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 (

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.


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.


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 !


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


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


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

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.



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, sat down with Jurgen Klinsmann to discuss the status of the player pool and his expectations for the big 10 days ahead. 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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.” 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


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




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.

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