So interesting 1st legs in the Champions League Semi-Finals as Athletico takes a 1-0 lead back to Germany Tues 2:45 pm. Unbelievable move by Bayern coach Pep G not starting forward Thomas Mueller in the game – sounds like Pep was way too clever for his shoes on this night. Meanwhile the Caulderon (Athletico home stadium) was rocking at the egging from head coach Diego Simeon as he once again outmaneuvered his counterpart. Atleti’s sit back and counterattack approach which stymied defending champs Barcelona in the last round worked once again. Huge pressure on Pep heading back home for next week’s home stand down 1-0.
In England – Man City escaped with a 0-0 tie as their Goalie Joe Hart stood on his head to preserve the shutout with multiple point blank saves against a Real Madrid team missing Renaldo and Benzema. It should make for an exciting visit to Real Madrid on Wed 2:45 pm Fox Sports 1. Remember the games are being repeated on both Fox Sports 1, 2 and Fox Soccer as well as the 30 minute hi-lights show each night. Heartbreak city for Liverpool Thurs as they played Villarreal to a 0-0 tie for 93 min on the road in Europa Cup action before conceding a goal with 1 minute left, while Sevilla tied Shakhtar Donetsk on the road 2-2. Liverpool return home next Thurs 3pm FS1 looking for a couple of goals to advance to the finals. (A few of us headed to Stacked Pickle on 96th St for Real Madrid vs Man City game Wed 2:45 if want to join in. Thurs Liverpool game @ Brockway Pub 3 pm off Old Meridian)
So with Tottenham’s choke and tie last Monday Leicester City now has to win just 1 of its last 3 games to secure the EPL title for the 5000-1 long shot. The Foxes can secure the title this weekend in the Big Game at Old Trattford vs Manchester United on Sunday at 9 am. A quick glance at the EPL table has Man City and Arsenal tied for 3rd with 64 pts while Man U is just 5 pts back of at 59 with West Ham and Liverpool battling for the final Europa League spot at 56/55 points respectively. In the relegation zone – (yes if you stink in Europe the bottom 3 -you move back a division) Norwich @ Arsenal NBC 12:30, Sunderland @Stoke City 10 am NBCSN, and New Castle hosting Palace USA 10 am. Totteham plays the darby @ Chelsea Mon 2:45 pm NBCSN. Spain’s La Liga has just 1 pt separating Barcelona, Atletico and Real Madrid and they all play back to back starting at 10 am on beIn Sports. Back in the US – defending Champs Portland host eastern division leaders Toronto FC and US stalwarts Michael Bradley and Jose Altidore at 3 pm on ESPN, while our 4th place Indy 11 travel to Oklahoma Saturday night for an 8 pm battle on beIN Sports.
GAMES on TV this WEEK
Saturday, April 30
9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2 Bayern Munich vs. Borussia Mönchengladbach
9:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus: Borussia Dortmund vs. VfL Woflsburg
9:30 a.m., Fox Deportes: Darmstadt vs. Eintracht Frankfurt
10:00 a.m., NBCSN Stoke City vs. Sunderland
10:00 a.m., USA Newcastle United vs. Crystal Palace
10:00 a.m., Extra Time: Everton vs. Bournemouth, Watford vs. Aston Villa
10 am beIn Sports Real Sociadad vs Real Madrid
12:15 pm beIn Sports Athletico vs Raya Vallencano
12:30 p.m., NBC Arsenal vs. Norwich City
2 pm ESPN 3 Ottowa vs Miami
2:30 pm beIn Sports Real Betis vs Barcelona
8 pm beIn Sports Rayo OKC vs Indy 11
Sunday, May 1
6:30 am beIn Sports Juve vs Carpi
7:00 a.m., NBCSN Swansea City vs. Liverpool
9:05 a.m., NBCSN Manchester United vs. Leicester City
11:30 a.m., NBCSN Southampton vs. Manchester City
12:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1 Bayer Leverkusen vs. Hertha Berlin
3:30 PM espn Portland Timbers vs. Toronto FC
8 pm FS1 Sporting Kansas City vs. Los Angeles Galaxy
Monday May 2
2:15 p.m., Fox Sorts 1 Werder Bremen vs. VfB Stuttgart
3:00 p.m., NBCSN Chelsea vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Tues, May 3 (CHAMPS LEAGUE)
2:45 pm Fox Sport 1 Bayern Munich vs Athletico Madrid
Weds, May 4 (CHAMPS LEAGUE)
2:45 pm Fox Sport 1 Real Madrid vs Man City
Thursday, May 5
UEFA Europa League (Semifinal first leg)
3:00 p.m., Fox Sports 1: Liverpool vs. Villarreal
3:00 p.m., Fox Sports 2: Sevilla vs. Shakhtar Donetsk
Saturday, May 7
7:45 am NBCSN Norwich vs Man United
10 am NBCSN Sunderland vs Chelsea
10 am ET Crystal Palace vs Stoke City, Villa vs Newcastle
Sunday, May 8
8:30 am Tottenham vs Southampton
11 am NBCSN Man City vs Arsenal
3:30 pm ESPN LA Galaxy vs New England Revs
7:30 pm fox Sports 1 DC United vs NY City FC
Tues, May 10
2:45 pm NBCSN West Ham vs Man United
Wed, May 11
3 pm NBCSN Liverpool vs Chelsea
Sat, May 21
12 noon Fox FA Cup Final
2:30 pm Fox NYC FC vs NY Red Bulls
Wed, May 25
8 pm United States men vs. Ecuador, international friendly
Sat, May 28
FS1 United States men vs. Bolivia, international friendly
Fri, June 3 COPA AMERICA 100
9:30 pm Fox Sports1 USA vs Columbia
Tues, June 7
8 pm Fox Sports 1 USA vs Costa Rica – Solider Field – Tix Available!
Fri, June 10 European Cup
3 pm ESPN France vs Romania
COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGO – still seats left for USA Game , Argentina game and Semi-Finals.
International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available $35 to $135
Carmel FC Night @ Indy 11 Game May 7 –7:30 pm vs Edmonton
Ask your manager about discount tickets in our group – our just show up and come find us in the stands!
Champions League + Europa
Europe + EPL
INDY 11 + MLS
Indy 11 Newcomer Eamon Zayed on TV 8 Interview Furballs and Football – May 7 Indy 11 vs Edmonton FC 7:30 pm Also Carmel FC Night! MLS Power Rankings
Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14
Ok so its almost Summer Camp time – below are some nice options for Soccer Camps this summer
Post2Post GOALKEEPER – Soccer Camp – May 31-June 3 – 9 am till 3 pm
CFC and Carmel High Coach Carla Baker – former National Team Goalie for Canada will run her annual GK camp June 1-4 9 am to 3 pm $195 each @ Badger Field
Indy 11 Soccer Camp June 20-23 — 9 am till 12 noon Ages 5-14 $135 @ Badger Fields
Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
CHS Men’s Head Coach Shane Schmidt, a former U-20 US National Team player, runs his annual camp from 9 am to 2 pm July 11-16. $150 before 6/30 @ River Road Fields.
Post2Post Soccer Camp
Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin and Former Iowa Coach Carla Baker run their annual field player camp for players of all abilities July 25-28 — 9 am to 3 pm $195 each @ Badger
MLS team in Indy? Probably not in near future
Whenever the discussion of Major League Soccer expansion comes up, Indianapolis soccer fans’ ears perk up.But rarely is Indianapolis at the top of the list – or even on the list at all.On Thursday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber rattled off a group of cities in consideration for expansion. Speaking at a meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors, Garber said of Sacramento and St. Louis, “It’s fair to say they’re front-runners.”Other candidates, in order of priority he said, were Detroit, San Diego, San Antonio, Austin and Cincinnati.No Indianapolis.Indianapolis already has a professional soccer team, the Indy Eleven, which plays in the North American Soccer League, the U.S’s official second division. The Eleven recently began their third season and have led the league in attendance each of their first two campaigns in the NASL. Both home games this season have brought in more than 9.000 fans each.MLS is currently at 20 teams and will increase to 24 when Atlanta, a second Los Angeles team, Minnesota and Miami are expected to join by 2018. Garber has stated his goal is to eventually reach 28 teams.Contacted by IndyStar on Thursday, an Indy Eleven spokesperson said the club is happy with its situation in the NASL.”Indy Eleven continues to work toward first division standards in every facet of the organization, both on and off the field, and we look forward to continue doing that as a member of the NASL. We believe in the NASL’s business model and are pleased with the direction and growth of the league and look forward to help continuing that growth in the years to come.”Just how large the team can grow could coincide with attempts to secure a new soccer-specific stadium. The Eleven struck out the past two years with stadium proposals, including an $82-million stadium deal, though they still hold out hopes for securing a new home.”We look forward to continuing to work with local and state officials to establish details for a stadium proposal that will be responsible to the taxpayers of Indiana and result in a positive outcome during this legislative session,” the team said in a January statement.When the Eleven franchise came into existence, former team President Peter Wilt said the goal was to eventually reach MLS. He re-emphasized that in an article on ESPN.com last May when mentioning the efforts for a new stadium, stating:”I think it sets the table for Indy Eleven being a first-division team,” Wilt said. “Whether that’s with the NASL or another league is to be determined.” Joshua Mason, president of Indy Eleven’s support group, The Brickyard Battalion, stressed they won’t push the club to move to MLS.”We are here for this club in our city. Our goal is not to be MLS,” Mason wrote in an email to IndyStar. “Our goal is to make professional soccer sustainable in Indiana, and that we have a team to support every week. This culture will only grow, and the Eleven will be as recognizable as the Colts and Pacers are to Indiana throughout the world.”It’s no coincidence the new proposed stadium seats 18,000 – the minimum required for entrance into MLS. Having deep-pocketed owners and an established youth academy would also be necessary. But at this point, it looks like an MLS-Indy marriage is a long shot.
Manuel Pellegrini’s pragmatic approach the right call for Manchester City
Managers often say that if a team cannot win a game, they have to make sure that they don’t lose it. That was ultimately the feeling among Manchester City fans as they left the Etihad following Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with Real Madrid after it was clear that the home side were the less adventurous of the two teams.
Supporters were hardly disappointed with the result and the display was rightly cautious. City managed just one shot on target in the entire match, though manager Manuel Pellegrini probably won’t be too upset because the ultimate aim of the evening was to make sure Madrid didn’t beat goalkeeper Joe Hart.
The Chilean sacrificed attacking flair and threat for defensive organisation and, while his side didn’t play badly, they certainly played well within what they were capable of and it was a deliberate move to stifle the Spanish side.That was an understandable approach from Pellegrini and one that demonstrates an element of pragmatism that he’s perhaps not shown in the past. For the first time ever, City are now preparing for the second leg of a Champions League tie that is still winnable following a first leg in Manchester.
Lessons have clearly been learned about being too open and too offensive against the competition’s elite when playing at home first. The only other times City have opened a knockout tie at the Etihad, Barcelona each time pretty much made sure they were through with 2-0 and 2-1 wins. Pellegrini learned the hard way that conceding away goals cheaply can leave a mountain to climb and the best European sides defend well, especially at home.As a result, he’s transformed a team that couldn’t keep a clean sheet in Europe into one that defends quite resolutely. Before the knockout phase of this season’s competition, it was four shutouts in 34 attempts. In the five games since, City have added three more and all of them have been at the Etihad, in 0-0 draws with Dynamo Kiev and Real Madrid, and a 1-0 win over PSG.The goalless stalemate at the midpoint of this semifinal tie leaves City in a strong-ish position. They can’t now go out on the away goals rule, but they can still advance because of it, and a single goal at the Bernabeu in a 1-1 draw, especially one to open the scoring, could really swing the second leg in their favour.Yet with all that in mind, there’s a nagging doubt that Tuesday’s bore draw was a missed opportunity. It seems increasingly likely that Real will be able to field a fully fit Cristiano Ronaldo in the away leg on Wednesday, while below par performances from the likes of Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema and some good stops from Hart won’t come along each week.Gael Clichy and Manchester City heeded the words of manager Manuel Pellegrini to keep Real Madrid scoreless on Tuesday.
When it comes to the reverse fixture, both sides will perhaps be backing themselves to score and will fancy their chances of progressing. Madrid have home advantage, while City know that anything they can get into Keylor Navas’s net will be boosted by the lack of away goals for Zinedine Zidane’s team. It’s quite finely poised.However, it’s likely to be City that comes under the most pressure — Madrid are yet to concede at the Bernabeu in the Champions League this season and have netted themselves 18 times there in five games.As a result, Zidane’s team were equally as cautious as Pellegrini’s for the opening hour and criticism of City’s attack has to be tempered by Madrid’s equally stoic set-up.Above all, though, there’s an element of trust about the club’s recent performances in the Champions League that hasn’t been there for some time. Many winced when they saw the starting line-up for the eventual 2-1 defeat to Barcelona in the round of 16 last season because Pellegrini had opted for a 4-4-2 system, leaving gaps in an attempt to impose his style on the match.You wouldn’t catch him doing something that naive now. These days, the manager accepts that he A goalless draw with Real Madrid isn’t the perfect way for City’s chances, but they are still in a strong position — and a position that shows the continuation of the club growing up in the Champions League.David Mooney is a writer and a radio journalist based in Manchester.
Pep Guardiola changes the game to leave Bayern boss open to question
RAPHAEL HONIGSTEIN-ESPN FC =-n many ways, Bayern Munich’s 1-0 first-leg defeat to Atletico Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday panned out just as the visitors had feared.They dominated possession and probed at the Vicente Calderon, but the Spaniards got on the score sheet with one devastating attack from Saul Niguez.Bayern’s 1-0 defeat at Atleti’s neighbours, Real Madrid, two years ago followed a similar pattern. That night, Pep Guardiola’s men hardly troubled the Spanish goal despite all their passing brilliance, and although the manager kept praising his team for creating “so many” openings against Diego Simeone’s notoriously battle-hardened side, in truth only a couple of them amounted to clear-cut opportunities from inside the box.Bayern left Madrid saying all the things they had to say about making amends — the way they did after their 3-1 defeat at Porto in the round of 16 last season, for example — but they knew they had failed in their two key objectives, pointed out by executive chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: “We want to score a goal and not lose the game.”At this level in the competition, you don’t just lose games — the opposition make you lose them. The more that your opponent is able to implement its game plan, the more your own game falters. Neutrals would have noted that Atleti made Bayern give the ball away in the opening exchanges with high pressing and superb positioning.Later, as the Bavarians exerted pressure, the home side defended with a calmness and precision that is simply unmatched in Europe. Bayern hardly talked about that after the final whistle, however, because to do so would have threatened to plant more doubts into their minds.Guardiola was the one member of the travelling party to admit the 1-0 score line presented a “complicated result,” whereas the players preferred to look at the positives.”We created more chances than we thought we would,” said Philipp Lahm, while David Alaba added: “There’s a second game, everything’s possible.”Manuel Neuer said: “We weren’t brave and aggressive enough at the start,” and Xabi Alonso agreed: “We didn’t play well in the beginning.”Bayern are still in charge of their destiny, despite Atleti’s achieving a near-perfect result in the first leg. It could have easily been perfect, too. Fernando Torres came tantalisingly close to killing off the tie with his shot against the post in the second half. Considering the quality of the opportunities both teams created, Bayern weren’t unlucky to lose 1-0; they were fortunate. That realisation was too damaging psychologically to be given voice in Madrid.The public postmortem in Munich immediately concentrated on the non-inclusion of Thomas Muller, Bayern’s talisman, in the starting lineup.Guardiola explained that he wanted “more control” in midfield, by virtue of an additional midfielder. The idea was to withstand early pressure from the home side, Lahm revealed. Leaving out Muller made theoretical sense in that respect, and Guardiola’s decision-making process would have been helped by the fact that the 26-year-old hasn’t been playing all that well recently.Muller, a second-half substitute with limited impact, took his omission with a shrug. “I have to be professional about it,” he said.”I’m not happy, but it’s important to realise what’s important for the team. If everybody who’s not playing goes crazy, we can forget about the whole season.”In light of Bayern’s futility in the opposition box, blaming it all on the surprise absence of Muller (and Franck Ribery) was easy to do. It’s been a feature of Guardiola’s reign at the Allianz Arena that many supporters and most media outlets have readily found fault with his lineups and tactics in the handful of big defeats his team have suffered.In the past, when far fewer conceptual managers were in charge, the players would cop most of the criticism after big disappointments in the Champions League. The way people look at the game has changed in Munich, though. Guardiola has transformed football into a manager’s game, with all the pitfalls that entails. He knew he’d be personally blamed for a bad result, just as he was at Barcelona. Muller and Ribery will be two sticks to beat him with should Bayern fail to qualify for the final next week. There’s no way around it; that’s how it works.As far as an analysis of the team’s problems on Wednesday goes, however, focussing on one or two players who weren’t on the pitch is a distraction. The German champions-elect had bigger issues, and not for the first time. Firstly, their buildup play was far too easily interrupted in the opening stages, when the hosts pressed them high. Despite fielding a central midfield triangle of Alonso, Arturo Vidal and Thiago Alcantara, Bayern’s pressing resistance was poor, and they had to resort to long balls that were easily intercepted. This flaw has been in evidence throughout the season, to varying degrees, and it will have to be addressed, both tactically and in terms of personnel.The second, most important cause for their underperformance might be harder to fix in the next five days. Too many players are short of their best form at the moment. Robert Lewandowski, Douglas Costa, Muller … the list goes on. Only Vidal has been playing at a level approaching full capacity. On top of that, left-back Juan Bernat was well below the required standard at the Calderon, Kingsley Coman’s poor choices betrayed his inexperience and Alcantara merely floated through the match, uninvolved and ethereal. You don’t tend to win the Champions League that way.Next week, Jerome Boateng’s possible return promises to bring more stability, without the ball as well as with it. His long-range passes have been sorely missed in recent weeks. Muller and Ribery should be back from the start as well, against an Atletico side that will defend even deeper than before.It’s not a lost cause, this Bavarian remontada, but it will need a strong performance over the whole 90 minutes.And that’s precisely the worry. For all their squad depth and tactical sophistication under Guardiola, Bayern haven’t mustered one of those in the Champions League knockout rounds this season.Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC’s German football expert and a regular guet on ESPN FC TV. He also writes for the Guardian. Twitter: @honigstein.
Atlético v Bayern: key talking points
Published: Thursday 28 April 2016, 0.58CET
Augusto Fernández looks a shrewd January buy, Bayern and Josep Guardiola must be sick of playing in Spain, and is Saúl Ñíguez an option for Spain’s UEFA EURO 2016 tilt?
by Joseph Walker
Augusto the great
Since joining Atlético in January, Argentinian international Augusto Fernández has made a name for himself as a tough-tackling, no-nonsense midfielder alongside skipper Gabi. If it took him a few games to develop an understanding with his team-mates, he has now become a fixture in the middle of the park – and this was his best display yet for the Rojiblancos.
The 30-year-old covered every blade of grass, charging down shots, breaking up play and getting in the right place at the right time. His efforts helped subdue an opposition midfield containing Arturo Vidal, Xabi Alonso and Thiago Alcántara – no mean feat. It was a world-class performance on the biggest stage.
Bayern’s unhappy hunting ground
This is the third season running that Josep Guardiola’s Bayern side have been drawn to face a Spanish team in the semi-finals, with the first leg away on each occasion. The German champions lost 1-0 across town at Real Madrid in 2014, then 12 months ago were blown away 3-0 by Barcelona. This year it was Atlético’s turn.With Guardiola promising that his charges would chase an away goal, Diego Simeone played the Bavarians at their own game, attacking early on and taking the initiative – and then the lead. Bayern huffed and puffed, but could not blow the house down. Yet again, the precious away goal they so desperately sought proved elusive.
Home comfort for German side?
With the visitors unable to find the away goal, the emphasis is very much on Bayern to come out and attack in next Tuesday’s return match. Tonight was only the fourth time in 23 UEFA Champions League outings they have failed to score and they have managed 74 in the Bundesliga already this term – cause for hope. So too is the spirit they showed against Juventus in the last 16.
Weighing against that, however, is the knowledge that at this point in the past two campaigns they could not overturn a first-leg defeat in Spain. In fact, their rivals went on to lift the trophy both times, which is ominous indeed. Then there is Jan Oblak and Europe’s meanest defence: Atlético having shipped just 16 goals in 35 Liga games this season.
Saúl Ñíguez making EURO 2016 case
The Spain Under-21 man has enjoyed a stellar campaign in the capital, netting nine times in 42 appearances in all competitions. Calls are growing for Vicente del Bosque to include the right-sided midfielder in his UEFA EURO 2016 squad, despite the 21-year-old being untested at senior international level.
He described his latest Vicente Calderón strike as “the most important goal of my career and the best too”, yet that was merely one part of an impressive all-round contribution. Guardiola says “Spanish football has a great new talent” and it is impossible to disagree. Worryingly for Bayern, Simeone reckons there is much more to come.
Armchair Analyst: Predicting the USMNT Copa América roster, Part 1
April 27, 201610:37 PM EDTMatthew DoyleMLSsoccer.com
Jurgen Klinsmann has called this summer’s upcoming Copa América Centenario “the biggest men’s soccer tournament in the US since the 1994 World Cup.” For once, Jurgen and I have found common ground.This is the real deal, quite literally a once-in-a-century opportunity. The US can use a great performance, as in 1995’s trip to the Copa, to launch into a new era of competitiveness on the global stage, building an identity and blooding a new group of stars. A bad performance, however, would solidify the downward trend of Klinsmann’s years — a program getting lapped by Mexico in CONCACAF, being passed by Costa Rica and caught by the likes of Jamaica and Honduras; and a program that’s not competitive globally outside of friendlies.A team that fails to make it to the final of the Gold Cup, and doesn’t qualify for the Confederations Cup despite multiple chances. A team that loses winnable games at home. A team that plays like minnows — something the US haven’t been since 1990.So there is a lot riding on this summer’s performance, especially in light of the Olympic and Confeds Cup failures.Here is Part 1 of a three-part series predicting Klinsmann’s 40-man preliminary roster (these aren’t my picks — these are the guys I think Jurgen will go with).We’ll start with the goalkeepers and defenders, move to the midfielders tomorrow and the forwards on Friday.
- Alternates: William Yarbrough, Nick Rimando
Howard and Guzan are still Nos. 1 & 2 in some order. Bingham took advantage of the opportunity he earned this winter in Bill Hamid‘s absence, and he’s strengthened his situation with a strong start to the season for San Jose. Horvath, a 20-year-old who starts for Molde in Norway and already has Champions League experience, gets the final spot for this camp.Yes, that leaves Rimando on the outside looking in. I’m not going to stake my life on this decision, and I think he can still play at the international level. But he’s caught up in the numbers game here, and the potential/production combo of Bingham & Horvath pushes him out of the mix.
Can we finally list DeAndre Yedlin as a fullback now? Or will Klinsmann insist upon deploying him primarily as a winger? Given his play for Sunderland, this shouldn’t even be a question… yet it is.You can see that while Yedlin is the obvious answer at right back, there are more questions at left back. Castillo got the most recent starts, but he’s been inconsistent-to-poor for the US; Chandler is a Jurgen favorite, but he also regularly haunts the inconsistent-to-poor spectrum (and is a natural RB anyway); Shea is still learning the position; Ream is more of a center back; Acosta is definitely not a fullback of any stripe despite the insistence of the US U-20 and U-23 coaches to the contrary.I think those guys all get the call, as does Vincent. Klinsmann hasn’t really shown any interest in Villafana despite his form over the last 12 months — ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ — and Beasley seems retired for real this time. Vincent’s previous camps, then, give him the leg up and into the mix, even if he’s adjusted quite slowly to MLS thus far.
This should be easy. Cameron’s a proven commodity for club and country who’s in the prime of his career; the same can be said for Brooks. Besler and Gonzalez are there as well, and Birnbaum has been effective in his brief USMNT run so far.That leaves two spots for Miazga, who’s the most promising young defender in the pool, and Orozco, who’s been a security blanket for Klinsmann since Day 1. Given reports that Alvarado didn’t train well at the last camp and the fact that both Parker and Redding still need more experience, those three cuts are pretty easy to make.I think, anyway. It’s Klinsmann, after all — he may go in an entirely different direction on a whim.
Armchair Analyst: Predicting the USMNT Copa America roster, Part 2
April 28, 20164:22 PM EDTMatthew DoyleMLSsoccer.com
Yesterday’s Part 1 looked at the goalkeepers and defenders I think will be called into the 40-man USMNT roster for this summer’s Copa America Centenario, which will be announced at halftime ofSunday’s match between Sporting KC and LA Galaxy (8 pm ET; FS1).
Today we will look at the midfield. Tomorrow we will look at the forwards.And here is where it gets interesting, because I have to merge how I see “midfield” with how Jurgen Klinsmann sees “midfield,” and how different formations — the 4-3-3, the flat 4-4-2, the 4-4-2 diamond — force different roles onto different players.There is, for example, no purely defensive midfielder in a flat 4-4-2, but there will be guys who are listed purely as d-mids on the below list. That doesn’t mean they won’t play in a 4-4-2, it just means that they probably shouldn’t.Wide players are even trickier. In a 4-3-3 they’re wingers, and have an offensive/possession/re-pressing workload more akin to that of a second forward than that of a midfielder. But in a 4-4-2, they’re almost — to a man — more likely to be deployed wide in the midfield, asking for a different application of their respective mental and physical skillsets. Formations are not everything in our game, but they’re significant. Bear that in mind when looking at the list below, and bear in mind that Klinsmann has used four different formations (4-3-3, 4-4-2 flat, 4-4-2 box, 4-4-2 diamond) in the last five US games. The team as he’s built it has no repeatable style or tactical approach, so it’s hard to say “Piece A fits into Slot B” with any sort of confidence. It would take a fool to try to predict what he’ll do next.And thus, here I go…
This is “specialist alley.” None of the guys listed here should ever play anything outside of a traditional No. 6 role for the US, and I say that in spite of the fact that Kitchen and Alashe have both played primarily box-to-box roles in their respective careers.Beckerman is a lock for this tournament for all the obvious reasons, and Williams — despite his recent suspension — should be as well. I think Kitchen gets the final spot ahead of Trapp, who’s struggled so far in MLS and was poor for the U-23s in the Olympic qualifying failure. I can’t claim to have seen Kitchen since his move to Hearts, but he’s won a starting job as their No. 6 and they’ve just qualified for next year’s Europa League. That’s the kind of career move Klinsmann applauds, so I think Kitchen gets rewarded here.Worth noting that I included FC Dallas’s Kellyn Acosta as a fullback, since that’s where Klinsmann & the rest of the US soccer coaches prefer to play him, even though he’s pretty clearly a d-mid (or perhaps a box-to-box mid). Also worth noting that the two best d-mids in MLS this year have been the guy who heads the next list, and another FC Dallas Homegrown kid, Victor Ulloa.Ulloa’s never gotten a look by the US at any level, so I’m not holding my breath.
- Alternates:Luis Gil, Gedion Zelalem
I have to admit that I’m kind of dying to see a classic 4-3-3 with Williams at the base of the midfield triangle, then Bradley and Jones given free rein ahead of him. This would be the pregame tactical talk:Bradley as a No. 6 had me worried for TFC at the start of the year, but he’s been really responsible and really, really good. So while I’m kind of dying to see the above, I’m really dying to see Bradley given a shot in the role Beckerman has so often played over the last six years. This is another “but I’m not holding my breath” situation, unfortunately.The rest of this midfield group fills itself out pretty comfortably. Nguyen is the only specialist, coming in exclusively as a No. 10. Diskerud, who hasn’t been playing all that well, gets the last spot over Gil, who hasn’t been playing at all.For what it’s worth I really think Sacha Kljestan should be here. And Benny Feilhaber, but — well, you know.
- Alternates: Joe Corona, Miguel Ibarra, Jerome Kiesewetter
Repeat after me: Fabian Johnson is a winger. Fabian Johnson is a winger. Fabian Johnson is a winger. Fabian Johnson is a winger. Just keep saying it until we’ve removed all temptation of playing him at fullback. Johnson’s played only two games on the backline all year in Germany, and has been a Champions League-quality winger for the other 24.After him we get to have some fun. Nagbe’s clearly at his best as a central midfielder, but in his brief USMNT run, Klinsmann has preferred to use him out wide — so that’s where he’s listed. There’s been a metric ton written about why Christian Pulisic should start as a No. 10, but… nah. Kid’s been a legit two-way force on the wings for Borussia Dortmund, so let’s keep him in his current comfort zone (heh).That leaves Zusi the reliable and Finlay the specialist. Zusi is the best defensive player of the bunch and is an absolute grinder made for games like Costa Rica and Paraguay, while Finlay exists to stretch the field and brings little value in possession. Both are easy calls over Corona, Ibarra and Kiesewetter — none of whom has actually played much this season, and all three of whom are probably on the move this summer.
Leicester on brink of fitting Premier League glory at Manchester United
Premier League Spotlight previews the weekend’s fixtures and highlights five key points to keep an eye on.
- Will Leicester seal glory at the home of England’s most dominant club?
Leicester City are so close to glory that they have the sweet scent of it in their nostrils. Win at Manchester United on Sunday and the 2015-16 Premier League title is theirs. No matter how many times you hear that, Leicester’s feat still has a feeling of the surreal. But this is where we find ourselves after the Foxes’ 4-0 thumping of Swansea City was followed by Tottenham’s 1-1 draw at home to West Brom on Monday night. The result against Swansea was yet another example of manager Claudio Ranieri calmly guiding his team through supposedly troubled waters. Jamie Vardy’s suspension was anything but the disaster it was anticipated to be.Vardy, scorer of 22 league goals this season, will again be missing for the trip to Old Trafford. It was he who opened the scoring in November’s 1-1 draw between Leicester and United. A repeat of that stalemate could still be enough for the Foxes, if Tottenham fail to win at Chelsea on Monday. Perhaps in this fixture Ranieri will feel Vardy’s absence, because as the away side their counter-attacking game will be more relied upon. Yet, considering how the season has gone, it would be of little surprise if Ranieri still found a way to defeat Louis van Gaal’s side, who themselves need a win to keep their top-four hopes alive. Whatever the means, this has the makings of quite the moment as Leicester gear up to realise their dream at the home of a club who have lifted 13 Premier League titles.
- Did Tottenham really choke in the title race?
You could not move for schadenfreude in the wake of Tottenham’s 1-1 draw against West Brom on Monday night. Spurs had, apparently, bottled it and gifted the title to Leicester. Granted, this was a must-win game, but the circumstances were a side running out of steam, not a weak and late capitulation. There must also come a point when Leicester’s impending success is put down to their excellence rather than the shortcomings of Spurs. For Tottenham not to be able to compete with a team who have lost three times all season and have won seven of their last nine is hardly embarrassing. Perhaps those pointing and guffawing might want to consider whether their club have at least pushed the leaders up until matchday 36. Tottenham are a club going places, boasting a young and talented squad overseen by an exciting and inspiring 44-year-old manager in Mauricio Pochettino.
- How will Arsenal cope amid a toxic Emirates Stadium atmosphere?
To say the natives at Arsenal are restless would be a significant understatement. A growing number are spitting bile. Indeed, a coordinated protest is planned in Saturday’s match against Norwich, and, as the face of the club for 20 years, manager Arsene Wenger can be expected to bear the brunt of the toxicity. The club can finish on no more than 73 points this season, if they win their remaining three matches, and that total would see them two points worse off than last campaign. There is the cold evidence of the Gunners going backwards, rather than standing still as has been their usual, frustrating way. For now, Wenger’s focus will be securing Champions League football for next season, before a significant postmortem in the summer. To get back on track they must display more fight than what was on show in the 1-1 draw at Sunderland.
Predict the outcome in our polls.
MAN UNITED: All eyes are on Old Trafford this weekend to see if the Premier League title will be won, but unlike so many other years, it’s not United in the running. Leicester proved against Swansea in their 4-0 win that they aren’t a one man team, impressing in Jamie Vardy’s absence. But they still might struggle on Sunday. United have the best record in the league at home and there are lots of players eager to prove to Louis van Gaal they should start in the FA Cup final.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Leicester — Scott Patterson
LEICESTER: This is the biggest game in Leicester’s history. Fans will be pinching themselves at the prospect of winning the title at Old Trafford, a particularly poignant place of potential glory for Kasper Schmeichel, son of United legend Peter. The Foxes could win the title even with a loss, if Spurs fail to beat Chelsea on Monday. Claiming the three points they need to secure the league is a big ask without Vardy, but a draw wouldn’t be a bad result at all.
Prediction: Manchester United 1-1 Leicester — Ben Jacobs
CHELSEA: Chelsea and their fans would like nothing more than to be the team that definitively ended Tottenham’s title challenge, though to do so they will have to show greater organisation and defensive commitment than they have of late. Tottenham’s confidence will have suffered a setback following the surprise home draw with West Brom, and the absence of Dele Alli through suspension could damage their prospects further.
Prediction: Chelsea 2-2 Tottenham — Phil Lythell
TOTTENHAM: Spurs have acquired the useful knack this season of coming back strongly after a poor performance, but Monday’s game will be a tough test. Chelsea players will need no extra motivation to win this from their outgoing manager, Guus Hiddink. The visitors have a terrible record at Stamford Bridge and it is hard to see them getting more than a point.
Prediction: Chelsea 1-1 Tottenham — John Crace
‘Mr. Hat Trick’ making new friends in Indy
Kevin Johnston, IndyStar correspondent8:51 a.m. EDT April 29, 2016 Indy Eleven at Rayo OKC, 8 p.m., Saturday, BeIN Sports
He’s Irish-born, represented Libya’s national team and has played in leagues as far away as Norway, Iran and Malaysia.So how did Eamon Zayed wind up in Indianapolis scoring goals for Indy Eleven?Simple: Tim Hankinson.The Eleven’s new manager tried to lure Zayed to the U.S. in 2012 at a previous coaching stop in San Antonio, but was unable to land the striker because he was still under contract.”At the time, I was in Iran. I was in contract, and there was no way of me getting out of it,” Zayed said.While in Iran, Zayed received the nickname “Mr. Hat Trick” – a flattering name for any striker. In 2012, he scored a hat trick off the bench in front of 80,000 fans in the Tehran derby – a heated in-town rivalry. Adding to the legend, his team was losing 2-0 at the time and down a man from a red card.“That’s where I got the name ‘10-10-3’ which means 10 minutes, 10 men, three goals. And then ‘Mr. Hat Trick’ came a month later,” Zayed said. “We had another game, my first Asian Champions League game, and I scored three again. A few weeks later, I played a league game and I scored three again. So it was three hat tricks there in like 2-3 months.”When Hankinson, who also has a well-traveled resume, got the Eleven job in December, he wanted to add punch to Indy’s offensive attack. So he dipped into his contacts list.”The reason I’m, here is because of coach Hankinson,” Zayed said. “I’m delighted to work with him and I think we have a good relationship. I just want to repay his faith that he’s shown in me.”Zayed did just that April 16 against the New York Cosmos. He scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regular time and added the game-winner in stoppage time in front of the Eleven’s supporters group, The Brickyard Battalion, setting off bedlam in the west end of Carroll Stadium.“It was 10,000 people, but it still felt like it was packed,” Zayed said. “The Brickyard Battalion was an unbelievable atmosphere behind the goal. It reminded me slightly of (my hat trick in the Tehran derby). “It brought back a few memories because it was quite similar the way the game ended. It was beautiful. The fans were brilliant. And the celebrations – I’m sure you’ve seen it – the celebrations with a lot of players jumping into the fans. It was a great moment.”Added Hankinson: “For him to climb up into the Brickyard Battalion after scoring the eventual winner and share that moment with the fans, that capped a great night both for Eamon and for the team.”Following its dramatic win over the Cosmos, Indy (1-0-2) enjoyed a week off, allowing for a few players to nurse injuries. The Eleven return to action Saturday at 8 p.m. on the road against NASL expansion franchise Rayo OKC in Oklahoma City. Zayed’s performance against the Cosmos not only gave the Eleven their first win of the young season, but also earned him North American Soccer League Goal of the Week and Player of the Week honors.The well-traveled 32-year-old was an academy product for unlikely English Premier League leaders Leicester City from 2000-02 and shared a microphone with Cameroonian soccer star Samuel Eto’o as part of FIFA’s Fair Play initiative prior to Libya falling one game short of qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. He has played at corners across the globe, but is settling into his new Indianapolis surroundings.”The people are very friendly. I don’t know if it’s a Midwest thing,” Zayed said. “I’ve traveled to New York before, Las Vegas, Florida, and the people are friendly enough, but here, I definitely notice the difference in terms of the people and how friendly they are.”If Zayed keeps scoring, he’ll find Indy increasingly friendly. And if you see him on the street, his name is pronounced AYE-mon ZYED (rhymes with dyed). Or you can just call him “Mr. Hat Trick.”
Indy 11 bY THE NUMBERS: WEEK FOUR
A statistical look at how “Indiana’s Team” is shaping up Apr 27, 2016
Now four weeks into the NASL Spring Season, Indy Eleven sit 4th in the table with a game in hand having enjoyed its bye week during Round 4. The opening three performances have given fans of the “Boys in Blue” a little bit of everything – a look at the team’s defensive ability in the opening 0-0 draw with Tampa Bay, the scratch-and-claw nature of the 1-1 draw with Ottawa in 30-ish degree temps, and the total team fightback in the 2-1 win over the Cosmos most recently at Carroll Stadium. IndyEleven.com breaks down the individual and collective numbers so far …
Both individually and as a team, the numbers for “Indiana’s Team” are shaping out nicely. Eamon Zayed sits T-4 in the NASL with two goals, just one off the pace of the league’s leading trio of Dario Cvitanich (MIA), Austin Da Luz (CAR), and Christian Ramirez (MNU).In the midfield, Nicki Paterson sits in the top 15 in total crosses (11) and is part of a midfield that is trending upwards in distribution having completed over 75% of their passes against the Cosmos, the highest team total to date.And in defense, Jon Busch and the rest of the back line are responsible for the team’s two total goals conceded, the team’s corresponding 0.67 goals against average placing only behind Minnesota United FC’s 0.50 conceded rate. Since the start of his tenure, coach Tim Hankinson has billed his side as one who seeks to control possession and tempo, and that work-in-progress style has indeed seen some progression. In the season opener at Tampa Bay, the Eleven had just 40.7% possession despite registering a league-high 22 interceptions in the 0-0 draw.Against Ottawa in the home opener, possession climbed to 43.5% in the near-freezing temperatures of Indianapolis. Fury FC did their best to break up passing lanes and forced the Eleven to a last-gasp 1-1 draw, but the real progress came about in Week 3 against New York. In the 2-1 home win, the Eleven enjoyed a deceptive 45.8% possession while completing 75.3% of their passes. It was their best two combined halves by far, going to prove Hankinson’s repeated point leading up to the season that, while the preseason results were less than the club desired, the work they were putting in would soon pay dividends.And let’s be clear – coach Hankinson fully expects this improvement to continue. Through changes in formation, personnel, and a slight modification in attacking approach, team possession is on the rise. It’s not the only thing, either.The attack has steadily risen since the season opened at Tampa Bay, with shot count, percentage on target, and goals scored all trending upward. In the first game, the “Boys in Blue” registered just seven shots, two of which were blocked, with one on target. The very next week, the shot count rose to 11 total, two of which were blocked, with three on target and one Nemanja Vukovic effort on the scoresheet. Finally, it all came together against New York, where they fired 12 total shots, one of which was blocked, with four on target. This includes two very important looks that found their way in the back of the net.True, one of these was a penalty, which is about as clear-cut a chance as an attacker can be presented. And yes, the second goal was a tap-in from four yards out (be it a rebound off an excellent strike by Dylan Mares). What still stands out here is the overall push in attack that has grown week-by-week as the spring season continues.Defensively, the Eleven have been as strong as any unit in the league thus far, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. “Indiana’s Team” is flying into challenges and winning the ball consistently, winning an average of just under 77% of their tackles. Continuing, after leading the league in interceptions in week one with 22 total, the “Boys in Blue” have kept up that pace to register 35 more over two weeks, bringing that number to a peak of 57 through the three games.In the spring sprint, with just ten total matches it’s imperative to maintain a sort of consistency in team performances, even if different individuals stand out in different matches. For example, the back five (including Busch in goal) has been unchanged in the opening three weeks. Consistency. But as far as individual performances, Greg Janicki was one of the stars of the Eleven in the opening match, repelling the whole of the Rowdies attack in a stalemate. However, Nemanja Vuković’s effort in that game earned him a NASL Team of the Week nod, and his goal-scoring effort a week later against Ottawa allowed him to double up that plaudit. Two solid showings from two individuals as part of a successful collective team performance.Even if a Spring Season title isn’t in the cards, Indy Eleven will need to keep up the results in the first third of the 2016 slate if it wants to challenge for a spot in The Championship at season’s end. Consistency in style and play, sprinkled with individual displays of excellence, can provide a roadmap of sorts as.
MLS expansion to 28: Pecking order for potential next cities in line
After losing Rams, St. Louis is ready for MLS –Grant Wahl talks with MLS coaches and executives about which cities they feel are right for expansion.
BY BRIAN STRAUS
Get all of Brian Straus’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.Last week, the city of Sacramento shut down a section of L Street just off the Capitol grounds and hosted a mid-day block party for a few thousand soccer fans. They ate, drank, watched the UEFA Europa League on a big screen and welcomed MLS commissioner Don Garber for a rally designed to demonstrate the city’s support for an expansion team. The Republic, now entering its third season in USL, has won a championship, attracted record crowds and established a youth academy. And now it wants to make the leap.While in California’s capital, Garber met with city and business leaders, toured Republic’s stadium site at the Sacramento Railyards and answered questions from fans and media. He confirmed the league’s intention to expand to 28 clubs after Atlanta United FC, Los Angeles FC, Minnesota and Miami come aboard and even mentioned several additional candidates. MLS intends to convene an expansion committee of four-to-six owners who will assess the options this year and make recommendations concerning when and how to proceed. MORE: Atlanta United FC to build $60 million training complex
None of those candidates is as far along as Sacramento but as the Republic have demonstrated, the expansion landscape is volatile. They were nowhere close to the conversation three years ago. Now, Sactown practically is a shoo-in. We can only assess the race as it stands now, however, so here’s a breakdown of where potential expansion cities stand following Garber’s visit to California. And we have little choice but to place the markets he mentioned in the lead.
Nearly a done deal
The club and city have checked every box, and last week Garber himself said, “We hope and really we expect Sacramento will be one of the next four [additions].” Now it’s just a matter of when Republic gets the green light. While it waits, it’s continuing to move ahead on its plan to construct a stadium at the Railyards. The facility, which will seat up to 25,000, will anchor a $226 million public-private partnership that’s already been approved by Sacramento’s city council.Just about every concern the league once had about this unexpected expansion candidate has been resolved. Fan interest isn’t an issue. The robust ownership group led by pharmaceutical investor Kevin Nagle features local real estate executives and representatives from the Sacramento Kings and San Francisco 49ers, among others. And politicians appear to be just as unified.Although no Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the city, there’s sufficient corporate presence and support thanks to its role as the state capital. “I’m actually very encouraged, having sat with some corporate leaders,” Garber told The Sacramento Bee. And for a league eager to expand its TV presence, Sacramento’s place as the country’s 20th-largest media market should be more than adequate for a circuit comprising 24-28 teams. STRAUS: Drogba makes impact felt on Sacramento training stint
Republic obviously would like to come in as soon as possible, but there’s almost no chance MLS will permit it to do so while still playing at 11,400-seat Bonney Field. The Railyards stadium should be ready to go by 2019. PODCAST: Quakes’ Wondolowski on his latest goal-scoring spree
The best bet for team No. 26
MLS wants to be in St. Louis, and when MLS wants to be in a market, it finds ways to get it done. The city’s long-term love affair with soccer is well known, and the league took note of the 43,000-plus who showed up for the U.S. national team’s World Cup qualifier against St. Vincent and the Grenadines last November. St. Louis FC of the USL sold out its home opener in suburban Fenton on Saturday.In 2008, a bid led by Jeff Cooper and anchored by a potential stadium in Collinsville, Illinois, lost out to the Philadelphia Union. Interest in other markets was increasing as well, and Cooper’s timing and location weren’t exactly right. The city fell off the radar for a bit and focus eventually turned to keeping the NFL’s Rams in town. Ultimately, $400 million in public funding for a downtown stadium, plus a naming rights deal, weren’t enough to keep the team from leaving for LA. But that doesn’t mean the effort was a failure. It demonstrated that the city and local business leaders could get things done, and it certainly captured the eyes of MLS.People gradually are moving to downtown St. Louis again, and there’s land about a half dozen blocks north of the Arch and a short walk from the riverfront that’s earmarked for a stadium. In February, local sports and business executives formed a task force that could work with the league, politicians and potential investors. It includes the presidents of the Blues and Cardinals, the owner of St. Louis FC and the chairman of the St. Louis Sports Commission, among others.Plenty still needs to happen. But where there’s a will on both sides, there’s likely a way.
Best of the rest
Size does matter, especially when it comes to TV markets. MLS’s bid to compete worldwide depends on an increase in TV revenue, and that depends partly on appealing to more homes in bigger cities. And once Atlanta enters the league, the largest media markets without a team will be Tampa-St. Petersburg, Phoenix and Detroit. Tampa has the NASL’s Rowdies and is quite close to Orlando, while whatever interest there may be from the USL’s Arizona United is very preliminary.
That leaves the Motor City, an established sports town with a downtown that’s returning to life. It’s the largest market Garber mentioned last week. MLS has had conversations with potential owners in Detroit, although they remain unidentified. It also just so happens that Mayor Mike Duggan has a brother in the business. Dan Duggan owns the two-time PDL champion Michigan Bucks, who play in nearby Pontiac.[UPDATE: MLS has confirmed Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gores are teaming on a bid for an MLS team in Detroit.]The city’s soccer fans have made news recently for their support of the NPSL club Detroit City FC, which raised some $740,000 recently to fund renovation of a 6,000-seat stadium in Hamtramck. DCFC’s games draw crowds in the thousands, but it remains to be seen whether those fans will support an MLS effort or stick with their current team.
There’s no question San Antonio wants to be part of MLS—the city expressed interest five years ago—and there’s now an ownership group with the sports smarts to get them there. The dissolution of the NASL’s Scorpions and the sale of Toyota Field paved the way for the Spurs, arguably the NBA’s best-run franchise, to get into the soccer business. The Spurs are leasing and managing the stadium. They launched a USL team, hired veteran administrator Tim Holt away from Orlando City to run the show and committed to paying a $5 million penalty to the city and county if they don’t own an MLS club within 10 years.There are two significant issues with San Antonio, however. One is that it’s only the 32nd-largest media market in the U.S. The other is that Toyota Field isn’t the sort of stadium MLS is looking for. Now that it can afford to be a bit more choosey, the league likely is imagining playing a few minutes from the River Walk and the Alamo, not 12 miles north in the suburbs.
Further down the list
The gorgeous weather and potential stadium construction shuffle involving the Chargers, San Diego State and the University of San Diego is appealing. But there are questions about whether the 28th-largest media market, which is sandwiched between soccer hotbeds in L.A. and Tijuana, has the wherewithal to support an MLS club. The league is keeping tabs, however, and Garber told SI.com in January that there have been conversations with interested parties. Those are preliminary, however, and there’s plenty to sort out with San Diego’s existing teams before an MLS bid can take shape.
Former Padres owner John Moores saw his bid to buy into Everton thwarted in February. He had expressed interest in perhaps launching an MLS club that might partner with a Premier League outfit, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, and his real estate company remains a factor as the city, Chargers and universities ponder their futures.
The Texas capital would be the smallest market in MLS. It ranks 39th overall, just below Greenville, S.C., and West Palm Beach, Fla. Its USL team, the Aztex, is taking the season off after its House Park stadium was damaged by floods last year. There’s political interest but no potential ownership, at least publicly. Nevertheless, Garber mentioned Austin last week, so it’s mentioned here as well. Institutions like the University of Texas and SXSW certainly boost the city’s profile, and the fact that it’s less than two hours from San Antonio might leave some hoping it’s a viable south Texas option. But Austin is the least likely expansion site among the cities Garber referenced.
Unmentioned, but worth watching
As Sacramento has shown, and Orlando before it, sometimes a city or team can rise quickly as an expansion candidate. Although Garber didn’t mention these cities, they’re worth keeping an eye on. In alphabetical order:
Charlotte – At No. 22, Charlotte boasts a market size and a potential base of corporate support that should appeal to MLS. The USL’s Independence launched last year and already is talking to city officials about the possible renovation of Memorial Stadium, an 80-year-old facility on the western edge of downtown. Owner Jim McPhilliamy, a former Hornets executive, has been in touch with MLS and there’s a lot of empty space on the league map between D.C. and Atlanta.
Cincinnati – USL expansion team FC Cincinnati drew a league-record 20,497 fans to Nippert Stadium on Saturday night, a figure that dropped jaws around the American soccer community. It’s early days, of course, but sustaining that sort of support will go a long way toward establishing some MLS traction. Club executives have said they’re interested in pursuing MLS, and coach John Harkes and MLS veterans like Austin Berry, Omar Cummings and Antoine Hoppenot lend additional legitimacy. Owner Carl Lindner III comes from a family worth billions and is co-CEO of investment and insurance giant American Financial Group.
Indianapolis – Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir has met with Garber and MLS executives, but there’s no indication he’s considering taking his club out of the NASL. The Eleven led the league in attendance each of the past two years but it’s been unsuccessful securing land for a downtown stadium. Former club president Peter Wilt has returned to Chicago, where he helped launch the Fire, to lead the city’s NASL expansion effort.
Las Vegas – A bid to bring MLS to Sin City was rebuffed early last year when uncertainty over the timing and funding for a publicly-subsidized stadium in the downtown Symphony Park district prompted the league to look elsewhere. MLS said that it wouldn’t consider Vegas for the current round of expansion, leaving the possibility of a post-2020 return possible—at least rhetorically. Considering the potential competition, MLS may have moved on permanently from the country’s 40th-largest media market. But then again, publicly funded stadiums can prove very persuasive.
Phoenix – Arizona United owner Kyle Eng said in February that he’d like to take his USL team to MLS by 2020 and he told KPNX he has investors lined up. Hiring coach Frank Yallop looks good, but playing in suburban Peoria won’t cut it. If the land and funding come together, however, you can bet MLS will pay attention. Phoenix anchors the country’s 12th-largest media market.
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