3/28/16-US must win Tues 7 pm ESPN2, U23s can qualify for Olympics with win

Wow not quite sure what to say about the German (US Men’s National team coach Jurgen Klinsmann) now – but unlike either of his predecessors Coaches Bob Bradley or Bruce Arena – for the 2nd straight time – the USMNT sits at the edge of World Cup Non-Qualification?  That’s right lose on Tuesday night at home in Columbus (7 pm on ESPN 2) and the US will all but be eliminated from Qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.  It would be the first time since 1986 by the way.  Sound familiar – yes this is just where the US was 4 some odd years ago when it took a 1-0 controversial win over Costa Rica in the Snow in Denver to advance on to the Hex.  Now the German would have you believe its just dumb luck or the teams in CONCACAF are somehow better now – which is total crap by the way.  The only truth here is the US under the German’s leadership is Failing Miserably.  He has no idea where to play his players.  No fewer than 6 players started in positions they don’t play for their Professional Club teams.  Our left mid BEDOYA is a right mid, our right mid YEDLIN a right back, our right back CAMERON a de mid or central defender, our left inside D ORAZCO a right back, our attacking mid BRADLEY a Defensive mid or Holding/D Mid MIX a right winger –  And 2 of them – haven’t played a minute for their clubs in close to 3 months (Orazco and GK Howard).  Listen I know the team had injuries and Brooks and Bez would have I hope started normally.  But when desperate late in the game – the move of Cameron to the middle, the removal of Orazco (who honestly should no longer be in the player pool) and the move of Yedlin to right back – settled things down for the remainder of the game.  Seriously this guy thinks he’s smarter than every professional team coach in Europe who puts these players where they play.  I understand 1 or maybe worst case 2 switches but 6 of the 11?  Its that uncertainty and chaos that has wrecked this defense for years now under the German.   While I honestly lost my faith in the German during the Gold Cup /then Mexico Playoff Debacle –its become more evident that this “forward thinking”, tactically inept, shake things up for no real reason coach in charge of our national team has simply lost it.  Listen I am AMERICAN soccer fan, a American Outlaw Member, a card carrying member of Sam’s Army for over 20 years – and my son and I will be there on Tuesday night in Columbus wearing red, white and blue – flag waiving trying to root our national team boys on to victory.  But I am done and over the Klinsmann experiment.  DONE & OVER.

PS – congrats to the U23s – a hard fought albeit completely hang on for dear life – counter attack only effort the American’s have employed for years.  The 1-1 tie over a superior Columbia team sets up the US only needing a 1-0 win at home Tuesday at 9:30 pm on ESPN 2 to advance to the Olympics.

USA  (new stories today) 

US Finds itself in Familiar Location – Must Win in Columbus – ESPN fC

What to Expect tonite – SI

How to Show you Aren’t Happy with Klinsmann Don’t Buy Tickets

Klinsmann’s top 5 Positional Mistakes of Many – Stars and Stripes

Guatemala’s Ruiz is Cleared to Come to US for Qualifier Tonite

7 Managers who Could Replace Klinsmann – my vote would be an emergency return to Bruce Arena for Qualifying only.

Klinsmann puts Home Up for Sale?

US U23s ready to Qualify for Olympics with Win tonite

U 23’s ready for Columbia at home ESPNFC

OLD Stories

The Player Pool isn’t the Problem – Its Klinsmann-SB Nation

Klinsmann should be Fired if they Lose to Guatemala at home – Leander Schaerlaeckens

Klinsmann experiment has failed – Stars and Stripes

The Klinsmann Catastrophe

After Loss – Margin for Error is Slim –SI Grant Wahl

US Regressing – Klinsy must Find Stability in Line-Up –  Jeff Carlisle EPSNFC

Patch Work Defense Dooms US Chances on Road –ESPN FC

Despite Embarrassment – A US Win Tues Clears things Up –NBC Pro Soccer Talk

Klinsmann’s Bizarre Roster Selection leads to 2-0 loss

US Player Ratings – ESPN FC – Jason Davis

US Players Ratings in 0-2 Loss

3 Things from Shockingly Easy win by Guatamala –NBCSN

Klinnsy Adds Zusi, Pulisic and Removes Fabian Johnson and Belser due to injuries

What has Happened to the US Keeper Pipeline?

Suarez gets Equalizer in 2-2 Draw with Brazil

US – U23s

USA Hangs on for 1-1 Draw at Columbia – In Position to Qualify at Home Tues

GAMES of the Week

Tuesday, March 29:

3:30 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs Italy                                

4 pm  fox Sport1         England vs Netherlands

4:30 pm beIN Sport   Columbia vs Ecudor  WCQ           Columbia in MUST Win at Home!

7 pm (ESPN2) United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier-Columbus, OH  USA MUST win at Home

7:30 pm beIN Sport   Argentina vs Bolivia  WCQ      must win at home for Argentina

9:30 pm ESPN2  US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff Texas  US Must win to Go to Olympics

Sat, Apr 2

12:30 pm                         NBC               Liverpool vs Tottenham

2:30 pm bein Sport EL CLASSICO – Barcelona vs Real Madrid –SPORTS BAR

7:30 pm ESPN3             Indy 11 @ Tampa Bay Rowdies

Sun, Apr 3

8:00 p.m Fox Sports1 Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers

Tues, Apr 5

Champions League Elite 8

2:45 p.m., Fox Sport1 Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid

2:45 p.m., Fox Sport 2 Bayern Munich vs. Benfica

Wed, Apr 6

2:45 p.m FoxSport1                          Man City vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox Sport2                          Real Madrid vs VFL Wolfsburg

7 pm Fox Sports 1      US Women vs Columbia

Thurs, Apr 7

Europa Cup

3:00 p.m., FS1?            Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund

The Klinsmann Experiment has Failed

By BlakeBullock11  @Blake_Bullock11 on Mar 26, 2016, 10:09p 2                                   TWEET  SHARE (56) PIN 

The Klinsmann experiment as Technical Director and Manager has failed. Last night, the USMNT was defeated for the first time ever in Guatemala City. It was one of the worst defeats in the recent downfall of US soccer and one of the worst defeats ever. The blame for this match does not rest solely on Klinsmann though, as many players including Mix Diskerud, did not play to their full ability, but Klinsmann has to know how to pick a starting lineup. One of Klinsmann’s most disliked tendencies is his unwillingness to reward club form, and that he always seems to put players out of position. Deandre Yedlin has locked down a starting right back spot for a Premier League team, and started at outside midfield. Geoff Cameron has excelled at center back for Stoke, and was played at outside defender. Mix Diskerud is not a holding midfielder, and under Michael Bradley he can’t showcase his skills. You could also argue that he hasn’t even shown enough to be considered to start, with players like Ethan Finlay and Darlington Nagbe majorly outperforming Mix for their clubs. Maybe he could be retained as Technical Director, but even in that responsibility he has failed, with the U-23s fighting for their Olympic lives against Columbia, even though they should have easily qualified earlier. Even through all this, Sunil Gulati seems to be out of touch with the fans. There hasn’t been even a hint of pressure on Klinsmann, even after last years epic failure in the Gold Cup and the Confederations Cup playoff. These results cannot become common for a United States team that was seemingly on the rise after comeback defeats against the Netherlands and world-champion Germany, but those wins seem years ago now.

Jurgen Klinsmann should be fired if USMNT loses to Guatemala again

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo 9 hours ago

A year and half ago, Jurgen Klinsmann was unequivocal. The objective for the 2018 World Cup in Russia was for his United States men’s national team to reach the semifinals, matching the Yanks’ best-ever performance from the 1930 World Cup, when just 13 countries participated, absent some world powers.”This is our goal going towards Russia, not to stop at the round of 16, maybe not to stop at the quarterfinal,” the German head coach said. “To say clearly, listen, we have four years to prepare this cycle. Our goal is going into a semifinal in a World Cup.”Read that statement now, with the new World Cup qualifying cycle in full swing, and you’re more likely to stifle a chuckle than to think that it’s even remotely plausible. After Friday’s debacle in Guatemala, where the U.S. lost 2-0 to put its campaign to even reach Russia in some peril, any notions of the Americans breaking into the top four of the world presently seem fanciful and altogether farfetched.What follows is not some hair-trigger reaction. Nor is it an undercooked take from a single game, or even a few games. It’s the manifestation of almost five years of questions gone unanswered and stated ambitions left unmet.It’s come time to ask what it will take for Klinsmann to be fired.And it’s come time to acknowledge that if the U.S. loses to Guatemala again on Tuesday, in its Columbus, Ohio stronghold, that is probably what it should take for Klinsmann to be fired.U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, the guardian of the sport’s long-term health, says he remains committed to the manager he spent years pursuing and then handed a contract that dwarfed any of his predecessors’. Gulati implicitly staked his own legacy to Klinsmann’s, and when your boss’s reputation is on the line, there isn’t a whole lot that will get you fired. But if the U.S. loses again on Tuesday and faces a situation where it must win its final two games – at Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and against Trinidad and Tobago at home – and require help from others in the group just to advance, that should surely set off some emergency protocol. The Americans currently sit outside of the two places in Group C that will advance the holders to the fifth and final round – the hexagonal. Certainly, you could point to the fact that in the last qualifying cycle the U.S. began this stage with a 1-1-1 record as well and qualified comfortably. But that just borrows from past mediocrity to justify more mediocrity. There just isn’t anything redeeming Klinsmann to justify the risk of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986. In almost half a decade in charge, his much-hyped appointment – remember all the talk about him taking the team “to the next level”? – has brought only regression. Bob Bradley left behind a team that was often unexciting and seemed to have grown a tad stale, but it was tactically sound and could be relied on to deliver a baseline performance. Now, the senior U.S. team is arguably in a worse state than it has been in almost a decade. And at the 2006 World Cup, where the Americans finished last in their group, at least there was a foundation for the future, a core that would show well in South Africa four years later. There isn’t even that now. The Klinsmann bubble is bursting. The novelty has worn off. All the promise was hollow and the doctrine void. An intellectually honest assessment of what he has accomplished turns up an off-year Gold Cup triumph in 2013 and a round-of-16 finish at the 2014 World Cup, where the U.S. survived the deathly group with Germany, Portugal and Ghana .But Klinsmann didn’t get the U.S. out of that Group of Death. Luck did. The Americans were utterly dominated in three of their four games. They were outshot by an average of 11.5 times. They scored 1.15 goals per 90 minutes and conceded 1.38. They ranked 19th out of 32 teams in expected goals and 29th in expected goals against, according to StatHunting.com. Yet somehow they reached the last 16. The results flattered the performances. And it should probably be noted that Ghana imploded amid infighting and Portugal sleepwalked through the tournament.Yes, Klinsmann did well in another job, laying the groundwork for a future World Cup victory with Germany from 2004 to 2006. But plainly, his accomplishments with Die Mannschaft – with the sizable help from right-hand man Jogi Loew – aren’t relevant here. He has already been U.S. head coach almost two-and-a-half times as long as he was Germany’s and the results are hardly the same.The list of things Klinsmann has not accomplished runs far longer. The improved playing style is nowhere to be seen. The U.S. is capable of competing with the bigger soccer countries only when there is nothing at stake in friendlies. The promised integration with the youth national teams has taken place but yielded little, as they too are mostly in a sorry state. The promised confidence to go head-to-head with the global powers hasn’t materialized. The high pressure and passing game were quickly abandoned. There exists no evidence that even Klinsmann himself knows what his best lineup is. Even the vow of improved fitness withered. Meanwhile, there’s been a steadfast erosion of the U.S.’s unity, battling identity and defensive organization. Klinsmann’s atavistic tactics and insistence on playing half his team out of position, as if to make some point about his soccer smarts, have not helped things any.And there is no credible indication that, given more time, Klinsmann will do better. That some long-game play is beginning to take root.If Klinsmann, who styled himself a reformer, has left a legacy at all, it’s one of chaos for its own sake and a systematic alienation of the fan base – as underscored by the vast swaths of empty seats at recent home games. His studied new-age vibe isn’t intriguing anymore. His fixation on innovation produced a team suspended somewhere between the present and the future, but incapable of winning the important games in either.Yet he has had at his disposal more money, resources, power and freedom than anyone in the job before him. Maybe even more talent, although there’s little sense in comparing generations. But for all this, he has delivered no more than words – mostly substantively inert, train-of-thought ramblings that promise to arrive at a point but never get there.What’s worse, he seems to have come untethered from reality. To hear Klinsmann speak, things are more or less going according to some plan he drew up. He is a lovely and magnetic man – truly a very pleasant person – but it’s becoming increasingly hard to take his utterances on his work seriously.To be fair, he has achieved some significant things on a developmental level in his dual role as technical director that may yield dividends when future national teams take the field. But that isn’t part of his remit as senior team head coach. And so we circle back once again to the idea that Klinsmann would make a better full-time technical director than he has ever been a coach.If, come Tuesday, World Cup participation is in genuine danger – to say nothing of the potential humiliation at this summer’s stacked Copa America Centenario, the biggest stateside soccer event in 22 years – it’s time to move on. If Klinsmann can’t, maybe somebody else will turn things around. Somebody who can scrape out a place in the hexagonal round of qualifying and avoid three straight losses in June.A pragmatist, who knows the players. Maybe Bradley’s predecessor, Bruce Arena, can be summoned to this emergency call. Or the steady Dominic Kinnear. Maybe elder statesman Sigi Schmid. Call the successor’s position what you want. Maybe even keep Klinsmann around as the big-picture guy. It was a worthwhile experiment. A grand vision. But either the idea was wrong or the man was. But since they are essentially one and the same, the moment will have come to try something else. To try someone else.  Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist 

Klinsmann’s Bizarre roster selection leads to 2-0 loss to Guatemala

By Rjstarner  @CEOotYearReagan on Mar 25, 2016, 9:03p 3 

Tonight can be summed up in 140 characters. We had a RB playing RM because a Def Mid was playing RB because we had an attacking mid playing defensive mid. This is the state of the USMNT under Jurgen Klinsmann. Players are constantly asked to play out of position in favor of formations. Yedlin has started the last 5 games for Sunderland at RB. He lined up at RM tonight. Geoff cameron has played every game for Stoke this year at Defensive Mid. He started at RB tonight. Michael Orozco hasn’t started for Tijuana in a Liga MX game this season…he started at CB tonight for the USMNT. Mix Diskerud plays as an attack midfielder for NYCFC. He started at defensive Mid tonight. Tim Howard hasn’t started since January for Everton…why not let’s start him for world cup qualifying. It’s so ridiculous that even FIFA16 doesn’t recommend you playing these players at these positions. The USMNT hadn’t lost to Guatemala since 1988. They I was 2 years old. They allowed 2 goals in the first 15 minutes of the match. Unfortunately the new kits were the best looking thing on the field for the USMNT in the first half of the match. The USMNT is 1-1-1 in WC qualifying and sit in 3rd place behind International stalwarts like Trinidad and Tobago and Guatemala. With more WC qualifying and Copa America Centenario around the corner Jurgen Klinsmann really needs to take a look at his roster, and put his team in a position to succeed.

Assessing the troubled USMNT: Win Tuesday and everything’s still kinda okay

Leave a commentBy Nicholas MendolaMar 26, 2016, 9:16 AM EDT bcn

Yes, the United States men’s national team played one of its worst meaningful matches of the last two decades on Friday, but how much trouble are they really in when it comes to qualifying for the 2018 World Cup (at least on a micro level)?On the macro level, a lot. Friday’s performance would’ve seen the Yanks concede about 8 goals at Azteca or Estadio Nacional. Even given injuries, Jurgen Klinsmann’s awful lineup choices hampered the team en route to a 2-0 loss.On a micro level, it’s certainly not the end of the world (though it’ll be close to it if the Yanks fail to beat Guatemala in Columbus on Tuesday, a failure that would make Friday’s defeat look like a walk in the park).The good news is that the USMNT has played its two trickiest road matches, while Guatemala still has plenty to do despite its second-place spot in Group C. And while many would’ve accepted four points from Guatemala, three points wouldn’t be the end of the world at all.

Let’s check the table quick.

2018 qualification through three games

Trinidad & Tobago — 7 points, +2 goal diff
Guatemala — 6 points, +5 goal diff
USMNT — 4 points, +3 goal diff
St. Vincent and the Grenadines — 0 points, -10 goal diff

Remember, the Yanks were in a very similar place at this exact point in 2014 World Cup qualification. Klinsmann’s crew won at Antigua & Barbuda, drew in Guatemala and lost in Jamaica. The table looked like this:

2014 qualification through three games

Jamaica — 7 points, +2 goal diff
USMNT — 4 points, +1 goal diff
Guatemala — 4 points, +1 goal diff
Antigua & Barbuda — 1 point, -4 goal diff

The glaring difference is that A&B was able to pick up a point from Jamaica, and the Yanks snared a point in Guatemala. But the positioning was nearly as precarious for Klinsmann.

So where are the States now?

First and foremost, the Yanks have blown their chance to play two meaningless qualifiers in September. T&T will likely have 10 points after Tuesday’s return visit from Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Guatemala will be at-worst a point behind the U.S.That said, the U.S. still hosts Guatemala on Tuesday and T&T on Sept. 6 (one would imagine that game will be held somewhere quite unseasonable for the visitors). Their lone road game remaining is at Saint Vincent, who they bashed 6-1 in November.However, the U.S. does finish with T&T while Guatemala ends its group stage with a visit from Saint Vincent. They more or less need 10 points heading into that game to feel decent at all.The main point is that a loss on Tuesday all-but-mathematically eliminates the U.S. from qualification to the 2018 World Cup while a win puts them firmly in the driver’s seat for the Hex. T&T and Guatemala can’t both take three points from each other during the Yanks’ Sept. 2 visit to Saint Vincent.So, basically, you’re both a USMNT and T&T fan for the next two match days. If both take six points, the table would look like this:

T&T — 13 points
USMNT — 10 points
Guatemala — 6 points
Saint Vincent & the Grenadines — 0 points

That leaves the Yanks and T&T in the Hex before they square off in the U.S. on Sept. 6. Anti-climactic, yes, but wouldn’t that be nice?

U.S. regressing and Jurgen Klinsmann must find stability in his lineup

GUATEMALA CITY — From the moment that Jurgen Klinsmann took over the U.S. men’s national team in 2011, it seemed as if there has been a battle raging from within.

Sometimes it seemed to be a conflict between Klinsmann and the players in how best to move the program forward. It has manifested itself in baffling lineup choices, confusing tactics and even more puzzling decisions on how best to usher out the old and bring in the new. Current form mattered … until it didn’t. Then there have been moments where Klinsmann seemed at war with himself. Should he go pragmatic, or idealistic? A man in conflict.There have been moments when Klinsmann has achieved a sort of equilibrium, such as during the latter stages of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, and even at the tournament itself. But at present, what is evident is a U.S. national team that is currently thrashing about, unsure of what it is or where it’s heading. This was never more evident than in Friday’s 2-0 defeat to Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier. Assignments were blown, individual battles were lost, and perhaps most damning of all, tentative, passive mistakes were made.When Michael Bradley was asked what the U.S. needed to do better in Tuesday’s return encounter against Guatemala, he said: “Everything.”In these moments, the question gets raised: Is it the fault of the coach or the players? The answer is both, though Klinsmann doesn’t help himself during such examinations. His impulse is to blame the players first, and himself second — that is when he does the latter at all. When asked about the two very preventable goals his team conceded inside the game’s first 15 minutes, Klinsmann said they were down to “a lack of focus, concentration and wrong decisions.”  And why was this? One would expect “focus” to be at its highest level at the start of a game.”That’s a good question for the players,” said Klinsmann, before adding that Guatemala didn’t do much after going up 2-0, which ignored the fact that the home side didn’t need to.It wasn’t until later, when queried directly about if he questions his own decisions, that Klinsmann became more introspective, and even then he wasn’t entirely convincing.”You question [decisions] every time, no matter if you win or lose, you question everything that happens during a game,” he said. “Then you question yourself. ‘Was this the right lineup? Was this the right substitutions? Was this the right way to approach it? Should we have done something differently, and better?’  “Absolutely you question that, and you figure out how you can fix this, this and this. At the end of the day, these two mistakes led to goals. You just have to swallow it, because those are individual mistakes that you cannot do at this level. That’s what happened tonight so we’ll take the blame. I take the blame. There’s no problem if you want to hear that.”  Klinsmann isn’t wrong per se. Individual mistakes were indeed made, but some came from his decision-making. When the U.S. lineup came out on Friday, it was clear that the injury-induced absences of Fabian Johnson, John Brooks and Matt Besler tied Klinsmann’s hands to a degree. But Geoff Cameron and Michael Orozco seemed as though they should have swapped positions, with Cameron playing centrally instead of at right-back, and Orozco moving out wide.The opening exchanges witnessed the U.S. backline looking shaky indeed and both Omar Gonzalez and Orozco were caught flat-footed by Carlos Ruiz for the second Guatemala goal.With Jermaine Jones suspended, Mix Diskerud seemed ill suited to a match where graft was going to be prized, especially with a player like Kyle Beckerman available. It was no accident that Diskerud was victimized for the first goal when Rafael Morales out-jumped him to nod home a corner. os Ruiz celebrates his goal for Guatemala.

Afterward, Klinsmann indicated he chose Diskerud for his ability to move the ball — the idealist emerging again — before criticizing both Diskerud and Michael Bradley for not supporting the forwards enough. A more contrite approach from Klinsmann just might score more points in the locker room and in public, but blame assignment only gets a coach — or player — so far, and obscures the bigger question. How do you fix this team?For some, that will be firing the coach, but Klinsmann’s position still seems solid. USSF president Sunil Gulati said he wasn’t concerned about the team’s direction. “It’s not game-to-game like that,” he said. “We get a good result on Tuesday, which we expect, then things are back on track.”But the fault lines in this U.S. team seem too deep to be cured by one victory over a Guatemala side ranked 95th in the world by FIFA. Such fissures have been visible previously, only for both the team and Klinsmann to work together to find some cohesion. Now those rifts seem to be emerging again. When added to the context of last summer’s disappointing performances in the Gold Cup, the team is regressing.The way forward is that Klinsmann must find some stability in his lineup choices, both at the back, and in the spine of the team. Decide on a goalkeeper; narrow down a center-back pairing.; find a partner for Bradley; decide where DeAndre Yedlin best fits into this team and leave him there.This process can best be accomplished at this summer’s Copa America Centenario, though some of it can begin against Guatemala on Tuesday. To that end, Klinsmann needs to veer back toward the pragmatic. The U.S. now desperately needs a victory. If it doesn’t get one, a very different kind of battle — World Cup qualification itself — will hang in the balance.

U.S. patchwork defense doesn’t get it done in 2-0 loss to Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY — The U.S. men’s national team now finds itself in a World Cup qualification dogfight.The U.S. lost 2-0 to Guatemala at the Estadio Nacional Mateo Flores — its first loss to Los Chapines in 21 games — thanks to goals from Rafael Morales and Carlos Ruiz. The U.S. now lies in third place in its qualifying group on four points, three behind Trinidad and Tobago and two behind Guatemala. Only the top two teams will progress to the final round Hexagonal.

  1. If this isn’t the worst loss of the Klinsmann era, it’s close

The U.S. has had its share of low moments during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure. It has even managed to lose to CONCACAF opponents on home soil on multiple occasions, so on the surface, losing a World Cup qualifier on the road wouldn’t seem to be all that surprising. The conditions are always difficult and the crowds hostile. Games often bear a closer resemblance to a street fight, so both the U.S. and Klinsmann should have known what to expect.Yet the U.S. looked as if it had no idea what it was in for. The team looked nervous, the touches were suspect and so were the passes.Then there were the defensive lapses. Morales simply skied over Mix Diskerud to nod home a corner in the seventh minute, allowing a crowd that was already well into the game to ratchet up its intensity, giving the home side a huge boost of confidence. The U.S. team’s misery was increased only eight minutes later from the most basic of plays. Goalkeeper Paulo Motta launched a goal kick upfield, and with center backs Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco way too far apart, the ball bounced to Ruiz, who ran through for a clear breakaway and deposited his shot past Tim Howard for a 2-0 lead.At minimum, it was the worst half of Klinsmann’s tenure.The U.S. found more of the game thereafter, but found Motta in inspired form. He did well to stop a shot from Alejandro Bedoya in the 23rd minute, and then produced two superb saves on Clint Dempsey and Bedoya within seconds of each other seven minutes into the second half. He stymied Dempsey again five minutes later, albeit on a shot that was well within his range. Motta later pushed aside a shot from substitute Jozy Altidore, too.Give Guatemala its due. It has been rejuvenated under new manager Walter Claveri, and came out with a plan to play direct while also mixing in some bits of possession as well. Its back line defended resolutely. But this loss will only serve to once again raise questions about the team’s direction under Klinsmann. At the moment, it’s not positive.

  1. Patchwork defense doesn’t get it done

When it came to Klinsmann’s lineup choices, he produced more than a few surprises, though some of them were forced on the U.S. manager. A left knee contusion ruled out center back John Brooks not only for this match but Tuesday’s encounter against this same Guatemala team as well. Klinsmann’s options were lessened further when Matt Besler sustained a concussion in Thursday’s training session.But even with the options remaining, Klinsmann still left himself open to second guessing, opting to deploy Orozco as a center back and Geoff Cameron at right back. Klinsmann’s choice of Diskerud alongside Michael Bradley was also something of a surprise. Given the game’s expected rugged nature, Kyle Beckerman seemed a more natural fit, especially on the defensive end. Diskerud failed to impress on either side of the ball and was subbed at halftime for Darlington Nagbe. Orozco was pulled in the 59th minute for Gyasi Zardes with DeAndre Yedlin sliding to right back.Back in November, the U.S. defense seemed to be stabilizing through Cameron and Besler. Yes, injuries played a part in the changes, but there also seems to be too much chopping and changing when it isn’t necessary, and that falls on Klinsmann.

  1. Tuesday’s game is now a must win

Before Friday’s game, the talk in the U.S. camp was about getting six points in these two games, locking up qualification to the final round Hexagonal and using the last two qualifiers in September to experiment with personnel. Now the complexion of this round has changed completely. A draw on Tuesday will leave the U.S. still in third place behind both Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago. Even a win will leave the U.S. ahead of Guatemala by only a single point, so there is no margin for error.Can the U.S. get the job done? It actually has a bit of experience in this regard. Four years ago, the U.S. fell to Jamaica 2-1 on the road and had to regroup to play the Reggae Boyz again four days later. The U.S. ended up prevailing 1-0, and the road to qualification was back on track.The U.S. will also benefit from the fact that Ruiz will not be able to play in the match because of a legal dispute that will prevent him from traveling to the U.S. Another player, Hamilton Lopez, will also not travel because of visa issues. Whether the U.S. can take advantage of such good fortune remains to be seen. At minimum, the pressure is increasing with the U.S. psyche requiring some repair work.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle. 

After USA’s loss to Guatemala, margin for error is slim

After losing to Guatemala 2-0 Friday night, the U.S. now sits at third in Group C standings with three matches remaining.

BY GRANT WAHL SI ADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Sat Mar. 26, 2016

GUATEMALA CITY — The chants started more than two hours before kickoff, a stadium full of Guatemalans singing as one: “SÍ SE PUEDE! SÍ SE PUEDE!” (YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!) But by the end of a stunning 90 minutes, after Guatemala had scored two goals and exposed the U.S.’s early lack of focus, the chants had changed ever so slightly.Now that Guatemala was sealing a historic 2–0 World Cup qualifying victory—it’s first win in 21 games against the U.S. going back to 1988—the wall of sound made the verb tense clear: “SÍ SE PUDO! SÍ SE PUDO!” (YES WE COULD!) In the past 18 months, as the U.S. men’s World Cup 2014 hangover has extended into a full-blown program malaise, coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team has given new belief to a number of CONCACAF teams.In 2015 alone, these things happened: Jamaica won a competitive game against the U.S. on American soil for the first time in 10 tries. Panama did the same for the second time in 11 tries. And Mexico beat the U.S. for the first time in seven tries overall since Klinsmann took over in 2011.Let’s be honest: Guatemala is not nearly as good as any of those CONCACAF teams. The Chapines, ranked No. 95 in the world by FIFA, barely got past lightweights Bermuda and Antigua & Barbuda just to reach this semifinal round of qualifying—and then promptly lost their home opener to Trinidad & Tobago last November. Compared to the other two semifinal-round groups in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the U.S. got a sweetheart of a draw with T&T, Guatemala and St. Vincent & the Grenadines.And yet so far in three games the U.S. has only managed one victory against overmatched St. Vincent and has yet to score in the other two games away against T&T and Guatemala. The first 15 minutes here on Friday were a disaster for the U.S., which saw elementary defensive breakdowns give the hosts a shocking 2–0 early lead.“It was a lack of focus, concentration and wrong decisions,” said Klinsmann afterward. “On the first goal [off a corner kick] … nobody covered the first post. And we can write everything on the whiteboard—it’s in the locker room—if they have that kind of moment where they are not kind of remembering where their position is, then things like that can happen. But on this level obviously you get punished, and it shouldn’t happen that way. “The second goal [in which Carlos Ruiz pounced on a goal kick straight up the middle to score] was a sequence of mistakes,” Klinsmann continued, “from Michael [Bradley] not heading the ball to the centerbacks thinking that Michael has it, and one thinking the other has it. The ball goes through, and that’s what Carlos Ruiz is famous for.”When pressed on why the U.S. had such a lack of concentration in the first 15 minutes, when you would think the focus would be at its highest, Klinsmann said: “Maybe that’s a question for the players.”Over to you, then, Michael Bradley.“We didn’t start the game well. I don’t think it takes a genius to see that,” said the captain. “Why? I don’t have a good answer for you. Obviously, the goal is always to start well, to start in a positive way, to play the game in the other team’s end. There’s nights when you succeed in a good way, and there’s other nights when you don’t. Obviously, tonight wasn’t a good start, and you can still on some nights deal with things and play your way into it. And tonight we weren’t able to in any way.”Bradley wasn’t as sharp in this game as he often is, but give him credit for raising his hand on the second Guatemalan goal.“The goalkeeper kicks the ball and it comes quick and knuckling, and I saw it a bit late,” Bradley said. “And rather than try to jump and flick it in a weird way, I thought it was going to be best for our defenders if they were able to see it and attack it from there. And obviously it wasn’t the case. So certainly from my end I could have done better. When you play these types of games, all these little plays add up in big ways.”As for the other goal, and the man on the post who Klinsmann said should have been there, goalkeeper Tim Howard said he thought a Guatemalan player pulled Edgar Castillo off the post.“In an ideal world, you’d like to have ever post marked up,” said Howard. “But part of marking on set-pieces, what we do is we try and snuff out the danger before it gets to having a guy on the post. Nowadays you need to put guys in good spots, get everyone marked up and sometimes you sacrifice the man on the post. Of course, when the ball goes in just inside the post you go back to the old argument: Should you have a guy on the post?”When Klinsmann was asked why he chose to start Mix Diskerud in the central midfield (instead of Kyle Beckerman, Geoff Cameron, Lee Nguyen or Darlington Nagbe), he said he thought Diskerud could move the ball and create a midfield passing rhythm. But the coach took Diskerud off after 45 minutes for Nagbe because he felt like Diskerud and Bradley dropped too far back to link up with forwards Clint Dempsey and Bobby Wood.It’s also worth noting that Klinsmann didn’t just direct blame at others for the brutal result. “No matter if you win or lose, you question everything that happens during a game and you question yourself: ‘O.K., was this the right lineup? Was this the right substitutions? Was this the right way to approach it? What should we have done differently? Better?’” Klinsmann said. “Absolutely, you question that and you kind of think how can we fix this and this?”“At the end of the day, with the two mistakes that we did, with those two goals, you just have to swallow it. Because those are individual mistakes that you cannot do on that level. That’s what happened tonight. So we’ll take the blame. I’ll take the blame, if you want to hear that.“There’s absolute trust in the players because you’ve got to move on. You know, s— happens, but you’ve got to move on and that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go back to Columbus and we correct those mistakes, and there’s an absolute belief in these players.”And so the pressure mounts ahead of Tuesday’s rematch against Guatemala in Ohio. It’s not 100% a must-win game, but it is a nearly must-win, and it’s most definitely a do-not-lose game. A loss would put qualifying for World Cup 2018 in serious jeopardy.Klinsmann’s boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, knows the history, knows the U.S. has taken it to the last game of the semifinal round twice (in 2000 and ’12) before clinching passage to the Hexagonal. “If we get a good result on Tuesday like we expect, then things are back on track,” Gulati said on Friday.He’s right. But getting that good result on Tuesday looms large now. The margin for error is getting awfully slim.

Think the USMNT player pool is a bigger problem than Jurgen Klinsmann? Here’s why that isn’t true.

By Kevin McCauley  @kevinmccauley on Mar 26, 2016, 5:59p 12 

On Friday night, the United States men’s national team turned in an awful performance, losing 2-0 away to Guatemala. It was their first loss to the Guatemalans in any match since 1988 and their first loss to the Blue and Whites in World Cup qualifying ever. Naturally, fans are looking for answers.There’s a theory going around that the USMNT’s struggles are more down to a player pool that is thin and lacking in quality than the decisions of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Here’s a simple counter-argument.Presented below is an incomplete, curated list of some interesting players who received10 or more national team caps during the Bruce Arena and Bob Bradley eras.

Kenny Cooper
Edson Buddle
Robbie Findley
Jeff Cunningham
Richard Mulrooney
Santino Quaranta
Freddy Adu
Conor Casey
Kerry Zavagnin
Chris Klein
Chris Albright
David Regis
Ante Razov
Pat Noonan

While he’s outside of the parameters I’ve set for this discussion, we should mention 15-cap winner Zak Ibsen, who got caps in 1996 while playing indoor soccer.

Here are some guys who got 30 or more caps.

Jonathan Bornstein
Heath Pearce
Ricardo Clark

40-plus.

Clarence Goodson
Benny Feilhaber
Sacha Kljestan

50-plus.

Josh Wolff!

All of the above-listed players had very good professional careers and at least one great game for the USMNT. This post isn’t meant to be disrespectful to any of them. But of the above-listed players, which ones would crack the current USMNT at their best? Any of them? Feilhaber, Kljestan, Bornstein and Clark are arguably playing better for their clubs now than they did when they were regulars under Bradley. The United States men’s national team does not have a player pool problem. It has a player selection and utilization problem.

USMNT player ratings from a shameful, history-making loss in Guatemala

Leave a commentBy Nicholas MendolaMar 26, 2016, 12:09 AM EDT

No, it’s not just a bunch of zeroes…The United States men’s national team sacrificed a 21-year winning streak against Guatemala and again put its 2018 World Cup hopes in jeopardy with a clunker in Guatemala City, losing 2-0 on Friday.How bad was it? Let us count the ways the Yanks’ first loss to Guatemala in 21 years let us down:

  1. Poor defending
  2. Poor passing
  3. Poor possession
  4. Poor shooting
  5. Extremely poor tactics

But, hey, Tim Howard was back. Onto the ratings:

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 4 — Wasn’t much he was going to do on either Guatemala goal, but those were also the only times he was really challenged. Would’ve loved to see Superman steal a point, but even one fantastic save wouldn’t have been enough for this impotent attack.

Edgar Castillo — 5 — Some good tackling, but not a lot going forward. Something to build on.

Omar Gonzalez (Off 66′) — 4 — Poor. Just not as poor as his CB mate.

Michael Orozco (Off 59′) — 2 — After totally losing Ruiz on the second Guatemala goal, Gonzalez glanced over at Orozco while chasing the striker as if to say, “Center back… you’ve played it recently?” Awful night. He’s not even playing for his club team, but Jurgen Klinsmann apparently thinks Matt Hedges is the singer of an indie band.

Geoff Cameron — 6 — Penny for his thoughts as he found himself at right back with a CAM in his preferred CDM role and two monumental disappointments at CB. Whoops. Funny how it all tightened up once he moved central.

Mix Diskerud (Off at HT) — 3 — If this were little league, Mix would get credit for working super hard (and probably a popsicle). This, however, is a World Cup qualifier. Out-of-position or not, Diskerud was poor.

Michael Bradley — 4 — Really struggled with his distribution, and his touch was off all night. Not a good night for the States’ best player.

Alejandro Bedoya — 6 — One of the lone bright spots for the first 70 minutes, he has to wonder where the form of, well, every one of his teammates went.

DeAndre Yedlin — 4 — Playing in an advanced position, Yedlin was essentially invisible. Slotted back at RB later in the contest, he was a bit more comfortable.

Bobby Wood — 5 — The only service he received was long balls. Hard to fault the Hawaii islander.

Clint Dempsey — 4 — Created a couple strong scoring chances, but you knew this wasn’t a vintage Clint night when he hit a beautiful chance to pull the Yanks within one right at Motta. Looked disinterested at times, but managed to inject some life into his match in the final 20 minutes

Substitutes

Darlington Nagbe (On at HT) — 5 — Started a very good bit of play that should’ve led to a Dempsey goal but failed to gain momentum and disappeared as the match dragged to its conclusion.

Gyasi Zardes (On 59′) — 5 — Lively enough. Given the garbage casserole around him, he made his case to start on Tuesday.

Jozy Altidore (On 67′) — 5 — Wish he was 90 minutes strong, but also wish he would’ve beaten Motta for that late goal. Great save, but still.

Gonzalez and Orozco have a night to forget in U.S. loss to Guatemala

A trip to Guatemala City turned into a nightmare for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team inside of 15 minutes, when the Americans dug themselves a 2-0 hole. Chasing the game for the balance, the U.S. never found the bit of magic they needed to pull themselves back into the game.A handful of players put in decent performances, but as might be expected, the rest of the side had nights to forget.\

GK Tim Howard, 4 — Lack of playing time showed when the only two times he was tested resulted in Guatemalan goals. He was extremely slow to react on the first, when the ball deflected off of Mix Diskerud.

DF Geoff Cameron, 5 — Competent for most of the night and provided an additional outlet up the field, particularly when the Americans needed to push after going behind. It says something that he remained on the field while Omar Gonzalez and Michael Orozco were pulled.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 3 — A night to forget for the Pachuca man, to say the least. He was beaten down the middle by Carlos Ruiz for Guatemala’s second goal, and launched long ball after long ball that only served to end U.S. possession.

DF Michael Orozco, 4.5 — The better of the starting center-back pair, but only just. Never seemed in sync with his teammates, guilty of taking the easy route forward with his passing, too often lofting hopeless balls over the top.

DF Edgar Castillo, 3.5 — Made a poor back pass that led indirectly to the first Guatemalan goal, setting off the disastrous American night. He was rarely effective going forward and looked frustrated by attackers all night on the defensive side of the ball.

MF DeAndre Yedlin, 5.5 — Made his way up and down the wing to little effect for most of the evening, creating one real chance by using his speed to get to the end line, but was otherwise a nonfactor on the attacking end.

MF Michael Bradley, 5 — Just about as anonymous a night as he could have as the central figure in the American formation. He provided no special moments and delivered pedestrian service on set pieces. He lacked chemistry with Diskerud.

MF Mix Diskerud, 4 — Beaten on a corner for the first Guatemalan goal. He was unable to bring any creativity to the game, too often bullied off the ball in midfield. And he resorted to committing fouls to help slow things down when his subpar passing resulted in turnovers.

MF Alejandro Bedoya, 5 — He worked as hard as anyone on the field outside of Bobby Wood, without much to show for it. He had two good chances to score but put his shots directly at Guatemalan keeper Paulo Motta. He made some notable defensive contributions, but ran out of gas.

FW Clint Dempsey, 7 — Dempsey was the lone creative spark for the Americans, despite taking a beating from Guatemalan players looking to limit his impact. He created the best of the chances — chances his teammates failed to convert. He made an adjustment to drop deeper when the U.S. fell behind.

FW Bobby Wood, 6.5 — Wood fought hard all night, showing more passion than anyone wearing American colors. He suffered a number of fouls that didn’t draw a whistle and worked the channels well, but did not see enough of the ball.

Substitutes

MF Darlington Nagbe, 6.5 — Nagbe rought energy when he came out, running at defenders and pushing the attack. He combined well, and set up a late chance with a long run out of midfield.

MF Gyasi Zardes, 5 — He used his pace to stretch a fatigued Guatemalan defense, but failed to make his touches count when his control let him down.

FW Jozy Altidore, 5 — Brought on for Gonzalez as desperation set in with 25 minutes to go, Altidore did little more than serve as a target for long diagonal balls as the Americans chose basic tactics in a bid to find the goal that never came.Jason Davis 

Three things from Guatemala’s shockingly easy win over the USMNT

2 CommentsBy Nicholas MendolaMar 26, 2016, 12:27 AM EDT

I’ve gotta warn you, we’re going to be wading into snark-infested waters over the course of these “Three Things” after the United States struggled to string multiple attacking passes together in a woeful 2-0 loss to Guatemala on Friday.But we can wade together, right? You’ll come with me?Let’s wade…

W-T-J?!? (WHAT THE JURGEN)

What was he thinking? Even hamstrung by the injuries — see Thing No. 3 below — Klinsmann started a number of players in precarious positions.He also started Geoff Cameron (right) at right back. The Stoke City man is capable there, but DeAndre Yedlin actually plays that position for Sunderland.Yedlin couldn’t play there, though, because he was playing right wing. And Mix Diskerud couldn’t play on the wing, because he was playing as, essentially, a box-to-box midfielder.

[ OLYMPIC PLAYOFF: Match recap | 3 things ]

Here’s the worst part: He made substitutions that made the team not only more competitive, but more logical. Michael Orozco was terrible and hadn’t been playing for his team, and Gonzalez isn’t a natural partner for him.So Klinsmann moved Cameron central, dropped Yedlin to right back and moved Michael Bradley a bit further back in the midfield. He brought on Gyasi Zardes and Darlington Nagbe to open things up for Bobby Wood and Clint Dempsey. And it kinda worked (as much as it could in a horrific 2-0 loss).None of the above is good. Hamstrung by injuries or not — he was, this team has the depth of a kiddie pool — Klinsmann’s critics deserve the field days they will stretch through at least Tuesday. It bears asking: Is there a chance Klinsmann won’t make it to Columbus?

INJURIES (IT MUST BE SAID)

This is no way excuses Friday’s performance, but the U.S. is having a horrible run of luck. John Brooks has been thriving with Hertha Berlin, but was sent back to Germany after picking up a knock. Matt Besler was also hurt, and both Fabian Johnson and Jozy Altidorewere unfit to start.With the exception of Besler, those guys were major absences for a side already without Aron Johannsson and Terrence Boyd. Even Christian Pulisic, breaking through at Borussia Dortmund, got sick ahead of this one and only might be available for Tuesday’s return match in Ohio.The United States men’s national team does not have good depth on the whole, and we’re seeing that they will struggle when down to their second-choice unit.

MOTTA WAS GOOD, YANKS MADE HIM LOOK BETTER

Paulo Motta won’t have to buy a meal in Guatemala any time soon after he made some terrific saves on Friday, but it was certainly American-aided.Clint Dempsey should’ve pulled the Yanks to within one early in the second half after Darlington Nagbe and Bobby Wood combined to lay a ball right into the Clint Zone, but the American forward hit the ball right at Motta.And while Motta made a tremendous save on Jozy Altidore late, you do want you striker to find a way to put that ball home.That said, Motta was decisive and claimed seemingly every ball within his reach. He was vocal and, frankly, had me pumped up with his gesticulations. Sometimes, you’ve gotta tip your cap to the victor. I’m doing that now.

Furthering the fallout: More questions from USMNT’s loss to Guatemala

1 CommentBy Nicholas MendolaMar 26, 2016, 12:36 PM EDT

Unfortunately for USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States men’s national team, there aren’t European matches or even a full slate of MLS matches to take our minds off the carnage we witnessed last night Guatemala.So we write more.Disclosure: I love watching Major League Soccer and hope it continues its rise as a player in the world’s game. I also generally would prefer United States men’s national team members to be playing meaningful minutes at the highest level possible, and know that there are currently as many as 10 leagues in the world where that can occur — most of them in Europe — ahead of MLS.It’s also important to note that Klinsmann’s roster omissions are not strictly MLS based. Defenders Jonathan Spector, Eric Lichaj and Tim Ream have not been given good chances to regularly play under his watch, and they play in England’s Championship (As an aside, I’d love to see a tournament between MLS and the Championship to settle some things). Destroyer of sorts Perry Kitchen is with Scotland’s Hearts and could’ve done a job in last night’s miserable loss to Guatemala.And there’s a batch of MLS super fans, sometimes disguised as analysts, who dwell so heavily on which of their favorite domestic-based players aren’t being chosen by Klinsmann that it becomes near impossible to separate their legitimate gripes from the pathological features of their problems.Finally, there’s an argument to be made that Klinsmann’s sheer lunacy in Friday’s loss isn’t about player selection, rather where he put them (Michael Orozco aside. He doesn’t even start for his club).Consider that Klinsmann’s absurd choices to play several players out of position would’ve looked much better and likely performed significantly better if they had just been lined up, well, adequately.

How they started vs Guatemala

Howard

Cameron — Gonzalez — Orozco — Castillo

Diskerud

Yedlin — Bedoya

Bradley

Wood — Dempsey

Wouldn’t this have been better/more natural?

Howard

Yedlin — Gonzalez — Orozco — Castillo

Cameron

Bedoya — Bradley — Diskerud

Wood — Dempsey

Even if he needed to go 4-4-2 and play Bradley as a No. 10, that still would’ve been preferable to putting Diskerud on the left than using Bedoya on the flip of his preferred right.Now here’s the thing: there is absolutely no debating that MLS provides plenty of options at natural positions who could’ve been called up. Without delving too far into who I think is or isn’t good enough to cut muster, let’s assume Klinsmann wanted cover in a traditional 4-4-2. Which of these players wouldn’t have deserved a chance over playing a maximum of five players at their second-choice (at best) position?

Left backs (and Castillo was fine once he settled into Friday’s match)
DaMarcus Beasley, Justin Morrow, Chris Tierney, Robbie Rogers, Brek Shea.

Right backs
Michael Parkhurst, Sean Franklin, Tony Beltran, Raymond Gaddis, Chance Myers

Left mids
Brad Davis, Graham Zusi, Chris Rolfe, Sebastien Lletget, Lamar Neagle, Chris Pontius

Okay, so the right back ranks are extremely slim, but the point remains that bringing some of this crop would’ve helped supplement his team. Consider that of the players listed as defenders, five of the seven were center backs and Yedlin is clearly considered a winger.It’s also almost like he doesn’t want to give a true DCM a run while Jermaine Jones is suspended, almost as if to say, “Don’t get any ideas guys, he’s mine forever.” And we knowMatt Miazga and Tim Parker were with the U-23s and both John Brooks and Matt Besler picked up injuries, but what about Matt Hedges? Brad Evans? Chad Marshall? Either is preferable over Orozco, and it’s not like the Liga MX back is a spring chicken being prepped for the Copa America (He’s 30).Here’s Orozco’s blistering form for his club from Transfermarkt (I almost feel bad… it’s not like the defender is demanding to start for his country. Klinsmann just called him up and plugged him. Was he supposed to say no?).

Look, I’m well aware of my limitations as a soccer mind in comparison to someone of Jurgen Klinsmann’s experience. That’s not a potshot. I’m not going to tell you m word is gospel, but these aren’t exactly lofty theories that I proffer.What the heck is going on?

What happened to the United States’ goalkeeper pipeline?

By Conor Dowley  @c_dowley on Mar 25, 2016, 4:18p 5 

It wasn’t all that long ago that the United States was bragging about their goalkeeper depth. With Tim Howard wearing the No. 1 shirt and Brad Guzanwaiting in the wings — not to mention the USMNT’s long-established history of finding goalkeeping gems among their youth ranks — USMNT fans felt that, no matter what, one position in the national team could be relied on for a long time to come.Now, Howard is an aging shell of the player he once was. Guzan’s quality has fallen off a cliff this season. And that pipeline of young talent? It’s looking a little dry.The situation has come to such a head that Jurgen Klinsmann can’t decide which of Howard or Guzan should be the starter in goal anymore, and will instead platoon themin the United States’ upcoming friendlies. An optimist might think that Klinsmann can’t decide which goalkeeper is better, but someone who’s watched them with Everton and Aston Villa this season would realize that the question is more one of who could potentially hurt the USMNT less.That’s a decidedly less-than-ideal situation.The worst part is that there’s no obvious solution to the problem. Nick Rimando has served well, but is slowing with age himself. Among the younger ranks, there’s no clear successor right now — Bill Hamid’s development has been slowed by injuries, and he’s in the middle of a long spell on the sidelines now. Sean Johnson’s career has been a mixed bag of highs and some very low lows. William Yarbrough is as uninspiring an option as it gets. Anyone else is either too young, too inexperienced, too untalented or some combination of those three to be a real option to consider.Until and unless Hamid can stay consistently healthy and improve as is hoped, there’s no clear answer to the U.S. in goal. They’ll have to keep limping on with an aging Howard and a seemingly broken Guzan, instead of being able to call on one of three or four other talented goalkeepers as they’ve been able to in years past.Time was, top-shelf American goalkeepers used to struggle to get international appearances just because of how fierce the competition was — now, USMNT fans are wishing they could reach back in time and pluck just one of those netminders out of the shadows and into the current national team squad. Remember the 2002 World Cup squad? They had an embarrassment of riches in goal, boasting Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller in their primes, plus the venerable Tony Meolla as a “just in case” option.Just one of that trio would be a vast upgrade on the USMNT’s current woes, and the comparison makes the national team’s current dearth of quality options in goal all the more apparent. Whatever the cause of this weakness, the U.S. soccer player development system needs to figure it out and address it as soon as possible, before fans are left yearning for even today’s less-than-stellar options to guard the goal.

USA U23’s dodge Colombia’s attack, in position to qualify for Olympics

The United States under-23 team held on for a 1-1 draw against Colombia in the first leg of the Olympic qualifying playoff on Friday. The second leg kicks off Tuesday in Frisco Texas.

BY LIVIU BIRDADD FAVORITEEmailPosted: Fri Mar. 25, 2016

Get all of Liviu Bird’s columns as soon as they’re published. Download the new Sports Illustrated app (iOS or Android) and personalize your experience by following your favorite teams and SI writers.On a sweltering day in Barranquilla, with the mercury tickling the 90-degree mark, the United States took a step closer to qualifying for the Olympics with a 1-1 draw against Colombia. The U.S. came through well in a pressure-cooker first leg of the playoff for the final spot at Rio 2016’s under-23 competition.Luis Gil, spending his first season with Liga MX’s Querétaro, put the U.S. up an early goal in the fifth minute. He latched onto a pinpoint cutback cross from Mario Rodriguez streaking down the right, side-footing it past goalkeeper Cristian Bonilla.Colombia held the vast majority of possession but couldn’t break through a stifling U.S. back line in the first half. Forward Andrés Renteria looked the most dangerous of the bunch and certainly the most active in the Colombian attack, but his supporting cast faltered.The second half swung even farther in Los Cafeteros’ favor. The U.S. rarely got forward, and the Americans frequently defended with a baffling combination of desperation and luck that seemed likely to end at any second. The pressure finally culminated in Colombia winning a penalty in the 67th minute, as Kellyn Acosta pulled down substitute forward Rafael Borre.Colombia captain Juan Quintero stepped up to the spot and put his shot just out of goalkeeper Cody Cropper’s reach, low and to the left. The rest of the game passed similarly, with Colombia coming close to scoring and the U.S. somehow escaping. In the end, a draw with an away goal puts the Americans in a great position ahead of the return match on Tuesday in Frisco, Texas.Here are three thoughts on the first leg and the U.S.’s chances moving forward:

Prudent U.S. snags a vital away goal

It certainly wasn’t the start that most expected from the Americans, going up a goal in the first five minutes on the road. Prognostications before the match focused more on achieving a surmountable result for the second leg, not jumping into the lead from the very beginning.However, as fans of any league with a playoff system will attest, knockout matches have a strange way of making predictions look foolish. So perhaps it shouldn’t have been that surprising when Rodríguez drove down the right and found Gil in loads of space with the cutback between Colombia’s back and midfield lines.He took his chance well, and the U.S. had its dream start.rom there, it was a predictably defensive performance to try to escape Barranquilla with a slim lead, or at least a result that would make the away goal matter. The forwards held a deeper line of confrontation, starting near the top of the circle but receding more toward the halfway line and even deeper as the game went on. That allowed the U.S. to hold a firm line and swarm as Colombia tried to break through.Particularly after the second-half restart, Colombia’s attack threatened the U.S. goal with alarming regularity, but it only got the penalty past Cropper. The U.S. will call it a tactically disciplined effort, Colombia will call it immensely lucky—and the truth will be somewhere in between, though the U.S. deserves major credit for its courage.

Horvath injury puts more pressure on thin back line

First, it was center back Cameron Carter-Vickers picking up an injury just before the Olympic team got together for its playoff series. Then, senior coach Jurgen Klinsmann kept John Brooks for himself, leaving the position thin. Finally, stalwart Molde goalkeeper Ethan Horvath went out at the end of the first half on Friday with an apparent concussion, leaving the U.S. with even less of its first-choice defense at its disposal.Of course, Cropper is more than a capable deputy for Horvath. The MK Dons goalkeeper, who recently completed a move from Southampton in an attempt to get more playing time, has even been called into camp with Klinsmann’s team in the past. But Horvath’s form both in league play and for his country has been stellar in recent months.Defense was the biggest question mark heading into the series against Colombia, but the collective play from back to front in that regard surpassed all expectations on Friday, at least in terms of the final result. It started with the smart early shape from the forwards, holding a deeper line than usual, but Tim Parker held firm with Matt Miazga next to him, and Wil Trapp put in another mature performance as the midfield anchor.Now, it’s a matter of whether the back line can do more of the same in four days’ time, this time on home soil.

So you’re telling me…there’s a chance?

The U.S. has been through some adversity, much of it self-imposed, in its last couple of Olympic qualifying efforts. Undeniably, the Americans should have taken care of business this time in the CONCACAF tournament rather than waiting for its chance in the playoff, the shock defeat to Honduras still a stinging memory even as the Colombia series is half-over.Still, the team deserves some credit for its valiant effort to make do with that poor result.If youth national team tournaments are about gaining experience for the senior level and identifying potential players for that team, then a difficult qualifying campaign will have done just that.If the U.S. doesn’t get to the Olympics, it will still ultimately be a failure.Remarkably, though, it has a great chance in the second leg against Colombia on the back of its performance on Friday. Having to go through the process in this manner, that’s all coach Andi Herzog will have wanted out of a difficult first leg in South America

Suarez gets equalizer in 2-2 draw with Brazil in return

Leave a commentAssociated PressMar 26, 2016, 10:45 AM EDT

RECIFE, Brazil (AP) Luis Suarez scored a second-half equalizer in his first game back from a two-year international ban as Uruguay rallied to draw Brazil 2-2 Friday in a South American World Cup qualifier.Suarez, after few chances in the first half, scored in the 48th minute, beating Brazil keeper Alisson on a 10-meter (10-yard) left-footed shot as he broke in from the left side.Suarez almost scored the winner in the 86th but was stopped by Alisson from short-range.It was a perfect return for the Barcelona star after being banned from the international game for nearly two years for biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini in the 2014 World Cup.Uruguay has 10 points in five matches, three points behind leader Ecuador. Brazil moved level with Argentina and Paraguay in third position with eight points.Brazil took an early 2-0 lead, but Uruguay dominated the second half, bringing jeers from a sellout crowd in a stadium in northeastern Brazil built for the 2014 World Cup.Brazil took the lead after only 39 seconds on Douglas Costa’s goal on a pass from Willianon the right wing. Renato Augusto made it 2-0 in the 26th minute, scoring on a through-ball from Neymar.Uruguay then cut the lead to 2-1 in the 32nd when Edinson Cavani scored, knocking in a backward header from Carlos Sanchez.In the next series of matches Tuesday, it’s Colombia vs. Ecuador, Uruguay vs. Peru, Argentina vs. Bolivia, Venezuela vs. Chile and Paraguay vs. Brazil.

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3/24/16 US vs Guat WCQ Fri/Tues, U 23s OlympicQ, Ger/Eng, Ger/Italy, Italy/Spain, Arg/Chile, Braz/Uruguay, Johan Cruyff dies, TV Games of Wk

So big games for the US Men’s National Team this weekend as they can all but Qualify for the next round of World Cup Qualifications vs Guatamala both home and away and perhaps just as importantly the US U-23s face Colombia in a 2 game playoff (Home and Away) to see which one will qualify for this summer’s Olympic Soccer tournament in Brazil.  Listen I won’t pretend to understand the German (read US men’s team coach Juergan Klinsmann) – why he would not send U23’s DeAndre Yedlin currently starting at Sunderland in the EPL and John Brooks starting in Germany along with the U23s in their desperate attempt to qualify for the Olympics – I just don’t understand.  Heck I would go 1 step further and say 17 year old -Christian Pulisic should be playing with them as well – hell he has started for Dortmund one of the top 15 clubs in the world – don’t you want him helping the US go to the Olympics – a tourney you would think he would feature in this summer?  I just don’t understand. Listen I know he might start Brooks and Yedlin at Guatamala – but don’t you think Gonzales and Cameron and maybe Beezler can hold down the fort while those guys help the US team qualify for the Olympics.  Seriously if the US doesn’t qualify this will be the 2nd straight cycle under the GERMAN’s Leadership where the US doesn’t qualify for the Olympics – 8 years would be the most in recent history that the US U23s would not qualify.  For a coach who continues to laud the importance of his younger players playing in the Olympics – he isn’t showing he cares with his actions.  Maybe he’s just looking to fire another scapegoat Coaching understudy after the US U23’s don’t qualify again!!  Either way huge games Friday night 10 pm US @ Guatamala on beIN Sports (soccer bars will have it), then Tuesday at home vs Guatamala again in Columbus, Ohio 7 pm on ESPN2.  Win both and the US will all but advance to the next round with 2 games left.  Even 1-1 is ok, which is again why I don’t understand not sending our best with the U-23s Friday night at Columbia at 5 pm on Fox Sports 1, and again on Tues night in Texas 9:30 pm on ESPN2.  Locally – huge congrats to Carmel Native Cameron Lindley for Captaining the U-20 US Men’s soccer team to a third place finish in the Dallas Cup this past weekend – the US Finished 1-1-1.

It’s an international break so the European and all major leagues (not MLS of course) are shutdown while their best players play in qualifiers (America’s, Asia, Africa) and the European’s play friendlies.  If you have beIN Sports – they are carrying a # of the must win South American games on Tuesday as Argentina, Chile and Columbia are on the edge of not qualifying for the World Cup.  ESPN 2 grabbed the Italy vs Spain game today 3:45 pm, Sat’s Germany vs England match at 3:45 and Tuesday’s 3:30 Germany vs Italy game.  Fox sport 1 has the England vs Netherlands Tues at 4 pm before hosting the big Portland vs Orlando game on Sunday at 8 pm.

We are down to the Final 8 – Quarterfinals in Champions League –  with 2 games each on Apr 5/6 + 12/13 with Barcelona vs Athletico and PSG vs Man City looking like the best match-ups on Fox Sports 1 & 2.  Also at the Quarters is Europa League on 4/7 as Liverpool hosts Dortmund at 3 pm on FS1.   And don’t forget the Indy 11 kick-off the season at Tampa Bay on 4/2 7:30 pm on ESPN 3 before returning home 4/9.  Single Game Copa America 100 Tickets – are available for all 4 games in Chicago in early June.  (See chart below TV games for pricing info)

Finally – a sad note as Dutch superstar Johan Cruyff died Wed at the age of 68.  This legendary player and coach at Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch national team is considered by most to be one of the top 3 or 4 players of all time and his coaching methods of using small-sided futbol to train the Dutch players is widely used across the world today.

Dutch Star Johan Cruyff Dies at 68 

More Cruyff

Cruyff’s Legendary Moments

Alltime Top 20 Players – Cruyff #3

GAMES of the Week

Thur, Mar 24

3:45 pm ESPN 2           Italy vs Spain 2 of the top teams in world square off in friendly

Fri, Mar 25

5 pm Fox Sport1         US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff  Must Tie or not lose by more than 1 at Columbia

10 pm beIN Sport    Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier  2 US Wins puts us thru to next round

Sat, Mar 26

3:45 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs England  –                     World Champs host England

Tuesday, March 29:

3:30 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs Italy                                

4 pm  fox Sport1         England vs Netherlands

4:30 pm beIN Sport    Columbia vs Ecudor  WCQ           Columbia in MUST Win at Home!

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

7:30 pm beIN Sport   Argentina vs Bolivia  WCQ      must win at home for Argentina

9:30 pm ESPN2            US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff Texas  US Must win to Go to Olympics

Sat, Apr 2

12:30 pm NBC               Liverpool vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox soccer     Dortmund vs Werder Bremen

2:30 pm bein?              EL CLASSICO – Barcelona vs Real Madrid –SPORTS BAR

7:30 pm ESPN3             Indy 11 @ Tampa Bay Rowdies

Sun, Apr 3

8:00 p.m Fox Sports1 Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers

Tues, Apr 5

Champions League Elite 8

2:45 p.m., Fox Sport1 Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid

2:45 p.m., Fox Sport 2 Bayern Munich vs. Benfica

Wed, Apr 6

2:45 p.m FoxSport1   Man City vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox Sport2     Real Madrid vs VFL Wolfsburg

7 pm Fox Sports 1      US Women vs Columbia

Thurs, Apr 7

Europa Cup 3:00 p.m., FS1?   Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund

USA

Litmus Test time for CONCACAF Qualifying

US vs Guatamala Preview Goal.com

US Roster Announced with Dempsey and Bedoya back on Board

US Team snubs and expectations

US Confident Altidore and Johnson will be Fit to Play

Gonzales Back in Form for US after move to Pachuca from LA

US Defender Beezler fears no Forward

Report Links US Forward Bobby Wood with Liverpool or a move up to Bundesliga

US Defender Matt Miazga Wants to Be the Best

US Back DeAndre Yedlin gains Experience starting for Sunderland

Scouting Guatemala

 Tim Howard Exits as good not great keeper from Everton

US U-17 goalie Will Pulisic (Christian’s brother) will join Dormund next Season

PODCAST: USMNT’s Bedoya on Nantes, USMNT, MLS, fatherhood

Grant Wahl SI talks Importance of Qualifiers this Weekend

US Ladies Roster Named for April Friendlies

US Ladies Domination

US looking for Rare WC/Olympic Double

US-U20s Draw Hoffenheim 3-3 in Dallas Cup

US National Team Budgets – Philly.com

US Men — The full senior team roster:

GOALKEEPERS (4): David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton FC), William Yarbrough (Club Leon).

DEFENDERS (9): Ventura Alvarado (Club America), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Monterrey), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland).

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes FC), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Mix Diskerud (New York City FC), Ethan Finlay (Columbus Crew SC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers FC), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution).

FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Union Berlin), Gyasi Zardes (Los Angeles Galaxy).

And the Under-23 roster :

GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Milton Keynes Dons), Ethan Horvath (Molde KJ), Zach Steffen (SC Freiburg).

DEFENDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Matt Miazga (Chelsea FC), Eric Miller (Colorado Rapids), Tim Parker (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Desevio Payne (FC Groningen), Shane O’Neill (Cambridge United), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Walker Zimmerman (FC Dallas).

MIDFIELDERS (9): Fatai Alashe (San Jose Earthquakes), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Luis Gil (Queretaro), Julian Green (Bayern Munich), Emerson Hyndman (Fulham FC), Jerome Kiesewetter (VfB Stuttgart), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Dillon Serna (Colorado Rapids), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew SC).

FORWARDS (3): Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Mario Rodriguez (Borussia Monchengladbach), Khiry Shelton (New York City FC).

PrideU15_Nationals

Congrats to Indy’s FC Pride U15 Girls + Coach Matt Blackbourne heading to US Nationals in Texas
International Qualifiers and Friendlies 

What to Watch for This Weekend –ESPNFC

International Friendlies Schedule

What to Watch for Friendlies in Europe

Barcelona buddies will go at it for their countries this week

Teammates Suarez & Neymar bet Burger on Qualifier Matchup Friday

Messi Returns for Argentina in must win Qualifier at Chile Friday  

Boliva vs Colombia Preview – Must Wins

Chile vs Argentina Preview

Luis Suarez returns for Uruguay vs Brazil from 636 day ban for Biting

Columbia Changes Up Squad with crucial matches vs Bolivia and Ecudor

Belgium vs Portugal Moved to Portugal

Players Looking to Make a Statement in Friendlies

Could Euros Be Forced Indoors?

Euros Match Schedule

Italy lacks Creativity

Italy vs Spain Preview

 WORLD NEWS +_ EPL

Buffon Breaks Serie A Record with 973 minutes without a goal in 4-1 win over Turino

Buffon’s Magical Poem to His Goal

World News SI – Buffon, City Skid – Ben Lyttleton

Spurs Keep Heat on Leicester and Man U wins Darby  

Liverpool blows shot at Top 4 with loss to Southhampton

Leicester City adds Resiliance to its Virtues NY Times

As likely as Elvis Being Alive- Leicester defies odds in EPL Title Lead –Grant Wahl SI  

BIRD: How Ranieri transformed Leicester into a contender

Will Man City Miss Champions League Next Year

ICC – Announces Clubs coming to US this Summer

ICC – Real Madrid vs PSG in Columbus July 27 Tix on Sale Mar 29.

 MLS

Tim Howard ready for step back to MLS in his Career

Orlando City Signs Brazilian Julio Baptista former Real star Forward

Vote MLS Save of the Week

Power Rankings Week 3

 Indy 11

Coach Not Happy with Early Progress – Bloody Shambles

Indy 11 Loses to Louisville City at Home

 Indy 11 Kids Club – Mon- Mar 28th at Off the Wall Sports in Carmel 4:30 – 6:30 pm   

Tickets Just $11 per Game

Podcast with Cincy United Head Coach – Former USMNT Forward John Harkes

Freddy Adu settles in with Tampa Bay Rowdies

2016 Indy 11 Promo Nights

Spring Season
Saturday, April 9 vs. Ottawa – Bicentennial Celebration
Saturday, April 16 vs. New York Cosmos – Wine & Cheese Night
Saturday, May 7 vs. FC Edmonton – Furballs & Futbol Night

Saturday, May 21 vs. Minnesota United FC – IMS – Military Appreciation Night
Saturday, June 11 vs. Carolina RailHawks – Indy Pride Night

 GAMES THIS WEEK ON TV

Thur, Mar 24

3:45 pm ESPN 2           Italy vs Spain

Fri, Mar 25

5 pm Fox Sport1         US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff

7 pm beIn Sports        Haiti vs Panama

10 pm beIN Sport    Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier,

Sat, Mar 26

10:30 am beIn Sport                        South Africa vs Cameroon

12 noon ESPN 3           Russia vs Lithuania

3 pm  YES                         NY City FC vs New England

3:45 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs England

5:30 pm  beIn sport  DC United vs Dallas

Sun, Mar 27

3:45 pm beIn Sport   Romania vs Spain

Tuesday, March 29:

2:45 pm ESPN3            Scotland vs Denmark

3:30 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs Italy

4 pm  fox Sport1         England vs Netherlands

4 pm ESPN 3                  France vs Russia

4:30 pm beIN Sport                          Columbia vs Ecudor  WCQ

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

7:30 pm beIN Sport                          Argentina vs Bolivia  WCQ

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

Fri, Apr 1

3:30 p.m. Fox Sports 2 Schalke 04 vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach

Sat, Apr 2

7:45 am NBCSN            Aston Villa vs Chelsea

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN                 Bournemouth vs Man City

10 am USA??                  Arsenal vs Watford

12:30 pm                         NBC               Liverpool vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox soccer                        Dortmund vs Werder Bremen

2:30 pm bein?              EL CLASSICO – Barcelona vs Real Madrid –SPORTS BAR

7:30 pm ESPN3             Indy 11 @ Tampa Bay Rowdies

Sun, Apr 3

8:30 am NBCSN            Leicester City vs Southhampton

11 am NBCSN                 Man U vs Everton

6 pm ESPN 3                  NY Cosmos vs Ottawa

8:00 p.m Fox Sports1 Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers

Tues, Apr 5

Champions League Elite 8

2:45 p.m., Fox Sport1 Barcelona vs. Atlético Madrid

2:45 p.m., Fox Sport 2 Bayern Munich vs. Benfica

Wed, Apr 6

2:45 p.m FoxSport1                          Man City vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox Sport2                          Real Madrid vs VFL Wolfsburg

7 pm Fox Sports 1      US Women vs Columbia

Thurs, Apr 7

3:00 p.m., FS1?            Liverpool vs. Borussia Dortmund

3:00 p.m., FS2?            Sevilla vs. Athletic Bilbao

3:00 p.m., TV TBD:     Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Braga

3:00 p.m., TV TBD:     Sparta Prague vs. Villarreal

Sat, Apr 9

7:30 am NBCSN            West Ham vs Arsenal

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Schalke vs Dortmund

11:30 am                          FS2                Koln vs Bayer Leverkusen

12:30 pm NBC              Man City vs West Brom

7:30 pm ESPN3 +Ch8 Indy 11 vs Ottawa (Home Opener)

Sun, Apr 10

7:30 am NBCSN            Sunderland vs Leciester City

11 am NCBCN                Tottenham vs Man United

11 am Extra                    Liverpool vs Stoke City

2 pm ESPN                      US Women vs Columbia

4:00 p.m ESPN              Houston Dynamo vs. Seattle Sounders

7:00 p.m Fox Sports1 New York City FC vs. Chicago Fire

9:30 pm Fox Sports 1 Los Angeles Galaxy vs. Portland Timbers

April 12/13. Champions League Quarter-finals:

 Sun, Apr 17

3:30 pm ESPN                Orlando City vs. New England Revolution

7:00 p.m Fox Sports1 FC Dallas vs. Sporting Kansas City,

 MLS TV Schedule ‘

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

Copa America Centario Schedule

COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGO

Sun -June 5 4 pm Jamaica vs Venezuela, Tues June 7 – 7 pm (USA vs Costa Rica), Friday, June 10 Argentina vs Panama 8:30 pm.

Wed, June 22  Semi Finals – 7 pm – Argentina vs Brazil maybe? 

Soldier Field  Chicago Venue Passes – If interested in planning a trip over – reach out to me (shanebestsoccer@gmail.com)

1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605   Seating charts reflect the general layout for the venue at this time these are general prizes based on the full venue packages – I’m sure they will be a little more but this gives you an idea.

Level 1 seats – only things left are  front row $300+

Level 2 seats –   $115/game  upper corners Endzones, Level 2 sidelines –

Level 2 sidelines– $200 each

Level 4 sidelines –  $115/game

Former Tottenham and Fulham attacker can become the all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualification for the USA w/a goal against the minnows on Fri

United States forward Clint Dempsey can make World Cup qualification history for his country when they face Guatemala in Group C on Friday.The 33-year-old attacker – recalled to Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad after missing USA’s first two matches in the fourth round – sits level with Landon Donovan on 13 World Cup qualifying goals.empsey insisted his mentality has never changed since making his debut in 2004 and has the chance to move to outright leader in that team category against Guatemala, although his overall goal tally of 48 remains well short of Donovan’s record mark of 57.”I have enjoyed my time with the national team and every time I have got called up to camp and played in games, I have had the same mentality,” Dempsey told US Soccer.”I have played my best, left everything out on the field and if you get opportunities to play, you continue in the same way.”I don’t think that just because you have a little time off that you would change. For me, I have always treated it the same, wanted to make the most of the games I was a part of and tried to make an impact.”SA and Guatemala are both in the running to finish in the top two group spots, which would seal a place in the final stage of Concacaf qualifying for Russia 2018. USA garnered four points from their first two games and are joint-top of the standings with Trinidad & Tobago, one clear of Guatemala in third as the two nations prepare to meet twice – on March 25 and 29 – with Klinsmann’s men away from home in the first fixture.”You really don’t know what things are going to be like until you are actually there [in Guatemala] and experience it for yourself,” added Dempsey ahead of the two games against a side sitting 65 places below them in the Fifa rankings.”It’s a passionate crowd, wanting their team to do well and sometimes dealing with difficult conditions, dealing with travel, that’s part of qualifying for the World Cup. “That’s why it’s so difficult, but it’s also so rewarding when you are able to qualify for a World Cup. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a difficult game, but that’s part of the experience.”You want to be performing well going into Copa America [in June] because it’s a major tournament as well and it’s an opportunity to do something great on home soil.”USA have won their last three meetings – all at home – against Guatemala, including a 4-0 friendly win last July, but their last away trip was a 1-1 draw in 2012 and their visit prior to that resulted in a narrow 1-0 win in 2008.”Our goal definitely for the two Guatemala fixtures is six points,” said Klinsmann. “We badly want to get the job done before the Copa America Centenario if possible.”We know it’s going to be very difficult, especially the game in Guatemala City. It will be vital how we come out right away from the first second in Guatemala City and hopefully being able to get three points. That would make things a lot easier for the second game.”

Dempsey’s return highlights USMNT roster for World Cup qualifying

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo Sun, Mar 20 10:28 AM PDT

Over the next week and a half, the senior United States men’s national will seek to make firm strides toward an eighth consecutive World Cup appearance in Russia in 2018, while the Under-23 team attempts to qualify for this summer’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.The big team faces Guatemala twice, away on Guatemala City on Friday and then four days later in Columbus, Ohio. Win those two games and the U.S. is practically assured of a spot in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying that will begin in November. The prospects face off with Colombia in Baranquilla and Frisco, Texas, on the same days.On Sunday, U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced a 26-man roster for the World Cup qualifiers – his under-23 counterpart Andy Herzog had already done so on Saturday, picking a promising team including nine players who have already made their senior team debuts.The confluence in qualifiers between the two highest age levels made for a unique situation in which Klinsmann and Herzog, who is also Klinsmann’s senior team assistant, had to coordinate carefully to address the needs of both teams. After all, Klinsmann is eager to win all six points available against Guatemala. But in his dual role as U.S. Soccer’s technical director, he’s also conscious of the enormous developmental value of his best prospects competing at the Olympics.As such, senior team striker Jordan Morris will drop down a level. So will some on the fringes of the big team, like defender Matt Miazga, winger Jerome Kiesewetter and midfielder Wil Trapp.But the senior team will see the return of former captain Clint Dempsey, who had not been a part of the last two camps.”Having Clint Dempsey back is very, very important for us,” Klinsmann said in a statement. “He’s a tremendous goal-scorer and when we play teams like Guatemala, you need to figure out ways to score just one or two goals that make the difference. Clint is a guy that can get that done.”Dempsey’s return will be welcomed after his strong season start with the Seattle Sounders. He is tied with the retired Landon Donovan for the most World Cup qualifying goals for a U.S. player with 13. And he has scored five times against Guatemala, also more than any countryman.lejandro Bedoya also made his first camp of the year. The midfielder has been in torrid form for Nantes in France. Defender John Brooks was called in for the first time since September. Edgar Castillo hadn’t been on the national team in two years. But their respective work with Hertha Berlin and Monterrey earned them looks.Striker Jozy Altidore and midfielder Fabian Castillo, however, enter camp with a hamstring and groin injuries, respectively.After a come-from-behind 6-1 win over Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and a 0-0 away tie with Trinidad and Tobago in November, the Americans are tied on points for the lead in Group C of qualifying with T&T – although the Yanks’ goal difference is better. Klinsmann hopes to lock up one of the top two places in these games, allowing this summer’s stateside Copa America Centenario to take center stage.”We badly want to get the job done before the Copa America if possible,” Klinsmann said. “We know it’s going to be very difficult, especially in Guatemala City, but it’s also going to be difficult in Columbus, but there we have a great crowd behind us. It will be vital how we come out right away from the first second in Guatemala City, and hopefully being able to get three points. That would make things a lot easier for the second game.”The Americans will take heart from their 15-4-6 all-time record against Los Chapines, and their ongoing 21-game unbeaten run against them. But then the U.S. has won just one of six World Cup qualifiers on Guatemalan soil and the opponents badly need points after dropping their home game against Trinidad and Tobago, their main rivals in the race to qualify along with the American favorites.Klinsmann called in 26 players for this camp, even though he’ll only be allowed to put 23 on his game-day rosters. While the stakes are considerable, he hopes the camp can double as a tryout of sorts for the prestigious Copa.”This is now the time where you have to show how good you are in terms of you want to make a statement to be in the roster for Copa America,” Klinsmann said. “So this is big. The competition will be intense. … The reason why we brought in a little bit of a bigger roster is because of the fact that it is the last time before we decide on the roster for the Copa America. We want to have the opportunity to see a couple more players.”Before the summer, however, two tricky games await. For the national team and its understudies.

Dempsey’s roles, sizing up the snubs and more thoughts on the U.S. roster

Goal.com 13 hours ago

Guatemala has never been a world beater, but Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t care. As much as U.S. national team fans may want to overlook the Central Americans, and would prefer to see Klinsmann experiment with some new faces in this month’s World Cup qualifiers, Klinsmann isn’t ready to take that chance. More to the point, he isn’t going to waste the opportunity to call in as strong a U.S. team as possible, even if it lacks the sizzle that new names can sometimes provide.Rather than bring in fresh faces, Klinsmann turned to some familiar names we hadn’t heard in a while. Chief among them is Clint Dempsey, who hadn’t been with the team since struggling through the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico in October. As much as Klinsmann chalked up Dempsey’s recent absences from camp to simply wanting to look at some new faces, there was still a lingering sense of dread that the coach might be easing Dempsey out of the national team door the same way he abruptly ended Landon Donovan’s national team career almost two years ago.We have not seen the last of Dempsey in a U.S. uniform though, and his return for the March qualifiers suggests Klinsmann still has plans for him this summer, which has been Dempsey’s hope since the Copa America was finalized.Omar Gonzalez is also back after an extended absence since September, and his excellent run of form for Liga MX side Pachuca made him a difficult player to leave off the squad. Gonzalez will have a fight for a starting role though, with Geoff Cameron looking like a good bet to start on the right side of central defense.The tough thing about the group Klinsmann called in is the uncertainty about two key players. Fabian Johnson suffered a hamstring injury on Saturday, and while he’s on the U.S. camp roster, it doesn’t mean he will be healthy in time to play on Friday in Guatemala. Jozy Altidore made his return from injury on Sunday for Toronto FC, but he is likely facing a battle to regain the necessary fitness to be considered a possible starting option.With those potential key absences in mind, here is a look at the starting lineup we could see take the field in Guatemala on Friday, along with a look at five storylines from the U.S. roster announcement:

CONSIDERING DEMPSEY’S ROLE

If the CONCACAF Cup showed us anything, it’s that an Altidore-Dempsey forward tandem probably doesn’t have much of a future. Sure, the pairing could manage to score a few goals, and beat the likes of Guatemala, but it’s tough to see the duo producing enough dynamism up top to truly trouble tougher teams, like the ones the U.S. will see this summer.So if we consider that, and if Klinsmann is at all looking ahead to this summer, then we need to see Dempsey with a different strike partner, or in a different position. The argument could be moot if Altidore can’t regain his fitness in time to be a starting option. If he can’t, then a Dempsey-Bobby Wood tandem starts to look very attractive. Dempsey’s smart passing and movement, coupled with Wood’s speed and well-timed runs, could cause problems in the Copa America, and would certainly give Guatemala’s defense fits.And if Altidore is fit enough to start? Then an Altidore-Wood strike force makes sense, with Dempsey potentially occupying a role at the top of a diamond 4-4-2, or perhaps a role on the left wing, where he has spent time for the Seattle Sounders.Could Klinsmann leave Dempsey on the bench? It’s tough to see it, but if Klinsmann does plan on phasing him out, then that would certainly be one way to do it. Don’t bet it on it just yet, though.

STICKING WITH THE OLD GUARD IN DEFENSIVE MIDFIELD

If you were hoping to see some younger defensive midfield options get a nod in this camp given Jermaine Jones’ suspension, you were sorely disappointed. Kyle Beckerman was called in as expected, but Klinsmann didn’t call in any other defensive midfield types, choosing to pass on Danny Williams despite Williams’ excellent form for Reading FC. Yes, you could argue Mix Diskerud has been known to play a deeper central role under Klinsmann, and he is playing better for New York City FC, but it’s tough for anyone to see Diskerud as a long-term solution in a defensive midfield role.Calling on Beckerman as the lone defensive midfielder also appears to signal the likelihood that Klinsmann plans on riding Jones and Beckerman all the way through Copa America, which seems risky given their age, but understandable if he doesn’t really see any of the younger options (like Will Trapp or Perry Kitchen) being ready for such an important role this summer.Klinsmann might also be taking notice of Michael Bradley’s run in defensive midfield for Toronto FC, and considering a move U.S. fans have spent years clamoring for. Playing Bradley in a deeper role would make room for Dempsey in midfield, and could allow Klinsmann to move a step closer to fielding his strongest possible lineup this summer.

BACK IN THE DEFENSIVE MIX

Omar Gonzalez’s absence from the national team wasn’t nearly as eyebrow-raising as Dempsey’s was, mainly because his form last fall wasn’t good and he deserved to be dropped. Gonzalez responded by moving to Liga MX and grabbing a starting role on a strong Pachuca side. Whether Gonzalez needed a change of scenery after seven seasons with the LA Galaxy, or he was simply in a rut last year, there is no denying that he is currently in good form.John Brooks was in much the same boat last year, having failed to impress at last summer’s Gold Cup. He has since retaken a starting role at Hertha Berlin, and been an integral part of their impressive run to third place in the German Bundesliga.Steve Birnbaum’s call-up may have come as a bit of a surprise, but he clearly impressed in the January camp and played himself into a return engagement. Though he isn’t likely to play much, if at all, the young D.C. defender is potentially an option this summer if there are injuries, and if he can keep playing well for D.C. United.

THE HEAD SCRATCHERS

Edgar Castillo’s return had to surprise some, even though Klinsmann has mentioned him in the past as a player who has been on his radar for some time. Just last January, Klinsmann told Goal that Castillo was in the mix for a national team return. His deficiencies as a defender are well known, but he has been playing regularly for Liga MX leaders Monterrey, and he just might be passable enough defensively to due as a starting option against Guatemala.

Michael Orozco is an even bigger head-scratching selection than Castillo. At least Castillo starts for Monterrey. Orozco can’t even make the bench for Tijuana. So why call him in? Orozco is one of the few players Klinsmann feels comfortable with at right back, and he should be able to handle taking on Guatemala if he’s needed, though DeAndre Yedlin really should be the starting right back for the upcoming qualifiers.

THE SNUBS

There are always players who wind up missing out, but two stand out above the rest this time around. Jorge Villafana remains a no-show despite him playing very well for Santos Laguna this season. Ultimately, it appears Klinsmann preferred Castillo, who he knows well.The other snub that stood out was Williams, who appears to still be paying the price for his terrible showing against Costa Rica in October. He hasn’t been called in since, and after this latest snub, it is starting to look like he won’t be an option for Copa America despite his good club form.

soccer 3/18/16 – Copa Single Game Tix 3/22, TV Games of Week, Champ League Final 8, USMNT WCQ 3/25

Ok 1 soapbox moment for the Ole Ballcoach – Some of the best players in the World are coming to AMERICA this Summer to play in real games – the COPA AMERICA CENTARIO (yes the 100th edition of one of the world’s greatest tournaments is being held in the USA – in fact IN CHICAGO!!)  Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero; Brazil’s Neymar, David Luis, Thiago Silva, Kaka, Oscar, Willian; Columbia’s James, Mexico’s Chichirito, Chile’s Alexis Sanchex or Arturo Vidal, Uraguay’s Suarez.  Like a World Cup this is a Once in a Lifetime Event COPA AMERICA 100 is coming to the USA and Chicago and you can go and take your family.  Single Game Tickets go on Sale this Tuesday, Mar 22.

Soldier Field  Chicago Venue Passes – If interested in planning a trip over – reach out to me (shanebestsoccer@gmail.com)

1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605   Seating charts reflect the general layout for the venue at this time these are general prizes based on the full venue packages – I’m sure they will be a little more but this gives you an idea.

GAMES IN CHICAGO

Sun -June 5 4 pm Jamaica vs Venezuela, Tues June 7 – 7 pm (USA vs Costa Rica), Friday, June 10 Argentina vs Panama 8:30 pm.

Wed, June 22  Semi Finals – 7 pm – Argentina vs Brazil maybe? 

Level 1 seats – 103  – $145/game

Level 2 seats –   $115/game

Level 2 in corner endzones – Sec 256 Row 7 $102/game

Level 2 mid endzones – Sec 252  Row 11 $91/game

Level 4 429 – row 11 8 tix $75/game

Wow – so we are down to the Quarter Finals (read Final 8) in Champions League after a scintillating couple of Sweet 16 matches this week.  Advancing for the first time ever are England’s sole representative Man City and Portugal’s Benefica.  They join Spanish giants Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Athletico Madrid, Germany’s Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg, and France’s PSG. It was heartbreak city for my Juventus as they failed to hold the 2 goal lead in the final 30 minutes at Bayern and allowed the German leaders to advance thru to the Quarters in extra time.  Buffon and Juve were spectacular for 45 minutes and should have had a 3 or 4 goal lead if not for some questionable reffing and a some fine saves by Bayern GK Manual Nuerer. Still with 89 minutes gone – they still held the 1 goal advantage until a Thomas Mueller header tied her up sending it to extra time. In ET – Pep’s subs smoked Allegre’s subs and scored 2 goals in the added 30 to secure the home win and advancement 6-4 on Aggregate.  Juve lost when Allegre subbed out superforward Morata and Juve lost their counterattacking threat allowing Bayern’s men to camp out in the Old Lady’s 18 until they found the equalizer.  Arsenal suffered a 3-1 loss at Barca as the 3 Headed MSN monster of Messi, Suarez, and Neymar all scored to secure a 5-1 aggregate win knocking the Gunners out for the 3rd straight year in the Round of 16.  After 210 minutes of scoreless play Athletico outshot Dutch champion PSV Eindhoven 8-7 in PKs to advance to their 3rd straight Quarterfinal.  The Final 8 will play Apr 5/6 + 12/13 with Barcelona vs Athletico and PSG vs Man City looking like the best games.

In World Play Juve Superstar Goalie Gigi Buffon goes for the Serie A record of 930 minutes of not giving up a goal in league play.  The EPL follows the incredible story of league leading Leciester City with a 5 pt (almost 2 game lead) over Tottenham and 11 in front of everyone else with just 8 games left.   They travel to Crystal Palace at 11 am this Sat on NBCSN, while Sunday the Manchester Darby takes center stage at 12 noon on NBC.  MLS has Sporting KC and their host of US players hosting Toronto FC Sun at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.

The US men have huge games next Friday, Mar 25th  – as the Full USMNT travels to Guatamala and the US 23 men face Columbia.  The US Men return to World Cup Qualifying Friday, Mar 25 on the road at Guatamala @ 10 pm on beIn Sports and NBC Universal, while the U-23 Men start their 2 game playoff Friday with Columbia at 4:30 pm Fri on Fox Sports 1.  Don’t forget there are still tickets available to see the US Men Host Guatamala in Columbus, Ohio on Tues, Mar 29 7 pm.   Speaking of the US Team – Good luck to Carmel native Cameron Lindley playing on the US U-20 team this weekend in Dallas.  World Cup Qualifiers and Friendlies load the FIFA weekend from Mar 24-29th as Italy faces Spain Thurs 3:45 on ESPN 2, and Germany hosts England Sat, 3/26 at 3:45 pm ESPN2.  Remember ESPN will host the European Championships from France in June.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

Sat, March 19

11:00 a.m., NBCSN    Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City                      Can the Foxes of Leicester City hold on to their 5 pt lead with 8 wks left in the EPL season at Palace?
Sun, March 20

12:00 p.m., NBC          Manchester City vs. Manchester United   The Manchester Darby – with a top 4 or top 6 spot in the EPL still on the line for both.  Can City hold serve at home on NBC?
12:00 p.m., Extra        Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bournemouth       The 2nd place Spurs hope to make up ground on Leicester City with this home match.

7 pm Fox Sports 1      Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC               KC will host a hot Toronto FC with Giovincho and Bradley

 Tues, Mar 22 –              COPA America – Chicago Venue Tickets Single Games on Sale

Thur, Mar 24

3:45 pm ESPN 2           Italy vs Spain      A juicy friendly between 2 of the top world powers as they prepare for the Euro’s this summer

Fri, Mar 25

4:30 pm ESPN               US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff The US Needs this Win at home vs Columbia to Qualify for the Olympics – Will US use Morris, Yedlin, Etc on U23s in this MUST WIN GAME?
10 pm beIN Sports    United States men @ Guatemala  WC qualifier.  – Can the US get needed win without their U 23 players?   

Sat, Mar 26

3:45 pm ESPN 2  Germany vs England  The World Champs host England in a pre Euro Warm-up.

 Tuesday, March 29:

7 pm (ESPN2)                United States men vs. Guatemala, WC qualifier-Columbus, OH – This Game at Columbus – tickets still available for just $55 – come Join Tyler and I !

USA

Copa America Centerio Single Game Tickets for US Game in Chicago on Sale Mar 22

US Coach Q & A

US Players Hot List

New USA Jerseys

Injured Forward Jozy Altidore expected on roster for US

Uncertainty Surrounds U23s vs Columbia

Carmel’s Cameron Lindley (the NSCAA youth player of the Year) Named to US U-20 Squad

Champions League Final 8 Results

Highlights of Thrilling Bayern ET 4-2 win over Juve  

Bayern vs Juve Review ESPN FC

Juve Got too Conservative in last 30 minutes Moreno ESPNFC

Juve Players Ratings

Bayern Player Ratings

Pep threatened his team at the half down -0-2

Athletico advances in PKs

Look at Ter Stegan’s Saves Last Week Barcelona vs Arsenal

MSN send Barca to Quarters over the Gunners

Arsenal gave it their All but fall to Barca again

Man City’s Big 4 Lead way to Final 8 in UCL

WILSON: Man City makes history in UCL; Atletico through on PKs

England Holds onto 4 UCL Spots

No one Reason for EPL’s dismise in the UCL

Europa League Liverpool oust Man U

Man U Not Good enough vs Liverpool

EPL and World

5000 to 1 Odds Leicester City’s Chances of Winning the EPL title

Premier League Weekend Predictions

EPL Notes on the Weekend Ahead

Van Gaal must Go – Ian Darke EPSN FC

Underachievement continues for Wenger and Arsenal SI

WAHL: Despite disappointments, Wenger is safe at Arsenal SI

EPL Table

Should Liverpool cut losses and Sell Benteke ?

Who is Leicester City

Juve’s Gigi Buffon is just 4 minutes Away from Serie A Record of 930 minutes of Shutout Play

FIFA Admits to Bribes in World Cup Hosting for 1st Time – wants their $ Back?

Power Rankings Top World Squads – ESPN FC

MLS

Power Rankings Week 2

New NYCFC Coach Patrick  Vieira

Should Leagues Winless Teams be Worried after 2 Games

Indy 11

Indy 11 Kids Club Open House at Off the Wall Sports Mar 28 4:30 -6:30 pm

Indy 11 ties 1-1 with St. Louis

Delicate Balance for the 11

Single Game Tix just 11 and Promo Schedule

GAMES THIS WEEK ON TV

Fri, March 18

3:30 p.m. Fox Sports 2 Schalke 04 vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach

Sat, March 19

8:45 a.m., NBCSN       Everton vs. Arsenal
10:30 a.m. Fox Soccer Köln vs. Bayern Munich
11:00 a.m., NBCSN    Crystal Palace vs. Leicester City
11:00 a.m., USA           Chelsea vs. West Ham United
11:00 a.m., Extra Time Watford vs. Stoke City, West Bromwich vs.Norwich

12:30 p.m., Fox           Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Hannover 96
1:30 p.m., NBCSN:     Swansea City vs. Aston Villa

3:45 pm beIn Sport Roma vs Inter

 Sun, March 20

9:30 a.m., NBCSN       Newcastle United vs. Sunderland
9:30 a.m., Extra Time: Southampton vs. Liverpool

10:30 a.m.Fox Sports 1 VfB Stuttgart vs. Bayer Leverkusen

11 am  beIn Sports    Villarrreal vs Barcelona
12:00 p.m., NBC          Manchester City vs. Manchester United
12:00 p.m., Extra        Tottenham Hotspur vs. Bournemouth

5:00 p.m. (ESPN2,)     D.C. United vs. Colorado Rapids,

7 pm Fox Sports 1      Sporting Kansas City vs. Toronto FC

Thur, Mar 24

3:45 pm ESPN 2     Italy vs Spain

Fri, Mar 25

5 pm Fox Sport1         US U23 Men @ Columbia Olympic Qualify Playoff

10 pm EST (beIN Sports,)  Guatemala vs. United States men, WC qualifier,

Sat, Mar 26

10:30 am beIn Sport                        South Africa vs Cameroon

12 noon ESPN 3           Russia vs Lithuania

3 pm  YES                         NY City FC vs New England

3:45 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs England

5:30 pm  beIn sport  DC United vs Dallas

 Sun, Mar 27

3:45 pm beIn Sport   Romania vs Spain

Tuesday, March 29:

3:30 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs Italy

4 pm  fox Sport1         England vs Netherlands

4 pm ESPN 3                  France vs Russia

5:30 pm beIN Sport                          Columbia vs Ecudor  WCQ

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

8:30 pm beIN Sport                          Argentina vs Bolivia  WCQ

Wednesday, March 30

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

April 5/6 & April 12/13. Champions League Quarter-finals:

MLS TV Schedule ‘

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

Copa America Centario Schedule

http://carmeldadsclub2016.org/form.php?id=adbf00b7aad52e57e29e0f3264680998

U.S. Hot List: John Brooks in scorching form, Jozy Altidore still sidelined

John Brooks has been in superb form for Hertha Berlin and should be a lock to start vs. Guatemala.

The stakes are sky-high for members of the national team player pool these days, with less than a week to go until U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann names his roster for this month’s important World Cup qualifying home-and-home against Guatemala.Klinsmann is expected to name an experienced, mostly European-based squad for the two games which, it must be pointed out, might not be the formalities many expect them to be even if Los Chapines have regressed in recent years. But that’s not to say that several MLS veterans who have been overlooked recently won’t be recalled, as specific positional needs tend to trump other factors when it comes to selections.In-form players who man less thin spots, such as Sporting Kansas City’s Graham Zusi (who has been razor-sharp for SKC in the first two weeks of the new domestic season), might have to wait for another invite, however.The same goes for youngsters jockeying for spots with the U.S. U-23s. Former U.S. U-20 standouts like Paul Arriola, Russell Canouse and Marky Delgado all raised eyebrows last weekend with impressive displays for Hoffenheim, Club Tijuana and Toronto FC respectively. But none have been part of Andi Herzog’s plans in the lead-up to looming Olympic qualifying matches against Colombia and all of them might remain on the outside, although an injury to San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Fatai Alashe possibly opens up one spot.

Of course, this list focuses on the senior team first. With that in mind, here how a dozen candidates for the Guatemala series are faring as Klinsmann wrestles with his final decisions.

Warming up

John Brooks, DF, Hertha Berlin (Germany)

Why he’s here: The 23-year-old center back’s career season continues; the Berlin-born Brooks has made 17 consecutive starts for his hometown club-which still occupies a Champions League spot-and he ranks eighth the Bundesliga in clearances.

What this means: Barring injury, and despite the fact that he’s never played in a road qualifier, Brooks is a lock to start in Guatemala City.

 Kyle Beckerman, MF, Real Salt Lake (MLS)

Why he’s here: The dreadlocked destroyer turns 34 next month but Beckerman is off to a strong start in MLS and was terrific against Mexican club Tigres in CONCACAF Champions League play.

What this means: Jermaine Jones’ suspension makes the inclusion of Beckerman — a known quantity who has the coach’s undying trust — a no-brainer.

 Clint Dempsey, FW, Seattle Sounders (MLS)

Why he’s here: Dempsey is goalless through his first two MLS games but he scored twice (including on an all-world free kick) against Club America last month and appears poised to make his first U.S. appearance since October.

What this means: With Jozy Altidore still nursing a hamstring injury, now is the perfect time for Klinsmann to bring Dempsey — still the national team’s most dangerous offensive threat — back into the fold.

 

Brad Guzan, GK, Aston Villa (England)

Why he’s here: Villa keeps losing but Guzan has been playing regularly for the relegation-bound club. After losing his place in January, the 31-year-old has now started three consecutive Premier League games.

What this means: Guzan is the front-runner to man the U.S. nets vs. Guatemala. That said, don’t be surprised if Klinsmann sticks to his plan of rotating his top two keepers and giving Tim Howard the nod in second match at home.

 

Fabian Johnson, DF/MF, Borussia Monchengladbach (Germany)

Why he’s here: Johnson’s early season scoring binge has tailed off some but the German-American has still been the country’s best player at club level this season.

What this means: Where does the U.S. need the 28-year-old the most? That’s the big question facing Klinsmann. Although Johnson has been used mostly as a left winger this year for ‘Gladbach, an absence of other suitable options could see him line up at left back against Guatemala.

 

Nick Rimando, GK, Real Salt Lake (MLS)

Why he’s here: The popular longtime No. 3 keeper has RSL off to an undefeated start to the new MLS season.

What this means: He might be 36 but Rimando’s performances haven’t dropped off much, if at all. And his experience and team-first temperament still make him the ideal third-string behind Guzan and Howard in games that matter.

 

Danny Williams, MF, Reading (England)

Why he’s here: Williams has made 27 league starts for the second-tier Royals, scoring a career-best five goals this season.

What this means: The 27-year-old defensive midfielder fell out of favor with Klinsmann toward the end of 2015 but Jones’ absence, combined with Williams’ consistent play, could be enough to earn him a recall.

 

Bobby Wood, FW, Union Berlin (Germany)

Why he’s here: Wood’s scorching form for the 2. Bundesliga club continues, as his weekend goal from the penalty spot gave the 23-year-old six in his last five games.

What this means: Wood’s case to receive his first career World Cup qualifying start later this month is getting stronger every week.

Cooling down

Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC (MLS)

Why he’s here: Altidore remains sidelined with a sore hamstring and failed to make TFC’s bench for the second consecutive game. He is questionable for next week’s match at Kansas City.

What this means: The 26-year-old target man seems increasingly likely to remain in Canada when the U.S. squad is announced.

 

Sean Johnson, GK, Chicago Fire (MLS)

Why he’s here: Johnson was added to Klinsmann’s January/February roster after D.C. United’s Bill Hamid (knee) withdrew, but he has since lost his starting job with the Fire to journeyman Matt Lampson.

What this means: Johnson must win back his place in Chicago to have any hope of eventually succeeding Rimando as Hamid, fellow MLS backstops David Bingham and Luis Robles and Mexico-based William Yarbrough all remain in the mix.

 

Alfredo Morales, MF, Ingolstadt (Germany)

Why he’s here: An adductor injury has kept Morales (16 Bundesliga starts this season) idle for the past month.

What this means: The timing is terrible for the 25-year-old, who is still on the fringes of the national team despite his growing profile at club level.

 

Jordan Morris, FW, Seattle Sounders (MLS)

Why he’s here: It’s not just that Morris is scoreless through his first four professional games (two in MLS, two in the CONCACAF Champions League). It’s also that he’s struggled with his decision-making and the pace of play at times, too.hat this means: Growing pains are normal, and those expecting Morris to immediately light up MLS upon his arrival in the domestic league weren’t being realistic. Still, few will be clamoring for the former Stanford University star to be with the senior team this month rather than the U-23s.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 

JK Q&A: “IT’S GOING TO BE A BIG, BIG 10 DAYS FOR US.”

Mar 17, 2016With the pivotal World Cup Qualifiers against Guatemala on the horizon at the same time the U-23 MNT faces Colombia in the Olympic Qualifying Playoff, ussoccer.com sat down with Jurgen Klinsmann to discuss the status of the player pool and his expectations for the big 10 days ahead.

ussoccer.com: What were your takeaways from the weekend action?
Jurgen Klinsmann: “A lot is going on in all the different leagues. In the Bundesliga we have John Brooks doing really well at Hertha Berlin, Fabian Johnson doing well at Borussia Monchengladbach, and Bobby Wood scored another goal for Union Berlin in the 2. Bundesliga. Moving over to the Premier League, Geoff Cameron is getting his time on the field and also Brad Guzan being back in goal for Aston Villa is a  big message for us no doubt about it. We monitor all of them, and we’re pleased with how things are going for the majority of the players and hope that they all come into camp healthy and really sharp for Guatemala.”

ussoccer.com: With three points from their first two games – and already a loss at home – Guatemala is under pressure to get a result in the first game in Guatemala City. How do you expect them to approach this game? 
JK: “We expect both games to be challenge, starting obviously in Guatemala City which is a very difficult venue. Their team is already in camp, so they go in a week earlier than we do into preparation for that game, so we expect a very difficult game and a very hot-tempered game. But the goal is clear: the goal is we would like to beat them in Guatemala City and then beat them as well in Columbus in front of our fans. That will give us six points and will virtually qualify us already for the next round. This is the objective and we will do everything possible to get that done.”

ussoccer.com: What has the process been like in determining which age-eligible players will play for the Senior Team vs. the Olympic Team?
JK: “It’s going to be a big, big ten days for us. The senior team wants badly the six points in these two games, but also our Olympic team is playing in the playoffs for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro with Colombia. What influence does it have for our rosters? At the end of the day, priority always is the senior team. Priority is World Cup Qualifying, so there are no compromises made like sending the players that are age-eligible for the Olympic team to the Olympic team already. We are convinced our Olympic team will do really well in Colombia and get a decent result there, and then we hope for big support in Dallas for the return game. We are convinced they will get the job done.”

ussoccer.com: Jozy Altidore has been out for the last few weeks for Toronto. How does that impact your thinking up front?
JK: “Jozy is coming back from a hamstring injury – he’s not 100 percent yet, but we’ll build him. He’s already almost getting on the field with Toronto, so we’ll take it from there and bring him with us and see every day in training how much he’s able to contribute. Injuries are always tricky when it gets towards a big competition. We have players that are injured a bit longer than we thought. We feel for them, but we are also waiting for them, players like Terrence Boyd, like Joe Gyau, like Josh Gatt, or even Aron Johannsson out for a couple months. These players are not forgotten. They play a wider role in building our group, our core, for 2018 in Russia. So hopefully they get back on track as quickly as possible. But in the short run, like a hamstring with Jozy, we will manage it, we will make the best out of it, but it has an effect on the roster. There’s no doubt about it.”

ussoccer.com: The defensive midfield role has been occupied in recent years by older players such as Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman. With them coming towards the end of their careers, who do you see leading the next generation?
JK: “It’s a fascinating topic always between two World Cup cycles: which younger players will take over from the older players? If you look at our positions – if it’s a goalkeeper role, if it’s a defensive midfielder with Jermaine Jones or Kyle Beckerman, or even if it’s up front with Clint Dempsey, you always try to push that next younger one into those roles in order to take over sooner or later. Obviously they have to get better than the older ones. This is a fascinating process that we push from a coaching side. The experienced older guys, they hang in there, they defend their roles, and the younger ones they want to push off their spot. This will continue the next two years in the World Cup qualifiers with Guatemala, but it also will continue through Copa America and then toward Russia 2018. There’s a lot of competition going on in our squad, and that’s why we are happy to have a bigger roster available this time because we want to really have that fight going on in training as well as showing their strengths in the games.”

ussoccer.com: Considering the lineups in November’s qualifiers and Fabian Johnson’s success with ‘Gladbach this season, is it likely that he is a midfielder from here on out?
JK: “I think it’s definitely a good thing that we can talk and discuss specific players in specific roles, and Fabian Johnson is a very good example because in his club he’s playing right now the left midfield role, but they also move him to the right side and even at right back like where he played a tremendous World Cup in Brazil. This is a wonderful thing to have for us coaches because we can adjust other pieces in the team depending what happens. Fabian is good with any of those roles. We would like to just have him continue the good performances that he has with Borussia Monchengladbach right now with the National Team as well. That gives us a better chance to beat Guatemala.”

Over the next few dats, Jurgen Klinsmann will finalize player selections for the U.S. men’s national soccer team’s two World Cup qualifiers against Guatemala late this month.For the most part, it’s standard procedure: He will pick regulars from MLS, Mexico and Europe while taking into account injuries, playing time and quality of performance with their respective clubs. There is, however, a wrinkle in the player evaluation as Klinsmann and top assistant Andi Herzog must select two squads. Aside from the senior team, they have to assemble the under-23 national roster for a two-leg Olympic playoff against Colombia.The pair of qualifiers and playoff matches fall on the same days: March 25 and 29. While most players fit into one team or the other, a few crossover candidates will complicate the process. Both teams face important matches, but the Olympic pursuit has less room for error and might take priority with age-eligible players who have served regularly on the senior team, notably defender John Brooks and forward Jordan Morris.Under normal circumstances, Brooks, a 2014 World Cup scorer and full-time starter with German club Hertha Berlin, and Morris, a Seattle Sounders rookie, probably would join the senior squad. But at ages 23 and 21, respectively, they would best serve the U-23 campaign.The other senior players who could end up with Herzog’s U-23 team for one or both playoff games are English-based defender-midfielder DeAndre Yedlin, 22, and Matt Miazga, 20, who jumped to Chelsea from the New York Red Bulls this winter.Klinsmann is expected to invite about 23 players. Competition guidelines will restrict Herzog to 20, though he is permitted to make changes between the two playoff matches.The teams will train separately in the Miami area starting next Monday. Klinsmann will then take the senior squad to Guatemala City, while Herzog escorts the U-23s to Barranquilla, Colombia. Both will return home for the March 29 games: The senior team will reunite with Guatemala in Columbus, Ohio, and the Olympic hopefuls will do the same with Colombia in the Dallas suburb of Frisco.The competitions are at different stages. The senior team is in the middle of the semifinal round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, a schedule that involves six total games in a four-nation group that will send two teams to the final stage this fall. The Americans opened the campaign with a home victory against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and a draw at Trinidad and Tobago.The under-23 team was forced into a playoff after failing to secure one of the region’s two automatic berths in the Summer Games in Brazil. (Honduras and Mexico advanced.) Colombia finished second to Argentina in the South American qualifying tournament; as the Olympic host, Brazil received automatic qualification.Klinsmann has emphasized the importance of qualifying for the Olympics after the failure of four years ago. Although Olympic soccer pales in comparison to the World Cup, Klinsmann recognizes the need for young players to gain experience and exposure in international tournaments.Herzog’s unit is likely to include 20-year-old forward Julian Green — who, since scoring in the 2014 World Cup, has faded into obscurity with Bayern Munich’s junior team — and midfielder Gedion Zelalem, a 19-year-old Arsenal prospect on loan this season with Rangers in Scotland.Also high on the list is midfielder Christian Pulisic, 17, who is earning first-team call-ups for German power Borussia Dortmund.Klinsmann’s group will include many of the usual suspects: Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya and Fabian Johnson. (Jozy Altidore is battling hamstring problems.) He is also high on newcomers Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers) and Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United).The candidate in the best form at the moment is forward Bobby Wood. He has scored in five consecutive matches for Union Berlin in Germany’s second division and posted 13 goals in 24 league matches. Wood is 23, but missed the Jan. 1, 1993, cut-off for Olympic eligibility by seven weeks.One player Klinsmann cannot select is veteran Jermaine Jones. The World Cup midfielder is serving a six-game MLS suspension that also applies to international competition for assaulting a referee in last year’s playoffs.

 

Uncertainty surrounds the USA U-23’s Olympic playoff vs. Colombia

‘re just a week away from the United States U-23 national team embarking on their two biggest matches of the last four years and yet we know very little about the match-up with Colombia. Here’s what we do know: They’ll be playing the first match of their two-legged Olympic playoff in Barranquilla, Colombia next Friday. Followed by the return home leg in Frisco, Texas just three days later.We’ve already seen the Colombia roster released to the public. Andi Herzog will be releasing his any moment now. But, even the names of the Americans who will be called up remain uncertain due to the requirement of clubs having to agree to release them for these matches.The truth is, we don’t know much about this Colombia team. Most of their players play domestically, while a few are bandied about Europe in various countries. On paper it’s not a daunting list by any means. It’s likely that Herzog and the rest of the U-23 staff will have access to videos and advanced scouting reports to help them prepare, but we just don’t have those resources. All we have is the internet.

Here’s what we know about the Colombia U-23 team:

  • They clinched a spot in this Olympic playoff by finishing second in their group in the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship, a tournament for under-20 teams.
  • 17 of their 25 players have at least one cap for the U-23 national team
  • 3 of their players (DFHelibelton Palacios, MF Juan Fernando Quintero, and FW Andres Renteria) have received senior national team caps.
  • 4 of their players played on the U-20 team that lost to the USA in the 2015 U-20World CupRound of 16.
  • FW Roger Martinez has scored three goals and is the top scorer for the team
  • MF Juan Fernando Quintero is the only player on the roster who represented Colombia at the2014 World Cup.
  • He scored thisreally nice goal against Ivory Coast. They haven’t qualified for the Olympics since 1992.

It’s not much to go by to give any ‘expert analysis’ on. That’s probably why you haven’t seen many thinkpieces on how the USA can go about beating this Colombia side. They are very much an unknown quantity.We can say with 100 percent certainty that the Colombia U-23 national team do in fact play soccer and have 25 players that do so. Some of them are pretty good and some of them are really inexperienced. They don’t appear to have much consistency in playing matches together, but the majority play in the same league so they should be familiar with one another.Surely Andi Herzog will have much more information than we do about their playing style and personnel, but it’s unlikely they’ll be too informed on their opponent either. This will very much be an old fashioned “put your 11 vs. our 11 and see who’s better” scenario, much like all youth matches are.A youth coach’s main objective is to mold his team and players the best he can. Taking the opponent’s play style and talent into account is usually a very little part of the process. This will be a huge test in how Herzog has fared in doing that this Olympic cycle.Two teams will be vying for one spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics starting next week. Logic tells us that it will likely be the most talented team that will prevail, however in two-legged playoffs it’s often better to be lucky or fortunate than talented. For the sake of U.S. Soccer, let’s hope it’s the USA U-23’s who earn that spot in some way or another.

Barcelona and Bayern Munich remain first and second as PSG climb

Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic says his team does not talk about their 38-game unbeaten streak and stresses that working hard is all they care about.

The top two both won twice — with varying degrees of comfort — while the French champions are on the up.

  1. Barcelona(no change)

The reigning Spanish and European champions extended their current unbeaten run to 38 games with a pair of comfortable wins last week, as Getafe were swept aside 6-0 in La Liga and Arsenal were dispatched 3-1 in the Champions League. Three of Barca’s goals came from Neymar, who had previously scored just two in nine games.

 Bayern Munich(no change)

Pep Guardiola’s side moved closer to the Bundesliga title with a 5-0 win over Werder Bremen but Bayern’s Champions League hopes were in danger when Juventus took a 2-0 lead at the Allianz Arena. However, the German giants roared back with four goals in 37 minutes — including one in stoppage time to force extra time — to claim a quarterfinal place.

  1. Paris Saint-Germain(+1)

Some clubs win league titles with nervy displays that betray the enormity of what they are about to achieve. And others are like PSG, who wrapped up Ligue 1 before the middle of March with a 9-0 — yes, 9-0! — thrashing of poor Troyes. All of which means that, French domestic cups aside, PSG’s primary focus will now be on the Champions League.

 Atletico Madrid

(+1)

It was perhaps slightly harder than many anticipated by Atletico managed to get by PSV Eindhoven on penalties and claim a place in the Champions League last eight. Few of the other remaining sides will want to draw Diego Simeone’s side, which have conceded just two goals in their last nine games, dating back to the start of February.

  1. Real Madrid(+1)

Los Blancos have won consecutive away games in La Liga for the first time since September but their latest victory, a 2-1 result at Las Palmas, was secured with a late goal from Casemiro following a disjointed display. With Gareth Bale back, though, and Karim Benzema not far away, Zinedine Zidane should have his star men for the rest of the season.

  1. Juventus(no change)

Oh, Juve, you were so, so close… For 70 minutes in Munich, Max Allegri’s game plan worked to perfection. Even after Bayern scored to make it 2-1, the Italians were still in position to go through. But then Thomas Muller sent the game to extra time and Bayern eventually won, leaving Juve to curse the chances they missed earlier in the game.

  1. Borussia Dortmund(no change)

BVB kept up the pressure on Bayern with a 2-0 win against Mainz, meaning Germany’s top two are separated by five points with eight games to go. On Thursday, Dortmund sealed a place in the Europa League quarterfinals by completing a 5-1 aggregate win over Tottenham. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored twice.

  1. Leicester(no change)

My old club Newcastle gave them something of a fright but, in truth, Leicester were relatively comfortable in their 1-0 win. The winner came courtesy of a sensational overhead kick by Shinji Okazaki and was one of those goals that made you think that, maybe, this really is Leicester’s year. And who could begrudge them that glory if it comes their way?

  1. Benfica(no change)

Benfica remain two points clear in Portugal after a 4-1 win over Tondela, which featured two more goals from Jonas, who now has an incredible 28 in 26 league games this season. Since losing at home to Porto on Feb. 12, Benfica have bounced back with four consecutive league wins. And they’re still in the Champions League!

  1. PSV Eindhoven(no change)

It was a week in which PSV came back down to earth. First, they dropped two league points when they were held at home by Heerenveen, thus missing the chance to extend their lead over second-placed Ajax, who also drew. Then PSV went out of the Champions League, beaten in the cruelest way — on penalties — by Atletico Madrid.Dropping out: None.Shaka Hislop played for over 10 years in the Premier Leagu

ARSENAL COULD WENGER BE IN TROUBLE ?

BY JONATHAN WILSONTwitter

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Posted: Thu Mar. 17, 2016There was something very predictable about the second leg of Arsenal’s last-16 tie against Barcelona. Here was the familiar pattern, Arsenal, when the tie was lost, producing a spell of great promise that, briefly, looked as if it might unexpectedly trouble Barcelona. Ultimately, it came to nothing, but there were signs there of a brighter future. Or, at least, that’s how similar performances have been regarded in the past. Not any more.Patience is running out. Perhaps it has run out. This was the sixth season in a row in which Arsenal has been eliminated in the last 16 of the Champions League. After last Sunday’s FA Cup defeat to Watford, the league is all that is left for Arsenal to aim for. Supine defeats to Manchester United and Swansea City have left Arsenal 11 points behind the Premier League leader Leicester with a game in hand; a season in which a number of the usual challengers have faltered offered an opportunity, but Arsenal has failed to seize it.

A run of just four wins in the last 15 games has brought frustrations to a head. Dissent has been bubbling for a few years now, a sense that Arsenal as a club is content to finish in the top four, take the Champions League money, make a profit and plod on. Stan Kroenke, the club’s majority shareholder, didn’t exactly allay that suspicion when he spoke at the MIT Sloane Sports Analytics Conference last week. “If you want to win championships then you would never get involved,” he said.Occasionally that discontent among fans had bubbled over, most notably on the railway station platform at Stoke-on-Trent last season when Wenger was abused by Arsenal fans after a 3-2 defeat. But this feels different. For one thing, the discontent is more widespread now, the atmosphere at the Emirates increasingly sulphurous. And for another, this season has demonstrated what is possible without enormous resources.Twelve years ago, as Arsenal completed its unbeaten season with a 2-1 victory on the final day over relegated Leicester, who would then have believed that it might be the away side who would be the next of the two to win the league? That May afternoon, as Claudio Ranieri bade his tearful farewells to Stamford Bridge six miles to the southwest, who could have believed that he might win the league title before Wenger?Perhaps Leicester is a glorious freak, but Tottenham is six points above Arsenal with a notably young team, having made a profit in the transfer market in the two years since Mauricio Pochettino took charge. The economics of the Premier League changed radically when Roman Abramovich arrived in 2003 and there’s no doubt that Arsenal was disadvantaged by that as it paid off the debt on its new stadium, but however valid Wenger’s excuses may have been, Leicester and Tottenham have shown what is possible without an owner with an open wallet.And yet there is an irony here. Wenger’s mood after his side had lost the first leg of its Champions League last-16 tie against Barcelona was odd. Usually in such circumstances–and he’s had plenty of experience–he looks to take the positives, occasionally letting his disappointment show in irritation directed towards the questioner. That night was different. That night he was angry, not at journalists, but at his team. His players, he said, had been “naïve.”He was right. He has been criticized regularly–and not without justification–over the past decade for being too set in his ways, for not adapting sufficiently to the opposition, for refusing to modify his approach, but in Arsenal’s last three big games, the two legs against Barcelona and the North London derby against Tottenham, he has made tactical tweaks that have had a discernible positive impact on the game only to be undermined by player error.That, of course, is partly Wenger’s doing. He shaped the squad and one of his duties is to create an atmosphere in which they perform to their utmost, which means not making mistakes, being sharp, being confident, being fit. The complaint of fans that he has not used the money Arsenal has in the bank–there is an estimated £75 million available for transfers–is understandable, particularly given obvious shortfalls in the center of defense, at the back of midfield and at center forward, that that’s not the only problem.When Wenger first arrived in English football in 1996, his ideas on nutrition were revolutionary–at least in a Premier League context–and his contacts in France gave him a huge advantage in the transfer market. What was radical, then, though, is now standard practice. The game has caught up with Wenger.Not only that, but his teams of the turn of the millennium featured difficult, awkward personalities, a blend of the blend and the skillful. This present Arsenal seems a bit too nice; it lacks edge and spark. It’s as though Wenger, as Brian Clough did in his final decade at Nottingham Forest, has lost the energy to deal with bad boys. So good football, neat passing and neat hair, becomes an end in itself, a sense of moral superiority replacing the desire to battle for silverware.The chaos that has followed Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure from Manchester United perhaps serves as a warning of what can happen when a long-term manager departs, but at the same time this sense of drift cannot go on forever. Wenger’s tactical fiddling perhaps offers some hope that he is modifying his template, but at the moment it feels there is something stagnant in the culture of the club. Given his control over the football side, Wenger is responsible for that.If Arsenal can put a run together, if it can win, say, seven of its last nine games beginning at Everton on Saturday, perhaps it can still put pressure on a Leicester side that is beginning to look nervous. The league title is not wholly out of reach. But fruitless late rallies are an Arsenal meme; another one may not be enough to quell the mutinous voices.

Copa America Centario Tix in Chicago on sale 3/22

Some of the best players in the World are coming to AMERICA this Summer to play in real games – the COPA AMERICA CENTARIO (yes the 100th edition of one of the world’s greatest tournaments is being held in the USA – in fact IN CHICAGO!!)  Argentina’s Lionel Messi, Angel Di Maria, Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero; Brazil’s Neymar, David Luis, Thiago Silva, Kaka, Oscar, Willian; Columbia’s James, Mexico’s Chichirito, Chile’s Alexis Sanchex or Arturo Vidal, Uraguay’s Suarez.  Like a World Cup this is a Once in a Lifetime Event COPA AMERICA 100 is coming to the USA and Chicago and you can go and take your family.  Single Game Tickets go on Sale this Tuesday, Mar 22.

Soldier Field  Chicago Venue Passes – If interested in planning a trip over – reach out to me (shanebestsoccer@gmail.com)

1410 S. Museum Campus Drive, Chicago, IL 60605   Seating charts reflect the general layout for the venue at this time these are general prizes based on the full venue packages – I’m sure they will be a little more but this gives you an idea.

GAMES IN CHICAGO

Sun -June 5 4 pm Jamaica vs Venezuela, Tues June 7 – 7 pm (USA vs Costa Rica), Friday, June 10 Argentina vs Panama 8:30 pm.

Wed, June 22  Semi Finals – 7 pm – Argentina vs Brazil maybe? 

Level 1 seats – 103  – $145/game

Level 2 seats –   $115/game

Level 2 in corner endzones – Sec 256 Row 7 $102/game

Level 2 mid endzones – Sec 252  Row 11 $91/game

Level 4 429 – row 11 8 tix $75/game

Champ 3/15/16 -League Tues/Wed -City vs Kiev Tues, Bayern/Juve Wed 3:45

We have the 2nd leg of Champions League Sweet 16 action Tues/Wed as Man City and Barca should punch their tickets to the quarterfinals at home.  Arsenal is down 2-0 trying to stave off elimination at Barcelona on Wed, while Bayern Munich and Juventus battle in Germany tied at 2-2.  Both games on Fox Sports Wednesday at 3:45 pm.  Tues 3:45 on Fox Sports – Man City will look to move to their first ever Quarterfinals up 3-1 over Kiev, while Athletico Madrid host Dutch power PSV Eindhoven tied at 0-0.  Remember if you miss the games – they are usually played over on Fox Sports 2 and Fox Soccer all night with 30 minute highlight show on Fox Sports 1 between 12:30 and 2 am so set those DVRs.  Europa League Action saw Liverpool beat Man U at home, while Dortmund blasted Tottenham in Germany, return legs are Thursday on Fox Sports and ESPN3. Already advancing was Portugal’s Benefica to the Elite 8 for the first time ever, while Real Madrid advance and PSG and Zlatan Ibrahimovic outlasted Chelsea at home 2-0 to advance 4-2 on aggregate.  Speaking of Zlatan you have to view this Ode to Zlatan its great!

And speaking of Video’s so its been 10 years since US Forward Clint Dempsey Unleashed his Don’t Tread on Me Music Video – Happy 33rd Birthday to the US Goal Scoring Leader in Europe (57 goals) as he chases Donovan’s US goal scoring record this summer in COPA Centario.   The US men have huge games next Friday, Mar 25th  – as the Full USMNT travels to Guatamala and the US 23 men face Columbia.  The US Men return to World Cup Qualifying Friday, Mar 25 on the road at Guatamala @ 10 pm on beIn Sports and NBC Universal, while the U-23 Men start their 2 game playoff with Columbia at 4:30 pm Fri on Fox Sports 1.  No word on where young players like Diandre Yedlin and Jordon Morris will be – although they certainly should be with the U23s in my mind as qualifying for the Olympics this summer in Rio is more important than 1 away game Qualifier for the full team.

 Champions League

What to Look for Champions League Sweet 16 2nd Legs

Who has edge Bayern vs Juve tied at 2 going to Bayern.

Barca’s Iniesta pinpoints Arsenal’s Danger Man

Athletico vs PSV Preview

Man City vs Dynamo Kyiv Preview

Manchester City v Dynamo Kyiv, Tuesday

Atlético v PSV, Tuesday
Bayern v
 
Juventus, Wednesday

Barcelona v Arsenal, Wednesday

Europa League Wrap-up – Liverpool beat Man U and Dortmund Crushes Tottehnam

The Hazard Shirt Swap with Di Maria at Half Time?

Zlatan Provides Answers as PSG outlast Chelsea at home

Renaldo easier to guard than Messi – says Chiellini

Barca looking for Treble back to back

Ibra – Champions League is Special

Ibra Goal King of UCL-

Ibra to leave PSG – why would he say this now? 

Ibra Zlatan ODE SONG

Ibra cartoon

Real lacks consistency Admits Ronaldo

Could Premier League lose a Champ League spot to Italy?

Juve’s GK Buffon sets record for Shutout 836 minutes – 100 minutes to go to break Serie A record.

What to Look for Europa League Thurs

USA

Happy 33rd Birthday Clint Dempsey

Counting Down to US vs Guatemala – US Soccer Players

Klinsmann weighs Roster Options for WCQualifier –Wash Post

Insider Notes – USA to face Ecuador and Bolivia ahead of Copa America

Klinsmann talks Copa and answers fans questions

US Forward Bobby Wood on Fire in Germany

Announcer Ian Darke Signs on with ESPN thru 2020

GAMES THIS WEEK 

Tues, Mar 15  –Champions League

3:45 pm Fox Sport1    Man City vs Dynamo Kiev  3-1

3:45 pm Fox Sports 2  Athletico vs PSV Eindhoven 0-0

Wed, Mar 16  –Champions League

3:45 pm Fox Sport1    Barcelona vs Arsenal  2-0

3:45 pm Fox Sport1    Bayern Munich vs Juventus 2-2

Thurs, Mar 17 – UEFA Europa League (Rd of 16 2nd legs)

1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Villarreal
1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Valencia vs. Athletic Bilbao

4 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Manchester United vs. Liverpool
4 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund
4 p.m., ESPN 3 Lazio vs. Sparta Prague, Anderlecht vs. Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla vs. Basel, Braga vs. Fenerbahçe

 Fri, 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 29:

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

What to watch out for in this week’s second legs

Published: Monday 14 March 2016, 10.07CET

Can Lionel Messi score his 500th career goal? Can Antoine Griezmann strike in a fifth successive Atlético game? Can Paulo Dybala rescue Juve? UEFA.com teases out the week’s sub-plots.

Can Griezmann make it five from five?
“I play with a lot of freedom – hopefully I can carry on in the same vein,” said Atlético Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, who having scored in all four of his Liga outings since the 0-0 first-leg draw at PSV, can make it five from five in all competitions in the rematch. The Dutch side’s ten-game winning streak in the Eredivisie ended with Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Heerenveen, Jeroen Zoet conceding his first goal in 603 minutes in all competitions. “It is a nice detail but I would prefer to win a trophy,” the goalkeeper noted.  Atlético v PSV, Tuesday

Dynamo Kyiv 1-3 Man.City

Agüero chasing City history
Frustrated by Norwich City at the weekend, Sergio Agüero will face injury-sapped Dynamo Kyiv looking to claim his spot in the top ten of Manchester City’s all-time scorers. The 27-year-old has struck 128 times since joining in 2011 and is two goals shy of tenth-placed Frank Roberts, with Billy Gillespie and Fred Tilson on 132 goals in joint eighth. “It would be a major achievement,” said Agüero, whose team are 3-1 up from the away leg. “But I’d rather focus on my next goal rather than the ones I’ve scored and the ones I might score in the future.”
Manchester City v Dynamo Kyiv, Tuesday

Juventus 2-2 Bayern

Dybala giving Juve hope
After getting his first UEFA Champions League goal in the 2-2 first-leg draw with Bayern, Juventus forward Paulo Dybala registered a wonderful goal against Sassuolo on Friday – his 14th of the season in Serie A. “Nobody has shown such a mix of technique and personality at 22,” former Juve coach Fabio Capello told Gazzetta dello Sport. “In Italy he has already established himself as a top player – now he just needs to do it in Europe.” Can he make that mark against a Bayern side with a shrinking injury list, who could afford to rest Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal at the weekend? 
Bayern v Juventus, Wednesday

Lionel Messi: Barcelona v Arsenal

Messi in hungry mood
Lionel Messi has netted 23 times in 18 appearances in 2016, and requires only three more to get to 500 for club and country. Though he missed a penalty in Saturday’s 6-0 mauling of Getafe, he made amends with a superb free-kick. It is not the sort of form that offers Arsenal much hope as they come to Camp Nou 2-0 down. “It’s 95% for them and 5% for us,” manager Arsène Wenger noted of his team’s chances, the Gunners travelling with heads bowed low, having been dumped out of the FA Cup by Watford on Sunday.
Barcelona v Arsenal, Wednesday

Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid have won four matches on the bounce following their goalless first-leg draw against their Dutch opponents

Atletico Madrid are full of confidence heading into their Champions League last-16 second leg against PSV Eindhoven at the Vicente Calderon on Tuesday, according to Saul Niguez.The first encounter in Eindhoven ended goalless and saw the hosts lose Gaston Pereiro to a second yellow card midway through the second half, setting up a finely poised clash in Madrid.Since then, Diego Simeone’s side have won four successive matches – the latest of which came in a 3-0 victory over Deportivo La Coruna on Saturday.Saul’s powerful header opened the scoring and was added to by Antoine Griezmann – converting for the fourth consecutive game – and Angel Correa seven minutes from time.The midfielder thinks the victory has primed Atletico to book a place in the quarter-finals at PSV’s expense.”The team has done a great job and achieved great results. Looking ahead to Tuesday, it gives us a boost,” said Saul.”We kept going until the end and the [late] goal gave us serenity. It was one of the best matches, very complete, without conceding a goal.”I think we played very well and after these three points we go into that key match very confident of winning.”Atletico prevailed on PSV’s only previous visit to the Vicente Calderon – a 2-1 triumph in the group stage of the 2008-09 Champions League – but have lost all four two-legged ties they have contested with Dutch opponents in European competition.PSV are still seeking a first victory in Spain after 12 failed attempts and head into the match having extended their unbeaten run in the Eredivisie to 21 matches in a 1-1 draw against Heerenveen on Saturday.Tuesday signals the start of what could be a pivotal period in the season for Phillip Cocu’s team, with a top-of-the-table clash against Ajax – who missed the chance to overtake PSV at the summit with a 2-2 draw against NEC Nijmegen on Sunday – and a trip to third-placed AZ following Tuesday’s meeting with Atletico.

Goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet’s heroics kept the Dutch side in the first leg, and they will be looking for another big performance from him if they are to reach the quarter-finals for the first time since 2006-07.

Stefan Savic (thigh) and Tiago (leg) are out for Atletico, while Fernando Torres (knee) is a doubt having sat out the victory over Deportivo at the weekend.

Cocu is able to select prolific striker Luuk de Jong, who returns having served a suspension in the first leg, but, along with Pereiro’s ban, there are concerns over the fitness of Andres Guardado (hamstring) and Maxime Lestienne (calf).

City midfielder has been a star performer and is keen to send the Ukrainians out of Champions League

Fernandinho has urged his Manchester City to grasp the opportunity of claiming a Champions League quarter-final place when they host Dynamo Kiev on Tuesday.Manuel Pellegrini’s men are strongly positioned to reach the last eight of the tournament for the first time following an impressive 3-1 first-leg triumph in the Ukrainian capital, where Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure were on target.Fernandinho’s midfield colleague Toure is a doubt for the match with a heel injury but, when set against the experience of nursing last-16 deficits before being knocked out by Barcelona in each of the past two seasons, the Brazil international knows Manuel Pellegrini’s team have been dealt a favourable hand.”Of course, this is the first time we have a chance to go forward to the quarter-finals,” he told City’s official website. “This is a big step for the club, for everyone here.”This should give us more motivation to play very well on Tuesday.”In contrast to previous European campaigns, where City have struggled to match strong domestic performances, their best displays this term have arguably come on the Champions League stage – most notably in wins at Sevilla and last time out in Kiev.Their bid to win a third Premier League win in five seasons has stalled badly alongside these highs, with Saturday’s dispiriting 0-0 draw at struggling Norwich City leaving Fernandinho to concede that the Champions League represents a more realistic chance of further silverware this term for the League Cup winners.”We will see what happens with other results but it is tough to drop points like we did,” he said.”We have nine [Premier League] games to play and even if you don’t have chance to fight for the title, the most important thing now is to fight for the top four.”

Kevin De Bruyne, Samir Nasri and Fabian Delph will all remain on the sidelines until after this month’s international break, although Pellegrini should still be confident of seeing off opponents who have failed to win in 13 competitive visits to England – losing 11 of those matches.

Speaking after Friday’s 2-1 Ukrainian Premier League win at Karpaty Lviv, a victory that helped send them three points clear at the top, Sergei Rebrov confirmed Mykola Morozyuk would remain on the sidelines for “a month or two” due to a “serious” knee injury.Dynamo defender Yevhen Khacheridi is keen to at least restore some of the pride lost on home turf against City.”We don’t want to make same mistakes we had in Kiev. It will be difficult to win, but we’ll try to do that,” Khacheridi told Komanda.

OPTA FACTS

  • Manchester City have reached the knockout stages of the Champions League for the third consecutive season. They have never made it past the Last 16 though, being knocked out by Barcelona in each of the last two campaigns.
  • Dynamo Kiev hadn’t reached the knockout stages of the Champions League since 1998/99. They were eliminated by Bayern Munich in the semi-finals.
  • Among the 16 teams left, Manchester City are the only side yet to register a clean sheet in the Champions League this season.

Counting down to USMNT vs Guatemala

Posted on March 12, 2016 | By Charles Boehm

By Charles Boehm – WASHINGTON, DC (Mar 12, 2016) US Soccer Players – TheUSMNT

returns to action two weeks from Friday with a World Cup qualifier at Guatemala on March 25. That means USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s next round of call-ups should come in barely a week’s time.As has so often been the case during his time in charge, there’s ample space for intrigue in this selection process. The absence of Jermaine Jones serving an MLS suspension that carries over into National Team duty, injury doubts in several positions, and Klinsmann himself noting that the timing of the MLS season influences his selections here adds up to a recipe for change. That leaves room for a surprise or two, in the roster as well as the lineups.Here’s a look at a few areas where the USMNT technical staff have to make tough decisions

Selection: Who’s a kid this month, and who isn’t?

On the same dates the senior squad play Guatemala, the US U-23s face Colombia in the home-and-home playoff series that will determine who earns the final spot in the Olympic soccer tournament in Rio this summer. With that in mind, underage players made up a substantial chunk of the January camp invites, an experiment that seems to have gone well.In some cases all this would lead to the obvious conclusion. Anyone in the USMNT player pool who’s age-eligible plays for the U-23s. Klinsmann picks from the rest, even for a World Cup qualifier.As always seems to be the case under Klinsmann, it’s not so simple.Klinsmann is quite fond of several of his youngsters, including Jordan Morris, DeAndre Yedlin, and to some extent even Jerome Kiesewetter. Will he consider them essential to the task of beating Guatemala? Is their time better spent salvaging Olympic qualifying, something all involved in US Soccer have stressed as a major priority for more than a year?

Central midfield

Klinsmann generally writes Jones’s name in ink when he’s available, so captain Michael Bradley will have an alternate partner – maybe even two – in the engine room for this month’s back-to-back clashes with Los Chapines.Reading standout Danny Williams might provide a reasonable facsimile, but a like-for-like replacement seems difficult here. There’s no one else quite like Jones in the player pool, in terms of personality, mentality and skillset. That fact might seem to nudge the coaches’ hands towards a five-man midfield where two players could assist Bradley instead of just one.Given Guatemala’s tendency to sit deep and defend stubbornly, often downright cynically, a creative attacking presence like Mix Diskerud or Lee Nguyen would be useful. However, with Klinsmann emphasizing experience in his recent remarks to the media, will he consider Nguyen ready for a start in the qualifying cauldron? You can say the same of Darlington Nagbe. Yet here we have an ideal opportunity for the coach to prove his trust, against a relatively manageable opponent, in players who’ve brought something different and useful to his squad.

Positioning a pure #6 to stand guard behind Bradley can sometimes have a liberating effect for the captain, and he’s quite familiar with Kyle Beckerman in that regard. At USMNT level, “KB5” has prospered against reactive opponents who allow him time to distribute the ball and dictate the tempo of the game, and his advancing years have only sharpened this intellect.

Fullback

Anyone can play left back, or so said Klinsmann in a lighthearted moment earlier in his tenure. Yet in practice, the search for an optimal option at this problematic spot hasn’t been so easy for him. He coaxed DaMarcus Beasley out of international retirement to keep the role filled last year, plugged Tim Ream in during the fall, and started young Kellyn Acosta there in both of this year’s friendlies. Ream isn’t normally a left back and Acosta plays in midfield at club level.Yedlin’s rapid rise would seem to have provided the US with a regular starter on the right defensive flank for years to come. Still, his National Team coaches seem persistently skeptical of his suitability as their right back, deploying him in a more advanced wing role more often than not. Fans may be accustomed to seeing a revolving door at left back, but stability was also fleeting on the starboard side last year. 2015 saw Birnbaum, Yedlin, Chandler, Evans, Orozco, Cameron, and Johnson filling the role.Fabian Johnson has spent lots of time on both sides of the USMNT defense. But his explosive attacking exploits for Borussia Monchengladbach this season have forced Klinsmann to admit that the versatility of “FabJo” has at times kept those creative traits from being exploited to the fullest for his country.”Obviously you like to kind of continue having a player play at the same role in the national team that he’s playing in his club team to just keep him consistent, keep him confident. But sometimes it’s not doable because of maybe problems in other positions,” Klinsmann said in a recent Q&A with ussoccer.com. “You know [Johnson] can play right back and left back as well, and on the wing in midfield both sides as well. That gives us a good feeling that we can switch over to that role.”Johnson played on the left side of midfield in the first two qualifiers of the current round. The time may have come to let him become a master of one trade rather than a jack of all.Charles Boehm is a Washington, DC-based writer and the editor of The Soccer Wire. Contact him at:cboehm@thesoccerwire.com. Fo

 

U.S. Hot List: Bobby Wood in scorching form; Tim Howard fading

With a new Major League Soccer season finally underway, we mark the return of the U.S. national team Hot List, which will become a weekly feature in this space right up until Jurgen Klinsmann names his squad for this summer’s Copa America Centenario in May.

While that high-profile tournament looms on the horizon, there are more pressing matters at hand (foot?) for the Americans. After a four-month break, the U.S. resumes its qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup in Russia later this month with an important home-and-home series against Guatemala.

A number of players have put themselves in position to merit strong consideration for minutes in those games alongside lineup shoo-ins like Alejandro Bedoya, Michael Bradley and Fabian Johnson, based on strong recent club performances. Others are struggling in their day jobs, which is significantly reducing their chances of seeing the field. With less than two weeks to go before Klinsmann picks his next roster, here’s a look at whose stock is rising and falling right now.

 

Warming up

Matt Besler, D, Sporting Kansas City (MLS)

Why he’s here: The 2014 World Cup starter helped Sporting KC keep a clean sheet on the road in Sunday’s 1-0 win over the 10-man Seattle Sounders.

What this means: Fellow left center back John Brooks remains ahead of Besler in the eyes of Klinsmann, who has suggested that with MLS players yet to hit full stride, he’ll go with a Euro-heavy lineup in Guatemala City. Still, Besler has crucial experience playing in away CONCACAF qualifiers, while Brooks, despite his Bundesliga pedigree, does not. That should not be overlooked by the coach.

 

Geoff Cameron, D/M, Stoke City (England)

Why he’s here: After missing almost two months with an ankle injury, the 30-year-old returned to Stoke’s lineup on Feb. 27 and has gone the distance in the Potters’ past three games — twice in central defense and once at right-back.

What this means: Cameron’s timing couldn’t be better from a national team perspective. Where exactly he’ll play isn’t clear, but expect the Massachusetts native to reclaim the starting U.S. job he won at the end of 2015 later this month against Guatemala.

 

Brad Guzan, G, Aston Villa (England)

Why he’s here: Guzan lost his starting job for relegation-bound Villa in early January but now appears to have won it back, playing in the last-place Premier League side’s two most recent games.

What this means: With Tim Howard riding the bench at Everton (more on Howard below), Guzan will have the inside track for the U.S. job when World Cup qualifying resumes, if he keeps getting games at club level.

 

Omar Gonzalez, D, Pachuca (Mexico)

Why he’s here: The big Texan has played all but 22 minutes of the nine games he’s appeared in since transferring from the LA Galaxy in late December, helping the Tuzos concede just nine goals — the fewest in Liga MX this season.

What this means: Gonzalez’s instant success south of the border has not gone unnoticed by Klinsmann, who could use the 27-year-old in central defense if he opts to deploy Cameron at right back or defensive midfielder against the Guatemalans.

 

Bobby Wood, F, Union Berlin (Germany)

Why he’s here: With seven goals in his past six 2.Bundesliga matches — including two against FSV Frankfurt on Saturday — no U.S. striker is hotter right now than Wood.

What this means: The 23-year-old Hawaiian could trade his super-sub role for a starting job against Guatemala if Jozy Altidore’s hamstring hasn’t recovered in time.

 

DeAndre Yedlin, D/M, Sunderland (England)

Why he’s here: The 22-year-old Seattle native has started Sunderland’s past four Premier League games at right-back, helping the Black Cats go 1-1-2 and climb out of the relegation zone during that span.

What this means: The trust that manager Sam Allardyce has shown in the Tottenham loanee has been rewarded, as Yedlin’s sometimes suspect defensive game has improved substantially in recent weeks. Will it be enough to convince Klinsmann to play the speedster on the back line rather than the wing later this month? Maybe.

 

Cooling down

Jozy Altidore, F, Toronto FC (MLS)

Why he’s here: Despite dropping weight and changing his training routine in an effort to avoid the hamstring injuries that have, uh, hamstrung him at three of the Americans’ past four major international tournaments, the 26-year-old missed TFC ‘s season opener with a recurrence of the ailment.

What this means: While Altidore — who scored in the national team’s first two games of 2016 — is expected to return to the Reds’ lineup before the Americans’ two qualifiers, the layoff is sure to cost him crucial match fitness ahead of the qualifiers.

 

Tim Howard, G, Everton (England)

Why he’s here: After a decade as the Toffees’ undisputed No. 1, Howard, who turned 37 on Sunday, lost his starting job to Spaniard Joel Robles last month.

What this means: Klinsmann had planned to rotate his keepers heading into this summer’s Copa America Centenario, but it’s hard to see Howard getting the nod for this month’s games ahead of Guzan if the latter keeps on playing in the Premier League.

 

Jermaine Jones, M, Colorado Rapids (MLS)

Why he’s here: Jones signed with the Rapids last week, officially beginning the six-game suspension that will rule him out of both March qualifiers.

What this means: While he won’t be available for the U.S. this month, the 34-year-old German-American remains one of Klinsmann’s most trusted veterans. As long as Jones can stay healthy and keep his hands off referees, he’ll be on the Copa squad (and likely on the field).

 

Christian Pulisic, M, Borussia Dortmund (Germany)

Why he’s here: The 17-year-old captured the imagination of American fans when he appeared in four consecutive Bundesliga games (one start) in January and February. But Klinsmann is wisely preaching patience with the youngster, who has since been returned to the German power’s under-19 squad.

What this means: Pulisic remains the brightest talent in the American youth ranks, but there’s no need to rush him into the senior team right now. However, Pulisic could well be with the U.S. U-23s for their two-leg Olympic playoff against Colombia later this month if coach Andi Herzog receives Dortmund’s blessing.

 

Tim Ream, D, Fulham (England)

Why he’s here: The former New York Red Bull’s run of 20 consecutive starts for Fulham ended in January. Since then, Ream has appeared in the Cottagers’ lineup just once.

What this means: Ream started the Americans’ final two matches of 2015 at left back, but it’s hard to see him reprising that role this month given his lack of recent playing time. Look for Johnson to get the nod there instead.

Ian Darke to remain ESPN’s lead soccer broadcaster through 2020

Ian Darke has signed on to stay with ESPN as its lead soccer broadcaster in the United States through 2020 as the rights for the World Cup shift to Fox. Hired by ESPN in 2010, Darke will remain as part of the network’s primary commentary team for U.S. men’s and women’s national team matches and for this year’s European Championship, which runs from June 10 to July 10.He has signed a multi-year contract, ESPN announced on Tuesday. “Ian is one of the finest English-language commentators in the world and his work has elevated our overall presentation of soccer since he joined ESPN,” ESPN’s senior coordinating producer Amy Rosenfeld said. “Ian has become a destination listen and has the proven ability to appeal to a wide audience. We are thrilled he will continue as an integral member of our team for years to come.”ESPN is also working to complete a deal for U.S. English-language rights to the 2020 Euros plus European qualifying matches for the 2018 World Cup, the 2020 Euros and the other international matches involving UEFA teams on FIFA dates.”I don’t see any point in moving,” Darke said last weekend in a production trailer outside blustery Upton Park in London, where he was preparing to call West Ham’s Premier League match against Sunderland for BT Sport. “I love covering the U.S. games. ESPN have been one of the best things that have happened in my career, really.”Darke gained prominence for his call of Landon Donovan’s injury-time goal against Algeria in 2010 that advanced the Americans to the World Cup knockout stage. ESPN made him its lead broadcaster three months later, and he announced weekly Premier League matches for ESPN through 2012-13. He switched his England base to BT when NBC took over Premier League rights. arke thinks switching back and forth from a European network to an American one is a seamless transition.”The audience is that much more sophisticated in the United States now. People know what they’re watching; they’re watching the European leagues every week,” he said. “I think it would be an insult to the audience to try to sort of tailor it in some kind of dumbed-down way. They appear to appreciate the way we do it, anyway. So absolutely no need to change.”He does enjoy the greater comfort of broadcast booths in U.S. stadiums.”Today I will have to sort of almost like vault over a sort of a little metal fence to get into our commentary position,” he said. “We’re always outdoors and there’s never luxurious desks. There’s never enough place to put your notes, and there’s wind and rain.  He will be back in the U.S. to call the Americans’ World Cup qualifier against Guatemala on March 29 at Columbus, Ohio. He gets up to speed before U.S. matches when ESPN meets with coach Jurgen Klinsmann.”I do think the team is in a bit of a difficult place,” Darke said. “I do think the qualifying will be harder than it’s been for some time because the young players who he is bringing through, not enough of them really so far have proved themselves up to performing at the kind of level that the team was used to when they had Donovan and [Clint] Dempsey and Tim Howard at his peak. They’re kind of looking to rebuild and find a new generation of stars.”While Fox has U.S. rights to the next three World Cups through 2026, ESPN is maintaining its hold on the Euros. The 2020 tournament will be played in 13 cities in 13 different UEFA members.”It’s going to be like a tour of European capitals,” he said. “We’re going to feel kind of like tourists.”

3/11/16 MLS wk2, Champ League, Games of Wk

So I love this time of Year – Champions League and Europa down to the Sweet 16 – 2nd legs, MLS Season Opening, and the League Races in Europe heating up – especially in the EPL. So lets start with US Major League soccer- MLS got off to a great start this past weekend with Portland outlasting Columbus 2-1 after raising the MLS Champions Banner – check out this National Anthem done the right way.  Seattle and Sporting KC was also a great game a 1-0 KC win as close to 45K looked on in Seattle.  This weekend has NYCFC as Lampard, Pirlo, Diskarud and David Villa host Toronto FC and Bradley, Altidore and Giovincho at Yankee Stadium on ESPN2 at 5pm.  San Jose shows off the Superbowl Stadium as they host the defending Champs Portland.  All 4 teams opened with victories.

Champions League was equally intriguing this mid week as Portugal’s Benefica advances to the Elite 8 for the first time ever, while Real Madrid advance and PSG and Ibra outlasted Chelsea at home 2-0 to advance 4-2 on aggregate.  This week has Arsenal down 2-0 trying to stave off elimination at Barcelona on Wed, while Bayern Munich and Juventus battle in Germany tied at 2-2.  Both games on Fox Sports Wednesday at 2:45 pm.  Tues 2:45 on Fox Sports – Man City will look to move to their first ever Quarterfinals up 3-1 over Kiev, while Athletico Madrid host Dutch power PSV Eindhoven tied at 0-0.  Remember if you miss the games – they are usually played over on Fox Sports 2 and Fox Soccer all night with 30 minute highlight show on Fox Sports 1 between 12:30 and 2 am so set those DVRs.  Europa League Action saw Liverpool beat Man U at home, while Dortmund blasted Tottenham in Germany, return legs are next Thursday on Fox Sports and ESPN3.

Congrats to the USWNT – with big wins over 3 of the top 4 teams in the World in the She Believe’s Cup – a Nice warm-up for the Olympics this summer. The US Men return to World Cup Qualifying next Friday on the road at Guatamala 10 pm on beIn Sports and NBC Universal, while the U-23 Men start their 2 game playoff with Columbia at 4:30 pm Fri on Fox Sports 1.

Champions League

Europa League Wrap-up – Liverpool beat Man U and Dortmund Crushes Tottehnam

Who has edge Bayern vs Juve tied at 2 going to Bayern.

Barca’s Iniesta pinpoints Arsenal’s Danger Man

Champions League Goalkeeper Watch Wed as Barcelona’s Ter Stegan faces Arsenal’s Petre Cech, and Juve’s Buffon vs Bayern’s Manual Nuer on Fox Sports 2:45 pm.

Look at Ter Stegan’s Saves Last Week Barcelona vs Arsenal

Europa League Wrap-up – Liverpool beat Man U and Dortmund Crushes Tottehnam

The Hazard Shirt Swap with Di Maria at Half Time?

Zlatan Provides Answers as PSG outlast Chelsea at home

Renaldo easier to guard than Messi – says Chiellini

Barca looking for Treble back to back

Ibra – Champions League is Special

Ibra Goal King of UCL-

Real lacks consistency Admits Ronaldo

Could Premier League lose a Champ League spot to Italy?

MLS –

Giovincho

MLS off to Great Start

MLS Ambition Rankings – Grant Wahl SI

Power Rankings Wk1 EPSN FC

Power Rankings After Week 1

Podcast with US Forward Herculez Gomez on how far MLS has come

Columbus Higuain Spectacular Bicycle Kick in 2-1 loss at Portland 

MLs Goal of week voting – in a Week with lots of Goals!

Orlando’s 60K fans is 5th largest in the World this weekend scores 2 in ET to tie 

Has MLS Exodus of players hurt the league?  Carlisle ESPN FC

GOAL’s MLS Preview

Soccer Superstar Andrea Pirlo loves wondering NY City without the Fanfare NY Times

 GAMES THIS WEEK

Sat, March 12: 

7:45 am NBCSN         Norwich vs Man City  

10 am NBCSN           Stoke vs Southampton

10 am USA                Bournemouth vs Swansea

12:30 pm Fox Sprts 2  Everton vs Chelsea – FA Cup Quarters

Sun, March 13: 

9:30 am FS1              Arsenal vs Watford – FA Cup Quarters

9:30 am FS2              Man U vs West Ham – FA Cup Quarters

10 am NBCSN           Liverpool vs Chelsea

12 noon NBCSN         Aston Villa vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox Sp2      Dortmund vs Mainz

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

7 pm Fox Sports 1      San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers,

Mon, March 14: 

4 pm NBCSN             Leicester City vs New Castle (Tim Howard +Arlo White)

Tues, Mar 15  –Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1    Man City vs Dynamo Kiev  3-1

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2  Athletico vs PSV Eindhoven 0-0

Wed, Mar 16  –Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1    Barcelona vs Arsenal  2-0

2:45 pm Fox Sport1    Bayern Munich vs Juventus 2-2 

Thurs, Mar 17 – UEFA Europa League (Rd of 16 2nd legs)

1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Bayer Leverkusen vs. Villarreal
1:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Valencia vs. Athletic Bilbao

4 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Manchester United vs. Liverpool
4 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Borussia Dortmund
4 p.m., ESPN 3 Lazio vs. Sparta Prague, Anderlecht vs. Shakhtar Donetsk, Sevilla vs. Basel, Braga vs. Fenerbahçe

Fri, 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 29:

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

Wednesday, March 30

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

US

US Ladies beat France – 5 things we learned

US Ladies Beat Germany win She Believes Cup

US Perry Kitchen moves from DC United to Scottish Club Hearts

How US Players Did

EPL

Is the EPL Title Race Over?

Title Race has Twists and Turns Coming – ESPNFC

EPL Run Down the End

Trending in the EPL

Man City Still hopes for title Run

 

Juve’s GK Buffon sets record for Shutout 836 minutes – 100 minutes to go to break Serie A record.

Indy 11

Interview with former Indy 11 Keeper Kristian Nicht (das Boot) now at Minn. United.

Desert Diary –

11 falls to OC Blues in Arizona Preseason game

Single Game Seats on Sale – as low as $11

Stay Tuned as Carmel FC – plans to have a Group Night at a game this summer –more details to come.

 

 

 

 

Portland stays on top, Dallas makes early move, D.C. tumbles

While there was no change at the top, several teams moved places in the rankings after a wild opening day of the season.

  1. Portland Timbers(no change)

The champs began 2016 the way they closed out 2015 — with a 2-1 win over Columbus Crew SC. Fanendo Adi’s excellent form has carried over to the new campaign, which is a very good sign for the Timbers.

  1. FC Dallas(+2)

The 2-0 win over Philadelphia was soured by Fabian Castillo being stretchered off in the closing moments, but the Texan side showed every bit of the quality that has made them MLS Cup favorites this year.

  1. Columbus Crew SC(-1)

Columbus put up a fight on the road in Portland and got an incredible overhead effort from Federico Higuain for the goal in a losing cause. They’ll feel down about the loss, but Crew SC will again be a power to be reckoned with this year.

  1. New York Red Bulls(-1)

A 2-0 loss to Toronto at home was not the way Jesse Marsch wanted to start the defense of the Supporters Shield, but it’s not like the Red Bulls didn’t create chances. This was a hiccup and nothing more.

  1. LA Galaxy(+1)

The star of the Galaxy’s emphatic 4-1 win over D.C. United was Mike Magee. Back in LA after signing as a free agent, he made a massive difference with two goals and a penalty drawn in a second half that finally showed what this Galaxy team can do — minus Giovani Dos Santos.

  1. Montreal Impact(+2)

No, Didier Drogba didn’t play and, no, it didn’t wreck everything for the Impact on the road in Vancouver. Ignacio Piatti capably picked up the slack, scoring twice as Montreal began with a win. In 2015, they didn’t win until their sixth game.

  1. Vancouver Whitecaps(-2)

No team in MLS has more confounding home form than the Whitecaps. Their 2015 struggles have carried over, at least to start. Carl Robinson needs to find a fix if Vancouver is going to meet its goals this season.

  1. Toronto FC(+4)

A Sebastian Giovinco penalty and a well-finished counter-attacking goal was all TFC needed to get an important Week 1 win away at Red Bull Arena. The Reds defense also held up well, despite having much less of the ball than New York.

  1. Sporting Kansas City(no change)

All the breaks went Sporting’s way in Seattle. That was a good thing, since Peter Vermes’ side was without its most important player, Benny Feilhaber. No matter the soft goal, that’s a confidence-building win to start the year.

  1. New England Revolution(no change)

Don’t forget that Diego Fagundez only just turned 21 in February. His goal — and what a goal it was — and two assists in Houston led the way for the Revs in an end-to-end 3-3 draw.

  1. Orlando City(+2)

As comebacks go, scoring twice in two injury-time minutes was pretty stunning in front of 60,000+ at the Citrus Bowl. Enthusiasm remains high in Central Florida and it should — players like Cyle Larin are worth the price of admission.

  1. Seattle Sounders(-5)

It couldn’t really have gone worse for the Sounders on opening day. A red card put them down a man for a full half, Stefan Frei was beaten for a soft goal and Brad Evans might be out with a shoulder injury for the foreseeable future.

  1. New York City FC(+3)

It might take Patrick Vieira a little time to figure out this MLS thing, but as long as NYCFC’s new boss is playing the kids and letting them attack, his team will be fun to watch.

  1. San Jose Earthquakes(no change)

For what seems like the 73rd year in a row, the Quakes will be led by Chris Wondolowski’s goal-scoring exploits. Wondo has 109 career goals and, with a good 2016, would enter next year with a chance at Landon Donovan’s league record.

  1. Houston Dynamo(no change)

Houston’s new attacking talent, including former Philadelphia men Cristian Maidana and Andrew Wenger, are already making a difference for the Dynamo. Now to fix the defending, which was exposed by New England.

  1. Real Salt Lake(+1)

RSL had a victory snatched away from them on the road in Orlando. On one hand, they were in position, in added time, to win. On the other, the failure of concentration from 2-0 up doesn’t augur well for the season.

  1. D.C. United(-6)

Lamar Neagle needed only five minutes to get settled into the United attack with a goal, but Ben Olsen’s team was taken apart by the Galaxy in the second half. Looking down the bench, there might not be much to help if things go south.

  1. Philadelphia Union(no change)

It’s a good thing the Union have finally settled on a goalkeeper of the present and future in Andre Blake, because it appears they’ll need his services quite a bit over the course of 2016.

  1. Chicago Fire(no change)

Without the discipline and understanding to make it work, a pressing game is nothing more than an invitation for opponents to pick you apart. The Fire provided the latter on Sunday, giving Veljko Paunovic plenty to think about.

  1. Colorado Rapids(no change)

The Rapids picked up right where they left off in 2016, on the losing end of match. But there were signs of life from Colorado’s new group, so perhaps a change in direction is in the offing.Jason Davis 

Record-setting Buffon keeps Juve on title track

Terry Daley,AFP 16 hours ago

 

Rome (AFP) – Juventus stayed on course for a fifth straight Serie A title by maintaining their three-point lead with a 2-0 win at Atalanta on Sunday that saw Gianluigi Buffon reach 836 minutes without conceding a goal, a record in the three-points-for-a-win era. Juve responded to Napoli drawing level at the top on Saturday with a 3-1 win over Chievo by taking their league unbeaten run to 17 wins in 18 and moving up to 64 points in Bergamo.Andrea Barzagli’s 24th minute tap in and a superb solo effort from youngster Mario Lemina were enough to beat a tough but blunt home side.”There’s still a long way to go because second and third are in touching distance. Last year we had a 14-point advantage but this year it’s only three,” said an unsatisfied coach Massimiliano Allegri to Mediaset.Captain Buffon had to deal with very little at Atalanta and now is third in the all-time clean sheet list.Against Sassuolo on Friday he can overtake Dino Zoff, who went 903 minutes without conceding for Juventus in 1972/73.Buffon is also now within touching distance of the all-time record of 929 minutes established by AC Milan keeper Sebastiano Rossi in 1993/94.”We’re not even thinking about his record. What matters is making sure that we finish a point ahead of everyone else,” insisted Allegri.Inter Milan kept pace with the pack in the race for Champions League qualification after easily seeing off flatlining Palermo 3-1 to win for just the fourth time in 2016.Adem Ljajic’s low 11th minute strike, Mauro Icardi’s deft 12th of the season 12 minutes later and a diving header from Ivan Perisic nine minutes after the break see Inter stay fifth on 51 points.They are two behind Fiorentina and five behind third-placed Roma, who walloped Paulo Sousa’s Viola 4-1 on Friday.Palermo reacted well to going two down so early and pulled a goal back through a sliding Franco Vazquez finish on the stroke of half-time.But Giuseppe Iachini’s side haven’t won in seven and are now just a point above the relegation zone following Sunday’s defeat and third-from-bottom Frosinone’s 2-0 win over Udinese earlier in the day.”We deserved to be three up at half-time, but made a silly mistake to let them back into the game. We have to improve on that,” said Inter coach Roberto Mancini.The win for Inter also sees them extend their lead on AC Milan to four points after their local rivals’ own Champions League chances took a huge hit at Sassuolo.Sinisa Mihajlovic’s side fell 2-0 thanks to Alfred Duncan’s first half piledriver and Nicola Sansone’s well-worked fifth of the season 18 minutes before the end.”We dominated the first half-hour, but as often happens we failed to turn that pressure into a goal,” said Mihajlovic, who was sent off for dissent when referee Piero Giacomelli didn’t stop the play when Andrea Bertolacci went down in the built up to Sansone’s winner.”We cannot keep creating four or five scoring opportunities only to concede the first shot on goal.”Genoa move level on 31 points with city rivals Sampdoria, who eased their own relegation fears with a 3-0 hammering of rock-bottom Verona on Saturday, while Carpi are six points from safety after their own goalless draw at Bologna.Ciro Immobile missed a first half penalty as mid-table Torino drew 1-1 with Lazio in Sunday’s early game.Andrea Belotti had already opened the scoring for the home side with a 12th minute tap-in when Italy hopeful Immobile blasted over nine minutes later, and Lucas Biglia punished that miss with a spot-kick of his own in the 78th minute.

5 Things we Learned in US Win over France Sunday

Here are five things we learned from the U.S. women’s soccer team’s 1-0 win over France at Nissan Stadium on Sunday:

Pugh is the real deal. Forward Mallory Pugh, 17, looks like a star in the making for the U.S. women. The 5-foot-4 forward, who will attend UCLA in the fall, last month became the youngest player in U.S. women’s team history to play in an Olympic qualifying game.On Sunday, Pugh showcased her speed and her skills, assisting on the only goal of the game. She started her fifth straight national game, meaning her chances of making this summer’s U.S. Olympic squad are looking better and better.“I’m really pleased with where she’s come in the tournament,” U.S. coach Jill Ellis said. “I think it’s not just the mental piece, but also the physical dimension of these games. It’s brand new to her at this level and she’s handled it masterfully.”

he soccer support was superb. The crowd of 25,363 that watched the U.S. beat France was not only the biggest crowd to watch women’s soccer in Tennessee, but was also the biggest crowd the U.S. women had played in front of in their last eight contests.In the opening night of this SheBelieves Cup last week in Tampa, Fla., the crowd was 13,027. Remember, too, that the U.S. men’s soccer team drew 44,835 here for a game against Guatemala last year, smashing the record for a men’s game in Tennessee“You come in and it’s electric,” Ellis said of the environment. “These fans are phenomenal and this team thrives on that environment.”

 

Solo stands out. In many games, the U.S. women’s team is so dominant that goalie Hope Solo hardly touches the ball. But in Sunday’s closely contested game, Solo offered another good example of why she’s considered the world’s best netminder.When the Americans were on their heels in the first half, Solo came up with some crucial saves — tipping one shot over the crossbar, stopping another point-blank attempt and then smothering a dangerous corner kick right near the goal line.“Such is goalkeeping,” Solo said. “You never know what is going to happen in any game.”

It’s a team in transition. The Americans did earn the victory, but didn’t look like their familiar well-oiled machine in the first half. One of the significant reasons for that was the opponent, an excellent French team. But the U.S. team is also doing some adjusting to new personnel and a new style after a handful of departures from last year’s World Cup-winning squad.One area of change is in the midfield, where Megan Rapinoe (injury) and Lauren Holiday (retirement) are missing and players including Morgan Brian and Lindsey Horan are getting more responsibility.“We just have to ride the wave a little bit,” U.S. midfielder Carli Lloyd said. “We just have to go through those growing pains and be patient, really.”

This tournament is critical. The Americans blew through their regional Olympic qualifying last month, winning five games by a combined score of 23-0. But the U.S. wasn’t facing the kind of quality teams it will see in Brazil at this summer’s Olympics.That’s one reason why this SheBelieves Cup is so critical, as it gives the Americans some very competitive games against three of the top five teams in the world. The U.S. has won its first two games by 1-0 scores.“France is a fantastic team and they really push you to the limit,” Ellis said. “But this is exactly why I wanted these games before the Olympics, so we can test ourselves.”Reach John Glennon at 615-259-8262 and on Twitter @glennonsports.

The Premier League title run-in is sure to have twists and turns

Given the week-by-week reaction to the big moments that have defined this most unpredictable of Premier League seasons, it’s worth remembering that we’re not yet near the end of the title race.Last weekend, after Riyad Mahrez scored against Watford to put Leicester City five points clear of Tottenham and eight ahead of Arsenal, Foxes striker Jamie Vardy naturally described the 1-0 win as “massive.”It certainly felt like a huge step but, in fact, things are just getting started. March is around the stage of the season that Sir Alex Ferguson’s infamous “squeaky-bum time” phrase is revived and, repetitive as it may have become, there’s a reason for it.No one in the history of English football knew better what it took to win a title, and the 13-time champion understood that things can change at this time of year. Every game has a psychological significance beyond any that has come before associated with it; every step feels longer than the last.Deeper qualities start to tell, from experience to freshness, and it’s a dynamic that is seen every season, regardless of the details of the race in question. This campaign, for example, has been commonly painted as unique because of Leicester’s incredible rise but how does it compare to the past 20 years?What is the leaders’ pace?Since 1994-95, based on the records of the leaders and eventual champions after 29 games, Leicester’s 60 points ranks them joint 17th out of 25 and ahead of just five teams.That is quite low, but the identity of some of the teams they are ahead of is interesting, in that at least three are among the most admired in Premier League history, thus suggesting Leicester’s record far from poor.Man United in 1995-96 (58 points) and 1996-97 (57), Arsenal in 1997-98 (57) and Man United in 1997-98 (59) and 2002-03 (58 points) all had fewer points at this stage, while Leicester also have the same record as Man United’s Treble-winning side of 1998-99 (both P29, W17, D9, L3.)How tight is the race itself?Out of 21 title races since 1995-96, Leicester have the 10th-best lead over second place, at five points. They also have the 10th-best lead over third, at eight, but just the joint 12th-highest over fourth: 10. Given that, it is reasonable to surmise that Manchester City are probably just about still in the race — especially as they have a game in hand — although history suggests it is unlikely.How often has a lead been overturned with just nine games to go?

 

In the past 21 seasons, a leader after 29 games has been overtaken on just four occasions:

1995-96: Newcastle were three clear of Man United and had a game in hand. Man United won the league by four points.

1997-98: Man United were 11 clear of Arsenal, who had three games in hand and eventually won the league by one point.

2002-03: Arsenal were five clear of Man United, who eventually won the league by five points.

2011-12: Man United were one point clear of Man City — and would extend that to an eight-point gap with five games to go — but City won the title on goal difference. That should give all the chasers some hope, but is of course dependent on Leicester City dropping points.

 

How often have first-time challengers won the league?One theory is that, in order to finally lift a trophy, you have to go close at least once in order to “learn” how to win it. Is that true?Of 23 Premier League title winners since 1992-93, 19 were either champions or finished runners-up the previous season. The remaining four had all finished third and only Manchester City in 2011-12 had no recent experience of a race’s intensity. Every other outside challenger, such as Norwich in 1992-93, Newcastle in 1995-96 and Ipswich in 2000-01, has fallen away.You actually have to go back to 1980-81, when Aston Villa went from seventh place to win the title, for anything even close to what Leicester are currently doing. The same applies to Tottenham; both would have to break the mould were they to finish the season on top.What is a champions’ run-in?Historically, what has been the required points return of a champion in the run-in?The nine-game average during the past 20 years has been 20 points, which requires at least six wins. By contrast, some teams have won just four of their past nine but each — Man United in 2000-01, Arsenal in 2003-04 and Man United in 2012-13 — already had a big lead over their closest challengers.Two sides — Man United in 1999-2000 and Arsenal in 2001-02 — have won all of their remaining games. If the Gunners, or Man City, are to prevail this season they will probably have to go on a similar run, especially if Leicester maintain their current form.Miguel Delaney is 

 

On New York’s Bustling Streets, a Soccer Megastar Roams Freely

By JEFF OLOIZIAFEB. 29, 2016

He can’t make a move in Italy without attracting fans, but in New York, Andrea Pirlo is just a regular guy.

To many people around the world, Andrea Pirlo is a god. As a soccer player for some of the planet’s biggest clubs, he has two Champions League trophies and six league titles. In 2006, he won the World Cup with Italy, where he has three times been player of the year, and where his nicknames include ‘‘Mozart’’ and ‘‘The Professor.’’ His 2013 autobiography, ‘‘I Think Therefore I Play,’’ was a best seller in Italy. There are social media accounts devoted entirely to his beard. A quick Google search of his name returns results like ‘‘37 Reasons Why Andrea Pirlo Is the World’s Greatest Living Human Man.’’ He has met two popes.

But none of that matters in New York City, where Pirlo is standing on a street corner just a block from Herald Square in Manhattan. Last summer, he surprised fans the world over by signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with New York City FC, a first-year team in Major League Soccer. At 36, the Brescia native covers Vanity Fair and GQ in Italy, but today is his first solo magazine shoot in the U.S. Despite a steady drizzle that has interrupted nearly two weeks of mid-November sunshine, Pirlo shows up from training perfectly coiffed in a Massimo Piombo houndstooth blazer and a bright orange cardigan. A team of photographer’s assistants and stylists huddles around a laptop screen while their subject stands statuelike in the rain. Back home, such a happening would most likely devolve into a mob scene, but here most onlookers just file by — until a trio on holiday from Milan spots him. ‘‘Ciao, Andrea!’’ one of them shrieks. A few tourists also take notice, snapping photos on their phones. Pirlo gives a modest smile before returning to his pose.Pirlo’s American life couldn’t be more different than that of M.L.S.’s other most famous import, David Beckham. Whereas Beckham drove through Los Angeles in a customized Escalade with his jersey number emblazoned on the grille, Pirlo prefers getting around Manhattan by foot. In the evenings, he strolls along the High Line or goes golfing in the Bronx. In October, he took his girlfriend to an Alberto Burri exhibition at the Guggenheim, where they were free to explore, undisturbed. Occasionally, he’ll stop by Felidia, the homey Italian restaurant owned by a friend’s mother, for a glass of wine. ‘‘Just being able to go out to dinner at the trendiest restaurants — in Italy, I can’t do that,’’ says Pirlo. Anonymity is a delightful novelty for him, after years of contending with fanatical supporters and near-constant police escorts in Europe. ‘‘There were times we were kept in our dressing room until late at night because it wasn’t safe to go home,’’ he says. ‘‘Our bus would get attacked, the tires slit.’’ When his contract with Juventus, the Turin-based club owned by the Fiat scion Andrea Agnelli, expired last June, Pirlo began considering a move to America, where he’d be just another player. Never mind that he’d be giving up the chartered planes and five-star amenities of top-flight European football. Months later, he can hardly believe his luck. ‘‘I always wanted to come here to play,’’ he says, ‘‘but I never thought it would be so soon.’’Soccer fans in New York may be saying the same thing. In a city rich with superstar athletes — Alex Rodriguez, Eli Manning and Carmelo Anthony among them — Pirlo is arguably the most decorated (if under the radar). Despite arriving halfway through last season, he still finished third on his team in assists, and his ability to build play from his midfield position helped stabilize a roster long on raw talent. ‘‘He’s someone you watch growing up,’’ says Khiry Shelton, one of N.Y.C.F.C.’s most promising young players and, at 22, 14 years Pirlo’s junior. ‘‘To be able to play with him now is unreal.’’M.L.S., too, seems eager to capitalize on its good fortune. Don Garber, the league’s commissioner and a former N.F.L. executive, calls the impact of Pirlo’s arrival second only to Beckham’s. ‘‘I can’t tell you how many people peripherally connected to soccer emailed me and said, ‘Oh my God, I need to go to a New York City game,’ ’’ he says. That the Italian midfielder’s jersey is already the league’s fourth best seller is a hopeful sign that N.Y.C.F.C.’s hefty investment will pay off: At $2.3 million, Pirlo’s annual salary is nearly 46 times that of the league’s lowest-paid players, several of whom hold second jobs.For his part, Pirlo seems more concerned with the typical expat’s challenges and discoveries. Eight months in, he still orders his clothes from Italy. He’s been reading up on the rules of American football, which he has begun to watch regularly. As his English improves, he has set his sights on another kind of goal: seeing a Broadway show. In less than two years, his contract with N.Y.C.F.C. will be up. And then? ‘‘I don’t rule out the idea of staying here,’’ he says, smiling. ‘‘That could be something interesting.’’

RECAP – INDY ELEVEN 0 : 1 OC BLUES FC

Eleven ends Arizona stay with hard fought loss in physical affairMar 7, 2016

 

Indy Eleven Ends Arizona Stay with 0-1 Defeat to OC Blues FC

Physical Game Sees USL Side Score Lone Tally in First Half
CASA GRANDE, ARIZONA (Monday, March 7, 2016) – Indy Eleven pressed to recreate the second half scoring punch it enjoyed on Friday, but couldn’t find an equalizer against Orange County Blues FC in a 0-1 defeat at the Grande Sports World complex. The result ended an eight-day stay in Arizona for the “Boys in Blue,” who will head back to Indianapolis tomorrow to continue their preseason preparations.

A physical 90 minutes began with OC Blues having the better of the chances, although no shots would test Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch until he made a fine one-handed save at his right post in the 19th minute.

The USL side looked to employ long balls over the Indy backline on the windy evening, and the tactic worked in the 36th minute when a Blues FC attacker got goal side on an Eleven defender while chasing down a 60-yard ball from the back. With Busch forced to come off his line, the attacker chipped the ball over the onrushing ‘keeper and into the upper right corner to move the scoreboard for Orange County.

Indy Eleven’s best chance of the first half came four minutes later. Midfielder Don Smart whipped in a low cross from the right flank, but the pass skipped through the six-yard box and just past the runs of both midfielder Duke Lacroix and forward Wojciech Wojcik, the latter who got the start after his hat trick Friday versus Arizona United FC.

While the second half was controlled largely by the “Boys in Blue,” halftime substitute goalkeeper Keith Cardona would be pressed into action early in the 48th minute, first punching a drilled effort from the right side of the area into the ground before holding on to a hard shot from 20 yards out that followed.

Wojcik’s teammates would start to find him soon after, with guest midfielder Mike Klain supplying a pair of fine crosses from the right in the 52nd and 53rd minutes to create chances, the first missing just wide and the second forcing the Blues backstop into a save. In the 64th minute it was midfielder Dragan Stojkov providing a cutback cross from the left endline, but “Woj” would be robbed from the corner of the six by a leaping, one-handed stop.

The chances would dry up for both sides in the last 20 minutes, but Indy still managed to ask some questions of the Blues defense down the stretch. Upfield for a set piece, defender Greg Janicki nearly nodded home midfielder Dylan Mares’ free kick in the 72nd minute, while Lacroix’s near angle shot off Smart’s far post cross in the 84th minute would force one last save.

After returning home Tuesday, Indy Eleven will stay inside the Hoosier State for the remainder of its build up to its 2016 NASL season opener on Saturday, April 2, at the Tampa Bay Rowdies.  The squad will resume exhibition action this Saturday, March 12, in the Indianapolis area with a closed-door scrimmage against new USL side FC Cincinnati at 11:00 a.m. ET. The game will be closed to the public but open to members of the media, who are asked to email John@IndyEleven.com for more information.

Visit www.IndyEleven.com/preseason for the full details on Indy Eleven’s preseason itinerary leading up to the team’s third season of NASL play.
Scoring Summary:
OCB – goal 36’
Indy Eleven 1st Half XI (4-2-3-1, L -> R): Jon Busch; Marco Franco, Nemanja Vuković, Colin Falvey (Greg Janicki 35’), Lovel Palmer; Gorka Larrea, Brad Ring; Duke Lacroix, Siniša Ubiparipović (Eamon Zayed 30’), Don Smart; Wojciech Wojcik
Indy Eleven 2nd Half XI (4-2-3-1): Keith Cardona; Marco Franco, Greg Janicki, Cory Miller, Lovel Palmer (Don Smart 67’); Nemanja Vuković (Duke Lacroix 67’), Dylan Mares; Dragan Stojkov, Eamon Zayed, Mike Klain; Wojciech Wojcik

 

 

A Full House in Seattle for the Opener

3/4/16 MLS Season Kickoff Sun, Champ League Tues/Wed,Games of Week

So MLS – US Major League Soccer – Kicks off this Weekend for its __ Season.  I have to say after taking in the exciting Portland victory over Columbus in last season’s Final at Crew Stadium I am as excited about this upcoming MLS season as any in a long time. I know its not Europe or Champions League – but there are again some exciting new signees, tons of US national team players and quite honestly some players I wouldn’t mind seeing – (NYCFC – Pirlo, Lampard, Villa; Orlando with Kaka, LA with with Gerard, dos Santos, Robbie Keane; Toronto FC with Altidore, Giovincho, and Bradley, Portland – the defending Champs with Nat Borchers and Nagbe and of course still my favorite team – Seattle with Dempsey & Chad Morris.  Still not sure how I will see all the games I want but certainly when these teams are playing I will be watching.   Sunday is Soccer Night in America as ESPN and Fox Sports 1 will feature National Games of the Week – this week its defending champs Portland and their amazing home crowd hosting runner’s up Columbus Crew at 4:30 pm on ESPN, with Seattle and the Best Home Crowd in America facing Sporting KC at USMNT star Matt Beasler at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.

So lovely EPL games this past midweek as Leicester City managed to hang on to their 1 game lead over Tottenham and 2 over Arsenal despite their tie with West Brom.  Only Man United, West Ham and Liverpool took advantage to slide up a very tight table as the battle for top 4 (CL) and top 6 (Europa) intensifies with just 10 games left in the EPL Season.  Arsenal gets a chance to stop their slide and catch up to the #2 team Sat 7:45 am at Tottenham on NBCSN.

Finally both Champions League and Europa League Sweet 16 action return next week as Real Madrid return home Tuesday on FS1 2:45 to face Roma with a 2-1 lead and Chelsea takes a 1-2 deficit into its home match with PSG on Wed 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1.  Europa has 2 solid games on Thurs as Liverpool host Man U at 3 pm FS1, and Tottenham travels to face German power Borrusia Dortmand at 1 pm FS2.

GAMES OF THE WEEK

 

Tues, March 8 –Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                Real Madrid vs Roma                                               

2:45 pm Fox Soccer    Wolfsburg vs Gent

Wed, March 9 –Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                Chelsea 1 vs PSG 2

2:45 pm Fox Sport2    Zenit vs Benfica

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

 Thur, Mar 9 -Europa League

1 pm Fox Sports 2        Borusia Dortmund vs Tottenham

3 pm Fox Sport1,ESPN3  Liverpool vs Man United     

US Ladies beat France – 5 things we learned

Champions League

What to Watch 4 Video UCL Return Legs

Real 2 v Roma 0 Preview  Tues 2:45 Fox Sports 1

Wolfsburg 3 – 2 Gent   Tues 2:45 Fox Sports Local

Down 2-0 Roma looks to score first at Real Madrid

Chelsa 1 – PSG 2 Preview Wed 2:45 Fox Sports 1

Zenit 0 – Benefica 1 Preview  Wed 2:45 FS 2

PSG man Confident they handle Chelsea

Gent believes in Belgium miracle

 Nari2

Congrats to Indiana Soccer Manager of the Year, Carmel FC’s Nari Chapman!

 andyfray

Former Carmel FC Director Andy Fray was one of the 4 Finalist for Volunteer of the Year.  Congrats to you and thanks for all you have done for Carmel FC.

MLS

Season Starts Video

ESPN MLS Predictions

MLS Preseason Power Rankings  Jason Davis

MLS Power Rankings SI – Luvi Bird

Can Portland Repeat ?

What to Watch for Opening Day

Biggest Questions Facing All 20 Teams as MLS Season Kicks Off

Can Promotion/Relegation Ever Work in the US?

Nat Borchers thirst for knowledge will help “the Beard and the Timbers” in title defense

LA Galaxy Crash out of CCL in 4-0 loss to Mexican Santos Laguna

Armchair Analyst Rimando the Wall for RSL

Examining David Villa’s role for NYCFC

Can Larin replicate his rookie year heroics?

US 17 YO Christian Pulisic making Progress at Dortmund

US Fabian Johnson Scores 6th goal for Monchengladbach

Armchair Analyst Dempsey’s New Role for Club and Country – MLS.com

US gets the FIFA President It Wanted – Grahn Wahl SI

Jozy Altidore on Copa, Howard and Toronto FC

Copa Schedule –Philly.com

WORLD

Buffon up to 746 minutes without conceding a goal in Serie A

Ranking the Top Teams in the World

Juve Bonucci Key in Win over Inter Milan

Athletico win 3rd time in row at Real Madrid and complete La Liga Wrap-up

Real’s Benzema Out for Month with Knee

Germany Wrap-Up

Europe Superleague – ESPN FC -Marcotti

Europe Happenings –ESPN FC Marcotti

EPL

Title contenders All Stumble mid Week

What’s Trending World Wide ESPN FC

Man City’s Peligrino’s Gamble Pays off in Cup Win over Liverpool 

Backup Man City Keeper Caballero Saves 3 PKs in League Cup Shootout win over Liverpool

Liverpool’s Cup Final Defeat shows how far Klopp needs to Go

Klopps record in Cup Finals Needs Work

Reds Must Bounce Back

Europa League Round of 16 Draw

Tottenham show title credentials in Comeback over Swansea

Man U 18 yo Marcus Rashford Scores 2 again in defeat of Arsenal

Man U Youngsters Dominate Arsenal

Van Gaal’s Flop Was Trending

Van Gaal and United Impress

Cost of Players Man U vs Arsenal

Leicester Manager Claudio Ranieri proves he will take risks to chase the Title

Leicester must Avoid Complacency in Title Run – up 2 with 12 weeks left.

EPL Table

GAMES THIS WEEK

Sat, March 5: 

7:30 am NBCSN           Tottenham vs Arsenal

9:30 a.m., Fox Sport 1 Augsburg vs. Bayer Leverkusen
9:30 a.m., Fox Sport 2 VfL Wolfsburg vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach (US Johnson)
9:30 a.m., Fox Soccer + Eintracht Frankfurt vs. Ingolstadt

10 am NBCSN                Man City vs Aston Villa

10 am NBC Live Extra Chelsea vs Stoke City (US Cameron), Southhampton vs Sunderland (US Yedlin), Everton vs West Ham

10 am beIn Sport       Real Madrid vs Celta de Vigo
12:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus: Borussia Dortmund vs. Bayern Munich (also free on Fox Sports Go, Tape Delay Sat 7 pm on FS2)

Sun, March 6: MLS Opening Weekend

8:30 am NBCSN         Crystal Palace vs Liverpool

9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1: Mainz vs. Darmstadt
11 am NBCSN           West Brom vs Man U

11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 1: Hamburg SV vs. Hertha Berlin (US John Brooks)

3 pm ESPN3              US Women vs France (Nashville, TN)

4:30 pm ESPN           Portland Timbers vs. Columbus Crew

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

Tues, March 8 –Champions League

2 pm Fox Sport2         Hull City vs Arsenal

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                Real Madrid vs Roma

2:45 pm Fox sportsnet Wolfsburg vs Gent

Wed, March 9 –Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sports 1                Chelsea 1 vs PSG 2

2:45 pm Fox Sport2    Zenit vs Benfica

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

Thurs, Mar 10

UEFA Europa League (Round of 16 first legs)

1 pm Fox Sports 2 Borussia Dortmund vs. Tottenham Hotspur 
1 pm ESPN3: Basel vs. Sevilla, Fenerbahçe vs. Braga, Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Anderlecht

3 pm Fox Sports 2 ESPN3: Liverpool vs. Manchester United
3 pm ESPN Deportes: Villarreal vs. Bayer Leverkusen
3 pm ESPN3: Athletic Bilbao vs. Valencia

Sun, March 13: 

10 am NBCSN           Liverpool vs Chelsea

12 noon                     Aston Villa vs Tottenham

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

7 pm Fox Sports 1      San Jose Earthquakes vs. Portland Timbers,

Tues, Mar 16  –Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1    Man City vs Dynamo Kiev  3-1

2:45 pm Fox Sports 2  Athletico vs PSV Eindhoven 0-0

Wed, Mar 17  –Champions League

2:45 pm Fox Sport1    Barcelona vs Arsenal  2-0

2:45 pm Fox Sport1    Bayern Munich vs Juventus 2-2

Fri, 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 Tickets 

Wednesday, March 29

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

Copa Schedule

MLS TV Schedule

 Official start times announced for all Copa America Centenario matches

February 29, 20162:01 PM ESTSam Stejskal  MLSsoccer.com

The Copa America Centenario organizing committee on Monday announced the start times to all of the tournament’s matches, with the US men’s national team set to kick off the tournament against Colombia at 9:30 pm ET at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California on Friday, June 3.The US will play their second group stage match at 8 pm ET on Tuesday, June 7 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, and will wrap Group A on Saturday, June 11 at 7 pm ET against Paraguay at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.The tournament final will be held at 8 pm ET on Sunday, June 26 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.Other notable group stage matches include a rematch of the 2015 Copa America final between Argentina and Chile in Group D on June 6 at 10 pm ET at Levi’s Stadium and a 2015 Gold Cup final rematch between Jamaica and Mexico in Group C on June 9 at 10 pm ET at the Rose Bowl.This summer’s tournament is being played in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first Copa America. Expected to be the biggest men’s soccer tournament held on US soil since the 1994 World Cup, the June event will mark the first time the Copa America will ever be held outside of South America.The tournament, which will be broadcast in the US on Fox and Univision, will take place in 10 cities across the US, including in three MLS stadiums.

2016 MLS predictions: Who will win MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, MVP?

With the MLS season kicking off on Sunday, we turned to our league writers to predict who will be this season’s most successful sides. Jeff Carlisle, Doug McIntyre, Jason Davis, Graham Parker and Noah Davis tell us who they think will win MLS Cup, the Supporters’ Shield, MVP and more.

Jeff Carlisle: FC Dallas — FCD has been steadily building up its roster with an impressive mix of youth and experience. The key will be if Max Urruti can provide the kind of consistent forward play the team lacked last season.

Doug McIntyre: LA Galaxy — Boasting what is arguably the most stacked roster in league history this season, look for Bruce Arena’s team — the MLS Cup champs in 2011, ’12 and ’14 — to return to the promised land in 2016.

Jason Davis: Columbus Crew SC — In 2015, Columbus Crew SC played some of the best soccer in the league and wound up hosting a final. Barring a disastrous series of injuries, there’s no reason to think they can’t do it again, this time finishing the job with a championship.

Graham Parker: Vancouver Whitecaps — I think this is the season that the Whitecaps roster has been building toward, and now is the time for them to come good, if they are going to come good at all. Like Portland, they might not dominate throughout the year, but I expect them to be solidly in the mix with a balanced squad at the end.

Noah Davis: Toronto FC — In 2015, TFC scored in bunches but would have struggled to defend a good U-20 side. The arrival of midfielder Will Johnson and defenders Steven Beitashour and Drew Moor should give them more bang at the back. And new arrival Clint Irwin will be in goal to clean up any mistakes.

Supporters’ Shield

Carlisle: Columbus Crew SC — The continuing imbalance in conference strength means an Eastern Conference club is likely to walk away with the Shield, and Columbus will be the biggest beneficiary.

McIntyre: LA Galaxy — With 31-year-old Dutch destroyer Nigel de Jong joining an absurdly deep squad that includes Giovani Dos Santos, Steven Gerrard — who’ll both be better this year after a full preseason in L.A. — Ashley Cole, Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes, no team will be better than the Galaxy in 2016.

J. Davis: Vancouver Whitecaps — The remarkable thing about the Caps’ second-place finish in the West last year was that they managed it with a mediocre home record. If Vancouver performs as well on the road as they did in 2015 and gets a few more wins at home, they’ll win the Shield.

Parker: FC Dallas — The West is always competitive, yet Dallas managed to take the Shield race to goal difference on the last day. The only caveat is that there will be no Blas Perez this year, having moved to Vancouver, to provide the brute-force goal threat when more subtle strategies fail. But they look to have compensated for his loss and should have enough to keep the Shield in sight.

N. Davis: FC Dallas — Mad genius Oscar Pareja nearly led his gaggle of young players to last season’s top spot but lost out on goal differential to the New York Red Bulls. If Fabian Castillo stays and Mauro Diaz remains healthy — big ifs, yes — Pareja will have them there again despite playing in the West; players like Kellyn Acosta and Jesse Gonzalez will have another year under their belts.

Western Conference champion

Carlisle: FC Dallas — While questions surround the likes of the LA Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders, Dallas retrenched through offseason acquisitions such as Urruti, Carlos Gruezo and Mauro Rosales, making them the favorites.

McIntyre: LA Galaxy — FC Dallas probably overachieved as the West’s best in 2015, and Seattle could struggle early after losing Martins to China on the eve of the new season.

J. Davis: FC Dallas — One gets the feeling that Pareja is not only on the verge of putting together a championship season with an exciting young team, but that there could be a dynasty in the making in north Texas. An extra year of experience and a few key additions make FC Dallas the pick in the West.

Parker: FC Dallas — This is set up to be the year for Dallas. The dividends of investing in youth under Pareja should be apparent this season, with the exponential improvement of those players augmented with some smart, strategic guile. Speed, talent, depth and, increasingly, experience will form this team.

N. Davis: Seattle Sounders — Any one of half a dozen teams could emerge from the brutal West, but I’ll ride with the perpetual coaching genius of Sigi Schmid and the perennial heroics of Clint Dempsey. Jordan Morris will relieve pressure with his speed, while Cristian Roldan seems set for a DeAndre Yedlin-esque breakout season.

Eastern Conference champion

Carlisle: Columbus Crew SC — A lack of defensive solidity held the Crew back last year, but the defense improved down the stretch, and Gregg Berhalter looks to have made some astute pickups in the offseason.

McIntyre: New York Red Bulls — Last year’s best regular-season squad will be hard pressed to repeat as Supporters’ Shield winners, but they’re still the East’s most complete team despite selling blue-chip center-back Miazga to Chelsea in January.

J. Davis: Columbus Crew SC — As much attention as Kei Kamara, Federico Higuain and Columbus’ wings get, it’s Crew SC’s central midfield that holds the key to their title aspirations. Wil Trapp is good and growing, while Tony Tchani can use the disappointment of the MLS Cup to become a more dependable destroyer.

Parker: Columbus Crew SC — I don’t think that the Red Bulls’ drop off will be drastic, but I also think that teams will be better prepared for them this year, and Columbus are a team who are collectively still in the ascendancy. The Crew just match up well with everyone.

N. Davis: Toronto FC — Having already discussed Toronto’s fortified defense, let’s talk about the attack. You already know about Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and 2015 MVP Sebastian Giovinco, but pay attention to silky smooth 20-year-old Marky Delgado, a developing creative force whom the TFC coaching staff loves.

Most Valuable Player

Carlisle: Mauro Diaz — The Argentine proved his fitness last year, and the rest of the league was the worse for it. Now Diaz is poised to take his game even higher.

McIntyre: Didier Drogba — He turns 38 this month, but Drogba proved to be the most physically dominant forward in MLS history after arriving last summer. If he stays healthy and comes anywhere close to his 2015 strike rate (11 goals in 11 regular-season games), the league’s two-decade-old single-year goals mark of 27 could fall.

J. Davis: Sebastian Giovinco — The saying goes: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Giovinco ain’t broke, and while the Italian forward might miss some time away on national team duty this year, he remains the most irresistible attacker in the league, hence there’s no need to “fix it” by picking anyone else for MVP.

Parker: Sebastian Giovinco — Giovinco’s an obvious choice, but he’s theobvious choice. Add in the fact that Toronto have put in the right pieces of MLS experience to strengthen their team and Giovinco’s sheer brilliance even when he’s singled out for marking, and he’s the man to beat again.

N. Davis: Michael Bradley — TFC should have MLS’s best attack and Bradley will be the facilitator. He might not produce the highlight-reel goals of Giovinco, but assuming the Italian stud’s numbers drop a bit from 2015 — due to a more productive Altidore than anything — it’s easy to see Bradley’s strong two-way play getting credit from the voters.

Timbers, Columbus top the MLS Power Rankings ahead of 2016 season

The first edition of the 2016 Major League Soccer Power Rankings looks a lot like the final standings from the 2015 season, and for good reason.

If you don’t include No. 1 — Portland, who earned it with a championship — the rest of the list turns mostly on how things shook out last year. But this being MLS, we’ll find out quickly which teams can maintain a foundation laid in 2015, which teams will fall and which of the also-rans can climb up the ladder.

1. Portland Timbers

Top spot goes to the defending champs, as is only just and right. As the season opens, the biggest question around the Timbers is whether they’ll start 2016 half as hot as they finished 2015.

2. Columbus Crew SC

Gregg Berhalter’s team will surely enter the new year hungry for redemption after their flat performance in last year’s final. All of the weapons are in place for another chance at glory.

3. New York Red Bulls

The Red Bulls lost young star Matt Miazga, but with a team-focused mentality and the leadership they possess across the squad, expect New York to be around the top of the standings all year long.

4. FC Dallas

The FC Dallas squad is still young, but that label can no longer be code for “unready.” Last year proved that Oscar Pareja’s side is on the verge of something special if it can keep the talented core intact.

5. Vancouver Whitecaps

Vancouver enters the year with significant expectations built on a 2015 campaign that probably didn’t show all of their potential. The Caps need consistent goal scoring from Octavio Rivero and a breakout year from Kekuta Manneh to meet the bar.

6. LA Galaxy

A handful of big, somewhat aging, names have joined Steven Gerrard as part of Bruce Arena’s rebuild of the Galaxy, and no one quite knows what that means yet. Can the Over the Hill Gang, MLS-style, get it done?

7. Seattle Sounders

With Obafemi Martins flipped for a profit to the Chinese Super League, more of the responsibility for the Sounders’ fortunes this year now shift to Nelson Valdez and Jordan Morris. Morris, in particular, is going to face the spotlight.

8. Montreal Impact

No one team in the Power Rankings faces possible swings as dramatic as the Impact. If Didier Drogba is healthy, committed and managed well, Montreal is a contender. If not, it’s anyone’s guess where they finish.

9. Sporting Kansas City

Sporting suffered quite a bit due to bad luck and some underwhelming performances in what proved to be a disappointing season in 2015. This campaign hinges on finding goals from the forwards, the continued excellence of Benny Feilhaber and that old Sporting swagger appearing again.

10. New England Revolution

Everyone tapped the Revs for another run to MLS Cup last year. Alas, this is MLS, and Jay Heaps’ team fell at the first hurdle to D.C. United. Now the task is adjusting to life without Jermaine Jones, no easy task.

11. D.C. United

United’s offseason probably to be more net loss than net gain. That’s how important midfielder Perry Kitchen was to Ben Olsen’s grind-it-out style. Can United succeed with the same approach swapping Marcelo Sarvas for Kitchen?

12. Toronto FC

Toronto’s Achilles’ heel in 2015 was their sieve-like defense, so the club went out and actively addressed the problem in the offseason. With a set of MLS vets in the mix, and their high-profile DPs in the attack, Toronto is raring to go.

13. Orlando City

A very strange offseason in Orlando remains the biggest talking point around a team with the talent to make the playoffs in 2016. Two-times turnover in the front office and what appears to be a question over direction make City a fascinating club to watch.

14. San Jose Earthquakes

Is improvement in the cards for the Quakes? Simon Dawkins, one of the keys to the club’s Supporters’ Shield season in 2012, is back, and Dom Kinnear has had more time to mold the club in his image.

15. Houston Dynamo

Missing out on the playoffs in the first year under Owen Coyle wasn’t all that surprising for the Dynamo. But if the club is right and Coyle is an exception to the foreign-coach-fails-in-MLS rule, 2016 will be telling.

16. New York City FC

Like Houston, New York’s biggest story is the adaptation of a foreign manager to the strangeness of MLS. Patrick Vieira doesn’t need to be a magician to fix what ails NYCFC, just really, really good in his first year in a new league.

17. Real Salt Lake

The days of RSL being an automatic selection for Western Conference contender might be over. Jeff Cassar does still have the ageless Javier Morales and Yura Movsisyan, however, so there’s at least hope for a bounce-back season.

18. Philadelphia Union

Earnie Stewart is remaking the Union in his image, a positive step out of the doom and gloom of the Nick Sakiewicz era. Still, can Philadelphia make the huge strides it will take to get themselves to the playoffs?

19. Chicago Fire

By all accounts, new Fire boss Veljko Paunovic plans to play a go-go pressing style that will, at the very least, make Chicago much more fun to watch this season. Until that style delivers points, however, they remain near the foot of the power rankings.

20. Colorado Rapids

How much difference can a high-priced goalkeeper make in MLS? Colorado did sign a striker during the winter — Shkelzen Gashi out of the Swiss league — but the biggest arrival will be USMNT man Tim Howard this summer.Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer.

MLS Preseason Power Rankings: Keys to success for each team

What are MLS coaches, executives most proud of about the league?

Plenty of talk surrounding MLS involves its needs and improvement areas, but what do top-ranking officials and coaches think has been a success?

Posted: Wed Mar. 2, 2016

In Major League Soccer more than perhaps any other league in the world, the previous season means little. Every year, the parity of the league ensures that even the teams that finished outside the playoffs just a few months prior could be the ones in the hunt for the trophy in December.It doesn’t happen magically or by accident, though. Teams have plenty of chances to overhaul their squad if necessary, or hire a new coach, between seasons, but stagnation is still possible.Here’s where each team stands heading into the 2016 season and its key to success in the new year (previous ranking based on playoff exit or regular-season finish):

MLS PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

 

  • 1 PORTLAND TIMBERS

 

LAST SEASON: 1

RECORD: 2015: 15-11-8

Repeating as champion will be tough, and the Timbers will have to handle the pressure of having a target on their back from the start of the season–while working in a slew of new faces–if they hope to do so in 2016.

  • 2COLUMBUS CREW SC

LAST SEASON: 2

RECORD: 2015: 15-11-8

Columbus should have a chip on its shoulder after the way 2015 ended, and this season will be about making good on the promise that the team, with its lineup kept largely intact, showed a year ago. A happy Kei Kamara will also go a long way, and reports that he’s nearing a lucrative new contract should handle that.

  • 3FC DALLAS

LAST SEASON: 3

RECORD: 2015: 18-10-6

Dallas should again put its faith in youth, but those younger players are now a year more experienced and have a deep playoff run to their name, making their play this season even more important.

  • 4NEW YORK RED BULLS

LAST SEASON: 4

RECORD: 2015: 18-10-6

After the way last season ended and losing Matt Miazga to Chelsea, the Red Bulls’ biggest question leading into 2016 is whether the back line can keep up with the rest of the squad and Jesse Marsch’s high-pressure system.

  • 5LA GALAXY

LAST SEASON: 9

RECORD: 2015: 14-11-9

Bruce Arena’s team is geared up to win now, with the acquisition of more veteran players over the offseason, making physical resilience and longevity the biggest question surrounding the team again.

  • 6VANCOUVER WHITECAPS

LAST SEASON: 6

RECORD: 2015: 16-13-5

The Whitecaps were dangerous on the counterattack all of 2015 but struggled when opponents allowed them the majority of possession, so Vancouver must be be better with the ball this year.

  • 7TORONTO FC

LAST SEASON: 12

RECORD: 2015: 15-15-4

TFC bolstered its defense by signing Clint Irwin, Will Johnson, Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour, perhaps finally giving the Reds the balance they need behind a high-priced attack to not just make the playoffs, but also win the league. Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC enter MLS season with sky-high expectationsToronto FC striker Jozy Altidore looks at how far his team can go this season.

  • 8MOTREAL IMPACT

LAST SEASON: 7

RECORD: 2015: 15-13-6

Didier Drogba is back, and the Impact will need consistent scoring from their star man again to have a chance of seeing the same kind of attacking production as they did at the end of 2015.

  • 9SEATTLE SOUNDERS

LAST SEASON: 5

RECORD: 2015: 15-13-6

Seattle’s system change to fit Jordan Morris into the lineup means the attack–which lost Obafemi Martins to China–will be under constant scrutiny this season, as will an aging defensive core anchored by multiple players in their 30s.

  • 10D.C. UNITED

LAST SEASON: 8   ..

RECORD: 2015: 15-13-6

Traditionally a hard-nosed defensive team, D.C. showed in its loss to Querétaro in Champions League play how reliant it may be on the back again have to be if the attack can’t finish its chances. Can the club survive an early spell as goalkeeping ace Bill Hamid recovers from a knee injury?

  • 11SPORTING KANSAS CITY

LAST SEASON: 10

RECORD: 2015: 14-11-9

SKC acquired a couple of experienced wingers in Justin Mapp and Brad Davis this offseason, but after losing Krisztian Németh to Qatar, the biggest question will be who, aside from Dom Dwyer, finishes the chances they—and Graham Zusi and Benny Feilhaber—create.

  • 12ORLANDO CITY SC

LAST SEASON: 14

RECORD: 2015: 12-14-8

Consistency, not quality, was the issue for Orlando in its inaugural year, making it a burning question for the team as it kicks off its second season in MLS as well.

  • 13NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

LAST SEASON: 11

RECORD: 2015: 14-12-8

The Jermaine Jones saga overshadowed much of the Revs’ offseason, but whether Gershon Koffie and Xavier Kouassi (the Designated Player with a torn ACL) are viable replacements remains to be seen.

  • 14NEW YORK CITY FC

LAST SEASON: 17

RECORD: 2015: 10-17-7

Patrick Vieira’s transition into MLS will be an interesting story to follow, as the foreign manager looks to shirk the supposed curse that follows newcomer coaches into the league. Will a full year of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo playing together make the difference?