2/25/16 Fifa Vote, Games of Wk, Champ League Results

So on this day of the Vote for a New FIFA President we have a new guy in charge – Gianni Infantino, a former EUFA League VP wins it. Now the hard work begins. Check out ESPN and Fox as both will have coverage throughout the day on this monumental vote without Sepp Blatter involved.

So Champions League play was again spectacular on Super Tues – as the world’s best player – Messi again worked his magic at Arsenal and Barcelona again left with a 2-0 lead. Italy’s defending finalist Juventus got down 2-0 to Bayern at home only to come rallying back in the final minutes to pull out a spectacular tie 2-2 vs the German champions. On Wednesday the Man City looks assured of a trip to the quarterfinals for the 1st time after after Ya Ya Tourey, Aguero and company made waste of Dynamo Kiev 3-1.  Champions League play is back with the return legs in the 2 game playoffs on March 8/9 + 15/16.  While the best in Europe took the headlines – MLS was facing some of the best in Mexico in Concacaff Champions League action.  Seattle, the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake all have chances to advance while the other MLS teams didn’t fare to well – those return legs are next Tues/Wed. on Fox Sports.

This weekend we have the Madrid Classico with Real hosting Athletico Sat 10 am on beIn Sport, while Man U and Arsenal battle at Old Trafford at 9 am Sunday on NBCSN before the Capital One Cup Final between Liverpool and Man City at 11:30 am on beIn Sport.

Games of the Week

Sat, Feb 27

10 am beIn Sport –     Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid – Battle for Madrid as both teams still in top 4 in Spain

Sunday, Feb 28

9 am NBCSN –          Man U vs Arsenal  – Always a big game despite Man U’s struggles – Gunners need win to stay in EPL contention for title

11:30 am                   Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City – Can Klopp help Liverpool win a trophy? 

2:45 pm  bein Sport     Juventus vs Inter – top 4 battle in the Italian League

Wed, March 2

2:30 pm Gol TV         Inter vs Juve – Coppa Italia  

3 pm NBCSN             Liverpool vs Man City

CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)

8:00 p.m Fox Sports:                 Club América vs. Seattle Sounders

Champions League

Champions League Tues Wrap up Barco 2-0, Bayern-Juve 2-2 SI

Arsenal have no answer for Messi and Barca-ESPN FC

Barca vs Arsenal Player Ratings Messi a 9 ESPN FC

Arsenal Striker Giroud rues Header vs Barca saved by Ter Stegan

Juve’s Pogba unleashes the Batsignal in 2-2 draw with Bayern

How Juve came back to tie Bayern

Man City 3-1 at Dynamo Kyve looks to have them thru for 1st time Ever

PSV and Athletico Tie at 0-0

Both PSV and Athletico ok with Tie

Last week’s first legs
Gent 2-3 Wolfsburg — RECAP
AS Roma 0-2 Real Madrid — RECAP
Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 Chelsea — RECAP
Benfica 1-0 Zenit St. Petersburg — RECAP

Europa Cup – Man U, Liverpool, Spurs all Advance

 MLS

Dempsey with a Beautiful Free kick in 2-2 tie with Club America in CCL Tues Night

Top 10 MLS Storyline Fans should be following in 2016

MLS- Champions League Results are Not Kind

Galaxy Tie while Real Salt Lake lose UCCL

NYCFC Mix Diskarud to Rapids for Tim Howard makes Sense

MLS Defending Champ Portland Timbers Season Preview

LA Galaxy Season Preview

EPL + World

Messi Gives real Jersey to Plastic Bag Kid in Afganastan

EPL Weekend Predictions

EPL Top 5 Stories

Football Daily news

With 12 Games left where does EPL Stand

Tim Howard US GK -loses Starting spot at Everton

Report has Antonio Conte – Italy’s National Team Coach taking Chelsea Job after Euros

Goalie Scores Tying Goal on drop kick in Injury Time

USA

US Women Have Sights on World Cup/Olympic Double

US Women beat Canada to win Concacaff

Which Demoted Keeper Should Klinsmann play?

US 17 year old US Midfielder starts for Bundesliga Giant Borrussia Dortmund

US to vote for Prince Ali for FIFA President Friday

Copa Draw Grant Wahl SI

Indy 11

Bloody Shambles NASL Volume 2 – Aaron Gunyon Includes interview with Coach Hankinson 2/21

Bloody Shambles Preview show with Caleb Ramp

Indy 11 Preseason Notebook this week

New Roster

Minnesota United Major League Stadium

2016 SEASON TICKETS: Support your “Boys in Blue” for as little as $10 a game!

UPCOMING GAMES

 Sat, February 27

7:45 am  NBCSN        West Ham vs Sunderland

9;30 am Fox Sports 2 Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich

10 am beIn Sport –     Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid

10 am NBCSN           Leicester City vs Norwich

12:30 pm NBC           West Brom vs Crystal Palace

 Sunday, February 28

9 am NBCSN –          Man U vs Arsenal

11:30 am beIn sports  Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City

2:45 pm  bein Sport     Juventus vs Inter

 Tuesday, March 1

2:45 pm NBCSN         Leicester City vs West Brom

2:45 pm ET                Norwich vs Chelsea, Villa vs Everton, Sunderland vs CP

CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)

8:00 p.m., FS 1 or 2   D.C. United vs. Querétaro
10:00 p.m., FS1 or 2:                 Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

 Wednesday, March 2, 2016

2:30 pm Gol TV         Inter vs Juve – Coppa Italia

3 pm NBCSN             Liverpool vs Man City

CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)

8:00 p.m., TV TBD:    Club América vs. Seattle Sounders
10:00 p.m., TV TBD:  Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL

Thursday, March3

7:30 pm Fox Sport  1 US Women vs England

Sun, March 6: MLS Opening Weekend

8:30 am NBCSN         Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

11 am NBCSN           West Brom vs Man U

4:30 pm ESPN           Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew

7 pm Fox Sports 1      Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City

 Wednesday, March 9

7:30 pm ESPN?         US Women vs Germany (Boca, FL)

 Sunday, March 13: 

5:00 p.m. (ESPN2,)   New York City FC vs. Toronto FC

7:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers,

Friday, March 25: 

4:30 pm TBD          US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff

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

Tuesday, March 28:

7 pm (ESPN2)        United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier-Columbus, OH

 Wednesday, March 29

9:30 pm ESPN2     US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff Texas

Copa America –Chicago Full Venue Passes

Sun, June 5 – C3 vs. C4
Tues Eve, June 7 – United States vs. A3
Fri Eve, June 10 – Argentina vs. D3
Wed Eve, June 22 – Semifinal (read Argentina vs Brazil) Maybe

Copa Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

How Juventus came off the ropes to match Bayern

Published: Wednesday 24 February 2016, 8.59CETy Paolo Menicuccifrom Juventus Stadium

 Who would have believed Juventus could make it back from 2-0 down to earn a draw with Bayern? UEFA.com’s Paolo Menicucci on how the Bianconeri can never be written off.Seemingly all at sea after going 2-0 down at home to Bayern early in the second half, who would have thought there was any way back for Juventus? Unbeaten in 16 European home games since a 2-0 loss to Bayern in 2013, the Bianconeri once more demonstrated their stubborn refusal to be go down, salvaging a 2-2 draw.Forced by injury to field full-back David Alaba and midfielder Joshua Kimmich in the heart of the defence, Josep Guardiola’s side came out fighting. Bayern dominated possession, with Arjen Robben and Douglas Costa rampant on the flanks. So how exactly did Juventus manage to lever them out of a winning position?

The element of chants
“We could have come away with more today,” Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer admitted after the game, giving the Juventus crowd full credit. “All the chaos in the stadium caused us to lose our composure a bit.”When Robben scored Bayern’s second, the only noise was coming from the visiting fans, but their celebrations did not last long. Paulo Dybala quickly halved the deficit and the Juventus fans’ sensed there was more to come. The chants came out: “Chi non salta, non ci crede” (whoever doesn’t jump, doesn’t believe) and “Noi vogliamo undici leoni” (we want eleven lions). The eleven lions went close soon after through Juan Cuadrado and finally equalised via Stefano Sturaro.

Reserves of strength
Massimiliano Allegri’s substitutions in the second half helped turn the tide after a disappointing opening period. Making only his sixth appearance in all competitions since the end of October, Hernanes deputised ably in midfield after replacing the injured Claudio Marchisio at the break, while fellow incomers Álvaro Morata and Sturaro combined for the equaliser. “This is the highest point in my short career,” the 22-year-old midfielder said. “I hope I will have a few more nights like this. Bayern are strong but we did great to come back.”

Dybala’s perfect timing
Already a Juventus favourite, the 22-year-old Dybala picked a great time to end his search for his first UEFA Champions League goal, his strike completely revitalising his side. “We put our hearts into it,” the Argentinian forward said. “We knew that Bayern were really strong but in the second half we managed to put more pressure on them. We are now going to a stadium where not many teams win, but I think we can if we play as we did in the second half.”

An indomitable spirit
Juve’s never-say-die attitude is nothing new. Remember how they wiped out Real Madrid’s away-goal advantage at the Santiago Bernabéu in last season’s semi-final? Or how they recovered from a terrible start in the final before eventually succumbing to Barcelona? Not to mention how they just reclaimed top spot in Serie A with a 15th straight league win following their worst-ever start to a season. ‘Fino alla fine’ (until the end) is one of their club mottos for a reason.

Can they do it again?
Bayern’s overall performance was impressive, and the German champions can be devastating at home, but they will know not to take anything for granted against this Juve side. “I expect them to be even more aggressive in Munich,” Guardiola said after the game, mindful no doubt that his next UEFA Champions League game with Bayern could be his last.

Lionel Messi gets 9/10 as Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-0 in UCL last-16 first leg

An average performance on the whole from Barcelona, but Messi’s magic lifted his teammates.

Lionel Messi double stuns Arsenal

A cold-hearted Lionel Messi double secured Barca’s 2-0 victory against Arsenal in the first leg of the Champions League last 16. The Catalans didn’t dominate the game in their typical manner but did enjoy 68 percent of possession, created 15 goal-scoring chances and attempted eight shots, four of them on target and one to the post.Spurred by their relentless home crowd, Arsenal piled on the pressure from the kick-off. With the Blaugranas unable to impose their usually fluid rhythm, the Gunners grew in confidence as the game developed and deservedly created the better chances in the first half.Fortunately, Barça took a step forward after the break and piled up continuous pressure in the hosts’ defensive third. Despite Arsenal’s determined defending, a moment of brilliance from their world-class attacking front-line unbalanced a game that had been far too close to call until that point. With the hosts chasing a much-needed equaliser, a clumsy challenge in the hosts’ penalty area enabled Messi to score a crucial second goal that leaves Arsene Wenger’s side with a mountain to climb in the second leg.Barça didn’t deliver a vintage performance by any means but the effectiveness of their world-class attacking trident was enough to extend their unbeaten run to a record 33 matches. It also meant that they are the clear favorites to secure a place in the quarter-finals.

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

 GK Marc Andre Ter Stegen, 8 — Despite being far more involved than usual, the German secured the crucial clean sheet after making a mere three saves. The Gunners clearly lacked the necessary composure in front of goal to put away their chances but it’s also true that the German goalkeeper responded remarkably when challenged.

DF Dani Alves, 7 — Constantly galloping forward and admirably disciplined when tracking back, the 32-year-old Brazilian delivered one of his most complete performances in recent memory.

DF Javier Mascherano, 8 — Incredibly focused throughout, the Argentine international looked unbeatable defensively and faultless on the ball. As usual, the astute No.14 read the game impeccably and always managed to find himself in the right place at the right time.

DF Gerard Pique, 8 — His awareness enabled him to pick up the pieces whenever his defensive teammates were beaten. Earned a late booking, which means he will miss the return leg at the Camp Nou.

DF Jordi Alba, 7 — Forced to focus on his defensive duties far more often than usual, Alba had his work cut out throughout the whole game. Battled ferociously for every loose ball and did not hesitate to use his enviable speed to overcome the many challenges he faced.

Lionel Messi’s two late goals have put Barcelona on track for a spot in the UCL quarterfinals.

MF Sergio Busquets, 7 — Recovered nine balls in the centre of the park, which enabled the visitors to dominate possession for the bulk of the game. Connected well with the many creative teammates around him to ensure the ball kept moving quickly enough and the Gunners kept chasing shadows.

MF Andres Iniesta, 7 — In his 578th game for Barça, the captain was the crucial link who ensured his front three was constantly provided with quality passes and found in advantageous positions. His dribbling, decision-making skills and admirable perseverance were key to unlocking Wenger’s robust back-line.

MF Ivan Rakitic, 7 — The Catalans’ workaholic was instrumental at both ends of the pitch. While the Croatian international didn’t contribute many moments for the highlight reel, his work rate and selfless attitude were major factors in Tuesday’s vital victory.

FW Neymar, 7 — Provided Messi with a superb assist for the visitors’ opener after a lightning-fast counter-attacking run. However, the Brazilian star was far quieter than usual until that point and largely unable to beat former La Masia prospect Hector Bellerin down the left flank. Rarely getting behind the Arsenal back-line, and wasteful infront of goal whenever he did, it would be fair to say Neymar wasn’t as consistent as Cules are used to.

FW Luis Suarez, 7 — Should have scored the opener in the last minute of the first half but his clear header went inexplicably wide. Disappointingly, Suarez also failed to find the net after the break, hitting the woodwork with what was his best chance of game. Despite his lack of fortune in front of goal, the Uruguayan’s physicality and ambitious nature were vital to create space for others to exploit.

FW Lionel Messi, 9 — Burst into life in the later stages of the first half and didn’t look back until the final whistle. The best footballer on the planet scored the priceless away goal with a cold-hearted finish that changed the game. Used his enviable pace to get ahead of Mathieu Flamini to earn the penalty which he then converted. Until Tuesday, Messi had failed to score a single goal against Petr Cech despite having faced him six times — another day, another stat broken for the five-time Ballon d’Or winner.

What’s Going On In The NASL vol. 2

By: Aaron Gunyon

We are now just 38 days away from opening day in the NASL. The off-season continues as we thought it might as teams are preparing for training camps and begin preseason training. It’s time to check in and see how everyone is doing up to this point. The silly season breeds silly articles and this will be no different.

Note: Roster counts will be taken from team websites. While every attempt has been made to ensure accuracy, some players haven’t been re-signed and some will still have options declined.  

NASL

The league is already minus two teams in an expansion year.  Not a solid start.  Rayo OKC and Miami FC will bump that number back up to a total of 11 once the Spring Season kicks off in April and Puerto Rico FC will make 12 competing clubs in the Fall Season. The departing teams were the weakest ownership groups which is why this grade isn’t lower.

Grade: C-

San Antonio Scorpions

You are gone but not forgotten. Kindof. The NASL web admin has done their best to scrub you from our memories, but you will live on. Kindof. Your players and coaches will all be on other teams, but we will never let go. Have fun in the USL.

Grade: Withdrawal

Miami – Roster Count: 21

Miami has every intention of packing the house for opening day, but season tickets start at $242. Ouch! Pablo Campos didn’t fit with the new look in Minnesota, but a lot of older people head to Florida this time of year. I’ll call them snowbirds for now, but they will be tough out of the gate.

Grade: B+

Minnesota United – Roster Count: 20

Defense much? Minnesota United FC has been so busy trying to protect their name that they have seemingly forgotten to protect the defensive third. There is certainly something in the works, but the Loons only have 4 true defenders on the roster. It looks like they are planning on outscoring everyone and using the checkers defense…never moving their back row.

Grade: B-

Rayo OKC – Roster Count: 10 (rayookc.com) 16 (nasl.com/transactions)


It’s definitely still early buy Rayo leads the league in the “Pull yourself together” category. The NASL.com is not really known for the best and most up-to-date statistics and the team from OKC is worse. Interesting naming your 9 trialists in camp.  I don’t hate it, but other teams keep that info private when they think that the players are any good. Its been 10 days since the last player announcement for an expansion team.

Grade: D

Ottawa Fury – Roster Count: 20

There were 9 championship defectors the last time I counted.  9 players that took the field for last season’s Soccer Bowl are no longer with the team. Three such players have joined the Indy Eleven. I have no idea what’s going on in Ottawa, but Marc Dos Santos’ departure really destabilized a rock solid fall team. Defense wins championships and so does money. Pay up, Fury.

Grade: F (current winner of The Bloody Shambles Award of Shambolitry)

New York Cosmos – Roster Count: 23

The Cosmos are getting ready lead the league again, but without mega-star signings on their roster.  What’s up with that? Cosmos fans still believe they are the only team worth watching, but that doesn’t explain their middling and declining attendance numbers. Cosmos are also probably the only team that isn’t excited about a potential TV deal with CBS. “We really like our relationship with One World Sports.”

Grade: A

Jacksonville Armada
 – Roster Count: 25!

Finding game time for this swollen roster might be a tough task for first time head coach Tony Meola. Team owner Mark Frisch just ousted Team President Steve Livingstone and absorbed his responsibilities.  Perhaps he was trying to find money for more players yet to be announced. Frisch’s family business is frozen fish manufacturing and distribution so day-to-day operations is really just a plug and play scenario here.

Grade: A

Carolina Railhawaks – Roster Count: 19

Well, Dumbnames. Your preseason started yesterday so the boys definitely have work to do before they play host to Toluca FC in a little over a month. *All games and field location at WakeMed Soccer Park are subject to change so be careful when ordering the “Toluca Two Pack”

Grade: C+

Atlanta Silverbacks
 – Roster Count: NA

Atlanta is the feel bad/feel good story of the offseason. They are also not playing in the NASL, but they deserve a ton of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for fighting to keep the dream alive. ATL will be in NPSL. Take care, TCB

Grade: Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me, Sock it to me.

Indy Eleven – Roster Count: 23

The Eleven have signed their fourth Jamaican for the upcoming season so there is going to be some serious bobsledding going on in 2016. It’s not that weird because the head coach just came back from Montego Bay with a deeper appreciation for Rasta culture. Seven different Reggae Boyz have suited up for Indy since the inaugural season.

Grade: Redemption Song

Tampa Bay Rowdies – Roster Count: Freddy Adu

I have 3 obsessions in the NASL. I have already covered Indy Eleven and the Travishmamockery that is Ottawa.  It’s all you need to know. I only mention Freddy because more people will read this if I tag him in this post.

Grade: B
Ft Lauderdale Strikers – Roster Count: 24

Have fun taking your Brazilian team to China. The real competition will be just a few miles south.  2016 opens with south Florida Derby on April 2 and the Strikers are serious about being serious about soccer. Let’s hope they aren’t trying too hard and they don’t burn themselves out by the time the fall season comes around. Strikers will start off hot.

Grade: A-

FC Edmonton – Roster Count: 23

I would be pleased if I were an Edmonton fan.  Few have the pleasure of cheering for an Eddie named Eddie Edward. And to be real, I think it’s fantastic that the organization has kept so much of last season’s roster in tact. Eddie’s Eddies will have many challenges this year though as many teams took this offseason to upgrade. Edmonton didn’t. Wouldn’t want to. What would you change?

Grade: A+

As always you can follow us on Twitter @Bloody_Shambles, Aaron Gunyon is @agunyon and James Cormack can be found at @BShambles_JC.

 

The 10 MLS storylines U.S. national team fans should be following in 2016

Although it seems only recently that the Portland Timbers went into Columbus’ MAPFRE Stadium and scored two goals in the first seven minutes to win the 2015 MLS Cup, the domestic league begins anew in just two weeks.Soccer never stops, does it?

The 2016 season brings new faces on new teams — now with free agency! — as well as old stalwarts holding down familiar spots. It also brings a host of questions related to the United States national team, so here are 10 MLS storylines national team fans should be following as MLS First Kick draws closer.

Can the ice between MLS and Jurgen Klinsmann thaw?

Before we focus on specific players, let’s take a moment to pull back a bit. The best thing for the future fortunes of the U.S. national team is a vibrant, productive MLS. But right now, MLS remains in a growth mode, and it might stay that way for many years to come, which means what’s best for the league and what’s best for the red, white, and blue don’t always mesh.This, in turn, leads to some predictable and understandable tension between the respective leaders. But the sniping needs to stop. Both Don Garber and Jurgen Klinsmann have made their points — repeatedly. An occasional disagreement is fine, but the public PR battle is tiresome and counterproductive.

Will Jermaine Jones play again?

When we most recently saw the U.S. central midfielder on an MLS field, he was pushing referee Mark Geiger during a first-round playoff loss to D.C. United. The incident earned Jones a six-game suspension that begins when he signs with a club. The New England Revolution offered Jones a contract he called a “joke,” and the 34-year-old remains in limbo.

Moving to another MLS team would require a trade, which seems unlikely. A move abroad would still be subject to the six-game ban. The Revs are stronger with Jones on the field, but the suspension and his numerous injuries make handing Jones the millions of dollars he wants a significant risk in frugal MLS. Jones will see the field in 2016 — he’s too important to Klinsmann’s squad, despite arguments to the contrary — but when he does is anyone’s guess.

How will Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley fare in Year 2 at Toronto FC?

Although TFC reached the playoffs for the first time in club history in 2015, the season was far from a success for the squad with the highest payroll in the league. Still, the attack led by the two U.S. veterans along with league MVP Sebastian Giovinco produced 58 goals, and that’s good enough to tie for second in MLS.

Newcomer Altidore posted 13 in 25 regular-season appearances, a respectable — though not spectacular — figure, while Bradley added five goals and six assists. The duo, who’ve been playing together for their country since 2003, started only 17 games together the past season. More reps in 2016 will reap benefits in MLS and for the U.S.

How much will Jordan Morris play in Seattle?

A lot more now that Obafemi Martins left for riches in China, that’s for sure. In January, Morris spurned the Bundesliga’s Werder Bremen for his hometown team, a move that was nothing less than a coup for MLS. The 21-year-old forward should feature frequently on a front line that includes American teammate Clint Dempsey and Paraguayan Designated Player Nelson Valdez.

The better question might be how quickly can Morris develop new skills? In his nine caps with the American team, he has shown world-class speed and a goal scorer’s knack for being in the right place at the right time. The next step, however, is to figure out what to do when defenses stop his go-to move. Having Dempsey as a mentor will help with his creativity.

Will any goalie step up?

While neither Tim Howard nor Brad Guzan are impressing on their clubs, Klinsmann should be concerned about the lack of a third option at goalkeeper. Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, who will miss four to six months with another knee injury, haven’t developed consistency. Nick Rimando is on the wrong side of 35, and Luis Robles, 31, isn’t getting any younger, either. The San Jose Earthquakes’ David Bingham played well while posting a shutout against Canada in early February. Others such as Steve Clark and Clint Irwin could force their way into the conversation with strong MLS seasons. Even so, right now, you’d have to say the third-string shirt is up for grabs.

Can Mix Diskerud bring out his elbows?

The central midfielder with the flowing locks joined New York City FC with a great deal of fanfare but struggled to find his way in 2015, as he scored just three goals in 27 appearances. He spent time on the right side of the formation, pushed wide by Frank Lampard and a hair superior Andrea Pirlo, and the emergence of Kwadwo Poku means playing time will be harder to find in new coach Patrick Viera’s starting XI.

Klinsmann continues to call Diskerud into camps, but he wants to see him use his elbows, which is code for getting physical and playing with the edge he too often lacks. Although the 26-year-old brings a certain skill set to the field, he floats in and out of games. With Darlington Nagbe and Lee Nguyen making strong impressions in the January camp, Diskerud needs to step up or risk disappearing.

Is this the year Juan Agudelo reaches his potential?

First, a goal. That’s not the type of shot you attempt, much less score on, without a rather large amount of Kanye West-like belief in your own abilities. Agudelo lacks neither imagination nor skill, but he has been inconsistent. He is now 23 and settled with a team and a new family. He should be playing his best soccer. We’ll see if he gets there.

In April, he scored against Mexico in a tally that required a smart run, a brilliant first touch and a good deal of patience before he unleashed a shot. It was a mature goal. Being audacious can only carry a player for so long.

What is Kellyn Acosta’s ceiling?

Pretty quietly, the 20-year-old has become one of MLS’s best homegrown player success stories with FC Dallas. A key cog on recent American U17 and U20 squads, Acosta earned his first full national team cap in the 3-2 win over Iceland in January. He played left-back and impressed after a rocky first few minutes.Klinsmann believes Acosta can also play right-back, and Acosta worked his way into the FCD starting lineup as a defensive midfielder. That’s some impressive versatility. With the Americans weak at fullback, those positions will be his easiest route to more minutes, but we’ll see if playing a different position for club and country slows his progress.

Who is the next Matt Miazga?

In 2015, the New York Red Bulls Academy product surprised MLS by being one of the best center-backs in the league, which he parlayed into a multi-million dollar offseason transfer to Chelsea.  One young player potentially poised to mimic Miazga’s rapid rise is Real Salt Lake’s Justen Glad. The 18-year-old defender started five games the past season and looks set for more time in 2016. Two other players to watch are the LA Galaxy’s Jose Villarreal and the Revolution’s Kelyn Rowe. Both are speed attackers with a flair for finishing who could break out in big ways.

 Will Benny Feilhaber finally get a call to return to the U.S.?

No.   Noah Davis is a Brooklyn-based correspondent for ESPN FC 

You Guys, What if Tim Howard is just a Ruse?

By Bulldog Ben  @thelosthooligan on Feb 25, 2016, 8:00a 17 

The world of Major League Soccer player transaction is nothing if not a complicated web of backroom transactions and intrigue. When you take out the chaos of the transfer market, where money is king, you create a kind of shadow economy, where different resources are worth different things.It occurred to me, “What is the Number One Allocation Spot worth?”What would it be worth to a team like NYCFC?It’s no secret Major League Soccer handles the bulk of contract negotiations with players coming back to the league. So when Pablo Mastroeni or Paul Bravo says that he doesn’t know anything about a Tim Howard deal, it may be because it’s Major League Soccer who is at the table doing the negotiating.We’ve exhausted the topic of the Howard move making no sense for Colorado Rapids. We have goalkeepers and the goalkeeper spot wasn’t one of need. What Colorado needed, and has needed, is to bulk up their attack–to make it more versatile and to have players who can keep possession and move the ball from back to front, as opposed to players who boot the ball forward for a lone guy to make something happen while everyone else plays defense (see, 2015).No matter how excited people get over the prospect of Tim Howard, the move makes absolutely zero sense from an on-field perspective. Sure there are intangibles, but look at it objectively: on the field, it makes no sense. Off the field? Sure. Ton of sense.But then I thought to myself: what if Colorado really isn’t that stupid at all?What if this is all just a ruse, and they already have a deal in mind to bring Tim Howard to Major League Soccer, though not to Colorado? What if Colorado is going to make a deal with another team for Tim Howard?And then it made sense.The Rapids ::must:: be making a move for Mix Diskerud.Hear me out on this one, because I thought it sounded crazy at first too.And for the love of God please leave out my relentless fanboying over Mix Diskerud. This is for real.”But Ben, NYCFC already HAVE three DPs!””Ah, my friend. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that MLS is nothing if not entirely flexible on its rules when it comes to teams that want to make big moves for big stars!”More than likely, there will be some rule in there where Tim Howard doesn’t quite count as a DP because he had to go through the Allocation Order and instead counts as a returning American player. I’m imagining something like that will be used as the justification for how this deal is even possible. It’s not a great or air tight explanation, but it’s how Major League Soccer does business. They act first and justify later. See also,Clint Dempsey.I believe Diskerud is a good player. Technically skilled. Intelligent passer of the ball. That’s Powers’ skill set as well, but Diskerud goes even further forward than Powers would in his most comfortable position. Rather than competing with Dillon Powers for midfield playing time, I can see a world in which Diskerud and Powers can play off of one another as a midfield fulcrum. Sort of like the midfield with Powers and Sturgis, though with a significant upgrade through Diskerud.If you think back to the Pareja days, the 3 in his midfield core were a gritty defensive mid (Hendry Thomas) a skilled attacking mid (Powers) and a utility box-to-box mid who kind of free floated to do intelligent off the ball movement and passing. Powers and Diskerud equally could fit into either role as box-to-box or attacking mid as part of a midfield “core” or “spine” regardless of whether you play a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1. If MLS teaches us nothing else, with the right midfield core combination you can tear up the league. You can surprise people.If New York want to use Mix as trade bait, the fans are have called  for him to be sold. They’ve called him “perfectly mediocre.”Ladies and Gentlemen, what do we want here at Colorado if not the perfectly mediocre.Nathan Sturgis was a perfectly mediocre player who turned into a very effective midfielder for Oscar Pareja. The entire 2010 Rapids team was full of perfectly mediocre players. And let’s not forget, Diskerud played a complicated role for a team that was absolutely terrible last season. And if he’s on the outs… the Rapids should be there to pick him up.He’s a National Team player, and a frequent call up by Jurgen Klinsmann. He was just in camp in February. No matter how maligned he may be, Klinsmann keeps giving him chances to prove himself. Not bad for mediocre.Coaching problems aside (and of course the Rapids will be terrible this year if something doesn’t improve in coaching and from watching pre-season line ups and play I have seen nothing to convince me that the Mastronaccio still isn’t king in Colorado), this would be a good move to make, and would be a sign that the Rapids are turning themselves in a more attacking direction.Everybody wins here. Rapids get an attacking player. NYCFC upgrade their goalkeeping. Howard goes to a marquee team close to home. And MLS gets to have another star added to its roster.Why not?

 

 

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2/22/16 Copa America Draw is Set, Champions League Super Tues + Games of the Week

So the US got a difficult draw for Copa Centario this summer but its not all bad.  It will be challenging for Klinsmann and the US but for the good of Soccer in the US they really need to advance and get the country behind them this summer. The most difficult game of course is Columbia and Real Madrid superstar James in Santa Clara.  The game in Chicago, Tues eve, June 7 (read tickets still available) vs Costa Rica becomes a must win.

So Champions League is back with huge games on Tues 2:45 Fox Sports channels with Arsenal hosting Barcelona and Messi, and last season’s runner-up Juventus and their world class keeper Buffon hosting German powerhouse Bayern Munich.  (some of us headed to Stacked Pickle on 96th if you want to join us).

COPA AMERICA 100 
Group A:
June 3: United States vs. Colombia, Santa Clara, Calif.
 June 4: Costa Rica vs. Paraguay, Orlando
June 7: United States vs. Costa Rica, Chicago
June 7: Colombia vs. Paraguay, Pasadena, Calif.
June 11: United States vs. Paraguay, Philadelphia
June 11: Colombia vs. Costa Rica, Houston
US Has Copa Group of Death
US gets Toughest Draw – ESPN FC Mcintyre
Armchair Analyst MLS No Group of Death in Copa 100
US Klinsmann responds to Group of Death
No Group of Death US will be fine – NBCSports
How US has fared vs Copa Opponents MLS
Copa America Teams and Games are Set US vs Costa Rica in Chicago
Predicting the Copa Groups – ESPN FC Tim Vickery
Mexico has chance to win Group C
Who’s Playing Best for US –ESPN FC
Christian Pulisic makes first Bundesliga start for Dortmund
Champions League 
Super Tuesday – Champ League Breakdown
Does Arsenal stand a chance vs Barcelona? 
Bayern Pep not worried about UCL no championship
Games of the Week 
Tues, Feb 23
2:45 pm Fox Sports 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona – The gunners draw the top team in the world again – must win at home.
2:45 pm FS 2          Juventus vs Bayern Munich – last year’s Final 4 battle it out at Juve.
10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América –huge game for MLS and US Soccer at home –great atmosphere in Seattle
Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm  FS1          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City- Can City get a point on the road? They have never advanced past this rd.
2:45 pm  FS 2         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid –Dutch power looks to win at home.
Sat, Feb 27
10 am beIn Sport –     Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid – Ah the Madrid Classic – Real needs to win this game at home to stay in La Liga contention.
 Sunday, Feb 28
9 am NBCSN –          Man U vs Arsenal  - Always a big game despite Man U’s struggles – Gunners need win to stay in EPL contention for title
11:30 am                   Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City – Can Klopp help Liverpool win a trophy against a depleted Man City?   
2:45 pm  bein Sport     Juventus vs Inter – Another huge game with top 4 implications in Italy.
UPCOMING GAMES
Tues, Feb 23 - Champions League
2:45 pm FS 1          Arsenal vs Barcelona
2:45 pm FS 2          Juventus vs Bayern Munich
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs)
8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Querétaro vs. DC United
 10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América
 Wed, Feb 24
2:45 pm  FS1          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City
2:45 pm  FS 2         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs)
8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Tigres UANL vs. Real Salt Lake
 10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Santos Laguna
Thursday, Feb. 25
UEFA Europa League (Round of 32 second leg)
1:00 p.m., TV TBD: Athletic Bilbao vs. Marseille, Kuban Krasnodar vs. Sparta Prague, Lazio vs. Galatasaray, Liverpool vs. Augsburg, Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Fenerbahçe, Rapid Vienna vs. Valencia, Schalke 04 vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
3:00 p.m., ESPN3: Manchester United vs. Midtjylland, Porto vs. Borussia Dortmund
 3:00 p.m., ESPN Deportes: Napoli vs. Villarreal
 3:00 p.m., TV TBD: Basel vs. Saint-Étienne, Molde vs. Sevilla, Olympiakos vs. Anderlecht, Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fiorentina
 Sat, February 27
7:45 am  NBCSN        West Ham vs Sunderland
9;30 am Fox Sports 2 Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich
10 am beIn Sport –     Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid
10 am NBCSN           Leicester City vs Norwich
 Sunday, February 28
9 am NBCSN –          Man U vs Arsenal
11:30 am Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City 
2:45 pm  bein Sport     Juventus vs Inter
 Tuesday, March 1
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)
8:00 p.m., TV TBD: D.C. United vs. Querétaro
 10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
 Wednesday, March 2, 2016
CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)
8:00 p.m., TV TBD: Club América vs. Seattle Sounders
 10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL
Sun, March 6: MLS Opening Weekend
4:30 pm ESPN           Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew
7 pm Fox Sports 1      Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
  Friday, arch 25: 
Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier, time TBD (beIN Sports,)
Tuesday, March 28:
United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier, time 8 pm (ESPN2,-Columbus, OH)
COPA AMERICA 100 SCHEDULE THIS SUMMER 
Group A:
June 3: United States vs. Colombia, Santa Clara, Calif.
 June 4: Costa Rica vs. Paraguay, Orlando
June 7: United States vs. Costa Rica, Chicago
June 7: Colombia vs. Paraguay, Pasadena, Calif.
June 11: United States vs. Paraguay, Philadelphia
June 11: Colombia vs. Costa Rica, Houston
Group B:
June 4: Haiti vs. Peru, Seattle
June 4: Brazil vs. Ecuador, Pasadena, Calif.
June 8: Brazil vs. Haiti, Orlando
June 8: Ecuador vs. Peru, Glendale, Ariz.
June 12: Ecuador vs. Haiti, East Rutherford, N.J.
June 12: Brazil vs. Peru, Foxborough, Mass.
Group C:
June 5: Jamaica vs. Venezuela, Chicago  (Sunday)
June 5: Mexico vs. Uruguay, Glendale, Ariz.
June 9: Mexico vs. Jamaica, Pasadena, Calif.
June 9: Uruguay vs. Venezuela, Philadelphia
June 13: Mexico vs. Venezuela, Houston
June 13: Uruguay vs. Jamaica, Santa Clara, Calif.
Group D:
June 6: Panama vs. Bolivia, Orlando
June 6: Argentina vs. Chile, Santa Clara, Calif.
June 10: Chile vs. Bolivia, East Rutherford, N.J.
June 10: Argentina vs. Panama, Chicago
June 14: Chile vs. Panama, Philadelphia
June 14: Argentina vs. Bolivia, Seattle
Why USA's group is clearly Copa America's Group of Death
February 21, 201610:04 PM ESTBenjamin BaerMLSsoccer.com





After Sunday night's draw for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, the US national team will be facing another tall task in the group stages of an official competition after watching Group A turn into what is unquestionably the tournament's "Group of Death." Don't take our word for it. ESPN's Soccer Power Index says that Group A is the toughest of the four groups drawn.There are two other rankings to look at when attempting to determine the Group of Death, or even the Group of Life (Mexico's): the FIFA rankings and the ELO Rating System. The latter is held in higher regard by most soccer pundits since it takes into account the type of match, home field advantage and goal differential.
GROUP A
Team
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
USA
32
26
Colombia
8
6
Costa Rica
31
23
Paraguay
42
35
Average
28.3
22.5
The Group of Death will not be kind. Although the USA may be the "seeded" team as hosts, Colombia are clear favorites to get out of the group with the other three nations fighting for the second spot in the quarterfinals. Although things could change come June, Costa Rica and Paraguay are currently the more in-form teams of the three.
GROUP B
Team
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
Brazil
6
2
Ecuador
13
12
Haiti
65
86
Peru
43
22
Average
31.8
30.5
It's pretty obvious that Brazil and Ecuador are the top two teams here, but they will have to see off a Peruvian side that made it all the way to the semifinals of last year's Copa America. Haiti also showed some fight in the 2015 Gold Cup, when they advanced out of their group alongside the US.
GROUP C
Team
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
Mexico
22
13
Uruguay
11
9
Jamaica
51
61
Venezuela
81
56
Average
41.3
34.8
While everyone will be paying attention to Mexico and Uruguay, let's not forget that Jamaica defeated the US in the semifinals of the 2015 Gold Cup before falling to El Tri in the final. It would be a surprise to see Venezuela get more than three points in this group.
GROUP D
Team
FIFA Ranking
ELO Rating
Argentina
2
3
Chile
5
5
Panama
60
41
Bolivia
72
53
Average
34.8
25.5
Forecasting the two sides to emerge from Group D will not be tough for most, as Argentina and Chile are two of the top teams in the world. Panama will be the toughest opposition of the remaining two teams: They defeated the US in the third-place match of the 2015 Gold Cup, but they have not enjoyed the best of form since then. Bolivia have lost 5-0 to both Argentina and Chile in the past year.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Armchair Analyst: No Group of Death, just the Struggle Bus for USA & friends in Copa America
February 21, 201610:53 PM ESTMatthew DoyleMLSsoccer.com





Step away from the ledge and have some dignity, folks. The US have been facing South American clubs on equal footing in world competitions since 1994, and this summer's Copa America Centenario is no different. The hand-wringing on display on Twitter during and after the draw makes no sense.
Here's Group A:
On paper Colombia are the best team in the group, but forgive me if I'm not entirely overawed at the prospect of watching the US face them at home – especially given their current run of form.Los Cafeteros have scored four goals in their last eight competitive games, including last summer's Copa America. You'll note that this downward trajectory has lined up nicely with the downward trajectory of their forward corps as a whole; Radamel Falcao's never going to be Radamel Falcao again, and none of the other options have proved to be real goal-getters.
James Rodriguez can sometimes obviate that weakness by winning a game all by himself, but that's not a reliably repeatable strategy. He also can't control the game unless he has a proper midfield structure around him – and quick, tell me what that is for Colombia right now. I'll wait.(No I won't).
You don't actually have an answer, because Colombia head coach Jose Pekerman has had no answers for about the last 12 months. In the last three games in particular, he's taken some wild swings, varying his personnel, tactical bent and formation by the half. Colombia have gone 0-2-1 with one goal scored in that span.That's Colombia in the books. Here's what I have to say about the other two opponents, Costa Rica and Paraguay: In spite of several years of struggles under Jurgen Klinsmann, the US should be favored against either of those teams. If we're not – if our fans settle for a "plucky underdogs!" mantle and our approach is a reprise of the "bunker and pray" tactic that Klinsmann instilled at both last year's Gold Cup and 2014's World Cup, then we'll have taken a step backwards as a soccer community.I get the impression that lots of US fans have been so preoccupied with our own struggles at the Gold Cup that they failed to notice Costa Rica were just as bad. And anyway, if we hadn't drawn Costa Rica we'd have either ended up with a team that actually beat us at the Gold Cup (Panama, Jamaica), or should have (Haiti).That leaves a Paraguay team that didn't qualify for the 2014 World Cup, finishing dead last in CONMEBOL, and they went 3-5-6 in all competitions last year. Paraguay entered World Cup qualifying somewhere outside the top 60 in the FIFA Rankings. They've recently climbed up to No. 42 thanks to a come-from-behind 2-1 home win over mighty Bolivia, which is nice, but that is sort of canceled out by this fact: Paraguay haven't beaten a team ranked in the FIFA top 40 in over FOUR years.This is not an "oh they're just in a slump, but they have talent and if the coach pulls the right levers he should be able to figure it out" situation – which is, I'd argue, the correct assessment of the US. No, Paraguay have been a consistently bad team for 48 months as their most significant players have aged out of the program with no adequate replacements to be found.So relax a bit. There really is no such thing as a "Group of Death" in this tournament, and no one should be pretending otherwise.
2016 Copa America draw: There is no group of death, USMNT will be fine
2 Comments
By Andy EdwardsFeb 22, 2016, 8:24 AM EST
Let’s begin this week with the most flaming-hot of takes: the U.S. national team, as with nearly everything in life, is fine.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]
It is unspectacular in just about every way imaginable — it is truly unspectacular and joyless of late — yet still reliable enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and once again send a nation of nearly 320 million into soccer delirium in 27 months’ time, just as it has done every four years for nearly three decades now.In much the same fashion, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side remains just functional enough to not totally embarrass itself at the 2016 Copa America Centenario.The draw for this summer’s tournament was conducted Sunday night — alongside the Yanks in Group A are Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica — and the Yanks were handed a totally manageable field for a CONCACAF giant like themselves. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they should be expected to advance from that group. Doing so only requires they be better than Paraguay and Costa Rica. [ MORE ]
Let’s break it down bit by bit: Colombia are really, really good — decidedly better than the USMNT — but must only be played once during the group stage; that Colombia are far and away the best side in Group A and not, say, Brazil or Argentina, is a massive assist for the hosting Americans. Paraguay are, like the USMNT, spectacularly unspectacular and on their very best day, South America’s seventh-best side. Costa Rica have won just four of their 13 competitive meetings with the USMNT this century, drawn three and lost six. It could have been so much worse — Chile are the current Copa America holders and Uruguay possess some fellow named Luis Suarez; Jamaica are at present probably CONCACAF’s third- or — gasp — second-best side; and Peru are miles better than Paraguay, whom they brushed aside with ease in the third-place game at last year’s Copa. [ MORE: The very latest on the Tim Howard-to-MLS rumors ]
If, as a soccer nation, the United States is suddenly terrified of Paraguay and Costa Rica, then Jurgen Klinsmann truly has broken our spirit, our hopes and our dreams, and replaced them with the kind of resignation to defeat that’s typically only suitable for fans of the Colorado Rapids and Chicago Fire.This is not a “group of death,” as so many in the States were quick to dub it Sunday night. Truth is, the USMNT at present isn’t generally good enough to be anything more than the third- or fourth-best team in a real group of death (CONCACAF doesn’t have four teams capable of this, let alone six to fill out a four-group tournament with two seeded sides). See, the group of death implies an equally daunting test for all four teams in the group, not that it’s simply a tougher test than USMNT fans would have liked, or even that it’s “the toughest group” of the four.It’s a challenge and an ideal litmus test halfway to the next World Cup, to be sure, but if we’re wetting ourselves over the prospect of needing to win four points from games against Paraguay and Costa Rica, on home soil, you’re really not going to enjoy the next World Cup.
U.S. handed toughest draw for 2016 Copa America Centenario
NEW YORK -- The U.S. national team was dealt the toughest of the four groups in Sunday's gala Copa America Centenario draw at the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.The Americans, one of four seeded teams as host of the June competition that marks the 100th anniversary of South America's championship -- the world's oldest international soccer tournament -- will open the event with their first Group A match against Colombia on June 3 in Santa Clara, California. (Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are the other seeds.)Jurgen Klinsmann's squad then travels to Chicago to face CONCACAF rival Costa Rica on June 7, before concluding its first-round slate June 11 against Paraguay in Philadelphia. Overall, it's close to a worst-case scenario for the U.S."I take full responsibility," joked former U.S. defender Alexi Lalas, one of four former pros who participated in the presentation. "I apologize to the nation."The only way it could have been tougher for Klinsmann & Co. would be if they had been grouped with Uruguay -- boasting all-world strikers Luis Suarez (Barcelona) and Edinson Cavani -- rather than the Colombians, who are languishing in seventh place out of 10 teams in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.But there's no real pushover among the Americans' four foes, as the three nations roundly considered the weakest in the 16-team tournament, Bolivia, Haiti and Venezuela, ended up elsewhere."Obviously, it's a difficult group, no doubt about it. But it's doable," Klinsmann said following the event. He pointed out that the U.S. advanced from a foursome that included Germany, Ghana, and Portugal at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.Indeed, the Copa slate is manageable for the hosts -- if they play well. The U.S. has not lost a non-friendly match on home soil to Costa Rica since 1997. They're 1-1-2 against Paraguay in four meetings over the past two decades, and though the U.S. lost a friendly against Colombia in late 2014 in London, playing stateside should help. It did when the U.S. upset the Cafeteros in the 1994 World Cup.Still, history will matter little when the games are underway. Like Colombia, led by James Rodriguez, Paraguay is the sort of fast, physical foe that creates matchup problems for the U.S. They also boast one of the top young players in the competition in 21-year-old attacker Derlis Gonzalez.As always, winning the first game -- or at the least, not losing it -- will be crucial for the hosts."We'll do everything to prepare very, very early for Colombia," Klinsmann said. "It's good to know the teams. Now we can put a scouting plan together."Klinsmann says he wants and expects Colombia and Paraguay to bring full-strength squads, even though the former could be involved in the Olympics in August, and Paraguayan coach Ramon Diaz has suggested he could bring a young roster to the United States."They all have to come with their best teams," he said. "Would you like an easier group? Maybe on paper. But no group is easy. We'll take it the way it is."Asked his objective this summer, Klinsmann said it was to advance to the quarterfinals as the Group A winner or runner-up. Should the U.S. finish second, an elimination game against Group B favorite Brazil could await."The objective is clearly getting out of the group, even if it's not easy," he said. "First or second with that group is both tremendously fine. We'll just take it the way it is."Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The 
Jurgen Klinsmann reacts to USA's Copa America Centenario Group A draw
February 21, 201611:41 PM ESTBen CouchSenior Editor

NEW YORK — At the Hammerstein Ballroom, the Sunday-night spectacle lasted a televised hour, but it only took a single segment to dash any hopes US national team fans may have had of landing one of the easier groups at the Copa América Centenario draw.But despite drawing ColombiaCosta Rica and Paraguay – the toughest group in the summer tournament by average opponent FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings – USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann found himself buoyed by a sense of familiarity, even as he acknowledged the necessity of advancing to the quarterfinals."That's the objective," Klinsmann said. "It's clearly getting out of the group, even if that's not easy. And then we're going to go, and that's what we said after the experience in Brazil [at the 2014 World Cup]: We have to learn how to win knockout games. No better way to start than in a Copa América."The US will play the tournament's opening match against Colombia on June 3 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California; Klinsmann is excited for the matchup, making reference to the teams' November 2014 friendly at Craven Cottage in London, which Colombia won on an 87th-minute winner.Klinsmann felt the US played Colombia even, an encouraging thought now that he knows they're the first opponent. The thorough preparation can begin."For the players, I think it will click in the next couple weeks," Klinsmann said. "We talked about it always, but now it's a reality."It will help us also in terms of World Cup qualifying, because the two Guatemala games are big, big games to make a statement to your group about Copa América."Colombia's Group A assignment drew some gasps from the assembled crowd as the challenge facing the US became evident."Is it the Group of Death? Yes. Please, please. Spread it all around," said FOX Sports soccer analyst and former US national team defender Alexi Lalas, on hand as a draw assistant, with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. "As we know, the US team plays great when people doubt them; the US team plays great as an underdog."It's difficult," he conceded. "But if you want to win the World Cup and you want to be one of the best teams in the world, you have to go through the likes of Colombia."But Colombia, and star James Rodriguez, are only the first obstacle in the US national team's path forward. If the Americans win their group, they take on the second-place team from Group B (BrazilEcuadorHaiti and Peru); a second-place finish and they could be in line to take on FIFA No. 6 Brazil at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on June 17. Of course, they will likely need results against Costa Rica (June 7, Soldier Field, Chicago) and Paraguay (June 11, Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia) before they can even consider the knockout stage.There will be no gimmes at this Copa America – an obvious statement when you consider the tournament field, featuring six of the world's top 15 teams, and the quality of players that will be making the trip stateside."I think we all want to see the best players from South America come and represent their country," Klinsmann said. "We can't wait to see James Rodriguez here, [Lionel] Messi, Neymar, all these wonderful players showcasing themselves in the United States, they all have to come with their best teams. And they will. There's no doubt about it."
How has the US national team fared against their Copa America opponents?
February 21, 20169:23 PM ESTBenjamin BaerMLSsoccer.com





ColombiaCosta Rica and Paraguay. That's what will be awaiting the USA in Group A of the 2016 Copa America Centenario after Sunday night's draw.It starts June 3 at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, California against Colombia. Then it's Costa Rica at Soldier Field in Chicago on June 7 and Group A closes against Paraguay on June 11 in Philadelphia (check out the full tournament schedule).The US have a rich history with two of the three nations: They have faced Colombia twice in Copa America and at the 1994 World Cup, while Costa Rica is the USA's longtime foe in the CONCACAF region with the two teams facing off most recently in an October 2015 friendly.Here's the complete US national team history against their Copa America Centenario foes:
COLOMBIA
The USA have not fared well against Colombia over the years, winning just three of 17 all-time matches. As mentioned above, one of those wins did come at the 1994 World Cup when they defeated Los Cafeteros 2-1 at the Rose Bowl. The two teams most recently squared off in October 2014 in London, England when Colombia defeated the US 2-1.Colombia have had a rough go of it since their run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. They finished third in their group at the 2015 Copa America and were defeated by Argentina in the quarterfinals. More recently, they've started poorly in World Cup qualifying, collecting just four points in their first four games.
COSTA RICA
The USA and Costa Rica have a long history, having faced each other a total of 33 times. Costa Rica hold a slight edge, 14-13-6, after defeating the US in a friendly last October at Red Bull Arena. They split their 2014 World Cup qualifying games, somewhat controversially, with each team winning their home match.Costa Rica followed up their magical 2014 World Cup quarterfinal run with another heated 2015 Gold Cup quarterfinal elimination at the hands of Mexico when Andres Guardado scored a 124th-minute winner following a controversial penalty. The Ticos have gotten off to a solid start in 2018 World Cup qualifying, winning both of their games so far.
PARAGUAY
USA have less of a history with Paraguay, with the two nations facing off just six times. They have split the six matches, each team winning two. The most recent match came in March 2011 when Paraguay defeated the US 1-0 in a friendly in Nashville, Tennessee.But watch out for Paraguay: They made an outstanding run to the 2015 Copa America semifinals, defeating Brazil in the quarterfinals after a penalty kick shootout. They've gotten off to a decent start in 2018 World Cup qualifying, earning two wins in their first four matches. However, those two wins came against the continents' minnows in Venezuela and Bolivia.
Copa America predictions: U.S. group wide open, Brazil and Mexico to cruise
With the groups set for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, Tim Vickery predicts the eight teams that will advance to the knockout stages.
 Group A: U.S., Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay
The Copa could hardly have a more dramatic start than a match between hosts U.S. and Colombia, one of the South American countries where this competition is likely to generate the most interest. In recent times Colombia have been followed by an impressively noisy set of fans and with so many Colombians based in the U.S., that is surely set to continue in June.These two sides are the favourites to qualify although this might be the best balanced of the four groups.Paraguay are notoriously resilient, and Costa Rica bring their 2014 World Cup pedigree to the dance. The question mark against the chances of the two CONMEBOL teams is whether they will be close to full strength. Paraguay coach Ramon Diaz has indicted that he will be experimenting with some youngsters, and the fact that Colombia have recently staged training sessions with a group of youthful, domestic players could be an indication that coach Jose Pekerman is thinking along similar lines.If that happens, the balance shifts toward the two CONCACAF nations.
 Group B: Brazil, Ecuador, Haiti, Peru
Brazil and Ecuador promise a fine start to a group where the matches are evenly split between the West and East coasts. The five-time world champions open their campaign against the sensation of South America's current World Cup qualifiers. A black mark against Ecuador is their recent record in tournaments: they were the only South American side in the last two World Cups not to make it out of the group stage, and their performances in recent Copas have been poor. Coach Gustavo Quinteros will be looking for something better from his men.In Brazil, meanwhile, there is confusion about the availability of captain and attacking inspiration Neymar, with the Copa being overshadowed in the local mind by this summer's Olympic football tournament. Even so, Brazil are clear favourites to go through along with Ecuador. Haiti are seen as one of the weaker CONCACAF nations, and Peru may well bring an experimental squad.
>Group C: Mexico, Uruguay, Venezuela, Jamaica
Mexico have been handed a low-key group that will immediately test the attacking intentions of coach Juan Carlos Osorio. His team may not be against the most attack-minded opponents. Jamaica played in last year's Copa in Chile, where they were never disgraced but looked very short of inspiration.Venezuela, meanwhile, are in a state of turmoil. The country's top 15 players recently signed a letter protesting the directors of the local FA and making it clear that relations with coach Noel Sanvicente are strained. The coach has since travelled to Europe to meet the players and attempt some form ofdetente. But it is not yet known whether they will be available -- or be selected -- for next month's World Cup qualifiers. Venezuela, then, are something of an unknown quantity.
Uruguay, though, should be interesting not least because their Under-20 side is proving such an excellent production line for the national team. They are favourites to go through with Mexico, but with coach Oscar Washington Tabarez liking to fight from inside a trench, it will be fascinating to see if El Tri can break them down in the opening group fixture.
Group D: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Panama
Argentina and Chile will meet in competitive action for the third time in a year. Their June 6 clash in Santa Clara is the least important of the three behind last year's Copa final and next month's World Cup qualifiers. Nevertheless it is full of interest, with Argentina eager to end their long wait without a senior title, and new Chile coach (and Argentine) Juan Antonio Pizzi needing some time to get to know his players and impose his methods. Argentina are clear group favourites.Chile are in a state of transition, and Bolivia, one of South America's weakest teams, may well bring a squad of youngsters. The stage could be set, then, for Panama to make a breakthrough and announce themselves as CONCACAF's surprise side.
 U.S. Hot List: John Brooks dominating at Hertha, Brad Guzan on the outs

United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann outlines his player selection process ahead of his side’s WC qualifiers in March.

While MLS standouts like Jozy Altidore, Kellyn Acosta, Steve Birnbaum and Lee Nguyen used the national team’s January/February camp to make their cases for major minutes at this summer’s Copa America Centenario, the way the domestic league’s calendar falls makes it likely that foreign-based Americans will be mostly used when World Cup qualifying resumes against Guatemala next month.”The end of March comes early for MLS players,” Klinsmann told ussoccer.com last week. “Is the roster you’ll see at the end of March the same one as Copa America? Probably not.”

Keeping those words in mind, this latest Hot List includes 11 lineup candidates playing their club ball abroad. With the home-and-home series now less than six weeks away — not to mention the U.S. U-23’s two-leg Olympic qualifying playoff set for the same FIFA window — here’s who is helping (or hurting) their chances of being in the mix.

Warming up

 

Alejandro Bedoya, M, Nantes (France)

Why he’s here: The 28-year-old notched an assist in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Lorient, giving him four goals and a pair of assists in his last six games.

What this means: Based on current form, Bedoya is the best American player in the world, having eclipsed Borussia Monchengladbach’s Fabian Johnson, who’s own searing run has inevitably cooled. Simply put, no Yank anywhere is better right now than Bedoya.

 

John Brooks, D, Hertha Berlin (Germany)

Why he’s here: Brooks, who turned 23 last month, has started 12 consecutive games for Hertha since regaining his lineup spot in October. He’s been a beast, too, dominating defensively and finding chances when he ventures forward. Brooks also seems to have resolved the consistency issues that plagued him during his first two seasons in the Bundesliga.

What this means: If he’s healthy, bank on Brooks starting at left center back for the U.S. over Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler — who’ll be just three games into the new MLS season — in the first leg in Guatemala City on Mar. 25.

John Brooks has been a steady presence in Hertha Berlin’s starting XI since early November.

 

Omar Gonzalez, D, Pachuca (Mexico)

Why he’s here: The former Los Angeles Galaxy star has been nearly flawless in central defense for the Tuzos, starting all six games since his late-2015 arrival.

What this means: Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron, who was Klinsmann’s first-choice right center back at the end of 2015, remains sidelined with an ankle injury. Combined with Gonzalez’s strong start in Liga MX, that could open the door for the 27-year-old to partner with Brooks next month.

 

Desevio Payne, D, Groningen (Netherlands)

Why he’s here: Now recovered from the ankle injury that limited him in late 2015, the former U.S. U-20 has appeared at right back in five of Groningen’s six Eredivisie games in 2016. He’s started the last four, including Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Ajax.

What this means: Payne, who doesn’t turn 21 until late November, probably won’t be a serious senior team candidate until later this cycle. But if his Dutch club releases him to the U.S. U-23s — who missed him during last October’s unsuccessful CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament — it would be a huge coup for Andi Herzog, who could then deploy Acosta in his natural defensive midfield role.

 

Christian Pulisic, M, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Why he’s here: Pulisic was less effective in Saturday’s match against Hannover than in his two previous appearances off the Dortmund bench, but he’s still getting real minutes for a top club in an elite league — something unprecedented for a 17-year-old U.S. national team prospect.

What this means: If BVB coach Thomas Tuchel allows Pulisic to travel to Colombia with the U.S. U-23s for the first leg of next month’s do-or-die home-and-and home, don’t be surprised if he starts both games as part of the agreement. Of course, if Dortmund drags its heels, Klinsmann could just summon Pulisic to the senior squad instead.

 

DeAndre Yedlin, D/M Sunderland (England)

Why he’s here: Sure, he was caught sleeping on Manchester United’s goal, but Sunderland’s 2-1 upset of the Red Devils was also Yedlin’s best game yet for the Black Cats, with the 22-year-old dangerous and energetic throughout at right back.

What this means: The win should help Yedlin keep his spot in Sam Allardyce’s lineup. A starting assignment for the U.S. could follow if he holds the job into next month, although the feeling is Klinsmann still prefers him in midfield.

 

Cooling down

Ventura Alvarado, D, Club America (Mexico)

Why he’s here: Alvarado started Las Aguilas’ first three games of 2016 but had a shocker against Pachua on Jan. 17 and hasn’t dressed for coach Nacho Ambriz in the three matches since.

What this means: The Arizonan was also dropped by Ambriz last season; the chance to redeem himself came only after Mexican international defender Paul Aguilar got injured. So it’s hard to see Alvarado, who has been playing with America’s U-20 squad of late, getting another opportunity or playing with the U.S. until his situation changes.

 

Joe Corona, M, Dorados de Sinaloa (Mexico)

Why he’s here: Since moving to Sinaloa, his second loan from Tijuana in as many seasons, Corona has found playing time scarce. He’s been an unused substitute in three of the club’s six games this year, including Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Pumas.

What this means: Klinsmann has challenged Corona to get out of his comfort zone — he lived with his parents in San Diego while with the Xolos — but the 25-year-old hasn’t been a consistent performer south of the border despite over 150 Liga MX appearances. Could an MLS move be in his future?

 

Brad Guzan, G, Aston Villa (England)

Why he’s here: Guzan continues to languish on the bench for Villa, having sat out the last six games for the Premier League strugglers since losing his starting job to Mark Bunn.

What this means: The Illinois native still seems unlikely to be reinstated even after Bunn conceded six Liverpool goals in Sunday’s embarrassing 6-0 home defeat. Still, Tim Howard’s uncertain future at Everton could keep the 31-year-old Guzan in contention for the Americans open No. 1 role ahead of June’s Copa America.

Brad Guzan’s previous Premier League start for Aston Villa came back on Jan. 2 in a 3-1 loss to Sunderland.

 

Timmy Chandler, D/M, Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany)

Why he’s here: The German-American hasn’t made Eintracht’s bench in three weeks and last played in a league game more than two months ago.

What this means: Chandler fell out of favor with Klinsmann even before losing his day job and will remain off the radar until he’s playing regularly again at club level. But with more than 120 Bundesliga appearances on his resume, don’t write off the 25-year-old permanently yet.

 

Jermaine Jones, M, Unattached

Why he’s here: The 34-year-old is still unemployed and will begin a six-game suspension the moment he finds a new club — effectively ruling him out for next month’s matches.

What this means: Despite his age, Jones can still contribute at the international level and will remain in Klinsmann’s plans through at least this summer. Still, the coach made it clear that he won’t play an unfit Jones, who will have gone seven weeks without a match if he’s still unsigned, even if he’s available against Guatemala.

ESPNFC’s Tom Marshall contri

 

 

Champions League preview: Do Arsenal stand a chance vs. Barcelona?

1 CommentBy Andy EdwardsFeb 22, 2016, 10:03 AM EST

Arsenal haven’t been to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League since 2010. In five straight knockout stage appearances they’ve been bounced from the competition in the round of 16, having been little more than an afterthought in conversations of real contenders for the title.[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s UCL coverage ] They’ve also endured a tortured recent history against this season’s round of 16 foe, Barcelona, who happen to be in the midst of one of the longest, most dominant unbeaten runs we’ve seen in quite some time.So why, of all years, should we believe this to be any different for the Gunners? To find that answer, we’re going to have to look really, really deep into this round of 16 tie, which kicks off Tuesday (1:45 p.m. ET, with live and post-game coverage on PST). Even then we might not find what we’re looking for.

Arsenal’s all-time CL meetings with Barcelona: 1-1 and 2-4 (group stage – 1999); 1-2 (2006 final); 3-6 (aggregate – 2010); 3-4 (aggregate – 2011). In short, history is not only not on Arsenal’s side, but it couldn’t be much more against them (one single-leg victory in seven meetings all-time – 2011 first leg).

Barcelona’s current unbeaten run: 32 games. The last time Barca lost, the date was Oct. 3, 2015. Simple math tells us that’s nearly five months without a loss in any competition.

Messi, Suarez and Neymar goals scored combined: 91 through 46 games (1.97 per game – all competitions) this season. Last season they combined to score 122 goals in 61 total games (2.0 per game – Suarez was suspended the first three months of the season). A better attacking trio has arguably never existed.

Do Arsenal even want to bother with progressing in the CL? They’ve not had a chance this good to win the Premier League since they last won it a decade ago. They’re two points back of Leicester City and level with Tottenham Hotspur. They’ve already got an fifth-round replay against Hull City in their bid for a third straight FA Cup. They’re finally close to having a fully fit squad, but is it deep enough to compete on three fronts when one of them involves European travel mid-week with important domestic games on the weekends either side? Of course they do, but it’ll only make life tougher in the meantime.

Will it even matter what they want? As is the case with most top sides, Arsenal struggle most noticeably against teams that are organized defensively, sit deep inside their own half and hit back on the counter-attack. Barcelona are the most proactive, possession- and attack-minded side in the world, and they’ll look to dominate possession and attack non-stop from the opening to final whistles. There will be room to hit back on the counter themselves, putting to good use the pace of Theo Walcott, the directness and nose for goal of Alexis Sanchez, and the brilliant vision and the splitting through balls of Mesut Ozil. The real problem lies in the fact that for every chance Arsenal have on the counter, Barca will have three or four or five during prolonged periods of possession while camped inside Arsenal’s half of the field.Best of luck, Arsenal. You’re going to need it.

Four powers, two games, one Champions League Super Tuesday

Y BEN LYTTLETONTwitter EmailPosted: Mon Feb. 22, 2016

If UEFA established a Super Tuesday in the Champions League, this would be it: four of Europe’s biggest and best teams face each other in the pick of the round-of-16 ties this week. Barcelona’s quest to become the first team in the Champions League era to retain its title takes it to London, while last year’s runner-up, Juventus, takes on Bayern Munich.On Wednesday, two dark horses are in action; Manchester City hopes to reach the last eight for the first time–playing in an empty stadium vs. Dynamo Kyiv–while 2014 finalist Atletico Madrid is a favorite to get past PSV Eindhoven.Here is what to look out for this week (all games start 2:45 p.m. ET):

Arsenal vs. Barcelona (Tuesday)

History is not on Arsenal’s side in this tie; it lost to Barcelona in Champions League in 2010 and 2011 (Messi scored four goals in that first game) while the English side also lost the first leg at home in each of their last three round-of-16 ties; against Bayern Munich (2013 and 2014) and Monaco (2015). Barcelona’s recent record in England is as good as it can be: after the Arsenal wins, it also beat Manchester City at this stage of the competition in the last two seasons.On current form, Barcelona is the best team in Europe: Celta Vigo was blitzed 5-1 in an astonishing 15-minute period of play late on, while last Saturday’s display at Las Palmas may have been scrappy in comparison, but Barça still won 2-1. The Messi-Suarez-Neymar strike partnership seems unstoppable; and while Messi and Neymar have continued to star this season, right now it is Luis Suarez who is in the zone, with 15 goals in his last nine appearances.There is reason for some optimism for Arsenal. Goalkeeper Petr Cech, who has been outstanding this season, has never been beaten by Messi in six meetings. Will that run continue? Gabriel Paulista believes so: he told the Brazilian press that he has the secret formula for keeping MSN quiet. Let’s see that before we believe it.

Juventus vs. Bayern Munich (Tuesday)

When the draw was made, Bayern was the clear favorite for this tie. Since then, everything has gone right for Juventus, and not quite so right for the German leader. Juventus ended its run of 15 straight Serie A wins Friday night with a goalless draw at Bologna, but there is no doubt that Massimiliano Allegri has found the right formula, with Gigi Buffon and Paulo Dybala in superb form.​Bayern’s status is not quite so secure; Holger Badstuber has joined Medhi Benatia, Jerome Boateng and Javi Martinez on the injured center backs list, while January signing Serdar Tasci only made his debut at the weekend. Midfielder Arturo Vidal, up against his former club, has come in for criticism on and off the field. It’s better news further upfield, where Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski have scored 13 of the team’s last 14 goals.Even though Kingsley Coman and Douglas Costa have not been as dangerous as earlier in the season, Arjen Robben is back from injury and so is Franck Ribery, who made his first home appearance for nearly 12 months Saturday (he will likely start on the bench Tuesday).No European game featuring Bayern is complete without the usual Guardiola debate; since he has announced his departure, and his destination, the narrative continues that Bayern’s Champions League campaign is all-or-nothing. This is unfair on Guardiola, who has already fulfilled his brief as Bayern boss by taking its football to new levels; the Juventus game has taken on an undue importance with the sense that a defeat will tarnish his legacy. It’s certainly not as clear-cut as it appeared three months ago.

Is Pep Guardiola’s time with Bayern Munich a failure if he doesn’t win Champions League?

On SI Now, former Germany national football team goalie Jens Lehmann discusses whether or not Pep Guardiola’s tenure as Bayern Munich’s manager will be a disappointment if the team doesn’t win the Champions League.

Dynamo Kyiv vs. Manchester City (Wednesday)

City has lost its last thee games and its slump could not have come at a worse time. Coach Manuel Pellegrini fielded a second-string team for Sunday’s FA Cup defeat at Chelsea because he is clearly prioritizing this chance to reach the last eight for the first time in the club’s history, and Sunday’s League Cup final against Liverpool.While City is strong favorite to progress past a team that has not played since early-December, there are always caveats to the side which remains reliant on Vincent Kompany and Sergio Aguero and, when fit, Kevin de Bruyne. Which Yaya Toure will turn up? Will the defense stay solid? Does Raheem Sterling’s form deserve more scrutiny? And of course, ever since the club announced that Pep Guardiola will take charge next season, which players will still be in the side then?It’s surprising to note that from when Dynamo beat City 2-1 on aggregate in the 2011 Europa League, City still has six players who could start this week. After five years and millions spent on new players, that’s hardly an overhaul.Before the draw was made, Dynamo coach Sergei Rebrov was slated to spend a week at City watching training sessions; but the team had so many matches (therefore not as much training) that his trip was canceled. Rebrov was part of the Dynamo side that reached the 1999 Champions League semifinal and claims he knows how to prepare a team after a three-month hiatus. If he’s right, then Pellegrini might have another headache. The added twist of the game being played in front of no supporters, as a result of UEFA sanctioning for fan racism, is a variable that both teams will need to take into account.

PSV Eindhoven vs. Atletico Madrid (Wednesday)

Poor old Nicolas Isimat-Mirin. The PSV defender was interviewed at the club canteen, and declared that he would "eat Atletico like this soup" that he had just been given. Only problem: the soup was boiling hot and it burned his tongue.PSV beat Manchester United to reach this stage and has maintained its position at the top of the Dutch table. Coach Philipp Cocu is not afraid to deviate from the usual 4-3-3 system, playing a 4-4-2 to boost the midfield against Wolfsburg. Mexican midfielder Andres Guardado is back from injury for the game.Even though Atletico dropped points at home to Villarreal Sunday, for once Diego Simeone takes his team in Europe as a strong favorite. It is unsurprising that his defense is the club's backbone, one that has conceded 11 goals in 25 La Liga games this season, the best in Europe’s top five leagues. At the other end, Antoine Griezmann has only scored once in his last seven games, while Luciano Vietto and Angel Correa have bags of potential; this is their chance to show it on the big stage.

2/19 Champ League, US Ladies Olympic Qual tonite, Games on TV

A solid first week of Champions League Round of 16 play as the top team’s basically held serve with PSG and Real Madrid securing 1st leg victories. Huge games on Tues 2:45 Fox Sports channels with Arsenal hosting Barcelona and Messi, and last season’s runner-up Juventus and their world class keeper Buffon hosting German powerhouse Bayern Munich.        The US Women face T+T tonite 8:30 pm on NBCSN and probably Canada Sunday in their bid to qualify for the Olympics next summer, while the US Men wait on Sunday Night’s Copa America Centenario Draw live from NY City, Sunday night at 7:30 on Fox Sports2 to see who they will face and who comes to Chicago.                                                                   FA Cup Action returns in England this weekend as both Manchester teams are struggling – its Chelsea hosting Man City at 11 am Fox Sports 2 with another chance that new America signee defender Matt Miazga could play while John Terry continues to recover.      

Games of the Week

Friday

8:30 p.m NBCSN 1A. United States Women vs. 2B. Trinidad & Tobago – USA looks to Qualify for the Olympics Final 4

Sun, Feb 21

9:30 am  Fox Soccer Plus Bayer Levekusen vs Dortmund – Battle of Top 4 German powers                 11 am – Fox Sports 2 Chelsea vs Man City – Chelsea host City in FA Cup Round

5:00 p.m., NBC Universo and NBC Sports Live Extra: USA ? vs. TBD (tape-delayed on NBCSN at 11:00 p.m.) USA looks to Qualify for the Olympics –Finals

7:30 pm Fox Sports 2 — 2016 Copa America Centenario Draw – See who the US plays, who plays in Chicago and the entire layout of the Copa

Tues, Feb 23

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona – The gunners draw the top team in the world again – must win at home.

2:45 pm FS 2          Juventus vs Bayern Munich – last year’s Final 4 battle it out at Juve.

10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América –huge game for MLS and US Soccer at home –great atmosphere in Seattle

Wed, Feb 24

2:45 pm  FS1          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City- Can City get a point on the road? They have never advanced past this rd.

2:45 pm  FS 2         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid –Dutch power looks to win at home.

UPCOMING GAMES

Friday, February 19

2:45 pm beIn Sport  Bologna vs Juventus

 CONCACAF women’s Olympics qualifying (Semifinals at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas)  5:30 p.m., NBC Universo: 1B. Canada vs. 2A. Costa Rica
8:30 p.m., NBCSN 1A. United States vs. 2B. Trinidad & Tobago

Sat , February 20

8:30 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 1 Arsenal vs Hull City

10 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 2 Reading vs West Brom

12:15 pm FA Cup Fox Sports 2 Bournemouth vs Everton

Sunday, February 21

8:30 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 2  Blackburn vs West Ham United

9:30 am  Fox Soccer Plus Bayer Levekusen vs Dortmund

10 am beIN Sport Malaga vs Real Madrid

10 am FA CUP – Fox Sports Regional Tottenham vs Crystal Palace

11 am FA Cup – Fox Sports 2 Chelsea vs Man City

CONCACAF women’s Olympics qualifying (Championship game at BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas)  

5:00 p.m., NBC Universo and NBC Sports Live Extra: USA ? vs. TBD (tape-delayed on NBCSN at 11:00 p.m.)

7:30 pm Fox Sports 2 — 2016 Copa America Centenario Draw –

 Tues, Feb 23 – Champions League

2:45 pm FS 1          Arsenal vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FS 2          Juventus vs Bayern Munich

CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs)                                                                                8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Querétaro vs. DC United
10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Seattle Sounders vs. Club América

 Wed, Feb 24

2:45 pm  FS1          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City

2:45 pm  FS 2         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid

CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal first legs)                                                                               8:00 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Tigres UANL vs. Real Salt Lake
10:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Santos Laguna

Thursday, Feb. 25

UEFA Europa League (Round of 32 second leg)                                                                                             1:00 p.m., TV TBD: Athletic Bilbao vs. Marseille, Kuban Krasnodar vs. Sparta Prague, Lazio vs. Galatasaray, Liverpool vs. Augsburg, Lokomotiv Moscow vs. Fenerbahçe, Rapid Vienna vs. Valencia, Schalke 04 vs. Shakhtar Donetsk

3:00 p.m., ESPN3: Manchester United vs. Midtjylland, Porto vs. Borussia Dortmund
3:00 p.m., ESPN Deportes:
 Napoli vs. Villarreal
3:00 p.m., TV TBD: Basel vs. Saint-Étienne, Molde vs. Sevilla, Olympiakos vs. Anderlecht, Tottenham Hotspur vs. Fiorentina

Sat, February 27

7:45 am  NBCSN        West Ham vs Sunderland

9;30 am Fox Sports 2 Wolfsburg vs Bayern Munich

10 am beIn Sport –     Madrid Classico – Real Madrid vs Athletico Madrid

10 am NBCSN           Leicester City vs Norwich

 Sunday, February 28

9 am NBCSN –          Man U vs Arsenal

11:30 am Capital 1 Cup Finals – Liverpool vs Man City

2:45 pm  bein Sport     Juventus vs Inter

 Tuesday, March 1

CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)

8:00 p.m., TV TBD: D.C. United vs. Querétaro
10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Santos Laguna vs. Los Angeles Galaxy

 Wednesday, March 2, 2016

CONCACAF Champions League (Quarterfinal second legs)

8:00 p.m., TV TBD: Club América vs. Seattle Sounders
10:00 p.m., TV TBD: Real Salt Lake vs. Tigres UANL

Sun, March 6: MLS Opening Weekend

4:30 pm ESPN           Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew

7 pm Fox Sports 1      Seattle Sounders vs. Sporting Kansas City
 

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)

Copa America –Chicago Full Venue Passes                                                                                   Sun, June 5 – C3 vs. C4
Tues Eve, June 7 – United States vs. A3
Fri Eve, June 10 – Argentina vs. D3
Wed Eve, June 22 – Semifinal (read Argentina vs Brazil) Maybe

Copa Schedule

WORLD SOCCER

Van Gaal and United hit all Time Low in Europa lost to Midtylland 2-1

Man U and Man City Both Struggling

Who’s Deep enough to win the EPL – Goodman ESPN FC

Shaka Ranks the Top 10 in world

Messi’s Trick PK

Champions League-Rd of 16 

Tues, Feb 23

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1            Arsenal vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FS 2                          Juventus vs Bayern Munich

Wed, Feb 24

2:45 pm  FS1                          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City

2:45 pm  FS 2                         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid

This week’s first-leg results:Paris 2-1 Chelsea, Benfica 1-0 Zenit

, Gent 2-3 Wolfsburg, Roma 0-2 Real Madrid
Next week’s first legs: Tuesday – Arsenal v Barcelona, Juventus v Bayern
                       Wednesday – PSV v Atlético, Dynamo Kyiv v Man. City

2-1 PSG over Chelsea –Lessons Learned                                                                                             PSG coach Blanc left frustrated

Clinical Madrid punish Roma

Late goals give Gent hope

Arsenal seek change of fortune against Barçelona

USA

US Ladies Edge Mexico on late Lloyd Goal

Healthy Alex Morgan Brings Sophisticated Game to USWNT

Prospects for US in Copa Draw Look Ok – NBCSN

Goalkeeper for US Suddenly an Issue?  Washington Post

US Johnson  scores in Germany

http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/us-soccer-double-pass-youth-academy-development

http://www.si.com/planet-futbol/us-soccer-coaching-licenses-guidelines-nico-romeijn 

US Defender Matt Miazga loving life at Chelsea

 MLS

Arsenal to play MLS Allstars July 29

Seattle’s Obafemi Martins leaves for China opening door for Morris

How to watch and follow the CCL quarterfinals

Everything you need to know about CCL

Is third CCL series victory vs. Liga MX in the cards for MLS?

Should we expect teams in CCL to get results in Mexico?

#MLS4RSL: Reliving historic CCL run ahead of MLS-Liga MX showdown

CCL Preview: United try to overcome last year’s disappointment

CCL Preview: RSL try to re-capture 2011 magic

CCL Preview: Sounders enter quarters looking to upset champs

CCL Preview: Are Tigres favorites entering knockout rounds?

CCL Preview: How Queretaro stack up vs. DC United

CCL Preview: Can Santos top LA, make another run to the final?

CCL Preview: América set to take on a weakened Sounders

CCL Preview: Can reloaded Galaxy find CCL glory?

Kick Off: Should Mario Balotelli consider a move to MLS?

MLS TV Schedule for 2016

 INDY 11

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Copa America Centenario is now on sale

We’ve just released tickets to the Copa America Centenario to the general public. These matches will sell out, but you still have a chance to secure your seats today to see the world’s best compete at Soldier Field in these matches:

Sun, June 5 – C3 vs. C4
Tues Eve, June 7 – United States vs. A3
Fri Eve, June 10 – Argentina vs. D3
Wed Eve, June 22 – Semifinal (read Argentina vs Brazil) Maybe

Chicago Venue Passes  Find Other Venue Passes

Copa Venue Passes include a ticket for the same great seat to all matches in a particular stadium (the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey Venue Pass is an exception, as it includes only the first round and quarterfinal matches). Copa Venue Pass purchasers will be entered into a lottery for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the highly anticipated Copa America Centenario Final at MetLife Stadium on June 26.

2016 Copa America: USMNT’s prospects for group draw mostly not horrible

1 CommentBy Andy EdwardsFeb 18, 2016, 6:11 PM EST

The group-stage draw for the 2016 Copa America Centenario, which takes place on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET) in New York City, could go a long way toward determining the U.S. national team’s fate at this summer’s tournament to be played in cities across the United States.Just as with the World Cup, a bad draw for the group stage could hand the USMNT three dauntingly difficult fixtures from which they need a minimum of four points to advance to the knockout stage.Fortunately for the USMNT, their worst-case scenario group-stage draw isn’t half as bad — at least on paper — as what we thought they would face at the 2014 World Cup. Having been placed into pot 1, thanks to their host nation status, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side will avoid Argentina, Brazil and Mexico until the knockout stage, should they advance that far. Unlike the Chileans, though, who hosted and won the 2015 Copa America, the Yanks’ home-field advantage will be decidedly lessened when facing any nation with a significant population living in the States, which is to say, most nations from the Americas and Caribbean. [ MORE: The very latest on the Tim Howard-to-MLS rumors ] Based largely upon their respective showings at the 2015 Copa America, 2015 Gold Cup and a bit of the eye test, the difficulty (from most difficult to least difficult) of teams making up pots 2-4 looks something like this:

Pot 2: Chile, Colombia Uruguay, Ecuador — Nothing about this pot can spell good news for the USMT. Chile and Colombia are neck and neck at the top of the group, with a slight advantage going to the former as the current Copa holders. Uruguay have the undisputed best player of the four nations, though, in Luis Suarez. Simple math says there’s a 75 percent chance the USMNT gets one of the above South American giants, and a 25 percent shot at Ecuador, a largely disappointing side (failed to advance from the group stage) at last summer’s Copa. [ MORE: Bobby Wood scores in Germany | Fabian Johnson does, too ]

Pot 3: Jamaica, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti — Competition the USMNT knows very well, and against which they typically perform well. Jamiaca gets the nod ahead of Costa based on, 1) their experience from playing in last year’s Copa, and 2) the massive improvement they showed during the ensuing Gold Cup, where they finished runners-up to Mexico (andbeat the USMNT in the semifinals). Speaking of sides who troubled the USMNT more than a bit last summer, Panama (third-place finishers) and Haiti (outplayed but ultimately fellto the USMNT during the group stage) round out CONCACAF’s representatives.

Pot 4: Peru, Paraguay, Venezuela, Bolivia — Peru knocked off Paraguay to finish third at last summer’s Copa, buoyed by the tournament’s joint-top scorer, Paolo Guerrero (4 goals), so the USMNT wants little to do with either of those sides, really. As for Venezuela and Bolivia, the former came within a point of advancing from a group that featured Brazil, Colombia and Peru, while the latter snuck out of a group that included Chile, Ecuador and a B-team Mexico side.With that said, the USMNT’s best- and worst-possible draws, in this writer’s opinion, are as follows, while anything else falls somewhere in between based upon the above rankings. [ MORE: Matt Miazga Q&A — Loving life during early days at Chelsea ]

Best-possible draw: USA, Ecuador, Haiti, Bolivia  Worst-possible draw: USA, Chile, Jamaica, Peru

Barcelona stay top as Tottenham make their move and Leicester drop down

The leaders remain unmoved but Italy’s champions are on the up, as are the Premier League’s form team.

  1. Barcelona(no change)

After Wednesday’s win over Sporting Gijon, Barcelona lead La Liga by six points and look likely to win their sixth Spanish title in eight seasons. Luis Enrique’s men are now unbeaten in 31 games and, with Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Neymar in rampant scoring form — seemingly every game — you have to wonder if anyone can prevent them winning another treble.

  1. Bayern Munich(no change)

Barca’s former manager might have the best-equipped side to thwart the reigning European Cup holders in the Champions League. Pep Guardiola’s side face Juventus in the Round of 16 first leg next week but, in the meantime, are easing their way to another Bundesliga title. Their latest walk in the park saw them win 3-0 at Augsburg and featured another Robert Lewandowski brace.

  1. Juventus(+1)

They left it late by Simone Zaza’s winner beat Napoli to earn Juventus a 15th consecutive Serie A win and, more importantly, lifted The Old Lady into first place in the standings. It really is remarkable to think that this same squad started the season so poorly. As it stands, Juve are another European power with hopes of a treble.

  1. Paris Saint-Germain(-1)

Laurent Blanc rested key men for the 0-0 Ligue 1 draw against Lille — you can do that when you lead the table by more than 20 points! — but the big names were back against Chelsea and PSG earned a narrow 2-1 advantage. Thibaut Courtois’ saves meant it wasn’t a bigger win but the French side will be confident of scoring at Stamford Bridge.

Real Madrid are unbeaten in seven games since Zinedine Zidane took over as manager.

  1. Real Madrid(no change)

Doesn’t it seem like a long time ago that Rafa Benitez was in charge at the Bernabeu? Madrid might not be quite at the level of Barcelona yet but there is no doubt that, under Zinedine Zidane, they are getting better. The last week saw wins over Athletic Bilbao and in Rome, with Cristiano Ronaldo scoring three times across those two games.

  1. Tottenham(+3)

If anyone still had doubts about Spurs’ title credentials before they went to Manchester City on Sunday, they surely don’t anymore. Christian Eriksen’s late winner earned a 2-1 win and, after five straight league victories, Tottenham now sit second in the Premier League. On Thursday, they earned an important away draw vs. Fiorentina in the Europa League.

  1. Atletico Madrid(+1)

A week after scoring his 100th goal for the club, Fernando Torres was on target again as Atletico won 1-0 at Getafe. Diego Simeone’s side have stuttered a little in recent weeks and will be looking to rediscover top form soon, given their upcoming fixtures include a Champions League trip to PSV Eindhoven and then, three days later, the Madrid derby against Real.

  1. Arsenal(new)

The Gunners reignited their Premier League title hopes thanks to their let show against Leicester but must now maintain their momentum if they are to win silverware this season. Their next three games are against Hull in the FA Cup, before they face Barcelona in the Champions League and then travel to Manchester United in league play.

  1. Borussia Dortmund(new)

BVB are unbeaten in all competitions since the winter break. Most recently, Thomas Tuchel’s side beat Hannover in the Bundesliga, where they trail leaders Bayern by eight points but have a 13-point advantage over third-placed Leverkusen. Dortmund then beat Porto 2-0 in the Europa League, a competition they are definitely capable of winning.

  1. Leicester(-3)

So close, so close! After taking the lead at Arsenal, Leicester then conceded just once having been reduced to 10 men … until the final minute of injury time when Marcin Wasilewski’s clumsy foul led to the free kick from Danny Welbeck scored the Gunners’ winner. Valiant defeats don’t earn any points but there was still plenty to suggest Leicester won’t go away.Dropping out: Napoli, Benfica.

Lessons learned from Paris 2-1 Chelsea

Published: Wednesday 17 February 2016, 8.45CET by Chris Burke

Reporter Chris Burke assesses Paris Saint-Germain’s 2-1 win against Chelsea in football’s new capital rivalry, where goalkeepers starred and both teams took credit.

European football’s new rivalry
Paris Saint-Germain and Chelsea have made a habit of serving up richly entertaining affairs and Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League round of 16 offering followed suit, leaving the second leg at Stamford Bridge on 9 March fascinatingly poised with Laurent Blanc’s men 2-1 up. The French club posted a better result than last season against the Blues – when they went through after two draws – but worse than two years ago, when they lost 2-0 in London after a 3-1 home win.

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So it was hard to argue with Guus Hiddink’s take that his Chelsea team’s chances are “50-50”. Nevertheless, both those recent ties were settled on away goals and Jon Obi Mikel’s first-half leveller could yet prove crucial, particularly as the team that scored second progressed in 2014 and 2015.

Goalkeepers catch the eye
It has become a cliche in the French capital to say that Paris finished runners-up in Group A because of Kevin Trapp, the goalkeeper’s mistake at Real Madrid sealing a 1-0 loss. Given that it was the only goal he conceded during the entire group stage, that is a slightly harsh assessment, but the summer signing from Eintracht Frankfurt has also made a handful of errors on the domestic scene and remains something of an enigma.

Highlights: Paris 2-1 Chelsea

As an unknown quantity brought in to supplant the popular Salvatore Sirigu, the 25-year-old German was always going to have to work hard to win over supporters, but he turned in a faultless display and his instinctive save onto the crossbar from Diego Costa’s header will endure in the memory. “I’m convinced he’ll play a lot more games of this calibre,” commented Blanc. Trapp’s opposite number Thibaut Courtois was similarly impressive, meanwhile, keeping Chelsea in the tie with fine stops from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Ángel Di María.

Paris forwards prove points
Trapp was not the only player in the Paris ranks under the microscope. Ibrahimović went into this game saddled with a reputation for fading from view when the stakes are high, having managed just seven goals in 36 UEFA Champions League knockout games and three in 18 fixtures against English clubs at this level.

Here, though, he opened the scoring – albeit via a deflection – and played a part in Edinson Cavani’s winner, as the substitute showed what he too can do. Again left out of the starting lineup in favour of the lively Lucas, the Uruguay striker needed just four minutes to coolly slot in the winner after coming off the bench. “I hope this goal will give him confidence,” said Blanc.

Mikel: Chelsea still in it

Injury-hit Chelsea show grit
Chelsea supporters feared the worst when John Terry was ruled out of this match with a muscle injury shortly after fellow centre-back Kurt Zouma was sidelined for the season. They need not have fretted.

True, the visitors lost for the first time in the 13 matches since José Mourinho was dismissed, but Branislav Ivanović and Gary Cahill were formidable in the heart of defence – at one point throwing themselves in the way of a Blaise Matuidi shot – while young left-back Abdul Baba Rahman would have had an assist were it not for Trapp’s thrilling save from Costa. “We’re very disappointed to have lost the game,” said Mikel afterwards. “I think we deserved more.”

Hazard fluffs his lines
Long courted by Paris, Eden Hazard made waves before the game by suggesting it would be “hard to say no to PSG”. Here, then, was his chance to impress the hosts, who are still hunting a superstar solution on the left side of their attack.

Instead, while Willian and Pedro Rodríguez were the brightest sparks for Chelsea, the Belgian international had a low-key performance in keeping with his low-key season and he was promptly hauled off on 71 minutes. So majestic last term, Hazard has just one goal in all competitions in 2015/16 and will need to turn things around in the second leg – for Chelsea’s sake above all.

Ronaldo helps tilt Roma tie in Madrid’s favour

Published: Wednesday 17 February 2016, 22.45CET  Roma 0-2 Real Madrid
Second-half goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and substitute Jesé earned Zinédine Zidane’s side a hard-fought victory in Rome.

Real Madrid have one foot in the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals after capping a patient display in Rome with a 2-0 round of 16 first-leg victory.The Stadio Olimpico did not witness a shot on target until the 57th minute but it was worth waiting for as Marcelo released Cristiano Ronaldo for a trademark strike, cutting in from the left. Roma rallied yet could not find an equaliser and substitute Jesé rounded off Zinédine Zidane’s coaching debut in the competition in style.The first half soon established a routine, with Madrid content to build up slowly. The Roma rearguard bided their time before pouncing on anything loose and launching a rapid counter. The jet-heeled Mohamed Salah and Stephan El Shaarawy were the chief outlets, but while they provoked panic, Madrid’s covering defence was rarely unduly stretched.Moments of real quality were conspicuous by their absence, and Wojciech Szczęsny’s decision to wear tracksuit bottoms appeared prudent – he was virtually a spectator. There was one big scare before half-time, however, as Ronaldo flicked the ball inside to the lively Marcelo, who pivoted nicely and whipped a volley just wide.The pair combined again for the opening goal as Ronaldo sprang the offside trap to meet Marcelo’s slide-rule pass. He coolly stepped inside Alessandro Florenzi before lashing a deflected effort high into the roof of the net. Suddenly the game opened up, with chances coming thick and fast at both ends.William Vainqueur flashed a shot narrowly wide and substitute Edin Džeko so nearly muscled his way in. Yet after Ronaldo headed off target, it was another replacement who delivered the killer blow. Four minutes after coming on, Jesé made a powerful run from midfield before slotting in

Key player: Marcelo
The Brazil left-back was a doubt before the match with a shoulder problem but there was little sign of any issue in a typically full-blooded performance. While Salah kept him busy in defence, it was going forward that Marcelo came alive, going close to a goal himself before unlocking the Roma back line for Ronaldo.

Ronaldo ruins Roma’s plan
Luciano Spalletti said on the eve of the game that he was not going to assign one player to mark Ronaldo; rather it would be a team effort. For 57 minutes it worked a treat but then Ronaldo cleverly isolated Florenzi – and once he had collected Marcelo’s pass there was only one outcome.

Good time to end hoodoo
Two seasons ago Madrid travelled to Schalke at this stage seeking just their second win in 26 trips to Germany. A 6-1 victory did the job, laying the platform for the Décima. Zidane’s side are now well placed to end another hex: Madrid have lost their last eight two-legged ties against Italian opposition.

Arsenal seek change of fortune against Barça

Published: Wednesday 13 January 2016, 15.45CET

Arsenal will be seeking a positive first-leg result against Barcelona in London as they bid to avoid a third knockout defeat by the UEFA Champions League holders this decade. Arsenal FC hope it will be a case of third time lucky when they host FC Barcelona in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League round of 16 tie.• The Premier League side have lost their two previous two-legged knockout ties against Barcelona, who also won in England at this stage of the competition in 2014 and 2015.

Previous meetings
• Arsenal came from behind to beat Barcelona 2-1 when the teams last met in London in the 2010/11 round of 16, Robin van Persie and Andrey Arshavin overturning David Villa’s first-half goal.

• Barcelona recovered with a 3-1 second-leg success in which Lionel Messi scored twice. Sergio Busquets had briefly given Arsenal hope with an own goal that made it 1-1.

• The lineups for the first leg at Arsenal on 16 February 2011 were:
Arsenal: Szczęsny, Eboué, Koscielny, Djourou, Clichy, Song (Arshavin 68), Wilshere, Fàbregas, Nasri, Walcott (Bendtner 77), Van Persie.
Barcelona: Valdés, Dani Alves, Piqué, Abidal, Maxwell, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta (Adriano 89), Pedro, Messi, Villa (Keita 68).

Match background

Arsenal
• The Gunners are looking to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2010.

2006 final: Barcelona end 14-year wait

Barcelona
• Winners of Group E, Barcelona were one of only two teams to go through the group stage unbeaten, with an away record of W1 D2.

Coach and player links
• As coach of AS Monaco FC, Wenger suffered home (0-1) and away (0-2) defeats by Barcelona in the 1993/94 group stage.

Match facts

Arsenal
• Joel Campbell, Giroud and Özil are a booking away from a ban.

UEFA Champions League squad changes
• In: Mohamed Elneny (FC Basel 1893)
• Out: Glen Kamara (Southend United FC, loan), Mathieu Debuchy (FC Girondins de Bordeaux, loan)

Barcelona
• Piqué will incur a suspension with his next booking. Arda Turan serves a one-game ban.

UEFA Champions League squad changes
• In: Adrian Ortola, Aleix Vidal (Sevilla FC), Arda Turan (Atlético Madrid)
• Out: David Babunski, Juan Cámara, Alejandro Grimaldo (Benfica), Gerard Gumbau, José Aurelio Suárez

*Subject to weekend updates

 

Miazga Q&A, as USMNT defender is loving life at Chelsea

1 CommentBy Joe Prince-WrightFeb 13, 2016, 12:18 PM EST

USMNT youngster Matt Miazga joined Chelsea in January as the former New York Red Bulls star has joined one of the biggest clubs in the world.So far, it’s all been a bit of a whirlwind but Miazga, 20, is settling in well and is already raving about the “more professional” setup in the Premier League and spoke of his dream to always move to Europe in the Q&A below.In an exclusive partnership with Chelsea Football Club, NBCSports.com provides even more access to life at Stamford Bridge.Sign up to the Chelsea Fan Club Plus now to read the full edition of this month’s Chelsea magazine. Members also gain access to Chelsea TV featuring behind-the-scenes action from the Chelsea training ground and exclusive interviews with Guus Hiddink and his players.

Below is a Q&A with Miazga from Chelsea’s magazine.

It must be an exciting time for you, having just moved across the pond to start your Chelsea career.
This is a great opportunity. My goal was always to go to Europe to test myself against the best players in the world and against top-level opposition. This is the best league in the world so I’m looking forward to the higher level, getting better as a player and developing.

How would you describe yourself as a player?
I’m a defender so I like to win headers. I’m aggressive, I’m not scared to play out from the back and I like to use my passing range a lot. I try to communicate with the other defenders and be a leader on the field.

What do you expect from the Premier League?
Watching it since I was a young boy, everyone knows the league is very competitive and any team can beat any team, so the competition is very high and everyone is going all out to win their games. It is a very exciting league and I look forward to it.

Football really seems to be on the rise in the United States now…
It definitely is, especially after the World Cup in 2014 when we made it out of the group of death. Everybody became big fans and it is growing now, you can tell.

Coming from a Polish family must have helped your interest in the game along…
When my dad was younger, growing up in Poland, everyone played football so he gave me his tips and advice. Every year as I got older, I would play with different travel teams and different coaches would take control and help me, but my dad has always been there for me, giving me advice and keeping my mentality strong.

You have a full United States cap now and you also had an impressive tournament at the Under-20s World Cup, didn’t you?
It was a great experience. Playing with some of the best players your age is a great experience. Going past the group stage was another one – playing for your lives, everyone gives it their all, game are full of emotions and there’s a lot of passion. You are representing your country so you want to give it your best and everyone is watching back home. Obviously, it is not the full World Cup and that is definitely a goal of mine, but it is definitely a stepping stone in my career. We did fairly well for an American side, we got to the quarter-finals and lost to the eventual champions, Serbia, on penalties.

Is it fair to describe last year as your breakthrough season, given that you made 30 MLS appearances for New York Red Bulls?
Yes, I would say so. As a young player, to become a full-time starter and get all those significant minutes, that is a definitely a breakthrough season. From the start I wasn’t pencilled in as a starter. I talked to my manager and he wanted to slowly integrate me and establish me as I was 19 at the time, but there was an injury so I was forced into the line-up anyway. Ever since that first game I just played really well and stuck with it.

You played against Frank Lampard in a game against New York City, as well as David Villa and Andrea Pirlo. What was that like?
Yes, we played them in the Red Bull Arena. There were obviously some world-class players and every time you step on the field against them you want to do well. It was a good experience playing against top players like that – meeting them and competing against them. Lampard actually had some chances arriving at the right time in the box. He didn’t put them away and we were lucky he didn’t. He obviously had good quality on the ball.

What are your first impressions of Chelsea, having just arrived here?
It’s definitely more professional. It’s a huge club, so there are staff that take care of you and people within the club who try to make it an easy transition and make you feel comfortable. Your job, then, is only to work on the pitch and give your all. You can tell the magnitude of the club when you walk in, with the facilities here.

 

 

Worry for U.S. national team: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan out of favor at their clubs

By Steven Goff February 14 at 7:45 PM  

In November, Jurgen Klinsmann summoned goalkeepers Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Bill Hamid to the U.S. national team ahead of two World Cup qualifiers. Howard and Guzan interrupted their Premier League work, while understudy Hamid arrived after another sterling MLS season.Three months later, the most stable of positions in the U.S. program is showing cracks.Howard is struggling to regain his Everton job, Guzan has dropped to second choice with last-place Aston Villa and Hamid is recovering from a knee operation that will keep him out of D.C. United’s lineup for months.If there was one area American soccer has never had to fret about, it was goalkeeper. Since 1990, when the United States ended a 40-year absence from the World Cup, the job has been in good hands: notably those of Tony Meola, Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel and, for the past several years, Howard and Guzan, with Nick Rimando as a reliable reserve.But when Klinsmann gathers his squad late next month for a pair of qualifiers against Guatemala, the shot-blocking function might, for the first time in recent memory, come with concerns.[How Americans abroad fared this weekend]

This is not to suggest American soccer’s world-class strength is now a weakness. Even if they remain in reserve in England, Howard and Guzan carry years of international experience and remain among the finer netminders in the CONCACAF region and beyond. Without the fitness demands of outfield players, goalies do not necessarily need to play every week in order to maintain quality form and, in their cases, remain in Klinsmann’s good graces.Clearly, though, Klinsmann would prefer to have one or both of his top keepers in rhythm before camp opens ahead of the March 25 qualifier in Guatemala City and the March 29 rematch in Columbus, Ohio.Regardless, both are almost certain of receiving invitations. The third slot might return to Real Salt Lake’s Rimando, who missed the November qualifiers and winter camp after undergoing surgery to repair meniscus damage.Whether Howard and Guzan regain starting jobs in England will undoubtedly claim some of Klinsmann’s attention. Howard, 36, has not been at his best this season and, after suffering a minor knee injury last month, yielded the job to Spain’s Joel Robles. Although Howard is healthy again, Robles has remained in the lineup.[Lloyd scores game-winner for USWNT against Mexico]  he shift comes amid speculation that, despite two years left on his contract, the 2014 World Cup hero will return to MLS this summer after 13 Premier League seasons. ESPNFC.com reported that the Colorado Rapids are his primary suitors.This week, Everton Manager Roberto Martinez spoke as if Howard was nearing the end of his phenomenal run at the Liverpool-based club.“We will have to take a bit of time to consider his best moments and what he has done for this club,” he told British reporters. “We should appreciate that and give him that warmth between now and the end of the season. I think it’s important that Tim doesn’t feel that all his good work has been forgotten.”Guzan, 31, had started all but six of Aston Villa’s league matches the previous three campaigns and the first 20 this season before falling out of favor last month. He has since backed up Englishman Mark Bunn in league play and started two FA Cup matches.Villa, a 6-0 loser at home against Liverpool on Sunday, is headed for relegation to the second tier next season after 28 years in the top flight.Aside from Guzan’s playing form, his relationship with disgruntled supporters has also deteriorated: Last month he and a teammate were accused of shouting obscenities at fans behind the bench during an FA Cup match.Hamid would have been Klinsmann’s top choice at the winter camp, which featured almost exclusively MLS players. But the Annandale native reinjured his knee before the report date, sidelining him four to six months.Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls) and David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes) started in the friendlies against Iceland and Canada, respectively. They have a combined three international appearances.Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer.

Healthy Alex Morgan Brings More Sophisticated Game To USWNT

By Graham Hays | Feb 18, 2016espnW.com

FRISCO, Texas — Alex Morgan recalls most everything about her first appearance for the United States women’s national team. She remembers then-coach Pia Sundhage informing her the night before, a relief after weeks of training with the team. She remembers the bus ride to the stadium and watching from the bench in the first half, thinking, planning how to contribute and play to her strengths. And Morgan, who was born at the height of summer, raised in Southern California and scored the biggest goal of her life to that point under sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s in the Southern Hemisphere to win the Under-20 World Cup, remembers the snow that day in Utah.Snow had not been part of her preparation for that moment. The two of them did not get along particularly well that day.There was jest in her words, the memory an easy one to playfully rue six years, 103 caps, 59 goals and Olympic and World Cup gold medals later.And yet history has a way of repeating itself.While she will never forget 2015, a year that brought her the aforementioned and career-defining World Cup medal and a ticker tape parade, too, it might also fit the description of the best year of her life that she wouldn’t choose to relive.It was a year of injuries and personal frustration wrapped around a brief interlude of unadulterated communal joy.”I felt like, in a way, I was held back a little bit, and I didn’t reach my personal expectations or goals, even though it was probably one of the best years of my career,” Morgan said. “So it’s interesting in the fact that I feel like I could have performed better at the World Cup. If I had been healthier throughout the year, consistently, I could have made a bigger impact for my club team and for my country.”But at the same time, I don’t want to complain because it was a great year, and a lot of things went my way and went the team’s way.”The 26-year-old Morgan begins the new year healthy and partnered with Carli Lloyd at the top of a American attack moving on without Abby Wambach for the first time in almost 15 years. Morgan is new to the role of team elder, if not yet in years than as one of only four players who began Olympic qualifying with 100 caps. That seniority brings with it newfound opportunity for activism. And she is the face of the NWSL’s newest franchise in Orlando, Florida, where she begins a new phase of life with husband Servando Carrasco of the city’s MLS team.All of it is why Morgan has never been more interesting than she is at the dawn of 2016. Excellence is entertaining, but complexity is compelling.We saw the first act of her career, were introduced to a protagonist of remarkable talent and unmistakable appeal. We sat through the second act, too, wherein the adversity necessary in any drama slowed her ascent, or at least her goal-scoring rate, and left her a frustrated figure.But the third act is the good stuff. It is where Romeo proclaimed himself fortune’s fool and Hamlet pondered to be or not to be.So the curtain rises on Morgan’s third act in 2016.It helps that she is on stage. Ankle and knee injuries during the past three years limited her availability for both club and country, and 2015 seemed to sum up the state of affairs. While she appeared in 22 of 26 national team games, her year seemed defined by the wait to see if her left knee would be ready for the World Cup and news after the tournament that she would undergo arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. The combination of injuries and international duty limited her to four appearances for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns FC.Asked if there is any question she would rather never hear again than that about her health, Morgan countered that she would settle for the frequent inquiry merely serving as something other than introduction. “How are you doing,” long ago ceased to be amiable small talk.”If I could never have that question be the very first question I’m asked, that would be great,” Morgan said. “But I do feel great. I feel 100 percent, I feel healthy. I think I made big strides in January camp with fitness and with physically being able to train every day. Now I’m just looking forward to getting a lot more games under my belt.”Her play thus far does not betray the optimism. She scored a goal against Ireland in the first game of the year, her 100th international appearance, before adding two more in the first Olympic qualifier against Costa Rica. She also set up Lloyd for the first two goals the United States scored in that friendly against Ireland. The first assist was intentional, a well-placed cross across the box. The second was serendipitous, Morgan’s header saved into Lloyd’s path. The sequences, albeit not against the caliber of opponent that will stand in the way of Olympic gold, showed what there is to like about the arrangement. The two work well in tandem, but they also pull apart defenses individually in a way that frees the other.”It’s different than the Abby-Alex combo that was there for such a long time,” Lloyd said. “I think what she does great is getting in behind the back line, she’s able to make defenders kind of open that pocket and that space for me.”U.S. coach Jill Ellis, whose history with Morgan goes back more than a decade to college recruiting days, has stressed the idea of different than what came before. Her message to Morgan is that the present isn’t about reclaiming 2012, when the forward scored 28 goals in 31 appearances for the Olympic gold medalists. It is instead about moving ahead with 2016 and using the time that has passed.”I think her movement, her sophistication of runs, I think that has gotten better and better and better,” Ellis said. “I’ve seen it. For her to not just finish her chances, which she’s starting to do and she’s gaining confidence with that, it’s I think she’s just going to terrorize back lines with her movement, her sophistication.”If the new year is about evolution more than restoration on the field, it is only in keeping with the rest of Morgan’s life.Consider the following timeline. The United States won the World Cup in Vancouver, British Columbia, on July 5. The team rode through a ticker tape parade in New York on July 10. Morgan had the procedure on her knee in Los Angeles on July 17. Then, as she was finally preparing for a few days at home, Carrasco was traded from Houston to Orlando on July 20 and they were on the move again. None of which even takes into account that her other place of employment at the time, in addition to the national team, was in the Pacific Northwest.There are nice perks to being a global sports star, albeit oneSepp Blatter doesn’t recognize, but appearing as the first woman on the cover of a cultural touchstone video game and authoring a New York Times bestseller don’t make a nomadic life or the new realities of long-distance marriage any easier.”It’s hard to not have any sort of consistency,” Morgan said, “In terms of my own life, but then when I bring someone else into my life, with my husband, and creating a life together and having different lifestyles, in the fact that I’m at a hotel 70 percent of the year. We don’t see each other often. I pretty much live out of a suitcase. I think for anyone who is living this lifestyle on this team, it’s difficult in itself to stay mentally strong, to be able to enter into a new environment week in and week out and have your diet be consistent, have your sleep patterns be consistent, be able to mentally and emotionally be stable and positive. It’s not easy.”Her own move to Orlando, which admittedly paid a steep price in talent to acquire her, provides at least a modicum of stability. It is also a professional challenge, as the face of a franchise that hews to a developing sense of self, or at least a confidence in expressing herself.Mia Hamm was already 24 years old when the United States won gold in the 1996 Olympics, 27 when the national team had the stage to itself in the 1999 World Cup. Wambach was 24 when she won her first major title in the 2004 Olympics. Morgan was 22 when she scored her first World Cup goal in 2011 and a full-fledged mainstream star in the social-media world soon thereafter. This isn’t new ground to cover, but it remains true that Morgan dealt with a level of stardom rarely seen in women’s team sports and did so at a younger age than anyone in the discussion.”I remember still my first interview I had, and Abby just told me, ‘Just be honest, just speak from your mind.'” Morgan said. “I feel like I blacked out during the interview, and it was like a basic interview. But then you live and you learn.”The mental image of that conversation is almost comical, one of the most unguarded and extemporaneous public talkers in sports telling a young Morgan, by her own admission deathly afraid of public speaking, to just let it rip. Even now, Morgan talks about forming thoughts she knows will be written down and distributed word for word. If the existential oddity of that arrangement ever occurred to Wambach, it certainly never slowed her. That isn’t Morgan. It won’t ever be Morgan. But where the filter cuts off and the bully pulpit begins is one more part of the evolution.For instance, it was Morgan, along with Christine Sinclair, who a year ago raised the issue of substandard hotels for NWSL teams to a national debate within the soccer community and spilling over into mainstream media. When she spoke, the league had to listen.”I think it’s always about picking your battles and picking when the time is right,” Morgan said, also pointing to her choice to speak out regarding the substandard artificial turf in Hawaii that led to the cancellation of a game this past December. “I just feel like there should be more gender equity and more opportunity globally for women and women should be respected on a higher level. On those fronts, I have grown into what I feel most comfortable speaking about, what I’m most passionate about. So I hope that what I do on the field gives me the most leverage to be able to do something good in this world [in regard to gender equity issues] that I’m passionate about.”Even as Ellis rattled off all the ways in which Morgan helped the team during the World Cup beyond her lone goal, Ellis eventually came back to the inescapable truth that, “Ultimately a goal scorer is always going to measure themselves by goals.” The rest of us are no different. Morgan’s year will ultimately be judged on how healthy she remains and how many goals she scores for club and country. In that there is no nuance. But in every other way, someone who at 22 seemed as two-dimensional as most superheroes, is at 26 a more fully formed and fascinating three-dimensional character.As we watch that unfold, so do her teammates, so many of them now her junior.”I admired her a lot for that last year,” Morgan Brian said of what her teammate experienced in 2015. “Especially as a younger player, I tend to watch a lot and just see and observe my teammates and especially the older ones — the more experienced ones. For me, she did go through a lot of challenges with injuries and getting back and then having another setback. She always kept her head down, she worked hard, she did what she was supposed to do to get herself back on the field and healthy.”She’s used to playing and scoring goals for us. It’s a different role sitting on the sideline because you’re injured. I think she handled it the best way possible, and that’s a testament to her character.”So arrives the third act of Alex Morgan. The one that is always worth watching.

Q&A WITH THE BYB

Supporters group members talk offseason reactions, plans for 2016 & moreFeb 3, 2016

Present at every game at Carroll Stadium, the Brickyard Battalion stands, singing, battered in blue and waving their scarves with pride. You hear them, screaming at the top of their lungs as the opposition wavers, chanting loud and proud for the players on the pitch. The Brickyard Battalion is the best supporters section in the NASL – and the loudest and proudest.With the 2016 season slate beginning in April, the biggest and best supporters group in the NASL is already churning up the excitement for their “Boys in Blue.” IndyEleven.com recently took the opportunity to poll some BYB Board members to get their thoughts on what the team has done in the offseason and what might be in store from the West End Stand (and beyond) this season.

  1. Does the BYB have anything special in store for the 2016 schedule?

Andrew Retz: We are going to continue to improve our tailgate experience. Unfortunately due to Indiana’s liquor laws, giving away beer is a challenge. However, the tailgate improvement initiative led by James Cormack created what we like to call “Tent City.” We set up a few canopies, fellow supporters set some up as well and we create sort of a bazaar of different tables lead by Brickyard Battalion, Slaughterhouse-19, and other Indy Eleven supporters. You’ll be able to find anything from food, beer, BYB/SH19 centric merchandise, and good discussions with fellow supporters (and traveling away support). BE WITH THE BYB! Get FREE Gold membership, save on seats with season tickets

ric Knoll: We always go big on the home opener, so expect something good then. At some point we’re hoping on doing some sort of Peter Wilt related tifo too, but not sure when.

  1. What offseason signing are you most looking forward to seeing at Carroll Stadium?

James Cormack: Looking forward to seeing all of the players honestly, but I think Eamon Zayed for me will be interesting to watch. He has an incredible scoring record and this will be his first time in the USA, whereas most of the other players we know about or have experience in [American] soccer. If he can blend in quickly and hit the ground running I think we could see a lot of goals from him. He is a physical player who I think will fit well in the NASL and if we can provide the service, he will score, and I think we have players who can do that. Carmel FC Coach – Joshua Mason: For me it’s the chemistry of this entire new roster.  I’m really pleased with all the new additions and very thoughtful as to what they can bring to the pitch.  I am really hoping scoring is something than can be more consistent with Zayed, and that back line is one of the best in the league.

  1. A lot of experience has been brought in since the end of last season. Are you excited about where this team is headed?

Knoll: It’s very exciting to see the team bring in much higher quality of players with more notable experience. The only worry you have is injuries playing a part.Retz: Absolutely. Collectively this is certainly the best team we’ve ever had on paper. Instead of signing that one big star, we’ve spread the wealth out among multiple MLS and NASL veterans. After all, this is a team game of 11 players. The more quality you can have at each position should translate on the field and show itself in games where we would have lost or drawn in the past.

  1. What kind of road trips are in sight for this year, and where?

Cormack: Looks like we will be heading to OKC in April. Will be interesting to see their setup as they are starting to roll late and are competing with a USL team for support. So, we’ll be looking to bring enough people there to be louder than them. I think there will be some people heading to Tampa for the first game and also to Puerto Rico for our first game [of the Fall Season] in July.Retz: Our first big road trip will be to Rayo OKC for the weekend of April 30th. We are putting together plans as we speak, including 15-seater vans, hotels, and match day tickets.The Fall season leads to many more opportunities for travel. There is a contingent interested in going to the Indy Eleven game in Puerto Rico to see PRFC’s first league game. We are also looking at returning to Minnesota and Carolina. Ultimately, if the match in October against Rayo OKC has playoff implications, expect us to take a group there as well.Our travel planning in the truest form of “Do It Yourself” …  it may not be pretty, but we’ve lead some pretty successful trips in the past two seasons. If you’re interested in any of our away trips, please email us atbybontour@gmail.com. More information about the trip to Rayo OKC will be released in the coming days.

  1. What can we expect out of the most passionate fan base in the NASL?

Cormack:  The most passion! We will be loud and proud even at the lowest and highest of points, we never give up on the guys even if things are not going so well. That is why we are called supporters, we support, and we’ll continue to be the best support out there for our team, coaches and staff. Knoll: Just that we’ll be there every single week. Everything we do, we do it every week – singing, chanting, and jumping, with smoke. It doesn’t matter if we’re winning or losing, we don’t stop and we show up.

cropped-cfc-tyler.jpg

Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://brickyardbattalion.com, Sam’s Army-http://sams-army.com ,  American Outlaws  https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

The Old Ballcoach  – Coach Shane Best

2/12/16 Champ League R of 16 Tues/Wed, EPL top 4 Battle, US results Men/Ladies, Games on TV

Ok lets start with Champions League which kicks off the Round of 16 Knockout Stages starting Tues/Wed this week and next with a couple of interesting matchups.  French leaders PSG host Chelsea again this season on Tues FS1 at 2:45, while Roma will host Real Madrid playing without right back Marcelo on Wednesday same time and channel. (see full game reviews below)

Interesting game vs Canada for the US Men last weekend – a game that saw the US dominate possession (as they should against a CONCACAF foe), outshoot them 10-1 and finally win 1-0 on a last second goal by Altidore.  So after the month long US camp what did we learn.  Altidore is back in the best shape of his life maybe and really gave fine effort in both games – scoring goals in both.  I thought his pairing Morris up top was a little stronger than with Zardes but the competition was tougher vs Iceland really.  I thought Lee Nguyen was the real winner of the camp – his play on the wing but really sliding into a #10 role was impressive.  It would be interesting to see him as a true #10 with Bradley serving the #6 role sometime.  While I do like Jones and his tenacity (his 6 game suspension) will keep him from playing vs Guatemala next month so I just don’t understand why he played him so much. (Especially at center back vs Canada – seriously he’s the worse Center back EVER!!) Why not allow Birnbaum to play his natural center slot and show what he can do while the European players are not available?? I really don’t understand the German sometimes.  Anyway – I thought

So the EPL has some big games on Sunday – as the top 4 teams in the table square off on NBCSN.  It starts with Arsenal hosting league leader Leicester City at 7am, followed by Man City hosting 2nd place Tottenham at the Etihad at 11:15 am.  Man I wish the Foxes of Leicester City would just add an American player so I could jump on the bandwagon full scale, either way you have to love one of the smallest payrolls in the EPL holding first place with just 13 EPL games to go.   Saturday also has US speedy defender DeAndre Yedlin and Sunderland hosting Man U at 7:45 am on NBCSN, while US Goalie Tim Howard may or may not be in goal as the Toffees of Everton host West Brom at 10 am.  Chelsea and new US defender Matt Miazga (might be on the traveling squad) will host New Castle United at 12:30 pm on NBCSN.

Around the leagues – Juventus will host Serie A leader Napoli Sat at 2:45 on beIN Sport looking to make up the 2 pts they trail in the table, while 3rd place Fiorentina host 4th place Inter Sunday morning at 6:30 on beIN Sport.   In La Liga Real Madrid will try life without left back Marcello as they host Athletic Club Sat at 10 am on beIN sport, while on Fox the Bundesliga will feature a number of good games including Borussia Dortmund vs Hannover 96 on FS2 at 9:30 Sat, and Ausburg hosting Bayern Munich Sun at 11:30 am on Fox Sports 2.  Finally the US Ladies are back in Action for Olympic Qualifying vs Mexico Sat at 4 pm on NBCSN, and again Monday night vs Puerto Rico at 8:30.

Champions League Sweet 16

Champions League Previews

Outside Chance US Matt Miazga could play UCL for John Terry

Paris and Chelsea meet for the third year in a row

PSG well placed to win, but Chelsea a good bet for the away goal too

Hazard  must be Difference maker for Chelsea vs PSG – ESPN FC Phil Lythell

Zidane centre stage as Real Madrid visit Roma full preview

Zenit comes off Winter Break to face Benfica test

Belgiums Gent and struggling in Germany’s Wolfsburg seek first-time success

 

What to Watch 4 – ESPN FC Video

PSG Issues prior to Chelsea Showdown

PGS Marginal Favorites over Chelsea

Zenit favored over Benefica tues

Real LB Marcelo out for Roma Matchup with Seperated Shoulder

Novelty for Gent vs Wolfsburg

Why Juve can Handle Bayern

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

Tues, Feb 23

2:45 pm FS 1          Arsenal vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FS 2          Juventus vs Bayern Munich

Wed, Feb 24

2:45 pm  FS1          Dynamo Kiev vs Man City

2:45 pm  FS 2         Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid

EPL + World

Top 4 Battle Royal – NBC Soccer

Leicester Downplays EPL Title Winning Odds – Adam Murray ESPN FC

Neutrals want Leicester to Win title

The Foxes can knock Arsenal out of the Title Race and More of the Huge Game ESPNFC

Now do you Believe in Leicester- SI Avi Creditor

EPL Predictions for Huge Weekend at the Top EPSN FC

Man City and Spurs in a Title Showdown ESPN FC

Mourinho is the wrong man for Man U – Ryan Bailey Yahoo

Mourino and United a Perfect Match – McCarthy Omnisport

Juve Coming after League Leader Napoli on Saturday says world class keeper Buffon – ESPN FC

Men In Blazers

EPL Standings

Italy Table

Germany Table

Spanish Table

French Table  Nantes just 3 pts off 2nd.

USA

US ladies Christen Press Goal –holy crap Messi like

3 Takeaways for USWNT win over Costa Rica 5-0

Alex Morgan scores fastest goal in US History

Altidore’s late goal rescues US in Wasteful Friendly vs Canada

US Camp and 2 Wins – what did we learn – SI – Brian Straus

US U23 Jerome Kiesewetter makes Strong Impression SI

US Stuart Holden Announces Retirement

NASL + Indy 11

Indy 11 Squad coming into Focus

Indy 11 add La Liga Mid Gorka Larrea

11 Add defender Stephen Deroux

Bloody Shambles – NASL things

Indy 11’s EamonZayed –bloody Shambles-

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Friday, February 12

2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and GolTV Español: Mainz vs. Schalke 04

Saturday, February 13

7:45 a.m., NBCSN and NBC Universo: Sunderland vs. Manchester United

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2 and Fox Deportes: Borussia Dortmund vs. Hannover 96
9:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus : Darmstadt vs. Bayer Leverkusen
10:00 a.m., NBCSN: Everton vs. West Bromwich Albion
10:00 a.m., USA Network: Norwich City vs. West Ham United
10:00 a.m., Extra Time: Crystal Palace vs. Watford, Bournemouth vs. Stoke City, Swansea City vs. Southampton

10 am  beIn Sport –  Real Madrid vs Athletic Club
12:30 p.m., NBCSN and NBC Universo: Chelsea vs. Newcastle United

12:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Köln vs. Eintracht Frankfurt

Sunday, February 14

6:30 am beIn Sports: Milan vs Genoa

7:00 a.m., NBCSN and Telemundo: Arsenal vs. Leicester City
9:05 a.m., NBCSN and NBC Universo: Aston Villa vs. Liverpool

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1 Hamburg SV vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach

11:15 a.m., NBCSN and NBC Universo: Manchester City vs. Tottenham

11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2 and GolTV Español: Augsburg vs. Bayern Munich

2:45 pm, beIn Sport  Fiorentina vs Internazionale

 Mon, Feb 15

8:30 pm NBCSN  USA Women vs Puerta Rico

Tues, Feb 16

Champions League

2;45 pm  FS 1               PSG vs Chelsea

2:45 pm FS2                 Benefica vs Zenit St. Pete

 Wed, Feb 17

2:45 pm FS1                 Roma vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm FS2                 Gent vs Wolfsburg

 Thurs, Feb 18

Europa League

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

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

  Fri,  Feb 19

2:30 pm bEIn Sports Bologna vs Juve

5:30 + 8:30 pm NBCSN – Olympic Qualifying Semi Finals – USA vs?

 Sat,  Feb 20  FA Cup Weekend

7:45 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Hull City

 Sun, Feb 21

9:30 am Fox Soccer Plus?  Bayern Leverkusen vs Borussia Dortmund

10 am Fox sports 2?   Chelsea vs Man City

11:30 am Fox Soccer Plus – Schalke vs Stuttgart

5:30 pm NBCSN  Olympic Qualifying – Finals – USA vs? 

 Tues, Feb 23  Champ League

2:45 pm FS 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich

8 pm  FS1? Queretaro vs DC United

10 pm FS2? Seattle Sounders vs Club America

 Wed, Feb 24

2:45 pm  FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City

2:45 pm  FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid

8 pm Tigres UNAL vs Real Salt Lake

10 pm LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna

 Tuesday, March 1:

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

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

  Wednesday, March 2: 

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

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

 Sunday, March 6: 

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

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

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

 Friday, March 25: 

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

 Tuesday, March 28:

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

MLS TV Schedule for 2016

What to watch out for in the Champions League
Published: Sunday 14 February 2016, 12.00CET
Can Guus Hiddink’s return help Chelsea oust Paris? Will Zenit emerge sparkling from their winter break? Is Edin Džeko headed for the bench at Roma?
Can Hiddink work Chelsea magic again?
When Guus Hiddink was appointed Chelsea’s interim manager back in 2008/09, the Dutchman remained undefeated in the UEFA Champions League, overseeing wins against Juventus (3-2 on aggregate, round of 16) and Liverpool (7-5 on aggregate, quarter-finals) – and only being denied a place in the final by Andrés Iniesta’s last-gasp equaliser in the semi-final second leg. Hiddink, therefore, registered two victories and four draws in his six UEFA Champions League matches and has compiled a similarly unbeaten domestic record since succeeding José Mourinho in December.

However, his charges must now overcome a Paris Saint-Germain side who have not lost in 44 domestic fixtures – putting Chelsea’s untarnished 12-game sequence under Hiddink into perspective. The Dutchman, though, has plenty of UEFA Champions League pedigree, having taken PSV to the 2004/05 semi-finals – again undone by an away goal, this time from AC Milan’s Massimo Ambrosini – and claimed the trophy with the Eindhoven club in 1988.
Paris v Chelsea, Tuesday

©FC Zenit St Petersburg
New Zenit signings Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kokorin
Will Zenit roar out of hibernation?
Goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev, defender Igor Smolnikov and midfielder Viktor Fayzulin definitely miss Zenit’s last-16 opener against Benfica through injury, while another midfielder, Aleksandr Ryazantsev, is doubtful. That and a lack of competitive football during the Russian winter break might be cause for concern.

Training camps in Qatar, Portugal and Spain could help keep Zenit sharp, though, enabling André Villas-Boas to bed in in three signings – former Terek Grozny anchorman Maurício and Russian internationals Yuri Zhirkov and Aleksandr Kokorin, both ex-Dinamo Moskva players. “Benfica look quite strong now,” said Zenit’s Portuguese coach. “They haven’t lost for quite some time. But they have their biggest matches ahead and you can be 100% sure we will take on Benfica with full commitment.”
Benfica v Zenit, Tuesday

©Getty Images
The goals have dried up for Roma’s Edin Džeko
Nine or false nine for Roma?
This is probably Luciano Spalletti’s biggest dilemma for the visit of Real Madrid. Roma had great expectations when they recruited Edin Džeko last summer, but the Bosnia and Herzegovina ace has scored only four times in Serie A. Meanwhile, forwards Stephan El Shaarawy and Diego Perotti have shone since joining Roma in January, with the latter operating as ‘false nine’.

“When you have a bad period at a big club it’s always going to cause a stir,” Spalletti said of Džeko. “But I’m sure we can help him out of this situation.” Ominously for the No9, the coach famously led Roma to 11 straight wins in 2005/06 while using Francesco Totti as a striker; he adopted the same tactic when the Giallorossi eliminated Madrid in 2007/08. Will he try to surprise the Merengues again or does he rely on Džeko coming good?
Roma v Real Madrid, Wednesday

The success of Hein Vanhaezebrouck’s well-drilled Gent side ensured some interest in his players over the winter recess. The fact Gent kept hold of all their biggest names – agreeing contract extensions until 2019 with Belgian Player of the Year Sven Kums, goalkeeper Matz Sels, Nana Asare, Moses Simon and Danijel Milicevic – was a major triumph. “I like it here,” midfielder Kums said. “I always said I could easily see myself staying here.”

Their guests, meanwhile, are not having an easy time. Wolfsburg have won once in eight Bundesliga outings, forward Bas Dost is injured, Nicklas Bendtner is out of sorts, and Basel rebuffed their approach to sign Breel Embolo in the winter. Goalscoring duties will likely fall to Max Kruse, Julian Draxler and André Schürrle.
Gent v Wolfsburg, Wednesday

Premier League leaders Leicester can knock Arsenal out of the title race

  1. How will Leicester deal with increased expectations?

Leicester City’s jaw-dropping 3-1 win at Manchester City last weekend ensured we’ve all just about come to terms with the Foxes as title-winning material. Any remaining sceptics will surely be converted should they repeat that feat at Arsenal on Sunday. But Claudio Ranieri must cope with a new issue that goes by the name of “expectancy.” It is a different type of pressure to win when it is demanded of you. Even Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger has fed the media the line that Leicester are now favourites for glory. Arsenal stumbled after leading from the front earlier this season and now it’s the Foxes’ turn to be the team everyone wants to defeat, or at least avoid losing against.

In September, Arsenal beat Leicester 5-2 in a game that totalled 43 shots — one of only two losses for Ranieri’s side from 25 fixtures. It was a gloriously nonsensical encounter of attack versus attack that Arsenal prevailed in, yet logic dictates that to upset this Leicester team then the opponents should not play into their hands by pressing high and thus leaving themselves open, like City did last Saturday. No matter the tactics, only a victory will do for Wenger’s third-placed team, for leaders Leicester have it within their power to knock Arsenal out of the title race by making the gap eight points.

  1. Can Manchester City cope with Tottenham?

Manchester City were badly exposed against Leicester. Although two of the Foxes’ three goals came from set pieces, the threat of further humiliation remained with Manuel Pellegrini’s side lacking the relentlessness of their opposition. Leicester were quicker to the loose balls and faster to spring forward. Anything resembling a re-run of this performance against Tottenham on Sunday will not be acceptable.

Speaking after last week’s 1-0 win for Spurs, defeated Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores likened the North London team to “animals,” such was their ferocity. Mauricio Pochettino has at his disposal an insatiable crop of players, who thumped City 4-1 in September. Martin Demichelis, who in particular had a poor game against Leicester, will again have his work cut out against the effervescence of Dele Alli & Co. With focus on Leicester, the title dream remains for under-the-radar Spurs.

  1. Who is more fragile: Aston Villa or Liverpool?

One of Liverpool and Aston Villa have won two and lost just one of their last five top-flight matches, managing three clean sheets in the process. It’s not Liverpool. Bottom-of-the-table Villa are staging something resembling a revival despite the general consensus that they are doomed no matter what they do — eight points still separate them from safety with 13 games left. Liverpool, meanwhile, are the same number of points (12) from the bottom three as they are from fourth place. All is not going according to plan for Jurgen Klopp, whose side have shown flashes of genius but also a worrying trend to collapse and concede from set pieces.

  1. How will Chelsea cope without Kurt Zouma?

The screams of pain from Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma when he fell awkwardly in last Sunday’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United were haunting and did not bode well for the 21-year-old. It was confirmed he will be sidelined for six months with an anterior cruciate ligament injury. During an utterly miserable season for champions Chelsea, Zouma has been one of a few bright lights. The France international has been an ideal foil to the experienced but ageing John Terry in the heart of defence, helping Guus Hiddink to a so-far unbeaten return to Stamford Bridge. Now, re-enter Gary Cahill in his place, a man looking to get his campaign back on track ahead of representing England at Euro 2016. That starts at home to Newcastle on Saturday evening.

  1. What is going on at Stoke?

It seems like only yesterday that Stoke City were flavour of the month. They were going to rule the world with Mark Arnautovic, Bojan and Xherdan Shaqiri strutting their stuff in attack. But the wheels have come off somewhat. Three straight losses have been endured, not to mention departures from the FA Cup and League Cup. There is still a 10-point gap between them and the relegation zone, but dreams of European qualification are beginning to fade. Goalkeeper Jack Butland said that “words need to be had” in light of their slide from seven to 11th in the table. A trip to Bournemouth awaits this weekend when a win for the Cherries would see them just two points below Stoke, who badly need captain Ryan Shawcross back from injury.James Dall is an associate editor at ESPN FC.

 

PREDICTIONS FOR WEEKEND IN EPL

Arsenal may never have a better chance to end their 12-year wait for a Premier League trophy but Leicester stand in their way and remain the story of the season.

The pair clash on Sunday when the top four are all in action against one another. Manchester City, fighting Arsenal and Leicester in the title race, face a Tottenham side who have emerged as surprise contenders as well.

Manchester United, meanwhile, seek to get closer to those above them in the hunt for the top four and the Champions League spots. Louis van Gaal’s men kick the weekend’s action off with a trip to relegation-threatened Sunderland.

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.

 

ARSENAL: If Arsenal are to shake off the reputation of finding it difficult to get going when the going gets tough, this is a game they have to win. With Alexis Sanchez back, Mesut Ozil pulling the strings and plenty of experience in the side, the Gunners will respond and take three points.
Prediction: Arsenal 3-1 Leicester — Andrew Mangan

LEICESTER: Claudio Ranieri’s men are fully capable of completing an unlikely hat trick of improbable Premier League wins against Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal. The Gunners thrashed the Foxes 5-2 in the corresponding fixture back in September, but Ranieri’s confident City are defending far better and can take at least a point from the game
Prediction: Arsenal 2-2 Leicester — Ben Jacobs

 

MAN CITY: This is an absolute crunch fixture for City against a side that have won their past four league matches. It could not be tougher for Manuel Pellegrini’s embattled, injury-plagued men. As usual when the chips are down, and they are certainly down now, we must expect the unexpected.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-2 Tottemham — Simon Curtis

TOTTENHAM: City are the Premier League’s Jekyll & Hyde. On their day they are world beaters; on an off-day they are also-rans. Spurs haven’t had a great track record at the Etihad in recent years, but it’s a grittier, stronger and more confident side this time. Spurs to edge it.
Prediction: Manchester City 1-2 Tottenham — John Crace

SUNDERLAND: The home side must raise their game to overcome even an unconvincing Manchester United at the Stadium of Light. Manager Sam Allardyce’s task is to make his players, from the ever-dangerous Jermain Defoe to new boys Jan Kirchhoff and Wahbi Khazri, believe an upset is possible.
Prediction: Sunderland 2-1 Manchester United — Colin Randall

MAN UNITED: Sunderland last won in the Premier League a month ago, but their past three games — two losses and a draw — have been closer than their relegation place suggests. United, with a revived Wayne Rooney and improved attacking form in their past three, should narrowly prevail.
Prediction: Sunderland 1-2 Manchester United — Musa Okwonga

ASTON VILLA: The visitors have a great recent record in this fixture, having won the past four Premier League encounters here. Villa’s 2-0 victory against Norwich just about keeps slim survival hopes alive but Remi Garde’s team need to follow that with further wins to stand any chance of staying up.
Prediction: Aston Villa 1-2 Liverpool — Kevin Hughes

LIVERPOOL: The Reds go to Villa Park with more firepower than they’ve had available all season, as Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi and Philippe Coutinho all came through the midweek loss at West Ham and will help lighten the load on in-form Roberto Firmino, who has five goals in his past five Premier League starts.
Prediction: Aston Villa 0-2 Liverpool — Dave Usher

 

CHELSEA: Newcastle would happily settle for a draw which is all Chelsea under Guus Hiddink seem capable of at Stamford Bridge. Supporters harbouring hopes that Hiddink will rest key players for the forthcoming Champions League game with PSG and give the youth a chance to play with purpose will probably end up disappointed.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Newcastle — Mark Worrall

NEWCASTLE UNITED: The visitors head to Stamford Bridge on the back of what has become a rare winning feeling. Chelsea have been up-and-down this season but much depends on the performance of Georginio Wijnaldum, who can’t seem to tick away from home.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-1 Newcastle — Lee Ryder

 

EVERTON: Three clean sheet wins in a week has reinvigorated Everton as they prepare for the visit of West Brom on Saturday. But the home side must be wary against a defensive visiting team primed to crash the Goodison party like so many others through this season and last.
Prediction: Everton 1-0 West Brom — Luke O’Farrell

WEST BROM: The Baggies have just one league win in 2016 and their squad has been decimated by injuries to several key players. Ben Foster will need to keep up his good form if Tony Pulis’ side are to get anything from the game at Goodison Park.
Prediction: Everton 1-0 West Brom — Matthew Evans

 

CRYSTAL PALACE: After stemming the run of five straight defeats with a draw at Swansea last weekend, Palace will be hoping for their first win of 2016, against a stuttering Watford side. Connor Wickham is back and most fans are hoping Alan Pardew will play him with Emmanuel Adebayor up front in a more adventurous 4-4-2.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-0 Watford — Jim Daly.

WATFORD: The Hornets were understandably defensive against Tottenham last weekend and although they avoided a thrashing, they never looked like getting a positive result. With Palace in woeful form they must try to be a little braver at Selhurst Park, but goals remain a big problem for both teams and it’s unlikely to be a thriller.
Prediction: Crystal Palace 1-1 Watford — Michael Moruzzi

 

BOURNEMOUTH: Eddie Howe’s men need more bite up front against Stoke City after struggling to hit the target in their last game, when Arsenal eased home 2-0 on the South Coast. With relegation rivals picking up points, a win is vital. Matt Ritchie and Benik Afobe will want to produce better performances.
Prediction: Bournemouth 2-1 Stoke — Steve Menary

STOKE: Fans will be hoping that a trip to the seaside will revive Stoke’s ailing fortunes. A long-awaited return for Ryan Shawcross is on the cards, but should he not make it, the rest of the team will need to dig deep to overcome a side enjoying an impressive debut in the top flight.
Prediction: Bournemouth 1-1 Stoke — James Whittaker

 

NORWICH: The defeat at relegation rivals Aston Villa was the tipping point for many Norwich fans. Alex Neil needs a positive result after six straight losses to check the clamour for managerial change. City must cash in on any signs of FA Cup fatigue from the visitors.
Prediction: Norwich 2-1 West Ham — Paddy Davitt

WEST HAM: Slaven Bilic’s men had an exhilarating but tiring extra time win against Liverpool in the FA Cup and Norwich should view this as a must-win. Expect Neil’s men to heap the pressure on and look to exploit weary legs.
Prediction: Norwich 1-1 West Ham — Peter Thorne

SWANSEA: Francesco Guidolin’s Swans are still a work in progress. The side look far better overall, but still have trouble turning leads into wins. In-form Southampton are not going to make Guidolin’s task any easier this Saturday, but with Swansea playing better defensively of late, another stalemate wouldn’t be a surprise.
Prediction: Swansea 1-1 Southampton — Max Hicks

SOUTHAMPTON: After taking 13 points from their past five matches, Southampton are right back in the shake-up for a European place, thanks to a new-found defensive solidity. You have to go back to their FA Cup third-round defeat at home to Crystal Palace for the last time they conceded a goal.
Prediction: Swansea 0-2 Southampton — Alex Crook

 

Leicester City’s magical run continues with 3-1 win over Manchester City

BY AVI CREDITOREmailPosted: Sat Feb. 6, 2016

NOW do you believe?  Leicester City went into the Etihad on Saturday and extended its lead at the top of the Premier League table, beating Manchester City 3-1 on the strength of defender Robert Huth’s two set-piece goals, which sandwiched Riyad Mahrez’s strike in the 48th minute. The result comes days after a spirit-lifting win against Liverpool sparked by Jamie Vardy’s wonder-strike, and it gives Leicester a six-point edge over Man City through 25 games.At this point last season, Leicester, with just 17 points, appeared certainly headed for relegation. Now? A very real contender to lift the Premier League trophy in one of the most remarkable stories ever.Here are three thoughts on the match:

Leicester is comfortable in its own skin

Leicester makes no secret of what it’s trying to do when it takes the field. While the visitors were aggressive from the opening kick and won the chance necessary to take the early lead, they reverted back into their defensive shell, looking to strike with the opponent committing numbers forward. Leicester doesn’t want the possession battle, nor does it care if it’s even close, as SI’s Liviu Bird wrote in his tactical breakdown of the club’s approach. What the Foxes do is defend cleanly, possess with a purpose, counter as well as anyone in the league and be efficient on set pieces. The biggest question has been whether Leicester could sustain its success given its style of play, which isn’t typically conducive to such an elongated run. Yet the club has answered every question it has had to, no matter if the doubters will still linger. Perhaps it’s time to stop questioning how this is all happening and start marveling at why.WATCH: Mahrez strikes on the counter with lethal finish  Consider this: In 180 minutes against Manchester City, the league’s most prolific attack entering Saturday’s action, Leicester conceded just once, to Sergio Aguero in the 87th minute Saturday with the game’s result long decided.

Huth the unsung hero

For all of the plaudits thrown–deservedly–at Vardy and Mahrez for Leicester’s success, there’s been a vital piece of the puzzle in the back, and that is Saturday’s two-goal scorer, Huth. The 31-year-old German has been steady as they come in marshaling Leicester back four, and he’s come through in the clutch against top competitors with six points against Manchester City and Tottenham coming at the direct result of his goals.Leicester has given up two goal in six games in 2016–the first oddly enough to woeful Aston Villa in a surprising 1-1 draw, the second with Saturday’s result decided–and it’s about time Huth and his back line mates Wes Morgan, Danny Simpson and Christian Fuchs (who, to be fair, was on the right end of a controversial call that could have seen Man City awarded a first-half penalty) get their due for their role in Leicester’s success.Huth had not scored multiple goals in a game since doing so almost five years ago to the day for Stoke City against Sunderland, and he’d only scored more than twice in an entire season three times in his 12-year career. Is there a more appropriate symbol for Leicester’s achievement on the day?

Leicester’s very real title chance

Leicester plays at Arsenal next week with all of the pressure solely on the Gunners, regardless of their result Sunday against Bournemouth.PAfter that? It’s a relative cakewalk on Leicester’s fixture list, with seven of its last 12 games coming at home and the degree of difficulty not really being ramped up until the final stretch of games at Manchester United, vs. Everton and at Chelsea.At this point, the question isn’t so much whether Leicester will finish in the top four and reach the Champions League–it is now 13 points clear of fifth-place Manchester United–but if Leicester can do the unthinkable and win it all.The Foxes also have the advantage of not playing in any other competitions this season. Manchester City still has the Champions League, FA Cup and League Cup. Tottenham has the Europa League and FA Cup. Arsenal has the Champions League and FA Cup. While they might have deeper squads on paper than Leicester, they’re going to be stretched thin. At what point do Manuel Pellegrini, Mauricio Pochettino and Arsene Wenger put their focus in the league? That’s not a problem for Claudio Ranieri, and as he has for most of the Foxes’ magical season, he can just sit back and smile.

Manchester City and Tottenham in title showdown at the Etihad

The ESPN FC

Sunday’s meeting between Manchester City and Tottenham is a potentially pivotal clash in the title race.

City go into the game on the back of a disastrous 3-1 defeat to leaders Leicester City while Spurs have won their past six in all competitions. The form guide would seem to favour the visitors but will it go that way?

Manchester City correspondent Jonathan Smith and Tottenham correspondent Dan Kilpatrick preview this weekend’s match at the Etihad.

Will the winner of this season’s title come from this match?

Jonathan Smith: I’m setting myself up for an embarrassing fall, I know, but I still see City as the favourites. If they have Vincent Kompany, Sergio Aguero and Kevin de Bruyne available for the last two months of the campaign, they can reel the others in. Both times they won the Premier League, in 2012 and 2014, City won their last five games of the season to pile the pressure on their rivals, who ultimately buckled.

Spurs are certainly starting to look really menacing, though. Mauricio Pochettino is such an impressive manager and is getting the best out of his squad. My only doubts would be whether they have the belief that they can win it and the possible extra and unnecessary strain of the Europa League.

Dan Kilpatrick: I reckon the champions are more likely to come from Arsenal vs. Leicester, simply because I see Claudio Ranieri’s men as the favourites.

This season has made mugs of everyone who’s attempted to predict anything but I can see two away wins on Sunday, making it difficult for City to recover the confidence and points to haul it back.

What will this match reveal about where the title is heading?

JS: There’s a lot of doom and gloom around City after the Leicester defeat but a win would put a completely different complexion on the situation. If results go their way they could be third, three points off the top.

It’s become the biggest game of the season. City are under immense pressure to get a result — particularly as they haven’t beaten anyone from the top six all season. Spurs have only been talked about in recent weeks as potential title winners. If they can replicate what Leicester did, it will put them firmly among the favourites and that can bring its own pressure.

DK: A win would be massive for Tottenham. Since mid-November, Spurs have enjoyed a relatively kind run of fixtures, so Sunday has long been regarded as a milestone. Mauricio Pochettino’s mantra is “one game at a time” — Eric Dier even said recently he’s only aware of who their next opponent is, which I didn’t fully buy — but the manager and players will also have been looking at this game as a benchmark. Win, and it’ll be impossible to ignore Spurs’ credentials.

Where will the match be won and lost?

JS: Harry Kane is the danger man that I would be most concerned about and I’m sure the striker will try to isolate himself with Martin Demichelis as much as possible. The veteran Argentine is a wily old defender and often doesn’t get the credit he deserves. But there’s no hiding his lack of pace and, Kane’s speed and sharpness could cause him real problems. It’s a big ask but if Demichelis can keep him quiet, it will go a long way to securing a victory.

DK: While I agree that Kane vs. Demichelis is important, I’m interested in the other end.

Kevin Wimmer is yet to put a foot wrong but hasn’t been seriously tested yet and Sergio Aguero, who loves playing Spurs, will give us a better idea of the Austrian’s quality. If Wimmer and co. can restrict him, Spurs have a great chance of winning.

Who’s the better manager?

JS: I’m mightily impressed with Pochettino. His Spurs side is greater than the sum of its parts with every player knowing their role. And his ability to improve players is remarkable. I’m stunned by the improvement in Eric Dier in the past 12 months while Dele Alli and Kieran Trippier seemed like gambles at the time but now look like they could both go to Euro 2016 with England. His team are quick, fit and aggressive and clearly have a close bond.

It’s the complete opposite of Manuel Pellegrini’s side who can often look like a team of individuals. It may seem harsh to be overly critical of the City boss but you can’t help but feel that this side should be achieving more and it will be fascinating to see how things change under Pep Guardiola.

DK: Agreed. Sir Alex Ferguson apparently thinks Pochettino is the best manager in the league, and I don’t think he’s far wrong. The Argentine inherited a rotten squad devoid of cohesion and desperately short of balance and quality. In 18 months, he’s transformed Spurs into title challengers while making the club a profit.

As Jonathan says, the team is greater than the sum of its parts, rendering it routinely impossible to pick a Spurs man of the match. Alli and Dier started the season as a League One rookie and an out-of-position centre-half, respectively, while Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele were derided as expensive flops.

As for Pellegrini, I look at his squad and this season’s Premier League and think City should be doing far better.

Pick one player from the opposition who’d get you over the line in the title race.

JS: Kane is Tottenham’s standout player but I’d always go with Aguero ahead of him. Clearly City’s defence is their weakness so I would probably pick Toby Alderweireld as the man who would make the biggest difference.

Spurs have conceded the fewest goals in the Premier League this season and Alderweireld is the senior figure at the heart of the defence. He was impressive at Southampton and has stepped into the Tottenham back-four without any problem. His leadership and organisation is something City could do with and the fact he hasn’t missed a minute of Premier League football would be a big bonus, particularly as Vincent Kompany has been such a huge miss.

DK: Aguero. Spurs are short on strikers and Aguero would improve any team in the world. Pochettino’s men would be comfortably clear at the top with the Argentine, who would have turned a lot of their draws into narrow victories.

That said, I disagree with Jonathan. If I had to pick one of Kane or Aguero for Spurs, I’d stick with Kane. Fitness has to be taken into account when considering a player’s overall quality and Kane is capable of playing 50 games a season. Aguero isn’t.

Prediction

JS: 1-0 to City, Aguero making the difference.

DK: 2-1 to Spurs, who’ll have too much for a depleted home side.

 

 

Three takeaways from the USWNT’s win over Costa Rica

Goal.com Wed, Feb 10 11:15 PM PST

Seven months after the U.S. national team last played a meaningful match, coach Jill Ellis returned to competitive play with a tried and tested lineup.For all of the experimentation and turnover that has defined the Americans in recent months, nine of the 11 players who started the Women’s World Cup final were on the field Wednesday in Frisco, Texas, for the start of Olympic qualifying.While established star Alex Morgan’s two goals — including a stunning 12-second opener — grabbed the headlines, it was the pair of newcomers who left the biggest impression.

Here are three takeaways from the U.S. team’s 5-0 thrashing of Costa Rica:

CRYSTAL DUNN LOOKS READY FOR PRIME TIME

 

One of just two cuts for the World Cup from the 25-player roster the U.S. carried last spring, Dunn responded to that snub with a remarkable blend of on-the-field dominance and off-the-field poise. Scoring a league-leading 15 goals on her way to NWSL MVP honors, Dunn earned a recall — and promptly carried that fine form to the national team by netting four times in seven caps this past fall.The 23-year-old certainly looked like she belonged Wednesday, drawing a ninth-minute penalty kick that Carli Lloyd coolly converted before getting her own name on the score sheet with a scrappy strike in the 15th minute. Dunn caused plenty of problems with her pace and precision on the dribble from a wide midfield role, and combined well with right back Ali Krieger (her Washington Spirit teammate).While Dunn has been at home as a winger for the U.S., she has extensive experience at fullback for club and country. It’s also worth mentioning she thrived as a lone striker and occasionally played central midfield for Washington last season. If healthy, she’s a lock for Rio — where 18-player rosters place a premium on versatility.

SO DOES LINDSEY HORAN

 

Although Dunn is a natural replacement for Megan Rapinoe while the winger recovers from a torn ACL, few would have pegged Lindsey Horan as the heir apparent to Lauren Holiday in the middle. But just as the now-retired Holiday transitioned from forward to box-to-box midfielder, Horan appears perfectly comfortable making the same leap.Horan used her first touch to put her stamp on the game Wednesday, pinging a 50-yard ball that Lloyd nodded into the path of Morgan for the Americans’ opener. Putting her strength and 5-foot-9 frame to good use, the 21-year-old roamed into the opposing box with regularity to offer an extra target — winning the header that led to Dunn’s strike.Plenty of players have gotten looks in defensive or box-to-box midfield roles in recent months — including Kristie Mewis, Becky Sauerbrunn, Tobin Heath and Meghan Klingenberg — but that starting slot next to Morgan Brian is Horan’s to lose.

IS THIS ALEX MORGAN’S YEAR?

 

The up-and-comers, of course, weren’t the only players to shine Wednesday. With what U.S. Soccer says is “believed” to be the fastest goal in the national team’s history, Morgan landed herself a spot on highlight reels for years to come — and added a headed strike in the 62nd minute for good measure.Limited by injuries in recent years, Morgan hasn’t come close to replicating that prolific 2012, when she racked up 28 goals and 21 assists en route to the FIFA World Player of the Year shortlist. Yet even a hobbled Morgan was enough to lead the line for last summer’s World Cup-winning squad, and her ability to create danger behind the back line was on full display against Costa Rica.With the 26-year-old looking sharp and fully recovered from post-World Cup knee surgery, this could be the year that Morgan consistently returns to “elite” status. For U.S. fans, that might be the most welcome development of all.

USMNT Camp wrap: Winners, looking forward

BY BRIAN STRAUSTwitter EmailPosted: Tue Feb. 9, 2016

Reasonable people can disagree about whether Jurgen Klinsmann has made sufficient progress in his four-plus years in charge of the U.S. national team, but the recently concluded winter camp illustrated one of the uniquely American factors that are beyond the manager’s control.The MLS season is long. The offseason is as well. Take, for example, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, two of Klinsmann’s most important players. When Toronto FC kicks off its regular season campaign on March 6, the veteran pair will have gone 129 days without playing for their clubs (they did appear in a couple of World Cup qualifiers in mid-November). That’s more than a third of a calendar year, and it makes the national team’s annual January camp as much or more about maintenance as it is about tactical or technical progress.In the past, Klinsmann has been frustrated by the fitness level of MLS players in the middle of a lengthy offseason. This year, instead of fighting it, he adjusted his expectations and the day-to-day intensity of the month-long gathering in Southern California. Rather than a referendum on his MLS-based player pool, he said camp would be about “get[ting] them back on track and try to get them going and step-by-step give them a head start to 2016.”​Friendlies against under-strength Iceland and Canada would give the players something to look forward to after nearly a month of training, but the games wouldn’t reveal much about where the U.S. is headed. Neither opponent presented much of a challenge, and roster changes—there were early departures and late arrivals—impacted Klinsmann’s tactical options even further. In fact, the coach called both games “scrimmages.”Altidore, who scored in the 3-2 win over Iceland and Friday’s 1-0 defeat of Canada, indicated that Klinsmann got the focus and message right.“I thought it was a bit more relaxed, in terms of, he let each player kind of be the driver of their own camp, to kind of do what they thought best to prepare them for the season, which I thought was cool,” the forward told Fox. “I thought it’s a huge plus. I thought I took advantage of it. I think a lot of guys did.”All of which, Klinsmann will hope, will put his players on firmer footing heading into a critical week in late March. The senior team will face Guatemala home and away in the middle two of six World Cup qualifying semifinal round games. Meanwhile, the U-23s, managed by assistant Andi Herzog, will face Colombia in a two-game playoff for the final spot in this summer’s Olympic tournament. “Hopefully the benefit comes at the end of March,” Klinsmann said. “This is really the bigger picture, that we are well prepared for Guatemala, obviously with the Europeans and the Mexican players coming in and same for the Olympic team—that everyone who is eligible for the Olympic team takes this as a head start, got four weeks under his belt. They all worked really well. The whole spirit of the camp was great.”Even if the real dividends aren’t evident for another six weeks, and even if the two friendlies didn’t replicate the grind of a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier or the talent the U.S. will face in this summer’s Copa América, Altidore’s comments and performance indicate that this camp did create storylines and trajectories. Some players benefitted, others may not have and trends and questions emerged.Here’s a closer look at a few:oto: Cal Sport Media/AP

The winners

No camper will hit the 2016 season with more momentum thanAltidore, who not only scored twice last week, but who put together a pair of energetic and engaged performances. Again, the opposition wasn’t the toughest. But for a player dogged by health issues who occasionally has had difficulty finding the game or connecting with teammates, it was a good sign that he was a consistent, 90-minute threat.The agony of recent hamstring injuries prompted a shift in Altidore’s approach.

“The past two years we really rough for me,” he told Fox after netting the 90th-minute winner against Canada. “Two big competitions that I was really looking forward to and the fact that I wasn’t able to play through injury was for me really ridiculous. So I tried sit home and think what I could do better to try to minimize that and one of the things I thought was my diet … We came to the conclusion that if I cut some muscle, cut some weight and make myself a bit leaner, maybe it would help me … I feel better. I feel lighter and I feel more mobile.”Klinsmann took notice.“He’s hungry. He wants to prove himself, that this is 2016, ‘This is my year,’” the coach said. “He knows there’s a huge tournament coming up in June, so he started really on the right foot this year. And he deserved that goal. He deserved it.”Elsewhere, don’t expect to wait another year to see Steve Birnbaum in a U.S. jersey. He was part of the 2015 winter camp and made his debut against Chile, but didn’t get another shot until Klinsmann sent out this year’s invitations. The D.C. United defender was dominant in the air, tallying a goal and assist against Iceland and creating some havoc versus Canada, and showed some versatility by shifting to right back on Friday evening. There’s a ton of competition in back, but also plenty of uncertainty. Add Birnbaum’s name to the depth chart.  ​Mix Diskerud and Lee Nguyendemonstrated welcome flashes of composure and comfort.

The former had a rough debut season in MLS and didn’t make much of an impact for the U.S., but Klinsmann stuck with the New York City FC midfielder and started him alongside Michael Bradley against Canada. Diskerud responded with a smart and effective two-way showing.“We all know that there is such a talent potential, such qualities, but he got into kind of a very difficult situation last season with [NYCFC] because of the incoming players, Pirlo and Lampard, and then they push him wide,” Klinsmann said. “He knows he has to fight through that … ‘You’ve got to bring out your elbows.’ That’s what he needs to learn and that’s what he did also in a couple situations. He got physical. This is what he needs to add to his game … [Against Canada] he did really well.”Nguyen was effective as a playmaker, especially against Iceland, and warrants another look at a position where the U.S. remains somewhat thin. Columbus Crew winger Ethan Finlay, who set up Altidore’s winner, and U-23 forward Jerome Kiesewetter, whose strength and ability to find space behind behind the back four unsettled both opponents, also demonstrated obvious promise, as did U-23 teammate Kellyn Acosta, who was far from overawed at left back and right back despite neither being his preferred position.

Wish we’d seen more from…

  • Darlington Nagbe, who was so outstanding as a central playmaker during the Portland Timbers’ run to the MLS championship, missed the start of camp because of the birth of his second child and played only 58 minutes as a reserve. His potential as a future partner for Bradley remains tantalizing, but there probably wasn’t enough time to establish the sort of chemistry and consistency that might make the difference in March.“Fitness wise he’s not there yet,” Klinsmann said. “But we know Darlington, two weeks from now, is up to speed.” PORTER: Nagbe is ‘for sure’ a player USMNT can build around

Gyasi Zardes emerged as a favorite of Klinsmann in last year’s camp and showed flashes of why last week. He works hard and has decent vision. But his touch still betrays him a bit too frequently, and his finishing needs to improve if he’s going to make a stronger case to start when the games matter most.Considering big-picture insignificance of the Iceland and Canada games and the do-or-die nature of the U-23 team’s Olympic playoff, it was a bit surprising that players like Perry Kitchen, Wil TrappMatt PolsterKhiry Shelton andTim Parker didn’t get more of a look. Klinsmann learned nothing by deploying Jermaine Jones at center back against Colombia or by fielding Michael Orozco and Brad Evans against Iceland, for example. Bradley didn’t need to play 180 minutes. The wins are nice, but it seems like there were a couple of missed opportunities to get younger players some valuable experience.And we saw too much of Jones, who faces a six-game suspension that likely will force him out of next month’s qualifiers. Keeping Jones fit shouldn’t have come at the expense of testing out a partnership or two that might take the field in March.to: Cal Sport

Three things to watch moving forward

  1. Seattle’s strikers

Jordan Morris will be the most scrutinized MLS rookie since 14-year-old Freddy Adu signed with his hometown club in 2004. The new Seattle Sounder came late to camp following a training stint with German suitor Werder Bremen and did reasonably well partnering with Altidore against Canada. He’ll be vital for the U-23s, and his start with the Sounders will indicate whether he’s in frame for the Copa América. CREDITOR: MLS, Sounders get carried away with Morris hype

Meanwhile, club teammate Clint Dempsey was given the month off by Klinsmann. Dempsey, 32, led the U.S. with nine goals last year and very much wants to play in the Copa and chase down Landon Donovan’s scoring record. Was skipping camp the right move for an aging player? Will Dempsey and Morris be competing against each other for minutes with both club and country? The immediate future of both the U-23 and senior sides may depend heavily on the form of the two Sounders strikers.

  1. Defensive questions remain

Klinsmann hasn’t the same back four in consecutive games since the 2014 World Cup, and nothing emerged from the recent camp that might clarify things heading into March. Matt Besler played well apart from an early error against Iceland but wasn’t under too much pressure, and Acosta showed well at left back—a very thin position for the U.S.—but several other younger defenders didn’t get much of a look while leading veterans remained with their clubs. John Brooks struggled at last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup but is back in form with Hertha Berlin, Omar Gonzalez is doing well at Pachuca and Geoff Cameron is battling an ankle injury but may be back by the time the U.S. reconvenes.From hybrids such as Fabian JohnsonDeAndre Yedlin and Brek Shea to players closer to the fringe like Tim ReamVentura AlvaradoJonathan SpectorMatt Miazga and Greg Garza, the potential defensive pool is as large as ever as the World Cup cycle approaches its midway point.

  1. The Olympic hurdle

Regarding the U-23 team’s quest for an Olympic berth, Klinsmann said last month that, “We have to do everything possible to give them all the help in the world to make it happen …  For the Olympic team and for that generation, it’s extremely important to have an experience like the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. This is big for these players.”To get there, they’ll have to defeat Colombia, which qualified for the playoff by winning the silver medal at last year’s South American U-20 championship, finishing above Uruguay and Brazil. Herzog won’t have a ton of time to work his team before the March 25 opener in Barranquilla, nor the ability to call players’ in against their club’s wishes.Defeat would be far from shocking.The question is whether it would be considered a significant black mark against Klinsmann, a coach and technical director who suffered through a difficult 2015 (In addition to the senior team’s defeat at the Gold Cup and ensuing Confederations Cup playoff, the U-23s finished third in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying). At 1-0-1, the U.S. has some cushion in a relatively easy World Cup qualifying group. Points are there for the taking against Guatemala, Trinidad & Tobago and St. Vincent and The Grenadines.If the U-23s fail, Klinsmann’s long-term plan and his reliance on veterans toward the end of this winter camp likely will fall under the microscope.

USA’s Jerome Kiesewetter makes strong impression to start crucial year

Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

BY BRIAN STRAUS

Twitter Email

Posted: Fri Feb. 5, 2016

Jerome Kiesewetter remembers bonding quickly with the boy who was just like him.

“I met him when I was young. I would say 5 years old,” Kiesewetter said. “I started going out and playing soccer with my mom in our neighborhood and he was there, by himself. We kind of introduced each other and then started playing every day together.”

They had more than soccer in common. John Brooks also was the son of a U.S. serviceman and a German mother and both Berlin natives, from an early age, felt their American ties. Brooks spoke English at school and Kiesewetter, who’s about two weeks younger, was impacted by an early trip to New York City he took with his mother and sister.

“I slept over at his house and he slept over at my house. He’s family to me. He’s my brother,” Kiesewetter told SI.com. “We were talking about it when we were younger … We would say to each other, ‘Maybe one day we would play together for the [U.S.] national team. That would be so sick.’”

PLANET FUTBOL

Improved approach makes Lee Nguyen a U.S. January Camp winner

by Brian Straus

Fifteen years ago, the odds of two little boys living five minutes apart in a neighborhood south of downtown Berlin eventually turning pro and representing a country across an ocean were close to incalculable.

But Kiesewetter and Brooks already have played together with the U.S. U-23s and at this rate, it seems almost inevitable that they’ll fulfill their dream and be teammates at the senior level.

Brooks, of course, already has played for coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s side. Kiesewetter was at home in Tempelhof, watching, as his friend scored the stunning, 86th-minute goal that lifted the Americans past Ghana in their 2014 World Cup opener. It was past midnight in Germany, and Kiesewetter’s screams woke his mother up.

Kiesewetter was the first person Brooks called from Natal.

Perhaps Brooks, who just signed a new contract with Hertha Berlin, was similarly excited last Sunday, when Kiesewetter, 22, made his senior international debut against Iceland. Kiesewetter didn’t score, but the powerful, 6’0″ forward made an instant impression. He entered the friendly in the 75th minute and within about six minutes, he’d hit a couple dangerous crosses and helped win three corner kicks. Playing high and to the right in a 4-2-3-1, Kiesewetter was imposing, fearless and a magnet for the ball. In the 89th, he ran onto a feed from Darlington Nagbe, took on Birkir Saevarsson (Iceland’s most experienced defender) and drew a foul. The resulting free kick led to Steve Birnbaum’s game-winning goal.

Kiesewetter told reporters following the game that he had “goosebumps” and that it was “just amazing to represent my country.” His prized souvenir was the substitution card he handed the fourth official when stepping onto the StubHub Center field.: USSoccer.com

​“I think playing wide, he’s very talented, because he has terrific speed. A bit like DeAndre Yedlin, his weapon is speed, and then going at people and not being scared about anything,” Klinsmannsaid of Kiesewetter following the first of a pair of friendlies that will close out this unique January camp. The Americans will finish up with a game against Canada on Friday evening outside Los Angeles (10:45 p.m. ET; Fox Sports 1, UniMas).“In the beginning [he was] a little bit overwhelmed. ‘Oh my gosh, I’m with the senior guys.’ Then one step at time, he kind of settled and became calm on the ball and more relaxed,” Klinsmann said. “[Against Iceland] I think he came in for 20 minutes. This is not enough time to think too much. I think that helped him. Just a simple message: ‘Go in there and give it a go. Go against people one against one’—his huge strength. Obviously he’s very fast, and just try to create simple situations. I think within five minutes he had already three crosses and almost two ended up in goals. So this is a wonderful introduction to the senior level, if you can have that influence … That is a nice start for Jerome and we hope he continues to grow and continues to work hard, which he does.”Kiesewetter has been grinding, but his career hasn’t yet matched his friend’s. The same year Brooks reached Hertha’s senior squad, 2012, Kiesewetter left their hometown club for VfB Stuttgart. He played with the reserves, returned to Hertha on a 2014 loan and then was back in Stuttgart, where he made two brief Bundesliga appearances last spring. But the 2015-16 season has been a struggle. Die Roten are in 15th place, two points beyond the relegation zone. There was a managerial change in November. Meanwhile, Kiesewetter has been playing exclusively with club’s second team.“I think I’ve developed there very much, both as a player on the field and as an individual off the field” he told SI.com. “I’m by myself for the first time—living by myself, cooking for myself … For me, the most important point is just to get my playing time and to show how good I can be, how much I can help the team. That’s why I play soccer. I don’t play soccer to just fool around.”He’s certainly helped the U-23s. Brought to the attention of U.S. Soccer coaches by Brooks, Kiesewetter was part of the squad that secured qualification for the 2013 U-20 World Cup and then returned to the fold under Andi Herzog, Klinsmann’s assistant and coach of the team vying for a berth in this summer’s Olympics. Frequently paired with Jordan Morris, Kiesewetter tallied six goals in 16 games for the U-23s and tied for the golden boot in last year’s CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament with four.This winter, he’s part of a group of around 10 American U-23s who’ve been training with the senior players while preparing for March’s home-and-home qualifier against Colombia. The survivor will move on to Rio de Janeiro. Kiesewetter said that this camp represents his longest stay in the U.S. and a priceless opportunity to learn from veterans like Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore. It has strengthened his ties to his second home and kindled hope for the future.“I think it’s great how hard they work,” Kiesewetter said of the U.S. veterans. “Maybe they are 30 or 31 years old and you think they rest a little bit more, but it’s the complete opposite. You see them work every day. It’s amazing. This guy is earning so much money and he’s played so many games, but he still works hard and it’s just amazing to see. That inspires me.”Considering Kiesewetter’s climb, it makes sense that it’s the effort, rather than the success, that strikes a chord.“Guys like Michael and Jozy, they had their ups and downs but they work their way out,” he said. “I’d rather have the advice from the guy who was down and picked himself back up than a guy who was always in the right away and everything went right. That’s even more important … I’ve had my ups and downs also. I think a lot of top players have them.” There have been plenty of ups over the past month.In addition to Sunday’s excitement and the opportunity to trai with the national team, Kiesewetter saw both the Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Clippers live—“It was great to go to my first NBA game. You can’t compare it to German basketball,” he said—and was able to spend a bit of time at the beach and enjoy some Southern California weather.His father, who moved to Texas many years ago, is planning to attend Friday’s game, according to MLSSoccer.com. There was no contact throughout most of Kiesewetter’s childhood (he took his mother’s last name) but his father reached out several years ago and the pair have become close since then. “Soccer brought us back together and I really appreciate that and our relationship is getting better and better. It’s good to have him back in my life,” Kiesewetter said.Considering Kiesewetter’s performance against Iceland (and that of outside back Kellyn Acosta) and the do-or-die nature of next month’s playoff against Colombia, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him, Morris and several other U-23 players get more significant minutes against Canada. This is the last chance to hone in on the partnerships and patterns of play that might make a difference in an uphill climb to Rio. The magnitude of the opportunity is far from lost on Kiesewetter. Representing the U.S. in the Olympics would be another big step in a dream come true, and would provide a massive stage to show what he can do. He’s eager to find a place to play regularly and very well may be on the move when his contract with Stuttgart expires this summer. There is plenty at stake in 2016.“It’s a very important year,” Kiesewetter said. “But it’s started good. Let’s say that.”

Late Altidore goal rescues wasteful U.S. in friendly win over Canada

BY BRIAN STRAUSTwitter Email

Posted: Sat Feb. 6, 2016Jozy Altidore ended a frustrating evening and rescued the U.S. national team, along with the smattering of fans in attendance at StubHub Center and those watching at home, from a third consecutive scoreless draw against Canada with an 89th-minute goal, lifting the Americans to a 1–0 win outside Los Angeles.The U.S. is now unbeaten against Canada in 17 consecutive games (9-0-8) dating back to 1985.Next up for the Americans is a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala in late March and a home-and-home playoff between the U.S. Under-23 team and Colombia that will send the survivor to the Olympics. Although there wasn’t much to take away from this four-week camp tactically, and although many who will participate in those games next month weren’t in California, there certainly were members of the senior and U-23 teams who entered 2016 needing a physical or mental boost. And there were good signs over the past week for several men who have some significant responsibilities ahead.

Here are three thoughts from Friday’s win:

Altidore rescues a wasteful U.S.

After scoring three goals in last weekend’s 3–2 win over Iceland, the Americans couldn’t buy one for most of Friday. They were a couple minutes from being shut out by Canada’s Maxime Crépeau, a 21-year-old who spent 2015 with the Montreal Impact’s USL team. Crépeau made six saves and benefited from a miserable night of finishing from the American attackers.Canada started brightly, but the U.S. was the better team for most of the match. It didn’t matter. Jordan Morris (16th minute) and Altidore (17th) came close early, with Altidore hitting the right post twice on the same shot. An active Gyasi Zardes, who was playing on the right wing, was the provider on each occasion. In the 38th, Morris and Altidore linked up (something coach Jurgen Klinsmann said he wanted to see on Friday) but the new Seattle Sounder sent his lofted shot just wide.​Altidore missed on a header in the 54th, hit a shot straight at Crépeau a minute later and nearly chipped the goalkeeper in the 83rd. The Toronto FC veteran was making good runs, but the final product just wasn’t there as the game inched toward what seemed like an inevitable scoreless draw. The hosts had managed 16 shots with no luck.Then, finally, Altidore broke through. Late substitute Ethan Finlay hit a perfect, floating cross from the left. Altidore beat defender Sam Adekugbe to the far post and sent his header back past Crépeau. It was Altidore’s 33rd international goal, leaving him one behind third-place Eric Wynalda on the alltime U.S. leader board.“The [pass from Finlay] scores the goal—the pace of it, the positioning of it—I just had to be there to knock it in,” Altidore told Fox following the game. “As a player, you kind of find this moments where you say, ‘This is the one.’”

The positive individual signs

Klinsmann referred to the games against Iceland and Canada as “scrimmages,” which says all we need to know about how important the results really were. This camp, which combined senior and U-23 players, really was about getting those in the middle of a long MLS off-season prepared for a long, important year ahead.Altidore was the big winner. After missing most of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup with injuries, he resolved to change things up this winter. He altered his diet and training, lost 10 pounds and was in rhythm and involved against Iceland and Canada, taking 10 shots and scoring twice across the two matches. “Just the past two years were really rough for me,” he told Fox. “I thought if I cut some muscle, cut some weight and made myself a bit leaner, it would help me … I feel better. I feel lighter and I feel more mobile.”Elsewhere, Morris didn’t look out of place and German-born winger Jerome Kiesewetter, Morris’s U-23 strike partner, made an impression once again as a reserve. Captain Michael Bradley was smart, consistent and at times appeared to be in midseason form. Mix Diskerud started next to Bradley in central midfield on Friday and was sharp at times, perhaps signaling that he’s ready to put last year’s disappointing campaign with New York City FC behind him, while Finlay and Kellyn Acosta were among the new national teamers who whet the appetite for more. Zardes improved over his performance against Iceland. Lastly, Steve Birnbuam’s knack for winning balls in the air leaves him in frame to battle for additional minutes in back.

Klinsmann makes puzzling defensive choices

Jermaine Jones is not a center back, and Klinsmann has tried the veteran midfielder there before without success. Jones also is unlikely to play in next month’s qualifiers. The six-game suspension he incurred for bumping a referee during last fall’s MLS playoffs will kick in as soon as he signs a contract (even if it’s outside MLS), leaving him ineligible to face Guatemala.Yet Jones started in the center of defense on Friday. Birnbuam, a center back with D.C. United who had a goal and an assist in the win over Iceland, was at right back and Acosta, a defensive midfielder for FC Dallas, started for the second straight game on the left. Matt Besler was the only defender in his natural position. And all this was happening was in front of goalkeeper David Bingham, who was making his international debut.​Klinsmann’s back four wasn’t bad, although the adventurous Jones was fortunate not to be whistled for a first-half penalty kick after taking down Canada’s Cyle Larin. But it was pointless. Friday’s result was meaningless. Klinsmann did have limited options with the departures of campers Matt Miazga (to Chelsea), Michael Orozco (to Club Tijuana) and Brad Evans (injury), but the manager easily could have started Birnbaum alongside Besler while taking a longer look at one of his U-23 players on the flank (debutant Brandon Vincent, who relieved Acosta at the start of the second half). That would have told the coaching staff a lot more about each team’s potential (the senior and Olympic squads) than giving the 34-year-old Jones a run at a position he won’t be playing for club or country.The back four that started against Canada will never play together again. Shutting out Canada (again) in a friendly wasn’t worth the lost opportunity to plant the seeds for future chemistry or offer an Olympic hopeful some senior international experience.

U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden announces his retirement

BY SI STAFFPosted: Wed Feb. 3, 2016

A day after announcing he had become a father, U.S. men’s national team midfielder Stuart Holden made another announcement: That he is officially turning the page to the next chapter of his professional life. Holden announced his retirement from playing Wednesday, cutting short a once-promising career that was beset by injuries. Holden suffered multiple significant knee injuries, starting March 2010 in a friendly against the Netherlands and beyond–both with Bolton and with the U.S. national team–and the 30-year-oldpenned a first-person letter on U.S. Soccer’s website to announce his plans.Holden wrote:

It’s time to stop fighting my body. I’ve known for a while, but I’ve struggled to admit it to myself and to others. The countless sleepless nights, the aches and pains, and the constant mental battles were all signs pointing to a new path. But every time I was about to utter the three big words “I am retired”, all the memories of walking into roaring stadiums, scoring last-minute goals, and being part of amazing teams dragged me back! The same never-say-die attitude that drove me to fight like hell my entire career wouldn’t let me say the “R word”. I met every setback – and there were many – with a positive attitude. I responded to every disappointment with an “OK. What’s next?” Now, again, I must answer that question. What is next is being proud of my accomplishments, giving thanks to those who have supported me, and smiling at whatever the future holds, the first of which is a baby girl.

Holden was a standout for the Houston Dynamo before moving to Bolton and earning the club’s Player of the Year honors in 2011. He made a return to the national team in time for the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, but he suffered a torn ACL in the final against Panama, and he never played a competitive game after that.In the midst of his latest rehabilitation stint, Holden has been a TV analyst for Fox Sports and ESPN FC, something he will continue to do going forward.As he wrote:

The most recent opportunities will keep me in the game as a broadcaster, a coach, and maybe even as an owner one day. Who knows? Not me. What I do know is that I am 100% at peace with my decision to retire from playing, and I am 200% excited for the future. True closure has been hard to come by, but man it feels good.

Champions League

PSG riddled with issues ahead of Champions League tie with Chelsea

A win is a win. Whatever the gam; whatever the way; whatever the circumstances. Some wins are more important than others, some more significant and some luckier. But they all count and all bring something to the team. And the victory for PSG against Marseille on the weekend is no exception, coming just over a week before the reigning French champions’ biggest game of the season against Chelsea in the Champions League last 16.Some victories, however, can also surprise and the 2-1 PSG victory against their arch-rivals in a hotly anticipated Classique at the Stade Velodrome unexpectedly did just that. Of course Paris’s two goalscorers on the night, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Angel Di Maria were not a surprise. They are both having a great season and it was expected that they would carry the team in this huge match. They did not disappoint. What was surprising, however, was that PSG were not actually the best team on the pitch. They were second best in terms of attitude, aggression and desire.Now, the Parisians might be 24 points clear at the top of the Ligue 1 table, unbeaten domestically since the start of the season and if they are not motivated to play Marseille, their biggest rivals, there is an issue. Yet on Sunday, it felt like the players were not that committed, or at least lesser so than their opponents. They were complacent, slow, sloppy in their passing and struggled.You could assume that everything will be different against Chelsea on Tuesday at the Parc des Princes. But again, you would have assumed the same before the Marseille clash. And it didn’t happen.They didn’t deserve to win, no one will dispute that. But the most surprising is how overran they were in midfield. For a while now PSG’s three-man midfield has been one of the best in Europe. The trio of Marco Verratti — Thiago Motta — Blaise Matuidi is perfectly harmonious. Verratti has the foot, Motta the brains and Matuidi the legs. They understand each other so well and are the powerhouse behind the success of the team.On Sunday, Verratti was missing and there is every chance that he will be missing the Chelsea clash rather than starting. Replaced by Adrien Rabiot, the PSG midfield lost 39 balls in total against Marseille, more than any game this season. Rabiot, Motta and Matuidi (three left-footed players by the way) were beaten by the Marseille midfield. The Marseillais were more aggressive, more determined and just plain better. The absence of Verratti can explain the bad day the PSG midfield suffered, especially Motta, who was unrecognisable on the night. Motta will be a key player against Chelsea next week. Not only does he need to protect the back four, but he is also the one who starts PSG’s attacks.The form he showed against Marseille was worrying. If Motta can be overrun against Marseille, imagine what will happen against Chelsea in what promises to be a much more pacy and intense game.If Verratti is not fit, it’s likely that Rabiot will replace him again. At 20, Rabiot is one of the most promising young French players. But he can still be hit-and-miss. He gave a world class performance away at Real Madrid in the group stages, but was poor against Barcelona last season in the quarterfinal first leg, losing a ball that led to Neymar’s goal after just 18 minutes.Offensively, too, there is a question mark on who will play up front with Ibrahimovic and Di Maria. Lucas Moura has still not convinced when given the chance, especially in big games like last Sunday’s when he was such a disappointment. Edinson Cavani has been on the bench since the start of the year. He could come back for the Chelsea game, but in what state mentally after being dropped for six weeks?Defensively, Thiago Silva is back to his best but David Luiz is in a different place. He still has a few nagging injuries with a dodgy knee and a fragile hamstring. The Brazilian defender also refused to be substituted out of Sunday’s match, leading to a clear the air session with Blanc on Tuesday.At least, Paris still have their two best defenders, which is not the case for Chelsea after the terrible injury suffered by Kurt Zouma on Sunday against Manchester United. It is a big setback for the Londoners, as the Frenchman became a starter under Guus Hiddink. It’s a disappointment for France as well, as Zouma was the favourite to be the fourth centre-half picked by France coach Didier Deschamps for this summer’s Euro 2016, along with Raphael Varane, Laurent Koscielny and Mamadou Sakho.So not everything is rosy in Paris. A week won’t be enough to resolve some of the issues, but there are enough positives to still make them favourites against Chelsea.Julian Laurens is a London-based 

 

PSG vs Chelses Preview

The lowdown A lot has changed since the champions of France edged out the soon-to-be-champions of England on away goals this time last season. PSG have become even more dominant domestically while Chelsea have slumped. The Parisiens crossed a psychological rubicon by defeating Chelsea in the last-16 stage, even after having Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off early in the second leg, and are under some pressure from their Qatari owners to build on that and make at least the semi-finals.

How they got here

PSG They finished second in a group headed by Real Madrid, who took four points off the French side though were slightly fortunate to do so. The French club won home and away against Shaktar Donetsk and Malmo in the group, raking up 12 goals in those four matches.

Chelsea Their dreadful start to their defence of the Premier League title coincided with some wobbles in Europe, where they lost to Porto and drew with Dynamo Kiev, but they emerged on top of their group, contributing to Porto’s surprise elimination, before manager Jose Mourinho was dismissed in December.

Key players

David Luiz, PSG PSG made him the world’s most expensive defender when they paid Chelsea close to €70 million (Dh291.4m) for him in 2014. He then scored a decisive goal against his old club to help eliminate the London club from last year’s Uefa Champions League.

John Terry, Chelsea In open conflict with the club he has played for throughout his career about whether he should have his contract extended on terms he favours. Would love to reinforce his case with a high-class showing against PSG’s vaunted front players.

Points to prove

PSG Are France’s finest just flat-track bullies? PSG’s domination of Ligue 1 is almost surreal, so vast is their advantage at the top, so long is it since they lost to compatriot opposition. But like their totem, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, their domestic achievements are not matched by a long list of European club honours. They need their lavish spending to show a better dividend in the very late stages of the Champions League.

Chelsea They have registered some improvement since Guus Hiddink, a former winner of the European Cup as a coach, took over as interim coach following the sacking of Mourinho. But they will struggle to finish in the Premier League’s top four, which means their only chance of being in next season’s Champions League is by winning this one.

Verdict PSG to go through, with a slightly more comfortable margin of victory than the away-goals, extra-time drama of the 2015/16 meeting between the two clubs.

ZENIT St. Pete Russia vs Benifica

he lowdown The Russian champions have not been as solid domestically as they were when they won the title in 2014/15. But in Europe they have found their swagger, and they would see Benfica as one of the more preferable possible opponents at the last-16 stage. The Portuguese, who will host Zenit just after their top-of-the-table domestic meeting with Porto, have a strong home record in Europe and two Europa League final appearances in the last four seasons. Zenit can take confidence from having won at the Luz in the group phase of last season’s Uefa Champions League.

Key players

Axel Witsel, Zenit Became one of Zenit’s trophy signings when the club hired him from Benfica during an eye-catching splurge on expensive recruits in 2012. He remains one of the game’s most admired central midfielders.

Jonas, Benfica The wiry Brazilian striker, signed from Valencia in 2014, is a candidate for the Golden Shoe thanks to his glut of domestic goals. His confidence is high coming into the tie.

Points to prove

Andre Villas Boas, Zenit The much travelled, still youthful coach will leave Zenit at the end of the season, hopeful of landing the same calibre of prestigious job he has held in the past – the likes of Porto, Chelsea, and Tottenham Hotspur. An extended run in Europe will burnish his reputation. His Porto past guarantees a raucous greeting from “benfiquistas”.

Julio Cesar, Benfica The veteran Brazilian goalkeeper, 36, won the Champions League with Inter Milan in 2010. Since then he has suffered some downturns, notably when he languished as a reserve choice at English club Queen’s Park Rangers. Hopes to show that, in elite company, he still has his sharp reflexes.

Verdict Zenit to go through, thanks to their result in the Russian leg.

GENT (Belgium – think Leceister City) vs Wolfsburg German

he lowdown There is a temptation to wonder if Gent might be to the Uefa Champions League what Leicester City are to the current Premier League, upstart outsiders who, before we know it, might be five matches from the main prize. The Belgians, who only won their first domestic league last year, are in uncharted European territory. But then so are Wolfsburg, in the knockout phase for the first time in their history, though in poor form over the last three months in the Bundesliga. Whatever happens, either one will give a novel look to the quarter-final line-up.

How they got here

Gent The debutants overcame Valencia, twice Champions League finalists this century and Lyon, semi-finalists in 2010, in the group phase, where they also were the only team to take any points from Zenit St Petersburg, to whom they finished second.

Wolfsburg They claimed an even bigger prize, by going through from what turned out a tight quartet, at the expense of Manchester United, who they beat on Matchday 6, leaving United third behind PSV Eindhoven and last season’s Bundesliga runners-up.

Key players

Sven Kums, Gent The Belgian league’s player of the year as Gent won the title, he has again been influential in central midfield this term. The captain leads by example and scores goals important goals as well as setting them up.

Julian Draxler, Wolfsburg Signed last summer to compensate for the loss of Kevin de Bruyne, the 22-year-old creative midfielder made an impact in the group phase and, with his poise and creative vision, can open up the best defences.

Points to prove

Gent Belgian football is supposed to be enjoying a golden generation, with its strongest national team, on paper, for perhaps 30 years. But the domestic competition remains a lightweight in European terms. The best Belgian players almost all employed abroad. Gent’s Champions League campaign is showing not all the talent is exported.

Andre Schurrle, Wolfsburg The pacey striker has performed only in fits and starts for Wolfsburg, since joining from Chelsea. He needs to remind his national coach, Joachim Loew, he can be as influential as he was for Germany at the 2014 World Cup.

Verdict Wolfsburg to shrug off recent domestic setbacks and sneak through.

Real Madrid – vs Italy’s Roma

The lowdown Both clubs have changed head coach since they made their respective journeys into the knockout phase, Roma reaching back to their past by returning Luciano Spalletti to the post six-and-a-half years after he finished his first, innovative spell there, and Madrid also harking back to former glories with the appointment of Zinedine Zidane, once an epoch-defining Madrid player. Two teams inclined to brisk counter-attack should provide goals.

How they got here

Madrid They produced one of the competition’s more embarassingly one-sided scorelines when they walloped Malmo of Sweden 8-0 in their last group match. They finished top thanks to having edged Paris Saint-Germain 1-0 at home. The clubs from the Spanish and French capitals cleaned up easily in their remaining games against Shaktar Donetsk and the mauled Malmo.

Roma will not want to look back too closely on their previous trip to Spain when they go to Madrid for the second leg. They lost 6-1 to Barcelona at Camp Nou in the group phase. But they still did just enough – including drawing 1-1 at home against Barca – to qualify ahead of Bayer Leverkusen.

Key players

Karim Benzema, Madrid The France striker, who is close to Zidane, becomes ever more important to Madrid as Cristiano Ronaldo’s regularity as a goalscorer dips – CR7 has been accumulating lots of goals but with more blank days than usual between them – and Gareth Bale struggles with injury.

Radja Naingollan, Roma Madrid can be vulnerable against hard pressing in midfield. At his energetic best, the bullish Belgian galvanises Roma and closes down the kind of space Luka Modric and Toni Kroos can thrive in.

Points to prove

Zinedine Zidane He is still a novice as a head coach. At home, he has overseen some emphatic wins in the Primera Liga, and some expressive performances. On the road, his Madrid have looked more inhibited. He will make his managerial debut in international club competition up against a wily and experienced opposite number, in Spalletti.

Stephan El Sharaawy He signed by Roma in the January window, after six months on loan at Monaco and a career with AC Milan that had stuttered, has ambitions to go to Euro 2016 as one of Italy’s strikers. A good show in Europe’s principal club competition would advance those.

Verdict Madrid to progress, in the competition that represents their best chance of a trophy this season.

The Incredible Journey of Indy 11 Éamon Zayed! Welcome to Indy Mr. Hat Trick!

By: James Cormack Bloody Shambles

From playing in front of a few hundred on rainy days at Morton Stadium in Dublin with Sporting Fingal to scoring a hat trick in front of 90,000 fans in Tehran with Persepolis, one would imagine Éamon Zayed has quite a few stories behind him.Zayed arrives in Indianapolis after his most recent stint playing for Sabah United in Malaysia alongside one of Africa’s more notable players, El Hadj Diouf of Senegal.Born in Dublin (Ireland’s capital of course, not Ohio), and if you have listened to any of his interviews it’s not hard to recognize by his accent he is definitely a Dublin boy, but Éamon’s nationality as far as the sport of football goes is Libyan.Zayed played for Ireland’s Under-21 national team scoring 5 goals in 12 games, but as often happens in international football, players with an option to play for more than one nation after that age can and do opt to make switch. Éamon did, and elected to play for Libya. He has appeared for the Libyan national team before, during and after the Civil war of 2011.It would take a big map and a lot of pins to plot out the playing career of this center forward. From scoring against teams as far flung as Kuala Lumpur and Equitorial Guinea and taking on Liverpool in Champions League qualifiers, for an Irish lad he has racked up a lot of air miles and probably ate a lot of very fancy foods too!
From the many exotic places Éamon has played, probably the most memorable and most talked about in his career recently has been the hat trick he scored for Persepolis in a city derby with rivals Esteghlal. Persepolis were 2-0 down in a match played in front of 90,000 supporters. Zayed was introduced to the game with 30 minutes remaining and scored three goals. The first came on the 81st minute and the last in the second minute of stoppage time.ne of the more bizarre stories surrounding that game is that of one young fan in his early 20’s dying of a heart attack through sheer excitement after the third goal went in. Iranians are extremely fanatical and passionate about soccer and apparently this kind of thing is not uncommon. Éamon was asked by the club to make a statement to the newspapers offering his condolences and sympathy to the family of the young man.After this performance Zayed was plastered onto about every newspaper and magazine that could be imagined in Iran, he regularly had people paying for his dinner, coming up to him and just handing him money or kissing him and thanking him for such a memorable game. Éamon also became affectionately know as “Mr Hat Trick” among the Persepolis faithful in Tehran.Life in Iran was not always fun and high times for Éamon however. After Persepolis, Zayed moved on to play for Aluminium Hormozgan ( that’s Al-yoo-mini-yum for all you North American spelling police out there). After a season at Hormozgan his contract was up and Zayed sat down to discuss the money he was owed. The club offered him a third of the money he was due, which obviously to any player, was unacceptable to Éamon. The club threatened to withhold his passport and the situation boiled down to him not being able to leave until he agreed to vastly reduced terms. Achieving 60-70% of your agreed amount is considered a good deal in Iranian football.From here Éamon Zayed’s love affair with Iran ended and he once again returned to Ireland in 2013 to play for his fifth league of Ireland club Shamrock Rovers. This would become six after he was loaned to Sligo Rovers in 2014. Zayed has also played for Bray Wanderers, Sporting Fingal, Drogheda and Derry City. Éamon won the PFIA player of the year award in 2011.His final destination before putting pen to paper with Indy Eleven was 8,983 ,miles away in Sabah, Malaysia. When he arrives in Indianapolis and laces up his cleats, he will do so on his fourth continent. If he can repeat his productivity in Indy as he has everywhere he has gone, you can most definitely expect to see goals in 2016!At at least four of his clubs Zayed has maintained a record of a fraction over 1 goal in every two games played, for a striker anywhere in the world this is an enviable record. At his last club Sabah United he only played 21 games but netted 11 times.From the day he signed for Bray Wanderers back in 2002 until leaving Malaysia, Éamon Zayed has made 339 club appearances and scored 171 goals. It is never easy to predict how a player will adapt to a different league, but for a striker who has played just about everywhere you might be forgiven for assuming he will maintain that average and score around fifteen goals in 2016. One can only hope!If Tim Hankinson can build a team that can provide good service and Zayed can adapt to the NASL quickly, the loyal supporters of Indy Eleven could be looking at a cult hero in the making.
Welcome to Indianapolis Éamon Zayed, please bring your shootin’ boots, we need them!

 

NASL Veteran Defender Stephen DeRoux Latest Indy Eleven Signing

Jamaican Left Back Brings Roster to 22 Ahead of Monday’s Report Day in Indy

INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, February 12, 2016) –Indy Eleven took one of the last steps towards finalizing its 2016 roster today with the signing of yet another veteran presence in defender Stephen DeRoux. Per club policy, terms of the contract that brings the 32-year-old left back to the “Boys in Blue” will not be released.  The native of St. Mary, Jamaica, is the 22nd player signed by Indy Eleven in advance of its third season of NASL play, for which preparations will officially begin Monday when the team reports to the Circle City for physicals. As the holder of a United States Green Card, DeRoux will not count against the team’s allotment of seven international player slots, leaving Indy Eleven with one such spot to fill.“The addition of Stephen DeRoux rounds out what we believe will be the deepest and most experienced defensive corps in the NASL this season,” said Indy Eleven general manager Peter Wilt.DeRoux’s move to Indianapolis reunites him with head coach Tim Hankinson, who coached the Jamaican during the 2013 season with the San Antonio Scorpions. Across the last three years DeRoux set records for the most games (74) and minutes (6,234) played in Scorpions history, overtaking his new Indy Eleven teammate Greg Janicki in both categories.“Stephen has established himself as one of the elite left backs in the North American Soccer League,” said Hankinson. “His ability to bring a warrior mentality to his defending duties and yet attack with great skill and speed makes him a dangerous dual threat.”Last year, DeRoux finished second on San Antonio in games played (28), games started (25) and minutes played (2,244) from his left back position – and finally tacked on his first goal for the squad in October. DeRoux has most recently suited up for the Milwaukee Wave in the Major Arena Soccer League, staying sharp in the offseason by playing in three games since signing in January.“I want to thank everyone at Indy Eleven for the opportunity to contribute and play for a top-class organization that is second-to-none in the NASL. I feel very excited, humbled and blessed for this new chapter in my career to begin and look forward to great things,” said DeRoux. “Every time I came to Indianapolis with San Antonio I got goose bumps and my adrenaline was flowing because of the way the crowd supported their team to the end. As a player I can’t wait to be on these fans’ side rather than be against them.”DeRoux has been in North American soccer circles for over a decade, starting his professional career with three seasons for Major League Soccer’s D.C. United from 2005-07. From there, DeRoux would jump to the USL First Division from 2008-10, suiting up for Minnesota Thunder and Montreal Impact, helping the latter to the 2009 USL Championship. After a year of indoor play with the MISL’s Baltimore Blast in 2011, DeRoux would go back to the Caribbean in 2012 to help the Puerto Rico Islanders during their first season in the NASL and run in the CONCACAF Champions League.Head to www.IndyEleven.com/roster for details on all of the “Boys in Blue” as the club’s roster continues to grow leading into the preseason next week. Fans can also visit the team’s social media channels andwww.IndyEleven.com/preseason  to keep up to date on all things Indy Eleven heading into the team’s third NASL campaign.Indy Eleven begins its 2016 season on the road on Saturday, April 2, at the Tampa Bay Rowdies. “Indiana’s Team” kicks off its home schedule at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium on Saturday, April 9, against the rival Ottawa Fury, followed a week later by a visit from the defending NASL Champion New York Cosmos. Fans can currently secure their seats at Carroll Stadium via the team’s 2016 Season Ticket package or the new Starting Eleven Flex Pack; for more information, visit the “Tickets” section of www.IndyEleven.com, call 317-685-1100 during regular business hours (9a-5p weekdays) or email tickets@indyeleven.com.

Indy Eleven Adds Former Spanish La Liga Midfielder Gorka Larrea to Roster

Former Spanish Youth International Brings “Boys in Blue” to 21 Players with Preseason Approaching
Indy Eleven bolstered its strength in the middle of the field today with the signing of veteran Spanish La Liga midfielder Gorka Larrea. Per club policy, contract terms will not be announced.Larrea becomes the 21st player to sign with Indy Eleven – and the fifth to occupy one of the club’s seven international player roster slots – ahead of the team’s third season of play in the North American Soccer League starting in April. Preseason preparations will begin when the team gathers for the first time in Indianapolis next Monday, Feb. 15.“Gorka’s experience in Spain’s top two divisions combined with his time spent with Montreal [Impact FC] in Major League Soccer creates a great fit of experience and a working knowledge of the professional game in the United States,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “He is a true defensive midfielder that is most comfortable sitting in front of the defense and can act as a fifth back when that situation is necessary.”The 31-year-old Larrea brings ample playing experience in his native Spain, including time early in his career with the powerhouse country’s youth international teams, with him to the Circle City. The defensive midfielder played 22 games in Spain’s La Liga (first division) with Real Sociedad from 2003 to 2006 and Levante UD in 2010. He also played more than 100 games in the Segunda División (second division) for four clubs between 2006 and 2013, twice helping squads earn promotion to La Liga – UD Almería in 2006/07 and as captain of Levante in 2009/10.Larrea most recently suited up for Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact FC, making nine appearances during the second half of the Quebec club’s 2014 season.“Gorka provides added talent and depth in a key midfield position,” said Indy Eleven general manager Peter Wilt. “He comes highly recommended from Montreal as someone that will not only help on the field, but serve as a great voice in the locker room as well.”On the international scene, Larrea represented Spain on various youth teams, making 15 appearances from the U-16 to U-23 levels alongside future stars of the game like Andrés Iniesta and Fernando Torres. He was part of the squad that won the 2001 UEFA European U-16 Championship and also helped the Spanish U-23 side win the 2005 Mediterranean Games.”I feel extremely happy to be a ‘Boy in Blue,’ and I thank the club greatly for this opportunity. I talked to Coach Hankinson and he expressed to me his enthusiasm for the competitive spirit of the team,” said Larrea. “Soccer should bring fans happiness, so we will have to play very hard and with passion to make them proud of us. I will do my best to help the team achieve our goals, be hard to beat, never give up and dream big along with our supporters.”Visit the IndyEleven.com roster page to more info on Larrea and the rest of the “Boys in Blue” as the squad continues to grow leading into the preseason. Fans can also visit the team’s social media channels and the IndyEleven.com preseason page to keep up to date on all things Indy Eleven heading into the team’s third NASL campaign.Indy Eleven begins its 2016 season on the road on Saturday, April 2, at the Tampa Bay Rowdies. “Indiana’s Team” kicks off its home schedule at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium on Saturday, April 9, against the rival Ottawa Fury, followed a week later by a visit from the defending NASL Champion New York Cosmos. Fans can currently secure their seats at Carroll Stadium via the team’s 2016 Season Ticket package or the new Starting Eleven Flex Pack; for more information, visit the “Tickets” section of www.IndyEleven.com, call 317-685-1100 during regular business hours (9a-5p weekdays) or email tickets@indyeleven.com.

Juventus taking aim at Napoli lead – Gianluigi Buffon

Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon says Napoli fully deserve to be at the top of Serie A, although he is hoping to knock them off their perch on Sunday.The Azzurri hold a two-point advantage over the Bianconeri heading into Sunday’s top-of-the-table clash which few people would have been predicting as such after the two teams first met this season back in September.Napoli won that game 2-1 to take them to tenth in the standings, six points adrift of the early-season pacesetters Inter. Juve were a further four points behind, just two clear of the relegation zone.”We were both in an embryonic phase when we first met this season,” Buffon said in interviews with Sky Sport Italia and Mediaset, summarised on theItalianclub’s website. “Everybody was writing us off, which was only normal. Maybe they were underestimating our technical value and our morale, which have led us to do what we have done in these four years, and what we are doing again now.” While Massimiliano Allegri’s men have won their last 14 in a row, Napoli are on their own eight-game winning streak, which is why they are first and second heading into Sunday’s Juventus Stadium clash, and justifiably so, according to Buffon.“After several years in the second row, now they have been up there for a long time and they deserve to be there,” Buffon said of his side’s opponents. “They have everything it takes to confirm their status too.“They want to prove that being top is just a logical consequence of the hard work they have done. I think both sides will play to win and if Napoli succeed, they will gain a decent advantage with 13 games left. For us, [winning] would not change much other than boost our morale because winning would be the cherry on top of this 14-game marathon of wins.”One of the most intriguing battles this weekend will be between the two Argentineans currently at the top of the scoring chart: Napoli’s Gonzalo Higuain, 28, with 24 goals and Paulo Dybala, 22, with 13.“They both have different characteristics,” Buffon said. “One is more of a finisher; a true goalscorer — Higuain has already shown down the years that he’s a phenomenal striker, in spite of a few moments when he was being criticised.“Paulo’s class is outstanding and he’s got huge margin for improvement. He plays more between the midfield and the attack.”

 

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Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://brickyardbattalion.com, Sam’s Army-http://sams-army.com ,  American Outlaws  https://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

The Old Ballcoach  – Coach Shane Best

2/5/16-US Wins plays Can Fri 10:15 FS1, TV Game Schedule, Copa Tix in Chicago for sale

So the US pulled out the win Sunday vs a solid Iceland squad in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 win on a header in the 89th minute.  Nice to see Altidore playing well up front and the new players looked ok out there – still need work on defense we’ll see if they can shore things up Friday night 10:15 pm vs Canada on Fox Sports 1.

Copa America Ticket update for Chicago – While individual US Game Tickets on June 7th soldout in 5 minutes in the American Outlaws sections – 4 game Venue Passes are still available for Chicago.   I found good seats level 2 endzone for $360 per or about $90 per ticket per game. That includes 2 tix to USA game on 6/7, Argentina game on 6/10, another game on 6/5 and the Semi Finals on Wed eve, June 22 (which might feature Argentina vs Brazil) PS Messi is scheduled to join the full Argentina roster.  Listen short of a World Cup – the Copa is one of the Best Tournaments in the world – with Argentina and Brazil, and Colombia, Mexico, Chile, etc all on US Soil – this is sort of a once in a lifetime thing.  That’s why I am planning to make the trip over for at least the 4 games in Chicago.   

Big Games this weekend – first in the EPL – Man City host Leicester City in a battle of teams at the top of the table on Sat at 7:45 am on NBCSN.   Bayern Munich travels to Bayer Leverkusen in a battle of top 4 German squads on Fox TV Saturday at 12:30 as Munich plays the first game since coach Pep announced he’s going to Man City this summer.  Look for Mexican Chicarito to add to his league leading goal tally at home for Leverkusen.   US national team defender John Brooks and Hertha Berlin face Dortmund and US 17 year old Pulisic at 9:30 am Sat on Fox Sports 1.  Sunday its Man U vs Chelsea 11 am on NBCSN.  The Ole Ballcoach – http://www.theoleballcoach.com

Latebreaking News – US American Outlaws Announce tix for USMNT vs Guatemala World Cup Qualifier in Columbus, OH on Tues March 29th at 7 pm will go on sale Monday 2/8. Anyone interested in going let know – shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

US Soccer

What do We Expect from Canada vs the US this Friday Night – 10:15 pm on FS1

US looks to shore up Defense vs Canada – ESPN FC Mcintyre

Does US Have a Goalie Issue with Howard and Guzan on outs in EPL?  EPSN FC Davis

US Scores Late Goal to edge Iceland NY Times

US Steve Birnbaum takes Chance with Game Winner  EPSN FC Jeff Carlisle

US Player Ratings – EPSN FC Doug Mcintyre

Klinnsmann Praises 4 newbies- MLS Soccer

USMNT Ratings: See how the four debutants fared vs. Iceland MLS Soccer

Player Ratings Greg Seltzer MLS.com

Improved Approach helps Nguyen at US Camp  and Game – SI – Brian Straus

US Veteran and Youth are Served in Win SI

US Happy with late Win Fox Soccer

US 17 year Old Christian Pulisic comes off bench in last 20 minutes for Dortmund named to Europa Squad

American’s Abroad

 US Soccer Sues US Womens National Team Union releases players emails and addresses NY TIMES

Fox Sports Snags Mexico National Team Contract from ESPN  

 EPL + World

Pep to Move from Bayern to Man City

Vardy Scores Wondergoals vs Liverpool as Leicester Stays top in League

Mourino Confident of Getting the Man U job EPSN FC

Top 5 saves of EPL last Week

Shakas Power Rankings

Bayern faces Leverkusen 1st vs 4th in Germany

BOOO – report says Juve’s Massimiliano agrees to deal to  Coach Chelsea this summer

Brazil expects Neymar plays both Copa and Olympics this summer

GAMES ON TV 

Tuesday, February 2

2:45 p.m., NBCSN Leicester City vs. Liverpool
2:45 p.m., Extra Time: Arsenal vs. Southampton, Norwich vs. Tottenham, Sunderland vs. Man City, West Ham vs. Aston Villa
3:00 p.m., Extra Time: Crystal Palace vs. Bournemouth, Man United vs. Stoke City, West Bromwich  vs. Swansea

Wednesday, February 3

2:45 p.m., NBCSN: Watford vs. Chelsea
2:45 p.m., Extra Time: Everton vs. Newcastle United

Friday, February 5

2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Borussia Mönchen vs. Werder Bremen

10:15 pm  Fox Sports 1 :  USA Men vs Canada

 Saturday, February 6

7:45 a.m., NBCSN: Manchester City vs. Leicester City

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1: Hertha Berlin vs. Borussia Dortmund
9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2: Schalke 04 vs. VfL Wolfsburg

10 am NBCSN  Tottenham vs. Watford,

10:00 a.m., TBD: Aston Villa vs. Norwich City, Liverpool vs. Sunderland, Newcastle vs. West Bromwich, Swansea  vs. Crystal Palace, Stoke City vs. Everton,

12:30 p.m., Fox: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Bayern Munich

Sunday, February 7

6 am beIN Sport Levante vs Barcelona

8:30 a.m., NBCSN and NBC Universo: Bournemouth vs. Arsenal

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1 and Fox Deportes: Hamburg SV vs. Köln
11:00 a.m., NBCSN and Telemundo: Chelsea vs. Manchester United

11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1: TSG Hoffenheim vs. Darmstadt

2:30 pm beIN Sport  Grenada vs Real Madrid
Monday, February 8

3:00 p.m., NBCSN: Southampton vs. West Ham United

 Tues, Feb 16  —Champions League

2;45 pm  FS 1               PSG vs Chelsea

2:45 pm FS2                 Benefica vs Zenit St. Pete

 Wed, Feb 17

2:45 pm FS1                 Roma vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm FS2                 Gent vs Wolfsburg

 Thurs, Feb 18

Europa League

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

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

  Tues, Feb 23 – Champ League

2:45 pm FS 1 Arsenal vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FS 2 Juventus vs Bayern Munich

8 pm  FS1? Queretaro vs DC United

10 pm FS2? Seattle Sounders vs Club America

 Wed, Feb 24

2:45 pm  FS1 Dynamo Kiev vs Man City

2:45 pm  FS 2 Eindhoven vs Atletico Madrid

8 pm Tigres UNAL vs Real Salt Lake

10 pm LA Galaxy vs Santos Laguna

Tuesday, March 1:

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

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

 Wednesday, March 2: 

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

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

 Sunday, March 6: 

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

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

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

 Friday, March 25: 

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

 Tuesday, March 29:

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

MLS TV Schedule for 2016

Copa America Centenario is now on sale

We’ve just released tickets to the Copa America Centenario to the general public. These matches will sell out, but you still have a chance to secure your seats today to see the world’s best compete at Soldier Field in these matches:

Sun, June 5 – C3 vs. C4
Tues Eve, June 7 – United States vs. A3
Fri Eve, June 10 – Argentina vs. D3
Wed Eve, June 22 – Semifinal (read Argentina vs Brazil) Maybe

Chicago Venue Passes  Find Other Venue Passes

Copa Venue Passes include a ticket for the same great seat to all matches in a particular stadium (the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey Venue Pass is an exception, as it includes only the first round and quarterfinal matches). Copa Venue Pass purchasers will be entered into a lottery for the opportunity to purchase tickets to the highly anticipated Copa America Centenario Final at MetLife Stadium on June 26.

 

What can USMNT expect from Canada?

Benito Floro’s side is on the rise ahead of critical WCQs against Mexico.

nada forward Cyle Larin is one of the key figures for Benito Floro’s improving side. Larin and Canada hope to defeat the United States in a friendly on Friday (live, 10:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO).

By Kyle McCarthyFOX SoccerFeb 4, 2016 at 6:00p ET

After a last-gasp victory over Iceland on Sunday, the United States men’s national team concludes its January training camp with a friendly against Canada.The meeting between familiar foes on Friday (live, 10:00p.m. ET, FS1, FOX Sports GO) offers Jurgen Klinsmann and his players with a chance to punctuate their progress with a second victory in as many matches.Canada plans to make it difficult on the Americans, though. Those expectations are reinforced by the recent results between the teams (including 0-0 draws in 2012 and 2013) and underscored by the Canadian resurgence under coach Benito Floro over the past year or so.As this meeting between these two countries approaches, here are three things to monitor as the Canadians attempt to procure a third straight result against the Americans.

Brace for defiance and organization first and foremost

Floro assessed the players at his disposal when he took the job in 2013 and focused most of his energy on player recruitment and tactical tinkering. His sales pitch enticed Fraser Aird, Tesho Akindele and Junior Hoilett to join the squad, while his setup preached control and composure first and foremost.Those adjustments — predicated on application, commitment and organization — made Canada particularly difficult to break down in possession. It shows in the results: Canada conceded once or kept a shutout in each of its final 12 matches in 2015.Floro sacrificed some creativity in the process (Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio is out of the frame at the moment) and struggled to find the right balance going forward in the usual 4-2-3-1 setup, but he made Canada defiant. It is a wise course of action for a side with a limited squad in comparison to the top teams in CONCACAF.The best part for Floro: It is working, more or less. Canada is in position to make the Hexagonal for the first time since 1998. There is a fraught, tricky assignment ahead in Honduras in September, but the Canadians sit second in Group C with a three-point cushion over scuffling El Salvador and a four-point advantage over the out-of-sorts Hondurans.

Look for emerging players to stake their claim

Many of the top Canadian players — including midfield fulcrum Atiba Hutchinson — are otherwise engaged with club commitments. Those vacancies provide plenty of room for emerging talents, rehabilitating players and out-of-favor or unattached campaigners.The motivations here are similar to the underpinnings in U.S. camp: improve the chances of earning a place in the squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Mexico next month. Recovering West Ham defender Doneil Henry — a potential contributor in defense — warrants close inspection, while veterans like Iain Hume, Issey Nakajima-Farran and Steven Vitoria (in line for his full debut) hope to underscore their qualities before qualifying resumes

Track Cyle Larin carefully

Larin emerged as the best prospect in Canada and one of the top young players in CONCACAF during his rookie season with Orlando City. Former UConn star Larin scored 17 goals for the expansion side and set a new MLS rookie record in the process. His reliability in front of goal and his presence in the penalty area made him a consistent threat against MLS defenses.Those qualities recommend the 20-year-old as a potential linchpin for the next decade. Canada endures goal droughts with some regularity (the side went 14 months without scoring in 2013 and 2014, for example) and regularly flails around in the final third. In order to push forward and slide into position to challenge for a berth at the 2018 World Cup, the Canadians must procure goals more regularly.Larin isn’t the finished product quite yet (particularly in terms of his positioning), but he represents Canada’s best chance for a reliable goalscorer in this post-Dwayne De Rosario landscape. His continued progress bears watching, particularly for American defenders all too familiar with the threat he poses.

United States looks to tighten up defense in Canada friendly

CARSON, Calif. – Just because Sunday’s 3-2 win against Iceland got the U.S. national team off on the right foot in 2016 doesn’t mean the Americans can’t improve in their second match of the year, on Friday night against northern neighbors Canada.

For starters, U.S. boss Jurgen Klinsmann is hoping for a clean sheet.

“As a coach, obviously we want to see a defensive line that is on top of everything, that blocks every shot, that doesn’t give away any opportunity for the opponent to score,” Klinsmann told reporters before his team trained inside StubHub Center on Thursday.

But perfection isn’t possible for any team, and hoping and expecting are two very different things. With the U.S. just one game into its 2016 slate — one game into the preseason, really — Klinsmann and his players were quick to manage expectations at this stage.

“Reality is there’s always an opponent with quality finding ways to create their own chances, and here and there they put it in the back of the net,” the coach said. “Goals only happen when the other side makes mistakes. So we try to reduce them, we try to work on things and hopefully we can avoid it next time. But obviously there’s no guarantee.”The two goals that the U.S. gave up against Iceland were preventable. Errors were made on both, not that the Americans are beating themselves up over them. “You never want to concede but I think it’s important to take a step back and recognize the circumstance,” veteran center back Matt Besler said. “The goals we gave up did look like preseason goals. So yeah, we’ll take a look at those and try to correct our mistakes.”

They’ll have to do it with a re-tooled back line. Two of the defenders who started against Iceland — Brad Evans and Michael Orozco — were released to their clubs earlier in the week, and it’s not entirely clear who will replace them in the lineup.

D.C. United’s Steve Birnbaum seems certain to be on Klinsmann’s team sheet after notching an assist and an 90th-minute winner last Sunday. Where exactly he’ll line up if he gets the call is another mystery. Birnbaum is a natural center-back who can also man the outside in a pinch. On Thursday, the 25-year-old said he had trained at both spots this week.”There’s definitely a lot of moving pieces in this camp, so you have to adapt to it,” Birnbaum said. The same goes for Klinsmann. The whittled down roster limits the German’s options; of the seven defenders remaining on the squad, four have never played at senior level. A fifth, 20-year-old Kellyn Acosta, just made his international debut.Given that, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Jermaine Jones could reprise his role at center-back, where Klinsmann experimented with him early last year. The alternative is starting an uncapped defender against Canada, something Klinsmann didn’t sound eager to do on the eve of the contest.”Definitely the senior group has priority when it gets to the games,” Klinsmann said. “You won’t see that many changes now [involving] the U-23s.”What you might see are goals against. And that’s OK, according to U.S. captain Michael Bradley. “You’re using these games to try to get fitter, to get sharper,” Bradley said. “It’s not the time of year to really be overanalyzing.”

U.S. Camp Notes

– Besler was in and out of the national team last year, but by all accounts he’s off to a great start in 2016. “Matt has been outstanding this entire camp, also in a leadership role as one of the veterans, basically, looking after the under 23s, looking after everybody,” Klinsmann said. One of the players Besler has taken under his wing is Birnbaum. “First of all, he’s a great guy off the field,” Birnbaum said of the Sporting Kansas City captain. “I enjoy playing with him, and I look up to him. He’s a guy that is a big part of our men’s national team. Hopefully I can be like him and become a staple at center back.”

– Bradley said he’s noticed some of the younger players come out of their shells as camp has gone on. “Their personalities start to come out more and more — some of the nerves that you see early on go away,” Bradley said. “I think all the young guys here are excited and motivated and determined to keep pushing themselves forward. It’s a great group.”- A year ago, Canadian forward Tesho Akindele was here training with the U.S. as the dual-national mulled his options at the top level. While he eventually he chose Canada, the FC Dallas man has fond memories of his brief time with the American squad. “I’m super glad I went to that camp last year,” Akindele, the 2014 MLS Rookie of the Year, told ESPN on Thursday. “When I went in I think I was leaning towards Canada, but you just don’t want to have in the back of your mind ‘what if?'”Before accepting Canada’s invite to a pair of World Cup qualifying matches last June, Akindele called Klinsmann to inform him of his decision. “He was super understanding,” said Akindele. “He said I understand your decision, go with your heart and if I need anything, call him. He was very nice about it.”Akindele has made seven appearances for Canada since, scoring once. He said he’s looking forward to swapping shirts after Friday’s match with FCD teammate Acosta, whom he considers the most underrated player in MLS. “He’s a baller, man, I’m telling you,” Akindele said. “He’s going to be a starter for the U.S. for a long time.”

 

Should Jurgen Klinsmann worry about U.S. goalies Tim Howard, Brad Guzan?

Jurgen Klinsmann praised the U.S. for their win over Iceland, but still sees plenty of improvement to be made.

For the last three decades, the United States men’s national team manager hasn’t needed to concern himself with one aspect of the lineup card: the man in the net. From Tony Meola to Brad Friedel to Kasey Keller, the Stars and Stripes have had a world-class goalkeeper to rely on whenever the 10 outfield players failed. The strength of the U.S. netminders is such an institution that even Tim Howard’s stunning performance against Belgium at the 2014 World Cup wasn’t a complete surprise; making the sublime look routine is an American tradition.But the times, they are a-changin’ — maybe. Both Howard and Brad Guzan are struggling with their English Premier League clubs, on the verge of getting run out of Goodison Park and Villa Park, respectively. While the former hasn’t lost his starting spot yet — and, frankly, has been more solid than the average Evertonian thinks — headlines like “Tim Howad’s position at Everton has become farcical and he must be dropped” and “So, Uh, What the Hell Happened to Tim Howard?” are the norm.Howard has been rightly criticized for poor play in matches against Arsenal, Chelsea, Swansea and more. Guzan, meanwhile, tarred by the patently absurd “gum-gate,” sits fourth from the bottom in one ranking of EPL keepers and was recently demoted to serve as Mark Bunn’s backup.In a year full of World Cup qualifiers and the Copa América Centenario, the last thing Jurgen Klinsmann needs is two backstops grasping for form. The big question for the red, white and blue: are momentary dips or more systemic problems?

While the generalities of the two situations are similar, the details are rather different, so let’s examine each man individually.

Howard, who hasn’t looked consistently solid since before the World Cup, turns 37 a few weeks before the March qualifiers against Guatemala. That is not young, and the miles might be hampering his play.”There’s no question in my mind that given how much he’s experienced, Tim Howard can handle the criticism and come back as be as excellent as he’s ever been for the U.S.,” former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper and current ESPN FC analyst Shaka Hislop says. “But is it more a question of age catching up with him?”The Everton No. 1 took a year off from the American team in an effort to rejuvenate but despite looking better than he did last year, Howard continues to make too many mistakes. Still, he can post impressive performances, as he did during a mid-January 0-0 draw against Manchester City. He has clearly slipped a notch but it’s not a disastrous dip.Klinsmann should be more concerned about Guzan. Six years Howard’s junior, the Aston Villa goalie has long been the U.S. man in waiting. During Howard’s absence from the American squad, he was solid and occasionally spectacular, showing a growing confidence about vocally bossing the young backline. He played well enough that the U.S. coach installed a rotating platoon system once Howard returned.Guzan, however, has been terrible at Villa this season. Granted, Villa have been terrible but the American has been worse, making uncharacteristic gaffes, looking tentative and ultimately losing his starting job. That’s a far cry from his savior role last season in which he almost single-handedly kept his club out of the relegation zone.Perhaps a regression was to be expected as bearing the entire weight of a team can exhaust over time. “It’s not easy playing on a bad team for as long as Brad has,” Hislop says. “You can’t be expected to be that great for that long.”

Two goalkeepers, two lost club seasons. If there’s a bright side for Klinsmann, it’s that a change of scenery might do each man good. “I think you worry about the form that you see,” former U.S. national team player and ESPNFC analyst Keller says. “We’ve seen plenty of players be out of form for their club and be in form for their nation, and vice versa.”Hislop agrees. “A lot of times, coming back and playing international football is a release,” he says, citing a couple of points in his career where getting in the net for Trinidad and Tobago helped him reset emotionally from troubling times with his club. “You feel like a weight is off of your shoulders. You look forward to it and you actually play some of your best football in those circumstances.”Ultimately, it’s a tad too early to be too worried. While there are reasons for concern, Howard and Guzan have shown world-class ability for years and if anything, the major worry for the U.S. manager might be further down the line. There isn’t anyone waiting in the wings. “The question mark has been ‘where is that next crop? Who has been able to get to that next level?'” Keller says.Luis Robles, who started in a 3-2 win against Iceland, had an excellent 2015 but he is Guzan’s age. Sean Johnson (26) and Bill Hamid (25) were supposed to be the wave of the future and while both can be spectacular, they have been inconsistent in Major League Soccer, which doesn’t bode well for the transition to the highest levels.Add the number one woes with those of the next class and you start to see a trend. Jurgen Klinsmann began 2016 with a long to do list. Figuring out the goalkeeper situation isn’t at the top but for the first time in a long time, it deserves a spot. Its mere presence should be something of a concern.Noah Davis is 

 

Late Goal Gives U.S. Hope That 2016 Will Be a Brighter Year

By JOSEPH D’HIPPOLITOJAN. 31, 2016

 

CARSON, Calif. — A new year means new hope, revised goals, a chance to reinvigorate the spirit. For the United States national team, it means an opportunity to erase the bad taste from a disappointing 2015.Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad began rectifying the past by rallying for a 3-2 victory against Iceland on Sunday in front of an announced 8,803 at StubHub Center. Defender Steve Birnbaum assisted on a goal midway through the second half, then scored the winner on a header in the 90th minute.Though the United States earned what was only its third victory since July 22, Klinsmann cautioned against putting too much stock in the result, especially since he had fielded mostly reserves and newcomers. Four players made their international debuts Sunday: Defender Kellyn Acosta and midfielder Ethan Finlay started; midfielder Tony Tchani and forward Jerome Kiesewetter appeared as substitutes in the second half.“Obviously, you can see we’re not fine-tuned yet,” Klinsmann said. “The biggest issues are finding your first touch, finding the right moves, getting a better understanding for each other, here and there. These things take time.”Klinsmann began last year being castigated for leaving Landon Donovan off the 2014 World Cup team. In last year’s exhibition against Panama at StubHub Center — where Donovan spent 10 seasons in M.L.S. as a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy — homemade banners greeting Klinsmann read, “JK Out” and “Red Card the Coach.” His squad ended 2015 by winning one of its final five matches.The most frustrating defeat came in October, in extra time against Mexico in a one-game playoff for Concacaf’s berth in next year’s Confederations Cup, a precursor to the 2018 World Cup. The playoff became necessary when the United States failed to defend the Gold Cup championship it won in 2013. Instead, it crumbled and lost both its semifinal and the third-place game.In the six months since the Gold Cup and especially after the loss to Mexico, Klinsmann received renewed criticism for his emphasis on rigorous training, his constant tactical shifts and his method of compiling his roster. One former player recently added his voice to the controversy.Midfielder Benny Feilhaber, one of three finalists for M.L.S.’s Most Valuable Player Award last year, sharply criticized Klinsmann last month after he was not chosen for the January camp. Feilhaber, who has played 41 times for the United States but has been marginalized by Klinsmann, complained that the criteria Klinsmann used to select players were flawed and unfair.The comments suggested a grim mood around Klinsmann’s squad as it began an important year with its annual January camp. The United States will attempt to qualify not only for the 2018 World Cup, but also for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, while preparing for the Copa América Centenario, which will take place in the United States for the first time.

Against Iceland, whose roster included eight players from qualifying for this year’s European championship, the Americans demonstrated their ability to exploit set pieces in rallying from deficits in each half.In the 59th minute, Michael Orozco scored the tying goal on a 1-yard header that resulted from Michael Bradley’s corner kick. Iceland’s Birkir Saevarsson attempted to clear Bradley’s corner, but the ball fell to forward Jozy Altidore, who chipped it across the goal to Birnbaum, who headed it back in front to Orozco.Birnbaum struck in the final minute for his first goal in international competition. Birnbaum, who plays for D.C. United, rose to meet Bradley’s 25-yard free kick from the right wing with a powerful header.But one of the United States’ disturbing tendencies once again made itself known: defensive confusion, which Iceland used to score both of its goals.In the 13th minute, defender Matt Besler headed a pass intended for the veteran forward Eidur Gudjohnsen. But Besler received no help in clearing the ball, which Gudjohnsen retrieved and sent to Kristinn Steindorsson, who fired a 17-yard shot off Orozco that left goalkeeper Luis Robles with no chance.Another mistake enabled Iceland to regain the lead in the 48th minute. With the Americans arguing with the referee Jeffrey Solis about a foul, Aron Sigurdarson exploited a quick restart to drive forward, cut inside and curl a shot around a backpedaling defender.“We’re not concerned,” Klinsmann said of the defensive mistakes. “We told the players, Listen, you’re going to make mistakes. It’s not going to go smooth.”Iceland’s defense defused most of the combinations the United States tried to execute along the wings, and often outpositioned the American forwards. But in the 21st minute, Jermaine Jones began an artistic play that led to the first tying goal.Jones passed from the center circle to Gyasi Zardes, who cut the ball to Bradley, who freed Altidore in the penalty area with a pass that split two defenders and met his darting run.If any one player embodies both promise and frustration, that player is Altidore, 26, who has received constant criticism for not fulfilling his potential. But Klinsmann believes this year can become a turning point for him.“I think Jozy’s at a point in his career where he really becomes an adult,” said Klinsmann, who then spoke enthusiastically. “He’s saying: ‘You know what? I’ve got to get the most out of this. I’m going to play in Copa América this summer. Maybe that’s the only Copa América I’m going to play.’ So he came into this camp in very good shape, in a very positive spirit, and worked. He was here from Day 1 and committed to work. Jozy was determined to get going, to get 2016 started in the right way and build.”If that attitude permeates the rest of Klinsmann’s squad, then 2016 could provide the mouthwash for 2015’s bitter aftertaste.

 

USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann praises the four debutants from Sunday’s win over Iceland

February 1, 20168:16 PM ESTScott FrenchMLSsoccer.com

CARSON, Calif. – Jurgen Klinsmann had praised all four of his players who received their first caps in the US national team’s victory over Iceland, but Ethan Finlay wasn’t about to take it to heart.The Columbus Crew SC winger played the first hour on the right side of midfield in Sunday’s 3-2 triumph at StubHub Center, and he’d recognized good things in his game and other things that need to improve. Klinsmann’s words were nice to hear, but they’re only words.“You don’t just belong because you show well in one game,” Finlay said after his international debut. “What I’ve tried to do over the last three weeks of training [at the national team’s annual ‘January’ camp] – and I hope that’s the reason I was able to get the start  was I laid a good foundation that the coaching staff liked, and I’ll continue to do “I don’t think you want to hang your head on one game, whether it be good or bad, and I’m not going to do that.”

For Finlay and fellow debutants Kellyn Acosta from FC Dallas, Columbus’ Tony Tchani and VfB Stuttgart’s Jerome Kiesewetter, adding another cap to the first – and another and another – requires much work. Their next chance comes Friday at StubHub against Canada, when six more players hope to receive their initial caps.Acosta, too, started and went 90 minutes at left back. Tchani came on for Jermaine Jones in the holding midfield slot after an hour, and the German-born Kiesewetter played the final 15 minutes on the right flank.Acosta, 20, one of three Under-23 players to see action, needed some time to find his bearings.“After he kind of settled his nerves, after 10-15 minutes, he really played like he belonged in this team,” Klinsmann said. “Really fun to watch.”Acosta has played at right back on occasion for Dallas and left back for the U.S. U-20s, but he’s primarily a No. 6. He found confidence getting up and down the flank as the game proceeded.“The first half was a little rough for me,” he acknowledged. “I was a little timid at first. I was too afraid to make a mistake. I think that was, like, my downfall, but as the second half went on, I was more committed to getting forward, helping my team in every way possible.”USMNT Ratings: See how the four debutants fared vs. Iceland

Klinsmann wants to see if Acosta could potentially develop into a strong left back, a position that’s long been problematic for the Yanks.“We have some issues as an outside-back position, on the international level,” Klinsmann said. “We know Kellyn can play left or right, but also as a 6. He impressed in training, he was very calm, and was very mature for his age. And that was his opportunity then, [and] he was rewarded for these three weeks of really good work.”Tchani, 25, was called in for his Cameroon’s World Cup qualifiers in November but had to pull put with injury. His appearance Sunday doesn’t prevent him from committing to his native country.“I definitely enjoyed this moment,” he said. “I think about those things later.”Klinsmann said earned the opportunity with his 2015 Crew SC campaign.“With Tony, you have a player that played tremendous last season for Columbus and has a presence, is strong in the air, is physically strong, so he has his own way of playing it,” the US coach said. “But you see Jermaine and Michael [Bradley] kind of locked in in center midfield. It’s very difficult for Tony to make a case and to get him also the minutes on the field.”READ: If this is the fitter, happier Jozy, be excited | Armchair Analyst

Kiesewetter, 22, also is preparing for the U-23s’ playoff with Colombia for a berth this summer at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He was active from the moment he came on, in the 75th minute. Klinsmann compared him to US and Sunderland winger DeAndre Yedlin.“Jerome can play up front or can play wide,” Klinsmann said. “I think playing wide, he’s very talented, because he has terrific speed. A bit like DeAndre Yedlin, his weapon is speed, and then going at people and not being scared about anything. And within five minutes on the field, I think he had three crosses already, and two of them almost led to goals. That’s a good statement for a young player like him.”Finlay’s camp performance won him his start.“He was all over the place. He had endless energy,” Klinsmann said. “Sometimes you even has to slow him down, say, ‘Ethan, don’t need to go 200 mph in every moment.’ But it shows his character. He want to really give everything he has and wants to prove a point.“He was a bit nervous, too, in certain moments. Which is normal, since it’s your first camp. It was definitely the right step into this group of guys.”Finlay was focused on what he can do better when he gets his next opportunity.“I think it took me a little bit of time to settle in, but once I was able to do that, it was much better. I was definitely more happy with it,” Finlay said following his international debut. “I think just me being more decisive, some of the decision making – coming into the final third, coming to a conclusion, whether it be a shot or a cross, could have been better from me.“But I’m happy with it. It’s a start, and we’ll take it from there.”

 

Steve Birnbaum takes his U.S. chance with winning goal vs. Iceland

A 90th minute goal from Steve Birnbaum gave the United States a 3-2 victory in a thrilling match against Iceland.

CARSON, Calif. — Steve Birnbaum made the most of his opportunity in the U.S. national team’s 3-2 victory over Iceland on Sunday. Coming on at halftime, the D.C. United defender earned an assist on Michael Orozco’s 59th-minute equalizer and then bagged the game-winner himself, nodding home Michael Bradley’s free kick in the 90th minute.It wasn’t a bad Sunday for a player who wasn’t even on the January camp roster when it was first announced. Birnbaum had endured an inconsistent and injury-hit second season in MLS. The fact that U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was using the camp to bring together some core players from the U.S. U23 team meant roster spots were even tougher to come by.Even with all those circumstances, Birnbaum said he was “disappointed” by the initial omission, especially since he had shown well during the 2015 edition of the January camp. But just days before camp was due to start, Birnbaum got a reprieve. Injuries to Marc Pelosi and Fatai Alashe had reduced the roster’s numbers, and Klinsmann opted to call the defender in.”I didn’t really think I was going to get called into camp,” he said. “And then a couple of days before he asked me, ‘Can you be in on Monday?’ And I was like, ‘All right, I’m in.’ I was running the whole offseason, so I was semi-fit coming into camp. The first couple of days it took me a little bit to get my legs in and kind of just [hit] my stride.”Granted, Birnbaum’s primary task is to defend, and while he was decent during his 45-minute spell, he admitted that the U.S. “definitely had some shaky moments” at the back, and he held up his hand for failing to do more on Iceland’s second goal. The U.S. was caught napping on a quick restart. Birnbaum felt he could have done more to close down Iceland winger Aron Sigurdarson, who curled his shot past U.S. keeper Luis Robles.”Probably just position my body a little more inside, have him go wide,” Birnbaum said about the play. “I thought [Jermaine Jones] was coming close, but that’s on me.”Birnbaum more than made up for his miscue with his efforts on the offensive end, validating Klinsmann’s decision to bring him in. Klinsmann, for his part, insisted that he never forgot about Birnbaum in 2015 even as the defender gritted his way through the season. Klinsmann added that there isn’t much separating the pool of center-backs, regardless of what league they happen to be playing in.”Once a player comes here and is with us, we follow them,” he said. “We follow them also through their down periods. Then you can always discuss what is the hierarchy, what is the ranking of every position, of every player, which we always as coaches do. But he’s always there.”Klinsmann later added, “We keep on working with all of them, and they all have their case. We always encourage them that when you get the opportunity to be on the field, make the most out of it and [Birnbaum] did.”Birnbaum’s day was made even more special by the fact that he numerous friends and relatives in attendance, including some from as far away as Missouri. Given that he grew up in nearby Newport, California, his mother, Peggy Schmidt, didn’t have as far to come. “It was cool to be able to do that in my hometown basically,” he said.Birnbaum will likely get another chance when the U.S. takes on Canada this Friday at StubHub Center.

Notes:

— Among the takeaways from the match was the improved midfield balance involving Bradley and Jones. There have been times where the two didn’t always seem in sync in terms of who should hold and who should get forward. On Sunday, Jones took up more of a defensive role and as a consequence, he and Bradley largely controlled matters in midfield. The two also looked more cohesive during last November’s World Cup qualifier against Trinidad & Tobago, but Klinsmann noted that managing that relationship is an ongoing process.”Obviously [Jones] has it in his DNA to go here and there,” he said. “Moving out of that position is just in his blood. You can scream as loud as you want to, suddenly he goes. And Michael is similar. It’s an ongoing discussion that you can have for years: When can Michael go, when can Jermaine go? The important part is really that they work off each other.”When [Jones] sees that Michael goes in an advance position because that’s when Michael connects with Jozy, with the players up front, he has to stay. Once he moves out of that position, we have a problem because we leave the space open behind us. That’s where always Kyle Beckerman saved us, because Kyle stayed, and these other two would just up and down, up and down. So we’ll talk often about that.”– Kellyn Acosta admitted he was nervous ahead of his first cap with the full national team. The fact that he had spent the vast majority of the current camp playing right-back, only to be switched to the left a couple of days ago, didn’t make things any easier. But after a shaky opening few minutes, Acosta eventually settled down and turned in a solid performance.”I was a little timid at first,” he said. “I was too afraid to make a mistake. I think that was my downfall. But as the second half went on I think I was more committed to getting forward and helping my team any way possible.”Klinsmann noted Acosta’s progression, saying he was pleased with the defender’s play. “I think after he settled his nerves, 10-15 minutes, he really played like he belonged in this team,” he said. “It was really fun to watch.”Given that suiting up for the full national team was a lifelong dream, Acosta admitted that getting the first cap out of the way was like a weight off his shoulders and he’ll be looking to improve against Canada. “Now I know what to expect,” he said. “Canada is a good team, they’re going to be tough, but I think I’m ready to go. I know what it takes getting my first cap under my belt.”– Klinsmann was careful to couch the performance (both the good and the bad) in modest terms. That included the defensive frailties shown at times.”We’re not concerned about any of it because they’re literally in preseason and trained for three weeks,” he said. “So we told them ‘Listen, you’re going to make mistakes today. It’s not going to go smooth, it’s not going to be perfect.'”There will be mistakes that led, unfortunately, to two goals. But as long as you keep going and get a rhythm and try to create chances and try to score your own goals as well. We’re not concerned about it at all, because the benchmark today is not really a benchmark. It’s three weeks of preseason. That’s all.”Jeff Carlisle 

 

Jozy Altidore delivers top performance for United States vs. Iceland

CARSON, Calif. — Goals from Jozy Altidore, Michael Orozco and Steve Birnbaum — who scored in the 90th minute — gave the U.S. national team a 3-2 friendly win over Iceland in its first match of 2016.

Here’s how individual American players fared in the match.

(Player ratings (1-10; 5=average, 10=best) Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Luis Robles, 6 — Blameless on both Iceland goals: The first deflected off Michael Orozco, and he didn’t get much help from his defenders on the second. Rarely troubled otherwise outside of one timely second-half stop.

DF Brad Evans, 5 — Made a couple of decent long passes in his 45 minutes of action but had a relatively quiet afternoon before coming off at the half.

DF Michael Orozco, 5.5 — The Club Tijuana man was involved in both Iceland goals and culpable on the second, getting caught out of position after replacing Evans at right back. But he helped make up for it by scoring the Americans’ second.

DF Matt Besler, 5.5 — Had several chances to clear before Iceland’s opener in the 13th minute, but rock-solid otherwise and also contributed to the U.S. cause with good passing out of the back.

DF Kellyn Acosta, 5.5 — In his first senior appearance, the 20-year-old left back showed some early nerves but calmed down later on and made a couple of good passes, including a cross striker Gyasi Zardes sent just wide.

MF Ethan Finlay, 4.5 — Showed some expected nerves at times and could have played quicker in other moments. But overall, a decent international debut for the Columbus Crew winger.

MF Michael Bradley, 8 — It didn’t look like the first game of the year for the U.S. captain. Sharp and involved throughout, he made a great final pass on Altidore’s pretty first-half strike and picked up a second assist on Birnbaum’s late game winner.

MF Jermaine Jones, 6.5 — Provided his usual steel in the center of the field. Also started play that led to the Americans’ opener with a pinpoint long pass out from inside his own half.

MF Lee Nguyen, 7 — Faded slightly late in first international start, but overall the New England Revolution playmaker absolutely helped his case to become a U.S. regular. He was dangerous on the ball and ought to have had a helper on his inch-perfect, 16th-minute cross to Zardes.

FW Gyasi Zardes, 6 — Should’ve converted Nguyen’s pretty first-half service but made good runs and was sharp in the attacking buildup — especially his smart pass to Bradley on the sequence that led to Altidore’s goal.

FW Jozy Altidore, 8 — Showed confidence and composure on his goal by waiting for Iceland keeper Ogmundur Kristinsson to commit before chipping over, and helped set up the Americans’ second-half equalizer with a dangerous cross. Battled hard and his touch improved as the match wore on.

Substitutes:

DF Steve Birnbaum, 7 — Failed to step on Aron Sigurdarson’s strike moments after entering to start the second half, but more than redeemed himself with a smart headed assist on Orozco’s equalizer and then the winning goal in the 90th minute.

MF Darlington Nagbe, 5 — Replaced Finlay with a half-hour to play, picking up a yellow card 10 minutes later and almost knocking home a Jerome Kiesewetter cross.

MF Tony Tchani, NR — Made his international debut when he came on for Jones in the 71st minute.

FW Jerome Kiesewetter, NR — Active in 15 minutes of action in his first cap, sent in a dangerous cross to Nagbe minutes after replacing Zardes, then another moments later.

FW Jordan Morris, NR — The new Seattle Sounder spelled Altidore, coming on alongside fellow forward Kiesewetter.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 

 

Player Ratings: Jozy Altidore leads US national team in friendly victory against Iceland

January 31, 20168:42 Greg ltzerMLSsoccer.com

S national team pulled out the win against friendly visitors Iceland on Sunday night at StubHub Center in Carson, California, but that rally did not change the fact that their overall performance left a bit to be desired.The home side fell behind twice against another January “B side” opponent, but the troubling concessions only seemed to spark reasonably quick replies. In the end, their mistakes were covered up by a second half pair of restart tallies.

MLSsoccer.com USMNT Player Ratings

Luis Robles (5)
The Red Bulls’ netminder was the victim of a deflection on Iceland’s first goal, but was caught far too married to the near post on Aron Sigurdarson’s second strike. Robles logged a single save, on a shot hit straight at him.

Brad Evans (5.5)
The Seattle veteran completed a handful of helpful passes into attack, but also was guilty of allowing too much space on his defensive flank on a few notable occasions.

Michael Orozco (5.5)
Orozco had a decent first half in central defense before switching to right back at the break. Then, not long after his timid defending allowed Sigurdarson space to fire Iceland’s second, the Tijuana defender atoned by netting a set-piece equalizer. A couple of passing turnovers in the US end dips his grade below passing.

Matt Besler (5.5)
The Sporting KC man was most guilty on the Iceland opener, with his off-balance attempt to deal with a high ball essentially teeing up the scorer. There were a few other shaky moments from Besler, though he also contributed some positive passes forward and piled up 11 pass picks, including six in or directly in front of the home area.

Kellyn Acosta (5.5)
The FC Dallas debutant was among those caught spectating when Besler’s flub created a problem, but he tidied up his defensive game after that. Acosta also eventually was able to get forward, creating real danger on a pair of occasions.

Jermaine Jones (6)
The veteran midfielder made plenty happen with his incisive passing during the first half, including the attack starter that led to the first US equalizer. He was much less involved after the break and made way with 20 minutes remaining. Still, his willingness to stay back helped to unleash Bradley.

Michael Bradley (6.5)
The Toronto FC star was probably the most culpable of the ball-watchers on Sigurdarson’s opener, but he soon made up for it with a nifty through-ball assist. Bradley eventually set up the winner from one of his dangerous restart serves. For much of the day, he was the lone USMNT creator in attack, but this space doesn’t exactly find that to be a good thing from an overall team standpoint.

Ethan Finlay (5)
The Crew winger had his moments taking on defenders, but underwhelmed during his hour of work. He was a little too eager to sky bad shots and never dropped a dangerous feed into the box.

Lee Nguyen (5.5)
The Revs’ ace should have earned an early assist with a fine diagonal cross to the back post, but it ended up being his best set-up moment of the game. It wasn’t a bad showing, even if more aggressiveness in the final third could have been useful.

Gyasi Zardes (5.5)
Zardes pitched in with a few strong hold-up plays, including one on the first US goal. However, his most noteworthy moment came when he blew the chance provided by the aforementioned Nguyen set-up.

Jozy Altidore (7)
His day was not only defined by the clever finish and a smart secondary assist – Altidore was easily the most troublesome US attacker, with his runs repeatedly unsettling Iceland.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (5)
Despite the comeback victory, there was plenty to be concerned about. The team struggled thorugh much of the first half, with the “empty bucket” formation breeding an almost total lack of organization. Things were clearly better after the break, but the boss still insists on jamming square pegs into round holes too often. What’s more, the defense often looked a mess on the rare occasions it was called to service.

Subs

Steve Birnbaum (6.5) 
Were it not for his set-piece output, this would have been a very different grade. The halftime sub was quite leaky at the back, despite not having so much to do. That being said, he effectively saved the day with a perfect knockback assist and an even better winning header.

Darlington Nagbe (6.5) 
It was another impressive half-hour from Nagbe, even if he didn’t particularly feel like staying in a wide position. The MLS Cup champ once again provided link play after link play.

Tony Tchani (5.5) 
The Columbus midfielder enjoyed a quiet but serviceable debut.

Jerome Kiesewetter (6.5) 
The Stuttgart II winger was certainly not shy. He immediately shipped a pair of dangerous centering feeds, won two corner kicks and constantly opened space by forcing his defender to stay wide.

Jordan Morris (-)
Only a few touches during his late cameo.

mproved approach makes Lee Nguyen a U.S. January Camp winnerPhoto: Harry How/Getty Images

BY BRIAN STRAUSTwitter EmailPosted: Thu Feb. 4, 2016

The interaction between seasoned internationals and a cohort of younger players preparing for next month’s do-or-die Olympic qualifier against Colombia has been one of the central themes of a unique winter camp. Some variation of the word “mentor” has come up time and again in interviews given by U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his players.“We urge the older guys to look after [the younger players],” Klinsmann said last month. “Pass on your knowledge. Give them a hint. Give them advices. Give them information, because it’s a huge, huge challenge ahead of them because we really want to go to Rio de Janeiro this summer.”But it hasn’t been just the U-23s who’ve been listening. Among the campers honing in on the advice and habits of the “older guys” is a 29-year-old, 10-year pro who’s played professionally on three continents and been an MLS MVP finalist. For Lee Nguyen, who earned his first senior U.S. start in Sunday’s 3-2 friendly win over Iceland, this camp could mark the long-awaited launch, or even the end, of his delayed international career.For years, if you followed U.S. soccer, Nguyen’s name probably was either just past the tip of your tongue or buried somewhere in the back of your mind. He was the Indiana University freshman who left school to join Dutch powerhouse PSV Eindhoven but played just twice in two years before going on loan in Denmark. Remember him?He was the Dallas-area product who spent another couple seasons in Vietnam, earning minutes in a league far removed from the headlines while getting closer to his ancestral roots. Whatever happened to that guy?He eventually returned to North America but failed to catch on with the Vancouver Whitecaps and by the time Nguyen signed with the New England Revolution in March 2012, it had been nearly five years since the skillful midfielder had represented his country. He was far removed from the national team picture. “Everybody that plays, there’s the goal to hopefully be able to get into the national team,” Nguyen told SI.com this week. “For me, I had to try to be a mainstay with a club team and fortunately, I was able to find my footing with New England. From there, it was really proving to yourself and trying to earn your spot, and the rest will take care of itself.”A spectacular 2014 campaign, during which he tallied 20 goals and eight assists and led the Revs to the MLS Cup final, resulted in a call-up from Klinsmann for a pair of year-end friendlies in Europe.Nguyen was back in frame after seven years in the international wilderness. But a nagging groin injury and a long MLS season contributed to a poor showing at the ensuing January camp.He wouldn’t see the field in a U.S. shirt again until last October, when he played 18 minutes in a miserable exhibition loss to Costa Rica.PODCAST: Interview with USA, Borussia Dortmund 17-year-old Christian Pulisic

This January camp and the games against Iceland and Canada (Friday; 10:15 p.m. ET; Fox Sports 1, UniMas) may just represent Nguyen’s best last chance to establish himself on Klinsmann’s depth chart. So Nguyen took no chances. He was going to come in healthy and hungry.“When I was finishing the season [in 2014], I was kind of nursing an injury all through the playoffs so after the season I kind of just took 4-6 weeks rest, letting my groin heal. This year was more just maintaining that fitness I had at the end just in case I got called in to January camp,” Nguyen said. “I had no idea [if I was getting called up]. I knew I was on the preliminary roster. You never know. You just want to be prepared if you are called in so you’re not so far behind. So that was my mentality.”He followed an offseason program sent by U.S. coaches.“The numbers speak for itself. We did tests and my numbers weren’t as good last year as they were this year. I came in a lot fitter. To me, that was a goal: to be more prepared mentally and physically coming into this camp,” Nguyen said.And then once he arrived, he’d maintain his vigilance. Work on establishing chemistry with key veterans. They’re the ones he’d be playing with in the games that matter. Forget the 10 years of life as a pro. Stay humble, listen and learn. Nguyen showed up with the same number of senior caps as Jordan Morris. There still was plenty to prove.“Lee came in a little bit different to last year,” Klinsmann said. “He was really prepared for this camp. From day one on, he set the tone. He says, ‘O.K., I was here last year. I didn’t make the impression that I wanted to make, so I better make it right now.’ He was impressionable in the starting lineup after a week already with us. ‘Oh, look at Lee.’ He really is, after three weeks of training and hard work, definitely one of the winners of this period right now.”Nguyen is a natural playmaker, which the U.S. typically has lacked in recent years. mann’s team has been anchored by captain Michael Bradley and veteran Jermaine Jones, both of whom are box-to-box midfielders, while faster or more direct players have been deployed in the wide positions. Bradley certainly has the ability to create in tight spaces and forward Clint Dempsey often retreats between the lines when he’s on the field, but both are better at other things and neither has the rhythm or subtlety of a bona fide No. 10.To establish the sort of proactive possession Klinsmann has been looking for, a player with Nguyen’s instincts usually is required. And on Sunday against Iceland, the U.S. built a sizable 62%-38% possession advantage. Granted, the visitors were missing most of their big names and were slower and more passive than the elite teams Klinsmann is chasing. But Nguyen’s performance still opened some eyes. He started on the left but frequently pinched in and found gaps between Iceland’s midfield and defense. His passing was perfect in the first half and he came close to recording a couple of assists—Gyasi Zardes certainly should have done better with Nguyen’s precise, 16th-minute cross.Nguyen shifted underneath the forwards in the second half and still was effective. He finally missed on a couple of passes but was part of a U.S. core that dominated the game’s later stages.WATCH: Bedoya stays hot with goal, slick assist for Nantes

“You can start to see they’re more comfortable finding me in those gaps. For me, I can interlink the play between the midfield and forwards. That’s like what they’re looking for,” Nguyen said following his 90-minute effort at StubHub Center. “I’ve played most of my games with the Revs underneath, so obviously I’m comfortable there. But at the same time, it’s easy to play with these guys.”Klinsmann said that when an opponent keeps things tight and compact in back, “You need a player who’s very skillful, easy turns, easy to connect people.” On Sunday, Nguyen fit the bill.Whether he does so going forward is anyone’s guess. Darlington Nagbe is making a push for a similar role, and Klinsmann may decide that games against more robust or skillful opponents may require a U.S. midfield with Bradley, Jones and a traditional No. 6. Nguyen told SI.com that he’s flexible. He’s waited so long to cement his international status that he’d be willing to play anywhere, and do anything, to ensure he stays on Klinsmann’s radar.“I want to be part of the World Cup qualifying squad and everybody wants to be on the World Cup team. That’s a big goal, obviously. I want to be in Copa América. But I think you’ve got to prove your worth. You’ve got to take advantage of your chances and I think I’m trying to do that,” he said. “I think the main thing is, like they always say, you can’t take these opportunities for granted. It’s an honor to be here, obviously, and you can’t waste chances when you get called in.”

Veteran-laden side, rejuvenated Altidore lift USMNT past Iceland

BY BRIAN STRAUSTwitter Email

Posted: Sun Jan. 31, 2016The U.S. national team, now three weeks into its annual January camp, opened its 2016 slate on Sunday afternoon with a 3–2 victory over an Iceland junior varsity squad that yielded to the Americans for most of the match but still had enough quality to make things interesting. U.S. and D.C. United defender Steve Birnbaum, a substitute playing in just his second senior international match, headed home the 90th-minute game-winner off a precise free kick from captain Michael Bradley. The hosts had recovered twice from one-goal deficits but dominated the contest’s final minutes and arguably deserved the win.Iceland was playing without the vast majority of the team that sensationally qualified for this summer’s European Championship, while U.S. coach JurgenKlinsmann opted to field a relatively veteran lineup despite bringing so many Olympic-eligible players to Southern California. It showed for the most part, although a few hairy moments allowed Iceland to push the hosts to the limit.Here are three thoughts on the first international of 2016:

Klinsmann gives the veterans a run

Nine of the 26 players currently in camp are eligible to play for the U-23 team, which faces Colombia in a do-or-die, home-and-home Olympic qualifier in late March. Klinsmann said this week that he and his staff “have to do everything possible to give them all the help in the world to make it happen.”That did not include starting them on Sunday. FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta, a 20-year-old who didn’t play in last year’s Olympic qualifying tournament, was the only U-23 player to take the field at kickoff—and he was deployed at left back. Instead, Klinsmann wanted to gauge the preseason progress of his more experienced players. The World Cup spine of center back Matt Besler, midfielders Jermaine Jones and Bradley and forward Jozy Altidore was intact, and Klinsmann had hinted before the game that he wanted to see how Altidore and Gyasi Zardes meshed. The LA Galaxy man started up front alongside Altidore as the U.S. stepped out in a 4-4-2.Veteran defenders Michael Orozco and Brad Evans, each a late arrival in camp, started ahead of younger options while Lee Nguyen, 29, and U.S. debutant Ethan Finlay, 25, were deployed out wide (although they frequently pinched in). Jones and Bradley held sway in midfield with the out-of-contract Jones usually playing a bit deeper, and the U.S. held a 62%–38% advantage in possession. Iceland’s Aron Sigurdarson created some problems on the American right and the hosts had a couple misadventures in back, but for the most part the U.S. carried the play against a slower, less experienced opponent. If Klinsmann were happy with what he saw, he may opt to give his younger charges more of a run against Canada on Feb. 5.The performance of forward Jerome Kiesewetter, who entered in the 75th minute alongside new Seattle Sounder Jordan Morris, certainly whet the Olympic appetite. The 22-year-old VfB Stuttgart reserve scored six times for the U-23 team last year and had a foot in a few U.S. chances in his abbreviated appearance on Sunday, running hard onto several passes in the right channel and causing problems for the Iceland defense.

Defensive miscues keep Iceland in it

After three weeks of training, the U.S. attack was in better sync than the defense, which seemed to have trouble handling the rhythm of a game in which the Americans held so much more of the ball. When the U.S. switched off, it paid a price.​Klinsmann’s team has yielded the opening goal in eight of its past nine games. On Sunday, it was a poor 13th-minute clearance by Besler and the late arrival of the U.S. midfield that allowed Iceland’s Kristinn Steindórsson to power a deflected shot past goalkeeper Luis Robles. The U.S. drew level through Altidore but fell behind again in the 48th. A quick Iceland free kick left the U.S. stranded and befuddled. Several players were still focused on the referee as Sigurdarson received the ball on the left. Finlay was late on the tackle. Orozco, who shifted to right back at the start of the half, was nowhere to be found and Birnbaum, a halftime substitute, retreated as the Fjölnir forward dribbled into the penalty area and curled a perfect shot past Robles.Iceland nearly took a third lead in the 69th, but a wide-open Birkir Saevarsson pounded his shot straight at Robles. The U.S. remained vulnerable on the counter and it seemed that whenever the visitors carried the ball into the offensive third, they got a look at goal.Klinsmann wants his team to have more of the ball. When it does, the defense has to be sharper and more attentive.

A refreshed, rejuvenated Jozy Altidore

He’s 26 years old and is kicking off his 10th year as a senior international and yet somehow, the height of Altidore’s ceiling remains unclear. Prolific in the Netherlands and stifled in England, Altidore (now with Toronto FC) has been both unstoppable and invisible in a U.S. jersey. He had 18 goals in 37 international appearances from 2013 through ’15, which isn’t bad, but there have been too many signs over the years that he’s capable of more. Missing out on most of the 2014 World Cup and 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup with hamstring injuries added to the frustration.This year, Altidore appears committed to raising that ceiling. He arrived in California for this month’s U.S. camp a week early and has increased his focus on fitness and diet. “The last couple of years have been rough, so I just want to stay healthy, stay fit and try to help my team the best that I can,” Altidore said last week.He certainly helped on Sunday. Granted, the U.S. dominated possession against a slower, more patient foe, but this was an Altidore who was lively, engaged and connected. He alertly ran onto two lofted passes in the first 10 minutes, and although he was offside on the first and mishandled the second, it was a sign that he was mobile and plugged in. Zardes and Nguyen stayed close and were effective in combination, and in the 20th minute, Altidore grabbed the equalizer. Zardes played a quick square pass to Bradley, who slipped the ball through to Altidore for the left-footed, first-time finish.Altidore continued to battle as a target toward the end of the half, drawing a yellow card foul in the 45th, and then in the 59th he helped set up Orozco’s goal. Bradley’s corner kick was cleared toward the edge of the penalty area and Altidore raced to the ball, turned and hit a high pass back toward the right post. Birnbaum was there to head it toward Orozco on the Iceland goal line.Expectations are high for Altidore this year. He should score at a high rate for TFC and be healthy and productive for the U.S. in qualifying and the Copa América.“He wants to put his stamp on the national team program,” Klinsmann said. “So he now wants to make sure that he makes the right decisions. So we see a Jozy now coming in prepared.”Several touches went awry and there’s still a long way to go, but that preparation and determination was evident on Sunday.“I felt good,” Altidore told ESPN following the win. “It’s the first game of the year, trying to get our legs under us still … It’s nice to play against a real opponent and get a few minutes…. Sometimes that final pass wasn’t there, that first touch wasn’t there, but it will come in due time.”

 

Jamie Vardy magic keeps Leicester top of the league with 2-0 win vs. Liverpool

Jamie Vardy notched a brace in Leicester’s 2-0 win over Liverpool as the team continued its Premier League title push.

LEICESTER, England — Here are three points from King Power Stadium after Leicester defeated Liverpool 2-0 on Tuesday night.

  1. Spectacular Vardy keeps Leicester’s title quest going

Perhaps nothing changed in January after all. If the remainder of the season is essentially a new, 15-game, mini-season between title contenders with fresh, restocked squads, then it has begun exactly where we left off. Jamie Vardy seems on a one-man crusade to propel Leicester to the most implausible of Premier League titles, and two instinctive second-half goals Tuesday — his first being maybe the very best of his burgeoning collection — kept Leicester top of the Premier League heading into Saturday’s tantalizing trip to Manchester City.The match had fallen into a reliable pattern, when on the hour, Vardy intervened with a stunning bolt from the blue.The hosts had been content to absorb periods of ineffectual Liverpool pressure and counter swiftly when, from a long clearance, Vardy found himself running between Mamadou Sakho and Alberto Moreno down the right-hand channel. Not for the first time, the Liverpool defenders hesitated at the sight of the England striker in full flight, the ball was allowed to bounce, and after a quick glance, Vardy chanced his luck. His 25-yard volley arced, dipped and swerved beyond Simon Mignolet for his 17th goal of the season and sent the King Power Stadium, which has gotten used to stunning individual feats this season, into rapturesEleven minutes later, the result was put beyond doubt. This time, it was a finish that showcased the best of Vardy’s predatory instincts: Shinji Okazaki’s low shot deflected to him at the far post and was met by an emphatic finish. Despite attempting to narrow the angle, Mignolet could do nothing once more.Vardy’s earlier work had largely consisted of working the channels, chasing down the centre-halves and teeing others up while waiting for the kind of glimpse of goal that opened up decisively in this instance. Tireless as ever, he was a deserving match winner Tuesday, and by now, none of us should be remotely surprised.

  1. Leicester show they won’t go away

The King Power Stadium knew what was at stake before this one. It felt in many ways like the beginning of the real title race for Leicester, whose astonishing work in the previous six months had earned them a shootout for English football’s biggest prize. Claudio Ranieri had given his players three days off after their previous game, a win over Stoke on Jan. 23, and the task now was to show they would simply not be going away.This team does not look likely to. Leicester came out flying in the first half, feeding off a crowd that responded raucously to every challenge, chase and block. Riyad Mahrez’s long-range shot and Okazaki could have put them 2-0 up inside the opening 10 minutes, and it was the latter’s chance that epitomized their methods. Danny Drinkwater, operating in a whirlwind of a midfield partnership with N’Golo Kante, simply showed more desire than Jordan Henderson to a challenge and drove forward to release Vardy, whose cross was met by a free header that Mignolet turned over. Perhaps Leicester’s doggedness was summed up best by Mahrez. The gifted winger almost scored a goal that would have topped Vardy’s before halftime by whipping in a 30-yard shot that Mignolet tipped over, yet it was one of his scrappier contributions that helped put the game to bed. Mahrez’s persistence in battling for a direct ball and helping it on for Okazaki paved the way for Leicester’s second goal and underscored the impression that something special is happening with this team.

Leicester have a squad with players of many background, nationalities and attributes, but every one of them has bought into the sheer force will required to drag a team over the line in a title race. Whatever happens at the Etihad on Saturday, and even at the Emirates a week later, it is impossible to doubt a team whose application is as consistent as this.

  1. Liverpool’s striker woes are laid bare

For the second match in a row, Jurgen Klopp named a forward called Teixeira among the substitutes — but not that one. Their winter-long pursuit of Shakhtar Donetsk forward Alex Teixeira failed, which means fringe player Joao was called up, and as he sat alongside the firmly out-of-favour Christian Benteke, Liverpool’s paucity of trustworthy attacking options was evident once more.Benteke’s situation was cast firmly into light by the fact that Klopp opted for a rarely-used 4-4-2 here — matching the formation that has served Leicester so well — but chose Roberto Firmino and Adam Lallana to spearhead the attack. Firmino’s recent work as a nominal centre-forward has been successful; the bigger surprise was to see Lallana generally operating ahead of him.The plan worked to an extent during a first half in which Liverpool recovered to exert a measure of authority after a torrid start. Lallana was a particular threat when drifting into wide areas and bringing a narrow midfield into the game. The point was made after 33 minutes, when he worked his way into the left side of the penalty area before arrowing in a cross for Jordan Henderson coming in from the right. The midfielder would have scored had Fuchs, intervening bravely, not headed the ball inches over his own bar.Yet a direct threat was lacking, and it was a similar story in the second period. A deflected Henderson shot from an angle, and an Alberto Moreno cross shot, fisted away by Kasper Schmeichel, were the best Klopp’s side could muster. Benteke was introduced after 66 minutes but to no effect, as Liverpool were forced to chase the game.By the end, Liverpool’s supporters were left to amuse themselves by chanting the name of Steven Gerrard. How this team could do with players of his character and quality — as well as his ability to conjure up a decisive goal.Klopp’s theory was clear in selecting this lineup, but the bottom line is that with Daniel Sturridge’s fitness still a thorny question, Liverpool have left themselves well shor