—which would have made him among the most expensive 17-year-olds of all time.“There have been some offers for him in the summer window from England and from German clubs,” says Zorc, who turned them down, “but we would like to have him here and develop him here. We didn’t educate him to sell him. We have a long-running contract until 2019, but because of his development the club is ready to speak to him to prolong his contract at any time.”Every week brings a new reason for excitement if you’re Pulisic, but the three games in 10 days starting this Friday will take things to a fever pitch: The U.S.-Mexico World Cup 2018 qualifier in Columbus, Ohio; the Costa Rica-U.S. qualifier in San José on Nov. 15; and the Borussia Dortmund-Bayern Munich showdown on Nov. 20 before more than 80,000 yellow-and-black drenched Dortmund diehards who now give Pulisic his own Bieber treatment anytime he leaves his modest apartment in his modest Volkswagen.How pumped is Pulisic to have a role in all three games?

“It’s pretty crazy,” he says. “If you asked me that question a year ago, there was no way I would be thinking I would have a chance to play in all those games. It’s going to be an amazing few weeks coming up, and I’m just really excited for the challenges ahead. I’m ready for it.”In many ways, Pulisic’s life in Germany is nothing like that of typical 18-year-old Americans, most of whom are in their senior year of high school. But he still clings tightly to a few teenage joys. Every Sunday at 7 p.m. local time, Christian and his cousin Will, a goalkeeper for Dortmund’s Under-19 team, whoop and holler in front of a laptop watching NFL RedZone and keeping track of their fantasy football teams. (“I should take a win this week,” says Christian, who’s hypercompetitive, “so I’m 5-2.”) Last May, Pulisic found time to attend the high school prom back in Hershey. And like most teens, Christian is enjoying the freedom that comes with finally being able to drive a car in Germany upon turning 18.“Now he doesn’t have to have Dad pulling into the parking lot and dropping him off,” cracks Mark, “and having all of his teammates see Dad dropping him off.”The father still calls his son “Figo.” Always has. Mark Pulisic played and coached in the pro indoor soccer ranks, and from the time Christian was 3, Mark would kick the ball toward Christian’s left foot so that he could work on his weaker peg. Christian loved the sport—his mother, Kelley, and Mark were both forwards at George Mason—and the family would regularly watch Real Madrid’s Galácticos on television. Christian chose former Portuguese World Player of the Year Luís Figo as his favorite player, not least because of the way Figo would take on opponents out wide and dribble past them and be courageous with the ball (much as Pulisic plays today). Christian’s first pro jersey was Figo’s Real Madrid shirt.The highest levels of soccer are far easier to watch on U.S. TV these days than they were in the 20th century, and as a result young Americans can grow up much more easily with soccer in their blood. “As he was playing U-12, U-14 and U-16, you could tell he watched,” says Mark of his son’s soccer IQ. “He was trying things that he saw. He was tactically aware, and a lot of that came from seeing games.”• LOOK BACK: SI’s first story on Christian Pulisic

The pace of Christian’s soccer education was breathtaking. At age 7, he absorbed English football culture while living with his family near Oxford for a year when Kelley, a teacher, was on a Fulbright scholarship. At age 8, Christian attended training sessions of his father’s indoor team, the Detroit Ignition, where the Brazilian players would challenge the youngster to learn ball tricks (which he invariably returned the following week and performed).At age 10, through his father’s coaching contacts, Christian trained for a week at Barcelona’s famed La Masía youth academy. He was invited back for two more subsequent stints (though not in an official trial capacity). Meanwhile, he was developing all the time with Pennsylvania Classics, a respected youth club, and joined the U.S. Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., at age 14 in 2013.Small for his age, Pulisic couldn’t rely on sheer size to dominate the youth ranks, as is so common in U.S. soccer culture.“I had to use other ways,” he says, “and try to outthink opponents even more.”The high point of those formative years came in December 2013, when Pulisic’s U.S. U-17 team thumped Brazil 4-1 to win the Nike International Friendlies event. Internet highlights of that game show Pulisic, still small at age 15, clowning Brazilian defenders on his way to a goal and assist and tournament MVP honors.

How will Mexico line up against the United States?

exico kicks off its participation in the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying with a crunch clash against the United States in Columbus, Ohio. Juan Carlos Osorio has become infamous for his rotations despite picking a fairly predictable squad. Can we guess how his team will line up against the Stars and Stripes?

Our Mexico experts Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran and Cesar Hernandez predict their starting XIs below. Have your say in the comments section!

Tom Marshall’s XI (3-3-3-1): Alfredo Talavera; Carlos Salcedo, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno; Hector Herrera, Rafa Marquez, Andres Guardado; Giovani dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Raul Jimenez; Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.  Competition for starting spots in this Mexico team is fierce. Did anyone see Carlos Vela’s performance last weekend? In that sense, Osorio has what he wanted. But for those trying to predict what he will do, there are many complications, especially with the formation.

Osorio has, however, given us some clues. The likelihood that the United States will play with two strikers hints at Mexico fielding three central defenders to create numeric superiority in that sector of the pitch. And Osorio’s concerns about the U.S.’s aerial threat mean Mexico will likely field at least six players he considers to be good in the air, with Talavera almost certain to start in goal.

I’ve gone with a 3-3-3-1 formation similar to the one employed recently against New Zealand and versus Uruguay in the Copa America, which was Osorio’s best match in charge.
— (@mexicoworldcup)

Nayib Moran’s XI (3-3-3-1): Talavera; Salcedo, Nestor Araujo, Moreno; Miguel Layun, Marquez, Guardado; Jonathan dos Santos, Giovani dos Santos, Fabian; Chicharito.

Of the 25 players in Mexico’s roster, seven can be considered natural center backs, but it’s likely that Osorio will go with three center backs. Similarly, the likelihood that he opts to use a 3-3-3-1 formation (as he did against Uruguay in the Copa America Centenario) increases.Mexico’s center backs are not afraid to start the plays from the back and Osorio is well aware of this fact. Marquez will probably appear in the XI as the squad’s central figure in the midfield, but he could have support from Guardado, Layun and Jonathan dos Santos.

The inclusion of the dos Santos brothers in the XI could give Mexico a much-needed creative spark, but Jonathan’s presence in particular would allow El Tri to have more possession of the ball, freeing up space for “Gio,” Fabian and Chicharito to use their speed up front.
— (@nayibmoran)

Cesar Hernandez’s XI (3-3-3-1): Guillermo Ochoa; Salcedo, Araujo, Moreno; J. dos Santos, Guardado, Layun; Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Fabian, Hirving Lozano; Chicharito

Whether you want to call it a 3-3-3-1 or a 3-4-3, Osorio will likely be using a three-man back line against the United States. Moreno, Salcedo and Araujo are all strong candidates who could hold off a determined U.S. attack. As for Marquez, he brings an immense amount of experience, though there are growing worries about his lack of pace in Mexico’s defense.

Guardado would be the key player in this setup, playing as the defensive midfielder for El Tri, while Chicharito, El Tri’s lone striker, should have no problems finding the back of the net with plenty of support behind him.
— (@cesarhfutbol) Keep up with the latest football

U.S.-Mexico oral history as told by the players who created it

Editor’s note: This was originally published in the run-up to the CONCACAF Cup clash in Oct. 2015. But the stories told here are timeless.

It’s been 13 months since the U.S. and Mexico last met, and even though Friday’s clash in Columbus, Ohio, is just one game on the road to the 2018 World Cup, it’s no exaggeration to say that all those involved will want the win for more than just the points. The rivalry may ebb and flow over time, but it has lost none of its fire. It never does when these two archrivals are involved.When these two rivals take the field, there is so much more at stake. It’s the chance for players to enter their names into a tapestry of epic moments and controversial incidents, stellar victories and agonizing defeats. It is this accumulation of memories on both sides that keeps the fire of rivalry burning.What follows is a collection of memories from both sides, a mural of what has become one of the classic rivalries in the world of soccer.

The turning of the tide

For years, Mexico so dominated the meetings with the U.S. that it could hardly be called a rivalry. In 26 attempts from 1937 to 1990, the U.S. prevailed one time against its southern neighbor.

When exactly did the tide begin to turn to make the rivalry more even? Opinions vary. Many point to the 1991 Gold Cup semifinal in which the U.S. prevailed 2-0 but for the players of that era, different games come to mind.

Cobi Jones, U.S., 1992-04: My memories go back to the 1992 Olympic team playing against Mexico. You really saw the rivalry heat up, and you started seeing on a consistent basis U.S. youth teams start to beat Mexico, especially during the qualifying process when we beat Mexico [twice], and their reaction was to lash out, as usual. That kind of started the first moments where you could see a switch of power in CONCACAF.

Claudio Suarez, Mexico, 1992-06: [The rivalry] grew from the ’90s. We knew that they didn’t have a league like the MLS [of today] and we can say that Mexico dominated, even though there were games that we lost against them. Little by little, it became more even.They created their league, and the confrontations became more complicated. They started to win.

I’m [in the U.S.], and I understand more and more why the United States is improving and is equal to Mexico. Even if Mexico continue with the idea that we are better, the cold numbers say otherwise.

Marcelo Balboa, U.S., 1988-00: We were always pretty scared of them because they were always the king, and then when we were able to beat them for the first time, I think we realized that we could play with them. Bora [Milutinovic, Mexico coach from 1983-86 and 95-97, U.S. coach from 1991-95] really didn’t do anything but give us confidence.

They were a team that he had coached before, and it was a team that put its pants on the same way we did. It was just a matter of defending better as a group but also being able to hold the ball. That was the biggest thing — that we gave it up so quick. If you look at that Gold Cup, we knocked it around, we were patient, and then Bora made it very clear to us that they were just another team. They do everything the same we do. It’s just a matter of who does it better on that day.

Luis Roberto Alves “Zague,” Mexico, 1988-02: The trigger was the first Gold Cup in 1991. [The U.S.] team was managed by Bora. We came into it without giving it the attention and seriousness, and after the [domestic season], there was tiredness and injuries. Mexico didn’t give it the necessary importance, which was the opposite of the United States.

And so when the famous game in the semifinal came around, in which the United States beat us 2-0, it was a big blow. Everyone thought Mexico would win the first Gold Cup walking, and it wasn’t like that. From there, the rivalry started to make itself heard. Then, in the next Gold Cup, we defeated the United States in the Estadio Azteca.

Kasey Keller, U.S., 1990-07: The U.S. Cup game in D.C. in ’95, when we won 4-0, that’s where it changed. That was where it definitely switched. We had never handed it to them before. That was the ‘Oh s—‘ moment for Mexico — no doubt about it. They can’t come in here anymore, have home-field advantage in the U.S. and cruise. That was a good team that Mexico had back then. To come in and just spank them, that changed things.

Martin Vasquez, the first player to switch from Mexico (1991-92) to the U.S. (96-97): In 1991, when the United States won the first Gold Cup, I thought that was the biggest turnaround for the U.S. Mexico took it as just one day, one bad game and the U.S. getting lucky. For a while, that mentality didn’t help.

Ramon Ramirez, Mexico, 1991-00: I think in the ’90s, a generation of soccer players came through in the United States that were motivated by having the World Cup in their country. I’m talking about Tony Meola, Marcelo Balboa, [Thomas] Dooley, [Eric] Wynalda, [Jeff] Agoos, Cobi Jones, [Alexi] Lalas, and I’ve missed some. They were a generation that understood soccer and that wanted to break the boundaries of their sport in their country, getting rid of the tag of what the traditional sports are and promoting the idea that this craziness called football could be accepted by Americans. I think it was a great generation, coached well by Bora Milutinovic, and combined with the motivation of the World Cup, they started to even out the rivalry with Mexico a lot.

Alexi Lalas, U.S., 1991-98: I think about the game in ’95 down in Copa America, when we beat them [in the quarterfinals] on penalties. At that point, we were all kind of feeling our oats, we had all started to play in Europe, and we were all much more experienced and mature. Yet we still had that sense that, “Hey, we’re playing Mexico, and we want to do something.” For me, it was the first time we had tasted success in a game that meant something in a tournament situation.

What’s it like playing in the U.S. with a pro-Mexico crowd?

Keller: I always felt that playing against Mexico in the L.A. Coliseum was far more intimidating than playing in Azteca — really bad, much worse across the board. At Azteca, it’s really difficult to have things thrown at you. You come in from a tunnel and it is what it is, it’s 100,000 people.  But a couple of Gold Cup finals in the Coliseum were nasty, really nasty. You come in from the tunnel, and you’re just getting tons of s— thrown at you, spit at, just really bad. What makes it even more memorable is you’re supposed to be the home team. I accept that if I’m at Estadio Saprissa [in Costa Rica] and I’m getting stuff thrown at me, that’s one thing. But when I’m in America being treated like that, then maybe it just sticks out more in your head.

Ramirez: It is fabulous because we all know how many compatriots are over here, and we all understand the reasons and needs that brought them here for an opportunity. We also understand the yearning that they still feel for their roots and that football brings joy to many of them and brings them closer to their people. As a player, the biggest satisfaction you can bring them is when you win a game and especially when you defeat the United States.

U.S. recollections of combustible incidents

There have been some memorable — some would say infamous — moments in the annals of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry. Some of those are recounted here.

Lalas on Ramon Ramirez kicking him in the groin; Jan. 19, 1997: That was just a perfect depiction of the animosity. In the moment, I think there is a hatred involved, and the recognition that you are going to get some sort of moment of satisfaction, even if it doesn’t come on the scoreboard.

You have to do it carefully, and if you watch the video, Ramirez waits for the crowd to gather round and then it’s just this stealth strike, like a viper to my manhood, and I was not expecting it, to say the least. Given who we were playing, I probably should have expected it more.

People ask me if I chased Ramirez to the ends of the earth to get retribution and if in a dark alley one night, I exacted my revenge. I saw him a few years ago, and because I was able to go and recover — I have two beautiful children — I’m a much kinder and gentler version of myself in my ripe old age.

“Ramirez waits for the crowd to gather round and then it’s just this stealth strike, like a viper to my manhood, and I was not expecting it to say the least. Given who we were playing, I probably should have expected it more.”

Jones on Rafael Marquez head-butting him July 17, 2002, at the 2002 World Cup: I just remember going up for the ball and feeling this stud into my thigh, and then Marquez’s head coming into my head. Fortunately, Marquez didn’t injure me too bad. I had to go out for a little bit, but I was going to make sure that I stepped back out on that pitch to let them know that they weren’t taking me out, especially in this game where we had the best of them.

People forget the great Cuauhtemoc Blanco tried to break my leg in the corner as he tried to stomp on my leg. He’s no angel, either. But when that happens, it shows you that they’ve lost it. They couldn’t figure it out. To this day, I think those players are going to be taking that to their grave.We are fair play [laughs]. We would never do anything like cheap shots. We always played hard, we played rough, but we always kept it within the bounds. That’s the big issue.

Frankie Hejduk (U.S., 1996-09) on Mexico assistant Paco Ramirez slapping him on Feb. 11, 2009: It was [a World Cup qualifier], right near the end of the game. Michael Bradley scored to make it 2-0, icing on the cake, and I was so pumped up.

I’m a right-back, so I ended up being right by the halfway line, right by their bench. I was enjoying that moment with the crowd, so I don’t know what the bench was feeling or what they were doing at that time. It was just spur of the moment, I was just saying “F— yeah! F— yeah! F— yeah!” Everyone was cheering. The game ended, and I’m one of the last guys off because it’s my home stadium and doing high-fives more than normal. I remember walking off, and then this guy steps in front of me, and he had a suit on, he was a small little dude. I didn’t know who he was. He held his credential up to my face for me to look at. When I looked at it, bam, he gives me this little slap in the face.  I was like, “What?” I literally didn’t know what happened. I just put my hands in the air and went, “Are you serious, dude? I’m not even wasting my time on this little guy.” That’s how it went. I had no idea who it was.  People were like, “Dude, he can’t do that!” I was like, “We won.” I laughed at it. I wasn’t letting anything kill my buzz at that time. That could have really killed a buzz. Someone slaps you, you want to slap him back. It gets weird, you’ve got referees, you’ve got fines. I laughed about it. All I know is 20 seconds after that moment, I was drinking champagne, and they weren’t.

The Mexico perspective on those incidents

Not surprisingly, El Tri‘s recollections are different, though there is at least an acknowledgement that there were moments when a line was crossed.

Ramirez on the Lalas incident: I remember that tempers flared, and in the heat of the moment, I kicked out without knowing exactly who it was, honestly. I ended up kicking Alexi Lalas in his “noble parts,” as we say in Mexico.With the passing of time, I realized what I did was stupid, silly. Fortunately, Alexi took it with a dose of humor, and I have always publicly apologized to him because cowardly actions don’t correspond to being a sportsperson. I regret it. It was a wrong, I’ll say it again, but maybe it did highlight the passion in those games.

Zague: They are intense games, and I was also a target for some very hard tackles, and I never complained or spoke out because it was the way it was played and nobody wanted to lose. The Ramon Ramirez one was in the U.S. Cup that we won. I remember it perfectly. It was in the heat of the game — not an aggression. He kicked out at Lalas, although he had given two [kicks] to Ramon Ramirez.

Suarez: We saw it as normal. With respect, I think the U.S. was still a little innocent. It is what experience of playing so many important games and tournaments teaches you. I’m not saying that we were dirty, but the battles are part of the game.We have also made mistakes. I came to understand that in MLS, the tackles are harder and physical, but they aren’t in bad faith — with the intention of hurting the opposition. Us Mexicans sometimes fell into the trap of feeling that they were attacking us, and we also wanted to hit and kick out.


Not every battle stepped over the line. As the years pass, hostilities can fade, and what emerges instead is a healthy admiration for those on the other side.

Keller: Pavel Pardo was just a great guy and obviously a great player, huge amount of respect for him. Jared Borgetti was another fantastic guy, great player. I think Ricardo Osorio was another great guy.It took some of the Mexican guys — and I played against Pardo and Osorio when they were at Stuttgart, and I was at Borussia Monchengladbach — to realize, “Wow, if Kasey is doing it in the Bundesliga, and Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride are in England, now we’re coming over here to Europe and understanding how difficult this is out of our own safety net of Mexico.” I think that was a continued level of respect.“We saw it as normal. The U.S. I think, with respect, was still a little innocent.”

Suarez: In the ’90s, Eric Wynalda. We had the most direct duels because he was a center-forward and I was a center-back, and so we were constantly battling. Also, [I battled] with Landon Donovan on various occasions and Cobi Jones. [They were] emblematic players for the United States, who helped the growth of the league.

The other one who I always used to fight with was Alexi Lalas. I didn’t used to know what he was saying in English, although I knew they were insults! I had to mark him at set pieces, and there were struggles and pushing, and that rivalry grew. I’m now good friends with Wynalda, Cobi Jones and Lalas. They are great guys, but at that time, we had a lot of fights.

Pavel Pardo, Mexico, 1996-09: I played against Kasey Keller in Germany. Apart from being a great professional, he is a very good person, and the career he had in Europe was excellent.

Carlos Bocanegra, U.S., 2001-12: I like Andres Guardado’s game. He’s a really hard worker. Every single player on the field can be a little bit nasty at times — both sides, Mexico and the U.S. You go into a challenge a little bit harder. You want to leave something on them a little bit. It’s not done to hurt them, but you want to get in there. It’s a huge game. Guardado was a super hard worker, and he did things with class as well.

Favorite memories

Every player has recollections that they use to keep warm when their careers are over. The U.S. certainly racked up a few against their bitter rivals.

Zague: The Gold Cup [final] in 1993 because I was fortunate to play in the first edition in 1991, and [the defeat against the U.S.] hurt a lot. For me, it was revenge I had to get. Soccer is kind and peculiar enough that two years later, it gave me the chance to play the final against the U.S. in the Estadio Azteca, and we convincingly won 4-0.

Balboa: Every time we played Mexico in the U.S., the fire alarm [in the team hotel] would go off at 3 a.m., and then it would go off at 6 a.m. It would get everybody up and out of our hotel. Those were hilarious moments. You knew something was coming. You just don’t know what time.

Herculez Gomez, U.S., 2007-13: [Playing in 2012] in the Azteca with 70,000 fans, and they all hate you. They’re wishing the worst things upon you in that moment. And it was one of the most fun times I’ve had playing a soccer game because I’m living out a mini-dream. It probably wouldn’t mean that much to a lot of people, but for me that was a really special, cool momennt.  Yeah, it was a friendly and maybe it didn’t mean much to people outside of that game, but to everybody that was there who knows the history, how hard it’s been for us to get any type of result there, that was huge.  I came back to my club team in Mexico, and those veterans that were there before, who were in the thick of things back in the day, they had long faces. They were quiet. They weren’t as chipper as they were before the match went down.

Bocanegra: I think savoring that win in Chicago after the 2007 Gold Cup. The whole team went out together. Frankie Hejduk actually brought the Gold Cup with us and filled it with beer. Shock that it was Frankie, you know?  The best thing about it is that there is so much buildup, so much hype around those games. You win, and it just brings the whole group closer together. You just feel proud. It’s a great moment. For a short time, you get to celebrate it and really enjoy it. And then it’s on to the next game. Any time you get a big victory against your big rival, it’s a little bit extra sweet and it brings the team together.

Hejduk: After we beat them at the 2002 World Cup — we won, you saw it — there was all kinds of bad blood. Marquez gets a red card.We get on the bus, we were celebrating, we were having so much fun. We had a couple of beers on the bus after that game. All of a sudden, our bus stopped at a red light. Another bus pulls up beside us as we’re leaving the stadium. And it’s their bus, and their team is on there. We’re both looking at each other like, “Oh my god, is this really going on?”All of a sudden, they start flipping us off. We start dancing, chanting. All of our team was on one window. All of their team was on one window. We were chanting “USA! USA!” It was such a crazy moment.Our buses were three feet apart. I remember faces. I can name names of who they were, although I won’t name them. There were middle fingers and two opposite emotions. Then the light turned green, and both buses drove off. We drove to the quarterfinals, and they drove home.“Frankie Hejduk actually brought the Gold Cup with us and filled it with beer. Shock that it was Frankie, you know?”

Jared Borgetti (Mexico, 1997-08) on the bus incident: I don’t remember. I’d be lying if I said yes or no. I don’t remember. I don’t know if that happened.

Vasquez: One of the nicest, more historic moments in my career was playing for the U.S. [in the 1997 0-0 tie in the Estadio Azteca]. I thought I was going to be booed and called all kinds of names on the field with the U.S. jersey.The fans applauded and cheered me, and that is something that I’ll never forget. I was expecting a hostile environment. I was expecting to be called every name in the book. When I talk about it, I still get the chills.

Toughest memory

Borgetti: In terms of feelings, anger and frustration, it was [the 2002 World Cup elimination] in Korea and Japan because we knew it wasn’t the most difficult or complicated opponent. We knew them, knew how to play them. [We knew] that they would wait for us, hand us the initiative and try to counter or score at set pieces.[They knew] that if they could score first, the frustration would set in and that it was something they could use to their advantage. Everything went to their plan, and everything went against us, and it had a lot of repercussions in Mexico.

Bocanegra: I’ve been on the other end in the 2011 Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl. Ugh, I thought we were going to punk them that game… It’s hard because the buildup is so big, and it becomes such a big event and such an important piece in your soccer career in that timeline.

Balboa: Sitting on the bench in ’93 for the Gold Cup final when they beat us 4-0. I couldn’t play in that game, but I was on the bench, and they took it to us pretty good. That was very frustrating for me — not being able to play and still seeing how that went down.At that point, when we lost to Mexico, it wasn’t by more than a goal or two. But on that day, they lit us up. It was tough to watch sitting on the bench and also having the chance to win a final and losing. That was difficult.

The rivalry today

The ebb and flow of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry continues. After winning the 2011 Gold Cup, El Tri seemed poised for an era of dominance, only to be hauled back. Since then, the U.S. are unbeaten versus Mexico, having won three times and drawing three others.

Gomez: When I was at Santos [in 2012], Oswaldo Sanchez bet me $10,000 that Mexico would beat us in the Azteca. That was the game we ended up winning. It wasn’t something that I turned around and charged him for. In fact, I never broached the subject again. That’s why I tell you that it’s that generation that has that kind of bitter hatred toward the U.S. — and not the new generation.

Ramirez: I believe that on the field, yes. A lot of the time, the fans don’t understand. Players today have improved in terms of professionalism, of having respect and not over-heating things before games. The games heat themselves up, they’ll have that passion on the field. I’m sure the Mexican players know it. They know it is a game to kill or be killed.

Omar Gonzalez, U.S., 2010-present: I’m Mexican-American, and this game is always going to be important to me because both my parents were born in Mexico, and I was born and raised in the U.S. I used to spend a lot of time in Mexico as a kid and still have a lot of family that live there. These games are always super important to me.

Vasquez: Being a part of U.S. Soccer until last year, I think the passion and the intensity is still there. From watching it on the field and in the locker room and with the fans, I think the respect and competitive edge [are] still there. It gets bigger and bigger. That’s what I experienced.

Who is the favorite on Oct. 10?

Borgetti: Until now, Mexico has always been favorite against the United States. The history of Mexican football is much greater than that of the U.S. They have grown, but they haven’t been able to say that U.S. is greater than Mexico.

Gomez: The new generation is trying to figure out who and where they are. And if I’m being honest, I think that’s exactly where we are. It’s a crazy thing because if you ask everybody in the U.S. camp, it’s doom and gloom: “Oh my god, what are we going to do? Blah, blah, blah.”You go to the Mexico side, and it’s the exact same thing. “They’re going to mop the floor with us. What are we going to do?” It’s the same question being asked, just in different ways. It will be really interesting to see what happens in that game.

s one. Even though Mexico did well in the last game [against Argentina], they come into [the CONCACAF Cup] at a crucial time after what we saw in the Gold Cup, which was a very low standard for Mexican football. But the United States aren’t at their best. There are a lot of doubts, a generational change, and there aren’t the solid elements Jurgen Klinsmann wants from his team.

Pardo: Mexico is still favorite. Obviously, we get back to everything being possible in a clasico, with both Mexico and the U.S. looking for a ticket to a very important tournament like the Confederations Cup. I think Mexico has every chance; the United States hasn’t been playing their best football.

Benjamin Galindo, Mexico, 1983-97: You know beforehand that when Mexico plays anywhere in the United States, you feel motivated to be surrounded by your people. Combined with what is at stake, I think it will be fundamental and important.

The Dos A Cero foundation: Josh Wolff and the goal that kick-started it all


  • Josh Wolff scored the first goal in the first Dos A Cero, setting the stage for everything that’s followed in subsequent World Cup qualifying campaigns.

BRIAN STRAUS Monday November 7th, 2016

This story initially appeared on SI.com in September 2013. It has been slightly edited to reflect events that have transpired since then.There certainly have been bigger wins in American soccer history, but few have had a greater long-term impact than the original “La Guerra Fria” back in February 2001, when the U.S. defeated Mexico in a World Cup qualifier at Crew Stadium.The game provided the U.S. with a priceless blueprint for a genuine home-field advantage, it cemented the national team as a regional power, and it went a long way toward validating the construction of soccer-specific stadiums. That victory continues to resonate today, as the U.S. will stage its home qualifier against Mexico in Columbus for the fifth consecutive time on Friday night (7:45 p.m. ET, FS1, Univision).If that 2001 game helped to shape American soccer, then American soccer has Josh Wolff to thank. The Georgia-born forward, who had just turned 24, started that frigid evening on the bench but ended it as a hero, scoring the opening goal and setting up the second as the U.S. celebrated “dos a cero” for the first time.Now an assistant coach in Columbus with Crew SC, Wolff spent a few minutes with SI.com prior to the most recent World Cup qualifying victory in the rivalry reminiscing about that unforgettable night in U.S. soccer history.


The game-time temperature fell below freezing, which played directly into the host’s hands. The U.S. and coach Bruce Arena wanted Mexico to be uncomfortable, and it was–El Tri even opted to stay inside its locker room rather than take the field to warm up.

Wolff: “We were absolutely aware of the effort to try and swing those elements–the crowd, the weather–in our favor. I’m sure it was all built into the [venue selection] process. Having said that, you have to go out as a group and deliver. For me, it was my first time coming through qualifying. The older guys, the Earnie Stewarts and Brian McBrides, they may reflect on it differently. It was all new for me, but you still realized this was a change of pace. You play against these teams, even in America sometimes it was a not-so-friendly environment. But those fans [in Columbus] came in with energy. This was a real change of pace. Being a young guy, I heard from the coaches and the senior players and I just knew. You knew it and you felt it.”

Change of Plans

Rafa Márquez did the damage–not surprisingly–and McBride took a blow to the face–not surprisingly–and suddenly, Wolff the reserve was on the field for the biggest game of his life. The substitution came in just the 15th minute.

Wolff: “When you’re thrown in like that, you don’t have much time to think and sometimes that’s a good thing. That’s how opportunity arrives sometimes, whether it’s injury or sometimes just late in a game. You’ve got to get up to speed quickly. I’d played a handful of games with these guys [it was his fifth cap] and was familiar to some degree. You’re a young guy and you’re excited and energized by the moment. But it is good to be thrown in there without having a chance to think about it.”

The First Chance

In the 19th minute, Joe-Max Moore beat a trio of El Tri defenders on the right and hit a low cross that Wolff managed to reach at the near post. He didn’t get much on the shot, however, and the ball trickled wide.

Wolff: “It got me going and got the juices going. You knew you were in a real match right away.”

Welcome to the Hex

In the 36th, Márquez was at it again. He cleaned out Wolff with a high, lunging tackle in midfield. Three minutes later, Wolff took his frustration out on Mexico defender Salvador Carmona, chopping him down along the left sideline. Both plays resulted in yellow cards.

Wolff: “We have to set our own little tone and demeanor. Bruce was always adamant about that. You don’t just take it. You’ve got to deliver some blows, obviously in the right way. It was another little piece that lets you know what kind of match you’re in. When you’re a forward, there’s very few chances when you get to deliver one. Don’t be dirty about it, but you’re not there to just wear it for 90 minutes. There are opportunities to get guys and you leave a foot in there, and elbow in there, just to let them know it’s not going to be just a one-way game. That’s the nature of the business. You have to live up to that end as best you can, just showing your commitment and that you’re in it.”

The Goal

There was more injury trouble for the U.S. in the 43rd, when captain Claudio Reyna exited and was replaced by Clint Mathis–Wolff’s former teammate at the University of South Carolina. Their chemistry was evident almost immediately.Two minutes into the second half, Mathis hit a gorgeous pass over the top of the Mexican defense. Wolff beat goalkeeper Jorge Camps to the ball and slid it into the empty net. It was his second international goal. For all of McBride’s qualities, only the speedy Wolff would have finished off that play.

Wolff: “I still put Clint up there with the more special players I played with. I don’t think enough people got to see him for what he really was worth, both physically and his brain. That play, Clint and I played together for a number of years and know each other’s strengths. That was two guys being on the same page at the moment, two guys being aware of who they are and what the situation is.”

The Back-breaker

The U.S. held on to its slim lead for 40 minutes, helped by a point-blank, 69th-minute save by Brad Friedel on Francisco Palencia. In the 87th, Wolff worked more magic, executing a brilliant turn along the right touchline and dribbling toward the near post before laying a pass back for Stewart to finish. The Mexican defender whom Wolff destroyed on the play, Alberto Macías, never played for El Tri again.

Wolff: “It’s one of those plays where the ball gets dumped in the corner, I’m under pressure and I’m thinking there’s not much I can [do] besides try to get a throw-in or a corner kick. It’s just me trying to take a little bit of a chance, flip the ball behind myself and see if I can pull it off. … It was a nice way to cap off the night, down in front of our fans. It was pretty emotional after that.

The Aftermath

The U.S. would qualify for the 2002 World Cup with a 5-3-2 record and met Mexico again in the round-of-16 in Jeonju, South Korea. At that point, there was no doubt in the U.S. camp that it could defeat El Tri on neutral ground. Wolff started that day and assisted on McBride’s opener with a smart pass from the end line. The U.S. went on to win by the now-traditional score of 2-0.

Wolff: “[The win in Columbus] gave you a sense of belief and a sense of understanding of what these games are like, that we should be competing to win any game anywhere, home or away … Absolutely based on that result we felt very good about [the round-of-16 game] and doing the business that day. It’s hostile. It’s a big competition, but you deliver the blows that really matter and make the plays that swing the game in your favor. I think two years of preparing put us in a mentally stronger place and made us more prepared for that game than we would have been in the past.”


Wolff’s international career ended in 2008. He amassed 52 caps and nine goals. His club career concluded after 15 seasons with the Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards, Germany’s 1860 Munich and finally D.C. United. He won two CONCACAF Gold Cups, three U.S. Open Cups and one MLS Cup. But it is that night in Columbus that will linger longest in the minds of many U.S. fans.

Wolff: “It was our first soccer-specific stadium. It’s not an unbelievable stadium compared to today’s standard, but it was the first of its kind and it has a massive importance to our sport, to MLS as well as the U.S. national team. A lot of props go around for that result. … I’ll see the video from time to time. You see little clips on TV. My kids will see it–they’ve got it on YouTube, they’re own little hand-helds. I’ve certainly seen it enough to be able to recall it. My kids, they enjoy seeing dad in the old days as well. That’s good to see. I tell them that the footage is a little grainy, but you can still see some quality in there!”

Cameron Carter-Vickers could be next U.S. star after rising up Spurs’

Already making waves in the Bundesliga and Champions League, Christian Pulisic is the great hope for American soccer, but national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest squad includes another future star: Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers. The 18-year-old centre-back was named in the 26-man group for the U.S.’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica, continuing his rapid route to international football, and Klinsmann will consider giving him a senior cap to end interest from England.Carter-Vickers has been fast-tracked through the U.S. youth system — at 16, he represented the under-23s, and he was one of his country’s best players at last summer’s U20 World Cup — but he was born in Southend-on-Sea to an English mother, and until he plays for the U.S. senior side, he could yet be poached by England. Klinsmann, a legend at Tottenham who keeps a close eye on the club, will be aware that the Football Association has raised inquiries, and he has been considering Carter-Vickers since before his Spurs debut in the 5-0 mauling of Gillingham in September.”Cameron is absolutely in our picture. He is a very exciting player coming through the ranks,” Klinsmann said last month. “But he also needs to break into things slowly, get into the team and get some minutes.”Carter-Vickers made another appearance in a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the next round of the EFL Cup, and he wasn’t overwhelmed when facing Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi — in fact, he looked more impressive than his centre-back partner, Kevin Wimmer.  An injury to Stoke’s Geoff Cameron has given Klinsmann the opportunity to call Carter-Vickers up and, though he is not expected to start, he could debut from the bench. If Klinsmann decides the teenager is one of the three players of the 26 not to make the match-day squads, the experience will be a step toward ensuring Carter-Vickers spends his career as a U.S. international. The 18-year-old is understood to be committed to playing for the U.S., though he has not commented publicly on the situation since 2014, when he was not yet on England’s radar.Like Klinsmann, Mauricio Pochettino trusts Carter-Vickers. Ahead of that match against Gillingham, the Spurs manager went as far as to say he could be one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League in the future and insisted he would be a better player than he was, which said a lot. Pochettino, who is not short of ego, was an Argentina international centre-back.Just as at the international level, Carter-Vickers has been fast-tracked through the youth setup at Spurs, and the manager hooked him from the U21s last season to deploy him full-time with the first team. He might have played sooner had a back injury not ruled him out back in March and this season he has regularly been on the bench ahead of Austria international Wimmer. If Pochettino adds the three-at-the-back formation, used at Arsenal on Sunday, to his permanent armoury, a league debut might not be far off for the teenager, though for now he is waiting patiently.Physically, he is already ready for senior football, and all his coaches report that he is intelligent and mature beyond his years.”Even though he’s the youngest player on the squad, he’s probably one of the most mature on the field in terms of the way he plays,” U.S. under-20 coach Tab Ramos said after the World Cup. His emotional maturity owes a lot to his father, Howard “Hi-C” Carter, who had a promising but short-lived career in the NBA, and whom Carter-Vickers has credited with keeping him “level-headed.”The teenager is fiercely committed to learning on and off the field, too. Hours before leaving a training camp in Australia for the U20 World Cup in New Zealand, he went to the British embassy in Sydney to sit an A-Level maths exam.Sources at Spurs report that Carter-Vickers genuinely reminds them of club legend Ledley King, not just for his strength and ability on the ball but because of his temperament. He has captained Spurs at every level except the senior team, and he is a fierce competitor on the pitch but placid and soft-spoken off it.If Carter-Vickers makes his U.S. senior debut this week, it is unlikely to make many headlines — particularly if Pulisic stars again — but the signs are that Klinsmann will have secured a very talented player who could be every bit as important as the Dortmund winger to their future ambitions.For England, he could be the one that got away.Dan is ESPN FC’s Tottenham correspondent. 

In a bind, Argentina looks to Messi again entering World Cup qualifier vs. Brazil

QUICKLY On the cusp of being in World Cup qualifying peril, Argentina turns its eyes once again to Lionel Messi to provide the antidote. JONATHAN WILSONWednesday November 9th, 2016

If there is any consolation for Argentina, it is to imagine how bad this would have been if Lionel Messi hadn’t reversed his decision to retire from international play. The 2014 World Cup finalist faces Brazil on Thursday sitting sixth in the CONMEBOL qualifying table for 2018, not even in the playoff spot. There are still eight games to go, and there are three teams all within a point of each other, but a defeat in Belo Horizonte–and Brazil has never lost a home qualifier–would start to place Argentina’s participation in Russia in real jeopardy.But at least Messi is back having missed the last two qualifiers–a draw in Peru and a home defeat to Paraguay–with a groin injury. And at least when manager Edgardo Bauza replaced Gerardo Martino at the beginning of August he was able to coax Messi out of international retirement. The figures are stark: in three qualifiers with Messi, Argentina has taken nine points; in seven without him it has earned seven.Yet it shouldn’t be like this. As brilliant as Messi is, if there is any country in the world that shouldn’t be reliant on one creative player it is Argentina. This is not some footballing backwater or nation with a tiny population that produces one great player every generation or two. This is a squad replete with high-class attacking midfielders and forwards: Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel Correa. Bauza has left out Javier Pastore, Erik Lamela and Paulo Dybala. And yet, in a sense, that is part of the problem.Given the raw materials, the temptation was to try to pack the side with attacking talent and, rather than thinking of balance, try to create a team for the ages, not merely a successful side but one that would be loved and remembered across the world for the beauty of its play. If there was any logic to Diego Maradona’s team selections before and during the 2010 World Cup–and there probably wasn’t–that was it.Sergio Batista, who succeeded Maradona, spoke of trying to make Argentina play like Barcelona, an always doomed ambition given both the uniqueness of the Barcelona method and how little time international sides have to practice together. The result was stodgy football that lacked fluency: each component may have been good, but the collective didn’t work.Alejandro Sabella was far more pragmatic and had the strength of character to omit Carlos Tevez and ignore his army of supporters. Perhaps, had Messi not been in what was, by his lofty standards, a desperate rut of form, Argentina would have won the World Cup. Perhaps if Manuel Neuer had been sent off, as he surely should have been, for his head-high foul on Higuain in the final, Argentina would have won it. But it did not, and Argentina’s reaction after the World Cup was of a mixture of pride at reaching the final coupled with a sense that it had never quite played to its maximum.  Perhaps it was then that the reliance on Messi began. The round-of-16 game against Switzerland, in particular, felt a case of everybody waiting for Messi, invariably surrounded by markers, to do something which he eventually did, laying on a goal for Di Maria with a pass of extraordinary precision. The issue was partly tactical, with Sabella choosing to set up with a solid base and playing through Messi, but it was also psychological.Little changed under Martino’s often shambolic reign. If Messi played well, as he did perhaps most notably in the 2015 Copa America semifinal against Paraguay, then Argentina played well. If he did not, Argentina did not. Was it him? Had he consciously built a political base? It would seem out of character, and yet there’s no doubt that the appointment of Martino, like Messi a native of Rosario, was made in part with him in mind. More likely, perhaps, is that genius intimidates. And there is a flip side to that. Messi’s brilliance becomes taken for granted. He becomes news only when he fails. He was criticized after the World Cup, criticized after the 2015 Copa America and then he missed the decisive penalty in the Copa America Centenario. It’s little wonder, then, that Messi, exhausted and despondent, decided to retire, at least for a short while.Bauza and a wave of popular sentiment brought him back, but, with the pressure ramped up again, questions remain about his psychological state. When he dyed his hair blond, he said it was because he wanted to mark a break from the past. What, then, should be read into his decision to black out the tattoo on his left leg? He had previously had a design featuring flowers, a sword, wings and a ball, but he arrived for training on Tuesday with that covered in ink, skin showing through only to depict the No. 10 and the name of his son, Thiago. What does this signify? A desire to return to basics, perhaps, to reboot and start again.Argentina certainly hopes so.


Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
New York Cosmos vs Indy Eleven
Sunday, November 13, 2016 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Belson Stadium – Queens, NY  

Watch/Listen Live:

  • Local TV: None
  • National TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Streaming Video: None

Follow Live:

Indy Eleven:

  • Fall Season: 11W-4D-7L, 37 pts, 2nd place
  • Combined Season: 15W-10D-7L, 55 pts., 2nd place

New York Cosmos:

  • Fall Season: 14W-5D-3L, 47 pts, 1st place
  • Combined Season: 20W-5D-7L, 65 pts, 1st place

Last Time Out –  Indy Eleven 1 : 0 FC Edmonton

History was made on Saturday afternoon at Carroll Stadium when Indy Eleven knocked off FC Edmonton 1-0 to advance to the NASL Championship Final for the first time in club’s three year tenure.A familiar opponent, FC Edmonton traveled to Indianapolis on the back of a successful NASL campaign that saw them finish in 3rd place, and having gone 1-1-1 against Indiana’s Team in the regular season, there was a lot to play for on both sides. Early chances fell for both sides with the hosts getting things started just two minutes in. Central figure Sinisa Ubiparipovic played in midfielder Don Smart, and the latter launched an effort that forced Eddies’ ‘keeper Matt VanOekel into a good save. Minutes later, Ubiparipovic drew a foul on the edge of the 18-yard box, leaving midfielder Dylan Mares to take the free kick. Though Indy’s No.6 had plenty of experience with set piece chances in the regular season, he failed to hit the target. Both FC Edonton and Indy would have a few more chances fall their ways in the first half, but neither could capitalize and halftime brought a deserved 0-0.The “Boys in Blue” were on top of things from the minute the second half whistle blew, with opportunities for Mares and forward Justin Braun both sailing high and wide of VanOekel’s goal. However, in the 63rd minute, Sinisa Ubiparipovic produced an effort that could not be stopped to separate the two. After tidy interplay at the top of the box, an inch of space allowed the former Fury FC midfielder just enough to plant his right foot on the ball and send it into the top corner on the far side. The goal forced FC Edmonton to attack even more, but both the Indy backline and ‘keeper Jon Busch were prepared for the efforts.Indy’s Busch was called on to make the save of the game with just under five minutes left in regulation as FC Edmonton pressed desperately for an equalizer. Nicklaw struck a cross from the right flank that Ameobi rose above the defense to head down in front of Busch. He kept his body in front of the ball and pushed the shot wide shot to preserve Indy’s lead – and his fourth straight shutout.The victory in Indy Eleven’s playoff debut secured another first during the team’s historic 2016 season – a first appearance in The Championship Final in the squad’s third year of play.

Last Time Out – New York Cosmos 2 : 1 Rayo OKC

The New York Cosmos also had the opportunity to host their semifinal after capturing both the Fall and Combined Season title, and welcomed Rayo OKC to Shuart Stadium for the Saturday night fight.An exciting affair between two talented sides, it was OKC who came out fighting from the get-go and actually enjoyed the majority of the chances in the opening half. After seeing a few efforts wide of both goals, Rayo’s Michel helped break the deadlock in the 37th minute when his set-piece delivery connected with the head of defender Futty Danso, who nodded home past Cosmos’ ‘netminder Jimmy Maurer to make it 1-0. Going into the break, New York battled back with heavy pressure but could not capitalize leaving a 1-0 deficit heading into the second half.Just 45 minutes away from elimination, New York came out scraping for chances but OKC would stand firm. Midway through the second half, the Cosmos almost got their equalizer but an amazing save followed by a goalline clearance saw their efforts denied. However, in the 73rd minute, midfielder Juan Arango latched onto a ball from defender Ayoze and placed it just out of the reach of OKC ‘keeper Daniel Fernandes to tie things at one-all. Just as it looked like extra time would be a necessity, Arango was involved again to put the visitors away. After scoring his goal, he stood over the ball on a set-piece chance, where his delivery would meet the feet of winger Yohandri Orozco in front of net. Just a few feet away from goal, Orozco would not miss and the Cosmos won the match at the death.The win sent New York to the NASL Championship final, where they will look to make it three wins in four tries on Sunday night.

Final Bout

This is it. There’s nowhere left to hide for either side, though both have been in the limelight plenty in 2016. Spring Season champs vs. Fall Season champs, the #1 seed vs. the #2 seed, one of the biggest rivalries in the NASL – it all comes down to this.Indy landed the first punch in April when they battled back from 1-0 down to see an Eamon Zayed penalty equalize in the 90th minute, only for the forward to then double his tally in a dramatic 2-1 finish at “The Mike.” New York would get their revenge, though, in a midweek tie at the end of August, thrashing Indiana’s Team 3-0 with the Eleven down to ten men. After that match concluded, Indy head coach Tim Hankinson told his team that it was time to turn around and ascend back up their “mountain,” with the summit representing The Championship final. Picking up an impressive set of results at home, Indy welcomed the Cosmos back at the end of September and sent them reeling back to the “Big Apple” with their own 3-0 defeat on goals by Dylan Mares, Justin Braun, and Eamon Zayed.After both sides advanced to The Championship final in impressive fashion, they meet for one final time in 2016 with it all on the line.

Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: FW Eamon Zayed

“Big games require big game players.” That’s what Eamon Zayed had to say on Thursday when prompted with the question of how his team would rise to the occasion. Fearless in ambition, the Irishman’s 15 league goals in 2016 saw him finish second in the race for the Golden Boot, but broke multiple Indy Eleven records. Becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer, Zayed scored twice against New York in April and capped things off with one more in their September clash, and with just one “big game” left, he’s keen to be on the scoresheet again.That said, Zayed recognizes the task in front of him – he’s facing a formidable defense in the form of the Cosmos – and cited New York ‘keeper Jimmy Maurer as one of the best in the league. But his confidence is high, as is the team’s confidence, and they have no other plans but to leave Belson Stadium with a trophy in hand.
Who to Watch, New York Cosmos edition: MF Juan Arango

One of the most dangerous attackers in the league, Arango was heavily involved in the Cosmos’ success this season and in particular, in The Championship semifinal.Finishing the year with 15 regular season goals and seven assists, the midfielder created an impressive 44 chances in 29 appearances, and scored two of New York’s three goals in their August win. Though this is his first year in a Cosmos shirt, the Venezuelan international has plenty of big game experience having led his country to a fourth place finish in the 2011 Copa America and also leads his country all-time in both appearances and goals.Indy knows that marking #18 will be essential if they are to come away with the victory.
Match-up to Mark: DF Colin Falvey vs. FW Jairo Arrieta

There’s not much left to be said about captain Colin Falvey’s leadership and presence in this Indy Eleven side this year. After making the switch from Ottawa to Indy, the defender is now looking back on his past experience in The Championship final to try and secure something he did not last year – a trophy. Advancing to the final with Fury FC, Falvey (and Indy midfielders Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Nicki Paterson) fell at the feet of the Cosmos, and now he’s looking for a path back to the top. Bloodied and bandaged, the Irishman left last Saturday’s semifinal against FC Edmonton to receive stitches and change his kit (twice), but stepped forward to finish out the match which earned him much praise from both his head coach and teammates. With Sunday’s final the culmination of a satisfying run under his powerful defensive presence, he will again lead his team for the most important 90 minutes of the year. Forward Jairo Arrieta will be in Falvey’s way, however, and his seven goals and four assists in 26 appearances are not numbers to ignore. The Costa Rican is in his first season with the Cosmos after leaving D.C. United of the MLS, and has found much success around the Fall Season champions. Assisting on one of the goals in their August victory over Indy, Arrieta will now look to lead the line again in search of his first goal against the “Boys in Blue” at Belson Stadium. With one of the best conversion rates in the league among those who have scored at least seven goals (22.6%), Indy will have to be on their toes should a chance fall his way.


Three takeaways from The Championship Semifinal win over FC Edmonton

Nov 7, 2016

After every Indy Eleven game, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will give his three takeaways from the performance of the “Boys in Blue.” This week’s edition comes after Indiana’s Team secured a place in The Championship Final with a 1-0 win over FC Edmonton on Saturday afternoon …


First thing first, what a match. Arguably the best game the NASL had seen all season, Indy Eleven battered their way to The Championship final against the New York Cosmos after earning a grueling result over FC Edmonton. A physical encounter from the first whistle, the Eddies were fantastic on the day and deserve all the credit for getting to where they did and giving the Boys in Blue all they could handle, and Eleven captain Colin Falvey made special mention of that in his post-match comments.”FC Edmonton was fantastic tonight,” he said. “They threw the kitchen sink at us at the end there with ball after ball in the mixer. But, we put in a solid performance and now we have one to go.”Falvey is right, FC Edmonton was fantastic, but special mention has to go to the captain himself for his performance in the 90-minute beater of a match. Bloodied and bruised after a challenge with Eddies defender Pape Diakite in ab attempt to clear his line in the 39th minute, Falvey had to change shirts twice and even receive stitches at halftime, sporting a red-splattered head bandage for the entirety of the second half. Playing through the pain, the captain was incredible in winning all three of his tackles, registering two interceptions, and completing 12 clearances – including several cringe-enducing headers – on the afternoon. When asked about his effort, Falvey deflected the praise instead insisting that he was simply doing his job.”We spoke in the dressing room before the game about what it means to these fans and this city, and what it should mean,” he said. “It was all about putting your body on the line tonight, and being the captain of the club it was extremely important to me to get the job done.”


Heading into Saturday’s match, Indy knew exactly what FC Edmonton were about – a staunch defensive side with a knack for keeping opponents away from the net. Statistically the best defense in the league, the Eddies came in with the idea that if they could keep Indy off the scoreboard and potentially get the first goal, the match was theirs for the taking. Having pulled off ten 1-0 wins throughout the Spring and Fall Seasons, it was a conceivable plan. But Indy had other things in mind.Firing 12 shots with four on target while keeping the majority of possession, Indy would not allow Edmonton to hit on the break like the visitors would have wanted. Instead, the hosts stayed patient, probing each area of the pitch for the right shot. Even though it took an absolutely magical strike from Sinisa Ubiparipovic to separate the sides, the game slowly but surely looked as if it would turn Indy’s way if they stayed persistent, whch they did.Speaking after the match, head coach Tim Hankinson was glowing about his team’s ability to grind it out all the way to the final.”We’ve grown into being a confident team, especially late in the season with the work we’ve done on our game. If you look at the games we’ve played against the Eddies, each one has come down to one moment that favors one team and the result that night,” he said. “We knew coming into this game that even with our game plan and focus, the Eddies were going to be a tight team to face. To see Sini pick out that upper corner like a surgeon, it’s a great bit of redemption for him and it’s great for this club. You can’t say enough about this group of guys.”


This is it. Everything that the 2016 season brought Indy Eleven – a difficult preseason stretch, an improbable Spring Season championship, an impressive Fall Season run, an undefeated slate at “The Mike,” and a win in The Championship Semifinal – every game, every result, every point brings us to this Sunday.The New York Cosmos aren’t exactly unfamiliar opposition to Indy. After having drawn all six matches prior to the 2016 season, all three games this season saw a winner, with the home team holding serve each time. Indy landed the first punch in a massive April clash that saw two goals in five minutes from Eamon Zayed, including a 95th minute winner, give Indiana’s Team the 2-1 triumph. The Cosmos got a certain measure of revenge in late August, when Indy were sent back home at the end of a three-game road week with an unforunate 3-0 defeat. However, Indy would get the last laugh in the regular season when New York returned to “The Mike” and suffered a similar 3-0 defeat with goals from Dylan Mares, Justin Braun, and Eamon Zayed capping off the series.For three years Indy Eleven has been perhaps the biggest thorn in the side of a Cosmos squad that has mostly dominated the NASL. But for two of the last three seasons, New York has lifted the Soccer Bowl Trophy, so the Cosmos know what this stage is about while many of the “Boys in Blue” will be figuring out on the fly how to deal with the pressure that only a championship game can provide. That said, both sides are plenty aware of what is at stake, and you can bet that even though it’s new territory, just like on Saturday, Indiana’s Team will be prepared.

Legendary Goalie – Gigi Buffon Joins Serie A – 600 Games Club !!

The legendary Juventus goalie made his 600th appearance on Sunday, meaning only Totti, Zanetti, and Maldini have more apps in Serie A.

On Sunday, Gianluigi Buffon – a Serie A and Italy legend despite being an active player – reached a landmark, making his 600th appearance in the league. Although his goal was breached, a 2-1 victory was the cherry on top of his special cake.To put that into perspective, only three other players – all Italian – hold spots in Serie A’s 600 club. Those three – some of the league’s biggest names in history – are Francesco Totti, Javier Zanetti, and Paolo Maldini. How does the goalie compare to the other three? Here we take a look.

Buffon: 600 apps and counting

Totti: 607 apps and counting

Zanetti: 605 apps

Maldini: 647 apps

View image on Twitter

600 games
274 clean sheets
1 legend

Gianluigi Buffon

How many seasons did they spend in the Serie A?

Buffon: 21 seasons and counting

Totti: 25 seasons and counting

Zanetti: 19 seasons

Maldini: 25 seasons

Buffon debuted in the Italian top-flight the same season as Zanetti (1995-96). In the beginning of the 1994-95 campaign, Totti had only 10 appearances under his belt. The reason why Buffon trails the Roma and Inter legends has to do with the Calciopoli scandal.The Old Lady were infamously relegated to the Serie B due to the match-fixing controversy in 2006. The goalkeeper opted to stay in Turin, and as a result, made 37 appearances in the second-tier league.

Trophy cabinets – who has won more silverware?

Since we are merely talking about their involvement in the Serie A, any trophy won outside of Italy – the Champions League and Club World Cup, for example – won’t be considered. Supercoppa Italiana titles won through winning the league and not Coppa Italia will only be eligible.

Buffon: 7 Serie A titles; 5 Supercoppa Italiana crowns

Totti: 1 Serie A title; 1 Supercoppa Italiana crown

Zanetti: 5 Serie A titles; 3 Supercoppa Italiana crowns

Maldini: 7 Serie A titles; 5 Supercoppa Italiana crowns

Will Buffon surpass the others?

Yes, he will – given his career isn’t abruptly ended through injury or controversy. The custodian revealed after the Euro 2016 exit that he will keep on playing until the 2018 World Cup, with retirement expected then.The shot-stopper will likely surpass Totti, given that the Roma captain is no longer a starter, and Zanetti before this season ends. Furthermore, it won’t take long before he eclipses tally of appearances and titles, given Juventus’ dominance in Italy.


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11/4/16 Indy 11 host Playoff Game Sat, 11/5 3 pm, MLS Playoffs Continue Sun, US vs Mexico Fri, Nov 11

So after the most successful season in Indy 11 history – THE PLAYOFFs are coming to the Circle City as our 11 will host 3rd seed FC Edmonton at the Mike THIS Saturday Nov 5 at 3 p.m.  The 11 equaled the longest home unbeaten streak in NASL History with 18 straight home games without losing, including an undefeated mark this entire season after blasting Puerto Rico 3-0 in their last home game  before losing.

So the PLAYOFFs have started for MLS – yes it means the best team in the MLS doesn’t normally win but honestly we American’s love our playoffs and MLS promises to provide plenty of excitement over the next month .  Montreal and Drogba host the NY Red Bulls aand US mid Sasha Klisten at 3 pm on ESPN Sunday and the LA Galaxy with Landon Donovan, Dos Santos host Colorado and Goalie Tim Howard at 5 pm.  Toronto FC and US players Bradley & Altidore and MVP Giovinco travel to NYCFC Sunday 0n FS1 at 7:30 pm, followed by my team Seattle with new American forward Jordon Morris taking on former Carmel High star – FC Dallas Captain Matt Hodges  at 10 pm on FS1.

Finally – just 1 week now till the USA will host Mexico on Friday night at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1. It is always THE MOST IMPORTANT US GAME which is why its always played in Columbus, Ohio at the Crew Stadium, I consider myself Extremely lucky to have gotten tickets for this my 4th USA vs Mexico game via the American Outlaws – I am undefeated in my previous US/Mexico Caps all Dos a Cero of course – and I hope the trend continues.  I will be bringing both kids along with my niece (both skipping their college classes) for this monumental game!  Started the coverage below but will have much more next week.

Grand Park will host the Big 10 Men’s Soccer Tournament next weekend Nov 11-13.  Friday the Semi-finals will be played at 12 noon and 2:30 pm, with the finals on Sunday at 2 pm.  A huge Boys Soccer Showcase will also be on tapd for that weekend.  Carmel FC begins optional Winter Training next week – for the next month at Murray Stadium at CHS.

Carmel FC Optional Winter Training at Murray

ACADEMY -Tuesdays – Nov 8 & 15; Dec 6 & 13

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U11-U12  Wednesdays – Nov 9 & 16; Dec 7 & 14

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U13 & Older  Thursdays – Nov 10 & 17; Dec 8 & 15

Girls: 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm


Sat, Nov 5     

10:30 am Fox Sports 2: Bayern Munich vs. TSG Hoffenheim
10:30 am Fox Soccer+: Hamburg SV vs. Borussia Dortmund       – can US 17 year old Pulisic continue his torrid pace after successful Champ League game Tues?

1:30 pm NBC                 Chelsea vs Everton                                                                           – this game just isn’t as big without Tim Howard – sorry

3  pm My Indy 23       Indy 11 host FC Edmonton in the Semi’s @ the Mike

Sun, Nov 6

7:00 a.m., NBCSN       Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur                       – North London Derby

10:00 a.m., CNBC       Swansea City vs. Manchester United             -Can US Manager Bob Bradley get 1st home win vs Man United?
11:30 a.m., NBCSN: Leicester City vs. West Bromwich Albion – – Leicester City needs a home win in league

2 pm  ESPN                     MLS Semi-Finals LA Galaxy vs Colorado

5 pm  ESPN                     MLS Semis Leg 2: Montreal Impact vs NY Red Bulls

7 pm FS1                           MLS Semi-Finals Leg 2: Toronto FC vs NYCFC

10 pm  FS1                      MLS Semi-Finals Leg 2: Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas

Thur, Nov 10

10 pm ESPN 2         USA Ladies vs Romania

Fri, Nov 11

7:30 pm Fox Sports 1 USA vs Mexico in Columbus, OH

Sun, Nov 13

9:30 pm Fox Sports 1United States women vs. Romania, international friendly

Tues, Nov 15

9 pm BeIN Sport   Costa Rica vs USA

Sun, Nov 20

8 pm FS 1               MLS – West Con Finals 1st Leg

Tues, Nov 22

8 pm ESPN             MLS – East Con Finals 1st Leg



Indy 11

Pack the House Playoffs Style – Nov 5 3p m at the Mike Semifinal Round

Vote BYB Players of the Year and Awards

Zayed Hungry for Title

3 Things Indy 11 loss at OKC

3 things Indy 11 3-0 Win over Puerto Rico

Vote Indy 11 Coach of the Year – Tim Hankinson

Final NASL Table has Indy 11 Finishing 2nd



US Defender Geoff Cameron to Miss Mexico Game!  

US vs Mexico in Columbus 11/11 is Sold Out

Facing US in Columbus – Excited says Mexico boss Os0rio

Mexico Must Attack says Forward

USA Midfielders in the Hex –Stars and Stripes

Depth Chart US Center backs – Stars and Stripes

State of the Union – US Goalies – Stars and Stripes

US Depth Chart Right Backs – Stars and Stripes

American’s overseas

USA in Drivers Seat for World Cup 2026


Champions League

Champions League – where do we Stand now – ESPNFC

Man City beats Barca

Spurs lose heartbreaker to Bayern L at Wembley

Spurs missing Kane

Vardy Struggles for Leicester

GK saves Leicester again

Real’s Draw serves as warning

Pulisic plays well for Dortmund in Win



Argentina slips to 6th in Conmebol Qualifying after Disqualification of player



Bradley set for Relegation Battle with Swansea

Liverpool Can Challenge for EPL Title




GK Jon Busch revels in 2016 campaign with Indy Eleven  – Nov 1, 2016

In the build-up to Indy Eleven’s first postseason appearance, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will chronicle some of the season’s biggest storylines and zero in on the winning pedigree contained within the squad in his series of “The Championship Chase” stories …

After over 18 years of professional soccer in cities that were not Indianapolis, Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch took his talents to the Circle City in search of something else. Here, he found more than just his next step, he found a home.“It’s been a special season for me. First and foremost, leaving Chicago with the way I was treated there, it left a very bad taste in my mouth. To come to a place where you’re accepted with open arms and treated very well has given me a love for the game and a love for goalkeeping again after a tough season last year,” said Busch, who has become a fan favorite with Indy Eleven supporters. “For me, that was extremely important. I got to go back to being a kid and enjoy goalkeeping, enjoy the team around me. We have a great group of guys here that made it easy.”In a season that has featured a lot of highs with very little lows, Busch has only furthered his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the business with an incredible defensive record that he credits the team in front of him for. From the get-go, with all of the experienced players brought in the fold, the New York native knew that Indy could be successful, it was just a matter of whether or not they could execute through the expectations laid out for them.“We talked about it as a group from the beginning when the older, more experienced guys were brought in by coaches Hank and Regan. There was an expectation of not only reaching the playoffs but having success in the playoffs,” he said. “So being in this group of senior players, we knew that it was always on our shoulders and it was always the expectation in our locker room. It didn’t matter what anyone else said outside, it was all about what we believed we could accomplish within the group.”hat they accomplished was more than impressive. A ten-game unbeaten run in the Spring Season saw them crowned champions, and they then rounded out the 2016 season with a second-place finish in both the Fall and Combined Season tables. All of this, of course, while going unbeaten for 16 straight at “The Mike,” a feat that had only been accomplished by two other clubs before them.However, the highs were easy, said Busch. It was the lows that brought out their true character.  Tragedy struck when Busch received word of the loss of his father, Robert Busch, in May. What would derail most people, let alone professional athletes, instead motivated the veteran, though he’ll be the first to say what followed would not have been possible without his teammates.“Losing my father in the middle of the year was obviously a huge hit. He’s a big part of my life and you know that as you get older these things are going to happen, but you can never plan for it or know how you’re going to be emotionally as it happens, so it was a tough time for me,” Busch said. “But, the boys were there for me. They had my back during that period of time and I thank them for that. It doesn’t matter that I’m 40 years old, when you lose your father it’s always going to be difficult emotionally.”Through the loss, Indy’s No.18 had an incredible support system – his teammates and wife Nicole guiding him through that difficult stretch – but in the end, he believes his father’s influence assisted him even after his passing.“I think now he’s looking down and he’s probably had a little touch on this season to make it as special as it has been. He knows how important the game is to me, but also how important the game is to him as well. So far it’s been a great run but we have more planned,” he said.“Like any team in any league, we had our slip ups. But, it’s such a long season, there’s so much that could go right or wrong in terms of injuries, results or whatever, but for the most part, our consistency was impressive. We had that stint of five games where we were off the pace, but that’s normal,” said the ‘netminder. “The important thing was getting out of it as quickly as we did and refocusing. It’s a tip of the cap to the players that got us back on track to help us move on and get back to Indy Eleven soccer.”With everything on the line this Saturday against FC Edmonton in The Championship semifinal, Busch now sees another opportunity to rely on his experience, this time to again use it as motivation for one more game – one more accomplishment – and he feels his team are ready.“I think the important thing is that even though it’s a playoff game, you have to treat it as just one more game. Emotions are going to be higher, there’s more at stake and on the line, but at the end of the day you don’t want your emotions to get out of check. Whether that be physical, mental, or whatever, you want to keep control,” he said. “The easiest way to do that is to simplify your game as a player and do the little things properly – don’t try to overplay or do too much on the field – and just treat it as another normal game.”Another normal game, he says, as if a fan base that has been holding its collective breath since qualifying for the postseason in June isn’t about to burst with exuberance. But that’s just how Jon Busch sees it. For a blue collar guy with a silver shine, it’s just another week at the office.“It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in the past, I will give you everything I have every day of the week and double on Saturday nights to find a way to win the game. I’m not flashy, I’m not eccentric or anything like that, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but I think they relate to that especially being in the Midwest,” he said. “The fans get me, they understand me, and so the only way we can repay them as a team is to first get a win this weekend, and then ultimately bring that trophy to them and be able to celebrate a championship with them and with the city of Indianapolis.”Though he owes no debt after a season like this one, Jon Busch is a man of his word. Now it’s time to deliver.


Indy Eleven forward Eamon Zayed stresses championship desire  Nov 2, 2016

In the build-up to Indy Eleven’s first postseason appearance, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will chronicle some of the season’s biggest storylines and zero in on the winning pedigree contained within the squad in his series of “The Championship Chase” stories …

El Raton, Spanish for “the rat,” a nickname given to Indy Eleven forward Eamon Zayed by head coach Tim Hankinson for one reason – he’s always chasing his cheese.Coach Hankinson elaborated that the nickname was bestowed upon the team’s leading goalscorer because of his relentless desire to find the ball in the six-yard box and bury it in the back of the net. Though originally unsure about the name, Zayed has somewhat taken a liking to the term and as The Championship semifinal edges closer his hunger for “the cheese” continues to grow.“It’s history. It’s legend in the making for all of us if we can take Indy Eleven to The Championship final and win it. I wish I could have asked anyone in the Brickyard Battalion at the beginning of the season if they believed we would achieve what we have, because it’s been a remarkable campaign so far and we’re here now,” said Zayed. “Their support has been an absolutely key part of getting us here and pushing us through numerous games this season to help us get one more goal. We’re going to need them again, they’re going to need to push us on, and I know they will. Imagine if we can win it. Like I said, this is history in the making for all of us.”The idea of playing in a postseason intrigues Indy’s No.9 as it is an unfamiliar concept. He has never really faced a situation like this due to the fact that in every league he’s played in, whoever finishes at the top of the table at the conclusion of the regular season is typically the league champion. However, he likens his experience in knockout games to being the closest comparison, and therefore knows what is at stake.“We’ve played three games against FC Edmonton this year and all three were tight. All three really could have gone either way – we won one, they won one, and we drew one – but any of those games could have gone to either side. We knew what they’re about. They’re an unbelievably defensive, but excellent defensive side,” said the forward. “If we get the first goal, they have no option but to attack because it’s a knockout game and I feel that could work massively in our favor. I know it’s cliché, but getting the first goal will be the most important factor on Saturday.”For Zayed, goal scoring has come as naturally this season it ever has – and it’s evident. Smashing through club records for most goals in a single game, most goals in one season, and more, he has guided the ball into the back of the net more times than anyone in Indy Eleven history. But is he happy with how things have panned out overall? On that, he’s a bit of a mixed bag.“I’ve almost accomplished everything this year. Almost. Look, I’m happy with the way the season has turned out but I’m only about 75% happy. Looking back, 15 league goals is respectable but I set targets for myself at the beginning of the year and came just a little bit short in not winning the Golden Boot,” he said. “But, that’s the past. At least now I have something to motivate me for next year – that’s the way I feel about it – not winning this year means I’ll go all out next year to get it. We’re in the postseason and that’s what it’s all about. I’ve probably hit a lot of my targets, but my biggest target was to win this whole thing. I’ll gladly exchange any Golden Boot, any individual award, for a championship title.”With individual honors off his mind, the 15-time goalscorer has only one focus – reaching and getting through The Championship final on the winning side. In fact, it’s not just a focus, but an expectation, one that has been there since the beginning of the 2016 season.“The expectations from within the camp at the beginning of the year were always quite high, and definitely from Coach Hankinson – who is an absolute winner – and he set high standards with the new players he brought in – also winners,” said Zayed. “These are guys who have come from winning teams, not guys who came here just to pick up a wage or ride out results and get by, they wanted to win. That’s how it’s been from day one. The expectations within the camp were all about winning. We wanted the Spring Championship and qualify for the playoffs to win the whole thing.”More members of Indiana’s Team believed than just Zayed, though. The Irishman underlined that the expectations were a collective one, not an individual one, and that they didn’t put too much stock on what those outside their camp had to saw.“From the outside, it’s possible that media or fans looking in didn’t give us too much of a chance because we were a new group of players and Indy Eleven had finished towards the bottom of the league in the previous two years. We probably defied expectations from their standpoint, but from our standpoint we knew we had a good group of players and were determined to win something this year.”They’ll get their chance starting this Saturday night against FC Edmonton.


Trio of takeaways from the regular season finale loss in Yukon

Oct 30, 2016


We’ve seen it at “The Mike,” and we’ve seen it on the road at multiple venues. Now, add Miller Stadium to the list of places where late goals determine the winner of an Indy Eleven match, however unfortunate Indiana’s Team was to fall on the wrong side of this one.After a first half battle that saw the two sides level heading into the break, the second half broke out with almost immediate action as Duke Lacroix won a penalty for the “Boys in White” leading to Nicki Paterson’s goal in the 52nd minute. However, just over ten minutes later, Sebastian Velasquez equalized for Rayo and the game opened up once again. As chances went awry for the two sides in the middle of a heated atmosphere, it looked like the season finale would end in a one-all draw. However, five minutes before added time OKC found their second goal of the match – this time a header from defender Moises Hernandez on the end of a Pecka corner doing the job.While the loss is a disappointing one for head coach Tim Hankinson’s side, their hard work shouldn’t go unapplauded after a full 90-minute battle between two sides that have already secured postseason play. Not every game with a late goal can go their way, and this just happened to be one of those cases.TICKETS | The Championship Semifinal – Indy Eleven vs. FC Edmonton


At the beginning of the 2016 regular season, had Indy been offered a Spring Season championship and second place finishes in the Fall and Combined Season standings, it would have been a bold decision to turn that down. Quite a successful set of campaigns, Indy has enjoyed its best run in the three-year history of the club by some margin, finishing the year with 55 points on 15 wins, 10 draws, and just 7 losses, which is tied for league-best with the New York Cosmos. In addition, perhaps most enjoyable is Indy’s success at Carroll Stadium, where its unbeaten run of 18 straight games spans two season, going all the way back to early October 2015. From a squad standpoint, one point worth making is the contributions of every player on the 23-man roster. For players like Neil Shaffer, Daniel Keller, Keith Cardona, and more – ones who did not see as much playing time as some of their teammates – the ability to step in and seamlessly contribute is what makes them such impressive professionals, and they deserve recognition for what they gave to the club in a taxing seven-month season. For others like Nemanja Vukovic, Eamon Zayed, Jon Busch, and more who put their bodies on the line nearly every week, the accomplishment of winning the Spring Season can only be trumped by one thing… winning it all, which they have the chance to do in the coming two weeks.STATS | How last night’s 2-1 loss looked by the numbers


… it’s how you finish, and while Indiana’s Team ended the 2016 regular season with a loss, they aren’t done yet.Now the real season begins – the potential two games to decide who lifts the Soccer Bowl Trophy as the NASL’s champion, the first being The Championship Semifinal this Saturday November 5 against FC Edmonton. An obvious note in Indy’s favor is the home venue (as shown above), where the Boys in Blue previously drew the Eddies 1-1 in May thanks to a goal from Greg Janicki and, more recently, knocked off the Canadian club 1-0 on July 23 thanks to a goal from, you guessed it, Greg Janicki.With injury concerns limited and a number of “Boys in Blue” well rested, what starts as a week of preparation culminates with the biggest match in Indy Eleven’s brief but growing history and the opportunity to head to a championship final where they would meet the winner of New York-Rayo OKC … assuming the first test is passed.

Huge blow for USMNT: Geoff Cameron set to miss USA vs. Mexico

1 CommentBy Joe Prince-WrightNov 4, 2016, 6:45 AM EDT

This a huge blow for the U.S. national team.Geoff Cameron has not recovered as expected from a knee injury and the Stoke City star is highly unlikely to feature for the U.S. next week against Mexico in their massive 2018 World Cup qualifier.ProSoccerTalk understands that Cameron will not even make the trip back to the U.S. for the international break as he focuses on getting fully fit.[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

Cameron injured his right knee after a late collision in the 2-0 win at Hull City on Oct. 29 and was initially diagnosed with a hyper-extension but there was also a strain in the MCL. He hasn’t played since.The former Houston Dynamo star had been a key figure in central midfield for Stoke in recent weeks, with the Potters going four games unbeaten and Cameron widely praise for his reading of the game and defensive solidity allowing the likes of Joe AllenXherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic to pour forward.On Friday Stoke’s manager Mark Hughes all but confirmed that Cameron will miss their game at West Ham United on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSports.com) and is not likely to travel back to the U.S. for the crunch Hexagonal qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica.

“The likelihood is that he [Cameron] won’t be involved and he won’t travel to join up with his country next week,” Hughes confirmed.

Cameron, 31, has been influential for the USMNT over the past 12 months, playing in every single minute of the run to the Copa America Centenario semifinals last summer and he’s been a rock in central defense. He also played in every single game in the last round of World Cup qualifying. Alongside John Brooks, the duo have built a formidable partnership and Jurgen Klinsmann now has a big headache as to who comes into the team.Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Steve Birnbaum and Michael Orozco will all look to get the nod in Cameron’s place but it will be a blow for Klinsmann to see the defensive unit of DeAndre Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks and Fabian Johnson, which performed so well last summer, broken up.Make no mistake about it, losing Cameron for the marquee match in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 11 against Mexico and for the trip to CONCACAF foes Costa Rica will put a huge dent in the USA’s chances of kicking off the final stage of World Cup qualifying with two positive results.

U.S. soccer sells out World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico in Columbus

Fans from every state and Washington, D.C. bought tickets for next week’s sold-out World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, the U.S. Soccer Federation said on Tuesday.U.S. Soccer offered seats for the match via a lottery. They received almost 17,000 requests for 56,270 tickets.MAPFRE Stadium, which has hosted every quadrennial home qualifier between the Americans and El Tri since 2001, has a listed capacity of 23,665 for the match.U.S. soccer will not issue actual paper tickets for the game, however.In an effort to prevent counterfeit ducats from being circulated on the resale market, the organization is distributing only mobile tickets for the first time.The U.S. has won all four previous meetings with Mexico at MAPFRE by identical 2-0 scorelines.The venue, which is home to Columbus Crew of MLS, was the only soccer-specific stadium in the country when it opened in 1999.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Mexico boss Osorio hails ‘fantastic’ opportunity against U.S. in Columbus

The countdown to the Mexico national team’s game against the United States in the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying in Columbus, Ohio is on and El Tri coach Juan Carlos Osorio is in a positive mood ahead of his squad announcement.Mexico has lost its past four contests against the Stars and Stripes at MAPFRE Stadium by scores of 2-0, but the under-pressure tactician will be telling his players that the Nov. 11 showdown represents a chance to set the record straight.”We see it as a fantastic opportunity to go there and change the story and break that statistic,” said Osorio in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC that will be published in its entirety on Friday. “We’ll play [against] a strong team, with their fans, in a stadium that historically hasn’t been good for Mexico. But the opportunity is exactly that.”A meticulous planner, Osorio and his coaching staff have been immersing themselves in games involving Jurgen Klinsmann’s likely U.S. call-ups.”We’ve been watching the MLS and watching the main players playing,” said Osorio.The former New York Red Bulls coach added that he respects the “very strong” North American league.”Also, [we’ve been] watching Borussia Dortmund for [Christian] Pulisic, Ingolstadt for [Alfredo] Morales, Borussia Monchengladbach for Fabian Johnson and so on and so forth — the Premier League for [Geoff] Cameron and others. I think that we are preparing the game well.”Osorio acknowledged that Klinsmann is a “top manager” who will have his players fired up for CONCACAF’s clasico and added that he believes Mexico will need at least six players who are good in the air to counter the United States’ aerial threat.The Mexico squad is scheduled to be announced this Thursday — although it could be delayed until Friday — and the team is taking the unusual step of traveling to Columbus on the Monday ahead of the Friday game. For Osorio, it’s a no-brainer; with a healthy number of players likely to be called up from European teams, Mexico wants them all to be as fresh as possible.”We want to [save] our players the extra four hours traveling from [Mexico City] and back,” said Osorio. “We’ve arranged it so we’ll go straight to Columbus and we’ll be there for four days.”

USMNT State of the Union, Hex Edition: Midfielders

An uncharacteristic dry season has given way to a more general showering of good form amongst the midfield. Will they be able to make the difference like they did in the last edition of the Hex?

by Adam Whittaker Snavely@Snaves  Nov 2, 2016, 7:10am PDT

The midfield. For the better part of three World Cup cycles, the U.S. midfield was seen as the strong suit of the team. There was constantly players knocking on the door and pushing other players to higher levels, which was great for the team, even if it led to selection choices more than a few times. But the fact that there were so many options in midfield seemed like a very, very good thing.For most of the last year and a half, however, the midfield has been a bit under fire. Michael Bradley never really looked to regain the form that made him invaluable at the 2010 World Cup and for most of the 2014 World Cup cycle after a lackluster summer in Brazil, and while he’s played well enough in the grand scheme of things, “well enough” just wasn’t the “great” that U.S. fans were expecting from the former Roma man. Jermaine Jones became more and more polarizing the more entrenched he became in the lineup. Alejandro Bedoya was a hard worker, but his offensive explosions came and went. Kyle Beckerman looked like he had aged a decade in the matter of a year.But with the infusion of a few new faces, and one very notable old one, the U.S. midfield looks to be relatively on track for the Hex, one poor friendly with New Zealand notwithstanding.

Christian Pulisic – B+

The kid has been playing a ton of minutes for Dortmund over the beginning of the season with Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle both out due to injury, and has done well with his time overall. He has two goals and three assists in 7 Bundesliga games and another couple assists in the Champions League. That doesn’t mean he’s ready to take over the starting reins in Dortmund for good, however: he’s still prone to being muscled out of games at times, as Schalke just proved over the weekend.

Michael Bradley – B+

Michael Bradley has been looking more and more like his old holding mid self with Toronto FC in the playoffs, making vital defensive contributions and springing Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco into counter attacks left and right. It’s especially important for a strong defensive midfield with the 3-5-2 Greg Vanney has rolled out, and Bradley has answered the call. It remains to be seen whether he can do that on a consistent basis for the USMNT anymore.

Sacha Kljestan – B+

Sacha was just rewarded for his performances on the season with as a MLS MVP finalist, and the assist king probably stands to get a good shot at it. His performances over the past two years for the Red Bulls have been consistently great. That didn’t stop Montreal from preventing him from creating a single chance in their playoff match, however, the first time that has happened all season.

Alejandro Bedoya – B-

Bedoya has brought his trademark grit and workrate to the center of the Philadelphia Union midfield, and helped propel them to their first playoff berth since their inaugural season. He managed to score a goal in their playoff match against Toronto, too. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t enough to stop the Reds. Bedoya should be rested and ready to go for the Hex.

Jermaine Jones – C

The fact that Jermaine has anything above a D here is a good thing for him, seeing as he’s finally back to playing. He also managed to create the Rapids only real threat on the Galaxy goal last weekend, a 25-yard thunderbolt that Brian Rowe just managed to parry away. His fitness levels are still in question, but that right foot sure isn’t.

Perry Kitchen – C+

Captain America to Hearts fans, Kitchen looked initially shaky in a three-man midfield against New Zealand with Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan, but the three appeared to grow into the game at the tail end of the first half and beginning of the second, before both teams started making wholesale changes. Hearts have slipped a bit in Scotland as well: after a 3-3 draw with Inverness, in which none of the Hearts defense covered themselves in glory, they now sit in third behind Celtic and Rangers.

Danny Williams – B-

Williams’ stock appeared to be on the rise at October camp, making a game appearance before Perry Kitchen, and most likely appeals to Klinsmann for his propensity to play both ways on the field. This is also a measure of his importance for Reading. He’s one of the first names down on the team sheet for the Royals, and likes to roam from deeper positions to test opposing keepers.

Paul Arriola – C+

Arriola will be looking for a spot on this roster after a string of call-ups and appearances against Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba, scoring two goals in those three games. He’s still fighting for playing time in Tijuana, on the other hand, and has been mostly used as a late-game sub by Miguel Herrera as of late. The Xolos are in first place in Mexico, so trying to break into the lineup will probably continue to be difficult.

Lynden Gooch – C

Lynden Gooch’s positive start to both the Premier League season and his senior USMNT career both has led to a spell stranded on the bench at Sunderland. While Black Cats supporters admire the youngster’s work rate and intelligence in the midfield, he’s only collected a handful of substitute minutes over the last month, despite the fact that Sunderland are dead last in England and haven’t won a game all season. David Moyes looks to be the next coach to exit the Stadium of Light’s coaching carousel.

Josh Gatt – B+

Josh Gatt! We’re talking about him! Because he’s finally playing again for Molde, because he’s just scored a goal, and because it seems he’s retained most of the speed that made him such an intriguing U.S. prospect in the first place!He might be a longshot to make this roster, but it’s just good to see him out and running again.

Darlington Nagbe – **waves goodbye**

Nagbe didn’t have a great second half of the season for the Timbers, but the same could be said of the rest of the squad, and Nagbe himself was forced out of the position that put him in the USMNT (a deeper-lying box-to-box midfielder) and onto the wing or higher up in the midfield due to injuries and severe dips in form from other players. That didn’t stop him from looking very good in his limited USMNT minutes, but I think it’s safe to say that between league play and the mysterious snub of call-ups to the October friendlies, we most likely won’t be seeing Nagbe for a while.

USMNT Depth Chart 2016: Center backs

Who’s behind President Brooks? by Rob Usry and Brendan Joseph  Nov 1, 2016, 9:04am PDT

The United States men’s national team is preparing for the start of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. About a year ago SSFC’s Depth Chart series explored the USMNT player pool. Now, a year later, the team has improved tremendously from a horrid 2015, but how has the outlook on the pool changed? So with that in mind, as the Americans gear up for the Hex, we attempt to create a depth chart for the team, position by position. Figuring out what Klinsmann is thinking is a fool’s errand, so this is what our depth chart would be and we’ll talk about how we landed here.

Center backs

1 John Brooks
2 Geoff Cameron
3 Matt Besler
4 Omar Gonzalez
5 Steve Birnbaum
6 Ventura Alvarado
7 Matt Miazga
8 Cameron Carter-Vickers
9 Michael Orozco

Rob: While the USMNT fullback pool is nothing to write home about, the center backs are looking surprisingly strong this year with actual competition for spots brewing. This summer proved that a healthy and hungry John Brooks is far and away the USA’s best defender. The question is who is fighting for No. 2?

Brendan: I’m going to tentatively say the spot goes to Geoff Cameron, but he could always end up as a fullback or a defensive midfielder. There’s always that weird element when making these lists that seems fairly exclusive to the U.S.: anyone can play multiple positions and usually does. For example, Cameron has been doing well at midfield for Stoke, and would prefer to stick to one position based on recent reports. However, much like Fabian Johnson and fullback, the U.S. might need him at center back because even out of position he’s better than the alternatives.We’re still two years out from the World Cup, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see Omar Gonzalez work his way back into a starting role. He’s been slowly regaining his spot after his banishment.

Rob: It seems Besler and Gonzalez have been stuck in the same cycle since that Belgium match they started together. Both are either working their way up the depth chart or completely out of the picture. I’m not sure either one is the apple of Klinsmann’s eye, just a means to an end until the younger guys prove themselves worthy of consideration.Guys like Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga, who most think are the center back pairing of the future, are waiting in the wings. The only problem is their club situations and not getting the appropriate playing time to justify getting called up.

Brendan: Matt Miazga is at sixth on the list, but I think he could be in the top three by next year. He’s been playing with Vitesse, which is admittedly not the biggest club in the world. There’s been a general fear that he’ll become one of the “lost loan players of Chelsea” or whatever the colloquial name is. Klinsmann also clearly likes Birnbaum, but is still waiting for him to take that next step. Maybe that next step will be a rumored move abroad. But I agree, there’s a slight feeling of “It’s fine for now” with Klinsmann and Gonzalez. Besler has his uses as a utility player, so he’ll be included in most rosters for the next two years.Still, it’s a lot easier to find a center back pairing when you already have one established. Brooks is a godsend for the national team.

Rob: The overall depth for center backs is actually very good. Arguably the deepest of any position for the national team. We’ve listed nine players but could’ve easily had at least 12 with the likes of Tim Ream, Matt Hedges, and even the emerging Walker Zimmerman. Are there any other fringe players we could’ve added and what will it take for them to catch Jurgen’s eye?

Brendan: People love Tim Parker up in Vancouver. He’s a relatively young (23) second-year professional out of St. John’s. Parker was included on the roster for the match against New Zealand. It’s probably still a little too early to pencil him in for a spot in 2018, but he’ll definitely challenge for a reserve role in 2022.Eric Miller, another player who spent time with the U-23 national team, could also get a look in the future. He started 23 matches with the Colorado Rapids this season.Rob: So, the talent is there and appears it will be there for a while. Is it safe to say that center back is the position the USMNT is deepest at out of every spot on the field? Or am I being too optimistic?

Brendan: It used to be goalkeeper, but I think it’s fair to say the U.S. has quite a few options at center back. Klinsmann just needs to figure out who will pair with Brooks.

USMNT State of the Union, Hex Edition: Goalkeepers

Mexico and Costa Rica await. So how does the form of the U.S. goalkeepers look?

The goalkeeper pool, on form, looks like less of a depth chart and more of a blob. The veterans aren’t exactly continuing to prove utter dominance over the pool, but the younger keepers in the pool haven’t done enough to warrant a changing of the guard just yet. Sure, the U.S. might benefit in the long run by just making the swap at goalkeeper and entrusting the position to someone other than Tim Howard or Brad Guzan, but competitive matches against Mexico and Costa Rica isn’t that time.And so we’re left with a fairly predictable goalkeeping situation as far as a depth chart goes. Does it match the form of the pool? Not exactly, but that’s rarely the case anyway. As always, grades given are based on player form, and are not necessarily an indication of my ranking or any sort of depth chart prediction.

Tim Howard – B+

Howard is the most likely candidate to start against Mexico and Costa Rica, based on Jurgen Klinsmann’s reliance on Howard and Brad Guzan (and Guzan’s failure to touch the field as of late). Howard is coming off of a very solid game against the Galaxy, although a Gio Dos Santos header deflected into a looping shot over Howard’s head and into the back of the net. The header would’ve gone in the opposite corner without the deflection, but getting chipped by Dos Santos in LA surely doesn’t bring back any good memories.

Brad Guzan – D

Guzan’s move to Middlesborough over the offseason was met with optimisim initially by many U.S. fans, but Guzan has been mired on the bench ever since Victor Valdes returned from early-season injury. Guzan is still one of Klinsmann’s top keepers, but the complete lack of playing time is killing his chances at taking back the #1 (and #1.5) spot he’s enjoyed over the past two years with the U.S.

Ethan Horvath – B+

Horvath is still Molde’s top keeper and still making the saves he needs to make. In a game more exciting for Josh Gatt’s first goal in almost three years, Horvath made four saves and kept the clean sheet. The Tippeligaen isn’t exactly a powerhouse, but to lock down the starting spot so consistently at 21 years old is still impressive. Add that to a solid showing against Cuba, and Horvath should have a roster spot secured for the Hex.

David Bingham – C+

Couldn’t make up for San Jose’s impotent offense enough for the Quakes to make it into the playoffs. While San Jose only allowed 40 goals on the season, they scored a league-low 32. Bingham has been good to very good in MLS play, but in his big showcase against New Zealand, he didn’t look convincing between the sticks.

William Yarbrough – C+

Similarly to Bingham, Yarbrough is perfectly passable at Club Leon and is maintaining his starting position, but his penchant for punching crosses back into play instead of catching them was on full display against New Zealand, and it made for plenty of nervy moments.

Bill Hamid – C+

Mr. 6th or 7th on the depth chart, I believe, is superior to the next two keepers above him, but wasn’t able to show it against New Zealand or in the MLS playoffs. He played very well for a resurgent DC United at the end of the MLS season, doing his “single-handedly dragging DC to success” thing again. He couldn’t make up for the shambles that was DC’s back line against Montreal, however, to the tune of a 4-2 defeat. While Hamid was more of a victim than perpetrator on most, he might want Matteo Mancuso’s header back.

USA in driver’s seat for 2026 World Cup bid after Europe is prohibited by FIFA

North America’s chances skyrocketby Rob Usry@RobUsry  Oct 14, 2016, 11:12am PDT

Stop us if you’ve heard this before. The United States are in great position to host a World Cup in the next decade. The FIFA Council decided on Friday that European countries will be prohibited from making true bids host the 2026 World Cup so soon after Russia hosts in 2018.FIFA state that it’s rotational policy of making sure every federation has a fair chance to host makes Europe hosting unfair in their eyes. They will be limited to standby status in case any of the competing bids from around the world aren’t up to standard.”The feeling amongst the council is rather positive towards expansion,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino.This decision could very well pave the way for the United States to win a bid to host the tournament in some fashion. There have been talks in the past of a possible joint bid between the USA and Mexico and even whispers that Canada could jump in as well to help North America’s chances.”That has changed the landscape [of the 2026 contest] a little bit,” said U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, a FIFA Council member.There’s still a lot to be decided on what exactly the USA’s bid will look like, but you can be assured they’ll be among the favorites to win it. Many expected them to have a great chance of winning the 2022 bid, but they lost out to Qatar after some shady politics that eventually led to the widespread corruption investigation by U.S. authorities that lead to FIFA’s current reform efforts under Infantino.The new President is thinking of making major changes to the world’s most prestigious sporting event by expanding it to 40 or 48 teams.The bidding process for the 2026 World Cup isn’t expected to be resolved until 2020 after it was postponed due to the corruption investigation.

Champions League group stage permutations for round of 16

The top two teams qualify for the round of 16, with the third-place team dropping into the Europa League and the bottom club eliminated from Europe.

Qualified teams: Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain
Eliminated: Club Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, FC Basel, FC Rostov, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets Razgrad, PSV Eindhoven


Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain have qualified, and the top spot in the group will be decided if there is a winner in the match between the two teams at the Emirates on Nov. 23. If that match is a draw, it could go down to goal difference, with the Gunners having an advantage of three.

The Europa League spot for third place has a very similar situation. A winner between Ludogorets and FC Basel will settle that. Otherwise, it will go to goal difference, with FC Basel holding an advantage of three.


Benfica: Will qualify with a win at Besiktas in the next round of games

Napoli: Can qualify with a win at Dynamo Kiev next time, if Benfica also beat Besiktas

Besiktas: Cannot go through on Matchday 5 and will likely need to pick up four points to have a chance to progress

Dynamo Kiev: Would need to win both of their remaining matches, including beating Napoli by two goals, and hope Napoli lose to Benfica and Besiktas do not beat Benfica


Barcelona: Must win at Celtic to guarantee their passage. They will also be through regardless of their result if Borussia Monchengladbach fail to beat Manchester City.

Manchester City: Require a point at Borussia Monchengladbach to seal a place in the round of 16.

Borussia Monchengladbach: Must beat Man City to stay alive, and even then, they would likely have to better City’s result on the final day to go through.

Celtic: Must beat both Manchester City and Barcelona, plus hope City do not beat Gladbach and that Gladbach pick up no more than three points from their two remaining matches.


Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich are through, with Atletico three points clear, having won the game between the two sides. Bayern will likely have to win at home to Atletico to stand a chance of finishing top.

Rostov and PSV Eindhoven will battle it out for a place in the Europa League, with the two teams meeting in the Netherlands on the final matchday. The first game between the teams finished 2-2.


AS Monaco: Need a point at home to Tottenham in their next game to qualify for the round of 16.

Bayer Leverkusen: Can qualify with a point at CSKA Moscow if Tottenham lose at Monaco. They will also be through with a win if Tottenham do no better than draw in France.

Tottenham: Will be guaranteed a place in the knockout rounds if they win both of their remaining fixtures.

CSKA Moscow: Could actually qualify with a win over Bayer Levekusen and a draw at Tottenham, if Monaco beat Leverkusen and avoid defeat against Spurs. But it is likely they will have to win both games to stand any chance.


Borussia Dortmund: Have qualified and will likely top the group if they avoid defeat at Real Madrid.

Real Madrid: Need a point at Sporting Lisbon to book their place on MatchDay 5.

Sporting Lisbon: Must win both of their remaining games to stand a chance and hope Real Madrid slip up at home to Dortmund.

Legia Warsaw: Eliminated, though they face Sporting on the final MatchDay and could qualify for the Europa League if they win that.


Leicester City: Need one point from their final two games to qualify for the round of 16.

FC Porto: Will be through if they win at FC Copenhagen next time out.

FC Copenhagen: Will be through if they win both of their remaining games.

Club Brugge: Have been eliminated and can only make the Europa League if they win both of their remaining games and FC Copenhagen pick up no more than a point.


Sevilla: Need a point from their remaining two matches to advance.

Juventus: Will be through if they win at Sevilla, or if Lyon do not win at Dinamo Zagreb, on MatchDay 5.

Lyon: Must win both of their games and hope that either Juventus pick up no more than one point or that Juventus beat Sevilla

Dinamo Zagreb: Eliminated, and must win both games, with Lyon failing to beat Sevilla, to make the Europa League. Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 17 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

Man City finally beat Barca as Guardiola’s new team becomes true Champions League contender

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo 22 hours ago

It isn’t often that you get to exorcise several demons on the same night.  In the first two seasons in which Manchester City reached the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League – after two straight failures to survive the group stage in the early years of the moneyed Abu Dhabi ownership’s reign at the club – it was summarily bounced in the round of 16 by an imperious Barcelona.  [ Champions League: Matchday 4 Live | Scores | Standings | News ]

Two weeks ago, City, playing the best soccer the club has ever enjoyed, traveled to Catalonia to take on its old tormentors again. It seemed like the time had come for the Citizens to compete with one of the game’s all-time great teams. But Lionel Messi, the sport’s best-ever player, ran riot and scored a hat trick as Barca sent City home smarting from a 4-0 whipping.  That game had been a homecoming for Pep Guardiola, who had built Barcelona’s world-beating and paradigm-shifting machinery, when he’d been promoted from iconic midfielder to legendary manager at his boyhood club. He was humiliated by the thrashing at the Camp Nou.  On Tuesday, Manchester City finally made amends for all those slights and insults and embarrassments, even though Guardiola believed it would take an almost perfect performance. At its impregnable Etihad Stadium, City overcame an early deficit to record a cathartic and well-deserved 3-1 victory. Ilkay Gundogan’s brace and Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick undid Messi’s go-ahead goal. ity hadn’t lost at home in a dozen games, dating back to March. But for the first half hour or so, it seemed like that streak would end and its run of futility against Barca continue. In a physical and breathless game, it was the visitors who played as if they were at home. Luis Enrique’s side, however, was lucky to be spared a penalty in the 11th minute, when Samuel Umtiti hooked his foot around Raheem Sterling’s in the box. It was a clear penalty, but referee Viktor Kassai incomprehensibly gave the English winger a yellow card for diving instead.Barcelona soon reaped the reward for its early dominance. In the 21st minute, Sergio Aguero had a shot blocked. Messi sent the ball forward to Neymar, who returned it to him as the Argentine ran away from several markers and stuck it away under goalkeeper Willy Caballero.Barca had a flurry of chances to get the second but converted none. And then City took control.  Sergi Roberto sent an errant pass deep in his own third in the 39th minute, and Aguero picked it up and zipped it to Sterling. He squared to Gundogan for a simple finish. Man City’s assault would keep up apace after the break. Right after the half, the Citizens were all over Barca. Another ball was won high – Guardiola’s plan to unsettle his old side was evidently to press its shaky back line with the soccer equivalent to a full-court press – and Aguero set up Sterling. But he took a heavy touch and couldn’t finish from the angle.  But in the 51st minute, the heretofore anonymous De Bruyne deposited a free kick behind a wrong-footed and culpable Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to give his side the lead.  City threatened again and again as Barca’s vaunted Messi-Neymar-Luis Suarez trident grew invisible. An Aleksandar Kolarov cross very nearly found De Bruyne for a tap-in. Quite against the grain, Andre Games then hammered a shot off City’s bar following a John Stones miscue in the back.  But that dizzying end-to-end phase, in which De Bruyne also kissed a shot off the post, would end in City’s security goal. In the 74th, De Bruyne sent Jesus Navas through with an inch-perfect ball. His cross to Aguero was tricky for the Argentina to chest in – with the ball, incidentally, caroming off his right forearm, held firmly to his chest. The rebound fell generously for Gundogan, who got his second.  Barcelona was beaten and knew it, never formulating a coherent response.  Guardiola, in the end, had vanquished the monster he had created. And in the process, he redeemed his new club’s battered honor. Aside from cheering his team’s third goal, he seemed to take no delight at all in it. He must know he has undermined his beloved Barca’s supremacy.  City, meanwhile, have become real Champions League contenders under Guardiola and now trail Group C leader Barca by only two points with two games to play. The larger takeaway, however, is its fresh ability to beat the likes of Barca. Because a win as comprehensive as this, against so laureled an opponent, signals Manchester City’s true arrival at the European summit. Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. 

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10/28/16 Indy 11 host Playoff Game Next Sat, 11/5 3 pm, MLS Playoffs Sunday on ESPN, FS1, Champ League Tues/Wed

So after the most successful season in Indy 11 history – THE PLAYOFFs are coming to the Circle City as our 11 will host 3rd seed FC Edmonton at the Mike next Saturday Nov 5 at 3 p.m.  The 11 equaled the longest home unbeaten streak in NASL History with 18 straight home games without losing, including an undefeated mark this entire season after blasting Puerto Rico 3-0 Sat Night.

So the PLAYOFFs have started for MLS – yes it means the best team in the MLS doesn’t normally win but honestly we American’s love our playoffs and MLS promises to provide plenty of excitement over the next month .  Montreal and Drogba host the NY Red Bulls aand US mid Sasha Klisten at 3 pm on ESPN Sunday and the LA Galaxy with Landon Donovan, Dos Santos host Colorado and Goalie Tim Howard at 5 pm.  Toronto FC and US players Bradley & Altidore and MVP Giovinco travel to NYCFC Sunday 0n FS1 at 7:30 pm, followed by my team Seattle with new American forward Jordon Morris taking on former Carmel High star – FC Dallas Captain Matt Hodges  at 10 pm on FS1.

American 17 year old youngster Christian Pulisic has me going bandwagon again this season. Last year it was Leicester City, this year its me back on board with German squad Borrusia Dortmund as I have been either tuning in or DVRing every game on FS1 or FS2.  This week Pulisic comes on at the half down 2-0 on the road, all he does is come on to provide an assist to make it 2-3 and add the 93rd minute equalizer to tie it.  I am thinking perhaps a Dortmund jersey this Christmas hum.  Don’t forget Champions League Tues/Wed next week


Thurs, Oct 26

10:00 p.m. (Fox Sports1 W4. Seattle Sounders vs. W5. Sporting Kansas City, MLS Cup playoffs knockout round game

Sat, Oct 29

7:30 am NBCSN            Sunderland vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Leicester City

1:30 pm NBCSN            Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

1:30 pm Fox sports 2       Borussia Dortmund vs Schlake

Sun, Oct 30 

9:30 am NBCSN            Everton vs West Ham

12 noon                            Southhampton vs Chelsea

3 pm  ESPN                     MLS Semis Leg 1: Montreal Impact vs NY Red Bulls

5 pm  ESPN                     MLS Semi-Finals LA Galaxy vs Colorado

7 pm  FS1                         MLS Semi-Finals Leg 1: Toronto FC vs NYCFC

9 pm  FS1                        MLS Semi-Finals Leg 1: Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas

Tues, Nov 1

Europe – UEFA Champions League

1:45pm Fox Soccer Plus,               Beşiktaş vs Napoli

3:45pm Fox Sports 2 USA,            Ludogorets vs Arsenal

3:45pm  Fox Sports 1                      Manchester City vs Barcelona  …

3:45pm ESPN Deportes,                Atlético Madrid vs Rostov

3:45pm ESPN2 or 3?                       Borussia M’gladbach vs Celtic

3:45pm Fox Sports Ind, State    PSV vs Bayern München

3:45pm  ESPN3,                                  Basel vs PSG

3:45pm  ESPN3,                                   Benfica vs Dynamo Kyiv

Wed, Nov 2

3:45pm  Fox Sports 1 Tottenham Hotspur vs Bayer Leverkusen

3:45pm Fox Sports 2  Borussia Dortmund vs Sporting CP

3:45pm ESPN2 Juventus vs Olympique Lyonnais

3:45pm  ESPN Deportes Legia Warszawa vs Real Madrid

3:45pm  ESPN3    København vs Leicester City

3:45pm  ESPN3 Sevilla vs Dinamo Zagreb

Sat, Nov 5     

3  pm My Indy 23       Indy 11 host FC Edmonton in the Semi’s @ the Mike

Sun, Nov 6

3 pm  ESPN                     MLS Conference Semi-Finals

5 pm  ESPN                     MLS Conference Semi-Finals

7 pm  FS1                         MLS Conference Semi-Finals

9 pm  FS1                        MLS Conference Semi-Finals

Thur, Nov 10

10 pm ESPN 2         USA Ladies vs Romania

Fri, Nov 11

7:30 pm Fox Sports 1 USA vs Mexico in Columbus, OH

Tues, Nov 15

9 pm Fox Sports 1 Costa Rica vs USA

Indy 11

Pack the House Playoffs Style – Nov 5 3p m at the Mike Semifinal Round

3 things Indy 11 3-0 Win over Puerto Rico

Braun and Lacroix Win Player of the Week Honors

GK Jon Bush wins player of Week in Goal

Vote Indy 11 Coach of the Year – Tim Hankinson


Altidore – Toronto Soccer is Back

Playoffs are Here !

Ranking the Playoff Teams!


Pulisic the Savior – Video – yanks Abroad

Pulisic saves Dortmund in OT

Pulisic better at Dortmund rather than Barca

US Hot List

Us Ladies Carli Lloyd opens up about favorite teammate Hope Solo


Man U’s win over City eases pressure on Mourino

Man City its not working for Pep Just Yet

Mourino open to selling Wayne Rooney

Plenty of Blame to Go around in Man U 4-0 stomping at Chelsea

Cup Ties are Set for Next Round

Fergie says Mourino can do it



Is Messi’s position move going to cost Barca?  Hunter

Tight race in La Liga for a change

Atletico loses first game in La Liga


Champions League Tues/Wed

Juve Return Win over Lyon Gets them Thru

Tottenhan and Leverkusen reach for the Summit

Man City looks for Home Leg to Give Better Results vs Barca after 4-0 loss at Camp Nou

UCL Final in New York City? Someday Maybe? 

Dortmund GM says moving UCL out of Europe would be Crazy!



Top Saves in the EPL Week 9




Indiana’s Team grabs all three points in home finale against Puerto Rico FC

Oct 24, 2016



Indy Eleven has accomplished something only a handful of teams can also boast – finish an entire season unbeaten at home. The Carolina RailHawks did it during a span in 2014, the Cosmos have done it twice – once in 2015 and then again this season, but something seems special about the way things shook out for Indiana’s Team.Looking back at the two home wins at the end of 2015, it was a fitting way to cap off a season that saw momentum build to the finish at “The Mike” and allowed the team to finish on a high. Then the offseason brought about a number of changes, including a new head coach and almost half a roster of turnover, begging the question of how high is this team’s ceiling? After being treated to a draw on the road against Tampa Bay to open the season, Indy Eleven fans got their first glimpse during the home opener just a week later when Nemanja Vukovic’s late equalizer sealed a point – the first of many results to be impacted in the final minutes of the game.The rest of the story takes its twists and turns, but winning more often than not in front of those fans and to be able to stretch to 18 straight in front of those fans is something the players will never take for granted.”The only element we need is that crowd. Playing in front of the Brickyard Battalion, and to go undefeated here the whole year – a lot of people were laughing at me when I said we could do it. But as a group, we knew it was possible and we’re thrilled to have executed.”


Perhaps one of the more underrated aspects of the streak was how balanced things were in terms of excellence in defense and attack. Including Saturday’s result, Indy Eleven scored three or more goals a total of seven times, while also keeping a clean sheet seven times at home, sometimes all wrapped up in the same result like in the last three contests at “The Mike.”Focusing on the last three home results – all 3-0 wins over Cosmos, Carolina and Puerto Rico FC – it’s hard to see the opposition grinning when they see a trip to Carroll Stadium in their future. That mixed bag of attacking threats and defensive strongholds will be a daunting task to face when the postseason begins on November 5 … FC Edmonton, you’re on the clock.Perhaps the scariest note for Indy’s foes is that you cannot focus on one player in the diverse Eleven attack. Sure, Eamon Zayed is running away with the team’s scoring lead after bagging his 15th goal on Saturday, but Justin Braun, Dylan Mares and Don Smart have also been racking up goals and assists at impressive clips throughout the Fall Season, and those efforts have the “Boys in Blue” peaking at the right time. Also worth a shout – the impact of Sinisa Ubiparipovic on his return to the starting XI. Since working his way back into the team against the Miami FC in a 2-1 win, Ubi has contributed a couple of assists including one in Saturday’s win over Puerto Rico FC. Turns out the goalscorers aren’t the only ones peaking with impeccable timing.


As injury troubles continue to clear up and the “Boys in Blue” have their wounds healed up, the push to end the regular season on a high ends with Sunday night’s battle against postseason contender Rayo OKC at Miller Stadium. While the postseason is less than two weeks away, make no mistake in understanding head coach Tim Hankinson is fully focused on this game before the next one.  The current holders of that coveted fourth and final postseason spot, Rayo OKC are fresh off a 2-0 win at the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, the latest result in a nine-game unbeaten streak. Coupled with Minnesota United FC’s loss to Carolina on Saturday, the Sooner State side is three points clear of the Loons, the only team that could catch them (both hold a GD of +5).  So what does that mean as we approach the weekend? Unfortunately for both sides in the hunt they face difficult opposition in their quest to lock up the #4 spot – Minnesota hosting Fall Season champion New York Cosmos on Saturday before Rayo OKC hosts the “Boys in Blue” on Sunday in the last regular season game of 2016. Bottom line – whoever gets the final berth of The Championship will have to earn it the hard way, with a trip to New York in the Semifinal round their reward.


U.S. Hot List: John Brooks back to full fitness, Brad Guzan frozen out

With less than two weeks to go before U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann names his 23-man roster for November’s pivotal World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica, here’s a look at how nine Americans vying for spots have been faring recently with their club teams.

Warming up

John Brooks, DF, Hertha Berlin

Why he’s here: Brooks started Hertha’s last two games — including Saturday’s 2-1 win over Cologne — after serving as an unused substitute following his return earlier this month from a muscle injury.

What this means: Klinsmann’s decision to send the towering 23-year-old back to Berlin before the U.S. played New Zealand to a 1-1 tie on Oct. 11 appears to have paid off, as he reclaimed his regular club place immediately after the international break.


Jermaine Jones, M, Colorado Rapids

Why he’s here: The veteran destroyer made his first MLS appearance since July 4 in Sunday’s “Decision Day” regular season finale, coming off the bench in the second half of Colorado’s 1-1 draw versus Houston.

What this means: With the Rapids already through to the Western Conference semifinals, Jones, who turns 35 next week, gets two opportunities before the national team gathers in Columbus next month to prove he can play an entire 90 minutes. A spot on the Americans’ 23-man roster isn’t out of the question if he does.


Matt Miazga, DF, Vitesse Arnhem

Why he’s here: It took the 21-year-old Chelsea loanee just six weeks to carve out a regular spot in the Netherlands, where he’s started Vitesse’s last two league games.

What this means: Miazga remains behind Geoff Cameron, Steve Brinbaum and Omar Gonzalez on the Yanks’ right center-back depth chart and a long shot for next month. But the ex-New York Red Bull could move up the pecking order quickly if he keeps his place with the mid-table Dutch club.


Christian Pulisic, MF, Borussia Dortmund

Why he’s here: The 18-year-old started a midweek Champions League win at Sporting Lisbon, then scored a stoppage time equalizer (after an earlier assist) in Saturday’s 3-3 come-from-behind tie against Ingolstadt.

What this means: So much for the fear that Pulisic would find playing time harder to come by in his first full season with

Dortmund’s senior side; the Hershey, Penn. native has two goals and four assists in nine appearances for BVB in all competitions so far. As a result, he’s making a compelling case to start against El Tri.


DeAndre Yedlin, DF/MF, Newcastle United

Why he’s here: Since joining Newcastle in late August, Yedlin has been used mostly off the bench by manager Rafa Benitez, often on the wing. But after not playing in last week’s 2-0 loss to Barnsley, Yedlin started at right-back and went the distance in Saturday’s 3-0 drubbing of Ipswich.

What this means: The big win could go a long way toward Yedlin keeping his place on the back line. The Magpies play three games — including Tuesday’s EFL Cup tilt against Preston — before next month’s international break and having an in-form, match-fit Yedlin available would be a godsend for Klinsmann and Co.


Graham Zusi, MF, Sporting Kansas City

Why he’s here: Yes, Zusi’s numbers have been down the last two years but the 2014 World Cup vet reminded U.S. fans what he’s capable of with a peach of a goal — one that sealed a postseason berth for SKC — in Sunday’s 2-0 victory over San Jose.

What this means: Another strong performance by the 30-year-old in Thursday’s knockout match in Seattle would help him lock in a trip to Ohio’s capital, where Zusi has enjoyed some of his best moments for the national team.

Cooling down

Brad Guzan, GK, Middlesbrough

Why he’s here: Guzan is firmly rooted to the bench at ‘Boro and that doesn’t seem likely to change after No. 1 Victor Valdes’ brilliant display in Saturday’s scoreless draw at Arsenal.

What this means: Unpredictable as Klinsmann can be, it’s hard to see the coach starting a keeper who hasn’t played in over two months — Guzan’s last appearance for club or country was the World Cup qualifying win in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2 — over Tim Howard, who will arrive in camp straight off a pair of playoff games. Howard got the nod over Guzan the last time the U.S. beat Mexico in a competitive match, in Columbus, back in 2013.


Alfredo Morales, MF, Ingolstadt

Why he’s here: The 26-year-old German-American recently lost his spot in Ingolstadt’s lineup after two-plus years as a fixture as a left-midfielder in the club’s 4-3-3 formation.

What this means: If Morales wasn’t a regular call-up for the U.S. despite being a starter in one of the world’s elite leagues before his recent benching, it’s hard to see him returning to Klinsmann’s plans anytime soon.


Julian Green, FW, Bayern Munich

Why he’s here: Back on Oct. 14, Bayern boss Carlo Ancelotti said that Green — who has never appeared for the club in Germany’s top flight — would “get his chance to play in the next few games.” But Green hasn’t seen the field in the three matches since.What this means: Green’s best opportunity could come in Wednesday’s German Cup contest against Augsburg. Yet that still might not be enough to convince Klinsmann that the 21-year-old is deserving of a spot on his next 23. On the other hand, the U.S. manager picked Green for a World Cup squad when he had virtually zero first team club experience. So you never know.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN 


Armchair Analyst: Ranking the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs field

October 26, 201610:00AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior EditorWe did this last year, and it was fun. So let’s do it again today, as we head into the Audi 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs.Remember, these aren’t the Supporters’ Shield rankings, nor are they the Power Rankings. The Politburo was not consulted (and in fact, they have displeased me and been sent to Siberia).Rather, this is my own personal account of who’s got the best chance of entering the playoffs this week and then coming out six weeks later with a shiny new trophy.




Quite literally unbeatable since July, RBNY have ripped off a 16-game unbeaten run in the league and 20 games overall. They have the Golden Boot winner, the best No. 10 in the league, a pair of wingers who are scoring again, arguably the best defensive midfielder in the league, and enough depth along the backline to have sustained season-ending injuries to two starters. I haven’t even mentioned Luis Robles, who’s got a legit argument that he should repeat as Goalkeeper of the Year.New York are flawed – they will give up late goals, even at home, and they will get exposed on the counter. But they’ve been the best team for the last four months and seem to be playing better as the postseason has arrived.

Why they’ll win: They’re going to press the hell out of all comers and run up the score from open play, while taking the time to pick you apart on set pieces.

Why they’ll lose: Because they’re Icarus. RBNY go hard on the risk/reward line, and when they come up snake eyes, they pay the price. Smart teams will wait them out, then punish them in transition.




They tied the league record for one-goal wins (13), which says quite a bit about this bunch’s resilience and commitment. That they managed it without their most talented player for the vast majority of the season, and with a mid-year goalkeeper switchthrown in, and a backline that was constantly evolving, and with production from their DP forwards that ranged from “sporadic” to “streaky” … OK, I’m rambling a little bit.The point is this: I kept expecting Colorado to go away, and they didn’t. Whoever’s going to face them has a real job to do.

Why they’ll win: They won’t give up a single soft goal, and they’ll murder you on set pieces. Plus Marlon Hairston just has a knack for making plays, doesn’t he?

Why they’ll lose: Their lack of firepower is just impossible to ignore, as their 39 goals scored tied for 18th in the league.




The other team that I doubted for much of the year (loudly and proudly) served me crow again and again. NYCFC are, just like the team on the other side of the Hudson, an attacking juggernaut with a defined style of play that infuses them with an identity they cling to even when things are going bad. 7-0 derby loss? No big deal — just head out and win the next one. [Ed: They tied OCSC, 2-2, in the game directly following that blowout.]It needs to be stressed: This team is an absolute outlier in terms of style. Nobody attempts or completes more passes in their own defensive third, and the point of doing that is to draw opponents forward in order to create space in behind for searching balls from Andrea Pirlo and Andoni Iraola while opening gaps between the lines for Frank Lampard and Tommy McNamara to hit.

Why they’ll win: Because in addition to the guys mentioned above, they’ve got David Villa, and Jack Harrison, and Khiry Shelton, and Steven Mendoza, and Ronald Matarrita, and RJ Allen, and all of them love to attack.

Why they’ll lose: They’re the worst team in the league defending set pieces, they just had to make a switch in goal, and like the Red Bulls, their risk/reward wagers can tend towards catastrophic errors.




Here is a good formula for a title-winning team: Resolute D + Quality GK + MF Warlock + Set-Piece GS. That’s what the Seattle Sounders can put on their LinkedIn profile these days.Seattle aren’t the attacking juggernaut that they were in August, and the biggest issue is that they’ve had to move Nicolas Lodeiro off the right wing and into a pure No. 10 role, which has made his starting points a little more predictable. And without Clint Dempsey as a secondary creative platform there’s just that much more attention on both Lodeiro and Jordan Morris, while the rest of the Sounders attackers have picked up the slack only occasionally.But guess what? They went 5-2-2 even after Deuce was sidelined. If they were going to really disappear, it would have happened by now.

Why they’ll win: That formula I drew up above is tough to beat, and Lodeiro has probably been the best player in the league since his arrival.

Why they’ll lose: Morris had a remarkable rookie year, but he’ll be entering these playoffs as the only legitimate frontline scoring threat on the team. That’s a lot of pressure, and not a lot of help.




On paper and in August this was the team to beat. Then Sebastian Giovinco got hurt, and the midfield got out of sync a little bit, and the defense went into a rut, and a winless streak popped up out of the fog, and now it feels at least a little bit like everybody’s forgotten about the Reds.Let’s make this point, though: By the numbers they’re tied for the second-best defense in the league, and in the Giovinco/Jozy Altidore pairing they have what’s probably the best forward pairing. They also have a host of difference-makers at other spots, including left back Justin Morrow — who should have a spot on this year’s Best XI.Think back to how they were playing in August. That’s what this team really is, and now that everybody’s fit and available, I suspect they’ll show it.

Why they’ll win: They have a good goalkeeper, a good defense and the best player in the league.

Why they’ll lose: They gave up 29 goals in their first 28 games, and then coughed up 10 in the final six. The defense isn’t terrible, but it certainly hasn’t looked championship-caliber.




It hurts to rate the Supporters’ Shield winners this low, but what happens when you lose your two best attacking players over the course of a single season. But Mauro Diaz isn’t walking through that door, and Fabian Castillo isn’t walking through that door, and FC Dallas are what they are at this point.

And what is that, exactly? Well, two things: When they go into a 4-4-2 with no real playmaker, they’ll sit really deep, concede a ton of possession, and then try to hit one of their forwards over the top or or a winger out wide. When they play a 4-2-3-1 with Mauro Rosales in Diaz’s spot, they’ll be a lesser (but still pretty damn good) version of what they were for most of the year.Dallas still absolutely have enough to win the league’s first treble. But a lot of things would have to go right for them to get there

Why they’ll win: On top of all of the above, they are dominant on set pieces (both defending and attacking) and have what I think is the best central defensive combo in the league.

Why they’ll lose: Often times in the biggest, most important games you need that one special player who can create a moment of magic from open play. Dallas now lack that.




LA have played a 4-4-2, a 4-2-3-1, a 4-5-1 and even a 4-3-3 this year. Do you know what their best look is? It’s the end of October, the beginning of the playoffs, and you can’t honestly answer “yes” to that question.

This Galaxy season was bound to be a little unorthodox because of all the offseason changes, a theme that continued into the season itself (goodbye Nigel, welcome back Landon), as well as the natural aging process that’s taken a toll on Robbie Keane and Steven Gerrard. In general, they have enough talent to ameliorate some of that – and obviously enough experience – but Bruce Arena hasn’t quite found the right mix just yetWhat’s that really mean? Well, LA have exactly one win over a playoff team since April, and that came against the pre-Lodeiro Sounders, so I’m not sure it counts for much.

Why they’ll win: Bruce Arena + Landon Donovan + Robbie Keane in the playoffs, with a dash of Gio Dos Santos sprinkled in

Why they’ll lose: They give up a ton of shots, and even if they limit the quality of those shots they still lead to rebounds and scrambles and set pieces (which they don’t defend well) and the exact kind of effort that wears any team out.




Considering they were the hottest team in the league until their back-ups got thumpedon Decision Day, this feels low. We can double down on that and point to match-ups working in their favor as well, since they seem to have the exact ingredients that their Knockout Round opponents, the Montreal Impact, struggle with, and since they’ve performed well against New York, Toronto FC and — most recently — NYCFC

United have been wildly entertaining over the last three months as they’ve transformedinto the league’s most prolific attacking team. Their 4-1-4-1 spreads the field out, gives their wingers space to make runs and midfield creator Luciano Acosta more time and bigger lanes into which he can slip them through. Add in center forward Patrick Mullinsdoing his best David Villa impression (he never stops moving), and you have a very, very potent formula

Why they’ll win: All of that stuff in the previous paragraph, plus Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum and Taylor Kemp’s thunderbolt of a left foot on set pieces.

Why they’ll lose: Because in becoming the league’s most fun attacking team, they’ve opened themselves up defensively. Bill Hamid can (and often does) put out some big fires, but going to that well is a huge risk against the likes of Ignacio Piatti, Villa, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Toronto’s duo.




Sporting are still a 4-3-3 team, and still a high-pressure team, and still a team with multiple international-caliber players on every line. That’s the starting point.And it’s got to be noted that their best players are playing their best soccer of the season. Benny Feilhaber mostly glided through the first 2/3 of the season, but he has two goals and nine assists in his last 11 games – coming up big just as Sporting seemed to be fading out of the playoff picture. Dom Dwyer had his second-best season as a pro, bagging 16 goals and reveling in his whole Cobra Kai persona every time he steps on the pitchBut this team has been mistake-prone at the back, and less dangerous than they needed to be on the wings. They don’t extend the game, which has limited Feilhaber’s chances to play runners through and often left Dwyer on an island. Only one playoff team scored fewer goals than Sporting’s 42.

Why they’ll win: Because most of these guys have come through in big games before. And even with “Sporting aren’t as good defensively as they’ve been in the past” an undeniable fact, that still makes them a top-five defensive team in the league.

Why they’ll lose: That attack is too easy to isolate and disrupt. Add in Tim Melia‘s up-and-down year in goal, and you have an SKC team with more questions than answers at this point in the season




In one way it’s almost impossible to know what to predict with this team, largely because of the drama with Drogba. If Didier demands to play from the start, we know that won’t happen, and we also know that this team can win/has a better chance of winning if he’s on the bench when the whistle blows. But we don’t know what a repeated – let’s assume in this hypothetical Drogba makes a second or third demand – request could/would do to the locker room’s emotional balance. Come together once? Job done. Come together two or three times? That’s a harder askThe flip side is this: Montreal are much, much MUCH more dangerous if Drogba is available to them as a super-sub. He’d be an off-the-bench weapon no team in MLS could match (unless Arena sucks it up and uses Keane as a sub), and a game-changer who can win a series by himself. If he recovers from his current back injury, he’ll make a difference.That I just spent two graphs talking about a guy who probably isn’t going to play makes me an idiot. Montreal will almost certainly use a compact, deep-lying 4-3-3 with Ignacio Piatti on one wing, Dom Oduro on the other and Matteo Mancosu up the middle. They’ll try to approximate the style of last year’s Timbers, if not necessarily their form.

Why they’ll win: Have you seen how good that frontline is when they’re working together?

Why they’ll lose: Above I listed why it’s almost impossible to know what to predict with this team in one way. Here’s the other shoe dropping: it’s very possible to know what to predict from this team’s defense, which continues to get abused in the air. Kei Kamara knocked them out of last year’s playoffs – and scored against them on Decision Day, and Jozy Altidore killed them the week before that, and the guy they play on Thursday (Patrick Mullins) is that exact kind of forward.




No wins and two goals in seven games. Things aren’t so great for RSL these days.

There exist myriad culprits: Injuries have robbed them of starting center back Aaron Maund for one, and Father Time is finally winning his battle against Nick RimandoKyle Beckerman and Javier Morales for another. Add in the subpar second half of the season submitted by both Burrito Martinez and Yura Movsisyan, and that’s your recipe for unhappiness.All of that has culminated in this current run of poor form, and it’s even gotten to the usually effervescent Joao Plata, who fumed as he was subbed off in Sunday’s 2-1 lossat Seattle. There are no smiles anywhere in Utah and it’s fair, at this point, to question whether shifting from the 4-4-2 diamond into a more spread out 4-3-3 really was the right call.

Why they’ll win: Because in Plata, Morales, Movsisyan and Martinez, they have four guys who can create some remarkable individual magic.

Why they’ll lose: They allow so much space in midfield that everyone they face ends up dictating tempo, for one. And for two, there’s just a lack of connection between the midfield and front three in attack, and subsequently a lack of any combination play




The Union are 5-11-4 since June 18. While there’s been a lot of deserved talk about their current seven-game winless streak and all the attendant failings baked into it, the simple truth is that this was mostly a rebuilding year for a young-ish team that’s spent the entire season without one of the DPs who was supposed to be a building block going forward.In actuality, Philly probably overachieved for the first few months of the season, and that streak – particularly from mid-April to early June – gave them enough padding to ride out this months-long swoon and still make the postseason. It’s a positive step for a team that’s ahead of schedule in the Earnie Stewart era, and will be making significant additions this offseason.As it is, just qualifying for the playoffs with three impressive rookies and a bunch of other young players filling such huge roles has to count as a success.

Why they’ll win: Chris Pontius goes berserk 1-v-1, and Andre Blake does his best “Tony Meola 2000” impression

Why they’ll lose: The defense is too young and error-prone, the midfield doesn’t shut down passing lanes as well as it did earlier in the year, C.J. Sapong can’t buy a goal, and neither can Tranquillo Barnetta.

hampions League final could be held outside Europe – new UEFA president

The Champions League final could be contested outside Europe for the first time, new UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said on Thursday.Ceferin told the Associated Press he will revive an open bidding process for the right to host the climax to the European club season and is open to the game being staged in New York.”I think it might be an idea in future but we have to speak about it,” Ceferin said, highlighting how travel times across Europe can be as long as flights to the United States.”To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York. For the fans it’s no problem but we should see. It’s a European competition so let’s think about it.”UEFA could gauge the appetite for taking its major finals beyond Europe by first experimenting with the less-regarded Super Cup, which is played in August between the winners of the Champions League and Europa League.UEFA has until now been awarding the honour of staging its showpiece finals without any tendering process, with stadium hosts decided in secret by the leadership.”The bidding process should be very clear because if you get the Champions League finals or Europa League finals as a political favour then it’s not OK,” Ceferin said.”With a clear bidding procedure I will protect also the administration and myself because whoever tries to call us, to push us, to ask us for such a favour we will have a clear answer, ‘Sorry there are clear rules we cannot do it.'”In his first major interview since succeeding Michel Platini as UEFA president last month, Ceferin displayed a willingness to innovate while not damaging the organisation’s lucrative competitions.”The Champions League is the best sporting product in the world,” Ceferin said at UEFA headquarters in Nyon on the banks of Lake Geneva.And the former Slovenia federation president will not sacrifice the success of the competition by shifting kickoff times to pander to expanding markets in Asia just to sweep up more television viewers or sponsors in the region. Most games start at 19:45 GMT, when much of Asia is asleep.”From a financial point of view it’s not ideal,” Ceferin said. “We should think also about other markets, but how to do it exactly I’m not sure yet. China is financially interesting and the U.S. is not just financially interesting, but football is growing there.”Currently only the final is played on a Saturday, but one option would be to also move the semifinals from their current midweek slot.”There are some ideas about that because then China is not asleep because it’s Saturday and they can watch,” Ceferin said. “But there are many problems concerning that with the calendar of the leagues. National leagues are too important.”You have the Premier League which is very strong. [Semifinals at the weekend] is an idea that came out but it’s too early to say anything concrete on it.”Also on Thursday, Ceferin said he has yet to give his backing to FIFA president Gianni Infantino’s proposal of boosting the World Cup from 32 to 48 teams.

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10/21/16 Indy 11 last home Game Sat Night 7:30 pm, MLS Decision Day Sun 4 pm, Man U vs Chelsea Sun 11 am, Champ League Rd 3

The Indy Eleven will close out its 2016 regular season at Carroll Stadium this Saturday, October 22, with a chance to even the NASL modern era record of 18 straight games unbeaten when it welcomes Puerto Rico FC to “The Mike” on Fan Appreciation Night.  Tickets for the last regular season game at Carroll Stadium (remember, The Championship Semifinal is coming November 5th!) start at just $11 in the Brickyard Battalion and East Goal Top sections – or for just $9 for college studentsThe first 4,000 fans through the gates will receive the official 2016 Team Photo poster. All will be able to take advantage of food and drink specials at the concessions stands and merchandise tents (see below), while 11 lucky fans that find a special sticker on the inside cover of their Victory gameday program upon entry will win prizes including team autographed jerseys and balls, official team merchandise and more. Make your plans to head out to the Mike for the Finale – I plan to be in the BYB!

So Champions League match-day 3 wrapped up this week as the group stages near the half-way mark and we had some good games and some fantastic saves from the goalkeepers this week especially Buffon for Juve in saving the 1-0 win over Lyon.   Of course the big game was Barcelona bitch slapping Man City and former Barca coach Pep Guardiola 4-0 at the Camp Nou  – Messi was legendary with a hat-trick and Pep again made some interesting decisions that certainly backfired.  Champs League returns Tues/Wed Nov 1+2 for the return matches as Man City will now host Barca as the biggest game of the week.  The US Ladies are introducing new players including newcomer Lynn Williams who started her career with a goal in just 45 seconds – see the ladies play again this Sunday at 1 pm on Fox Sports 1.  Speaking of US ladies –  best of luck to Indy native Lauren Cheney Holiday who is recovering from surgery to remove a Brain Tumor just a month after having her first child.

Big League week in the EPL as Man United has Mourino returning to Stamford Bridge to face his former team Chelsea on Sunday 11 am on NBCSN.  The big games however are league cup games on beIN Sport Tues/Wed with Liverpool vs Tottenham Tuesday and Man City vs Man U on Wed 2:45 pm.  (ANYONE WANT TO GATHER TO WATCH?)  US Coach Bob Bradley will look for his first win with Swansea as they host Watford on Sat at 10 am on CNBC, while Italy has Juve @ Inter in a top 3 matchup 2:45 on Saturday.

MLS has Decision Day this Sunday with 4 teams battling to make the playoffs – Seattle will host Real Salt Lake at 4 pm on ESPN in a winner advances game – in should be a racous 45,000 strong in Seattle.  Meanwhile Dallas and LA will battle with the top slot in the West on the line on Fox Soccer 1 and ESPN 2 will bounce around from game to game at 4 pm following all the playoff deciding action.  MLS Playoffs start Wed/Thurs eve on ESPN and FS1.


Saturday, October 22

7:30 a.m., NBCSN        Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2: Ingolstadt vs. Borussia Dortmund  will US Christian Pulisec start again like Champions League?

10:00 a.m., CNBC:       Swansea City vs. Watford   American Coach Bob Bradley in first winnable game at home!!

10:15 am  beIn Sport  Valencia vs Barcelona  – top 5 battle in Spain

12:30 p.m., NBC          Liverpool vs. West Bromwich Albion

12:30 p.m., Fox Sport 2 Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach  – US Johnson to start at midfield for Monchenglad

2:45 pm beIn Sport   Milan vs Juventus  battle for Italy – 2 top 3 teams battle it out

7:30 pm  My Indy 23                       Indy 11 host Puerto Rico in Last Home Game before Playoffs 

Sunday, October 23

8:30 a.m., NBCSN       Manchester City vs. Southampton

10:15 am beIN Sport                       Sevilla vs Atletico Madrid   – top 3 battle

11:00 a.m, NBCSN      Chelsea vs. Manchester United – ah the classico Mourino returns home to Stamford Bridge

1 pm Fox Sport 1 USA Ladies vs Swiss

2:45 pm beIn Sport Real Madrid vs Athetic Club

4 pm  ESPN                     Seattle Sounders vs Real Salt Lake

4 pm  Fox Sport1        LA Galaxy vs FC Dallas

4 pm  ESPN 2                 MLS – Around the League Goal Zone – Final Day of Regular Season Playoffs Finalized                  

Tuesday, October 25

2:45 p.m., beIN Sports: Liverpool vs. Tottenham Hotspur League Cup (Round of 16)

Wednesday, October 25

2:45 p.m., beIN Sports Manchester United vs. Manchester City League Cup (Round of 16)

8 pm ESPN2                    MLS Playoffs Knock Out Rounds Start Wed Thurs on ESPN2

Sun, Oct 30

3 pm  ESPN                     MLS Conference Semi-Finals

5 pm  ESPN                     MLS Conference Semi-Finals

7 pm  FS1                         MLS Conference Semi-Finals

9 pm  FS1                        MLS Conference Semi-Finals

Sat, Nov 5                       

3  pm My Indy 23       Indy 11 host Playoff Semi’s @ the Mike

Sun, Nov 6

3 pm  ESPN                     MLS Conference Semi-Finals

5 pm  ESPN                     MLS Conference Semi-Finals

7 pm  FS1                         MLS Conference Semi-Finals

9 pm  FS1                        MLS Conference Semi-Finals

Fri, Nov 11

7:30 pm Fox Sports 1 USA vs Mexico in Columbus, OH


The First 4000 fans for Sat Nights’s Final Reg Season game will receive this Free Poster.

Indy 11

Fan Appreciation Night and 11 Looking for Home Undefeated Season this Sat Night at the Mike

Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico Preview

3 Take-Aways in 3-2 Win over Tampa Bay Wed

GK Jon Bush wins player of Week in Goal

Vote Indy 11 Coach of the Year – Tim Hankinson


Around the World What’s Trending

Rooney gives up PKs in 4-0 Europa cup win

EPL Big Game Weekend –

EPL Predictions this weekend

Man City needs to Shake off Bad Run of Games


Indy’s Lauren Cheney Holiday has Brain Tumor Removed 1 month after giving Birth

US Ladies beat Swiss 4-0 as newcomer scores after 49 seconds

Lynn Williams scores in 49 second for US


3 MLS teams in CONCACAF Quarters

Playoff Picture going into last day of Play on Sunday

MLS Playoff Picture ESPN FC

4 Teams Battle for Final 3 Playoff Spots

 Champions League

Could Messy Divorse with Aguero be coming from Pep at Man City?

Messi’s Treble stuns Man City See the Goals

Messi Haunts former Coach Guardiola with 3 goals

Gigi Saves Juve in 1-0 win  Video

Leicester City survives 1-0 with Schmeichel’s game saving save late Video

Lackadasical Defense and Back GK cost Man City vs Barca

Ozil bags 1st Hat-Trick in huge win for Gunners

Group Standings after MatchDay3 – top 2 advance to Sweet 16 Knockout Rounds


Neymar Extends Contract to 2012

La Liga – Biggest Game Weekend of the year?

La Liga Table


Buffon, Lloris & Schmeichel make legendary Champ League saves this week

Gigi Saves Juve in 1-0 win  Video


Indy Eleven hosts PRFC looking to stay unbeaten at home for the 18th straight game

One Record Left

While the postseason is approaching shortly, sights for Indy Eleven are still set on closing out the 2016 regular season in strong fashion. For Indiana’s Team, this means one thing – leaving Carroll Stadium on Saturday night without a loss. It’s been a magnificent run since mid-October 2015. Two wins at the end of the regular season last year were added on to the incredible slate of wins Indy has brought to “The Mike” in 2016, with wins against the New York Cosmos, Minnesota United FC, FC Edmonton, and the Carolina Railhawks to win the Spring Season all standing out. The New York Cosmos, who still hold the joint-record with the Carolina Railhawks for different stretches, also have the opportunity to get to that same number in their home against Miami FC on Saturday night, but like Indy, with a postseason spot locked up earning a point to keep the streak alive may be their biggest motivation.Though the “Boys in Blue” are aware of their semifinal opposition (FC Edmonton – Nov. 5) they must first look for revenge against a sneaky good Puerto Rico FC team that earned a point in their season opener back on July 2.

Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: FW Eamon Zayed

He’s been part of the major focus all year alongside Justin Braun in attack, and now he has just two games left to add to his scoring tally this season. Zayed, who has been tightly in the race with Minnesota United FC forward Christian Ramirez, now sits four goals back off the top of the charts but has shown his flair for scoring at home. It’s no secret that Indy’s No.9 knows how to find the back of the net with hat-tricks against the Carolina Railhawks and Jacksonville Armada FC in the Spring and Fall Season still fresh of mind, but if he is to keep himself in the running for the Golden Boot, he’ll need a big game on Saturday night.Working in his favor is the attacking talent placed around him, with players like Braun, Dylan Mares, Don Smart, and more readily setting up the Irishman when possible. As Indy pushes for magic #18 at home, Zayed will surely be a focal point.
Who to Watch, Puerto Rico FC edition: FW Hector Ramos

For the visiting side PRFC, forward Hector Ramos is the name to know in 2016.Scoring seven goals while registering four assists in 18 appearances, the Puerto Rican talent has demonstrated his ability to play in between the lines and work out space for a shot. Impressively, his seven goals on just 15 shots gives him a monsterous conversion rate of 17.5%, and he has scored those goals in a number of ways, one with the left foot, four with the right, and two with his head. However, having not scored since August 20, he will be looking to put his name back up in lights this weekend in the Circle City. Despite that, though, the forward has still contributed with three assists in his last five games and will be the main threat for PRFC.
Match-up to Mark: MF Brad Ring vs. MF Paulo Mendes

Having not played midweek against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, it can be expected that Brad Ring will return to the starting XI for the home season finale, and he’ll likely be going head-to-head with PRFC midfielder Paulo Mendes in another battle of defensive vs. attacking midfielders.Ring has effective in his 26 appearances for the club this year, working as the glue in the center of the park with one of the highest pass completion percentages (81%) on the team. Also noteworthy is Ring’s ranking in pass attempts (2nd – 881) on the team and how efficient he has been in the opposition half, completing 71.8% of passes in the opponent’s area. Paulo, meanwhile, brings a creative dynamic to the PRFC attack and has scored one goal with four assists in 19 games played this year. Also completing a high percentage of his passes (82.4%), the Brazilian attacking midfielder has created 27 chances for his side and will be one to stop for Ring and co. when they meet at Carroll Stadium.

Trending: Jose Mourinho hits back at ‘Einsteins’; Inter eye Pablo Zabaleta

Here are the latest stories for Friday.

MAN UNITEDManchester United manager Jose Mourinho hit back at “Einsteins” after Paul Pogba scored twice in a 4-1 win over Fenerbahce on Thursday, saying that the critics would rapidly change their opinions.

– Michael Owen has questioned former teammate Wayne Rooney’s decision to allow Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial to take penalties.

– Mourinho has admitted he does not feel “lucky” at Stamford Bridge any longer, as he prepares to face Chelsea away on Sunday.

– Paul Pogba has told MUTV that Chelsea are “one of the best teams in the world” ahead of Sunday’s game at Stamford Bridge.

CHELSEA: Victor Moses has told ESPN FC that Jose Mourinho exiled him at Chelsea because “he had his own players” and said he is delighted that new head coach Antonio Conte has given him a second chance to prove himself at Stamford Bridge.

– Former Chelsea midfielder Deco has told the London Evening Standard that John Terry should return to the side as he is “a true captain” and “one of the best I have ever played with.”

– Chelsea will pay tribute to Matthew Harding at Sunday’s Premier League clash with Manchester United on the weekend that marks 20 years since his death.

ARSENAL: Arsenal have been implored by former Gunners goalkeeper David Seaman to splash the cash to ensure Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez sign new deals.

– Arsenal striker Lucas Perez said he has not played as much as he envisaged since joining from Deportivo La Coruna but is determined to make the most of his opportunities.

– Arsene Wenger says Arsenal have improved “tremendously” when it comes to preventing muscle injuries.

MAN CITY: Inter Milan are considering making a move for Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta in January, sources have told ESPN FC.

– Former Spain coach Vicente del Bosque has come out in support of Pep Guardiola following criticism of the Manchester City manager after his team’s 4-0 defeat at Barcelona.

LIVERPOOL: Jurgen Klopp has dismissed Jose Mourinho’s criticismof his Liverpool side and believes his players have a duty to play attacking football because of the club’s illustrious history.

– Steven Gerrard has revealed the emotional toll it took on him to be Liverpool captain for 12 years. Gerrard is the longest-serving captain in the club’s history, taking on the armband in October 2003 before departing for LA Galaxy last summer.

TOTTENHAM: Mauricio Pochettino has likened Dele Alli to a “wild horse” but says he has no plans to tame the Tottenham Hotspur stallion.

– Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Dele Alli has said he is missing too many chances.

LEICESTER: Claudio Ranieri reached retirement age on Thursday but the Leicester boss has no plans to relax just yet.

– Leicester City defender Christian Fuchs has signed a new three-year contract with the Premier League champions.

EVERTON: Everton manager Ronald Koeman says Ross Barkley’s omission against Manchester City should act as a “wake-up call.”

SWANSEA: Bob Bradley accepts Swansea are in a relegation battlebut believes he can draw on his experience in Norwegian football to keep the club in the Premier League.

ENGLAND: Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino has dismissed the suggestion that Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe is too young to take the England job, saying younger coaches can relate better to players.

WEST HAM: The Metropolitan Police Service says a “tactical solution” is now set for matches at West Ham’s London Stadium, which would see officers deployed inside the ground if needed for the EFL Cup tie against Chelsea.

JUVENTUS: Juventus striker Gonzalo Higuain is hoping it will be a case of third time lucky when he faces AC Milan and teenage goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on Saturday.

BARCELONA: Juventus full-back Patrice Evra has congratulated Barcelona striker Luis Suarez on his European Golden Shoe award.

ATLETICO MADRID: Atletico Madrid have accepted they will not sign players in January while they fight a FIFA transfer ban at sport’s highest court.

– Atletico Madrid midfielder Yannick Carrasco has signed a two-year contractextension with the club.

REAL MADRID: Cristiano Ronaldo incurred the wrath of Buddhistson social media after the Real Madrid star posed in an Instagram photo with his foot resting at the base of a Buddha statue.

BAYERN MUNICH: Carlo Ancelotti paid tribute to his side’s “attitude and reaction” after Bayern Munich bounced back to end a run of three games without a win with a convincing 4-1 win over PSV Eindhoven.

LIGUE 1: Radamel Falcao is set for his first appearance since suffering concussion last month after being included in Monaco’s squad for Friday’s Ligue 1 game against Montpellier.

Mourinho’s Stamford Bridge return; Arsenal try not to pull an Arsenal

W2W4 previews the weekend’s Premier League fixtures and highlights five key storylines.

How will Jose Mourinho approach his return to Stamford Bridge?

If nothing else, it will be interesting to see what sort of mindset Jose Mourinho arrives back at Chelsea with on Sunday. Against Liverpool on Monday his primary aim seemed to be to stop his opponents — a perfectly sensible, if not massively entertaining strategy. But that was against a team that looked like they were hitting their attacking stride and thus a containing approach was more justified, but Chelsea have looked less certain going forward. Indeed, there are clearly areas in their side Mourinho could exploit with a more positive mentality, if he chooses to do so.

Antonio Conte’s experiment with a three-man defence is two games old, and while two clean sheets have been kept, those haven’t been against attacks which offered much. Victor Moses is still getting used to playing as a wing-back, and whichever trio play in that three-man backline won’t exactly be experts either. With the pace United have available on the wings, encouraging Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and/or Jesse Lingard to attack a little more than they were asked/allowed to at Anfield could cause big problems for Chelsea. If nothing else, on Monday it was extremely frustrating to see a side with as much talent in it as United’s essentially acting as spoilers, to take a reactive rather than proactive stance in a big game. Mourinho might not want to take too many risks, and we expect this of him in this sort of game, but it would be nice to see him take the shackles off a bit.

Will Manchester City’s blip continue against Southampton?

Four matches without a win. Given that two were draws and two were against Tottenham and Barcelona, perhaps the best opponents Manchester City will face in the Premier and Champions Leagues this season, it’s doubtful Pep Guardiola will be panicking excessively. But that still represents a very unusual dip for one of his sides: the only time a Guardiola team has gone longer without a victory was in his first year at Barcelona, when they drew three and lost two in spring 2009. This is probably just a blip, but a win against a fine Southampton side at the weekend is not a given. After that five-game run in 2009, Barcelona won their next seven games and embarked on an unbeaten run which included that famous 6-2 win over Real Madrid in the Bernabeu. The way City were playing before this slip-up, they could easily repeat that.

Will Arsenal avoid being ‘Arsenal’?

Arsenal are playing superbly at the moment. They’ve won their last seven games in all competitions, and haven’t lost since that madcap 4-3 defeat to Liverpool on the opening weekend. Theo Walcott finally looks like the player we all thought he’d be, nobody has scored more goals and they’re level on points with Manchester City. They haven’t even got many injuries, which is surreal. And yet, there’s always the suspicion with Arsenal — because we’ve had years of evidence pointing this way — that they could make a frustrating mess of things at any moment. That could come in the form of a careless defeat to a team they should beat handily: a team like Middlesbrough for example, this weekend’s visitors. Beating Aitor Karanka’s side won’t convince anyone further that they could win the title, but each passing week does offer more evidence that things might actually have changed.

Can Sunderland go backwards any further?

This week, Jermain Defoe commented that Sunderland appear to have “gone backwards” this season. As they’re bottom of the table with just two points to their name, that might seem a fairly self-evident statement, but it was rather surprising to hear it from their star (only) striker, and in an interview with their official website, no less. Opinion seems to be solidifying that David Moyes, only eight league games into his tenure, is already on borrowed time. One would think that if they don’t get a result against West Ham on Saturday then the clamour could grow much louder. They’re the only side in the top four divisions without a win so far this season, and should results go against them they might be seven points from safety by the end of the weekend. Is Sam Allardyce back from his holiday yet?

Can Stoke confirm the party is over for Hull?

Hull City have one point from their last six games. The first five of those featured defeats to Manchester United, Arsenal, Liverpool and Chelsea, with a handy draw at Burnley thrown in — all of which can be filed under the “no disgrace” category. However, last weekend they were taken to the cleaners by Bournemouth, the 6-1 defeat exposing that this is still not a squad ready for the challenges of the Premier League. Stoke, on the other hand, are showing signs of life after a rotten start to the season, taking five points from the last available nine and recording their first win last weekend. The initial performances from both teams were rather unexpected, but should the Potters win on Saturday then it should be an indicator of the directions both these teams are heading in.Nick Miller is a writer for ESPN FC, covering Premier League

Jose Mourinho returns to face Chelsea, Manchester City’s Southampton test

Jose Mourinho returns to former club Chelsea with Manchester United on Sunday having struggled to break down Liverpool in the 0-0 draw at Anfield, but seeing his side score four against Feyenoord.Arsenal are flying high after their demolition of Ludogorets, which was their seventh win in a row in all competitions, and will hope add to that streak against struggling Middlesbrough, while leaders Manchester City take on Southampton hoping to get back on track after their humbling at Barcelona.Will David Moyes finally win a game as Sunderland boss? And can Everton to push for a place among the big boys at the top of the table?Predict the Premier League matches in ESPN FC’s polls.

CHELSEA: Jose Mourinho will be out to prove a point on his return to Stamford Bridge and come away with all three with Manchester United. Equally, Antonio Conte will want to reinforce the growing belief that he is a worthy long-term successor to the Special One. A tight game looks in prospect with a draw the likely outcome.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United — Mark Worrall

MAN UNITED: Chelsea have been impressive when dispatching teams with far fewer resources, but have struggled to overcome their traditional rivals. Meanwhile, Jose Mourinho’s team are still struggling for attacking cohesion of their own, and so his homecoming – which may be a little acrimonious – looks set to be a stalemate.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Manchester United — Musa Okwonga

MAN CITY: With a 10-win start morphing into a run of two defeats and two draws, City need three points quickly to quell growing nerves. Having delivered many of their own problems in Barcelona, a clean sheet and goals from a restored Sergio Aguero (maybe even a penalty) would be welcome vs. Southampton.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Southampton — Simon Curtis

SOUTHAMPTON: A tough week does not get any easier as Southampton travels to the Etihad hot on the heels of a 1-0 Europa League defeat against Italian giants Inter Milan. Goalkeeper Fraser Forster may need to be on top form to keep out City’s potent attack.Prediction: Manchester City 2-1 Southampton — Alex Crook

BOURNEMOUTH: After Bournemouth’s outstanding 6-1 win over Hull at the weekend, the Cherries will be as confident as ever in continuing their home form against Tottenham. Spurs are without key men Harry Kane and Toby Alderweireld, which also works in the home side’s favour. The Cherries will win again with Josh King netting late on.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 Tottenham — Will Kent

TOTTENHAM: Bournemouth will be on a high after their 6-1 thrashing of Hull, while Spurs will be reflecting on the lack of clinical finishing in front of goal that cost them dear against both West Brom and Leverkusen. But these are the games any side that considers themselves to be title contenders should be expecting to win, and Mauricio Pochettino is likely to ring the changes to get the job done.Prediction: Bournemouth 1-2 Tottenham — John Crace

ARSENAL: The 6-0 win over Ludogorets was their ninth from their last 10 games, and the fact that the goals are being spread around means Arsene Wenger’s side are difficult to defend against. With chief creator Mesut Ozil now turned regular goalscorer, the unpredictability means opposition can’t plan as well as they have been able to in the past. The only issue might be fatigue, but the Gunners look as if they have the squad depth to cope with that.

Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Middlesbrough — Andrew Mangan

MIDDLESBROUGH: It’s a big ask for Middlesbrough to pick themselves up from a demoralising and hugely disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Watford. A trip to the Emirates is less than ideal but Boro will hope that at least some faith and character shine through in an attempt to turn things around.Prediction: Arsenal 4-0 Middlesbrough — Catherine Wilson


LIVERPOOL: Having already witnessed the restrictive tactics of Manchester United, Liverpool fans must hope their team will be better prepared for similar measures from Tony Pulis’ West Brom. Pressure is building for the Reds to shine in every game now but a tight match will be expected with few chances.Prediction: Liverpool 1-0 West Brom — Stephen Kelly

WEST BROM: The Baggies head to Liverpool for the second of three consecutive fixtures against teams in the top four of the Premier League. With key man Jonny Evans suspended, West Brom stalwart Jonas Olsson will step in as Tony Pulis’ side look to nullify Liverpool’s exciting front three.Prediction: Liverpool 2-0 West Brom — Matthew Evans

LEICESTER: The Foxes will hope to continue in Champions League form. Leicester have been practically two different sides in the Premier League and Europe thus far. The 1-0 home win last season over the Eagles was City’s first clean sheet of the campaign and earned a pizza reward from manager Claudio Ranieri. If Leicester can defend equally as well as that day they will win comfortably.Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Crystal Palace — Ben Jacobs

CRYSTAL PALACE: The Eagles are difficult opposition when playing away, and with Leicester City going through a patchy spell in the league, the opportunity is there for Alan Pardew’s side to take advantage. So long as the service to Christian Benteke is there, Palace have a great chance of collecting three points.Prediction: Leicester 1-2 Crystal Palace — Rob Sutherland

BURNLEY: The hosts are expected to be without key midfielder Steven Defour due to a hamstring injury and star striker Andre Gray serves the last game of a four-match ban. The Clarets have been strong at home this season, but the pace and movement of Everton’s attack will cause them problems and a third straight league loss feels likely.
Prediction: Burnley 1-2 Everton  Jamie Smith

EVERTON: After their defensive capabilities earned a point against free-scoring Manchester City, Everton travel to Burnley in search of the right balance in the final third as only an in-form Romelu Lukaku is showing the necessary consistency at present. The Blues need to end a three-game winless run in the league.Prediction: Burnley 0-2 Everton Luke O’Farrell

WEST HAM: The Hammers will view a home game against Sunderland as a chance to build on last week’s win against Crystal Palace. Team confidence is up and fans are looking forward to laying to rest some of the myths about their new London Stadium. Prediction:  West Ham 3-0 Sunderland — Peter Thorne

SUNDERLAND: West Ham started the season badly but are in better spirits after a win at Crystal Palace, while Sunderland still look incapable of more than an occasional draw. Only a supreme effort from David Moyes’ uninspiring and injury-ravaged squad will take anything from this game; a sound defeat seems more likely.Prediction: West Ham 3-0 Sunderland — Colin Randall

SWANSEA: Bob Bradley helped Swansea rediscover their scoring touch last Saturday against a strong Arsenal side. This weekend they will face Watford, who can’t match Arsenal’s firepower and don’t have as good of a defence, as Bradley makes his home Premier League debut. This must be the moment Swansea turn their season around.Prediction: Swansea 3-1 Watford – WATFORD: After coming out on top in a turgid affair against Middlesbrough, Watford will be hopeful of taking another three points from another struggling side. Although not tested at the Riverside, the defence still looks creaky and is particularly vulnerable to set pieces. At the other end of the pitch, Isaac Success is quickly making a name for himself and the Swansea back line won’t be relishing their afternoon against him and Troy Deeney.Prediction: Swansea 1-2 Watford — Mike Parkin

HULL CITY: Two months after their last Premier League win, Hull can look forward to their first inviting home fixture of the season against Stoke, an opponent they have already beaten in the EFL Cup. Hope, though, is tempered by last weekend’s thumping defeat at Bournemouth and the loss of the club’s only senior left-back, Andy Robertson, to a long-term injury. A point might not be such a bad result, if only to stop the rot.Prediction: Hull 1-1 Stoke — Phil Buckingham

STOKE: Unlikely goal-machine Joe Allen will be licking his lips at the prospect of facing a Hull defence that conceded six goals in their last game. With any luck he will be joined on the scoresheet by an ever-improving Wilfried Bony who is yet to score a goal this calendar year. Hull 0-2 Stoke.Prediction: Stoke 2-0 Hull — James Whittaker

FC Dallas advances, giving MLS three teams in CONCACAF Champions League quarters

Leave a commentBy Nicholas MendolaOct 20, 2016, 10:01 PM EDT

Major League Soccer will have three teams in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League thanks to FC Dallas’ thrilling comeback win on Thursday.FCD beat Guatemalan side Suchitepéquez 5-2 at the Estadio Mateo Flores after going down by a pair of first half goals.Carlos Gruezo and Matt Hedges helped Dallas to level terms by halftime, and Atiba Harris scored just after the break to put FCD ahead. An own goal and a must-watch Carlos Lizarazo 90th minute wonderstrike gave us the final scoreline. Gruezo also added an assist.A tie would’ve been enough to send Dallas through atop Group H, but the big win moves it ahead of New York Red Bulls. FCD will finish seventh at worst.FCD joins Vancouver and New York Red Bulls as the MLS representatives in the tournament, and the league will have at-worst the joint-most clubs in the quarters. [ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman exican sides UANL Tigres and Pachuca are quarterfinalists, while Panamanian side Arabe Unido and Costa Rican stalwarts Saprissa advanced as well. The field’s eighth team will be set after the 10 p.m. ET matchup between Honduras Progreso and Mexico’s UNAM. The Whitecaps are the No. 1 seed, and could well match-up with the Red Bulls if there is a winner between UNAM and Honduras Progreso. If Honduras Progreso advances via draw, the Hondurans will be the No. 8 seed.

Report: USWNT star Holiday has brain tumor removed

Leave a commentBy Nicholas MendolaOct 21, 2016, 7:51 AM EDT

World Cup champion Lauren Holiday has had a brain tumor removed, one month after giving birth.Holiday’s husband, Jrue Holiday of the New Orleans Pelicans, announced that his pregnant wife was diagnosed with an operable tumor in September, and Lauren Holiday has publicly thanked fans for support while requesting prayers.The Holidays welcomed their first child earlier this month, and Jrue left the Pelicans preseason to help his wife.The BBC added this tidbit:

Unbelievably as a three-year-old, she had open-heart surgery to repair a defect and went on to become one of the world’s most respected football players.  Get well soon, Lauren.

he soon-to-be U.S. women’s national team star you really should know

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo Wed, Oct 19 8:04 PM PDT

Lynn Williams didn’t take long to make an impact in her USWNT debut. (AP Photo)

Remember the name. Because Lynn Williams took just 50 seconds to score her first national team goal.She came on as a halftime substitute during the United States’ 4-0 friendly win over Switzerland on Wednesday in Sandy, Utah. And the striker immediately pressured a defender into a badly miss-hit back pass, stole it, ran at goalkeeper Gaelle Thalmann and finished coolly for what turned out to be the winner.It was some kind of start to a USA career for the 23-year-old, who stands just 5-foot-7. In a highly experimental game for head coach Jill Ellis, who fielded a three-woman back line and gave five players their debuts, the U.S. dominated but didn’t convert all of its possession and shots until Williams stepped into the fray.But then her immediate impact was also sort of natural, considering the year Williams has had. She won the Golden Boot in the National Women’s Soccer League, scoring 11 goals in 19 games. She also recorded five assists and was given the league MVP award. But Williams didn’t really get started until the playoffs. Her Western New York Flash took their semifinal at the heavily favored Portland Thorns to extra time before she scored twice to win it. Then, in the final, her 124th-minute goal salvaged a penalty shootout for the Flash which they won, you guessed it, on account of Williams converting their fourth kick.Williams’ emergence is all the more remarkable for how far she had to come. As an NWSL rookie in 2015, she scored four times in 17 appearances. But that she got to the pros at all was something of a miracle. Endless injury trouble has dogged her career and seemed to be savaging her chances. She had just two scholarship offers out of high school, and neither for big-time women’s soccer programs, per FourFourTwo USA.At Pepperdine, she had meniscus and labrum surgery, a shattered elbow and a facial fracture. Her stats were good and she was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy as the college game’s best player. But she believes that she was perhaps only drafted by the Flash because its technical director had been a youth coach of hers in California.Now, less than two years on, the speedy and industrious Williams is squarely in the national team’s crowded forward picture. And her poacher’s instinct was as much on show against Switzerland in her goal as it was in a later play, when she blocked goalkeeper Thalmann’s clearance on something of a hopeless play but almost forced the ball to carom back into Switzerland’s net.All the same, the Americans ran up the score in the second half. In the 62nd minute, a cool finish from Tobin Heath on preparatory work by Crystal Dunn doubled the score.

When do the 2016 Major League Soccer playoffs start?

The 2016 Major League Soccer season will finish on Oct. 23, 2016. Twelve teams will advance to the playoffs, six from each conference. Click here for the latest standings.

Western Conference clubs that have clinched a playoff berth: FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids, LA Galaxy

Eastern Conference clubs who have clinched a playoff berth: New York Red Bulls, Toronto FC, New York City FC, Montreal Impact, D.C. United

Eliminated from contention: Chicago Fire, Columbus Crew SC, Orlando City, Houston Dynamo, San Jose Earthquakes, Vancouver Whitecaps.

How teams can clinch a playoff berth:

Seattle Sounders: Win vs. Real Salt Lake OR loss/draw by Sporting KC or Portland.

Sporting Kansas City: Win vs. San Jose Earthquakes OR draw and Portland draw/loss OR loss and Portland loss and maintain goal difference tiebreaker on Portland.

Portland Timbers: Win at Vancouver Whitecaps OR draw and Sporting KC loss OR a loss and a Sporting KC loss and make up 1 in goal difference on SKC.

Philadelphia Union: Win or draw vs. New York Red Bulls OR New England loss/draw OR loss and New England win if New England does not make up at least 12 in goal difference.

New England Revolution: Win vs. Montreal Impact AND Philadelphia loss and must make up at least 12 in goal difference.

 Knockout Round

Oct. 26: Two games (times TBD) — Match 1: ESPN2 & UniMas; Match 2: UniMas

Oct. 27: Two games (times TBD) – Match 1: FS1 & UniMas; Match 2: UniMas

Conference Semifinals

Oct. 30: Eastern and Western Conference Leg 1 — 3 pm ET (ESPN), 5 p.m. ET (ESPN), 7 p.m. ET (FS1), 9:30 p.m. ET (FS1)

Nov. 6: Eastern and Western Conference Leg 2 — 3 p.m. ET (ESPN), 5 p.m. ET (ESPN), 7:30 p.m. ET (FS1), 10 p.m. ET (FS1)

Conference Championships

Nov. 20: Western Conference Championship Leg 1 (FS1, 8 p.m. ET)

Nov. 22: Eastern Conference Championship Leg 1 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

Nov. 27: Western Conference Championship Leg 2 (ESPN, 4 p.m. ET)

Nov. 30: Eastern Conference Championship Leg 2 (FS1, 7 p.m. ET)

2016 MLS Cup

Dec. 10: 2016 MLS Cup (FOX, UniMas, TSN, RDS, 8 p.m. ET)

*Dates/times are subject to change


Indy Eleven truly spoiled the fun in a windy St. Petersburg last night. It seemed pretty clear cut for Tampa Bay – get the three points and a strong postseason push continues. Earn a draw, and playing in November is possible but looks slightly less likely. Meanwhile, a loss, while not completely eliminating them from contention, puts a massive dent in their hopes – and that’s what they got thanks to Nicki Paterson’s thunderous 85th minute strike. That makes two straight games in which Indy Eleven has taken the winds out of the sails of a contender for The Championship, which might make Rayo OKC more than a bit nervous for next Sunday’s regular season finale.Of course, even earning the three points would not have necessarily blasted the Rowdies into fourth place – they would have needed to win by a significant number of goals to jump Minnesota United FC on goal differential – but the overarching point here is that when it came down to it, Indy stepped up to take down Tampa Bay when the match could have gone either way. It was the hosts’ match to take after Joe Cole’s incredible effort from outside the area tied things up with just over 20 minutes to play, but instead of allowing a third, the “Boys in Blue” battened down the hatches to prevent Tampa Bay from finding one more moment of magic and ended up finding one of their own on the counter.Now Indy gets to return to Carroll Stadium, where they have not lost in over a calendar year, for the Fall Season home finale against Puerto Rico FC, still chasing what would tie an NASL home unbeaten record of 18 straight games. Anticipation.

STATS | Indy Eleven at Tampa Bay Rowdies


Using his blinding pace, splitting the defense, and following through a nutmeg with a finish at the near post, Duke Lacroix is one of the big reasons last night clicked, but he’s just the first example of how Indy’s counter-attack can be incredibly deadly with the right weapons in the right places. The Young Player of the Year nominee looked incredible on the left side of the midfield diamond, and added a clever assist to his goal last night after taking a Rowdies defender one-on-one to the byline and working in a cross for forward Jair Reinoso to knock home.

With Lacroix on the left and Omar Gordon on the right, Indy also used outside backs Marco Franco and Neil Shaffer to charge up the pitch on the break and create more room for the wide midfielders as Tampa Bay tried to mark one man too many. Looking at Reinoso’s goal, the break begins with Gordon regaining possession and Indy working the ball around the center of the park to escape challenges by the Rowdies. Keller then finds Shaffer, and the break is one. “The Bulldog” (as Eleven ‘keeper Jon Busch nicknamed Shaffer on Twitter post-game) blitzes up the left side and finds Lacroix, who after working the right-back Darnell King gets to the endline and lays it off for Reinoso to do the rest. It was clean, it was quick, and it was impressive.The above example is just one of many from the night. Employing the kind of speed needed to complete moves like this is a tip of the cap to head coach Tim Hankinson and his tactics, which paid off in the form of three points after the full 90 minutes last night. While we’ve seen Indiana’s Team use the counter to their advantage in past games, few times have we seen them use it as successfully.

RECAP | Tampa Bay Rowdies 2 : 3 Indy Eleven


One final part of last night that can’t go unmentioned is the depth of the Spring Season champions, which was tested due to an unintentional schedule quirk that has the squad in the midst of a four-game, 11-day stretch. Coach Hankinson made eight changes heading into the game, and to be able to call on guys who haven’t seen typical starter’s minutes and still get a performance like that is reassuring for not just the coaching staff, but for the players up and down the roster.  For guys like Keith Cardona, Neil Shaffer (making his regular season debut on the night), Jair Reinoso, Daniel Keller, Omar Gordon and Duke Lacroix, the 90 minutes and the victory are rewards for a season’s worth of hard work in training every day that the fans aren’t able to see. Not only did their effort contribute to the team getting the away win jinx off its collective backs, but it will also help keep them mentally sharp just in case they are called upon again down the stretch drive.With just two games left in the 2016 regular season, Indy Eleven has ticked off just about every box possible this year – unbeaten at home, getting that elusive road win, and even three points from the Sunshine State – and now has the luxury of two more games to tune things up before The Championship on November 5.


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10/11/16 US vs NZ tonite ESPN 8 pm, Indy 11 @ Jax Wed 8 pm

US takes on New Zealand tonite on ESPN at 8 pm — in the last of the friendlies before the Nov Qualifier with Mexico.  Mexico beat NZ 2-1 on Thursday so this will be an interesting test to see the  comparison. Look for Klinsmann to try a lot more new players tonite after starting a pretty strong side in the 2-0 win over Cuba last Friday afternoon.  Also the Indy 11 take on Jax on Wed Eve at 8 pm – in a game moved from the weekend because of the hurricane in Florida.  Check out lots of stories below.


Coach Baker’s U14 G Gold team took home the top level championship at Socctoberfest this past weekend at Zionsville.


Congrats to the Carmel FC U-8 Boys Gold (pictured) and the U-8 boys (white) for going undefeated in this weekend’s Soctoberfest in Zionsville.


Tues, Oct 11  – World Cup Qualifying

2:45 pm ESPN 2?                                Slovenia vs England

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Columbia vs Uraguay

7:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Chile vs Peru

8 pm ESPN                            USA (Men) vs New Zealand (friendly)

8:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Brazil vs Venezuela

Weds, Oct 12 –

7 pm  My Indy 23??            Indy 11 vs Jacksonville

Fri, Oct 14

2:30 pm  Fox Sports 2?                  Dortmund vs Hertha  – US Christian Pulisic vs US Defender John Brooks

Sat, Oct 15  

7:30 am NBCSN                   Chelsea vs Leicester City

9:30 am Fox Sports2                                                 B M’Gladbach vs Hamburger  – US Johnson vs US Bobby Woods of Hamburger

10 am NBCSN                                         Man City vs EvertonArsenal vs Swansea  (coach Bob Bradley debut)

12:30 pm Fox Sports 2       Werder Bremen vs Bayern Leverkusen

7:30 Wish TV 8                     Indy 11 vs Carolina 


How will US Line-Up vs New Zealand Tonite? NBCSN

Match Preview for Tonites game – US Soccer

Klinnsy Hopes Fringe Players Deliver Surprises – ESPN FC

5 things to Know About Tonights Game

Gooch Eager for 1st MNT Cap  ESPN FC

Wondo, Green, GK Horvath Star for US in 2-0 win over Cuba –ESPNFC


The US top Wing Options


Euro Qualifying Wrap-up – Mon

Euro update from Weekend


NY Flash beat Washington Flash in PKs to Win Title

Bob Bradley Arrives at Swansea – Dsicussion on NBCSN


Pretty Cool Keeper Drill going Viral

England Keeper Training for Qualifiers

England U21s GK Training


Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

 Tues, Oct 11  – World Cup Qualifying

12 noon Fox Sports 2                      Kazakhastan vs Romania

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2                      Poland vs Armenia

2:45 pm ESPN 2?                                Slovenia vs England

4 pm beIN Sport                                 Columbia vs Uraguay

7:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Chile vs Peru

8 pm ESPN                            USA (Men) vs New Zealand (friendly)

8:30 pm beIN Sport                                                 Brazil vs Venezuela

Weds, Oct 12 – U17-WWC

9 am Fox Sports 2                               WWC Quarter Final 1

12 noon Fox Sports 2                                               WWC Quarter Final 2

7 pm  My Indy 23??            Indy 11 vs Jacksonville

Thurs, Oct 13 – U17-WWC

9 am Fox Sports 2                               WWC Quarter Final 3

12 noon Fox Sports 2                                               WWC Quarter Final 4

Fri, Oct 14

2:30 pm  Fox Sports 2?                  Dortmund vs Hertha  – US Christian Pulisic vs US Defender John Brooks

Sat, Oct 15  

7:30 am NBCSN                   Chelsea vs Leicester City

9:30 am Fox Sports2                                                 B M’Gladbach vs Hamburger

10 am NBCSN                                         Man City vs EvertonArsenal vs Swansea  (coach Bob Bradley debut)

12:30 pm                         NBCSN                                West Brom vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox Sports 2       Werder Bremen vs Bayern Leverkusen

7:30 Wish TV 8                     Indy 11 vs Carolina 

Sun, Oct 16  

3 pm ESPN                                               Montreal Impact vs Toronto FC

5 pm ESPN                                               Portland Timbers vs Colorado Rapids

Wed, Oct 19

9 pm ESPN2                          US Women vs Switzerland

Wed, Oct 26

MLS Playoffs Start

MLS TV Schedule ‘

EPL TV Schedule on NBC + NBCSN

German Bundesliga TV Schedule on Fox Soccer and Gol TV


How will an experimental USMNT line up vs. New Zealand?

Leave a commentJoe Prince-WrightOct 10, 2016, 1:40 PM EDT

With plenty of unfamiliar faces set to be involved for the U.S. national team in their friendly game against New Zealand on Tuesday, who will line up from the start for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side?Truth be told, there are some many different ways he could go with this.

[ PREVIEW: USA v New Zealand ]Following the 2-0 win in Cuba on Fridaynine players were released from the team and seven were called up, as Klinsmann shuffles his pack and tries to look at as many players as he can ahead of the two huge 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica next month.The Hex is on the horizon and although the starting lineup looks pretty set, there are still plenty of spots up for grabs in the USMNT squad. So Klinsmann says.[ MORE: What did we learn from win in Cuba? Below is a look at three options the USMNT head coach could go for at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET.

Option 1 (4-2-3-1)

—– Yarbrough —–

— Orozco — Birnbaum — Gonzalez — Acosta —

—- Williams —- Kitchen —-

— Arriola — Gooch — Agudelo —

—– Boyd —–

Option 2 (4-4-2, Diamond)

—– Hamid —–

— Yedlin — Parker — Besler — Acosta —

—- Bradley —-

— Gooch — Williams —

—- Kljestan —-

—- Agudelo —- Green —-

Option 3 (4-3-3) 

—- Bingham —-

— Orozco — Birnbaum — Gonzalez — Besler —

—- Gooch —- Bradley —- Williams —-

—- Agudelo —- Altidore —- Green —-


Let’s start with Option 1: Well, this for me would be a really good lineup which would see youngsters handed a chance to impress as none of the starters from the Cuba game would start again. That always seemed to be the aim when these two friendlies were arranged as Klinsmann could get to look at as many players as possible over two matches. With Terrence Boyd up top on his own supported by Paul Arriola and Juan Agudelo there would be plenty of pace and trickery in attack. In midfield the trio of Danny Williams, Perry Kitchen and Lynden Gooch would compliment each other well and in defense Kellyn Acosta would get another chance at left back with Omar Gonzaez and Michael Orozco handed chances to show their importance as squad players. As for the goalkeeper, William Yarbrough impressed against Switzerland in a friendly last year and it could be time for him to make a real push to get alongside Tim Howard and Brad Guzan.

Option 2 sees a little mix of youth and experience. With Bill Hamid in goal, this may be one of his final chances as Ethan Horvath’s emergence threatens his spot in the player pool. In central defense Tim Parker and Matt Besler could mix well and DeAndre Yedlin could start again at right back after only getting 45 minutes against Cuba. A diamond in midfield would see captain Michael Bradley at the base and Sacha Kljestan pulling the strings in front of an energetic duo of Gooch and Williams, while two up top would be the most interesting part for me. Julian Green was lively out on the left against Cuba but in his preferred central role he could wreck havoc alongside Agudelo.Option 3 is in line with the kind of formation we expect from the USMNT’s first choice lineup. Again, a new goalkeeper in net sees David Bingham start after his solid display against Canada in February. The back four is more experienced with Besler getting an outing at left back like he was used in an emergency situation during the Copa American Centenario. In midfield the trio of Gooch, Williams and Bradley would again blend well and in attack Jozy Altidore could be the main man with Agudelo and Green picking up his knockdowns.Simply put: Klinsmann has plenty of options as he continues to see as many players as possible in action for the Stars and Stripes.


MNT Oct 11, 2016

The U.S. Men’s National Team plays its last match before the final round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup when they take on New Zealand on Tuesday at iconic RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. Kicking off at 8 p.m. ET, the match can be seen live on ESPN and UniMas. Fans can also follow the game live on Twitter at @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp.Coming off a 2-0 win against Cuba in Havana on Friday, the MNT faces New Zealand for the third time and first since a 2-1 victory on June 8, 2003 in nearby Richmond, Va. The two sides first met in the opening match of the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, also a 2-1 win which pushed the U.S. on to a third-place finish at the tournament in Mexico.Just as the U.S. will use the game as its last test before opening “the Hex” next month against Mexico (Nov. 11) and at Costa Rica (Nov. 15), New Zealand will also utilize Tuesday’s contest as its final warm-up before embarking on the third round of Oceanic Football Confederation qualifying, which opens next month against New Caledonia.


GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), William Yarbrough (Club Leon)
DEFENDERS (7)Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting KC), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
MIDFIELDERS (6): Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland), Perry Kitchen (Hearts), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Danny Williams (Reading)
FORWARDS (4): Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Terrence Boyd (RB Leipzig), Julian Green (Bayern Munich)

With the depth chart filling up in positions all over the field, competition will be fierce for the coveted 23 spots on the roster for the huge opening game of the Hex against rivals Mexico and the away trip to the venomous confines of Estadio Nacional in Costa Rica. While there are a host of regulars in the squad, there are a number of players looking to “make their case” for inclusion in November.

Coming off a two-and-a-half year absence from the National Team, Sacha Kljestan rose to the occasion upon his recall last month, tallying two goals and two assists in World Cup Qualifying matches vs. St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said this week he hoped some of the players recalled for this camp would follow Kljestan’s example over the next two matches, while the veteran U.S. midfielder admitted he’s hoping to use games against Cuba and New Zealand as an audition for a starting XI spot when the Hex opens next month.

Following the MNT’s 2-0 win in Havana, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced a number of roster changes, allowing players based both in MLS and abroad the opportunity to return to their clubs early to prepare for upcoming matches. The nine departuresopened the door for seven players to join the team, with Kellyn Acosta, Juan Agudelo, Matt Besler, Terrence Boyd, Bill Hamid, Michael Orozco and Tim Parker arriving to take part in Tuesday’s friendly against New Zealand.

After last appearing in MNT camp more than two years ago, Boyd returns to the team after overcoming a long comeback from an ACL injury suffered at the end of 2014. Besler also returns to the side after scoring on the same day his first-born daughter Parker was born back in the MNT’s 6-0 World Cup Qualifying win at St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 3 in Kingstown. Both playersspoke about their returns upon rejoining the team earlier this week.

A last-minute addition to the U.S. roster for Friday’s match at Cuba, 21-year-old attacker Julian Green earned his second career start and repaid Jurgen Klinsmann for the opportunity when he helped set up Chris Wondolowski’s 62nd minute goal before finishing himself nine minutes later to cap the 2-0 win. With seven appearances to his credit, the Bayern Munich forward hopes to continue his form against New Zealand in an effort to replicate the output from Sacha Kljestan in his National Team return last month.

Klinsmann has opened up a rare window of opportunity for the next generation of goalkeepers this week. Standing down veterans Brad Guzan and Tim Howard, the MNT head coach brought in David Bingham, Ethan Horvath and William Yarbrough for the Cuba match. Becoming one of the youngest goalkeepers all-time to debut for the MNT during Friday’s 2-0 win in Havana, Horvath was allowed to return to Norwegian club Molde following the match, leaving the door open for Bingham, Yarbrough and new addition Bill Hamid to gain time in Tuesday night’s friendly against New Zealand.

Returning to RFK Stadium on Tuesday night, the MNT comes back to a place it has found a lot of success over the years. Going 15-3-5 all-time at the iconic venue, the USA enters Tuesday’s match with a nine-game unbeaten run at RFK, going 8-0-1 in a streak that dates back to a 2-1 win against Uruguay on May 12, 2002. Having hosted 23 matches since a 1-1 draw with China on Oct. 6, 1977, RFK Stadium has been the host of more MNT games than any other venue worldwide.


  • The U.S. is 2-0-0 all-time against New Zealand, winning both previous meetings by a 2-1 score line.
  • The sides first met in the opening match of the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, where Jovan Kirovski and Brian McBride scored on both sides of halftime to give the U.S. three points in Guadalajara, Mexico. More recently, the teams faced off in a warm-up for the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup in nearby Richmond, Va., with Kirovski and Chris Klein scoring in the 2-1 win.
  • The match also marks New Zealand’s final test before beginning the third round of OFC qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The All-Whites will take on New Caledonia in two group games on Nov. 12 and 15 before taking on Fiji on March 20 and 28, 2017.
  • Captained by West Ham United center back Winston Reid, New Zealand also features a few connections to Major League Soccer. Goalkeeper Jake Gleeson has had a revelatory season, winning the starting job for Portland Timbers, while defender Kip Colvey plies his trade for San Jose Earthquakes.
  • The All-Whites also feature Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 defender Deklan Wynne as well as University of Wisconsin defender Sam Brotherton.

Jurgen Klinsmann hoping U.S. fringe players can deliver ‘surprises’

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he is hoping to find a few “surprises” among his fringe players in Tuesday night’s friendly against New Zealand.Following last week’s win in Cuba, the U.S. returns home for the friendly at RFK Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN) in its final test before beginning the final World Cup qualifying round against Mexico next month.The squad to face New Zealand features many new faces as nine players departed following the 2-0 win in Havana, and Klinsmann said he’s using the opportunity to evaluate as many players as he can, even if they won’t be able to force their way into the lineup in November.”A month away from the clash with Mexico, we have a clear picture already of how we want to approach this very, very big game,” he said in quotes released by U.S. Soccer.”But at the same time we want to see some players who we haven’t really had the opportunity in the last few World Cup qualifers to have a closer look at. And obviously when you do that, when you bring in players that weren’t with us for a little bit, you might get surprised.”And we had one surprise definitely with Julian Green. Julian Green is training tremendously well. He had a good game in Cuba, even if you couldn’t judge that game because of the field, but we see a lot of elements that we were hoping for in his game.”Then we have other young [players] like Lynden Gooch, training really well. Guys back in the group like Perry Kitchen or Danny Williams, we have a young goalkeeper coming through with Ethan Horvath in his debut for the national team program.”So it’s very helpful for us to gather that information. But do we have a pretty clear picture of how to approach Mexico? Yes we do.”One player who could get a chance to shine against New Zealand is striker Juan Agudelo, who was called up for the first time in over a year.Agudelo made his senior international debut six years ago at age 17, but after the absence the New England Revolution forward said he’s learned to appreciate playing for his country.”I am more excited now to get a call-up, maybe because I haven’t been called in a year,” Agudelo told MLSsoccer.com. “But it’s definitely more of a privilege — and it should’ve always been a privilege, but now it’s like,  understand. It’s more about maturing, I guess.”

Christian Pulisic, Julian Green and Lynden Gooch – Sizing up the U.S. wing midfield pool

Goal.com  8:35 AM PDT

Not since Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey were working on opposite flanks in their prime during the 2010 World Cup qualifying cycle have we really seen the U.S. national team boast a dangerous and reliable set of wingers.That could be about to change — if not in the immediate future, then very soon.Christian Pulisic’s rapid emergence has given the U.S. its most promising attacking wing option in years. Though he’s still just 18, he has already shown enough to start being considered a good bet to be a starter when the final round of World Cup qualifying begins in November.Pulisic is actually just one of a handful of talented young wing options coming up the pipeline, such as Paul Arriola and Brooks Lennon, not to mention Julian Green, who has played his way onto the Bayern Munich first-team roster, even if as a reserve striker.What makes the winger pool even more interesting is the fact that the U.S. team’s best winger may not wind up playing on the wing. Fabian Johnson remains Klinsmann’s best midfielder, but he also happens to be Klinsmann’s best left back. And with left back having fewer viable options than the left wing, Johnson still looks like a good bet to be starting in the back four rather than midfield when the Americans take on Mexico and Costa Rica in November.In the latest installment in Goal USA‘s series on the U.S. player pool depth chart, we take a closer look at Klinsmann’s wing options, including the veterans who still have a role to play in the immediate future, and younger options who could develop into difference makers in years to come.This list doesn’t include the likes of Joe Gyau and Josh Gatt, a pair of speedy wingers who would have been a part of such a list two years ago, before injuries left them both sidelined for extended periods of time. Gatt has recently returned to playing with Molde in Norway, while Gyau is continuing to rehab as he moves closer to full action in Borussia Dortmund’s setup. They may not be on this list now, but they could very well be back among the top options in the near future.

Also absent from the list are MLS midfielders Lee Nguyen, Darlington Nagbe and Ethan Finlay. Though Nguyen and Nagbe have been used on the wings by Klinsmann in the past, they are more natural central midfielders, while Finlay has taken a bit of a step back after his outstanding 2015 season, which helped earn him a look from Klinsmann in March. All three are still young enough to be options on the flanks, but they will need to step it up to get back into the top 10.

Here is a closer look at how Klinsmann’s top wing options stack up at the moment:


A left winger for Borussia Moenchengladbach, Johnson has shown time and time again on the club level that he is very much a capable player on the flanks. He has done the same with the U.S. when played in such a role, but with Klinsmann needing him more as a fullback, we haven’t been able to see Johnson’s attacking prowess on a consistent basis for the U.S.Could that be changing? It will depend completely on new fullback options emerging in order to free up Johnson to play a more advanced role. If a player like Timmy Chandler can step up and show themselves to be a dependable starting option at left back, then we could see Klinsmann deploy a Johnson-Pulisic winger tandem, which most U.S. fans are probably already dreaming of.


September was a breakout month for Pulisic, who not only turned 18, but enjoyed a strong run for both club and country which essentially erased the lingering “he’s too young” notions that were keeping him from being considered a serious factor for the U.S. Yes, he’s young and will have his growing pains, but it’s tough to argue that he hasn’t shown enough to be considered a strong candidate to start for the U.S. from here on out.Pulisic’s versatility should help give Klinsmann some good options. He’s capable of playing on either wing, and though he’s not a natural left winger, his speed and ability to cut inside and wreak havoc make him effective there, as he has shown with Borussia Dortmund. He will eventually develop into a central playmaker, but for now, Pulisic is looking like the dynamic winger the U.S. had been lacking since Johnson was forced to play fullback.


A workhorse midfielder who doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves, Bedoya has been an effective wing option, if not a flashy one. His two-way work, and ability to combine well and move well in the flow of the attack has long made him a useful contributor on both ends of the field.Bedoya has settled into central midfield with the Philadelphia Union and could float into a more central role with the U.S. soon enough, particularly as other wing options develop. But Bedoya could definitely still be a wing starter when World Cup qualifying resumes in November.


Currently sidelined as he recovers from a broken foot, Zardes had established himself as a regular starter on the wing over the previous two years. A natural striker, Zardes was able to use his speed, strength and tireless motor to be an effective flank player, even though he never was quite effective at providing service.Zardes recently began running again, but it remains unclear whether he can make it all the way back for November’s qualifiers. If he can’t make it back, he should still be a strong candidate for a flank role in 2017, though Klinsmann might start eyeing him more as forward depth if some younger wingers continue emerging.


The 21-year-old winger earned his first senior national team look in May, and made the most of it by impressing in a friendly against Puerto Rico. He has parlayed that into more looks, including a goal-scoring cameo in September’s World Cup qualifying win against Trinidad and Tobago.Though he has yet to establish himself as a starter on the club level, Arriola has been a regular substitute for Club Tijuana, which is currently in first place in Liga MX. His ability to take defenders on and provide service makes him a good option off the bench for the U.S., and he’s still young so we haven’t seen the best of him yet.


Don’t go forgetting about the Sporting Kansas City winger even though injuries have kept him from showing his best in recent years. When he has been healthy, Zusi has shown that he still can make an impact, as evidenced in March’s World Cup qualifying win against Guatemala, and his goal-scoring cameo in the Copa America rout of Costa Rica.What the 30-year-old winger provides is good service from the wing, and another set-piece/corner-kick option for Klinsmann, and he has shown a penchant for being able to step up in big moments. He will need to stay healthy to keep his place in Klinsmann’s pecking order before younger options move past him permanently.


No, Gooch hasn’t played for the U.S. senior team yet, but he has earned his first call-up for the current camp and is a good bet to make his debut in the coming days. The Sunderland winger has been a real revelation, earning regular minutes for the English Premier League club and showing himself to be a tenacious and versatile midfielder.The 20-year-old is still young and a bit raw, but he has already shown good qualities, including speed and a willingness to take on defenders, that could keep him in the picture for both the U.S. and Sunderland.


Funny how fortunes can change. Julian Green has gone from prodigy and World Cup goal-scorer, to national team afterthought struggling to play on the youth national team level, to now on Bayern Munich’s first-team squad and back in Klinsmann’s squad. Carlo Ancelotti’s decision to use Green as a striker has helped rejuvenate his standing with the German champions, though he still isn’t getting first-team minutes. So is he a winger or a striker? Klinsmann hasn’t discussed yet whether he’s buying into Ancelotti’s belief that Green is a more effective striker than winger, but we might find out in the upcoming U.S. friendlies. It should be noted that Green has played almost exclusively on the flank for both the senior national team and youth national teams.


The least well-known of the players on this list, Brooks Lennon may have the most upside of anybody not named Pulisic. The Liverpool youth player has been turning heads since leaving Real Salt Lake’s academy and signing with the English powerhouse. The 19-year-old forward-winger has been scoring goals with regularity in the Liverpool youth ranks, and should raise his profile among American fans as a key figure in the next U.S. Under-20 World Cup qualifying cycle.

Though he might develop into more of a forward option, Lennon has shown himself to be an effective wing player, and developing under the watchful eye of Jurgen Klopp is certainly not a bad thing for the teenager.


The German-American winger-forward earned a place in Klinsmann’s January camp after having previously impressed on the youth national team level. As a U-23 winger, Kiesewetter was particularly impressive with his speed and service, forming a good partnership with Jordan Morris.Now with Bundesliga 2 side Fortuna Dusseldorf, Kiesewettter is fighting for regular playing time, though he will have to establish himself as a starter to really move up these rankings.


Gooch eager to make U.S. debut vs. New Zealand

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – If there were any lingering doubts about which national team Lynden Gooch wants to represent at the international level, the Sunderland forward/midfielder extinguished them on Sunday. The 20-year-old Santa Cruz, California native, who started the Black Cats first four games of the Premier League season, remains eligible for play for England (through his father) and the Republic of Ireland (through his mother). But Gooch, who suited up mostly for the U.S. but also Ireland at youth level, is hoping to make his senior debut for the Americans in Tuesday’s exhibition against New Zealand. And he left no doubt that his allegiance lies with the USA.”I’m definitely committed” to the red, white and blue, the soft-spoken Gooch told reporters before the U.S. trained in suburban Washington, D.C. ahead of the match at RFK Stadium (8 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN). “I just want to play in this friendly and I want to play next month in the qualifiers, hopefully, if I do well. I’m committed to playing for this team. That’s why am here.” Gooch was referring to November’s World Cup qualifying games against Mexico and Costa Rica. He would be permanently tied to the U.S. should he appear in either.Gooch’s declaration isn’t a huge surprise; he’s said as much when asked in the past. But for a country that doesn’t exactly have Prem players falling from trees — Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron is the only American earning regular minutes in England’s top flight this season — it’s still a significant coup.Now comes the match against the Kiwis. Gooch didn’t get off the bench for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side in Friday’s 2-0 victory versus Cuba. But with nine players — including six starters — released to their clubs following the win in Havana, Gooch is expected to see his first action at the top level.”I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Obviously I wanted to play a little bit in the Cuba game, but it didn’t happen. But hopefully I’ll get my first cap.”on the wing and as a deep-lying midfielder for Sunderland, but is hoping to occupy a more advanced role under Klinsmann. With attackers Jordan Morris, Christian Pulisic, Chris Wondolowski and Bobby Wood among those released between matches, he might get his wish and possibly from the first whistle.A strong performance would go a long way toward earning a recall from the coach next month. But both his immediate and long-term future with the U.S. is more likely dependent on how — and how much — he plays for his club.After those season-opening starts, Gooch was an unused substitute in Sunderland’s 1-0 loss at Tottenham and didn’t make the 18 for 3-2 defeat against Crystal Palace. He came off the bench for the final minutes of the Black Cats most recent game, a 1-1 tie with West Bromwich Albion on Oct. 1.  “I think that’s normal for young players — you’re not gonna be able to play every game,” Gooch said when asked about the highs and lows so far. “I started four games straight off the bounce. I think that was a surprise, but they manage players well. “I think you’ll get burned out if you play every second after making that jump,”I’ve got an experienced manager, David Moyes. He knows how to handle young players…he said that at times, ‘I have to take pressure off you as well.'”Speaking of pressure, he did get a little ribbing from his family when it came time to choosing which country’s colors to defend, even though it wasn’t a difficult decision. “I’ve got an Irish mother and an English dad, but I was born and raised in California,” Gooch said. “My mom, she’s always saying ‘Ireland, Ireland.’ But she’s happy.”U.S. fans ought to be, too.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN 


Green, Horvath, Wondolowski star as United States edge Cuba in Havana

The United States did little more than fill an international date with a glorified scrimmage on Friday afternoon in Havana, Cuba. The game was more “historic event” than meaningful soccer exercise, but a 2-0 win will nevertheless feel good for Jurgen Klinsmann and his team, especially in light of the difficult conditions.


The debut of Ethan Horvath in goal represents a step forward in the young player’s career, and Julian Green did well on the left side of the American midfield. Steve Birnbaum got 45 more minutes toward his experience total in a U.S. shirt (and suffered a cut for his trouble), but perhaps most importantly, the Americans suffered no significant injuries. That’s no small feat considering the conditions.


It’s tough to know what to make of a friendly played on such a terrible surface. A bumpy field with barren patches made for difficult passing all afternoon long. Rhythm was essentially nonexistent for the Americans, despite the weakness of the Cuban side. Several key U.S. players looked uncomfortable simply running on the Cuban grass, much less trying to play up to their usual standard. The energy level was low, and if not for Chris Wondolowski, the U.S. might have left Havana with an embarrassing result.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — Klinsmann’s starting lineup has potential, and might work against weaker opponents in better — more meaningful — circumstances and on a better surface. Giving Green a start proved to be a smart move. With a full complement of friendly substitutions, the United States boss was able to get a look at most of his roster.

Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Ethan Horvath, 8 — Composed and confident. The only American player to make a positive impression in the first half. Bailed the U.S. out a few key saves.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 6 — Handled his defensive responsibilities reasonably well, but made no mark in the attack. Subbed at half-time.

DF Geoff Cameron, 5.5 — Victimized by Cuban movement on a couple of counterattacking opportunities. Like many of his teammates, never found the pace of the field and passed poorly.

DF John Brooks, 5.5 — Struggled with the rest of his defensive mates to hold and manage a high line. Stumbled on the bumpy field more than once and was likely happy to take a seat at half-time.

DF Fabian Johnson, 5 — Lethargic and disinterested throughout. Occasionally got forward into the attack but did nothing when there. Did not recover his position quickly enough.

MF Julian Green, 8 — The most vibrant of the U.S. attackers for most of the day. Created the first goal with a shot, then scored the second by getting on the end of Wondolowski’s service.

MF Sacha Kljestan, 7 — Provided a number of useful balls out of his central midfield position. Showed the vision that earned him a spot back in the national-team picture, even as his teammates were unable to leverage it.

MF Michael Bradley, 6 — Sat deep as the only holding midfielder in the game at the start. Looked troubled by the Cuban break. Passed well enough, but without much danger.

MF Christian Pulisic, 4.5 — The Dortmund wunderkind did not enjoy his half in Havana, both because of the rough surface and the physical approach of the Cubans.

FW Bobby Wood, 5.5 — Popped up in good spots a few times, but wasted the chances he was given. Gave the requisite effort tracking back and making runs off of Jozy Altidore.

FW Jozy Altidore, 5.5 — A presence and little more at the front of the formation. With the surface so poor, was asked to win a number of long balls in the air, pulling him away from goal and limiting his danger.


FW Chris Wondolowski, 8 — Took his goal exceptionally well and set up the second. Adapted to the field better than any other American forward.

DF Timothy Chandler, 6 — Helped with possession as the U.S. played out the second half, defending adequately.

DF Steve Birnbaum, 7 — Brought needed interest and energy to the back line when he entered at half-time, but suffered a nasty injury when kicked in the head by a Cuban player.

FW Jordan Morris, 6 — Involved in a few dangerous moments in combination with Wondolowski, including one he stumbled away shortly after entering.

FW Paul Arriola, NR — Essentially anonymous in a little more than 20 minutes as a second-half substitute.

MF Danny Williams, NR — Didn’t seem to have much success slowing down the Cuban attack, who still found joy on the counter after Williams entered to help stiffen the American midfield.Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer 

Where should U.S. Soccer play home World Cup qualifiers?

Originally posted on 32 Flags  |  By Pauly Kwestel  |  Last updated 10/6/16

As expected, it didn’t take long for U.S. Soccer to announce that the U.S. Men’s National Team’s opening game in the Hex against Mexico would be played in Columbus, Ohio. After all, that’s where the U.S. has played Mexico since 2001, and the Americans seem to always win by a famous scoreline that you may have heard of.But U.S. Soccer has yet to announce where the other four home matches will be. This year, the U.S. is in a very interesting position where for each two-game stretch of the Hex the USMNT will have a Friday home game proceeding an away game. That means the U.S. can in theory pick similar cities to the conditions of its away game to help prepare for those elements if the team so chooses.The question is, where should U.S. Soccer host these games? For starters, these games are about one thing and one thing only, qualifying for the World Cup. They are not for making as much money as you possibly can. That’s what friendlies are for. That’s why, unless there’s a special situation, U.S. Soccer should be choosing cozy MLS Stadiums that are designed for soccer rather than half-empty football stadiums. If more fans want tickets than the stadium can hold, so be it.If you were in charge of U.S. soccer, where would you put the games? That’s a question that can be taken to Twitter. But if I was in charge of U.S. Soccer? Well, here’s where I’d put them.

March 24, 2017: USA vs. Honduras (Denver) 

There’s a school of thought that the U.S. should play the Trinidad & Tobago match in June in Denver’s altitude to prepare for the Mexico match at the Azteca, but that’s a bunch of hogwash. Why waste one of the few home-field advantages the United States has by playing in Denver in June?

The March game is pretty much the only game that falls out in winter. Denver is a great winter city. As we found out from the snow-game against Costa Rica in 2013, the weather in Denver can pretty much be anything. The Americans are used to that. We have winter. You know who doesn’t have a winter season? Honduras. Put the game in Denver in the winter, and Honduras will have no chance.

June 9, 2017: USA vs. Trinidad & Tobago (Jacksonville)

Sure, people want to play this game in Denver to prepare for the Azteca’s altitude, but that’s only one of the battles the U.S. will be facing. It will also have to deal with the heat and humidity that comes with Mexico City. Ergo the U.S. should be looking for the hottest and most humid city it can find. If there’s a hotter and more humid city in the middle of June than Jacksonville then sure play it there, but Jacksonville is the one that comes to my mind, and the U.S. is undefeated there.

I understand the U.S. literally just played Trinidad & Tobago in Jacksonville this past September, but like I said, this isn’t about making money, it’s about qualifying for the World Cup. That last game worked out well for the U.S., just run it back. (If you want to move this game to Washington, D.C., I won’t argue).

September 1, 2017: USA vs. Costa Rica (Kansas City)

Kansas City has a great stadium, and it has a great crowd. The atmosphere that the fans create in Kansas City is not only top-notch, but it’s mainly only rivaled by that of Columbus, Washington and the Pacific Northwest. Kansas City deserves a World Cup qualifying match, and since it didn’t get one last round, the city gets one now. Plus Costa Rica will be the second toughest game the U.S. will play, so the Americans need to play it in a good location.

October 6, 2017: USA vs. Panama (Washington, D.C.) 

Every other country plays home games in its capital city, therefore the U.S. should play one in its too. The fact that RFK Stadium crowd always brings it is just an added bonus. If the Hex plays out like the last one did, the U.S. will have already advanced, and this will be a 90-minute party. If it plays out like the 2010 Hex did, the U.S. will need to win to advance, and where better to play than the stadium that holds more USMNT wins than any other?

And with RFK Stadium likely to close down after the 2017 MLS season, this would be one of the final games ever played and would serve as a fitting tribute to a historic stadium that has been so important for U.S. Soccer’s history.

UEFA World Cup qualifying: Italy edges Macedonia, Spain eases past Albania

3 CommentsBy Matt ReedOct 9, 2016, 4:41 PM EDT

One of Europe’s top sides needed a late strike to get past a surprisingly competitive Macedonia side.[ MORE: England adds keeper Pickford following Heaton injury ]Ciro Immobile’s brace in the final quarter hour helped Italy rescued a victory against Macedonia during their 3-2 win on Sunday afternoon.Immobile scored in the 75th and 91st minutes for the Italians, which helped them avoid a potentially disastrous result.Despite Andrea Belotti’s first-half finish for the Azzurri, it was Macedonia that opened the second half on the front foot. Goals from Ilija Nestoroski and Ferhan Hasani handed the hosts the lead within a span of three minutes, before Immobile rescued the Italians.Spain pulled off a 2-0 win against Albania behind second-half finishes from Diego Costaand Nolito on the road.Nacho Monreal played a quick pass to Nolito on left wing for Spain’s second in the 63rd minute, which puts La Furia Roja back atop Group G on seven points. The Manchester City attacker made a brilliant move to cut back against a defender, before slotting his effort past goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.Following a crucial mistake from the Albania backline, Diego Costa gave the Spaniards the advantage after halftime when David Silva played a simple ball across the center of the box for the Chelsea striker to smash home.

Elsewhere around Europe:

Group D

Wales 1-1 Georgia

Moldova 1-3 Republic of Ireland

Serbia 3-2 Austria

Group G

Israel 2-1 Liechtenstein

Group I

Iceland 2-0 Turkey

Finland 0-1 Croatia

Ukraine 3-0 Kosovo


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