So A quick shot at The Year in Review. Let’s Start with the huge news that Carli Loyd became just the 4th US player to be name Player of the Year, which after her spectacular World Cup Run in leading the US to the Crown, was to be expected. Of course it came down to Renaldo and Messi again for The Player of the Year on the men’s side and the Barcelona man took home his 5th after losing out to Renaldo for the last two injury plagued seasons.
So what’s the biggest story in the EPL – is it Leicester City and their miracle run at the top of the Table, or is it the complete meltdown that is Chelsea and the firing of the Special One- Jose Mourino? Chelsea’s meltdown to the bottom of the table has been amazing and it will be interesting to see if new manager Gus Hiddick can continue to right the ship and move them back into contention. My biggest story goes to Leicester City, the Foxes continue their impressive run and remain in a tie for 1st place in the EPL with exciting come from behind victories, goal scoring and just an exciting brand of futbol. Listen this is like the Tampa Bay Rays battling for the world series, they have among the lowest payrolls in the league and not one player that the average soccer fan would recognize before this season. Tune in to NBC this Saturday at 12:30 to catch the story of the year as Leicester faces Aston Villa and US keeper Brad Guzan. Meanwhile US keeper Tim Howard off one of his best games of the year in shutting out Man City on Wed and his Toffees of Everton will host Chelsea at 10 am on USA Network. Sunday it’s two of the biggest clubs on the planet facing off as new Liverpool manager Jeurgan Klopp welcomes Van Gaal and Manchester United at 9 am on NBCSN followed by the resurgent Potters of Stoke City and American defender Geoff Cameron hosting league leaders Arsenal at 11 am on NBCSN. I’ll have more on the new GM of Indy 11 next week. Sad to see Peter Wilt go.
American Players Update –Washington Post
MLS rumors– MLS.com Morris where to? Brad Friedel to coach US Youth Teams
WORLD AND EPL
MLS and Indy 11
GAMES THIS WEEK
Saturday, January 16
7:45 a.m., NBCSN: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Sunderland
10:00 a.m., NBCSN and NBC Universo: Manchester City vs. Crystal Palace
10:00 a.m., USA Network: Chelsea vs. Everton
10:00 a.m., Exra Time: Bournemouth vs. Norwich City, Newcastle vs. West Ham , Southampton vs. West Brom
11 am , beIn Sports (France) Toulouse vs PSG
12:30 p.m., NBC: Aston Villa vs. Leicester City (Arlo White and Graeme Le Saux)
2:45 pm beIn Sports (Italy) Napoli vs Sassuolo
Sunday, January 17
9 am, beIn Sports (Italy) Udinese vs Juventus
9:05 a.m., NBCSN and Telemundo: Liverpool vs. Manchester United
11:15 a.m., NBCSN Stoke City vs. Arsenal
2:45 pm, beIn Sport Barcelona vs Athletic Club
Monday, January 18
3:00 p.m., NBCSN: Swansea City vs. Watford
Wednesday, January 20
3 pm Fox Sports 1 FA CUP Liverpool vs. Exeter City
11:15 a.m., NBCSN Stoke City vs. Arsenal
2:45 pm, beIn Sport Barcelona vs Athletic Club
Friday, January 22
2:30 pm Fox Sports 1 Hamburger SV vs Bayern Munich
Sat, Jan 23
7:45 am NBCSN Norwich vs Liverpool
9:30 am Fox Sports 1 Hoffenhiem vs Bayern Leverkusen
10 am NBCSN Leicester City vs Stoke, Crystal Palace vs Tottenham, Man City vs Southampton
10 am, beIn Sport (Spain) Malaga vs Barcelona
12:30 NBC West Ham vs Man City
12:30 Fox Sports 2 (germ) Borussia M’Gladbach vs Dortmund
5 pm espn2? USWNT vs Ireland
Sun, Jan 24
8:30 am NBCSN Everton vs Swansea
9:30 am Fox Sports 1 (Germ) E. Frankfurt vs Wolfsburg
11 am NCBSN Arsenal vs Chelsea
11:30 am Fox Sports 1 (Germ) Schalke vs Werder Bremen
2:45 pm, beIn Sports (Italy) Juventus vs Roma
Sat, Jan 30
9:30 am Fox Sports 1 Bayern Leverkusen vs Hannover 96
10 am beIn Sports Barcelona vs Athletico Madrid
10 am,?? FA Cup – Arsenal s Burnley
10 am FA Cup- Crystal Palace vs Stoke City
Sun, Jan 31
3:45 pm NBCSN US Men vs Iceland
Fri, Feb 5
10:15 pm US Men vs Canada
Tues, Feb 16
2;45 pm FS 1 PSG vs Chelsea
2:45 pm FS2 Benefica vs Zenit St. Pete
Wed, Feb 17
2:45 pm FS1 Roma vs Real Madrid
2:45 pm FS2 Gent vs Wolfsburg
Thurs, Feb 18
1 pm Anderlecht vs Olympiachos, Dortman vs Porto, Fioreentina vs Tottehman, Midtiland vs Man U, Villarreal vs Napoli
3 pm Ausburg vs Liverpool, Sporting Portugal vs Bayern Leverkusen, Valencia vs Rapid Vienna, Galatasaray vs Lazio
Tues, Feb 23
2:45 pm FS 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich
8 pm FS1? Queretaro vs DC United
10 pm FS2? Seattle Sounders vs Club America
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City
2:45 pm FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
8 pm Tigres UNAL vs Real Salt Lake
10 pm LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna
Tuesday, March 1:
D.C. United vs. Querétaro, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal second leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Wednesday, March 2:
Club América vs. Seattle Sounders, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL, CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg, 8:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Sunday, March 6:
Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew, 4:30 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City, 7:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. D.C. United, 10:00 p.m. (UniMás, Univision Deportes)]
Friday, March 25:
Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier, time TBD (beIN Sports,)
Tuesday, March 28:
United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier, time TBD (ESPN2,-Columbus, OH)
Carli Lloyd US and FIFA World Player of the Year
Lloyd scored 18 goals for the U.S. women’s national team in 2015, helping her win FIFA World Player of the Year as well as U.S. Soccer’s female player of the year honors. The 33-year-old turned in one of the finest individual performances ever in a World Cup final, men’s or women’s, scoring a hat trick in the first 16 minutes of the U.S. women’s national team’s victory over Japan on July 5. Her third and final goal of the match was a 50-yard strike from around midfield, one of 10 goals nominated for FIFA’s Goal of the Year. Lloyd’s was the only goal scored by a woman to be nominated. Lloyd captured the Women’s World Cup’s Golden Ball and Silver Boot awards after netting six goals in the tournament and becoming the first female player to score in four straight knockout round matches. Along with winning the World Cup, the United States went 20–4–2 in 2015, with its only losses coming in friendly matches.Lloyd also starred for the NWSL’s Houston Dash in 2015, scoring four goals—including three game-winners—in 12 matches.
ALTIMORE — Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said he is convinced that no U.S. Soccer staff member is attempting to convince forward Jordan Morris to sign overseas instead of with MLS.Morris has long been a target of the Seattle Sounders, who have reportedly offered the former Stanford junior the richest homegrown contract in MLS history.”We very much want to sign Jordan,” Garber said. “I know that the Sounders are really focused on it. We’re very hopeful of bringing him into the league, and representing this new generation of great American players.”But Morris is currently on trial at Bundesliga side Werder Bremen, a stint that was arranged by U.S. national team assistant Andi Herzog.Herzog was quoted last week as saying that it was the goal of he and U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann to “get as many players to Europe as possible,” though he later told Fox Sports that he was misquoted.When asked if Herzog and Klinsmann were meddling with the process, Garber indicated he didn’t think this was the case. “It’s not really ‘meddling,'” Garber said. “Our federation has a responsibility to ensure that players that are part of their program understand what their opportunities are.”Garber added that he had spoken to U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gualti and that Gulati had spoken to both Herzog and Klinsmann about the situation, and that Herzog had clarified his remarks.”None of the federation staff is encouraging players to sign overseas and not with MLS,” said Garber. “I think Andi was very clear about that.”In the meantime, all Seattle can do is wait.”Jordan is just going to go through his process,” Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey told ESPN FC earlier this week. “He knows the extent of the opportunity that he has with us, and we hope that in the end he chooses to sign with the Seattle Sounders.”On the MLS SuperDraft broadcast on Thursday, Lagerwey told ESPN’s Taylor Twellman that there were no concerns that Morris would only come off the bench with the team already paying forwards Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez.”If you recall, we had those guys miss I think 50 combined matches last year, in terms of injury, suspension, etc. And they’re obviously all over 30,”Lagerwey said.”So we expect big performances from those guys, hopefully they play every week. If it turns out they don’t, I think Jordan’s a guy who can help us and give us a little bit of cover.”
American soccer players abroad, weekend roundup
By Steven Goff –Washington Post — January 10 at 2:59 PM
A wrap-up of weekend performances by Americans playing in foreign leagues. Of note: Several players competing in lesser leagues or with reserve squads are not listed. Americans with dual nationalities representing other national teams have also been omitted.
Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard: in the 18 but did not play in 2-0 victory over fourth-tier Dagenham & Redbridge in FA Cup
Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan: in the 18 but did not play in 1-1 draw at fourth-tier Wycombe Wanderers in FA Cup
Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron: not in the 18 for 2-1 victory at third-tier Doncaster Rovers
Sunderland defender DeAndre Yedlin, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur: played 90 minutes at right back in 3-1 defeat at Arsenal in FA Cup
Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers: U21s vs. Chelsea on Monday
Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch: U21s did not play
Reading midfielder Danny Williams: played 90 minutes in 2-2 draw at Huddersfield Town in FA Cup
Fulham defender Tim Ream: entered in the 71st of 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday in FA Cup
Fulham midfielder Emerson Hyndman: not in the 18 (injured) for 2-1 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday in FA Cup
Birmingham City defender Jonathan Spector: 90 in 2-1 defeat to Bournemouth
Nottingham Forest defender Eric Lichaj: entered in the 71st of 1-0 victory over Queens Park Rangers
Blackburn Rovers defender Adam Henley: FA Cup at Newport County postponed, waterlogged pitch
MK Dons goalkeeper Cody Cropper: played 90 in 2-2 draw at fourth-tier Northampton Town in FA Cup
Reading forward Andrija Novakovich: U21s vs. Manchester United on Monday
Fulham midfielder Luca De La Torre: U21s did not play
Rangers midfielder Gedion Zelalem, on loan from Arsenal: played 62 minutes (assist; video) in 5-1 victory over third-tier Cowdenbeath in Scottish Cup
Bundesliga Winter Break
Nantes midfielder Alejandro Bedoya: entered in the 64th minute of 2-1 victory over Saint-Etienne
Reims forward Jordan Siebatcheu: entered in the 62nd of 3-1 defeat to Toulouse
Utrecht forward Rubio Rubin: winter break, at Groningen on Jan. 17
Groningen defender Desevio Payne: winter break, vs. Utrecht on Jan. 17
Hobro defender Babajide Ogunbiyi: winter break, at Brondby on Feb. 28
Molde goalkeeper Ethan Horvath: season complete, 6th place (17 matches, 15 starts)
Molde forward Josh Gatt: season complete, 6th place (1 match, knee injury)
Stabaek midfielder Cole Grossman: season complete, 3rd place, qualified for Europa League (28 matches, 28 starts, 4 goals)
Bodo/Glimt defender Zarek Valentin: season complete, 9th place (24 matches, 23 starts, 1 goal); signing with MLS
Bodo/Glimt midfielder Danny Cruz, on loan from Philadelphia Union: season complete, 9th place (15 matches, 8 starts, 2 goals)
Viking defender A.J. Soares: season complete, 5th place (20 matches, 19 starts)
Mjondalen defender Rhett Bernstein: season complete, 15th place, relegated (20 matches, 13 starts, 5 goals); signed with NASL’s Miami FC
Mjondalen forward Erik Hurtado, on loan from Vancouver Whitecaps: season complete, 15th place, relegated (11 matches, 6 starts, 1 goal); expected to return to Vancouver
Start defender Alex De John: season complete, 14th place, won promotion-relegation playoff (22 matches, 17 starts)
Pachuca defender Omar Gonzalez: played 90 (assist in 43rd) in 1-1 draw at Tijuana
Here is Omar Gonzalez’s flick which led to Pachuca’s goal ->https://t.co/QMBSS6QpQr
Club America defender Ventura Alvarado: played 90 in 0-0 draw with Puebla
Tijuana forward Paul Arriola: entered in the 66th in 1-1 draw with Pachuca
Tijuana defender Greg Garza: not in the 18 for 1-1 draw with Pachuca
Tijuana defender Michael Orozco: not in the 18 for 1-1 draw with Pachuca
Tijuana midfielder Alejandro Guido: not in the 18 for 1-1 draw with Pachuca
Tigres midfielder Jose Torres: in the 18 but did not play in 1-0 defeat at Toluca
Tigres forward Luis Silva: not in the 18 for 1-0 defeat at Toluca
Dorados midfielder Joe Corona, on loan from Tijuana: played 67 in 1-0 defeat at Chiapas
Leon goalkeeper William Yarbrough: played 90 in 2-0 victory over Santos Laguna
Leon forward Miguel Ibarra: in the 18 but did not play in 2-0 victory over Santos Laguna
Santos Laguna defender Jorge Villafaña: played 90 in 2-0 defeat at Leon
Queretaro defender Jonathan Bornstein: played 90 in 3-1 defeat to Atlas
Queretaro midfielder Luis Gil: not in the 18 for 3-1 defeat to Atlas
Monterrey defender Edgar Castillo: played 90 in 1-0 victory over Pumas
U.S. forward Jordan Morris set for training with Werder Bremen
Stanford beat Clemson 4-0 in the NCAA College Cup final to become 2015 champions for the first time.United States forward Jordan Morris will join Werder Bremen next week during their winter training camp, the Bundesliga club said on Tuesday.”It’s an opportunity for us to get to know the player better. Nothing more and nothing less,” club CEO Thomas Eichin said in a statement.Morris, who helped Stanford win the NCAA College Cup last month, has yet to announce whether he will turn professional or return for his senior year.The 21-year-old has already earned seven international caps for the U.S. and coach Jurgen
Klinsmann has said Morris “obviously has to” turn professional , while Goal.com reported this week that he was “in advanced negotiations” to join the Seattle Sounders.Morris has spent time with the Sounders’ youth programs and is eligible to join the team on a lucrative homegrown deal, thereby skipping the MLS SuperDraft.But the striker will first explore his options in Europe as he joins Werder Bremen for training on Monday in Belek, Turkey.His U.S. teammate Aron Johannsson is already a member of the Bremen squad but has been out since September with a hip injury.Morris is a key figure on the U.S. under-23 team that faces Colombia in March for a chance to qualify for the Olympics, and he’s also expected to join the senior national team for training camp later this month.Also on Tuesday, United States youth international Christian Pulisic was promoted to first team training at Borussia Dortmund.
Although most eyes are currently on Jordan Morris’ upcoming trip to Germany, another young rising American soccer star is also making waves at a big Bundesliga club.According to reports, Christian Pulisic was promoted to first-team training at Borussia Dortmund on Monday and will travel with the club to their upcoming winter training camp in Dubai. The 17-year-old attacking midfielder has played very well with Borussia Dortmund’s youth academy, logging four goals and three assists with their U-19 side since joining the club a year ago.The Hershey, Pa., native has been a mainstay on the US U-17 national team and showed promise at last October’s U-17 World Cup despite the Americans’ early exit.
The brightest stars in world soccer are headed to the US next summer, and they’ll be playing for keeps.The US will host the Copa America Centenario in June 2016, with 10 South American national teams joined by six CONCACAF countries – including the US and Mexico – for a 16-team tournament.Traditionally contested by the 10 CONMEBOL nations and two outside invitees, the 2016 Copa America will be hosted by US Soccer, CONMEBOL and CONCACAF as a one-off tournament in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of South America’s most prestigious international competition. Some of the sport’s biggest names will be in the US for the tournament, with Lionel Messi likely to captain Argentina, Neymar a shoo-in for Brazil’s roster and James Rodriguez presumably set to lead Colombia. Complete schedule, plus dates and venues for the 2016 Copa América Centenario
MLS should have a significant presence in the competition, with the league’s sizable US national team contingent likely joined by MLS players from Costa Rica, Jamaica and potentially Mexico, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, the latter two of which still need to qualify for the tournament.
As mentioned above, the Copa America is South America’s premier international tournament. The longest running international soccer tournament in the world, it’s the continent’s equivalent of the UEFA European Championship or the CONCACAF Gold Cup.The tournament has had many iterations in its 100-year history, with the current format coming into play in 2007. That was the year CONMEBOL shifted to holding the tournament once every four years, with all 10 members of the South American confederation joined by two other countries for a 12-team tournament.The 12 teams are divided into three groups of four, with the top two teams from each group and the best two third-place finishers advancing to an eight-team knockout round. Chile hosted the tournament in June 2015, with the hosts winning the title – their first – by beating Argentina in penalties in the final.Uruguay has won the most Copa America titles, taking home the trophy 15 times. Argentina is in second with 14 titles, and Brazil rounds out the top-three with eight championships. Ecuador and Venezuela are the only two CONMEBOL countries that have never won the tournament.The 2016 Centenario, of course, will be a little different. In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the tournament, CONMEBOL partnered with US Soccer and CONCACAF to stage a juiced-up version of the event in the States. The tournament, which has never before been hosted outside of South America, should captivate the attention of the entire Western Hemisphere, with big teams and big stars set to face off for the first trophy of its kind.
Sixteen teams will compete in the Copa America Centenario, with all 10 CONMEBOL federations joined by six CONCACAF countries.The US and Mexico automatically qualified for the tournament, and Jamaica and Costa Rica are already in the field as winners of the 2014 Caribbean Cup and 2014 Copa Centroamericana, respectively.By virtue of their finishes at the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup, four teams – Cuba, Haiti, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago – all qualified for the Copa America Centenario qualifying playoffs. The teams were seeded based on their Gold Cup results, with top-seed Panama set to take on fourth-seeded Cuba and second-seed Trinidad and Tobago scheduled to battle Haiti in one-off matches for spots in the Centenario field. Both qualification matches will be held in Panama City, Panama on Jan. 8.
The Copa America Centenario will kick off on June 3 and will conclude with the final on June 26. A total of 10 stadiums were selected from of a group of 24 bidders to host tournament matches, with the minimum stadium capacity for the tournament set at 60,219.Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California will host the US national team in the opener on June 3. The final will be held at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.Additionally, the USMNT will play group stage games at Soldier Field (June 7) and Lincoln Financial Field (June 11); Brazil, at the Rose Bowl (June 4), Citrus Bowl (June 8)and Gillette Stadium (June 12); Mexico, at University of Phoenix Stadium (June 5), the Rose Bowl (June 9) and NRG Stadium (June 13); and Argentina, at Levi’s Stadium (June 6), Soldier Field (June 10) and CenturyLink Field (June 14)
- Citrus Bowl – Orlando, Fla.
- Gillette Stadium – Foxborough, Mass
- Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, Calif.
- Lincoln Financial Field – Philadelphia, Pa.
- MetLife Stadium – East Rutherford, N.J.
- NRG Stadium – Houston, Texas
- Rose Bowl – Pasadena, Calif.
- Soldier Field – Chicago, Ill.
- University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Ariz.
The tournament format is relatively straightforward. The 16 teams will be drawn into four groups of four teams each, with each team set to play the other teams in their group once. The top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout round, with the eight remaining teams then playing a single-elimination, win or go home tournament culminating in the June 26 final.If tied at the end of regulation, group stage matches will end as a draw, while knockout round games will move to two 15-minute periods of extra time. If the teams are still tied after extra time, the game will be decided by a penalty kick shootout.Unlike other regional championships, the Copa America Centenario winner will not earn a berth to the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. CONCACAF and CONMEBOL have already determined their representatives for the Confederations Cup, with Mexico beating the US in the CONCACAF Cup in October to earn a spot in Russia and Chile qualifying for the tournament by virtue of their 2015 Copa America title.
The US national team won’t announce the roster for their upcoming winter camp until later this week, but it appears that several veterans won’t be included.According to a report from Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl, Clint Dempsey, Nick Rimando, Graham Zusi, Kyle Beckerman, Brad Evans, Chris Wondolowski and Omar Gonzalez all will not be in camp when it opens Monday due to a variety of factors.But those omissions will open the door for other players to get back into the picture, including Luis Robles, the New York Red Bulls goalkeeper whose only USMNT cap came in 2009. READ: Klinsmann discusses mixing veterans with U-23 players for January camp Robles, the reigning Allstate Goalkeeper of the Year, will reportedly be joined by other new faces, including 20-year-old FC Dallas ‘keeper Jesse Gonzalez and Columbus Crew SC winger Ethan Finlay.Captain Michael Bradley will be on the 25-man roster, which is expected to include about a dozen U-23 players. The month-long camp culminates with friendlies against Iceland on Jan. 31 and Canada on Feb. 5.
Kick Off: New deal for Dax? | Where will F Jordan Morris sign? | Brad Friedel to coach US Youth Team
Former MLS players Brad Friedel and Omid Namazi have been named as the new head coaches of US youth national team programs, with Friedel set to take charge of the US U-19s and Namazi taking control of the US U-18s. John Hackworth, coach of the U-17 program, offered his thoughts on the current standard of youth development in the US and why the under-threat residency program in Bradenton, Florida remains useful.
The New York Red Bulls look to have made a hugely important move, with a report on Monday indicating the club has reached a new, four-year deal with captain Dax McCarty, keeping the midfielder away from free agency next offseason.
The start of the MLS Combine is now only three days away and, with that in mind, here’severything you need to know and some questions we’re hoping to have answered. This is the best chance to impress MLS coaches for several young prospects, one of whom – Stanford co-captain and College Cup-winning left back Brandon Vincent – recently spoke to MLSsoccer.com.
Could 2016 be Steven Gerrard’s final year as a professional soccer player? The LA Galaxy Designated Player has suggested in an interview that this season will probably be his last, with the former Liverpool midfielder already eyeing a career in coaching and a possible return to Anfield.
The ExtraTime Radio crew returned to New York for a special show recapping all the holiday newsaround MLS. LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena joined to give his take on recent transfers and what’s next for LA. Goal.com’s Ives Galarcep checked in to give the lowdown on the 2016 Generation adidas class, Jordan Morris and Dax McCarty.
Former LA Galaxy stars Omar Gonzalez and Juninho could both be set to make their Liga MX debuts this Friday, with the ex-teammates potentially set to face off as Club Tijuana take on Pachuca in the opening game of the season.
Ronald Matarrita might indeed be on his way to New York City FC – Alajuelense club director Marco Vasquez recently said, “Ronald will play outside this country, either in New York or Europe.” One player who won’t be in New York this season is former NYCFC defender Shay Facey, who has joined Rotherham on loan.
This time next year, Atlanta United will be getting ready for their first season in MLS, which makes 2016 a very important year for the club as they look to establish a solid foundation, with some important hires still to be made.
There are two Copa América Centenario play-in matches set to take place on Friday: as Trinidad & Tobago take on Haiti and Panama face off against Cuba for a chance to be part of this summer’s big event. Four current MLS players, as well as a handful of former league stars, are all set to play their part.
While the full roster for the US national team’s January camp is yet to be revealed, it looks like a trio of Columbus Crew SC players will be on their way to California to take part, with a source confirming that Wil Trapp, Ethan Finlay and Tony Tchani have all been invited to attend.
Geoff Cameron could be back in action on Tuesday as Stoke City take on Liverpool in the first leg of England’s League Cup semifinal. The US international looked likely to miss the game after a dubious red card at the weekend, but it has since been overturned.
Although there were more promising signs for Canada with news of two more international commitments, it looks like bad news for one of their players, as Doneil Henry seems set to leave Blackburn Rovers and return to West Ham United, having failed to work his way into the team.
Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber open to instant replay
BALTIMORE — Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said the United Soccer League is looking to adopt instant replay for the 2016 season, and that if it proves successful, MLS may follow suit.Speaking to reporters at the MLS SuperDraft on Thursday, Garber said: “I’m a big believer in instant replay. It’s not because I believe our officials need it.”I think the PRO [Professional Referee Organization] program has achieved a lot more than most people give them credit for. … I’ve got a lot of time for Peter Walton. But as you read what’s going on in Europe, I think there’s a bit of a movement for instant replay.”The USL currently constitutes the third tier of the North American Soccer pyramid, and is comprised of 29 teams. It has a close relationship with MLS, in that every MLS team now either fields a reserve team in the USL, or has an affiliate there.Garber feels the USL makes for an ideal proving ground in terms of adding new elements to the game, though he was careful to note that a final decision on replay hadn’t been made.Garber added: “We’re leading the charge [on replay], we’ve put up our hand, and have said to those folks who are looking at it internationally, we’ll be happy to test it here, even in MLS games. It’s not going to happen in 2016, but we are pretty focused on ensuring we will have a test in the USL.”
As Messi wins another Ballon d’Or, his evolution as a superstar continues
Barcelona forward Lionel Messi has won the Ballon d’Or award for the world’s best player for the fifth time.
BY BEN LYTTLETON SI Posted: Mon Jan. 11, 2016
So the experts know their stuff after all. Lionel Messi polled 41% of all votes to win the FIFA Ballon d’Or for a record fifth time Monday in Zurich. In a democratic vote that considers every FIFA country’s national team coach, captain and one accredited journalist–a system that always throws up anomalies–Messi came out on top, as expected.The surprise was that he missed out on a historic player/goal double. He was nominated for the Puskas award for his fantastic strike against Athletic Bilbao, but little-known Brazilian Wendell Lira won it. When 2007 winner Kaká–the last non-Messi/Ronaldo winner–announced Messi’s name, there was no emphatic shout of “Siiiiiiiiiiiii!” as when Ronaldo won it last year; nor was there a sartorially brave suit choice, as Messi has donned in previous years (It was Neymar who took that accolade with his jauntily-angled trilby hat). Messi, playing it safe in a smart black tuxedo, straight-batted the usual press conference and ceremony questions about his own brilliance and thanked his teammates. “It’s an incredibly special moment for me to stand again on this stage, after being in the audience for the last couple of years watching Cristiano [win the trophy],” said Messi. “It’s more than anything I ever dreamed of when I was a kid. Without my teammates none of this would have been possible. Football has made me grow and learn every day. Thank you.”MORE: Messi, Ronaldo omit each other again from Ballon ballots
Also on the day in Zurich, USA standout Carli Lloyd won Women’s Player of the Year, USA’s Jill Ellis won Coach of the Year for Women’s Football and Barcelona’s Luis Enrique won Coach of the Year for Men’s Football. And while the day was about honoring all of world soccer’s best, the bulk of the spotlight belonged to Messi. Messi now has five Ballon D’Or wins to Ronaldo’s three. This one was no surprise, given that Barcelona won the treble last season, and capped that with the Club World Cup victory in December. While the raw numbers of Messi’s goalscoring (and indeed Ronaldo, who outscored his rival last year) are mind-boggling, this time the judges–made up of national team coaches, captains and one accredited journalist from each FIFA nation–must have considered the aesthetic as well.
Messi has the same killer instinct as Ronaldo, but his goals are on a different level; the goal against Athletic Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final was one thing, but what about the dizzying dribble in the Champions League semifinal that left Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng in a heap, followed by the delicate close-range chip that had Manuel Neuer and Rafinha lying on the goalline and unable to stop? Huge games, huge goals.“Does anyone really believe that the best wa to describe Leo is by talking about his numbers?” asked Martin Mazur in a passionate column in El Grafico. “It is an unfair reduction of the beauty of his game.”
You can have the goals, the vines, even the trophies. What Messi has provided this year are those jaw-droppng moments, those ‘I saw that live’ memories, a level of majesty that can reduce Pep Guardiola to open-mouthed wonder (as when he nut-megged two Manchester City players in a Champions League tie in February).It’s nine years since Messi first appeared on the Ballon D’Or podium, and he has not left it. At that time, we focused on his speed, his dribbling in tight spaces and his humility. As the seasons have gone by, he has responded to every criticism. He didn’t score enough headers, until he did just that in the 2009 Champions League final. He didn’t score enough free kicks, except he now does (19 in all, the same as Ronaldinho, including an in-off-the-crossbar beauty last week against Espanyol). He was not a leader, and too quiet in the dressing-room, which we now know is not true either, even if Javier Mascherano or someone else often does the talking for him.The expectation next year is that Neymar will step up and replace his Barcelona teammate. But don’t be too sure Messi is ready to give up just yet.“He is obsessed about winning a title with the Argentine national team, so I think he will keep this galactic level until the 2018 World Cup,” said Hernan Claus ofDiario Ole. “It’s up to him, but he is looking after his body better than ever.”
Experts in Brazil are not convinced that Neymar is ready to win it either.“I cannot picture Neymar becoming the next Ballon D’Or,” Silvio Nascimento, sports editor of Veja, told SI.com. “He is not mature enough yet. It will depend on how Messi and even Ronaldo keep playing, but also on himself. If you watch carefully, you will see Neymar still playing this Brazilian style of dribbling when sometimes it is not needed. Even if he did win the Ballon D’Or, I reckon he wouldn’t be able to dominate as Messi has, simply because both Messi and Ronaldo will still be there.”Even Pelé has spotted improvement areas in Neymar’s game.“He doesn’t know how to play backwards, he doesn’t know how to organize the game, he doesn’t know how to build-up. He has lots of deficits in his game,” Pelé said last year. “Neymar is a really good player but he’s not yet a complete one. Messi is definitely the best.”With the Olympics, Copa America Centenario and the European Championships coming up this summer, the field of contenders for next year’s title might not be limited just to this year’s podium players. How unlucky is Luis Suarez to miss out on the top three? Could Gareth Bale fulfill the ambitions of his president Florentino Perez? This could be the year of Paul Pogba or Antoine Griezmann, of Thomas Muller or Mesut Ozil. The favorite, though, has to be Messi again.In 2015, he made us reconsider his own brilliance. Even if he does not make it 10 years unbroken on the podium, we can surely now end the debate about who was the best ever.
EPL BIG GAMES
anchester United’s trip to Liverpool is always one of the biggest matches of the season. The clash at Anfield is one of the highlights of a weekend that also includes a tricky encounter for Arsenal at Stoke.Each week, ESPN FC’s club bloggers will preview their match and give a prediction. Do you agree or disagree? Have your say below by voting in the match poll.
LIVERPOOL vs. MANCHESTER UNITED
LIVERPOOL: Louis van Gaal has suddenly discovered how to be entertaining after the 3-3 draw with Newcastle. Liverpool have few fit defenders and let Exeter pass them twice — so a goal-feast on Sunday, right? Wrong. Both sides will be so tense and anxious to avoid defeat it’ll be extremely tight and cautious.Prediction: Liverpool 0-0 Manchester United — Steven Kelly.
MAN UNITED: Judging from their 3-3 draws earlier this week, we could hope the clash at Anfield will involve lots of goals. Both teams showed encouraging signs going forward in midweek but were appalling in defence. Van Gaal figures to want to tighten things up and the price of not conceding is not scoring too many.Prediction: Liverpool 1-1 Manchester United — Scott Patterson.
STOKE vs. ARSENAL
STOKE: Stoke face old foes Arsenal, who will be looking to pass the Britannia test to further their title credentials. This could well be another game for the False No. 9 formation, with Bojan Krkic causing the Gunners all manner of problems in their last visit.Prediction: Stoke 2-0 Arsenal — James Whittaer.
ARSENAL: Failure to take all three points at Liverpool on Wednesday night is disappointing and frustrating. Arsene Wenger’s team must turn that into something positive at a ground that is traditionally difficult for them. They simply have to respond to show their title credentials and the return of Alexis Sanchez might help in that regard.
Prediction: Stoke 1-2 Arsenal — Andrew Mangan.
CHELSEA vs. EVERTON
CHELSEA: It’s a case of one step forward and one step back as highlighted by Wednesday’s 2-2 draw with West Brom. That said, Chelsea are certainly capable of raising themselves if needed and they will need to against an impressive Everton side. Former Blue Romelu Lukaku has been rampant in front of goal and will be eager to prove a point. Hopefully, Diego Costa will have a suitable response.Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Everton — Phil Lythell.
EVERTON: Defensive improvements continued in midweek as Everton became the first visiting team in almost a year to keep a clean sheet at Manchester City, but the Blues are winless in 20 league visits to Stamford Bridge and must rediscover their attacking edge. A third successive league draw this month seems more likely.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Everton — Luke O’Farrell.
MAN CITY vs. CRYSTAL PALACE
MAN CITY: Manuel Pellegrini’s side are in decent form, with only one loss in their last six — but only three wins in that time, too. However, the Eagles haven’t scored in the Premier League since mid-December (knowing City, there’s a fair chance that run might end Saturday).Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace — David Mooney.
CRYSTAL PALACE: If ever there was a time to put Manchester City defenders in your fantasy football team this is it. Crystal Palace haven’t scored in their last four Premier League games, look blunt going forward and have injuries to most of their attacking players.Prediction: Manchester City 2-0 Crystal Palace — Jim Daly.
Why Liverpool vs. Man United is one of football’s greatest grudge matches
The last thing Louis van Gaal needs is a Sunday afternoon at Anfield. The Manchester United manager’s position is precarious. The Dutchman might not survive a loss to Liverpool. Losing is one thing. Defeat to United’s hated rivals is quite another.Forget the Clasico. This is one of the greatest grudge matches in world football. It is a fixture as intense as any of the game’s big rivalries. Anfield is always at its most ferocious when United come to town — and Old Trafford provides reciprocal animosity when Liverpool visit.It is not about results or league positions. The enmity between the teams and the cities is more deep-seated than that. Its roots are cultural and historical and all the more satisfying for it.United’s badge is an affront to Merseyside. It features a three-masted sailing ship — as Manchester City’s does, too. Manchester is land-locked and 35 miles away from the coast. This inland mill town built a ship canal to circumvent the port of Liverpool. The ghost of economic conflict in the 19th century surfaces every time these teams play.There are fewer similarities than you might expect in two conurbations located so close to each other. The accents could not be more distinct. The humour is very different. There is a theatrical mistrust between the two communities. Gary Neville told a United fanzine a decade ago that he disliked Liverpool. “I can’t stand the people,” he said. “I can’t stand anything to do with them.” Sanctimonious commentators were appalled. Many Scousers recognized Neville’s honesty and appreciated it. They felt the same way about Mancunians.The cities, barely more than a day’s walking distance from each other, feel remarkably different. They judge their achievements — in music, fashion, politics, arts and literature — in comparison with those of their neighbours. Merseyside can take the upper hand in music, courtesy of the Beatles, and can claim to have invented terrace fashion. Manchester has produced better literature, was majoring in groundbreaking politics when Liverpool was still an establishment city and has a more vibrant artistic scene.Football, though, is the main battleground. The two dominant clubs in the north west have come to symbolize the aggressive pride of their respective home towns.Do modern players and managers understand the roots of the rivalry? Almost certainly not. However, the enduring antagonism is infused into the DNA of both clubs. Liverpool’s approach to the Luis Suarez-Patrice Evra racism incident almost certainly would have been different if any other team except United had been involved. Kenny Dalglish was fixated on not backing down before Sir Alex Ferguson and Old Trafford. Reactions become irrational when these sides face off, on or off the pitch.United became a global club earlier than Liverpool and can still boast a bigger fanbase. The Munich Air Disaster in 1958, when eight players and three staff members were killed in a plane crash along with 12 others, brought Old Trafford a worldwide wave of sympathy that transcended football. When Matt Busby, a former Liverpool captain, took the club from the ruins of Munich to win the European Cup a decade later, United were well established as the best-supported team in England. It was a remarkable achievement but Busby’s team stagnated quickly after that high point in 1968.The goodwill toward United remained even as the club went into deep decline in the early 1970s. They even spent a year in the second tier after they were relegated from the top flight in 1974.Liverpool’s rise was concurrent with Old Trafford’s fall from grace and resentment festered on both sides. At Anfield, they wondered why United received so much positive publicity when success eluded the Manchester side — they went 26 years without winning the title. United were media darlings even though Liverpool won 11 titles and four European Cups before their rivals won the league again.Everything changed in the 1990s. By then, Liverpool had been destabilized by their own tragedy, at Hillsborough in 1989. United were way ahead of their peers in exploiting financially their huge fan base and they became the dominant side in the newly founded Premier League after 1993.Under Ferguson, they ruled the domestic game. Yet they trumpeted their achievements in relation to their main rivals. “My greatest challenge was knocking Liverpool off their perch,” Ferguson said. The unedited quote contains a percussive and explosive obscenity that illustrates how bitterly the Scot felt toward Anfield. The deep, ingrained antagonism flared up anew as Liverpool embarked on their own 25-year title drought — one that is still racking up the years. In that time United have won the Premier League 13 times and added two Champions Leagues.The weight of history hangs over this match. It will be visible on Sunday. The tackling is more intense, the pace more frenzied and the disappointment of defeat more painful. Liverpool’s derby against Everton and United’s versus City are keenly fought but there is an extra edge to this game.Steven Gerrard’s sending off last season, less than a minute after being introduced as a substitute at half-time, typified the mood of the game. The Liverpool captain could have been sent off for a challenge on Juan Mata before he went on to earn his marching orders for a stamp on Anders Herrera in his 38 mad seconds on the pitch. Like Neville, Gerrard is a local boy infused with the history of the fixture. Neither player would give an inch in these games and both tended to go too far for a referee’s satisfaction in the heat of the moment. They were loved on the terraces for that quality.Perhaps the intensity will go out of the matchup as the balance of both clubs’ fanbase edges more toward global than local. It is the same on the pitch. United’s 3-1 win at Old Trafford in September was the first time in Premier League history when neither side had a Mancunian or Scouser in the team.It would be a shame, though, if the vendetta faded away. The rivalry brings out the best — and occasionally the worst — in both sides.On Sunday, there will be plenty at stake. But Van Gaal will merely be a footnote in the long tradition of this fixture. The three points are almost tangential. The pride of two cities is on the line, the mood of a region will depend on the result. The game is about more than football. That’s what makes it so important to both sets of fans.Tony Evans has been a sports journalist for more than 20 years.
Chelsea sense chance vs. Everton to bounce back from West Brom draw
BY PHIL LYTHELLGiven the general positivity surrounding Everton’s season and the negative air that has enveloped Chelsea, it is surprising that a win for the Londoners in their clash on Saturday would leave them just one point behind the Merseysiders.A blend of youth and effective attacking football has seen Roberto Martinez’s side rightly lauded throughout the campaign and has supplied a glimpse of what is possible if a manager places his faith in his talented youngsters. And yet had Chelsea not yielded a late equaliser in Wednesday night’s 2-2 draw with West Brom, they would have had the opportunity to leapfrog Everton in the Premier League table with a victory.Such a situation suggests that perhaps their respective seasons should be compared more favourably, though a look at their midweek performances would show just why the general perception is the way it is.The West Brom game encapsulated the frustration that has been one of the hallmarks of the Blues’ campaign to date. It was a decent contest in which Chelsea always looked the more likely team to win but one they could never take total control of. The narrow advantage they established contrived to spread nervousness throughout the team in the closing stages, manifesting itself in some haphazard defending and the eventual equaliser.Meanwhile, Everton were impressive in holding Manchester City to a goalless draw at the Etihad. A team not necessarily noted for their defence held firm against the highest scorers in the division that had not drawn a blank at home all season.But while their respective moods might have differed on Wednesday night, Chelsea are still favourites with the bookmakers to emerge victorious when they meet on Saturday with the draw considered to be the second most likely outcome. Part of that is certainly to do with Everton’s poor track record at Stamford Bridge, a place where they haven’t won since 1994 when a Mark Stein brace was not enough to prevent the visitors claiming a 4-2 win. In the intervening period, Everton have won a FA Cup tie in West London in 2011 though that was on penalties after a Leighton Baines’ free kick made it 1-1 a minute from the end of extra time.That match was very much like Chelsea’s game against West Brom and many that have punctuated their season, in that the Blues were unable to put their opponents away and got duly punished for it. The concern is that similar profligacy against Everton will be dealt with even more harshly by a team bursting with goals. Ex-Chelsea starlet Romelu Lukaku has been rampant this term with his 15 league goals firing him to the top of the goalscoring charts alongside Leicester City hotshot Jamie Vardy. John Terry and Kurt Zouma will have their work cut out against a muscular and confident striker that will be keen to prove a point against his former employers.Elsewhere, the visitors can boast two players who share third place in the assists table in England international Ross Barkley and the effervescent Spaniard Gerard Deulofeu. They have seven assists apiece and will demand that Chelsea’s defensive concentration is up to scratch.On the flipside, Chelsea have begun to create more chances under Guus Hiddink with responsibility not solely confined to the usual suspects. The opening goal against West Brom saw Willian and Diego Costa involved in the build-up though it was eventually converted by Cesar Azpilicueta after latching on to an inch-perfect cross from fellow full back Branislav Ivanovic. The second was created by Willian though it was the presence of the direct and dynamic Kenedy that forced Gareth McAuley to deflect the ball into his own goal.Costa will remain the focus of Chelsea’s attack and it has been encouraging to see the striker return to the marauding figure of old. Although he might have been snarling and reactionary on Wednesday, he was also an effective spearhead in attack. He now looks like a goalscorer again and if he can maintain this momentum and drag some others along with him, the three points can be gained on Saturday.Phil is one of ESPN’s Chelsea bloggers and author of Chelsea-centric blogShoutyanSpitty.com.
Jose Mourinho’s camp are getting “frustrated” with the lack of movement regarding the Manchester United job, sources have told ESPN FC, and his representatives are beginning to investigate other options.Mourinho has long wanted the Old Trafford job and it had seemed the time was finally right for him to get it, with the Portuguese parting ways with Chelsea just at the time when it seemed that Louis van Gaal was set to suffer the same fate at United after an awful December.Sources say that Mourinho’s representatives got in touch with the Old Trafford hierarchy within 24 hours of his Chelsea dismissal, and have asked to be kept abreast of the situation ever since. They have now been made aware, however, that the preference of United executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward is to stick with Van Gaal, and to give him time to turn the situation around.Many around the Old Trafford leadership had expected Van Gaal to be sacked around the 0-0 draw with Chelsea in Dec. 28, but Woodward has stayed resolute.That has meant there is still no opening for Mourinho, although sources say he has also been made aware that a number of figures among the United hierarchy still do not want him at the club.ESPN FC has been told that the former Chelsea manager also turned down an offer to return to Real Madrid, both because he didn’t like the idea of going back there midseason after leaving in 2013, and because he was holding out for United.Now, although he does not want to totally turn his back on the possibility of taking over at Old Trafford — and some at United have asked Mourinho to be kept aware of his movements — the Portuguese’s camp have reluctantly accepted that they may have to investigate other options, especially since he wants to get back to football as quickly as possible.His representatives already reached out to both Paris Saint-Germain and Internazionale as far back as October, when Chelsea’s poor season was getting particularly problematic. Sources say that, despite the widespread expectation that Mourinho would only take an elite job, he might yet surprise people by going a little lower.His No. 1 target remains the United job, though, and the situation is said to have frustrated the manager and all those around him.
JEFF BELSKUS NAMED INDY 11 PRESIDENT
Peter Wilt to Continue General Manager Duties as Consultant into Spring Season
Jan 11, 2016
INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, January 11, 2016) – Indy Eleven Professional Soccer owner Ersal Ozdemir announced today that former Indianapolis Motor Speedway President and CEO Jeff Belskus has assumed the president’s role with the North American Soccer League club effective immediately.Founding Indy Eleven president Peter Wilt will continue his general managerial duties with the club on a consultant basis into the 2016 NASL Spring Season. Wilt will be transitioning into a role with sports consulting firm CLUB 9 SPORTS to pursue the creation of a North American Soccer League team in Chicago.Both Belskus and Wilt will be available to members of the media for one-on-one interviews during this evening’s Brickyard Battalion Post Holiday Party event at Flat 12 Bierwerks (414 Dorman Street on Indianapolis’ near east side) from 6:00-9:00 p.m. ET. “We are constantly looking for ways to strengthen the organization while continuing to make strides towards gaining a new home for Indy Eleven and winning championships,” said Ozdemir. “The addition of someone with Jeff Belskus’ background into our front office is an important part of that continued progress, and I am excited to welcome him on behalf of the Indy Eleven family.”“Peter Wilt has been an integral part of building and growing Indy Eleven from even before day one. His influence and passion will continue to be felt across the organization and the fan base he helped cultivate,” Ozdemir continued. “We look forward to continuing to work with Peter in the coming months.”While Belskus’ expansive executive resume includes experience in the worlds of banking, insurance, real estate, food and broadcasting, most of his time was spent during nearly three decades in motorsports and professional auto racing organizations connected with Hulman & Company. After a successful career, Belskus retired from the Hulman organization in early 2015; click here to read Belskus’ full bio.“I am very excited for the chance to add to the strong foundation Indy Eleven has built. I thank Ersal Ozdemir for this opportunity to help the club reach greater heights, and that includes building a permanent home for Indy Eleven and giving our tremendous fan base the trophies they deserve,” said Belskus. “I am particularly excited to engage with the Brickyard Battalion and find ways to make the NASL’s best support base even better. Peter Wilt will be an important part of that process, and I look forward to working with him during this transition period.”Wilt continues to work with the Indy Eleven coaching staff to finalize the team’s 2016 roster. To date, 14 players are on the roster and at least four more player signings are expected to be announced later this week.“I am grateful to Ersal Ozdemir, the Indy Eleven staff, team and fans for the opportunity to help build professional soccer in Indiana,” Wilt stated. “Everyone here, especially the Brickyard Battalion and the Indiana Soccer Association, has welcomed me and I will continue to embrace my adopted Hoosier status and remain a proud Indy Eleven season ticket holder.”
People that know Indy Eleven assistant coach Tim Regan can tell you that he has a great sense of humor and a tremendous soccer brain. And they also know that he can’t stand the sun – which makes him unlike most Hoosier State citizens that escape to Florida to get away from the cold.Also unlike most northerners heading south at this time of year, rather than taking a vacation Regan is hard at work this week in the Sunshine State. Between both Naples and Ft. Lauderdale, he is fulfilling different duties at three player combines to follow up on the ample amount of scouting work the Indy Eleven technical staff has already done.In Naples, Coach Regan is assisting at the Info Sport Combine, a gathering of professional hopefuls now in its 15th year under the direction of Daryl Shore, the current goalkeeper coach for MLS’ Real Salt Lake who was also one of the assistant coaches hired by now Indy Eleven president/general manager Peter Wilt during his Chicago Fire days. With 200-plus hopeful players descending upon the combine, Regan is part of a crew of 16 experienced coaches trying to accomplish what they can in a 72-hour window to guide these hopeful players down the road to a potential professional contract.Regan stated, “Because the numbers are so large, the good players will stick out. In that way, there are some guys that we have tracked that are here – which is good – because you tracked them in college and now you get to see them in a different setting. But, (these guys) have to learn that this is a business. College is competitive, but what we do is a business.”After the three-day run at the Info Sport gathering ends on Thursday, Regan will trek east to Ft. Lauderdale, where he will be on two opposite sides of the scouting spectrum during the overlapping NPSL and MLS Combines. He’ll be joined for this stretch of the trip by new Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson, both of whom will be focused on plucking players for the future.The most difficult part of the gauntlet of scouting in Florida, Regan stressed, is getting to know participants in such a short amount of time in the middle of a packed schedule.“We’re on the field six to eight hours a day, plus meetings and analysis of players in between at Info Sport. But, at the combines in Ft. Lauderdale, the NPSL and MLS overlap. There is a training session on Friday evening with games on Saturday and Sunday, while the MLS plays on Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday. This presents different challenges.”Regan’s role will shift this weekend, as he’ll step in for Indy Eleven NPSL head coach John Simmonds as the coach of the Midwest squad at the NPSL Combine while taking the more usual route as an interested observer at the MLS Combine. As his role shifts, the former Chief Scout at Toronto FC has to then whittle down what he is looking for as players compete for slots at a higher level.“The other tough part is having to lock down who has the ‘intangibles’ – the personality, the work rate, etc. – and how to keep in touch with those players moving forward,” Regan added.Though there may not be any direct roster additions from these combines, Regan emphasized the importance of keeping in contact with players who may become available later down their paths to the prosForward Duke Lacroix and midfielder Daniel Keller serve as perfect examples of why the trip is worth the time, as both were part of the MLS Combine at this time last year. Lacroix would go undrafted by MLS teams after stating his intentions to finish his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, while Keller would fight for a roster spot on the defending MLS Champion LA Galaxy, only to miss the cut during preseasonThe work laid by the Indy Eleven staff in Florida last year helped bring those two talented youngsters into the fold, paying immediate dividends in 2015. Now they’re back in the Sunshine State once again in the hopes of finding the next diamond in the rough for the “Boys in Blue” in 2016.
The Old Ballcoach – Coach Shane Best