So the big news in US Soccer this week is the return of the prodigal son – Young Forward Jordan Morris – everyone’s favorite College Player turning pro this winter. After training with German side Werder Bremen for 15 days (at the request of that German US Coach Klinsmann) – Morris has turned down their contract offer and elected to return home to Seattle to turn pro with the Sounders. He claimed he just felt comfortable turning pro and returning to the club where he grew up, where his dad is still the team doctor and where he could become the highest ever paid US Home Grown Prospect in MLS. I love the plan, I think he needs to make sure he has an out clause in say 2 years where he can escape to a European Club without hefty penalty – but I think this is the right time for him to turn pro after his Junior Year a year where he led Stanford to a NCAA Title. I think with the age of Dempsey and Martins, he will definitely get playing time up front for the sounders – hopefully without the pressure to be the NEXT Great US Striker and without the uncertainly that playing overseas when you aren’t proven as a Pro quite yet.
So interesting the continued battle “the German” Read Klinsmann is having with MLS over young players going to Europe to cut their teeth. Listen I understand that in the National Team the coach wants his players playing in the most competitive situation and honestly that is often in the big 5 leagues in Europe. Now I think MLS should be where younger players (home grown especially) make their debuts before heading over after proving themselves in MLS – (see McBride, Bocenegra, Dempsey, Howard, Freidle, Keller) heck I can’t think of any really good US born players who didn’t get over to Europe that way). Now the contracts with MLS have to be conducive to them going over say 1 to 2 to 3 years after they start MLS – but I still think that is the way it should work.
So the Indy 11 have been busy making some moves for more Veteran players – on the surface I like the signings – interesting move to bring in an experienced goalkeeper who can also mentor perhaps the younger keepers. Busch is a longtime MLS veteran Goalie who will also serve as a “player coach” it appears.
Anyway on to this week’s games – the big matchup in the EPL is Arsenal battling Chelsea on Sunday at 11 am on NBCSN right after Timmy Howard and Everton host Swansea at 8:30 am. Arsenal stands atop the table tied with Leicester City and 1 pt up on Man City, while Chelsea continue their climb up from 14th overall. Huge game for both teams to hold serve. Leicester City battles top 7 Stoke City and US defender Geoff Cameron Sat at 10 am, while Man U faces Southampton at 12:30 on NBC with revenge on their mind after losing at home for the first time in 20 years last season. Sunday on beIn Sport Italy’s Juventus and Roma meet in a battle of top 5 clubs in the Serie A. Finally the US Women will face off against Ireland Sunday on Fox Sports 1. Be Like Carli
You Never Know Who’s Juggling that Ball
US MensSoccer – MLS Players in Camp Right Now
This year’s edition of the US camp runs until Feb. 6 and features a mix of senior and Under-23 internationals. It will culminate with friendlies at the StubHub Center against Iceland on Jan. 31 on ESPN 2 at 5 pm and Canada on Feb. 5 Fox Sports 1 at 10:15 pm
Here is the updated USMNT camp roster by position (all US Based Players in Camp):
GOALKEEPERS (3): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls)
DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders), Matt Miazga (New York Red Bulls), Eric Miller (Montreal Impact), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Jermaine Jones (unattached), Perry Kitchen (unattached), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution), Tony Tchani (Columbus Crew SC), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC)
FORWARDS (6): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Jordan Morris (unattached), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)
Jordan Morris Chooses MLS and the Seattle Sounders– Wahl SI
Morris Decision – Brian Straus SI
Jordan Morris Comes Home to Seattle – Now What – Armchair Analyst Matthew Doyle MLS.com
Just How Big Could Copa America Be in the US this Summer I plan to go to Chicago’s games at least (join me)
MF Benny Feilhaber Speaks Out on National Team Exile
Seattles Brad Evans Added to US Roster for Jan Camp
US U17 star mid Christian Pulisic is now on First Team at Dortmund Luvi Bird – SI
US Ladies play Ireland on Sunday at 5 pm
MLS and NASL
Klinsmann says MLS Owners Don’t See the World Picture ESPN FC
Colorado Rapids Making Push for Timmy Howards Return to MLS
Former USMNT Star Earnie Stewart has big plans for Philly Union
Dempsey on Morris Joining Seattle
Veteran MLS Goalie Jon Busch Joins the 11
Defender Falvey from Fury FC joins 11
EPL and WORLD
EPL Predictions for the Weekend
Arsenal and Chelsea primed for Battle Sunday Tom Adams and Phil Lythell ESPN FC
Man U’s Winning Streak comes With Caveats EPSN FC
Man U Denies meeting with PEP – ESPN FC
GAMES THIS WEEK
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 Fox Sports 1 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 ESPN2 US Men vs Iceland
Fri, Feb 5
10:15 pm Fox Sports 1 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)
Jurgen Klinsmann: MLS owners have ‘misconception’ about ‘global picture’
United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann says MLS club owners’ “misconception” about his goals for the national team has led to the perception that he is at odds with the league.Klinsmann and Major League Soccer have always had a frosty relationship, with tempers coming to a head in October 2014 as the U.S. coach suggested star players needed to prove themselves after returning to MLS.MLS commissioner Don Garber called those remarks “detrimental,” “wrong,” and “personally infuriating,” and said several MLS owners indicated their displeasure with Klinsmann.But Klinsmann told ESPN FC this week that he would welcome the opportunity to sit down and explain his position.”I think it’s great if people have their opinion out there, that they express that opinion,” Klinsmann said in a wide-ranging interview. “But I think before they express their opinion they should give me a call and ask what is really going on. Because a lot of people mention their thoughts without even knowing what is really going on.”For example, there is the feeling out there that MLS owners are not really on board, but it’s because I was never given the opportunity to speak in front of them and explain the technical side of what we’re doing with the national teams.”So there’s maybe a misconception with some people because I was never given the opportunity to explain, this, this, and this. There are very few people that can explain to you different levels of leagues, different levels of environments, different levels of continents.”Klinsmann suggested MLS owners’ limited perspective may be behind their differences.”Our picture is the global picture,” he said. “We need to know what England, Germany, and Spain are doing in Europe, and then Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay are doing in South America. But our benchmarks are internationally.”So for a lot of people they define their world domestically, which is totally cool. They should think maybe a little bit more before saying things from the outside about the national team program.”Klinsmann also pointed to his inclusion of MLS players, who made up more than half the U.S. squad at the World Cup, as proof that he has players’ best interests in mind, no matter where they play.”We see a lot more than the result. We see the development of players at a specific point in time in their careers. Our job is to help them to build,” Klinsmann said. “We never give up on players because they have a couple of bad months, a couple of bad games. We help them through those phases. No matter where they are in their club environments.”That’s another point with MLS. I always say, ‘We are here for the players, to play at the highest level possible.’ If that highest level is MLS, we are here to help. Why am I here at this camp? Why did I take 13 players from MLS to Brazil, and keep on helping, helping, helping?”
Jordan Morris’s future in fine shape despite passing on Werder Bremen
EmailPosted: Tue Jan. 19, 2016Updated: Thu Jan. 21, 2016
Werder Bremen general manager Thomas Eichin could have said anything (or nothing) in Tuesday’s release regarding Jordan Morris, the Stanford University junior and U.S. national team rising star who has rejected the German club’s contract offer. And Eichin chose to say this:“We’re in a situation now where we need players who fully identify with Werder and the way things are done here, in order for them to focus properly on the task ahead.”Indeed, the 116-year-old club, which has spent only one season in Germany’s second tier, faces a challenge requiring proper focus. Werder (4-10-3) entered the Bundesliga’s winter break on a five-game winless streak that dragged it into the relegation zone. Only one league rival has scored fewer goals this season and only one has yielded more.It’s understandable why Werder, already the home of injured U.S. forward Aron Jóhannsson, would find Morris appealing. He’s a powerful, efficient and confident striker who appeared at ease playing (and scoring) against Mexico before 64,000 fans only a few days after Stanford’s spring scrimmage against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He came recommended by U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann and assistant Andreas Herzog, a Werder alumnus, and assisted on the only goal in last week’s 1-0 exhibition win over Azerbaijan’s Inter Baku. And as a free-agent American, Morris wouldn’t be cost prohibitive.
But the 21-year-old is a free agent in name only. Morris’s heart remains in his hometown of Seattle, where he’s expected to kick off his pro career. The Sounders literally are family—Morris’s father, Michael, is the club’s medical director—and they remained confident they’d get their man even as Klinsmann and Herzog helped open doors in Germany. Morris spent a year in the Sounders’ youth academy, played for the club’s U-23 team and was offered the richest homegrown player contract in MLS history. Werder could offer more, but this decision wasn’t about the money. It was about where Morris wants to play.Morris won’t miss out on a pro environment in Seattle. It may not be the Bundesliga, but it’s a massive step up from Stanford. He’ll have plenty to figure out. The Sounders attract big crowds and have experienced stars from whom Morris can learn. And playing time isn’t guaranteed on a team featuring the likes of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez. But careful attention to Morris’s development is. The Sounders have a vested interest in his success—one that goes beyond the dollars. Morris’s progress will be scrutinized and may influence decisions made by prized U.S. prospects down the road. PODCAST: What did college soccer do for Jordan Morris (32:00)?
Those who would argue that Morris is hampering his personal development, and perhaps that of the national team, by choosing Seattle don’t give the player much credit. If his commitment, professionalism and will to improve are high enough, then he’ll adapt, flourish and earn additional opportunities. Perhaps he’ll join DeAndre Yedlin and Fredy Montero as former Sounders now making their way in Europe.MORE: Timbers owner Paulson blasts “anti-MLS” Klinsmann
Armchair Analyst: Jordan Morris comes home, and now what?
January 21, 20169:31 PM ESTMatthew DoyleMLSsoccer.com
Jordan Morris has come home. The US international striker spurned an offer from German Bundesliga Werder Bremen to sign a Homegrown player contract with his hometown team, the Seattle Sounders. And in the Emerald City there was much rejoicing.The reason for celebration is obvious: Morris is an exceptional prospect, and as soon as he put pen to paper became the odds-on favorite to be the 2016 Rookie of the Year (though his former college and current US teammate Brandon Vincent is and shall remain my pick for the award). And as Seattle GM Garth Lagerwey said during the SuperDraft, it was essentially “Morris or bust.” While the Sounders have other talented kids in their academy, none of them are Morris, and none of them would have commanded the same kind of outlay of resources.”From a purely salary cap standpoint, either you get Jordan Morris or you don’t. There isn’t another Homegrown in our pipeline and in our group that we’re gonna give that money to,” Lagerwey explained on the draft webcast. “Either it will go unused, or it will go to Jordan.”So to make it clear: This was a zero-sum game for the Sounders, which is why the whole negotiation felt so urgent and why the signing was greeted with such relief. There was no other way to get this kind of talent into the roster:That’s obviously elite stuff, and I expect it to translate to MLS.The question now turns to how, exactly, Morris fits into a Seattle lineup that already has three DP forwards in Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez. This is where it gets tricky, because “fit” is often as important as — or more important than — raw talent.For those who don’t know, Morris played as a pure forward at Stanford in a pretty old-fashioned and uncomplicated 4-4-2 that often looked like a 4-2-2-2. This allowed him the freedom to move inside and out, check toward the ball or (much more often) play off the shoulder of the defenders to use his speed and absolutely devastating first touch. He’s mostly done the same thing for both the full USMNT and the US U-23s.That kind of game probably won’t be an option in Rave Green. Even if Seattle kept the 4-4-2, Morris isn’t going to unseat either Dempsey or Martins as a starter, and more to the point, it looks like the Sounders are going to move away from their “amoeba” to a 4-3-3 set.There are a number of reasons why I think this will work. First is that Dempsey can very easily play on the left side of that formation, offering everything Krisztian Nemeth brought to the table for Sporting KC last year and probably a little bit more.Second, new left back Joevin Jones offers both an overlapping threat and another support valve in possession. Third, is that Morris can play a simplified, direct version of “winger” in the way that Ethan Finlay does for Columbus. Finlay is really just a second forward whose starting points are wide rather than a winger who comes inside. He doesn’t need to do on-the-ball work in possession, he just needs to stretch the field vertically and horizontallyFinally, though, there is Oba. In order to get the best out of Morris, the Sounders need to be able to use his speed in behind defenses, and in Martins they have the league’s best passing No. 9. He is a through-ball artist:
That’s Oba, having dropped way off his line and away from pressure to pick up a pass and put Dempsey through. Now imagine this same type of play, except to A) a faster player, and B) with the run coming from outside-to-inside. That ball becomes a chance on goal.It’s not all going to be this easy, of course. Every team that plays a variation of the 4-3-3 has at least one guy who drops back off the frontline into midfield to regularly help out on both sides of the ball. Columbus task Justin Meram with that job, while for KC it’s Graham Zusi. Mike Grella and Lloyd Sam take turns for the Red Bulls, and for Portland down the stretch it was usually Fanendo Adi, with useful defensive cameos from Rodney Wallace. It’s a balance, and finding the right one week-to-week won’t happen overnight.Seattle also have to get Ozzie Alonso healthy and then convince him to be a pure No. 6 rather than a “run yourself ragged!” destroyer, and they have to make certain that the Erik Friberg/Andreas Ivanschitz presumptive central midfield balance works on both sides of the ball. They have to make sure Jones remembers to defend. They have to hope that Chad Marshall and Brad Evans both have another high-caliber year left in the tank, and they have to hope that Valdez is willing to accept what looks for the moment like a super-sub role.And they have to make sure that Morris et al don’t crack under pressure. I suggest that you click that link and read it, because it’s good stuff from the inimitable Steve Davis.This is all part of the journey, and it’s the right kind of stuff for Lagerwey, Schmid and the rest of the Seattle coaching staff to worry about now that the shopping is done. By getting Morris to put pen to paper, they aced the big offseason project.Now it’s time to make sure the regular season goes according to plan.
Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber speaks out on US national team exile: “I don’t think Klinsmann calls in the best players”
January 20, 201612:21 PM ESTScott FrenchMLSsoccer.com
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif.—Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber says he’s accepted that he will never get another opportunity with the US national team as long as Jurgen Klinsmann is running things. But he’s troubled by the German legend’s selections for his rosters, and that has nothing to do with his omissions.Coming off an outstanding 2015 campaign, the MLS Landon Donovan MVP finalist closed Tuesday’s MLS media roundtable in Southern California with an epic, nearly 10-minute dissection of what he believes is the biggest problem facing the national team under Klinsmann: That the best players, those who would make the team stronger and more competitive, aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.“I don’t think Jurgen calls in the best players that are available to him,” said Feilhaber, who has made 41 international appearances and played under Bob Bradley at the 2010 World Cup, told a dozen journalists at the close of the 8 1/2-hour, 21-player session at the Manhattan Beach Marriott. “That, for me, is a problem. There’s players that are better than other players that don’t get an opportunity with the national team. That, for me, is a bigger deal than anything else.“Everybody points fingers at certain things, but, for me, that’s the most important thing.”
Feilhaber’s “long rant,” as he termed it when he finished, began almost as an afterthought. He’d answered questions about Sporting’s 2015 campaign and prospects for the coming season, MLS’s competitiveness, and Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco and LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane – the past two league MVPs. Then an “Any final questions?” request brought a query about the USMNT, which is stationed nearby for its annual January camp at StubHub Center.“I think I’ve accepted the fact that Jurgen’s not going to call me in,” said Feilhaber, who has made three US appearances under Klinsmann, the last during January camp in 2014. “I mean, if I play the year that I played this last year and I’m not getting a call, you know, I’m not going to get an opportunity under Jurgen. That’s something I just have to accept. I wouldn’t say [I’m] frustrated, just almost sad, kind of.“I feel like I’m playing the best soccer of my career, but I don’t get the opportunity to play for my country. It’s something I’ve kind of accepted. It is what it is. It’s not going to happen with Jurgen as coach.”That brought more questions, and Feilhaber was pointed in his responses, asserting that he believes Klinsmann doesn’t give MLS players a fair shake – and that some overseas players also haven’t been given opportunities when warranted. He singled out several players who should have the chance, but haven’t, to win prominent roles with the national team.“Based on what I see, I think that Jurgen takes some players in MLS and uses the fact that they’re in MLS to maybe not call them up or whatever,” Feilhaber said. “You look at some of the top players that played this year, and you take a Sacha Kljestan, you take a Dax McCarty, you take aMatt Hedges, and I’m sure you can go on and on, and these guys aren’t getting an opportunity.“So it’s not just me. There’s certain people like that, but there’s people in Europe as well. I can’t name a lot of guys – I don’t know some of the younger guys – but an Eric Lichaj, for example, he’s been playing well in Europe for countless years, and he hasn’t been really given any opportunity either. So there’s guys in MLS, there’s guys in Europe who don’t get opportunities with Jurgen for whatever reason.”Feilhaber said Klinsmann “doesn’t do his job” in this respect.“I believe there’s, obviously, two duties [that a coach has],” Feilhaber said. “That’s 1) Making the best possible team you can possibly make with the players that are available to you, and 2) Try to continuously improve that team so that team doesn’t stall in any way and continues to improve. For me, Jurgen seems to try to do the second one without doing the first one.“He’d rather put young guys on the team who potentially could become someone important on the team, and he leaves out players that could make the team better right now,” Feilhaber added. “The No. 1 job of a coach is not to make the team as good as he could make it in five years, it’s to make it as good as he could make it now and continuously improve it for five years from now.”
U.S. Soccer records show Klinsmann made $3.2M in 2014 fiscal year
BY SI WIREEmailPosted: Wed Jan. 20, 2016
U.S. men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann earned $3,207,110 in reportable compensation and another $25,371 in funds from the USSF and related groups from April 2014 to March 2015, according to records posted by the U.S. Soccer Federation on Wednesday.Klinsmann helped the United States reach the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in 2014. His contract runs through the 2018 World Cup in Russia.In the previous fiscal year, Klinsmann earned more than $2.5 million, the largest haul for a national team coach in USSF history.• The big picture: MLS vs. abroad Last year, Klinsmann and the USMNT finished fourth in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and failed to qualify for the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.The USMNT has moved forward with World Cup qualifying as it defeated St. Vincent and the Grenadines 5–1 and pulled a 0–0 draw against Trinidad and Tobago.
U.S. prospect Christian Pulisic a fast-rising talent at Borussia Dortmund
BY LIVIU BIRDTwitter EmailPosted: Thu Jan. 21, 2016
When Borussia Dortmund kicks off the second half of the Bundesliga season on Saturday, it will do so with an American trying to break into the lineup. Christian Pulisic, the United States Under-17 international who impressed with his performance at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup, has been with the Dortmund first team since reconvening after winter break and is on the club’s official roster for the rest of the season.“It’s incredible, first of all. Just an honor to play with these players,” Pulisic, 17, told SI.com via telephone from Germany. “They’re all helping me, and they want me to really be a part of the team. It’s just a great experience for me.”Despite his slight 5’8″ frame, Pulisic has quickly established himself as the most promising player coming through the U.S. youth ranks. His showing was a bright spot in an otherwise dismal U-17 World Cup for the U.S., and after winning a U-17 German championship with BVB, he scored four goals for Dortmund’s U-19s in the first half of this season.He and German U-17 captain Felix Passlack, a teammate at the U-17 and U-19 levels, have been touted as academy players who could make an impact on the first team in the immediate future.“It’s cool that we’re such close friends,” Pulisic said. “It’s always helpful to have a guy who you know, is your age and you can always rely on him and talk to him about stuff.”Both players’ opportunities with the first team have grown since Thomas Tuchel took over as the manager at the start of the year.“[Tuchel] is a great coach from the training perspective,” Pulisic said. “Getting to learn from him every day is really good, and it’s getting me a lot better. I know that for sure. I definitely need a coach like him, and I know he’s going to help me in my development.”After a 45-minute appearance against St. Pauli in a September friendly, Pulisic joined the first team for its midseason training camp in Dubai this month. He appeared in both matches there, scoring in stoppage time of a 4-1 win over South Korean top-flight leader Jeonbuk Motors on Jan. 15.Previous BVB manager Jurgen Klopp, now at Liverpool, also lauded the Hershey, Pennsylvania, native when he trained with the first team in 2015.“In a very intense training session with narrow spaces, he did not stand out in a negative way,” Klopp said at the time. “This is a real sign of quality.”Pulisic said Turkish international Nuri Şahin has been particularly welcoming as he takes his initial steps with the first team. Şahin followed a similar path to Dortmund, making his first-team debut at 16 years and 334 days to set the record for youngest player to play in the Bundesliga. He became the youngest to score in the league three months later.“Almost every training when I first came in, he’s the guy who would put his arm around me, help me out and tell me kind of how things work around here,” Pulisic said, “And he’s just always giving me advice on just simple stuff.”Pulisic has appeared primarily on either wing for BVB, though he played as the playmaking No. 10 for the U.S. at the World Cup. He turned heads with his fearless, repeated runs at opposing defenses, showing great technical ability and a cool head in deciphering the proper situation to dribble or pass.“It’s been great to see the success he’s had and how he’s developed,” former U.S. U-17 head coach and current Real Salt Lake assistant Richie Williams told SI.com. “[He’s] a very talented player, and he’s a good person as well. You’re always rooting for those players to continue to develop, to be successful.”Growing up, Pulisic could draw plenty of soccer inspiration from his parents, who both played for George Mason University. His father, Mark, also played for the Harrisburg Heat indoor team from 1991 to 1999.Christian Pulisic spent the majority of his youth playing days at Pennsylvania Classics, a U.S. Soccer Development Academy club, before joining the U.S. U-17 residency program. He also played for Michigan Rush when his father coached the Detroit Ignition of the Major Indoor Soccer League in 2006-07.PA Classics director Steve Klein said what struck him most besides Pulisic’s talent were his drive and humility.“That’s his best quality, so I think that’s what’s enabling him—plus, obviously, his talent—to keep things in perspective and keep climbing the ladder,” Klein told SI.com. “The thing that we always felt was going to help him through was he seemed to be very grounded and focused about his training and his goals.”Said Williams: “On top of all of those great qualities that he has, he’s a competitor. … He’s a smart kid, and he’s mature. He gets it, and he’s measured in what he says, and he thinks things through. That’s only going to help him continue to grow as a soccer player.” IBefore joining BVB’s academy in July 2014, Pulisic also completed various training stints in England, Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands. Having played alongside some of the world’s best players from such a young age, it’s no surprise Pulisic hardly thinks about the credentials of those with whom he shares the field anymore.“Some of these guys just won a World Cup, and you’re maybe a little star-struck at first,” he said, “and now they’re all my teammates. Of course, I have to give them that respect, but I’m also fighting for the same positions that they all are.”STRAUS: Morris’s decision and the big picture of MLS vs. abroad
The next step will be playing in competitive matches with those players. Tuchel tried Pulisic on both sides of midfield in the midseason training camp, and Jonas Hofmann’s departure to Borussia Monchengladbach on New Year’s Day leaves an opportunity out wide.“It’s definitely hard to say if I’m obviously going to be on the field playing in these Bundesliga matches, but that’s the goal for me,” Pulisic said. “Of course, there are always some injuries, and that could be an opportunity, but right now, I’m just doing everything that I can every day in training and trying to earn my spot on that team.”His former coaches don’t seem to doubt that his moment will come. However, Williams pointed out that Pulisic is still only 17, so his continued success might not be as rapid as his ascent so far.“He has all the tools to be successful, and I think the one thing we need to be is patient,” Williams said. “If you had to put money on it, you’d think he’s one of those players who would do well and would succeed.”
BUSCH BRINGS HIS VAST EXPERIENCE TO ELEVEN
Former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year to lead “Boys in Blue” from the back in 2016
Jan 22, 2016
INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, January 22, 2016) – Indy Eleven went one step further in its pursuit of veteran talent today with the signing of goalkeeper Jon Busch, who will also serve as the club’s Director of Goalkeeping. Per club policy, contract details will not be announced. Busch’s signing brings Indy Eleven’s 2016 roster to 19 players with the start of preseason training just under a month away.“Indy Eleven gains more than just a player by bringing Jon Busch on board,” said Indy Eleven general manager Peter Wilt. “Besides his proven ability as a top-level goalkeeper, Jon brings unparalleled experience, leadership, grit and character that the rest of the team will feed off of.”Since entering the professional ranks in 1997, Busch has made more than 450 starts in official competitions during a successful 19-year career. After beginning his playing days with five seasons in the A-League (second division) from 1997-2001, Busch spent the last 14 years climbing near the top of Major League Soccer’s charts in numerous categories during stints with the Columbus Crew (2002-06), Chicago Fire SC (2007-09, 2015) and the San Jose Earthquakes (2010-2014).“I brought Jon into training with the Tampa Bay Mutiny back in 1998, so I’ve been familiar with him for quite awhile,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “Throughout his career in Major League Soccer he overcame injuries and those who doubted his size, proving how good he was through his incredible work ethic and determination. He will be a leader, a voice and a player that brings nearly unmatched experience for a goalkeeper in the American game.”The 39-year-old Busch racked up a 113W-92D-101L record in MLS regular season play and ranks fourth in league history in goalkeeper games played (309), shutouts (83) and saves (1,151) and fifth in wins. The native of Queens, N.Y., helped Columbus (2004) and San Jose (2012) to MLS regular season Supporters Shield titles, won the 2002 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with the Crew and earned the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award and earned a spot on the MLS Best XI Team with the Earthquakes in 2008. After making a career-high 34 starts with San Jose in 2014, Busch returned for a second stint with Chicago last year, making 12 appearances with the Fire.“I’m very excited to join the Indy Eleven. It’s a great opportunity for me to play for a great organization and try to win a championship in the NASL,” said Busch, who played with new Eleven teammates Brad Ring and Lovel Palmer while in San Jose and Chicago, respectively. “At the same time this opportunity provides an avenue for me to start learning the goalkeeper coaching side of the game as well.”In addition to his anticipated service on the field, Busch will serve as the club’s Director of Goalkeeping, with duties to include first team coaching and scouting, serving as a guest coach with the Indy Eleven NPSL squad and assisting with the Indy Eleven Summer Soccer Clinic series.Busch will stay busy in the community as well with the continuation of his Saves for SEALs program. The charitable organization he founded in 2011 raises funds for the Navy SEAL Foundation to assist with family support services, educational programs and legacy activities for active and veteran U.S. Navy SEALs, Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen, Naval Special Warfare (NSW) support personnel, and their spouses and children. For more information, visit www.crowdrise.com/SAVESforSEALs.Keep visiting IndyEleven.com and the team’s social media channels to stay up to date on all things Indy Eleven heading into the team’s third NASL campaign.
ELEVEN ADDS EXPERIENCED DUO VIA TRANSFER FROM SACRAMENTO
MLS vets, USL champs Braun & Vukovic boost Indy roster to 18 … and counting
Jan 19, 2016
Indy Eleven Acquires Justin Braun & Nemanja Vuković via Transfer from USL’s Sacramento Republic FC
Forward Braun Served as SRFC Captain during Club’s First Two Seasons;
Vuković Earned 2014 USL Defender of the Year Award While Helping SRFC to USL Title
INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, January 19, 2016) – The building of Indy Eleven’s 2016 roster picked up more momentum today with the transfer acquisitions of forward Justin Braun and defender Nemanja Vuković from 2014 USL champion Sacramento Republic FC. Per club policy, details of the transfer agreements and player contracts will not be released.“Bringing players with championship and leadership experience like Justin Braun and Nemanja Vuković on board is further proof Indy Eleven is serious about building a team that will compete for The Championship in 2016,” said Indy Eleven general manager Peter Wilt. “Coming from Sacramento they are also used to playing in front of a sizeable fan base with tremendous passion, so they should feel right at home in Carroll Stadium.”Today’s announcement brings Indy Eleven’s roster up to 18 confirmed players in advance of the 2016 season, which will be augmented with more new veteran additions in the coming days. The addition of Vuković, a native of Montenegro, means four of the club’s seven international roster slots allotted by the NASL have been filled alongside Dragan Stojkov, Eamon Zayed and Colin Falvey. “Justin Braun is a striker that can serve as a target and bring our attacking midfielders forward. He’ll get his goals but is also capable of coming in from a wing position, so his versatility will be very valuable,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “I first saw Nemanja Vuković play for the Columbus Crew in MLS a few years ago, where he alternated from center back to an attacking left back. At 6’3” he brings great size and stature that will help strengthen the back line, and he also possesses great composure on the ball so his technical ability can help the team get forward.”Braun is entering the ninth season of his professional career, which kicked off in 2008 with a six-year run in Major League Soccer with Chivas USA, Montreal Impact, Real Salt Lake and Toronto FC. After notching 27 goals and 15 assists across 135 regular season and postseason games in MLS, the Salt Lake City native joined his former Chivas USA coach Preki in 2014 as one of the first signings with Sacramento Republic FC, and was named the budding USL powerhouse’s captain for both of its first two years. The 28-year-old striker scored 14 goals and tallied one assist during 49 appearances in official competitions with SRFC across 2014-15.“I am very excited to join Indy Eleven and play in front of the best fans in the NASL. I have heard so many good things about the club and city, and the supporters seem to be very passionate. As a player those are the type of fans you want to play for,” Braun stated. “From speaking with Peter Wilt I am very excited with the direction the club is going both on and off the field. He and Tim Hankinson are building a very good squad, and I look forward to being part of that and doing all I can to bring success to Indianapolis.”Like Braun, the 31-year-old Vuković was one of Sacramento Republic FC’s earliest signings leading up to their 2014 inaugural season and played in the squad’s USL PRO Championship triumph over Harrisburg City Islanders that fall. Vuković contributed five goals and three assists from the back line during his 65 games across all competitions with Sacramento and was named the 2014 USL PRO Defender of the Year and a 2014 All USL PRO First Team selection. Prior to joining SRFC, Vukovic spent part of the 2012 MLS season with Columbus but logged most of the first decade of his career from 2003-2013 between clubs in the Montenegrin First and Second Leagues (FK Kom, FC Budućnost Podgorica, OFK Grbalj & Mladost Podgorica) and the Greek Super League (Panetolikos).”I am really excited about coming to Indy Eleven, especially alongside my friend and teammate in Justin. Indy Eleven is a very well organized club with big ambitions and goals, which is why I accepted the invitation to join the team. The club has a good coach and Justin and I hope we can help him and our teammates achieve a championship title and repeat the success we had in Sacramento,” said Vuković. “I also want to say a big thanks to all the people at Sacramento Republic FC and the club’s fans – especially the Tower Bridge Battalion – for their amazing support during a fantastic two years that I will never forget.”Visit the “Roster” page to more info on Braun and Vukovic and to keep track of the full listing of the “Boys in Blue” as the club’s roster continues to grow leading into preseason in February. Fans can also visit the team’s social media channels to keep up to date on all things Indy Eleven heading into the team’s third NASL campaign.
Indy Eleven Adds More Defensive Experience via Transfer Signing of Colin Falvey
Hard-nosed Center Back Becomes Indy Eleven’s Second Offseason Signing from 2015 NASL Finalist Ottawa Fury FC
INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, January 15, 2016) – Indy Eleven plucked a second experienced member away from last year’s NASL runner-up Ottawa Fury FC with today’s transfer signing of defender Colin Falvey. Per club policy, contract details will be not announced.Falvey joins his former Ottawa teammate midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic in jumping across the “NASL Class of 2014” lines to Indy Eleven this offseason. The native of Cork City, Ireland, will count as the squad’s third of seven allotted international signings and brings the current roster count to 16 players. “Colin Falvey brings great leadership and physicality to the roster,” said Indy Eleven general manager Peter Wilt. “With the additions of Colin, Lovel Palmer and Neil Shaffer our defensive corps will have much greater experience, and there is more to come in the next week. I am confident we will have the deepest defensive unit in the league this season.”VIDEO: Watch the best of Falvey’s 2015 contributions with Fury FC
The native of Ireland arrives after spending the 2015 season with Fury FC, where he started in all 32 appearances made for the Canadian club across all competitions. The hard-nosed center back recorded one assist from his spot on the backline in over 2,800 minutes en route to helping Ottawa secure the 2015 NASL Fall championship.“One thing every defense needs is a voice and an organizer, and we’ve recruited Colin for those qualities,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “He’ll be the glue that creates a defense that will be hard to break down this season.”Prior to his year north of the border, Falvey served as captain of the USL’s Charleston Battery during the latter portion of his five-season stint from 2010-14, and also suited up for the Wilmington Hammerheads in the USL Second Division in 2009. The 30-year-old began his professional career in his native Ireland in 2004 and has also plied his trade in New Zealand and India.“I’m very excited to be joining Indy Eleven and proud I get to call it home this season. Every player in the league always looks forward to the visit to Indianapolis because of the great atmosphere that’s been built,” said Falvey. “Coach Hankinson believes we can be successful, I believe we can be successful, and there is no doubt the fans think so as well as they have turned up in the thousands week after week. I’ll do everything I can to play a massive part in bringing success to the club and the city for those fans.”
#32 Colin Falvey
Weight: 185 lbs.
Born: June 20, 1985 (30) in Cork City, Ireland
Hometown: Cork City, Ireland
Last Club: Ottawa Fury FC (NASL)
Previous Clubs: Ottawa Fury FC (NASL, 2015), Charleston Battery (USL, 2010-2014), Kerala Blasters [Indian Super League, 2014 (loan)], YoungHeart Manawatu (New Zealand ASB Youth League, 2009-2011), Wilmington Hammerheads (USL Second Division, 2009), Otago United (New Zealand ASB Premiership, 2008), Kilkenny City A.F.C. (League of Ireland, 2007-2008), Cobh Ramblers (League of Ireland, 2004-2007)
Earnie Stewart brings Moneyball to Philadelphia as the Union aim to punch above their weight | THE WORD
January 21, 201611:15 AM ESTDave ZeitlinMLSsoccer.com
CHESTER, Pa. – A couple of years ago, Ennis Stewart, the son of former US internationalEarnie Stewart, popped in a DVD and began watching one of the most memorable goals in American soccer history.With the wide-eyed exuberance and curiosity of an 11-year-old, he leaned in close to study the terrific buildup, from Thomas Dooley’s composed touch and turn in the middle of the field … to Eric Wynalda’s slicing run and pinpoint pass out wide … to Tab Ramos’ deft dribbles, defense-splitting vision and chip toward the box.Just then, the boy’s father flashed onto the screen, making a diagonal run between defenders to collect Ramos’ pass and dink the ball past the goalkeeper to score the game-winning goal in the US national team’s historic 2-1 upset of Colombia in the 1994 World Cup – the Americans’ first World Cup victory since 1950.Young Ennis, who was born shortly before Earnie played in his final World Cup in 2002, smiled. And noticing that his father had come into the room, he asked if they could watch together.Perhaps this could have been an opportune father-son moment, a chance for Earnie to sit Ennis on his lap and tell him about the spirit of underdogs, about how those 1994 and 2002 US teams shocked just about everyone to advance to the knockout round, about how anything is possible if you just put your mind to it. Or …“I just walked by,” the elder Stewart remembers. The former US national team midfielder never misses a chance to bond with his children – Ennis is now 13 and his daughter, Quinty, is 16 – but that goal vs. Colombia, it turns out, is something that he doesn’t like to watch. In fact, he actively avoids it. Same goes for the ’02 World Cup or any of his other USMNT appearances in which he scored 17 times in a decorated international career from 1990 to 2004. Or, for that matter, anything that involved him as a player or an executive, a post he recently assumed on these shores after spending the last 10 years in his birthplace of the Netherlands.“I don’t like looking at myself,” he tells MLSsoccer.com in his office at Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park), a few days after he was officially introduced as the Philadelphia Union’s sporting director. “Once I see myself on TV, no matter it being an interview [or playing], I just don’t like it because I see all the negative things.
“I don’t want to call myself a perfectionist because it sounds so stupid. But I find it very, very difficult to find the positive things in myself and I always see the negative things. It bugs me.”There’s more to it than that, though. For the ambitious Stewart, it seems there’s no sense looking behind when there’s still so much to do in the future. And while the 46-year-old has often defied expectations, from leading the USMNT to two surprising World Cup runs to assembling strong teams with a limited budget as a savvy front-office executive, he’s never considered his success a surprise worthy of nostalgic remembrance.It’s just something he found a way to do. And there’s still more work to be done.“Having played as a professional or having made it to the national team or having played in the World Cup, you don’t do that if you think, ‘I’m the underdog and might lose this,’” says Mike Sorber, a Union assistant coach and a teammate of Stewart on the ’94 World Cup team. “You make it because you think, ‘It doesn’t matter what the challenge is. I’ll find a solution.’”Now comes the next big challenge: can Earnie Stewart help the Philadelphia Union build a foundation for future success after years of instability?
IF IT WERE UP TO Earnie Stewart Sr., his son would have played a different kind of football.Growing up in Texas, the elder Stewart was a high school football player in the (American) football-crazed state and a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan. (“I’m sick to death they’re not winning,” he says.) That never changed, even after he joined the U.S. Air Force at the age of 18 and was deployed to the Netherlands, where he married a Dutch woman, raised a family and has spent the majority of his time ever since.“To be truthful about everything, I love American football,” he says by phone from the Netherlands. “When Earnie was born, I always dreamed of him being a wide receiver or a quarterback.”It didn’t take long, though, for the elder Stewart to realize that his son had an affinity for Holland’s most popular sport – the other football. And he saw that he had the speed and determination to make it, too.“I remember a few times when the weather was bad, they’d call up and say, ‘Hey, the game’s been rained out. Nobody’s playing today,’” Earnie Stewart Sr. recalls. “But Earnie would get on his bike and ride down in the cold and try to find a pickup game.”According to his father, young Earnie was initially used as a defender in youth leagues. But when one coach moved him up top as an 11-year-old, he scored 10 goals in one game and “that was when he got rolling.”Stewart began his professional career as a teenager with VVV-Venlo, before later playing for Dutch clubs Willem II and NAC Breda, scoring 114 goals in 16 years between the three clubs.And he was only 21 years old when he first joined the US national team in 1990 – the ultimate dream for a kid who adapted to Dutch culture but always felt connected to his American roots as well.“All I wanted to do was play for a national team, not knowing which one that would be,” says Stewart, adding that he was first invited to a Netherlands camp but didn’t make the final cut. “The United States is such a big and powerful country that you felt a couple of feet taller when you played for the national team and got to wear that jersey.”Stewart would go on to be a stalwart for the US and was one of the team’s rocks during 2002 World Cup qualifying, during which he scored eight goals and wore the captain’s armband for several games. But it was that first World Cup in 1994 that was especially meaningful to Stewart’s father, who once imagined his own fate might include college football glory in the Rose Bowl.
Instead, he was in the stands to watch his son score the game-winning goal against Colombia in the historic California stadium.“I had always dreamed of coming out of the tunnel myself,” says the elder Stewart, who spent 21 years in the Air Force and now works as a manager in a Dutch store that sells goods to US serviceman. “But when I saw him coming out of the tunnel at the World Cup, I was so proud of him.”For the younger Stewart, the entire ’94 World Cup remains a blur – one that hasn’t come into any more focus in later years since he doesn’t watch the highlights. But his first World Cup was certainly special, and he does have at least one clear recollection from the goal that helped the Americans knock off heavily favored Colombia and move into the next round of the watershed tournament. “I remember there was a pile and I couldn’t get any air on the bottom of that pile and it was so tremendously hot,” he says. “And the day after I remember doing my laundry. That’s pretty much it.”
THERE’S A SCENE in the 2011 film Moneyball in which a group of scouts, stereotypical baseball old-timers, describe prospects in almost comically qualitative terms – “baseball bodies” and “eye-candy tests.”Billy Beane, the Oakland Athletic general manager for whom the movie and 2003 Michael Lewis book of the same name is based, responds with disgust, “You guys are sitting around talking the same old good-body nonsense like we’re selling jeans, like we’re looking for Fabio. We’ve got to think differently.”In other words, the A’s needed to stop looking at superficial attributes and find underappreciated and undervalued players in order to compete.It was in his last job as the director of football affairs at Dutch top-flight club AZ Alkmaar that Stewart took other members of his front office to see Moneyball, hoping to bring that general philosophy to a team that, like the A’s, didn’t have the same size budget as their domestic competitors.“You learn to be creative,” Stewart said in an ESPN.com feature from Jan. 2012 that first chronicled his affinity for Moneyball. But it took some time to build a new scouting database and get the right people on board to help with the Moneyball plan. Eventually, former Dutch Major Leaguer Robert Eenhoorn joined the club as general director in 2014, and Beane himself became an AZ Alkmaar advisor in March 2015.The hires – two baseball men breaking down barriers in the beautiful game – were unconventional, to say the least.“Soccer is a very conservative sport in Europe but we were known to be a club of innovation,” said Stewart, who played baseball while growing up in Holland before turning to soccer. “In the beginning, people were skeptical. They still are. But once you believe in something, you have to follow that path.”Stewart noted that translating Moneyball, which focuses on qualitative evaluation to minimize bias, from baseball to soccer wasn’t difficult because “numbers are numbers.” The key, like it was for the A’s, was simply focusing on certain statistics to uncover overlooked players and bridge the financial divide.And he, too, didn’t care about how those players looked in a pair of Levi’s.“A lot of times when you look at a player, you already have a clouded vision of him,” Stewart says. “You like him or you don’t like him because, I don’t know, he’s athletic or he’s not athletic. And you have to try to look past that when it comes to the scouting process. What numbers do and what analytics do is they don’t look at who the person is – if he’s athletic, what kind of ethnicity he is. It’s just the numbers. These are the facts.”It’s no secret this philosophy is one of the main reasons why Stewart was hired by the Union. Majority owner Jay Sugarman has spoken openly about exploiting different edges to get a leg up on the competition and when he saw Stewart had worked with Beane, he remembers thinking, “Ah, common soul.”What also set Stewart apart from other candidate in the club’s year-long search to find their first sporting director is his approach to player development, which will be central to his job as he also oversees the Union’s youth academy and USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC.And that, Stewart said, “has nothing to do with analytics.” It’s simply about helping players grow by getting to know them, on and off the field.“First and foremost, there’s a mistake we make in soccer a lot of times,” Stewart says. “When we look at players, we look at them as only professionals, like they have no private lives at all. We never discuss that. We never talk about that. “It’s just getting to know players beyond the soccer player. What is his background? What drives him? What kind of ambition does he have? Together you can make a plan on going forward and getting the best out of this player. I truly believe there’s more to a player than having them come into practice and leaving after practice.”Player development has certainly been a challenge for the Union, who have had only one Homegrown signing – Zach Pfeffer, traded to the Colorado Rapids following last week’s SuperDraft – see significant playing time while others such as Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandez failed to crack the first team and were eventually waived. READ: Union laud Stewart as “critical piece of the puzzle”
And as the Union’s youth academy at YSC Sports continues to grow, Stewart understands the foundation has to come from Homegrown talent and that properly developing those players could at least partially cure the franchise’s costly roster turnover year after year.But in the short term, after the Union traded away or declined options on more than a dozen players following a disappointing 2015 campaign, there will be plenty of roster changes as the club has money, flexibility and an ever-improving scouting database to scour the globe for signings that can help the team win in 2016 and beyond.And Stewart knows there are potentially players to be found in every pocket of the world, perhaps ones that are sometimes forgotten, perhaps ones who can help the Union develop a new reputation.
EARNIE STEWART WAS ANGRY. It was Sept. 4, 2004, and D.C. United had just lost 3-1 to the Chicago Fire at Solider Field, dropping their record to 6-9-9 in what was shaping up to be a underachieving season.What was said in the D.C. United locker room that day in 2004 remains a mystery. Perhaps it’s not appropriate for print. Or perhaps the passing of time has dulled the memories of those involved.But this much we know: Stewart and teammate Ryan Nelsen gave a rousing speech. And from that point forward, D.C. United became a dominant force that went on to capture the 2004 MLS Cup.“I remember the tone of it and I remember after that we went on [a great run],” recalls Josh Gros, now the Union’s team coordinator and a rookie on the 2004 D.C. United team. “That was the turning point.”D.C. would go on to win eight of 10 on their way to MLS Cup glory, a regular season loss in Columbus and Eastern Conference Final decided by penalty kicks the only remaining blemishes on their record.By then, Stewart was a hardened veteran with weak knees. He didn’t score much during the 2003 and 2004 seasons with D.C. United – his only two in MLS – but he emerged a leader, counseling young players like Union midfielder Brian Carroll and Gros, who roomed with Stewart on his first West Coast trip.Gros, of course, idolized the three-time World Cup veteran and wasn’t surprised by Stewart’s effective midseason speech because “he was someone that had the respect of the entire team.” And despite his reluctance to revisit the past, Stewart still calls that locker-room talk a “defining moment.”“It was kind of like all of a sudden it was normal we became champions,” he says, “because of the thought that we had of who we were and what our goal was.”In many ways, puffing on victory cigars after D.C.’s 3-2 win over the Kansas City Wizards in the 2004 MLS Cup proved to be a fitting swan song to Stewart’s professional career and a perfect transition to the next phase of his life.He tried to keep his career going with his first club, VVV-Venlo, but the cartilage in his right knee gave out in 2005. Perhaps that was a blessing in disguise. Stewart was quickly named the club’s technical director instead of running their youth academy as initially planned.“Who knows? Maybe if I would have played on, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” he says. “I don’t know what life would have been like. Maybe I would have. But the opportunity arose right away to be a technical director in Holland so I count my blessings for that.”Stewart had immediate success in the front office, first at VVV and then at NAC Breda, stints that led to a job with AZ Alkmaar in 2010. It was there he really made his mark as the club rose up the Dutch Eredivisie table and became a fixture in the Europa League while simultaneously slashing its payroll.“I’ve never looked at it as I’ve been at clubs with a lesser budget,” says Stewart, who admitted in his first Union press conference that it was always his ambition to return to the United States. “Even if I had been at Ajax, PSV [Eindhoven] or Feyenoord, my budget would have been less than Chelsea. That’s not the drive that I have. To bring out the best in people, that is something I do have. And the budget really doesn’t make a difference in that.”That kind of thinking will certainly be beneficial as Stewart’s now in charge of a Union franchise that will not shell out the same kind of dollars as MLS’s biggest clubs. And Stewart admits that he and his staff – including two Philly natives, head coach Jim Curtin and technical director Chris Albright – are “not going to build Rome in a day” as they look to set a foundation for long-term success.Stewart began to lay the groundwork for that foundation last week in Baltimore, working the phones to end up with three of the top six SuperDraft picks, which Philly used to primarily bolster their leaky defense by nabbing Georgetown defenders Joshua Yaro andKeegan Rosenberry (just a day after they took a flyer on Brazilian second-divisioner Anderson Conceição, who Stewart described as a central defender with a “great left foot”). The Union also selected one of college’s premier goalscorers in Creighton’s Fabian Herbers, who could compete for time on the wing with two other offseason additions: former D.C. United stalwart Chris Pontius and New York Cosmos import Walter Restrepo. The Union, of course, still have other offensive needs heading into training camp and could probably use a veteran presence on the backline if they move Maurice Edu into the midfield. But no matter the obstacles for the team (which has only made the playoffs once in six years) and for himself (he admittedly still has a lot to learn about MLS), Stewart will not go into the first game of the 2016 season this March feeling like an underdog. No, he’ll have high expectations from the very beginning. Just like when he was on the US national team and he went toe-to-toe with world powers like Brazil. Just like when he decided one day that the 2004 D.C. United team was better than they had been playing. Just like when he put AZ Alkmaar in a position to beat Dutch powers Ajax, PSV and Feyenoord by being smart and innovative. Just like always. “I never go in looking at it like we’re the underdog,” Stewart said. “I want to get the best out of players. I want to get the best out of my staff and the team we have and win games. It could be that you have less money. It could be that you have less this or less that. “But if you keep looking at that and worrying about that, you’re never going to go anywhere.” Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com.
ARSENAL vs. CHELSEA
ARSENAL: This is a rare chance for Arsenal to inflict some pain on Chelsea. Their recent record against their London rivals is dismal but the Blues are at a low ebb and, yes, even fighting relegation. Oh, and Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are back.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea — Tom Adams
CHELSEA: Games against Arsenal are normally ones to look forward to, but with the midfield in such chaotic form and Diego Costa suffering from a shin injury, it is hard to be optimistic. Upbeat Arsenal will be desperate to beat their London rivals on Sunday as they dream of a rare title win. Sadly, it’s hard to see beyond a home victory for the Gunners.
Prediction: Arsenal 2-0 Chelsea — Phil Lythell
MANCHESTER UNITED vs. SOUTHAMPTON
MAN UNITED: Louis van Gaal’s men have shown a little more resilience in the Premier League in recent weeks with two wins and two draws in their past four, but this could be a frustrating afternoon for the home side, who were beaten by Saints at Old Trafford last season.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Southampton — Musa Okwonga
SOUTHAMPTON: The rivalry between Southampton manager Ronald Koeman and fellow Dutchman Van Gaal adds extra spice to this fixture. Koeman got the better of his old adversary last season as the visitors won a league game at Old Trafford for the first time in more than 20 years.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Southampton — Alex Crook
LEICESTER vs. STOKE
LEICESTER: Having failed to beat Bournemouth (0-0) and Aston Villa (1-1) this is exactly the type of game Leicester must win if they are to remain in the chase for a Champions League spot. Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez have yet to score in 2016.
Prediction: Leicester 2-0 Stoke — Ben Jacobs
STOKE: Stoke’s defence has often struggled against pacy opposition and in that respect, the trip to Leicester will arguably be their biggest test of the season. A deeper back line and the return of Xherdan Shaqiri, though, will give the Potters hope of a positive result.
Prediction: Leicester 2-2 Stoke — James Whittaker
EVERTON vs. SWANSEA
EVERTON: One win and 11 points dropped from winning positions in the past nine matches has Roberto Martinez’s men buried in midtable. Swansea, winless in their 21 league meetings with the Blues, would appear ideal opponents for an Everton side needing to improve on three wins in 13 at Goodison Park.
Prediction: Everton 2-1 Swansea — Luke O’Farrell
SWANSEA: A rejuvenated Swansea are playing to impress new head coach Francesco Guidolin and face a free-scoring Everton side that have been struggling to find wins, if not goals, having not won a league match since Boxing Day. Everton have home advantage, but battling Swansea have four clean sheets in six games.
Prediction: Everton 1-2 Swansea — Max Hicks
NORWICH vs. LIVERPOOL
NORWICH: The Canaries have lost the past two but there is a buzz around the club after a double deal for Wolfsburg defender Timm Klose and Everton’s Steven Naismith. City are also unbeaten in five at home in the league. Liverpool will have to be at their best.
Prediction: Norwich 1-1 Liverpool — Paddy Davitt
LIVERPOOL: With just one point from the past available nine, Liverpool need to get back on track this Saturday at relegation-threatened Norwich. Goals are proving hard to come by, so a clean sheet would be most welcome for under-pressure goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, whose new five-year deal was not universally welcomed by supporters.
Prediction: Norwich 0-1 Liverpool — Dave Usher
SUNDERLAND vs. BOURNEMOUTH
SUNDERLAND: Sam Allardyce’s men follow most steps forward with at least one in reverse. The defence is so porous that Bournemouth could exploit any lapse in concentration, despite Callum Wilson’s continued absence. Jermain Defoe remains Sunderland’s best match-winning hope but it may be tight.
Prediction: Sunderland 2-1 Bournemouth— Colin Randall
BOURNEMOUTH: The visitors are hoping to put some space between themselves and the drop zone. Eddie Howe’s team are full of confidence after thrashing Norwich 3-0 in their past game for their biggest Premier League win yet. Benik Afobe will be the main threat up front.
Prediction: Sunderland 0-1 Bournemouth — Steve Menary
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