06/29/16 US Finishes 4th in COPA, Messi Retires after loss to Chile in COPA Final, EUROs Elite 8, INDY 11 Beat Mexican Champ Pachuca

US Finishes 4th in COPA, Messi Retires after loss to Chile in COPA Final, EUROs Elite 8, INDY 11 Beat Mexican Champ Pachuca

So lets start with the huge news that Lionel Messi has said he’s hanging up his cleats for Argentina.  The first half was contentious with tons of yellow cards, lots of fouls and 2 players sent off.  The 2nd half well an MLS game broke out as both teams played in the center of the pitch and very few good shots were taken despite Argentina outshooting them pretty overall.  But overtime man was that thrilling.  The 30 minutes of overtime were enthralling as both teams tried to attack and tried to win this COPA Centario Final before going to shootout.  Messi tried again and again – taking on 3 and 4 players at a time to will his team to victory, but it was not to be.  The shootout – well who thought Messi would miss his first ever PK in a Argentina jersey?  Heartbreak City  – I have to admit while I love the way Chile plays, always swarming the ball and playing at the highest level, I was rooting hard for Messi and Argentina to finally lift a Trophy.  Oh well – hopefully Messi changes his mind and returns to his national team someday.

Now for the US

Honestly the US finally played another really good game – we outshot the #3 team in the world overall.  We just couldn’t finish around the net.  (see my player grades below for the entire tourney) I sure would have liked to see more of Pulisic and Nagbe but I think they have cemented their spots on the squad now.  As for Klinsy – I gotta give the German credit for getting to the COPA Final 4 – and beating a top 10 team in Ecuador along the way – he did finally find a line-up and stick with it.  Amazing the hard head is learning.  And the Colombia match was much better the 2nd time around as we honestly played toe to toe with the #3 ranked team in the world.  Would anyone really cry however if he took that EPL-Southampton job this summer and left the reigns to Assistant Tab Ramos?  Remember it took the German leaving Germany and handing over the team to a master tactician in Lowe for Germany to win its 1st World Cup in 25 years.   Klinsy does a good job of bringing in new young talent – but his tactical preparation and personnel decisions are horrific at times.  (Read leaving Donovan off WC team for Wondo).  While the US did about what I hoped they would do this tourney – (except playing dead vs Argentina) I for one would welcome seeing what life is like post Jurgen –the German – Klinsmann.

On to the Euros – Elite 8 Style –

Normally you sit back and allow Spain 70% possession but Italy was DEADLY on the counter attack time and time again.  They dominated the 1st 35 minutes with like 5 shots on goal – Man U GK David De Gea saved his but off or it would have been 3-0 at the half at least.  The 1 goal lead held up but Spain had a dead on header for the equalizer in the 89th minute from 3 feet out. But the legendary 38 year old GK Italy’s captain Gigi Buffon did the spectacular again and parried away.  He almost matched De Gea’s fantastic saves in the 1st half with some lightening quick responses in the 2nd.  It was really a goalkeeper’s dream kind of game- fantastic save after fantastic save .  Italy finally put away in the 90th minute.  Spectacular futbol all around for Italy.  Viva la pasta, the rigatoni, y lasagna – vive Italia!   Of course what can you say about England’s debacle but man I am glad I am not English this morning.  Iceland honestly beat them straight up 2-0  – it wasn’t even close.  How a nation with 330,000 people (10% of them at the games in France) can beat the nation with the best Professional league who actually Invented the Game of Soccer is beyond me.   It sets up a mix of Cinderallas amongst the Giants as Iceland will face host nation France on Sunday 3 pm ESPN.  Poland faces Renaldo and Portugal Thurs 3 pm ESPN 2, Wales and Bale taking on Belgium Friday 3 pm on ESPN2, while WC Champ Germany takes on Italy Sat at 3 pm on ESPN2.  See the Previews Below

INDY 11

Finally how about our Indy 11 – first they sign former Mexican Superstar Torrado and then he helps them step up and beat the Best Team in Mexico Pachuca in a friendly at home. Wow!  I can’t wait for the Fall Season to kick off this weekend – at new team Puerto Rico Sat night 8 pm on WISH TV8 and the home starter July 9 vs Minn.  Make plans to get to the MIKE next Weekend or Wed night July 13 vs Ft. Lauderdale.

CARMEL FC

Carmel FC Uniform and spirit wear orders are due on June 29th!  You can click straight to our UNIFORM or APPAREL  ordering sites.  Carmel FC will again this year March in the July 4th CarmelFest Parade – check with your team managers and coaches for details.  Also summer optional training begins on the turf fields next week –Click here for details: Summer Training.

GAMES ON TV

Euro Quarterfinals

Thursday, June 30 – Match 45
Poland vs. Portugal — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Friday, July 1 – Match 46
Wales vs  Belgium — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Saturday, July 2 – Match 47
Germany vs. Italy  — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Indy 11 @ Puerto Rico 7:30 pm  TV 8

Sunday, July 3 – Match 48
France vs Iceland — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

New York City FC vs. NY Red Bulls, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

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

USA

Bobby Wood Emerges at Copa ESPNFC

Klinnsman hails wonderful Copa America – Jeff Carlisle ESPN FC

US Improves but still settles for 4th

Evaluating the US Now – ESPNFC Video

US Player Ratings MLS.com

Player Ratings Stars and Stripes

US Doesn’t Capitalize on Chances for Columbia – Carlisle ESPNFC

IS this really Progress?  MLS.com

US Needs to Win vs World Powers Sometimes – MLS.com

I hate Juergan Klinsmann and so can you – Stars and Stripes

US Learns its Place During COPAs – SI Struas

Grading the US at Copa Goal.com

 COPA

Is this Really it for Messi?  

Chile can Challenge for a World Cup now

Not surprised by Messi’s Decision – Video ESPN FC

Copa loss rocks Messi SI

Don’t Give Up Messi – says Teacher in Argentina

 EUROS

Quarterfinal Schedule

Quarters Preview

The Tourneys Rile up the Emotion –Marcotti

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Final 8

The Welch can topple Belgium – Marcotti

 Italy DeRossi out

Poland Big #9 must Score

Klinsy for England coach>?

England new coach – Klinsmann?

Indy 11

Indy 11 Secure Spring 2016 NASL Championship

3 Things Win vs Pachuca

Indy 11 beat Mexican Champ Pachuca 1-0

http://www.indyeleven.com/kids-club-promo

Indy 11 Craft Beer Night July 9th

Indy 11 Win – Indy Star

MLS

Jordan Morris – Bring on the Hype

Tim Howard Can’t Wait to Get Started for Colorado

US Open Cup Draw – NY Cosmos and Ft Lauderdale qualify from NASL with MLS squads

GAMES ON TV

Euro Quarterfinals

Thursday, June 30 – Match 45
Poland vs. Portugal — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Friday, July 1 – Match 46
Wales vs  Belgium — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Saturday, July 2 – Match 47
Germany vs. Italy  — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Indy 11 @ Puerto Rico 7:30 pm  TV 8

Sunday, July 3 – Match 48
France vs Iceland — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

New York City FC vs. NY Red Bulls, 12:00 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

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

Semifinals

–Wednesday, July 6
W Poland/Portugal vs W Wales/Belgium– Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Thursday, July 7
W Germany/Italy vs. W France/Iceland — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Saturday, July 9: 

United States women vs. South Africa, international friendly, 1:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
Seattle vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 3:00 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)

Indy 11 vs Minn @ the Jake 7:30 pm TV 8, BeIn Sports

Final

Sunday, July 10
EUROPEAN CUP W49 vs. W50 — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

New York Red Bulls vs. Portland Timbers, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2, tape-delayed on ESPN Deportes)
Sporting Kansas City vs. New York City FC, 8:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)

Wednesday, July 13

Indy 11 vs Ft Lauderdale – @ H The Jake – 7:30 pm Wish TV 8, BeIn Sports

Saturday, July 16

Indy 11 @ Minn – 8 pm BeIn Sports

Sunday, July 17:

Portland Timbers vs. Seattle Sounders, 2:30 p.m. (Fox, Fox Deportes)
Montréal Impact vs. New York City FC, 5:00 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1, Fox Deportes)

Sat, July 23

Indy 11 vs Edmonton – @ H The Jake – 7:30 pm Wish TV 8

Sat, July 30

Indy 11@ Miami – 8 pm BeIn sports

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available  $35 to $135

 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

Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Badger Field July 9th

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

Carmel High Boys – Youth Soccer Camp –2nd to 6th Graders only

Run by CHS Boys team players – Thurs, Aug 4 (9:30 am till 12 noon) – CHS Practice Fields River Road and 126th . 2nd to 6th Graders only – Cost $35 to CHS –- First 100 players to sign up.  Sign Up Here https://www.ticketracker.com/store/item?catalogItemId=8741   Email Shari if you have questions indyabbotts@hotmail.com.

ATP_Gen_350x250

 Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

Lionel Messi’s pain, Argentina woe show power of international football

EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Has an era ended with a penalty that Lionel Messi sent high over a New Jersey crossbar?Many Argentina fans had an air of resignation as they came away from MetLife Stadium, but there were stronger emotions boiling over in the dressing room. Anger, revolt, disbelief and profound sadness must have been more prevalent. How much of this can the players take? Messi announced his retirement from international football

after the game. Others might follow, or they might rethink. It is still too early to tell. After last year’s defeat, Javier Mascherano (who had just lost his fourth final) was said to be contemplating international retirement. But it proved to be a five-minute storm — until now, a fifth failure at the final hurdle.It will be interesting to see how this develops. Messi has just turned 29, a year older than Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain. On the one hand, Messi is clearly fed up with the Argentine FA

, and on Friday, he promised to discuss this matter in the future. Why bother playing for them?On the other, there will surely be changes within the AFA, and moreover, Messi has little time left to win a title with his country. The cold light of day might be painful, but it could cause him to reflect that trying to win the 2018 World Cup and the following year’s Copa could be preferable to an old age spent regretting his absence from the international arena.Argentina, of course, have lost three finals in three years: two on penalty shootouts and one by a single goal. All went to extra time. The striking thing is that a generation that stands out for its attacking brilliance has failed to score a single goal in six hours of cup final football. How can this be explained. Especially the previous two years, Argentina have been victims of end-of-season tiredness. This time around, the problem seemed more psychological. From the moment Higuain rolled his early chance wide after a mistake by Gary Medel, a feeling of “here we go again” appeared to take hold of the players, who snatched at every second-half opportunity and wasted some good situations.Lionel Messi can make good on his threat to stop playing for Argentina, and his place in the pantheon of the greats will be untouched. He has scored more goals than anyone else for his national team. Moreover, in the UEFA Champions League, which these days displays a higher standard of play than the national team, he has been magnificent in season after season. At club level, he has won all that there is to be won.Yet he sent that penalty high into the New Jersey air. How to explain this miss? How different would the shootout have been had he scored? The pressure would have been on Chile. Instead, the pressure got to Messi.In a way, this is a tribute to international football. It might have lost plenty of ground to European club football. But it still has an unrivaled power to make people feel represented. On Sunday, the pressure of that power proved too much for Messi.

Euro quarterfinals: Germany, France favourites as we hit the business end

PARIS — And then there were eight.It doesn’t matter if, like Germany or France, you expected to reach the Euro quarterfinals. Or if, like Portugal, with zero wins in 90 minutes, you’re not quite sure how you got here except sheer bloody-mindedness. Or if, like Belgium, you lost your footing early and then recovered. Or if, like Iceland, Hollywood scriptwriters are knocking on your door wanting to chronicle the greatest upset since … well, since Leicester City won the Premier League this season.Three games separate these eight teams from being crowned champions of Europe. Here’s how the matchups break down.

Poland vs. Portugal, Marseille
Thursday

The subtext is Robert Lewandowski vs. Cristiano Ronaldo, though, in fact, neither has had the happiest of tournaments. Ronaldo missed a penalty against Austria and has flashed only intermittently; Lewandowski has sacrificed himself doing grunt work and hasn’t looked like the scoring machine we see at Bayern.Poland has reaped huge dividends from a well-marshaled back four and a stubborn midfield led by Grzegorz Krychowiak. With Portugal, it’s more a case of the front three needing to finish, rather than produce. Take the wild 3-3 draw with Hungary out of the mix and you have a team that failed to score in 90 minutes on three separate occasions.Both these teams can go to the next level — it’s just that Portugal’s ceiling is higher. The question is to what degree they can break down the Polish defense and whether Lewandowski suddenly comes alive as an attacking threat.

Wales vs. Belgium, Lille
Friday

Were it not for Iceland, Wales would be the Cinderella story here. There’s more to the Welsh than Gareth Bale, of course, but he has shown a knack for making those around him better. Belgium recovered from the shock opening day defeat to Italy to win the next three games, including a 4-0 pounding of Hungary, but they still feel less than the sum of their parts.That’s fine, though, because their individual parts already add up to quite a bit. They can beat you many different ways and have a shutdown goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois. That said, Belgium can suffer against tactically sophisticated sides and the quality, versatility and unpredictability of Bale can create serious problems. Equally, Wales play a back three and Belgium boss Marc Wilmots really struggled to wrap his head around Italy’s three-man defence.Belgium are favorites simply because they have, top to bottom, better players and the Kevin De Bruyne-Eden Hazard combination seems to be hitting form. But the Bale factor, both in what he can do personally and what he can make his teammates do, is not to be underestimated.

Germany vs. Italy, Bordeaux
Saturday

Germany have been getting stronger as the tournament progresses, which is bad news for everybody else. Manager Joachim Low has an array of options in his front six and he has shown he’s not afraid to tweak when required. Meanwhile, keeper Manuel Neuer and his defence have yet to concede a goal.Italy are all about system over individuals, mainly because, as coach Antonio Conte himself said, “we don’t have great individual players [in midfield and attack].” That system was devastating against Belgium and Spain, but Low, simply put, is a far tougher tactical nut to crack. Italy create plenty, but that’s also because they need multiple chances to score.That said, Gigi Buffon also has yet to concede in goal (and he has faced tougher strikers than Neuer has). Plus, if you’re superstitious, Germany have never actually beaten Italy in a competitive match. Though, as they’ll tell you — very rationally — records exist to be broken.

France vs. Iceland, Saint-Denis
Sunday

Polar opposites here. The uber-talented host nation against the guys many expected to be nothing more than the answer to a trivia question. Iceland’s performances have been otherworldly thus far. If you don’t believe they’re channeling some kind mystic Viking spirit, you’d have to assume that all that running and exertion will catch up with them sooner rather than later. (Then again, that may be what England thought as well and we saw how that turned out.)Les Bleus will be without the suspended Adil Rami, which might not seem like a huge loss until you realize Eliaquim Mangala could be the man to replace him. Defence is not the French strong suit, though it has arguably performed better than their attack, where Olivier Giroud has fired too many blanks, and midfield, where Didier Deschamps’ incessant tinkering is doing him no favors.Could the host nation stumble against Iceland? Probably not. There are too many weapons in the French arsenal, from Dimitri Payet to Antoine Griezmann to Paul Pogba, and, as they showed against Ireland, they’re resilient too.Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN 

Grading the USA at Copa America Centenario

Goal.com 6 hours ago 

The 2016 Copa America will long be remembered for Lionel Messi’s surprising international swan song and Chile’s successful defense of its title, but when the dust eventually settled from Sunday’s final, it was time to reflect on just what the tournament meant for the U.S. national team.A fourth-place finish certainly sounds like an accomplishment in a tournament with so many quality participants, but there was still a sense of a missed opportunity by the Americans. A chance to show it had really made progress under Jurgen Klinsmann came and went, and while there were victories to hang Klinsmann’s hat on, none were of the type that could really suggest the U.S. has made a jump into a new class under Klinsmann.How you evaluate the U.S. team’s Copa America depends very much much what you were hoping to see from this team. If you were a realist and were simply looking for the team to show some stability after two largely forgettable post-World Cup years, then this tournament provided that. A first-place finish in the tournament’s toughest group — and a resounding 4-0 victory against a tough CONCACAF rival — were enough to call this Copa America a success, even with the multiple losses to Colombia and beatdown by Argentina.Now, if you went into this Copa America wanting to see a team that was clearly stronger than the one Klinsmann inherited five years ago, there was much less supporting evidence. The Americans beat the teams they were supposed to beat, particularly at home, and they lost all three matches against highly-ranked competition. Even though 4-0 rout of Costa Rica was a bit flattering because Costa Rica dominated possession and created more chances, but the Americans enjoyed their only day of clinical finishing in the match you could argue was the most important of the tournament for them.Make no mistake, beating a creditable opponent in Ecuador in a knockout round game was a admirable feat, but not one that really confirms true growth as a national team. Not in the way beating Mexico in the 2002 World Cup signaled a new level, and the 2009 Confederations Cup win against eventual World Cup winner Spain injected belief into the U.S. program (before tragedy and injury to took away two key pieces of that promising team: Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu).Beating Argentina absolutely would have been that kind of victory, but Argentina is at a different level and the U.S. wasn’t nearly as equipped to pull off the upset as the 2009 U.S. team was equipped to beat Spain. The third-place loss to Colombia was an improved effort on the tournament-opening loss, but even though they were better, the Americans still didn’t do what it took to win.Klinsmann will understandably try to paint this Copa America as evidence of a team that is growing, but we aren’t going to really find that out for another two years. The Hexagonal Round of World Cup qualifying should be as tough as it as ever been, but there will be no Confederations Cup for the U.S. before the 2018 World Cup for the U.S. to test itself against the world’s best.Klinsmann did enough to buy himself the remaining two years before the World Cup. As for his players, some enjoyed outstanding tournaments, while others probably played their final matches for the U.S. There will be a changing of the guard once World Cup qualifying resumes in September, only it probably won’t be nearly as dramatic a changing as some would have hoped for.Here is a closer look at how the U.S. players fared at the 2016 Copa America Centenario:

 

BRAD GUZAN (B)  Shanes Grade B – I too hoped Guzan would distinguish himself this tourney and he did until Argentina.

This was Guzan’s tournament to put a hammerlock on the starting goalkeeper spot for the U.S. and he did just that right up until the semifinal loss to Argentina, when he had some shaky moments that left an unfortunately negative tinge on an otherwise strong tournament. He did enough to justify Klinsmann’s trust and should remain the number one heading into World Cup qualifying.

 

 

TIM HOWARD (B-)  Shanes Grade B

 

 

Only played in the third-place match, but Howard made the most of it, turning in a strong outing in what might be his final start for the U.S. Commanded the penalty area and read threats well, serving as a calming influence. He showed enough to suggest he should remain Guzan’s backup until one of the younger options is truly ready to replace him, which still may be some time from now.

DEANDRE YEDLIN (D)  Grade C

This Copa America set up to be a big one for Yedlin, what with his successful stint at Sunderland and a summer of potential transfer opportunities looming. Unfortunately, he showed his youth and naivete far too often, and his Copa America had the kind of mixed bag no defender wants. A handball for a penalty, a red card early in the second half of a tight game, and a blown assignment on the lone goal in the third-place match.

Despite all that, Yedlin is still the future of the position, but he will need to tighten up his defending if right back is going to return to being a strength for the U.S. like it was when Steve Cherundolo patrolled the position.  (YES YEDLIN WAS EXPOSED THIS TOURNEY – HE HAS A LOT OF LEARNING TO DO STILL)

GEOFF CAMERON (A-)  Shanes Grade A   – covered the overman Yedlin time and time again – his only mistake the miss mark in 1st game.

Cameron went into Copa America considered the team’s best defender, and while John Brooks may have outplayed him, Cameron put together the type of tournament that should keep him in the heart of the U.S. defense for a good while. Overcame his blown assignment on the opening goal of the tournament, and was a rock for much of the rest of the competition.What may have been most impressive about Cameron’s Copa America was his confidence on the ball. He completed the second-most passes of any U.S. player in the tournament, and also had the second-most successful dribbles.

JOHN BROOKS (A)  Shanes Grade A

No American player saw their stock rise further during Copa America than Brooks, who was an absolute wall in the back for most of the tournament. He dominated in the air, and also picked out threats on the ground as well. He showed real confidence in possession, completing a gaudy 87 percent of his passes (the best rate of any U.S. starter) and his ability to clean up all aerial threats led him to 34 clearances, the best total in the entire tournament.

And the negatives? It’s tough to point to any, though you would have liked to have seen him be involved more offensively on set pieces, but that’s nitpicking a tournament that was one of the best ever played by an American defender.

FABIAN JOHNSON (B+)  B+  I concure

Johnson is a tough one to grade because you have to take into account he wound up having to play a position that is probably the one he is least comfortable playing among the many he can play, and because of the extremely tough assignments he wound up drawing, starting with Colombia’s Juan Cuadrado and ending with Lionel Messi.

Johnson held his own as best he could against those sharks, but his grade gets a major boost for his excellent job shutting down Jefferson Montero in the big quarterfinal win against Ecuador. That game, which saw him switch to right back, and the Costa Rica game, which required him to handle Joel Campbell, were some of the best of the tournament for the U.S.

MATT BESLER (B-)  Shanes Grade B

alled on to play left back in the quarterfinal clash against Ecuador, Besler stepped in and didn’t miss a beat, helping shut down Antonio Valencia on the way to helping the U.S. squeeze out a 2-1 victory. Didn’t fair quite as well in the third-place match when slotted into his natural center back role, but didn’t exactly look bad there either. Should remain a fixture on the squad when qualifying resumes.

MICHAEL OROZCO (C)  Shanes Grade B-  HIS RED CARD HORRIFIC – and would have brought his grade down to C- if not in 89th minute

Orozco deserves credit for stepping into a crazy quarterfinal against Ecuador with his team being down a man. He did his job to help the Americans hold on for the win. His showing in his lone start — in the third place match against Colombia — was thoroughly forgettable. He looked about as shaky as you would have expected, and earned two yellow cards along the way for his trouble.

STEVE BIRNBAUM (INC)

Played just 31 total minutes in the tournament, which was as much more about how well Brooks and Cameron played than it was about Klinsmann not trusting Birnbaum. The D.C. United defender will have stiff competition for his place on the team when World Cup qualifying resumes, but Klinsmann definitely rates him highly.

MICHAEL BRADLEY (C+)  Shane D+ – this was the worse 2 weeks of Bradley’s career – and serious consideration needs to be given to replacing the captain with Someone, anyone who can complete a pass under pressure.  I don’t believe he completed more than 30% of his passes in the big games against real teams.  I have always been a Bradley fan as his work ethic is 2nd to none.  But he was HORRIBLE in this tourney – not sure if playing in MLS is doing this too him or he was hurt?  But this guy didn’t play like a starter much less a captain in this tourney.  He’ll never do it but Nagbe or Kitchen need to be given a run in the middle #6 slot just to see what happens. 

Let’s call Bradley a victim of his own high standard. If you listen to some accounts, Bradley just had a nightmare of a tournament. It can definitely be called one of his worst, but he still remained a very influential figure on the team. He was rightly roasted for being terrible against Argentina, and his showing in the opening loss to Colombia was forgettable as well. Along the way though, Bradley was a key force in the Costa Rica win, and turned in respectable efforts against Paraguay and Ecuador.

Where Bradley really struggled was in the turnover department. As the American player who spends the most time on the ball, he is always going to lose the ball at times, but the frequency with which he turned the ball over in bad spots was very alarming at times. What often gets overlooked is how hard he works to win the ball back, which he often does, but on too many occasions he tried forcing passes that wound up leading to dangerous counterattacks for the opposition. Suggestions that he should no longer start are pretty absurd, but he does need to clean up the passing, which could also be helped once some more technical midfield options emerge to play around him.

JERMAINE JONES (B-)  B+ if he doesn’t get the Stupid Red Card.  Love his grit though – might need to replace Bradley as #6 while Nagbe takes the #10  role. 

People will continue harping on about Jones’ age, but in this Copa America the veteran midfielder showed that he can still make big plays when needed. His bite and fearlessness were sorely missed against Argentina, and his Man of the Match showing against Costa Rica should not be forgotten. One of the biggest benefactors of the switch to the 4-4-2, Jones helped set up goals in the attack while also doing a ton of defensive work.

After his efforts at the 2014 World Cup, and now his showing at Copa America, Jones has cemented himself as a player who shines on the big stage. While he may be 36 at the next World Cup, he is still playing like someone who could be a part of that team.

ALEJANDRO BEDOYA (B-)  Shane – B+ – would have been interesting to see him against Argentina – I think he would have made a difference.

Every team needs a player like Bedoya, who serves as the glue to the squad, both offensively and defensively. His tireless work off the ball often goes overlooked, but Bedoya was an indispensable part of the team’s success at this Copa America. Could he have played better in the opening match against Colombia? Definitely, but the rest of the tournament he brought all the qualities Klinsmann wanted from him. His passing, his pressure, his movement, and his poise, all of which could have been used against Argentina, the match he missed because of yellow cards.

Bedoya’s role going forward will be an interesting one. He remains one of the few Americans playing at high level in Europe, but younger options are looming, and he could be in for a real fight as the Hex comes around.

GYASI ZARDES (B)    Shane B+  This guy is 1 season from needing a move to Europe to take him to the next level.

While he can still frustrate you with his uncertain touches and inability to read the game at a high level, what we saw from Zardes at this tournament was a player who wasn’t afraid of the big stage, and a player who is very much a useful contributor. Arguably the lone bright spot in the Argentina match, Zardes was one of the few to actually go at the Copa finalists, and while none of his forays resulted in a goal, he still made an impression.

Zardes had other strong outings as well, such as the Ecuador win and the Costa Rica win. Overall, Zardes boosted his stock at Copa America, and is in good position to remain a starter when qualifying resumes in September.

GRAHAM ZUSI (C+)    Shane C+  – just another average player for me – time to phase him out with youth.

Used quite a bit as a sub through the tournament, Zusi had his bright moments, and his invisible ones. The most important moment was the goal he scored against Costa Rica, which seemed meaningless at the time, but which wound up helping securing first place in Group A for the Americans.

Did Zusi do enough to remain in the national team picture after Copa America? The jury is definitely out, and the more likely scenario will be seeing Zusi fade out of the picture once the Hex rolls around.

KYLE BECKERMAN (C)  Shane C-  I love the Hair but its time for him to retire from the National Team – he’s simply over his head and we need the other guys to step in.  Sure do wish the German would have had him man mark Messi – stupid German.

Another veteran player who played sparingly, Beckerman had his chance to shine against Argentina, but was clearly in over his head. The same could be said for the rest of the U.S. team, so it’s not like you can single him out, but it’s tough to see Beckerman playing a part for the national team beyond Copa America. He’s 34 now, and with Jones already serving as the team’s elder statesman in midfield, it’s time to give players like Perry Kitchen and Danny Williams a longer look in defensive midfield.

CHRISTIAN PULISIC (INC)  Shane B – yes Christian should have gotten more time and the start vs Columbia – he’s startin for 1 of the top 10 clubs in the world – if that continues – the meteor will rise. 

Played just 85 minutes at Copa America, a number sure to infuriate U.S. fans who thought he deserved more, and thought he looked very promising in those limited minutes. He showed flashes when given the chance, but with Klinsmann stating he didn’t want to rush the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, perhaps this shouldn’t be too surprising. He certainly showed enough to merit a longer look when qualifying resumes.

DARLINGTON NAGBE (INC)  Shane – B  – I thought he got pushed off the ball a little but his late sub chances were too little too late – should have started Columbia game – then we would know more about what his potential is. 

Played just 47 minutes, not nearly enough time to really make an impact or an impression, which is disappointing because there were certainly games where he is poise in possession and ability to move the ball around could have been used. A larger role should come his way in the fall.

CLINT DEMPSEY (A)   Shane A+  What can you say about Duece – he’s the Best American player to ever play the game and he better be there for 2018 or we may no score. 

Joins Brooks as one of the two best Americans at Copa America. The best attacking threat by a country mile, Dempsey reminded us all that he thrives in the big moments, and he can bring something special that there just isn’t an abundance of in the U.S. player pool at the moment. Whether it was his nose for goal, dangerous free kicks or movement on the counterattack, Dempsey showed of plenty to lead us to believe he can still be a fixture on the team come 2018.

BOBBY WOOD (B+)   Shane A – Bobby was the revelation of this tourney – Jozy look out – Wood just took your spot.  Without him we had NO Offense. 

If Brooks was the defensive revelation of this Copa America, then Wood was the attacking revelation. He played with real confidence and looked every bit like the type of target striker the U.S. needs. He makes good runs, shows a tireless work rate to contribute defensively and he can finish chances. For the first time in recent memory, there is a clear option other than Jozy Altidore at striker for the U.S., which may have been the best news of the tournament for the Americans.

CHRIS WONDOLOWSKI (INC)  –  Shane F – the Worse Soccer Player to EVER Don a US Jersey.  I love his hustle in MLS – but he SUCKS as a Forward at the International Level.  Too bad – he’s a nice guy – but HE’s Horrible.  Sorry

It may have been easy to give Wondolowski an F for his terrible half against Argentina, but the reality is he didn’t play enough to merit a grade. He was bad in his one start, no doubt, but the blame for him being on the field belongs to someone else.

JURGEN KLINSMANN (C+)  Shane’s Grade –  C+ -gotta give the German credit for getting to the Final 4 – and beating a top 10 team in Ecuador along the way – he did finally find a line-up and stick with it.  Amazing the hard head is learning.  Would anyone really cry however if he took that EPL job this summer and left the reigns to Assistant Tab Ramos?  Remember it took the German leaving Germany and handing over the team to a master tactician in Lowe to win Germany its 1st World Cup in 25 years.   Klinsy does a good job of bringing in new young talent – but his tactical preparation and personnel decisions are horrific at times.  (Read leaving Donovan off WC team for Wondo).  While the US did about what I hoped they would do this tourney – (except playing dead vs Argentina) I for one would welcome seeing what life is like post Jurgen –the German – Klinsmann.

Yes, he helped the U.S. reach the semifinals, and grab fourth place in the Copa America, but Klinsmann doesn’t merit a higher grade. Many times it felt like he didn’t get the most out of this team, and didn’t make the right decisions with personnel. The Wondolowski move was a clear failure, which he seemed to acknowledge with the halftime hook, but he also probably cost the U.S. a chance of winning the opener by starting out in a 4-3-3 rather than a 4-4-2. Beating Costa Rica bumps his grade up, but going much higher than a C+ is tough considering the Americans didn’t beat any of the top teams they faced.

Jurgen Klinsmann: United States players ‘deserve a huge, huge compliment’

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The United States fell 1-0 to Colombia in the third-place match of the Copa America Centenario, but that didn’t stop manager Jurgen Klinsmann from hailing his team’s performance in this game and the tournament.The Americans looked much improved from their opening match of the Copa America Centenario, when they fell to Colombia 2-0. The U.S. attack looked much more fluid from the run of play, while the defense — playing without injured starters Fabian Johnson and John Brooks — bent but was breached only once.”I gave the whole team a huge compliment in the locker room,” Klinsmann said. “After six weeks being on the road, to pull out a performance like that in a meaningless third-place game in a certain way, I think they deserve a huge, huge compliment.”Every one of them, the whole team over this entire stretch of time, has kind of grown together, has given each other so much support. It’s really fun to watch this team grow. Did we want to win this game? Yes, absolutely, but I think the performance was a wonderful performance.”I think throughout the tournament, you saw so many good pieces, so many things that make us optimistic looking forward with this group. The back line today, whoever stepped in — Matt Besler, Michael Orozco — was outstanding.”I don’t think Geoff Cameron can play much better. DeAndre Yedlin going up and down. You can go through area by area, I think we gave Colombia a really good game, and even Jose Pekerman said after the game, ‘Wow, you guys are growing. You guys are getting really stronger.'”The best chance for the U.S. came in the 51st minute, but Clint Dempsey’s free kick was superbly saved by Colombia keeper David Ospina. Bobby Wood later hit the post with another drive, but otherwise, the U.S. forced Ospina to make only one other save.Colombia created its share of chances, with Carlos Bacca’s 31st-minute tally enough to separate the two sides.”Ultimately, because they were clinical with their one chance in the first half and we were not that clinical, we hit the post or kind of had a couple of missteps right in front of goal,” Klinsmann said. “But there were enough chances there to put one in, and the players know that.”Prior to the start of the tournament, Klinsmann said the team’s goal was reaching the semifinals. That seemed overly ambitious, especially after the group stage loss to Colombia. The U.S. then recorded wins over Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador.The U.S. were ousted by a clearly superior Argentina side in the semifinals, but Klinsmann said that what pleased him most was the way some players on the roster grew as the tournament progressed.”Every day you learn,” he said. “You learn about every individual, about your group, about the chemistry, about so many little pieces. Every day is fascinating in our little world.”Definitely you see players coming through start to bloom. If it’s a Bobby Wood, a Yedlin, a John Brooks and others becoming stronger. It’s fun to watch some older ones hanging in there like a Clint and Jermaine Jones battling there and having a real impact on these teams still.”You learn about every individual. You feel for the ones that didn’t get that many minutes in the tournament. But they know we are with them, and we help them wherever we can.”As for Saturday’s game, Klinsmann said he was pleased with the commitment, aggressiveness, awareness on the field, tactical awareness and discipline “to be very compact and out of that compactness, then play their game going forward.”These are the concepts he has been trying to instill the past five years, and if they continue to develop in these areas, then the U.S. players “know that they can compete with these guys.”Now Klinsmann hopes his team gets another chance to play in this tournament again.”For us, it was a huge opportunity, and I think we took it really well,” he said. “The final four is a big deal, but there is a lot still to learn, and hopefully we can do that in every Copa America from now on.”Cameron echoed his manager’s sentiments, pointing toward periods of play in which the U.S. laid siege to the Colombian goal.”We didn’t get played off the pitch tonight,” the defender said. “If anything, I thought we dominated the game. I thought we had a lot of chances that we just didn’t put in.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team 

Bobby Wood emerges as a Copa America positive for the U.S.

GLENDALE, Ariz. — As the U.S. players navigated their way through the postmatch mixed zone Saturday night, the mood was upbeat. Granted, the team had been beaten 1-0 by Colombia for the second time this tournament, forcing the Americans to settle for a fourth-place finish in the Copa America Centenario. But the talk among them was almost universally positive.”You can see that we can battle with almost everybody,” said midfielder Jermaine Jones.”I think there’s a lot of positive that you can take out of it,” added Geoff Cameron. “Guys got a lot of experience. We grew as a group from the amount of friendlies that we played before, to building up to the tournament, and showing what we did.”The lone exception was forward Bobby Wood, who had a look on his face as if he wanted to play the just-concluded game all over again.Perhaps he was still thinking of his shot in the 62nd minute that rattled off the Colombian post and bounced out. Wood had a couple of other half chances that either missed the target or were thwarted by the Colombian defense. But when asked about the team’s overall performance, it was clear he wasn’t satisfied.”Before coming into the tournament, I think making it to the semis, we would have been really proud,” said Wood. “But after the way we played leading up to the semis, I think a lot of us felt like there was more in there to gain.”All three players are right: The U.S. did have some good moments and Jurgen Klinsmann’s pre-tournament goal of reaching the semis was achieved. Along the way, some personnel questions were answered in the affirmative thanks to some strong individual performances.Wood is included in that group. He tallied just once, scoring the third goal in the 4-0 group-stage wipeout of Costa Rica. But he showed other attributes, including a willingness to do the dirty work and aggressive running that opened up space for others, most notably Clint Dempsey.Wood’s efforts were especially notable against Ecuador in the quarterfinal, when he consistently bent the opposition’s back line out of shape. So it was almost refreshing in a way to see him ticked at the results from the past two games, one of which — the semifinal vs. Argentina — he missed because of a suspension.”It’s disappointing that we were missing players against Argentina and then today I think we were just unlucky that we didn’t score because I thought we dominated,” he said. “It’s a learning lesson and we’ve got to move on and look forward.”To that end, the next test on the international calendar is a pair of World Cup qualifiers in September: An away trip at St. Vincent and the Grenadines followed by a home tilt against Trinidad & Tobago.Barring injury, Wood is a near certainty to be involved in both matches, thanks to his play immediately before and during the Copa. Think of it this way: The loss of Jozy Altidore to injury hardly came up at all over the past month. That is not to say that Altidore’s international career is finished; far from it. But his absence is no longer the tactical backbreaker that it used to be.Wood has shown he can be an excellent foil for Dempsey, and has proved at the club level that he’s capable of playing as a lone striker as well. Once Altidore heals up from his latest hamstring injury, it will be interesting to see them battle it out for playing time, or perhaps even partner up front when the situation allows.Wood will also need to make the most of his summer move to Bundesliga side Hamburg. The step up from the 2. Bundesliga will no doubt be difficult, and he’ll need to adapt quickly. But for now, Wood can look at his Copa America experience with some contentment for a job well done, as well as hunger for the future.”I’m lucky that Jurgen and my teammates gave me a lot of trust, and helped me develop into this squad as a player,” he said. “I’m just trying to pay them back.”So far, Wood is doing just that.

US Player Ratings: A frustrating Copa America finale

June 26, 20161:47 AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

There won’t be many smiles caused by the report cards after the US national team’s incredibly frustrating 1-0 defeat to Colombia in the Copa America Centenario third-place game on Saturday night.Due to long stretches of poor attack spacing, the hosts were often impatient with the ball and ended being shut out for the third time during the tournament. Defensively, they frequently gifted Colombia room to run and every member of the back line played a role in allowing the lone goal of the match. Put it all together and it gets hard for this space to be excited as one might have expected by the team’s fourth place finish in the tournament.

Starting XI

GK Tim Howard (7)

Though he seemed bamboozled by the Juan Cuadrado chip that hit the woodwork, the US result could have been worse were it not for Howard. The soon-to-be Rapids backstop made a pair of good saves and some helpful rushes off his line.

D DeAndre Yedlin (5.5)

It was a hot-and-cold showing from the Spurs right back, who was late in covering the back-post runner on the lone goal of the game and also pulled himself out of position on a couple occasions. On the plus side, Yedlin pitched in with a few dangerous forays into attack and three tackles.

D Geoff Cameron (5.5)

The Stoke City defender was largely solid, providing several passes into attacking zones and seven total defensive stops around the US area. However, Cameron also was caught watching the knock-down assist on Colombia’s winner.

D Matt Besler (5)

After an early area shot-block, Besler struggled through the rest of the first half. Like his central partner, the Sporting KC was a spectator on Colombia’s set-up pass across the US goalmouth. He improved after the break, providing a couple of strong line holds to catch the visitors offside.

D Michael Orozco (4.5)

The Tijuana man had his hands full on the left side of defense and didn’t always do the job. He was also among the culpable on the goal leak, granting too much space for the initial cross that set up the sequence. Then, in stoppage time, he cost the team a man and a couple of minutes of rally time with an incredibly foolish face slap for his second yellow card of the game.

MF Michael Bradley (4)

It is impossible not to notice that something is quite off with Bradley’s game. He has become far too easy to surpass in midfield, his defensive challenges have lost their zest and in this game he did not even ship a single lead pass to the flanks. It’s quite telling when the captain is removed with the team chasing the game.

MF Jermaine Jones (5)

The Colorado ace started off well, but had little positive impact over the final half-hour of the opening frame. Jones really needed to do better on his partially-whiffed volley in the 37th minute. He got better after intermission, but still was unable to come up with one of the big plays he’s known for in USMNT competitive matches.

MF Gyasi Zardes (4.5)

Zardes came up with some good link plays during the first half, but repeatedly faltered when put in good attack positions after the interval.

MF Alejandro Bedoya (5)

The Nantes attacker came up with a couple nice moments at both ends of the field, but needed to have more impact. Bedoya was not as helpful tracking back as he usually is and simply needed to assert himself more in this contest.

F Clint Dempsey (6.5)

Despite not quite summoning his usual magic, the Sounders star was the lone bright spot among US field players. He dropped back to aid possession, played a couple of nifty passes near the Colombia box and was robbed of an equalizer on a terrific free kick attempt from nearly 30 yards.

F Bobby Wood (5.5)

The fresh Hamburg recruit was decent enough at holding up the ball and finding seams to run into, but was an inch here and second there away from changing the game offensively. Though able to wiggle into the area dangerously a couple times, he struck the post once and waited a little too long to fire on other occasions.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (4)

The manager’s modus operandi has become incredibly frustrating to watch and discuss. Klinsmann went with a very similar game plan and personnel set that he used in the team’s group stage-opening loss to Colombia, albeit minus two of his better players. There was never any real adjustment to the team’s often disconnected shape, which had them punting long balls or stuck in neutral for much of the night. Because of this, his continued refusal to stock a true playmaker stood out like a sore thumb yet again. It just seems like the boss has run out of ideas. What’s more, the fire in the belly often seen during USMNT rally situations was nowhere to be seen.

Subs

Christian Pulisic (6)

The teenager came on late to provide a few strong attack passes and force what could have been a key turnover with pressure.

Darlington Nagbe (5.5)

Despite the weak free kick shot, Nagbe did what he could to push the team into rally position during his too-brief shift.

STARS AND STRIPES

United States men’s national team fell to Colombia, 1-0, in the third-place match at the 2016 Copa America Centenario. It was their second loss to the No. 3 ranked team in the world in this tournament. In each match the U.S. held their own but were unable to find the back of the net.There were several good individual performances in the loss. After calculating your post-match ratings, we have a clear winner.

Man of the Match: Bobby Wood

Bobby Wood received the best rating from the community with Tim Howard coming a close second. Wood came the closest to scoring on the night. He saw an open shot bang off the post mid-way through the second half. He also had a few other good chances after finding space in the box. Unfortunately he was unable to capitalize and the Colombian’s lone goal stood up.

Final Player Ratings:

GK: Tim Howard – 6.95

RB: DeAndre Yedlin – 6.25

CB: Geoff Cameron – 6.86

CB: Matt Besler – 5.75

LB: Michael Orozco – 3.98

CM: Michael Bradley – 4.60

CM: Jermaine Jones – 6.56

CM: Alejandro Bedoya – 6.03

RW: Gyasi Zardes – 5.77

ST: Clint Dempsey – 6.35

LW: Bobby Wood – 7.05

SUB: Christian Pulisic – 6.63

SUB: Darlington Nagbe – 6.10

U.S. doesn’t capitalize on goal-scoring opportunities in defeat to Colombia

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Colombia defeated the U.S. 1-0 in the third-place game of the Copa America Centenario. Carlos Bacca’s first-half goal proved to be the difference and forced the U.S. to settle for fourth place.Here are three thoughts from the match.

  1. U.S. looks better, but Colombia’s cutting edge makes the difference

U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann said he wanted to see some improvement since these two teams met in the group stage, when Los Cafeteros recorded a 2-0 victory. Certainly, when it came to the Americans’ attack, the U.S. looked sharper and was more creative from the run of play.But too often, the final killer pass — or shot — was missing, and a combination of last-ditch defending by Colombia and poor finishing meant the U.S. rarely tested Colombia keeper David Ospina.Colombia’s edge in this area was clear and the difference in the game. Los Cafeteros‘ attacking intentions were evident from the opening whistle. With Fabian Johnson and John Brooks not starting because of injuries (groin and knee inflammation respectively), Klinsmann was forced to mine deep into his defensive reserves, opting for Michael Orozco at left-back and Matt Besler at center-back.Colombia continually sought to overload Orozco’s side, with James Rodriguez linking up with Juan Cuadrado and Santiago Arias.It was that trio of players who created Colombia’s opener in the 31st minute. Cuadrado played the ball square to Rodriguez, whose perfectly weighted, looping pass found Arias in stride. Arias’ header across the face of goal looked as though it were going in on its own, but Bacca made sure by getting the slightest of touches, and Colombia was 1-0 up.Cuadrado later hit the post with an audacious chip, but Colombia was unable to add to its lead.As was the case in the first encounter, set pieces proved to be a threatening avenue for the U.S., and Ospina delivered a fabulous save in the 51st minute, when he clawed away Clint Dempsey’s free kick. As in the first encounter, the U.S. used that as a platform to up the pressure in the second half but again couldn’t find a way through.Bobby Wood had what looked to be a good chance in the 62nd minute, but he could hit only the post with his attempt. Dempsey fired wide from a good position in the 66th minute. The last good chance for the U.S. came in the 83rd minute, when Wood fanned on his attempt after good work from DeAndre Yedlin.On a day when the U.S. hoped to finish in third place — and collect an additional $500,000 in prize money — it had to make do with fourth.

  1. U.S takes away positives but disappointment too

The fourth-placed finish by the U.S. tied the 1995 squad for the best by the country at a Copa America. A team doesn’t get to that point without carving out some decent results. The quarterfinal win over Ecuador was the best of the bunch, given the quality of that team’s players and its current second-place standing in South American World Cup qualifying. But once again, against one of the top sides in the world, the U.S. came up short.Ultimately, the U.S. will take away both positive memories and disappointment. The inability to make more headway against the likes of Colombia and in particular Argentina will stick in the memory, even though the U.S. looked more cohesive in Saturday’s match.But one could argue that purely in terms of this tournament, the scale tilts more in a positive direction. The defense looks more solid with the emergence of Brooks. Wood has all the makings of a highly effective forward. For all the jokes about Gyasi Zardes’ touch, he put in some very effective performances in this tournament.There are still questions about the midfield, but all told, this team looks better equipped to handle the ups and downs of World Cup qualifying than it did even a few months ago.

  1. Why not play the reserves?

For all the talk about how third-place games don’t mean anything, both teams made their intentions clear by fielding as close to full-strength lineups as possible. But it won’t be long before the U.S. has bigger aims ahead, with World Cup qualifying resuming this September.For that reason, Saturday’s match feels like a missed opportunity in some ways, in that players such as Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic didn’t see the field until less than 20 minutes remained.Klinsmann explained his thinking at Friday’s pregame news conference and said he felt that a bench role was all those two players could handle at the moment. He also expressed concern about fielding Pulisic against physical South American sides such as Colombia.Even so, at some point, the U.S. will need to find some creative alternatives in midfield. Players such as Dempsey and Jermaine Jones will be forced to move on at some point.Saturday seemed a perfect time to get some more information about what players such as Nagbe and Pulisic are capable of. Instead, the question of where the creativity will come from will have to wait.

Armchair Analyst: Progress? Unsure it’s in the numbers for US national team

June 26, 20163:16 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

The US played better in Saturday’s third-place game, which first presented and then crystalized as a 1-0 loss to Colombia, than they did in the tournament-opening 2-0 loss. And they certainly played better than in the 4-0 semifinal humiliation at the feet of Argentina, which was the most comprehensive beat-down I’ve ever seen the US take in an official competition.In between there were three other games: A 4-0 demolition of Costa Rica; a 1-0 win over Paraguay; and an engaging, hard-fought and gratifying 2-1 win over a very good Ecuador team. By any measure, I really do think that this was the finest month of Jurgen Klinsmann’s nearly five-year tenure — memories of last summer’s failure at the Gold Cup, and the subsequent 3-2 loss to Mexico in the CONCACAF Cup are long gone for most fans.The US squad, which played a flat 4-4-2 against Colombia in this one, no longer seems like it’s on the verge of collapsing in upon itself as they did last summer, and as they did in March at Guatemala in a World Cup qualifier. At the same time, however, this tournament only reaffirmed the gap between the US and the world’s best teams, rather than going any distance toward closing it.To that point: Under Klinsmann the US are now 0-5-1 in official competitions (non-friendlies) against teams ranked in the top 10 of the Elo Ratings. Under the previous three coaches combined, the US were 5-15-2, including wins over the likes of Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain and Portugal.Given the sample sizes, this could be just a run of bad luck. But I don’t think it is, and the underlying numbers explain why:

That translates to holding the lead for nine minutes of action, which came from minutes 81-90 in the World Cup group stage against Portugal. Since that game — which ended in a 2-2 draw — the US have scored one goal (Julian Green’s volley) in 480 minutes of action against Elo top 10 squads.

So it’s not just that they’re getting beat, it’s that they’re not as competitive as they used to be.It extends out past the Elo top 10 to the Elo top 20 as well. Sampson took nine of the 33 points available to his team against top 20 squads in official competitions; Arena 17 of 45; Bradley 10 of 36. Klinsmann is now at 8 out of 30 points, which is the lowest percentage of the group despite fully 60% of his team’s games against Elo top 20 squads coming at home — most out of any coach in modern US history.The good news? Six of Klinsmann’s eight points vs. top 20 teams came in this tournament when they smashed Costa Rica (ranked 20th at the time, now 33rd), and then the win over Ecuador (14th, now 15th). By any measure, those were good wins. Performances and results like what the US got in those two games will be enough to get them into the 2018 World Cup.But it’s fair to question whether the US have gained any ground against Klinsmann’s stated goal: Making the group compete “eye to eye” with the world’s elite.Under each of the previous three coaches, doing so was a regular occurrence. For the current regime, it seems only like a talking point.

Sunil Gulati says US needs to win games against world powers after loss

June 26, 201612:29 AM EDTJose RomeroContributor

GLENDALE, Ariz. – After a hard-fought, hard-luck end to their Copa America Centenario run on Saturday, there was much to be positive about for the US national team.The Americans had plenty of chances to draw even during the 1-0 loss to Colombia. They showed they’d learned from the first match with Los Cafeteros earlier this month and at times looked like the better team on the pitch. Players like Tim Howard, Matt Besler and Michael Orozco, who got their chances to start, performed ably in the lost.But in the aftermath, a solid truth remained: the USMNT is still looking up at the world’s best teams after going 0-3 against top-five sides in Copa America.Two losses to FIFA No. 3 Colombia and one to top-ranked Argentina made up the three defeats the US suffered this month. And while few expected a win or even gave the home team much of a chance, the talk coming out of the US camp was confident yet in acknowledgement of the need to beat the best.“We got to the semifinals which is good. A game that was pretty rough [Argentina], and today was a game that could have gone either way. A lot of emotion,” said US Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who attended Saturday’s match. “But do you take a step back? It’s a tough tournament. We didn’t lose to anybody in the tournament that’s ranked outside the top five in the world. But we need to win some of those games, obviously.”US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann expressed pride in his team’s effort throughout the tournament and optimism for the future.“If they raise the level of awareness and commitment on the field, if they go the tempo with these teams, if also they have the tactical awareness and the discipline to be very compact… all these topics that we’ve tried to improve in the last five years, if they do that then they know they can compete with these guys,” Klinsmann said.Some players chose to focus on making the semifinals of Copa America and finishing in the top four and looking ahead to World Cup qualifiers. Others looked at what the US needs to do against world powers.“Colombia was a good measuring stick because we played them twice,” Howard said. “We felt hard done in the Argentina game, and it’s OK to lose games, that’s part of sports. But I think we weren’t at it. We want to get in people’s faces and one of our strengths is our physicality.”As for Klinsmann and his performance, a meeting with Gulati and the US Soccer brass is soon to come, as is standard after a big tournament.“Getting to the semifinals is very good, but I never said he wasn’t on solid ground or was on solid ground or anything else,” Gulati said. “A lot of stuff gets written. Next week we’ll sit down, we’ll talk with Jurgen and assess everything.”

How I learned to stop worrying and hate Jurgen Klinsmann-stars and stripes

By Adam Whittaker Snavely  @Snaves on Jun 27, 2016, 7:32a St

The United States finished fourth in the Copa America Centenario, and even if the tournament may or may not have been a cash-swapping bribery extravaganza, that accomplishment is a very good one for a team that couldn’t even muster a third-place finish at last year’s Gold Cup. For many, that’s the end of the story, just as an extra-time, nail-biting loss to Belgium in the Round of 16 was the end of the story. On the brightest stages, Jurgen Klinsmann delivered results that were at or even above the level expected of the United States. These guys were never going to be good enough to compete with Argentina or Colombia or Belgium anyway. The fact that a couple of those games were close is a minor miracle as it is, right? We can’t expect to really challenge those teams until we have our own superstar players in Europe, obviously.Yes. But also, no.It took me a long time to realize I held hate in my body for Jurgen Klinsmann. It’s probably not hate at all; it’s somewhere between petty annoyance and righteous indignation, but the more he coaches the United States, the more I understand the confusion surrounding his reign at the helm with Germany and the ignominy of his Bayern Munich tenure. His teams aren’t good in long stretches, and frequently drop results to teams that are far beneath them. In between those doldrums, though, Klinsmann gets some brilliant freakin’ results. Even when the performance doesn’t look great, his teams have proven capable of achieving results that seem beyond them when their previous form is taken into discussion. No one thought that ’06 Germany team was actually capable of the semis. No one was expecting the U.S. team that lost to Jamaica, Panama, and Guatemala in competition to then go and beat Costa RicaParaguay, andEcuador in succession.Jurgen Klinsmann gets unsustainable results. With the United States, they’ve been unsustainable because of his inability to articulate any sort of criteria for lineup selection that he can consistently follow or maintain a formation that allows the lineup to gel or form any sort of cohesion. And just when it seemed like we were just going to be getting non-stop lineup changes with no real meaningful core of players in defense or midfield, Klinsmann fed us four straight lineups with no changes outside of switches due to suspension. That was exciting, but only as exciting as a lineup that features only two to four (depending on who you ask) players outside of their best position can be. And when the crucial moment came, the moment when the U.S. needed to be at its absolute best from coach to player to equipment manager, Klinsmann trotted out Chris Wondolowski in a 4-4-2 and the U.S. took zero shots in a 4-0 comprehensive beatdown against Argentina.Maybe I’m foolish or just a whiner for complaining like this. I’m splitting hairs, right? I want a consistent lineup and then when I get it I’m still not satisfied? I want positive results but I’m somehow mad about a fourth place finish in the Copa America?! Yep. I’m upset Chris Wondolowski is still playing in any U.S. games. I’m upset that Klinsmann seems completely unable to trust Darlington Nagbe, his best midfielder on the ball, in the name of “bringing him along slowly” and making sure he’s adjusted to the “pace” of the game (the same game he’s starting Chris Wondolowski and Gyasi Zardes in, well known for their measure of the “pace” of top international talent), while watching him come into games and not struggle with the pace of the game nearly as much as some of his midfield counterparts. I’m upset at how he continues to experiment with players mid-game, and I’m upset that somehow subbing in Steve Birnbaum at 3-0 down was a correct choice to make. I’m upset about many other things involving Jurgen Klinsmann as well, but here’s a nice itemized list instead:

All of these things are true. But again, he’s managed some good results, and there were genuine positives from the Copa as well. That lineup really showed signs of cohesion against Ecuador and then again against Colombia in the third-place game. A definite backline and centerback pairing were formed. There was some tactical understanding of when to move from a 4-3-3 to a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 against Ecuador, and it resulted in a pretty dominant performance for 60 minutes or so. So there’s no way I can just point at all the bad of Klinsmann’s job performance without looking at the good; I can’t simply point at the bleak disparity in shots and expected goals between Klinsmann’s U.S. and all of their opponents over the last couple years and deny a fourth place finish at the Copa America and surviving a very talented group at the 2014 World Cup to advance ahead ofGhana and Portugal. So any performance or player gripes I have with Klinsmann aren’t totally backed up purely by statistics or numbers, and I’m ok with recognizing that.Because the man is either insufferably arrogant or just plain vapid, and I’m really not sure which.Klinsmann’s public repertoire is full of cliché, bland soccer talk, and a condescension for any person that might criticize him. He continually avoids any sort of responsibility for losses while preaching accountability for players and leagues, and the closest he comes to tactical analysis is frequently comments like how the U.S. didn’t “step on Argentina’stoes.” He is on record saying formations don’t really matter. And he just keeps on smiling, talking about how the public needs to be educated in soccer more.Here’s something the public doesn’t need to be educated on: 4-0 losses in which your team takes no shots is a complete and utter failure from play on the field to coaching, and no amount of empty platitudes or coaching clichés changes that.If Klinsmann showed any amount of responsibility for owning up to some mistakes he made, or took more responsibility in educating us poor Americans in this sport with something other than vague nonalysis, I might be more forgiving here. But he just doesn’t. He keeps explaining all about how none of us understand while never really proving that he understands, either. Because he doesn’t understand, at least not the soccer public that is questioning him and growing louder and louder. He doesn’t understand that we’re not as angry with him because of this team’s play as we are with just him and how he chooses to condescend rather than dialogue.Klinsmann has had carte blanche from USSF from day one, and he will continue to have that until 2018 at the earliest. Why? Because even if USSF secretly agreed with everything I believe about Jurgen Klinsmann, firing him before Russia 2018 (provided the U.S. qualifies) would be a public admission of wrongdoing, and coming from the federation so willing to suffer public embarrassment instead of paying their women’s team a bit more in order to prove through legislation that they are in the right, that’s just not going to happen.So buckle up for the rest of qualifying. It’s sure to be interesting with Klinsmann at the helm, and should the U.S. qualify for Russia, there’s really no telling what the USMNT’s fortunes could look like two years from now. I pretend to be cynically aloof to the almost-inevitably poor performances to come, but in reality I probably care too much. What I have stopped worrying about is our coaching situation. I’m not going to like it. I know I won’t like it, no matter what he does in the next two years. Because I hate Jurgen Klinsmann.

U.S. finishes fourth at Copa America after 1-0 loss to Colombia

Colombia defeated the United States 1-0 to take third place at Copa America, while the U.S. finished fourth in its highest placing since 1995.

BY GRANT WAHLADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Sat Jun. 25, 2016

The U.S. lost to Colombia 1-0 in the third-place game of the Copa América Centenario in Glendale, Arizona, on Saturday, settling for fourth place at a summer tournament for the second straight year after doing so at the 2015 Gold Cup as well.Carlos Bacca scored for Colombia in the 32nd minute after a nice ball over the top of the U.S. defense from James Rodríguez, and Colombia held on despite a U.S. rally to beat the Americans for the second time in the competition and earn its best finish at a Copa America in 15 years.Here are three thoughts on the game (keeping in mind that, since this was the third-place game, all these hot takes are actually mild takes):

The decisive moment was similar to the one against Argentina

The U.S. performed better overall than it did in the 4-0 loss to Argentina, but the Colombian goal was eerily similar to the first one scored by the Argentines. James lobbed the U.S. defense just as Lionel Messi had done on Tuesday to Ezequiel Lavezzi, and while there was one more pass this time, Colombia sealed the deal for an advantage it wouldn’t relinquish.WATCH: Full highlights from Colombia’s 1-0 win over USA  Both teams hit the woodwork—Juan Cuadrado for Colombia, Bobby Wood for the U.S.—but the decisive piece of quality came from a megastar (James) who was able to take a breath and figure out the best way to unlock the U.S. defense. In time, the U.S. will have players like that. As of now they aren’t around.

The U.S.’s substitution patterns remain head-scratchers

Once again, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann waited too long to make his substitutions—most notably Christian Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe, who have been underused the entire tournament.For a coach who constantly wants his players to “go for it,” there was precious little “going for it” when it came to his personnel decisions during the Copa América. Pulisic, in particular, has been in high-pressure situations before, such as playing in front of 80,000 fans for Borussia Dortmund and in rivalry games against Schalke this past season. Nagbe, too, is ready to play an important role in games like this one.All you can hope is that now that the Copa is done, Nagbe, Pulisic and others who will be important in 2018 will get real opportunities to play in games that matter.WATCH: Colombia announcer holds “gol!” call for 37 seconds straight

The U.S. had a pretty decent (but not great) tournament

In the end, finishing fourth was a heck of a lot better than the brutal fourth-place finish in last year’s Gold Cup. The U.S. won three games in this tournament on home soil against respectable opponents: Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador. It lost three games against Argentina and Colombia (twice), teams that are appreciably better than Klinsmann’s team right now. Saturday’s U.S. performance against Colombia was better than the one in the first game of this tournament.Bottom line: The U.S. is what we thought it was. There’s a long ways to go if Klinsmann wants to achieve his goal of reaching the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup. But there are things to build on. Geoff Cameron and John Brooks are a reliable central defense pairing. Christian Pulisic could be a star. And Bobby Wood is going to be a good forward for this team.We’ll see where it goes from here.

Chile can challenge at the World Cup after back-to-back Copa America titles

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — With all the fallout surrounding Lionel Messi’s apparent retirement from the Argentina national team, it was easy to forget that Chile had just accomplished the formidable achievement of winning back-to-back Copa Americas.And while the decision by the most recognizable player on the planet — although Cristiano Ronaldo may dispute that — to retire from the Albicelesteis huge news, Chile’s victory should not be left to go quietly into the night.”I heard,” midfielder Arturo Vidal said after the game when asked about Messi’s decision. “I don’t want to talk about it. He will have had his reasons. I’m just thinking about enjoying [the Copa America win].”And rightly so. Sunday’s 4-2 penalty shootout win over Argentina at the MetLife Stadium, following a 0-0 stalemate after 120 minutes, was another monumental night for Chilean football.Midfielder Marcelo Diaz said before the final that for the first time in their history, Chile could compete on an equal footing with Argentina, Germany and Spain. He also said that the dream of Chilean football is to go beyond the Copa America and compete seriously for the World Cup, which is next held in Russia in two years’ time.The knockout stages of this tournament — held for the first time in the United States — proved that Diaz’s hopes are surely not hot air, with La Rojaemerging successful again less than a year after emerging victorious as the host nation. For the second consecutive year, penalty kicks were sufficient to overcome an Argentina side suffering from final-stage fright.This Chile team will go down in South American soccer folklore as one that were able to shed aside their underdog status and compete toe-to-toe with CONMEBOL giants like Argentina and Brazil. They are now officially Argentina’s nemesis, the team that has twice gone into a Copa America final against the Albiceleste as the outsider and twice overcome the odds. Not only that, Chile are — for now — the team that retired Messi.The label of “golden generation” is bandied around in international football all too frequently, but Chile have backed up that label and then some. Alexis Sanchez was named the best player of the tournament, Claudio Bravo the best goalkeeper and Eduardo Vargas finished as top goalscorer. Vidal, Gary Medel, Jean Beausejour, Mauricio Isla, Diaz and Charles Aranguiz also all deserve their share of the praise.Chile’s success can be attributed to its collective strength and philosophy — you can even see the belief and dedication when the players belt out the national anthem, all with their eyes closed.”The group has always been very ambitious, even after we won a difficult Copa [America last year],” Vidal said. “We always trusted that the group would keep achieving important things. We still have the amazing dream of the World Cup, of another Copa and we hope to be at the level.”Asked what the key was to Chile’s victory, Vidal’s answer was rapid and concise: “The union; always believing we were going to win and giving everything on the field.”But there was an individual hero on Sunday night in New Jersey: Barcelona goalkeeper Bravo.Bravo — criticized in the early games for mistakes, particular after being beaten at his near post in the 2-1 defeat to Argentina in the group-stage opener — came up with the save and perhaps the moment of this 100-year celebratory tournament in the 100th minute. Sergio Aguero launched what looked like an inch-perfect looping header under the crossbar, but Bravo set himself and sprung to force it over with the very end of his fingertips. Time seemed to come to a halt in the stadium.Then there was the save of Lucas Biglia’s penalty to set up Francisco Silva’s winning spot kick.The transition from head coach from Marcelo Bielsa, who took over with Chile in 2007, to Jorge Sampaoli in 2012 was relatively smooth. But current head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi’s early spell since taking the reins in January from Liga MX side Leon was fraught with concerns about whether he was the right appointment. One win in his first five games had the press and fans worried about how their team would fare in the the United States. The loss to Argentina in the first game and the late, late victory over Bolivia in the second only raised concerns.”All the players have known each other for a long time, we knew the change would be difficult,” Vidal admitted.But things clicked against Panama in the must-win final group game — Chile won 4-2 — and, from there, La Roja battered Mexico 7-0, overcame Colombia, third in the FIFA rankings, 2-0 and then stopped an Argentina side arguably in their best form in years.It’s in the defensive department that Pizzi deserves much praise. The change to a 4-3-3 formation from a back three often used by Bielsa and Sampaoli has added defensive stability to a side recognized primarily for its attacking prowess and high-intensity, pressing game. Not conceding a single goal in the last 315 minutes of the tournament certainly points to solidity.Back in 2010, Chile reached its first World Cup in 12 years under Bielsa and then won its first game at the tournament since 1962. It was the start of something and, since then, the team’s rise has been meteoric.The average age of the core of these players is close to 29, meaning that a new generation will be required to come through eventually. For at least the next couple of years, however, Chile have much to look forward to after claiming two continental titles. They can look forward to Russia 2018 with every reason to believe they will be fighting in the later stages of the tournament.Vidal and his teammates will celebrate long into the night, justifiably unconcerned about the ramifications of Messi’s retirement and all that will inevitably follow.

Clues to weary Lionel Messi’s international retirement

Rob Woollard,AFP Mon, Jun 27 4:35 AM PDT 

East Rutherford (United States) (AFP) – Lionel Messi’s retirement from international football may have come as a shock to his many admirers but in hindsight there were plenty of clues that the Argentina superstar might call time on his career with the “Albiceleste” sooner rather than later.The 29-year-old five-time FIFA world footballer of the year was left devastated on Sunday after suffering yet another traumatic near-miss with Argentina in the Copa America Centenario — his fourth defeat in a final since 2007.”For me the national team is over,” Messi said. “I’ve done all I can, I’ve been in four finals and it hurts not to be a champio

“It’s a hard moment for me and the team, and it’s difficult to say, but it’s over with the Argentina team.”While startling, the suddenness of Messi’s departure — assuming it is for good — begins to make sense when the context of his decision is taken into consideration.For most of the last decade, Messi has shouldered the burden of expectation from Argentinian fans craving a first major tournament success since 1993.The flipside is that when the disappointments come, he has often been the lightning rod for criticism.Though the majority of Argentinian fans remain squarely in Messi’s corner, his critics invariably contrast his success with Barcelona with his inability to lead Argentina to international glory.Messi had shown signs of growing increasingly weary of the criticism following Argentina’s defeat in the 2015 Copa America final, irritated by the suggestion that he was anything other than committed to the national cause.

– Feeling the shirt –

“I get annoyed when they tell us ‘Put in more effort, you don’t feel the shirt,” he told Argentine network TyC Sports last December. “We were lucky enough to get to the final of the World Cup and the Copa America and it seems like we didn’t do anything. We got to two finals. We didn’t win, what can you do? We got to the final, we didn’t lose in the last 16,” he said.”I get annoyed by the people who attack you without thinking. I won’t sing the national anthem on purpose. I don’t need to sing it to feel it. It reaches me, every person feels it in their own way,” added Messi, who once turned down an invitation to play for Spain, where he has lived since his schooldays after being spotted by Barcelona as a youth prodigy.Proof of Messi’s commitment to playing for Argentina, if it was needed, can be seen in his gruelling schedule over the past three years. He has played a major tournament during his off-season every summer since 2014.Last year he played in the Champions League final for Barcelona and a week later was playing in the Copa America in Chile.This year, he played in the final of Spain’s Copa Del Rey on May 22 and five days later was turning out for Argentina in a meaningless friendly against Honduras in the Argentinian town of San Juan.

– Seething –

For his troubles, he sustained a back injury after a heavy collision with a Honduras player.Messi then returned to Spain to give evidence in his tax fraud trial before hopping on a plane to California to join up with the Argentina squad at the Copa America Centenario.He missed the first game in Santa Clara, but sparkled with a 19-minute hat-trick against Panama in the group stage.Another goal against Venezuela saw him level Gabriel Batistuta’s all-time scoring record, with 54, before he surpassed that mark with a magical free-kick in a 4-0 romp over the United States in the semi-finals.Yet despite being all smiles on the pitch, off the pitch problems have bothered Messi, with the crisis-ridden Argentina Football Association the subject of his ire.He was left seething after a flight from Houston to New Jersey was held up, taking to social media to vent his frustration.”Once again waiting on a plane to leave for our destination,” Messi wrote. “What a disaster the AFA are. My god!”He was also the subject of more sniping from Argentina legend Diego Maradona “He’s a really good person, but he has no personality,” Maradona said bluntly in Paris. “He lacks (the) character to be a leader.”Maradona then followed that salvo with a blunt statement that Argentina’s players shouldn’t bother returning to their homeland if they failed to win Sunday’s final.Until Messi’s declaration in the depths of the MetLife Stadium on Sunday, he had been content to do most of his talking on pitch.Yet now it seems likely, barring a retirement U-turn, that Messi will never emulate Maradona’s success in leading Argentina to a World Cup title.

THREE THINGS: ELEVEN VS. PACHUCA

Takeaways from Sunday’s “Champion vs. Campeon” friendly win

1) GERARDO TORRADO’S SUCCESSFUL DEBUT

It’s been the talk of the squad for some time now as Gerardo Torrado completed his move to the Circle City earlier this month. “El Borrgeo” made his debut in checkers on Sunday – and we’ll gauge it as a successful one.During his hour-and-change on the pitch, Torrado showed his intelligence and ability to control the game in the center of the park alongside Scotsman Nicki Paterson. Having trained intensively leading up to the match, Torrado’s work ethic has been amongst the most talked about aspects of his character since the move stateside, and Sunday’s performance only confirmed that side of the veteran’s repertoire.Now Torrado faces a two-week wait for league action, as he is ineligible to play in an official NASL match until July 9 with the transfer window opening on July 4. However, the legendary Mexican international is adamant about continuing his routine while the team readies for the Fall opener this Saturday in Puerto Rico.

2) EAMON ZAYED, GOAL SCORING HERO

With six league goals, one U.S. Open Cup tally, and one international friendly goal – eight in all competitions – Eamon Zayed is firing on all cylinders for “Indiana’s Team,” acting as the showstopper the 2016 season transitions from Spring to Fall.Scoring a hat-trick in his last league appearance, the 4-1 win over Railhawks FC that helped to secure the Spring Season title for the “Boys in Blue,” Zayed remained as hot as the weather on Sunday by notching the lone goal against los Tuzos. The towering Irishman could have had another as well, only to see his opportunistic chip off a Pachuca turnover miss just left 20 minutes following his 7th minute opener (and closer, as it turned out).During a June slate of six games across three different competitions, Zayed scored five of the team’s eight goals and left little doubt regarding his will and ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Now Zayed looks forward to the Fall Season as the league’s scoring leader and has an opportunity to eclipse World Cup winner Kleberson as both the leading single-season and career goalscorer during Indy Eleven’s brief three-year existence. In 2014, the Brazilian nabbed eight goals in 20 league appearances, whereas Indy’s Irish forward has six in ten league games already. Zayed has already passed last year’s leading goalscorers Brian Brown and Dylan Mares (5) heading into Saturday’s fall opener at expansion side Puerto Rico FC.By the end of the year, Eamon Zayed could have received enough bricks to build a house – something we’re sure both the forward and the Brickyard Battalion desire.

3) DEFENSIVE STRENGTHS SHOW AGAIN

Recent injuries to defensive stalwarts Colin Falvey and Nemanja Vukovic forced coach Tim Hankinson to field an unfamiliar backline on Sunday, but the defense nonetheless put in a solid performance in holding the Liga MX champions scoreless. Facing 16 shots and five on target, the back four of Daniel Keller (LB), captain-for-the-day Greg Janicki (LCB), Cory Miller (RCB), and Marco Franco (RB) helped keep ‘netminder Keith Cardona protected as the match wore on.Los Tuzos swapped the entire team out after the first half, but Cardona had to deal with Franco Jara and Jonathan Urretaviscaya before facing Wilson Morelo, Mateus Goncalves and Erick Sanchez in the final 45 minutes, and did well against anything Pachuca’s swarming attack threw at him. In just his second appearance of the year Cardona had a heck of a day himself, stopping all five shots faced, including a ridiculous kick save on Sanchez late in the match that seemed to seal the fate of the game.Out of position, Daniel Keller did well as a left-back while Janicki and Miller took the reins of physicality over with usual captain Colin Falvey unavailable for selection. On the right side, Marco Franco proved another competent selection as he repelled repeated attacks from the flanks despite the Mexican side deciding on a balanced attack in width.Overall, it was a complete performance from the back line, a fantastic sign for an Indy Eleven side that has prided itself both on its defensive prowess across the field and team depth. Both of those qualities will be tested across the four-month, 22-game gauntlet that is the NASL Fall Season starting Saturday in San Juan – which couldn’t possibly be any hotter than “The Mike” on Sunday.

RECAP – INDY 1 : 0 PACHUCA

“Boys in Blue” take Clash of Champions courtesy of Zayed’s early tally, staunch defense

Eamon Zayed’s Early Goal Stands Tall under Sweltering Conditions in International Exhibition at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium

INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, June 26, 2016) – On a day that made conditions difficult for players and spectators alike, it was Indy Eleven that conquered the heat and visiting Mexican Liga MX champion C.F. Pachuca by posting a 1-0 victory in their international friendly at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium.While the 6,055 fans in attendance had to deal with temperatures hovering in the low 90’s, the players on the field had to deal with surface temps that peaked over 130 degrees. The game would get off to a hot start for the NASL Spring Season champs, with Indy Eleven getting on the board just seven minutes in thanks to some considerable help from a pair of Pachuca defenders who converged on a ball 30 yards from goal but had trouble corralling. The ball popped loose to an opportunistic Eamon Zayed, who easily collected and dribbled into the area before slotting low and left of Pachuca ‘keeper Alfonso Blanco to give the home side an early lead.While a 4-3-3 formation and a high-sitting back line allowed Pachuca to create repeated forays into the final third, the Mexican champion’s quality chances were few and far between. Los Tuzos created their best look of the half when Jonathan Urretaviscaya and Franco Jara combined to put the latter into the left side of the area in the 18th minute, but Ivan Ochoa would knick Jara’s near-post cross just over the crossbar to leave Pachuca wanting.Another defensive miscue, this time a lazy backpass by Jose Esquivel, put Zayed in alone again on Blanco in the 26th minute, but this time the Irishman rushed the chance and pushed his chip past the onrushing goalkeeper just wide left.A brand new eleven-man squad for Pachuca to start the second half had much the same effect as the starters, producing some fluid, attacking football out of the break. Los Tuzos began their assault on the Indy goal in earnest with a pair of Wilson Morelos headers in the 55th and 57th minutes, the first saved by Cardona coming across his goalline and the second flashing just wide left.One of the biggest cheers from the crowd for Indy during the second half came in the 62nd minute when midfielder Gerardo Torrado would finish his debut for the “Boys in Blue,” being replaced by Eleven original Brad Ring. Torrado, the second-most capped player in Mexican National Team history with 146 appearances, will look to make his first official start for the “Boys in Blue” on July 9 at home against Minnesota United, five days after the FIFA international transfer window opens.Indy’s best chances in the second half would come from a pair of crosses sent into Pachuca goalkeeper Jose Gonzalez’s six yard box, the first an offering off the foot of Justin Braun that Gonzalez smothered before it could reach the run of Souleymane Youla.  Braun was almost on the receiving end of the most dangerous chance of the day created by Indy in the 87th minute, but his sliding attempt to reach Duke Lacroix’s square ball on the doorstep went for naught.Pachuca had its chances to equalize down the stretch, with the most dangerous coming off a pair of looks by Erick Sanchez in the 82nd minute. The crafty attacker first challenged Cardona with a 15-yard shot only to be denied by a fine kick save, followed by a rebounded effort he headed just past the upper left corner of frame.One last chance would come in the final five minutes for the Mexican side, first in the 85th minute when Mateus Goncalves’ free kick smacked off the wall but still made it to the far post, only to have Jose Ramirez unable to put an open touch towards goal. A red card issued to Morelo for an elbow to the head of Cory Miller on a 50-50 ball in the final minute of regulation all but guaranteed the result for the home side, with the final whistle giving Indy Eleven another first during its increasingly historic 2016 season – a first win over international opposition.With a two-week “break” that included today’s friendly in addition to a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup fixture in Chicago 10 days ago in the books, Indy Eleven (4W-6D-0L, 18 pts., 1st place overall in NASL) now gets to turn its focus back to NASL action. The “Boys in Blue” will kick off its 22-game Fall Season next Saturday, July 2, when it serves as the first-ever opponent for expansion side Puerto Rico FC at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel in San Juan (7:30 p.m. ET, live on WISH-TV).The following Saturday, July 9, Indy Eleven returns home to Carroll Stadium to face off against Minnesota United FC (7:30 p.m. ET, live on WISH-TV). Tickets for the club’s popular Craft Beer Night at “The Mike” are available starting at $11 and can be purchased at www.IndyEleven.com, while passes for the two-hour craft beer tasting event can be secured with or without a game ticket at http://craftbrew16.indyeleven.com andhttp://craftbrewtaste16.indyeleven.com respectively. Call 317-685-1100 for more details (Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.).

QUOTE SHEET – INDY ELEVEN HEAD COACH TIM HANKINSON

On Indy Eleven’s performance in today’s match:
“It’s the little things that we have to be better at. We feel confident. In the defense, we’re heading and clearing with our heads. Our moves tonight were all about relieving players under hot conditions to avoid injury and more problems to get ready for Puerto Rico.”

On the debut of Gerardo Torrado:
“As he gets to know his teammates, their strengths and the qualities in their game, he’ll know how to gel even more. We’re very excited to have him.”
International Friendly
Indy Eleven  (NASL)  1 : 0  C.F. Pachuca (Liga MX)
Sunday, June 26, 2016   Michel A. Carroll Stadium– Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:
IND – Eamon Zayed (unassisted) 7’

Discipline Summary:
PAC – Franco Jara (caution) 9’
IND – Daniel Keller (caution) 45+’
PAC – Oscar Torres (caution) 49’
IND – Cory Miller (caution) 84’
PAC – Wilon Morelo (ejection) 90’

Statistics            IND        PAC
Shots                   3            16
Shots on Goal       1             5
Saves                  5             0
Fouls                   6            12
Corners                1             4
Offside                 2             2

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Keith Cardona; Daniel Keller, Greg Janicki (capt) (Lovel Palmer 77’), Cory Miller, Marco Franco; Omar Gordon (Duke Lacroix 45’), Nicki Paterson, Gerardo Torrado (Brad Ring 62’), Dylan Mares (Nemanja Vukovic 60’); Eamon Zayed (Justin Braun 45’), Souleymane Youla (Sinisa Ubiparipovic 68’)

C.F. Pachuca (4-3-3): Alfonso Blanco (Jose Gonzalez 45’); Emmanuel Garcia (Andres Rodriguez 45’), Jose Esquivel (Oscar Torres 45’), 30-Omar Gonzalez (Francisco Santillan 45’), Jose Martinez (Hector Lopez 45’); Ivan Ochoa (Pablo Lopez 45’), Jorge Hernandez (Francisco Venegas 45’), Ruben Botta (Jose Ramirez 45’); Simon Almeida (Mateus Goncalves 45’), Franco Jara (Wilson Morelo 45’; RED CARD 90’), Jonathan Urretaviscaya (Erick Sanchez 45’)

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6/24/16 COPA Finals Sun, US vs Col. Sat 8 pm, Euro Sweet 16

So it was best for me to not write what I thought about the US’s pathetic attempt at playing soccer vs the #1 Ranked team in Argentina until I waited a few days. Looking back – well lets just say the game was over when the German (Klinsy) rolled out Wondolowsky at forward above Dempsey.  I think we all would have loved to have seen a full strength team – but honestly against Argentina and the world’s best player Lionel Messi I am not sure it would have mattered.  He is so good as is Argentina.  Honestly the best possible matchup for the finals is Argentina vs Chile again.  These are the top 2 teams in the America’s and 2 of the top in the World.  The Final on Sunday Evening is MUST SEE TV – if you can find the FX Channel.  (Side note tirade– Fox Sports has done a fine job with the games and the studio shows for the game – but with the biggest weekend games again being pushed to FX – instead of the Main FOX Network I just don’t understand.  I mean seriously 8 million watching the USA vs Argentina is fine – but more people watched our group stage game on ESPN in the World Cup.  If Fox is going to cover soccer – THEY HAVE TO PUT AT LEAST THE USA GAMES ON FOX – not FX or FS1 or FS2 – who ½ the country still doesn’t have)

Ok back to the US game – thank goodness Mexico gave us the 7-0 debacle loss to Chile so we can look at our game and say hey we only lost 4-0 look we aren’t so bad. But upon closer inspection – ZERO yes ZERO Shots in 94 minutes of play.  I am not sure what Klinsy was trying to do – but to say it didn’t work would be an understatement.  How can Messi be wide open at the top of the box all night long?  If you are going to put in the Hair – Kyle Beckerman (who despite his past fantastic contributions to our US Team is simply too old to do it now) – if you are going to play him – he has to man match Messi.  He didn’t – no one covered Messi – seriously – the best player in the world – lets just leave him uncovered sure.  Unbelievable.  The US couldn’t decide if they wanted to press or sit back so instead they did neither.  They chased the ball and the game and NEVER caught up with it. Seriously I counted no more than 3 US passes completed in a row for 35 minutes in the 2nd half of a game where we should have been pressing to score.  We could not complete a pass under pressure – and Bradley our Captain – continued to prove since moving to the US to play professionally – that he no longer has the skills to play against the top 10 teams in the world.  I am not sure he completed 20% of his passes and his service on free kicks (lets just say I help coach a U12 girls team that serves better balls than that).  The plan was not good but in his defense Klinsy was missing 3 starters and the guys he chose to play instead – 2 of them over 30 – were not on par.  I will hold my complete judgement on the state of US Soccer until after I see how we play in the 3rd place game vs Colombia. Listen this is a big game – a 3rd place finish and wins against 2 top 10 teams in Ecuador and Colombia would be quite a statement overall.  So Saturday night on FX – yes not Fox Sports and not FOX – find that FX Channel on your TV early – and get ready for the USA vs world third ranked Colombia and Real Madrid star James Rodriguez –that’s Saturday night at 8 pm.  And of course Sunday – the COPA America final in a rematch from last year’s COPA – its World #1 Argentina and Messi, GK Bravo and Dmid Macherona  vs Chile and stars Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez.  That’s 8 pm Sunday night on Fox Sports 1.

 

Now turning to the Euro’s the addition of 8 more teams has certainly led to some more excitement as Ireland, Northern Ireland, Wales and tiny island nation Iceland have all advanced to the Round of 16.   Wales actually looks like it has a chance to do some damage in the easy bracket, while Ireland faces the host France Sunday at 9 am on ESPN and Iceland looks to continue the dream vs England in Nice on Mon 3 pm ESPN. In what can only be described as odd there is a true GROUP OF DEATH on the HARD SIDE of the BRACKET with 11 World Cup Titles amongst Germany, Spain, Italy, France, England all on that side of the bracket.  Wales and Portugal along with Belgium seem to have the best road on the EASY Side of the Bracket.  Finally here at home our Spring Season NASL Champions Indy 11 will face the Mexican League Liga MX Champions Pachuca and USMNT defender Omar Gonzales on Sunday at 1 pm at the Mike tickets still available as the Indy 11 will introduce new Mexican superstar player Gerardo Terrado.

USA

US vs Colombia 3rd Place Preview – MLS

The COPA in 90 seconds video

8 million watched USA vs Argentina

US has a long way to go Gulatti

Bradley SUCKED – ESPN FC

Where does US Go from Here? MLS

No Plan Plenty of Pain for US vs #1

Klinsy has not delivered for US

US and Mexico get Reality Wake-up – ESPN FC

Has progress been made under Klinsy?

US Player Ratings

COPA

Messi has nothing to prove

Bravo has been fantastic

Maradona tells Argentina to Win or don’t come home

Player who flipped over Ad Board for Chile Wed to have surgery

Chile validates plan vs Columbia

Osario to continue as Mexican Coach

EUROS

Euro’s Sweet 16 Predictions

Euro Preview – ESPN Marcotti

Predictions Sweet 16 on

Let the Real Euro’s Begin ESPN

Unbalanced Brackets leads to opportunity

The brackets

Zlatan sees final Game for Sweden

The Little Countries Shock the World

Indy 11

Indy 11 Preview vs Mexican Champ Pachuca

Game Day

Pachuca Breakdown

Gerardo Terrado.

Indy 11 Secure Spring 2016 NASL Championship

Champs Square off Sunday – June 26th – 1 pm at the Mike – Mexican Champ Pachuca and USMNT player Omar Gonzales vs the NASL Champs Indy 11

GAMES ON TV

COPA AMERICA FINALS

Sat., 6/25

Copa America 3rd place Game – USA vs Colombia — AZ 8 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26

Copa America final  Argentina vs Chile  East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

European Championships- Round of 16

Saturday, June 25
Switzerland vs. Poland — Saint-Etienne (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Wales vs. Northern Ireland — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Croatia vs. Portugal — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Sunday, June 26
France vs. Ireland — Lyon (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Germany vs. Slovakia — Lille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Hungary vs. Belgium — Toulouse (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Monday, June 27
Italy vs. Spain — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
England vs. Iceland — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

 Quarterfinals

Thursday, June 30 – Match 45
Switzerland/Poland vs. Croatia/Portugal — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Friday, July 1 – Match 46
Wales/Northern Ireland vs. Hungary/Belgium — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Saturday, July 2 – Match 47
Germany/Slovakia vs. Italy/Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Sunday, July 3 – Match 48
France/Ireland vs. England/Iceland — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

 Semifinals

 –Wednesday, July 6
W45 vs. W46 — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Thursday, July 7
W47 vs. W48 — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

 Final

Sunday, July 10
W49 vs. W50 — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available  $35 to $135

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

Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Badger Field July 9th

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

Carmel High Boys – Youth Soccer Camp 2nd to 6th Graders only

Run by CHS Boys team players – Thurs, Aug 4 (9:30 am till 12 noon) – CHS Practice Fields River Road and 126th . 2nd to 6th Graders only – Cost $35 to CHS –- First 100 players to sign up.  Sign Up Here https://www.ticketracker.com/store/item?catalogItemId=8741   Email Shari if you have questions indyabbotts@hotmail.com.

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

USA vs. Colombia | Copa America Centenario Third-Place Match Preview

June 23, 20162:46 PM EDTSam StejskalContributor

USA vs. Colombia Copa America Centenario – Third-Place Match
June 25 | 8 pm ET | University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona TV: FX, Univision, UDN

The US and Colombia will meet for the second time in the Copa America Centenario on Saturday, when they’ll face off in the tournament’s third-place game at the University of Phoenix Stadium.Both teams are coming off of disappointing semifinal defeats, with the US getting thoroughly outplayed in a 4-0 loss to Argentina on Tuesday and Colombia falling 2-0 to Chile in a weather-delayed match on Wednesday.

Will the youngsters get the nod?

Much to the consternation of many US fans, Jurgen Klinsmann chose to keep Darlington Nagbeand Christian Pulisic out of the starting lineup for Tuesday’s defeat to Argentina. By the time both players entered in the second half, the US had dug far too deep of a hole for either player to have much effect.With far less on the line in the third-place match, there’s no real reason for Klinsmann to not start both exciting young attackers on Saturday. Giving the two inexperienced internationals some solid run against strong competition will only be beneficial for them and the USMNT, who could certainly use a creative boost heading into their two World Cup qualifiers this fall.

Another chance against high-quality opposition

As has been the case for most of Klinsmann’s tenure, the US in the Copa America have taken care of business against opponents they should’ve beaten (Paraguay, Costa Rica and, to a slightly lesser extent, Ecuador) and lost to more talented sides (Colombia, Argentina).While there’s certainly no shame in dropping a result against Los Cafeteros or La Albiceleste, the manner of the US’s two Copa defeats was plenty concerning. The Americans looked listless against Colombia and outright terrible against Argentina, continuing a trend of poor performances in meaningful games against world-class opposition. They’ll have an opportunity to flip that script a bit on Saturday, albeit in what will likely be a slightly diluted third-place matchup.

Cooled off Colombia

Los Cafeteros looked stylish in group stage wins against the US and Paraguay, but they’ve fallen off since, dropping a 3-2 result to Costa Rica in the Group A finale, surviving against Peru in a penalty kick shootout in the quarters and falling 2-0 to Chile in the semifinals.Head coach Jose Pekerman has drawn some criticism for his tactics during the tournament, while star midfielder James Rodriguez has been quiet since starting his Copa with a pair of solid matches. It’s no sure thing James will play on Saturday (like Klinsmann, Pekerman might want to give some run to a few of his regular reserves), but both will be motivated to end their tournament strongly after their title aspirations were brushed aside in relatively easy fashion on Wednesday.

Sunil Gulati, on the state of the USMNT: “We’re obviously a long way off”

June 22, 20165:57 PM EDTAndrew WiebeSenior Editor

HOUSTON – Tuesday night’s comprehensive 4-0 dismantling at the hands of Argentina in a much-anticipated the Copa America Centenario semifinal may not have been a referendum on the state of US Soccer, but it did put the program’s progress in perspective.Speaking to reporters following the match, federation president Sunil Gulati admitted the US got “outplayed badly by a very good team,” but also emphasized the positives behind a tournament run that saw the Americans win three straight games, including two against CONMEBOL competition in Paraguay and Ecuador.Still, those results proved little consolation after the US wilted in the face of a juggernaut led by the incomparable talents of Lionel Messi and a laundry list of other world-class talents. Jurgen Klinsmann’s team failed to register a single shot were clearly outclassed on a night that held much promise before a goal just three minutes in set the tone for the rest of the match.“Today is a good day to judge where we are in the program overall as a team,” Gulati told reporters following the loss. “We’re obviously a long way off. We knew that going in, but we knew we were a long way off when we beat Spain back in 2009 or Germany or Holland last year.”Following a tournament-opening defeat to Colombia that put the US on the brink of elimination, Gulati addressed Klinsmann’s performance and recent results that had left much to be desired, for the the first time giving an indication that the German’s job security might not be ironclad.“There are areas where I would have hoped for more progress and other areas where we’ve done well,” Gulati said at the time. “That in many ways reflects recent results ….  Results over the last 18 months overall haven’t been what we would have hoped for. We’ll look at everything after the end of this competition.”He stayed true to those words on Tuesday night, emphasizing that the tournament was not over yet and that another world-class team – either Colombia or Chile – await the US on Saturday in the third-place game. All evaluations, certainly publicly, would wait until all parties could review the full the body of work.“Obviously tonight was disappointing. That there’s a gap between the two teams is not a surprise,” Gulati said. “That you can win some of those games is also not a surprise. Today that wasn’t going to happen. It was pretty clear early on. There have been some very good positives out of this [tournament run], but let’s see. We’ve got another game against a team that’s ranked top-five in the world.”Whether the US acquit themselves better in that match remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the team’s run to the semifinals as CONCACAF’s lone representative in the final four represented a success – even if that was tough to see after a night in which the US were never truly in the game.“We just a lost a game in which we weren’t really in the game after the first three minutes,” Gulati said. “It’s hard to ask me about feelings. Today is a disappointment that it wasn’t a more competitive game. But overall, the performance of the team to get here, absolutely that’s a positive.”

Armchair Analyst: With 2018 looming, where does the US go from here?

June 22, 201611:59 PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

The US men’s national team has played five games in the Copa America. Two of them were against opponents we should have beaten and did; two were vs. opponents who were favored to beat us and they did; one was against a team that we were slight favorites against, and we gutted out a 2-1 win.So it goes. By those numbers it wasn’t a particularly noteworthy tournament – none of the results were surprising just in W-L-D terms. The scorelines of the win over Costa Rica and Tuesday’s loss to Argentina were, however, shocking. The US fanbase seems absolutely stunned in the wake of last night’s 4-0 drubbing, and I’m right there with you all: I personally think it’s the worst and most embarrassing loss of the modern era (that era beginning with qualifying for the 1990 World Cup, and everything after).But even with that defeat it’s pretty clear that if the US keep up this pattern they will eventually punch a ticket to Russia in 2018. They are once again beating the teams that have less talent than them, which is 1) everybody in CONCACAF except Mexico, and 2) all but about 20 teams in the world. It’s not progress in any sense of the word, but it’s… fine. It’s enough. The rising tide of talent does the job.So this is a functional question rather than a philosophical one:

Functionally, we learned from Copa America what will be enough to help us advance through the Hexagonal and to Russia. However you feel about Michael Bradley at d-mid, John Brooks andGeoff Cameron in central defense, DeAndre Yedlin at right back and Brad Guzan in goal, just remember that they were good enough to put together wins over Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador.

I’m not saying upgrades should be ignored if they present themselves. What I’m saying is that the smarter approach is to build upon a foundation that has a baseline of success – to optimize rather than to tear down and start anew. Use that 4-1-3-2 look that was so solid at the back and find a way to make the rest of it more dangerous.

With that in mind, here are three adjustments I’d like to see Jurgen Klinsmann make over the next six months in order to prep for the US for next year’s Hexagonal:

  1. Figure out a way to pushFabian Johnsonup to his natural role on the wing

Johnson put in a man’s performance at left back throughout this tournament, and deserves credit for that. But his nous in possession and creativity in the final third were badly missed by a US team that didn’t generate a single shot of any sort against Argentina on Tuesday. Getting him onto the left side of that “3” line in the 4-1-3-2, or on the left wing of a 4-3-3, should be high on Klinsmann’s list of objectives.

Possible solutions: Eric Lichaj, Timmy Chandler or Brandon Vincent

  • Lichaj should have been at this Copa America, full stop. He’s played over 12,000 minutes in the Premiership and Championship in England over the last five years, and has 11 solid caps to his name in Red, White & Blue. Plus he’ll be just 29 in 2018. Chandler has been less good with the US and his commitment is rightly questioned by the fanbase, but he’s still a Bundesliga starter. Vincent, meanwhile, got off to a slow start with the Fire this year, but has come into his own over the last six weeks and pretty clearly has an international-level future.
  1. GetDarlington Nagbeand Christian Pulisic meaningful minutes right now

It’s clear that Klinsmann has never valued chance creators and that the US have suffered for it. Neither Nagbe nor Pulisic is, so far, a traditional No. 10, but neither has to be in order to be effective. Pulisic looks plenty comfortable on the wing, and Nagbe’s ability to play both sides of the ball and his comfort in traffic has made him a very, very effective box-to-box player at the MLS level.Plus he’s been pretty good in his few national team looks, too:

Possible solutions: Writing their names down on the team sheet, Nagbe in central midfield and Pulisic on the wing opposite Johnson

  • I don’t mean to say that either/both should play every minute of every game, but pushing them further up the rotational ladder alongside the likes ofJermaine Jonesand Alejandro Bedoyamakes sense. Nagbe needs to partner with Bradley in games that mean something; Pulisic needs to show whether his future is as a winger, or perhaps as Dempsey’s replacement underneath a center forward.This process for figuring this stuff out needs to start soon – as in Saturday’s third-place game, and not 65 minutes into a must-win qualifier next spring as an act of desperation.
  1. Value hold-up play

Starting Chris Wondolowski as a center forward was always going to fail because Wondo does not possess that skillset. Starting Clint Dempsey as a lone center forward in the World Cup was always going to fail because Deuce does not possess that skillset. Starting Bobby Wood there was better, and moving Gyasi Zardes up top in the second half of the Argentina loss at least showed that Klinsmann can recognize the lack of hold-up play is a problem (even if it’s hardly Zardes’s strongest suit).And let’s remember that Jozy Altidore, before his injury this spring, looked really, really good holding the ball up.Possible solutions: C.J. SapongJordan Morris and a returning-to-health Terrence Boyd

  • Against the best teams, the US will have to sometimes skip the midfield entirely. We call this “The Brian McBride Gambit,” and obviously Sapong is a monster in that situation.Morris still lacks, but he’s been developing rapidly in his rookie year, and while it remains to be seen what Boyd will look like when he finally returns, he was always a rugged and willing No. 9 who’d allow the attackers around him more time and space in which to work.

Jurgen Klinsmann hasn’t delivered on his promises for the U.S. national team

Here’s a fact about the United States men’s national team that many people seem to overlook: It’s far from a great squad in the grand scheme of international soccer. This isn’t a shot meant to belittle Jurgen Klinsmann’s group; it’s simply the truth.Pick a metric. The Americans are 31st in the latest FIFA ranking, sandwiched between the Czech Republic and Algeria. They sit 23rd in ESPN’s Soccer Power Index; better, yes, but still behind six South American teams, 12 from Europe and, of course, Mexico. (Also: Algeria, Japan and Senegal for the completists out there.)While the Americans are one of seven countries to qualify for every World Cup since 1990 — Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Italy, South Korea and Spain are the others — that’s at least partially due to the relative ease of CONCACAF qualifying. There’s no real reason to think that the U.S. should be able to stay with Argentina, an excellent team desperate to hoist a trophy led by the world’s best player.So when we talk about the Americans’ performance at the Copa America Centenario, set aside Tuesday night’s 4-0 shellacking in Houston, what’s left? A first-place finish in a difficult Group A, a nice run to the semifinals and a feeling that there’s hope for the future. The victory against Ecuador, the first knockout stage win in a major tournament since the 2009 Confederations Cup, was peak positivity, a moment when the promises of the Klinsmann era finally met, or at least approached, reality.Except none of that is true.Against Ecuador, the U.S. were out-possessed 58-42, 74-26 in the final third. They were out-passed 390-263. Offensive third touches were 248-86 in favor of Ecuador. One of the best attacking players, Fabian Johnson, was more or less minimized, with just 12 touches in the offensive third.Bobby Wood managed a game-low 33 total touches. The U.S. was about six inches from John Brooks tying the game on an own goal. A close corollary in style and substance is the win against Spain at the 2009 Confederations Cup, in which possession was 56-44 in favor of the European team. That’s a game most fans remember as one in which the U.S. barely hung on.Against Ecuador, the Americans did hang on. There’s value in doing so because the result is the single-most important outcome of an individual soccer game. But Klinsmann and his team also talk about the process, the idea of slow improvement over time, the concept of making progress. We didn’t see that much evidence at Copa America that the Stars and Stripes are making significant moves forward. They were middle of the pack in many stats, made to look better by a remarkably high (and totally unsustainable) 50 percent conversion rate in shots on goal.In the first four games of Copa America, the Americans had just 43.4 percent of possession. The Colombia match was the only game they had more of the ball. The way the U.S. found success during the group stage and quarterfinal was through working harder than the other team, which had been missing from some Klinsmann teams during the past five years, but it’s also not exactly a revelation. It’s how the U.S. has always succeeded.Across the balance of four games, Wood was dangerous at times, but is Geoff Cameron passing it over the top to Wood really that different from Oguchi Onyewu or Jay DeMerit trying to pick out a streaking Charlie Davies in 2009?Clint Dempsey, who led the team in scoring at the 2006 World Cup, remains the only player who can finish on a consistent basis. Too often, Gyasi Zardes’ disastrous first touches undid promising attacking forays. Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic, the two players with the most pre-tournament hype, barely figured. When the quarterfinal vs. Ecuador got tight, Klinsmann turned to Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi rather than the younger players he has praised so effusively, and then to Chris Wondolowski as well in the semifinal. The Copa run wasn’t a revolution; it was simply more of the same.If anything, it offered the unusual picture of Klinsmann as a conservative manager. After half a decade of zigging when he could (or should?) have zagged — leaving Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster, refusing to start the same lineup twice, playing players out of position, throwing young guys into the fire to see if they survived, basically never being predictable — his choices during the past few weeks were downright staid. Some of them, like sticking with a uniform back four, mostly worked; others didn’t, like the starting XI vs. Argentina.At the Copa, Klinsmann set up his team to do something he hasn’t done much of during his tenure: play pragmatic soccer. The Americans ground out wins, working hard and doing just enough. If he had a choice to go for it or pull back, he picked the latter option, the safer one that carried lower risk but also less potential reward. He has never been quite so nakedly after results. Was he worried about his job security, concerned that if wins didn’t come this summer, he wouldn’t be around to reap the benefits of having taken a chance by playing younger guys with higher ceilings?We’ll look back at the 2016 Copa America as a success. And we should. The Americans reached the semifinal, Klinsmann’s stated goal, and a result that the vast majority of fans would have accepted before the tournament began. And yet, the way they got there was disappointing. The hope of the Klinsmann era was that he would somehow blend the hard-working American mentality of past teams with the skill sets of young, exciting, emerging players, developing some sort of hybrid style. That’s why he was hired. During the past fortnight, that ambition was abandoned. We’ll see if it returns.”You have to take risks,” Klinsmann said before the semifinal. He didn’t, and he hadn’t. But there’s always tomorrow.Noah Davis is a Brooklyn-based correspondent for ESPN FC and deputy editor at American Soccer Now. Twitter: @Noahedavis. 

U.S. progression under Klinsmann in spotlight after Argentina humbling

At major tournaments, what constitutes success can be a moving target. A pre-tournament goal can be reached, but how a team achieves that objective and the manner of its exit can do plenty to alter perceptions.So it goes for the U.S. men’s national team.In the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. emerged from a difficult group to reach the round of 16, where it was bounced from the tournament in extra time by a talented Belgium side. That was enough for manager Jurgen Klinsmann to declare victory, even though the U.S. was outplayed for the vast majority of that World Cup and stylistically didn’t look much different from previous American sides.The 2016 Copa America Centenario — pending Saturday’s third-place match against Colombia or Chile — witnessed some similarities, although the team can glean a few more positives. It met Klinsmann’s pre-tournament goal of progressing to the semifinals. Excluding CONCACAF Gold Cups, the U.S. won three matches at a major tournament for the first time in its history. (For those pointing to the 1995 Copa America, the U.S.’s penalty shootout win over Mexico in the quarterfinals goes into the books as a draw.)Along the way, Klinsmann collected encouraging data points with regard to some of his most vexing personnel questions. John Brooks and Geoff Cameron emerged as a stable and consistent center-back pairing. Bobby Wood’s play up top means the absence of a Jozy Altidore needn’t result in a tactical conundrum for Klinsmann or a wringing of hands for fans. DeAndre Yedlin has staked his claim to the right-back spot for years to come, and Gyasi Zardes more than repaid Klinsmann’s faith and patience by delivering some highly effective performances in a wide midfield role.Clint Dempsey, while very much a known quantity, reinforced his value to the U.S., scoring three goals and benefiting greatly from Klinsmann’s decision to send out his team in a 4-4-2.But impressions — be they first, last or otherwise — matter, and the manner of the Americans’ start and elimination will be burned into memory. The tournament-opening 2-0 loss to Colombia, and especially the 4-0 semifinal defeat to Argentina on Tuesday, serve as reminders of the gap between the U.S. and the world’s best. It was as if the U.S. arrived at Everest base camp in the middle of the night only to wake up the following morning and behold the magnitude of the task that climbing that mountain entails.To be clear, the U.S. played well in spurts earlier in the tournament, but there were some warning signs. Much like in the last World Cup, the U.S. was outshot by a heavy margin at the Copa America. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the total shots ratio (the percentage of total shots in a game that a team takes) for the U.S. was 36.7, the third-lowest in the tournament, and the lowest of any team that progressed from the group stage. The stat was influenced in part by the fact that the U.S. played a man down for nearly half of the 1-0 win against Paraguay, but looked at another way, only in the 4-0 win over Costa Rica did the U.S. outshoot its opponent.The U.S.’s task was undermined on a couple of fronts that were evident throughout the tournament: a weakness in defending set pieces and a lack of discipline. The U.S. conceded five set-piece goals over the first five games. One was a penalty against Colombia, and another was an otherworldly free kick from Lionel Messi. Neither of those can be pinned on the whole defense, but the other three were instances where the U.S. was outworked, outthought or both. That doesn’t bode well for the World Cup qualifying games to come.In terms of discipline, the U.S. received two send-offs and 10 yellow cards (not including the two that led to Yedlin’s dismissal) during the Copa. The suspensions of Alejandro Bedoya, Wood and Jermaine Jones for the semifinal cut deep, each in their own unique way. Granted, it’s unlikely that their availability would have changed the outcome, but at least their presence would have given the U.S. more of a chance. Given the vagaries of CONCACAF refereeing, that penchant for cards is something the U.S. needs to clean up before World Cup qualifying resumes in September.The suspensions indirectly pointed to the biggest question the U.S. faces as it exits the tournament: the future of the midfield. Both the good and the bad of Jones were on display in this Copa. When he’s on, the Americans’ ability to carry the game to their opponent increases considerably. His assist on Dempsey’s goal against Ecuador was impressive. But his occasional trips to the dark side create some doubt as to his dependability. Yes, his send-off against Ecuador was controversial. The contact he made with Antonio Valencia’s face appeared minimal at worst. But it goes back to the adage that if you leave yourself open to the whims of a referee, don’t be surprised when he rules against you. Jones should know better than to take that chance.Michael Bradley deserves some scrutiny as well. Overall, he seemed to benefit from the move to a holding role that he filled for the majority of the tournament, especially in terms of his defense. But following an exceptional performance against Costa Rica, his distribution eroded to the point where he struggled mightily against Argentina. Granted, it was a night when no one played well, and Jones was missed. But Bradley has historically been a player Klinsmann could count on to take care of the ball under pressure. That wasn’t the case in either of the two U.S. defeats.Of course, when it comes to the U.S. midfield, it’s evident that Klinsmann has scant confidence — especially on defense — in anyone beyond Jones, Bradley, Zardes and Bedoya. Why else start Chris Wondolowski against Argentina instead of moving Zardes up top and having one of Christian Pulisic or Darlington Nagbe fill in? And the problem remains of where the creativity will come from. Finding a left-back to free up Fabian Johnson to move back to midfield would help, and that ought to be a priority in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Pulisic’s continued development will necessitate watching, and he remains in the mix, but one wonders what exactly Nagbe’s future is. He would seem to have a skill set that would help the U.S., but his limited minutes, even with the team hit hard by suspensions, hints that Klinsmann has lost a bit of faith in him.So it’s worth asking: Just how much progress has been made under Klinsmann? Compared to last summer, when the U.S. exited the Gold Cup in the semifinals, it has been considerable, but that failure back in 2015 also represented perhaps the lowest point the U.S. men’s program has experienced since it last failed to qualify for a World Cup back in 1985. If the beginning of this World Cup cycle is the reference point, then the U.S. seems stuck in largely the same place it was before, even with the pluses this Copa revealed. Klinsmann remains heavily reliant on veterans from the 2014 cycle. Of the consistent starters in this tournament, only Zardes and Wood can be considered newcomers.Yet for Klinsmann, the U.S. performance in the Copa America practically guarantees he will last for the remainder of this cycle, meaning there are two years left to scour the player pool for reinforcements. His ability to introduce a few new faces into the side will determine to what extent the U.S. improves for Russia 2018.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

United States fail to perform on the Copa America big stage

The United States fell 4-0 to the top ranked team in the world on Tuesday night in Houston, and it wasn’t much of a surprise.The Americans were outclassed by their Argentine opponents all over the field, nearly from the opening whistle.Lacking a clear plan on how to slow down Lionel Messi & Co., and with a number of players making simple mistakes, there was no way around a rout.The player ratings reflect that difficult reality.Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Brad Guzan, 4 — At fault for the opening Argentina goal, when he failed to come off his line to challenge for a looping ball into the box. The saves he made were cancelled out by too many slow reactions. Can’t be faulted on Messi’s goal.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 6 — Provided some of the only danger the U.S. was able to create by combining up the flank.

DF Geoff Cameron, 6 — As guilty as his teammates for giving Argentina an easy path to goal. Spent much of the night backpedaling with Argentina attackers running at him. Part of the failure on the opening goal.

DF John Brooks, 5.5 — Forced to make errors for the first time in the tournament, giving the ball away in bad areas and stepping late on an offside trap. Slipped by Gonzalo Higuain for the third goal. Made important tackles and was otherwise competent.

DF Fabian Johnson, 5 — Spent most of the evening uninvolved, but did make a few goal-saving defensive runs.

MF Gyasi Zardes, 7 — Did more to give the U.S. a chance at a goal than anyone else on the field. Played a few promising passes that led to nothing at the feet of teammates. Tracked back to good effect.

MF Kyle Beckerman, 4 — Simply unable to handle the pace of the game, struggling to keep up with Argentina. Misplayed several passes and turned the ball over. Subbed off at the 60-minute mark.

DF Michael Bradley, 3.5 — Sloppy with the ball, turning over possession quite a bit across 90 minutes. Set piece service was poor.

DF Graham Zusi, 4.5 — Provided industry, but little more. Failed to provide any meaningful service and conspired with the rest of the midfield to struggle with simple passes.

FW Clint Dempsey, 5 — Limited in his influence by the lack of possession available to the Americans. Did little more than drop deep and attempt to connect a few passes.

FW Chris Wondolowski, 3 — Isolated entirely because of Argentina’s dominance of the ball. Turned the ball over and then committed the foul that set up Messi’s free kick goal. A nonfactor in the attacking half.

Substitutes

MF Christian Pulisic, 4.5 — Entered a game already lost and never got settled. Missed a chance to put a shot on target, something the U.S. failed to accomplish.

DF Steve Birnbaum, 3 — Comported himself fairly well until a late turnover that led directly to Argentina’s fourth goal.

MF Darlington Nagbe, NR — Energetic, had a few decent touches in his 15 minutes on the field.

Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer. He also hosts a daily soccer podcast that covers the beautiful game. Follow him @davisjsn.

Mexico, U.S. experience reality check in Copa America Centenario

HOUSTON — In the Copa America Centenario, the U.S. men’s national team finished among the final four; Mexico’s national team didn’t. However when both teams played against their toughest opponents in the tournament — Mexico vs. Chile in the quarterfinals and the U.S. vs. Argentina in the semifinals — both teams failed significantly.Argentina scored four goals against Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT, while Chile tallied seven against Juan Carlos Osorio’s El Tri. CONCACAFs main sides conceded 11 goals against last summer’s Copa America finalists.The losses, which make the U.S. and Mexico seem as if they still have a long way to go to match the top CONMEBOL teams, come at a time when both are still trying to define their playing styles.When Klinsmann took over as U.S. manager in 2011, he talked a lot about defining the way the side should execute the game. “Will the U.S. team be more proactive or reactive?” was one of the questions asked during his first news conference. He pointed out that against CONCACAF opposition, the U.S. should be more proactive, taking initiative in most of its games; but if the opponent was Brazil or Argentina, the team would probably have to sit back and wait for the right moment to attack.Against Argentina at NRG Stadium, the U.S. were unable to react as Lionel Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Mascherano and Ever Banega took possession of the ball. Klinsmann’s men were unable to muster a single shot on goal.Indeed, there was no point in the match where it seemed like the U.S. would score.Mexico’s display against Chile was not far off from the one the U.S. had against Argentina. Mexico only had one shot on goal against La Roja, though the final result was of course more brutal.Just as the U.S. is under Klinsmann, Mexico is still trying to define its style. In his reign between 2002-06, Ricardo La Volpe was the manager that first made the 5-3-2 tactical formation into one that the Mexico could use against opponents like Argentina, Germany or Brazil. His way of playing the game was then integrated by Miguel Herrera during his time as manager from Nov. 2013 until July 2015.Now, with the arrival of Osorio, who is taking his first steps as national team manager, Mexico aspires to strengthen the style that La Volpe first implemented, and Herrera tried to expand. However, the historic 7-0 loss will make it extremely difficult for Osorio to peacefully work in this environment; he will be questioned every time he fails to get a win.What the two thumping losses proved is that the U.S. and Mexico are in a region of the world where they’re almost guaranteed to earn a World Cup place; the lack of competitiveness seen in CONCACAF hinders the progression of its two main teams.There’s no doubt that when the U.S. and Mexico play against each other, expectation among Mexicans and Americans is at an all-time high, but the neutral spectator doesn’t really pay attention to the CONCACAF rivalry for footballing reasons.The neutral spectator will observe a Chile vs. Argentina for footballing reasons because these two are at a level that permits them to compete against the world’s best. It’s even possible to suggest that Chile’s intense and proactive style is more attractive than Argentina’s — most of which highly depends on what Messi does.It would be healthy for the U.S. and Mexico to find ways to play more often against sides that are close to the level of Argentina and Chile, as opposed to playing against each other. Those games between the U.S. and Mexico should only happen in World Cup qualifiers, in the Gold Cup, or even a World Cup, not in friendlies. Both national teams should be looking to use their friendly games to play against an opponent that could make them progress.Fusing CONMEBOL and CONCACAF into one big confederation might not be on the cards just yet, but Mexico and the U.S. need to learn their lessons from the heavy defeats inflicted by their South American opponnets and ensure they grow as a result.

Armchair Analyst: No plan & plenty of pain as Argentina throttle US 4-0

June 22, 20165:25 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

Michael Caley @MC_of_A

There was no magic lineup that would put the US on even footing with Argentina. We’re hoping to get lucky either way. But this is still bad.

8:47 PM – 21 Jun 2016

“They know exactly how to sort of organize themselves behind the ball quickly,” Jurgen Klinsmann said in the postgame press conference. “They high pressure right away when you are in possession of the ball. That’s why we pretty much didn’t have any chance to score.”Klinsmann was talking about Argentina in the wake of their 4-0 win over the US men’s national team in the Copa America semifinals on Tuesday night, and he was right. Argentina were supremely organized and absolutely ruthless, and clearly the better team for the full 90 minutes. Even under the best of circumstances the US wouldn’t be expected to take them to the wire when they’re playing this well. There’s a quality gap.Fine. But… there’s always been a quality gap. Why, now, is there an organization gap? Why is there a high pressure gap? Why, after five years in charge, is Klinsmann’s US team no more organized than it was when he took over? Why have previous managers all been able to produce teams notable for their ability to stay compact and defend as a unit, while this one fell apart within three minutes against the La Albiceleste?Please understand, the US have faced teams as good as this version of Argentina before and come out on top. Each of the previous three managers — Bob Bradley, Bruce Arena and Steve Sampson — have coached the US to at least one win over a team ranked in the top 10 of the Elo Ratings in an official competition:

This performance was an outlier in the last 30 years of US soccer. But it also felt like an inevitability for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. As Alexi Lalas said on the FS1 postgame, “The US didn’t press, but they didn’t absorb pressure. When they did try to press it was disjointed.”In lieu of a complete breakdown (which would be, just what, a GIF of a hammer hitting a nail for infinity?) I’m just going to string some brief thoughts together:

  • The numbers kind of explain how disorganized the US were: They generated zero shots of any type (on goal or off), and Argentina generated 10 shots. That’s not a high number, but the kicker is that they put nine of the 10 on target.That doesn’t happen by accident. That happens when a defense is pulled apart and the attacking group is able to find every seam:

Argentina generated tap-ins. The US made it easy, and while Klinsmann talked about showing Argentina “too much respect” in the postgame, at least part of it has to be chalked up to a team that came in with a questionable (charitably) gameplan.Lionel Messi and Gonzalo Higuain need more than a “questionable” gameplan. You need a rock solid gameplan in which every single player knows what his role is at all times.

  • The US came out in a 4-4-2 that Argentina unspooledalmost immediately. The 4-4-2 mostly went out of style over the last decade (a recent resurgence from Atletico Madrid and Leicester City notwithstanding) because teams that play a three-man central midfield can swamp that part of the pitch, get on the ball, dictate the rhythm and force tempo.Javier Mascherano and Ever Banegathoroughly outclassed their counterparts, Michael Bradley and Kyle Beckerman, and so even if the US backline was heroic, the Yanks were gonna take an L in this one.
  • Beckerman and Bradley did not have a good partnershipin this one as dual pivots, and pretty constantly left space in between the central midfield and central defense:

This is the danger of breaking up that triangle of Bradley and central defenders John Brooks &Geoff Cameron. The US could’ve survived a bad outing from Bradley, but not a bad and disorganized outing from that CB/D-mid triangle. Adding Beckerman, a good defensive midfielder and a smart player, actually made the US worse defensively and infinitely more reactive.

  • Taking the occasional beating is inevitableno matter who you are. What makes those beatings bearable for the fanbase is knowing that A) young players got meaningful minutes, and B)the coach will learn from his mistakes.

I’ll leave the rest of that thought unsaid.

  • Ok, maybe not entirely unsaid:Darlington Nagbe‘sevents map (passes and recoveries) from his 12 minutes. He didn’t get on the ball much, but when he did he was reliable and solid. And he did plenty of work tracking back:
  • I don’t understand why anybody would ever thinkaClint Dempsey/Chris Wondolowskipartnership would work up top. The US weren’t all that much better in the second half with Gyasi Zardes up top — and what little improvement there was can probably be chalked up to game states — but starting two second forwards, neither of whom has any speed to push the defenders deep and keep them honest, was never going to work against any decent & decently prepared team.It’s a basic mistake Klinsmann keeps making. He doesn’t seem to be able to assess which players’ strengths complement each other, and which make each other worse.
  • Here’s the highlight of the night for the US:

Christian Pulisic could have done better with that final touch — Opta initially credited him with a shot, but it was pretty clearly a pass. He could have been more selfish.But he, like Nagbe, never looked out of his depth. Certainly US fans should hope that those two and Jordan Morris are given more high-leverage minutes in the near future. They bring skills other members of the player pool don’t have.• Messi is impossibly great. His free-kick goal is one that folks will replay for a hundred years, and was a worthy record-breaker. I think that, no matter what happens in the final, he is the greatest who has ever played this game.That said, I hope that Argentina win because I don’t think he’ll get all that many more opportunities to win a major title with his country.

  • Higuain’s movement was/is so good.He was the first striker this tournament to force Brooks into multiple errors. No shame in Brooks’s game, though — it happens. And if there’s anything the last 12 months shows us, he’s able to learn from his mistakes and improve.
  • Fabian Johnsonhad a mostly invisible day, which is better than most of his teammates can say. I still think that it’s a mistake to play him in the back since the US badly need his creativity and smarts in attack — without that sort of thing you can end up with zero shot attempts — but he deserves credit for the defensive effort he put in. He was much better on that side of the ball this summer than he was in the previous two.
  • The third-place game will be on Saturday(8 pm ET; FS1 | Univision | UDN) against either Colombia or Chile, either of whom would be favorites against the US. We’ll see what Klinsmann & Co. are able to learn between now and then.
  • Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –  Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com ,

    Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com  , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

6/20/16 -US vs Argentina Tues Nite 9 pm Fox Sport 1 COPA SEMI-FINALS, Europa Final Group Games

Ok so I have tickets to wed nights Colombia vs Chile Semi-Final game 8 pm in Chicago. Good level 2 seats – 2 tickets $75 each (my cost).  Or if anyone wants to come along with me – let me know.  Beautiful Soldier Field – good level 2 seats about 10 rows up.  

So wow it’s the USA vs Argentina (the #1 ranked team in the world with the world’s best player Lionel Messi) on Tuesday night – 9 pm on Fox Sports 1.  Make no mistake US Soccer fans – this is THE BIGGEST GAME THE USA HAS EVER PLAYED ON HOME SOIL.  A win over the #1 ranked team – and advancement to the Finals of the COPA America would be unbelievable.  Now if the US actually had its full team – I would say maybe, just maybe we would have a chance (if the defense played great, Guzan plays like a god in goal, and Dempsey played the way he did last game).  But honestly I don’t think with starters Alejandro Bedoya, Jones and Bobby Wood missing that we can pull the upset.  Honestly its Wood who I think changes things the most  – his ability to stretch the Ecuador defense, pulling the defenders away from our best scorer Clint Dempsey which opened up the scoring.

As for changes this game – I think we leave Beezler on the back left side defender and move Fabian Johnson back to his natural left mid position.  To help cover for Beez – we need to start the HAIR –  Kyle Beckerman and tell him to follow Messi all over the field.  I think we push Zardes up to Bobby Wood’s #9 position and try to work the counter attack the best we can.  I wouldn’t mind giving Nagbe a start and try to actually maintain some possession – but honestly I think it will be Zusi  who starts in Bedoya’s outside right mid spot and hope he can get us into the counter attack.  Listen we aren’t supposed to win this game – WE ARE THE UNDERDOGS – which is when the US Plays its best!!  I think it would be great for the US to come out blazing and try to possess and get a goal early.  But honestly this is Argentina – this is the best team with the best player in the world.  If we can get that lucky early goal – we might could hang on assuming Guzan plays his but off in the goal and the defense hold’s fairly steady.  We gotta slow down Messi, Iguaeyn, we have to get an early goal. Realistically – if we can get out with less than a 2 goal loss- say 2-1 that would be a huge step forward.

Shane’s Line-Up 4-2-2-1-1

Guzan

Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Beezler

Bradley, Beckerman

Nagbe,                                    Johnson

Dempsey

Zardes

Moving to the other Semi-final on Wednesday night in Chicago, 8 pm on Fox Sports 1 –  Columbia vs Chile is a nice match up – especially with Chile missing Vidal.  Vidal was a huge reason this team pounded Mexico 7-0.  James has Columbia playing well but honestly top to bottom Chile is just too good.

USA

US Pokes a little fun a Mexico after defeat

How will the US Stop Messi  Video

US Starting 11 must be Spot on for Argentina – Jason Davis – ESPN FC

US Must keep confidence vs World’s #1 Argentina Grant Wahl

US Not Scared of Argentina

Klinsmann why Can’t we win it?

Will US Go After Argentina?  GOAL.com

How to Obsess over Argentina – Guide for the US Fan

US has Stopped Messi before

US Must Do what it can to slow down Messi – say Bradley – MLS.com

Brooks-Cameron partnership a Reveal in Copa – ESPN FC Carlisle

US Protest Cards vs Woods and Jones fails

US hosting COPA shows potential for hosting World Cup – Klinsy says

US Defender John Brooks Blossoms for the USA embraces his dual nationality

STRAUS: Guzan’s account of a harrowing season at Aston Villa

Clint Dempsey Still Pushing after all these years

 COPA

Mexico Loses 7-0

Without Marquez Mexico looked lost

Osario tinkering undone by superior team in Chile

Osorio Must have time to right the Mexican Ship

Messi Ties Argentine Scoring Record ESPNFC

Argentina Coach says look out for US

GK Ospina Plays Superman role for Columbia

 Europa

Minnows rise vindicates 24 teams ESPNFC Jolly

Why is scoring down espn fc Marcotti

Will Stars score in Final Group Games?

England must stop living on Brink to become legit Contender

Renaldodino was better than Messi and Renaldo – Deco Says

The Many haircuts of France’s Paul Pogba

ALL GAMES ON TV

Tuesday, June 21
Northern Ireland vs. Germany — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Poland — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Croatia vs. Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Turkey — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America USA vs. Arg Houston, TX – 9 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, June 22
Hungary vs. Portugal — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Austria — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Italy vs. Rep of Ireland — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sweden vs. Belgium — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America -Chile vs Columbia  Tues 28 Chicago, IL  8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

 Euro Round of 16  Starts Saturday, June 25

Sat., 6/25

Copa America 3rd place Game — Glendale, AZ 8 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26

Copa America final  East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available  $35 to $135

Carmel 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

Carmel Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Carmel, IN Badger Field July 9th

Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
Carmel High School Soccer 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

Carmel High Boys – Youth Soccer Camp 2nd to 6th Graders only                                        Run by CHS Boys team players – Thurs, Aug 4 (9:30 am till 12 noon) – CHS Practice Fields River Road and 126th . 2nd to 6th Graders only – Cost $35 to CHS –- First 100 players to sign up.  Sign Up Here https://www.ticketracker.com/store/item?catalogItemId=8741   Email Shari if you have questions indyabbotts@hotmail.com.

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

First Look: USA vs. Argentina in Copa America semifinals

BY GRANT WAHLPosted: Sat Jun. 18, 2016

It’s the United States vs. Argentina in Tuesday’s Copa América semifinal in Houston after the Argentines beat Venezuela 4-1 on Saturday in Foxborough, Mass., behind two goals from Gonzalo Higuaín, one from Lionel Messi (which tied Argentina’s all-time record) and one from Erik Lamela. Venezuela had a chance to get back in their quarterfinal just before halftime, but a failed Panenka attempt on a penalty kick thwarted the Vinotino’s momentum, and Argentina rolled to the result.How will the U.S. overcome three suspensions

(to Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya) and stack up against the No. 1-ranked team in the world? That’s one of the big questions entering Tuesday’s showdown.Let’s break it down:

Kyle Beckerman has to come up huge 

Let’s be honest: Limiting Messi will have to be a collective defensive effort by the U.S., but Beckerman in particular is going to have to play the game of his life if he fills in for Jones as expected.Maybe that means having Beckerman man-mark Messi, maybe not. But the U.S. can’t be chasing shadows against the best player in the world, one who’s in terrific form during this Copa América.It’ll be interesting to see whether the referee allows the U.S. to be as physical with Messi as Venezuela was allowed to be on Saturday. But having a pure defensive midfielder like Beckerman involved might actually be preferable to Jones, who has a tendency to leave his defensive duties. Defense has been a huge strong suit for the U.S. in this tournament, though, so don’t just assume that Argentina will break down the Americans that easily.

Copa America: Lionel Messi wastes no time in showing he’s world’s best player

SI senior writer Grant Wahl breaks down Lionel Messi’s performance so far in Copa America.

Argentina’s back line has to be tested 

The big question about Argentina coming into the tournament was its central defense pairing of Nicolás Otamendi and Ramiro Funes Mori, who didn’t exactly light up the Premier League this past season with Manchester City and Everton, respectively. The pair has been better than expected in the Copa, but this is still the weak link of Argentina.Just look at the goal scored by Venezuela’s Salomón Rondón, who split the two center backs for a header that looked a lot like Clint Dempsey’s strike against Ecuador. Whether it’s Gyasi Zardes or Chris Wondolowski, whoever replaces the suspended Wood up top needs to stretch the defense the way Wood has during this tournament. That would give Dempsey some necessary space to keep doing what he’s done so well in this tournament.

The World of Messi

What’s it like being the world’s biggest soccer star? Lionel Messi gives SI an exclusive peek into his life in Barcelona.

The U.S. has to believe 

Look, Argentina is going to be heavily favored here. But the U.S. has to stay confident even when it looks across at kickoff and sees the famous Albiceleste stripes and Messi in the No. 10 jersey. The talent on this Argentina team is formidable, but there’s a reason so many supremely talented Argentine teams have gone without a major senior trophy since 1993.If the U.S. can stay in the game and cause some doubt to creep into the Argentine psyche, the ingredients are there for an upset on home soil in front of a sellout crowd at Houston’s NRG Stadium. It’s going to require a Herculean effort, though, and a serious test of the U.S.’s depth. That said, few people thought the U.S. could make the semifinals. Even fewer will think it can reach the final.

Klinsmann’s starting XI must be spot-on if the U.S. are to beat Argentina

The United States met Jurgen Klinsmann’s stated goal of a semifinal berth in the Copa America Centenario with a hard-fought win over Ecuador on Thursday night in Seattle.While the semis are nice, there’s doubt that advancing to the final of the home tournament would be a truly remarkable feat for Klinsmann and his team, especially in light of a trying 2015.The task is gargantuan. The Americans must beat the No. 1 team in the world, Argentina, if they’re going to continue their tournament run.Beating La Albiceleste means finding a way to not only shutting down the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, but finding a way to score against a team that has given up just two goals in the tournament so far.Here are three keys to the match:

1. Klinsmann’s lineup

Before the Americans take the field against Argentina at NRG Stadium in Houston, Jurgen Klinsmann and his staff have the tough chore of cobbling together a functional team from a roster missing Jermaine Jones, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood.The three suspended players were key cogs in the United States’ run to the semifinals, and it’s not going to be as simple as plugging in replacements for the match against a team as good as Argentina.Klinsmann’s side has started out in a 4-3-3 only to shift to a 4-4-2 midway through the first half in each of their last two matches. No matter the formation, however, Michael Bradley has been allowed play in a deep-lying midfield role that best suits his abilities.While not a classic defensive midfielder with all of the bite that implies, Bradley is excellent at moving the ball from back-to-front and typically impacts a game with one or two perfectly placed long balls from that position.With Jones and Bedoya alongside him against teams that liked to attack from wide positions, the need for a player to protect the U.S. backline was mitigated. Against Argentina, however, the Americans will need a true defensive midfield presence. That likely means a lineup featuring Kyle Beckerman, though it’s possible Klinsmann could turn to the younger, and more nimble, Perry Kitchen.Who plays in the other midfield slot is anybody’s guess, though there’s a strong argument that it’s time for Klinsmann to unleash Darlington Nagbe. If Klinsmann does the obvious thing and pushes Gyasi Zardes into a forward spot alongside Clint Dempsey, then Klinsmann will need to find a player who can cover a flank at both ends of the field.With DeAndre Yedlin back from suspension, that could be Fabian Johnson, though moving Johnson into the midfield having to fill the left back spot again. Though Matt Besler did a reasonable job against the attack of Ecuador in that position, Argentina is a different beast and he won’t have the benefit of Bedoya’s ceaseless running and tracking back to help.

2. Pull Argentina’s defence apart

Wood’s absence means that the task of dragging center-backs out of position and creating space for Dempsey to do his thing falls to his replacement. That’s a shame, because running the channels and picking up the ball in advanced positions is a Wood specialty. The recent Hamburg signing has rounded into a quality straight-line forward whose strength is an asset and provides Dempsey with the freedom to roam underneath.Whether it’s Zardes or another option, the man who steps into Wood’s role should be able to find some joy against the mostly underwhelming Nicolas Otamendi and Ramiro Funes Mori. The pair has avoided major harm so far in the Copa America, but that would appear to be as much down to Argentina’s dominance on the ball and threat on the other end as anything the defenders have done.Before the tournament began, there was real discussion about Dempsey’s role in the team. Now that the 33-year-old Texan has proved that it will take a bulldozer to get him out of the lineup, it’s obvious that he’ll need to be massive Tuesday night if the U.S. is going to advance.Soccer is a team game, and the attack has to come from quality interchange and movement across a number of players. If someone can do Wood’s job well enough, it will go a long way toward putting Dempsey in position to be the shining light again.

3. Guzan must be brilliant

As good as the American defence has been in the Copa America tournament, minus two debilitating mistakes in the group stage opener against Colombia, the likelihood is that goalkeeper Brad Guzan will need to bail his team out on multiple occasions against Argentina.There’s simply no reality that suggests the Americans will slow down Messi and Co. enough that Guzan won’t be required to make several — or more — big saves.As a shot-stopper, Guzan is good, perhaps even great. But his task against Argentina will also include numerous moments when split-second decisions are necessary. Stay on his line, or charge out?The Albicelestes’ penchant for quick one-two combinations and passing moves at the top of the box will force Guzan into choosing the best course of action with very little time to spare. Cutting down angles and pouncing on balls that are just a foot or two long for a streaking runner may decide whether the United States is in the game with a chance to win for the full 90 minutes, or if the scoreline gets away from them and leads to the same sort of humiliating defeat suffered by the Mexicans against Chile in the quarterfinals.Most of the game will be played between the 18-yard boxes, with the U.S. chasing down Argentine passes and attempting to turn them into counterattacking opportunities. But those opportunities will mean nothing if the American defense doesn’t hold up under what is sure to be stretches of sustained attack from the top ranked team in the world.Geoff Cameron and John Brooks will have a lot to say about what Guzan faces in net. But they won’t be able to keep Argentina completely quiet, and that means Guzan must be on the top of his game.Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia

U.S. ‘not scared’ of playing Argentina

By Steven Goff The Washington PostFirst Published Jun 19 2016 08:09PM    •    Last Updated Jun 19 2016 08:09 pm

Houston • For two days, while awaiting an opponent in the Copa America Centenario semifinals, the U.S. national team went about its business as if the foe didn’t matter. The Americans were ixed on fitness, on resettlement in their ninth city over four weeks and on attempting to get two suspensions rescinded.On Saturday night, as the outcome of the Argentina-Venezuela match came clear, they began to pivot.The world’s best soccer player, Lionel Messi, and the world’s top-ranked soccer team, Argentina, would be joining them in Houston for Tuesday’s showdown at NRG Stadium.La Albiceleste secured passage with a 4-1 victory in Foxborough, Massachusetts, setting up the biggest match for the Americans since the 2014 World Cup and the most glamorous duel with a player since Cristiano Ronaldo two years ago in Brazil. “We are not scared of them at all,” U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann said Sunday before training at Houston Sports Park. “We admire their players. This is now a special moment. I told the players yesterday before we started training, ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity now.’ You got into the semifinal, you made yourself proud, but now go for more.”The U.S. delegation watched the Argentina match at the team hotel, in small groups and individually. Since defeating Ecuador on Thursday in Seattle, the Americans had a safe hunch who they would face next.In his first start of the tournament, Messi scored once and assisted twice, and Gonzalo Higuain pocketed two early goals as Argentina remained perfect through four matches.Trailing 2-0 late in the first half, Venezuela squandered a chance to make a game of it by failing to convert a penalty kick.”There’s a stretch of the beginning of the game where Argentina came out very sharp and into it,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “They get ahead, but at the same time, Venezuela had big chances to get back into the game. On another day, the whole thing can play out a little differently.”While acknowledging the enormous challenge that lies ahead, Bradley also said, “We don’t want to make this out to be a ‘Mission Impossible.’ “The Americans have faced FIFA’s top team 12 times since the governing body began the rankings in 1993. Three ended in victory: Brazil in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals in Los Angeles, Spain in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semifinals in South Africa and Germany in an away friendly last year.The Americans can draw most from the Spain upset because it was the most meaningful competition and featured an elite program at almost full strength and in peak form.On that day, the Americans confronted Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso and David Villa. On Tuesday, they will face Messi, the five-time world player of the year; Higuain, a lethal scorer in Europe for eight years; and Javier Mascherano, Messi’s Barcelona teammate and the heart and soul for club and country.”He’s probably the best of all time,” Bradley said of Messi. “But there are still plenty of examples of days when teams can collectively make the game hard on him and make space tight and force him to have to dribble sideways in moments, to put him on his right foot, to eliminate certain things and to have the mentality and commitment to do it over and over and over again for 90 minutes.”The Americans took on Messi once before, preventing him from overrunning them during a 1-1 friendly draw before almost 80,000 at the Meadowlands in March 2011.In this Copa America, Messi sat out the group opener with a sore back and played a combined 74 minutes in the next two matches, notching a 19-minute hat trick against Panama, before going 90 against Venezuela.”We are ready to bite, to fight, to chase them, to be all over them,” Klinsmann said. “If we repeat that and add a couple more percent to it, it’s going to be fun.”We have to be on top of our game defensively – that’s a no-brainer – but we’ve done extremely well in the whole competition defensively.”The Americans have yet to concede a goal in the run of play through four matches; Argentina is among the best in the world in the run of play, mixing meticulous possession and toxic finishing.The goals against the United States have come off a corner kick, penalty kick and free kick.”We are 100 percent going in with the belief that we can play with them,” defender Matt Besler said. “We’ll see on Tuesday night. But you can’t go into a game conceding that belief already.”As preparations continued Sunday, the Americans were awaiting a ruling from the tournament’s disciplinary committee about their protest of cards given to midfielder Jermaine Jones and forward Bobby Wood. Jones’s red and Wood’s yellow (his second of the tournament) resulted in semifinal suspensions. Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya is also out on yellow cards.When asked about the status of the protests, Klinsmann responded in a way that suggested the Americans had a better chance with Wood’s case than Jones’s.

Wood received the yellow early in the second half while a chaotic scene played out on the sideline and Jones was still marching toward the locker room.”The protest has a certain reason because it’s obvious,” Klinsmann said. The referee “let the game go, and Jermaine was still 30 yards on the field walking, so it was not played yet. ⅛He⅜ should never have given anything ⅛or should have said⅜, ‘Guys, relax a second and wait a second until the player moves off the field, and then we take it from there.’ That’s up to them now. They can judge that. We are fully prepared for Argentina.”

Brooks-Cameron partnership is U.S.’s greatest revelation of Copa America

ESPNFC – In the aftermath of the U.S. men’s national team’s 2-1 victory over Ecuador on Thursday, captain Michael Bradley noted that the Americans have won games in different ways during the Copa America Centenario, and how this has been a key factor in the team’s run to the semifinals. But while adaptability is indeed a desirable trait for a team to have, such a run requires its share of constants as well, and nowhere has the level of play of the U.S. been more consistently high than in the center of defense.That is down to the performances of John Brooks and Geoff Cameron. The duo has been playing at such a high level that their partnership is arguably the biggest development to come out of the tournament for the Americans. (Bobby Wood’s emergence up top runs second.) The two defenders have been called upon quite a bit as well. Brooks leads the entire Copa America with 30 clearances, Cameron is third at 18, and most importantly, the U.S. defense has only conceded three goals in four matches.”It’s important anywhere on the pitch that you have players that are dominating, but especially the center-backs,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said prior to the Ecuador match.It’s mind-boggling to think of the state of flux the center-back positions for the Americans have been in throughout the past year. In the past 12 months, manager Jurgen Klinsmann has started nine different players at center-back and used 14 different pairings to start games. While some selections were clearly of the short-term variety — Jermaine Jones’ appearance against Canada in February comes to mind — the numbers speak to just how unsettled the position had become.No doubt, injuries forced Klinsmann’s hand in many instances. Cameron was left off the Gold Cup roster last year to give him some rest. Brooks seemed to pick up injuries at inopportune times — he has yet to play in a World Cup qualifier this cycle — as did Matt Besler. But some of the issues were performance driven, in that no two players seemed capable of providing the level needed to hold onto a starting spot. In last year’s Gold Cup, Brooks was far from convincing, as was Ventura Alvarado.But in the past month everything has fallen into place. The Cameron-Brooks partnership has been used for the past five games, and the recently concluded club season proved to be the foundation for success this summer at the international level. Brooks in particular has seen his level improve; he’s become more dominant in the air, and his concentration level has increased.”For me, the key was that I played a lot of games at my club, and then I came here and I was very confident,” Brooks said following the Ecuador match. “It just keeps going.”In Cameron’s case, it helped that he played the bulk of his minutes at Stoke City this season at center-back, though he did see time at right-back and in the center of midfield. And the two seem to complement each other well. Both have good size, mobility and can play the ball out of the back.”I really enjoy playing alongside of [Brooks],” Cameron said earlier this month. “There’s times where I use my speed and my strength to cut out a pass, but I don’t have to do that as much because he’s got that speed and he’s got the strength. He’s powerful. He’s got the ability and the skill set that a lot of people should admire.”It’s a partnership that now looks set to last for the rest of the cycle, and just in time too. With CONCACAF’s semifinal round of World Cup qualifying nearly complete, the final round Hexagonal begins in November, for which the U.S. is a lock. With Brooks and Cameron in the lineup, garnering points away from home looks a lot more doable than it did when the U.S. fell on the road to Guatemala in March.But first comes the biggest test of all: a Copa America semifinal assignment against a ridiculously talented Argentina squad. The names on theAlbiceleste‘s roster read like a roll call of the world’s best attacking players: Ezequiel Lavezzi, Javier Pastore, Erik Lamela, Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Ever Banega and the incomparable Lionel Messi. Di Maria is still recuperating from an adductor injury, but Nicolas Gaitan has filled in capably for both Messi and Di Maria throughout the tournament.The U.S. effort will be hampered by the fact that three players are suspended for the match. The U.S. had hoped to get some relief in that regard, as it appealed to overturn Jones’ red card and the yellow for Wood that took place against Ecuador. But the Copa America Disciplinary Committee denied the U.S. team’s request, and the U.S. will no doubt miss Jones’ box-to-box running and defensive commitment. The same is true for Alejandro Bedoya, the third suspended American.Yet the play of Brooks and Cameron at least gives the U.S. a platform upon which to build, especially considering the U.S. figures to do more defending against Argentina than in previous matches.”I just think we need to keep doing what we’re doing, man,” Cameron said in an interview with Univision. “We’ll go over tape, we’ll go over the game and see what we can improve, see what we did well, and kind of keep going from there.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on 

The USA have stopped Lionel Messi before – here’s how they can limit him

June 20, 20165:08 PM EDTKristian Dyer

HANOVER, N.J. – Lionel Messi certainly isn’t the only person the US national team must stop this Tuesday when they play Argentina in the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario (9 pm ET, FS1, Univision, UDN). But there is no denying that he will draw his fair share of attention in the match.Stopping Messi, arguably the best player in the world, won’t be an easy task. The Argentine forward and Barcelona talisman can float in and out of games, sitting deep at times in pockets to receive the ball, then carrying it up the field. Or he could be going out wide, where he can be isolated with a single wide player trying to contain him, a recipe for disaster in most instances.But while Messi has scored against some of the best teams in the world, he has not found the same success against the US national team. In 2011 in a friendly at MetLife Stadium, Messi was held scoreless against the United States and struggled at times to find the game in what was a 1-1 result.Prior to that, in 2008 at the old Giants Stadium, Messi was held in check in a rain-soaked scoreless draw in a match in which he played the first 45 minutes. Both matches were important results for the US, then under the direction of head coach Bob Bradley, in that they stood firm against a top-tier opponent.And they did so with a game plan that, according to New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch, was designed to make Messi uncomfortable. At the time, Marsch served as an assistant coach on the national team under Bradley.“One of the things that Bob tried to emphasize was taking Messi outside of his comfort zone. He still now will float through the game and get his touches in a lot of ways, getting those touches often gets him into the game. And Bob was big on when he got the touches, to make sure we are stepping out on him and close down his space. And not just let him get into an ease of doing things,” Marsch told MLSSoccer.com.“We’d talk a lot about stepping out but doing it in a way so you can set yourself, but that the next guy was ready to come so that we could be physical on him, hard on him – not dirty. Trying to cut down his time and space so as to not let him get a rhythm.”Not surprisingly, Marsch sees many great attributes in Messi’s game. While it is hard to pin him down to a singular position or role with either club or country, his stamp on the game is as unique as his playing style.“It’s partly his understanding of what is going on in the game. His ability to take the ball and shift gears and take little touches almost at full speed, almost re-arrange his body and do whatever he thinks is the best,” Marsch said.“Even when he plays Barcelona, there’s tactics involved but specifically, he uses his instincts to find the game and find where it helps.”Marsch admits that keying in on a player like Messi is far from an exact science given just how unique he is on the global stage. Argentina have plenty of firepower after Messi, and the US must be careful not to be so absorbed with Messi exclusively or else someone else can be dangerous and decisive in the final third. But the best way to limit Messi’s impact is to rattle him and challenge him, the game plan that Marsch saw work twice in the two friendly results under Bradley’s direction. Letting Messi play his game, according to Marsch, is simply a recipe for disaster.“It makes it hard to deal with,” Marsch said, “if you let him do what he wants.”

Bradley: US must “do whatever it takes” to disrupt Messi, Argentina

June 20, 201612:06 PM EDTSam StejskalContributor

Argentina are the No. 1 ranked team in the world, boast perhaps the best player on the planet and have absolutely steamrolled their way through the Copa America Centenario.None of that scares the US national team.The USMNT will take on Leo Messi and Argentina in the Copa America semifinals in Houston on Tuesday (9 pm ET; FS1, Univision, UDN). Argentina have been the team of the tournament thus far, posting a perfect 4-0-0 record and outscoring the opposition 14-2.Runners-up at the 2015 Copa America and 2014 World Cup, Argentina will be the toughest test the US have faced all tournament. Captain Michael Bradley and his USMNT teammates know that, and understand they’ll have their work cut out for them to make it difficult for La Albiceleste on Tuesday night.“It’s a very good team, we all understand that,” Bradley said. “But there’s been plenty of examples over the last few years of teams that on a given day are so committed mentally, physically to doing whatever it takes to make it hard on a given team that on paper have more going forward than they do, and in the end are able to make it a very difficult day and come out on top.“And so that’s what we’ll do. We’ll have a group of guys on the field who are so committed to making the game hard on Argentina, to not giving them too much respect and really trying to play the game in a big way.”Bradley has some experience making things tough against world-class opposition in a US uniform. The Toronto FC midfielder was part of the US team that shocked then-world-No. 1 Spain in the Confederations Cup semifinals back in 2009, a huge upset that featured opportunistic attacking, resolute defending and outstanding goalkeeping by the US.  Like the current Argentina side, that Spain team had plenty of star power. They didn’t have a player quite like Leo Messi, however. Argentina’s captain has been outstanding in limited playing time this tournament. Despite starting just once and only playing 164 total minutes, Messi is second in the Copa America with four goals and has two assists.He dominated Argentina’s quarterfinal win against Venezuela on Saturday, notching a goal and two assists in La Albiceleste’s 4-1 win at Gillette Stadium. It’ll take a stout effort from the entire US defense to prevent a repeat performance on Tuesday.“I don’t know if you can stop Messi,” said US defender Matt Besler. “I mean obviously there’s going to be a lot of attention around him, there always is. But it’s a group effort when you’re playing a guy like him, it’s not just one guy. You always have to know where he’s at on the field. At the same time, we have to play our game. You can’t focus too much about the opponent, you have to go out and do the things that you do well as a team.”

Copa America shows how U.S. could host World Cup – Jurgen Klinsmann

HOUSTON — Jurgen Klinsmann lauded the high quality of play at the ongoing Copa America Centenario, and believes that the tournament is a glimpse of what another World Cup in the United States might look like.”The matches are at a very good level, both from a footballing and physical point of view,” the U.S. coach said Sunday on a conference call with reporters in Germany. “The tournament has been well received. It’s also a fantastic showcase for hosting the 2026 World Cup in the United States.”Klinsmann was speaking from Texas’ largest city, where the U.S. will meet Lionel Messi and Argentina on Tuesday for a spot in next week’s final in the New York area.The U.S. lost its first match of the competition to Colombia before reeling off three straight wins, beating Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador to reach the semis. Klinsmann had targeted a place in the final four before the event began.But he found himself under pressure from fans, media and even his boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, following the disappointing start. Klinsmann didn’t take it as criticism.”He said before the second match that every coach is measured by results,” Klinsmann said. “We’ve set ourselves high goals with the last four, and that’s what I wanted.”Speaking to journalists in Houston later in the day, Klinsmann insisted that he did not feel vindicated by his team’s run.”You know me five years now, I’m not that person,” said Klinsmann, who took the U.S. job in 2011. “I think over time we always said we want to move this program to another level — I think we did that over time. There will be some setbacks.”Regarding the possibility of another World Cup in the U.S., Gulati told reporters earlier this month that the U.S. would only bid if the rules are fair and transparent.The Americans were beaten out by tiny Qatar for the right to host the 2022 event, a controversial decision that led to allegations that Qatari officials had paid members FIFA executive committee members more than $200,000 for their votes.The bid came under further scrutiny after the U.S. Department of Justice changed top soccer officials with widespread corruption last year.”We are going to bid for a World Cup if we think we are going to be successful,” Gulati said.

 

Here are five things to know about Argentina for tomorrow night’s #CopaAmerica semifinal: 

8:50 AM – 20 Jun 2016

Matches at this Copa America have averaged almost 43,000 spectators — more than the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan. The 1994 World Cup, hosted by the United States, remains the best attended of all time; it averaged 68,991 fans, 18,000 more than any other Word Cup. The Americans will be without suspended starters Alejandro Bedoya, Jermaine Jones and Bobby Wood against Argentina. On Sunday, the Copa America disciplinary committee rejected U.S. Soccer’s protest of a red cardissued to Jones and a yellow to Wood in last week’s quarterfinals.While that potentially opens up a starting spot for 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund winger Christian Pulisic, Klinsmann has been patient with the youngster, who has made just one 25-minute appearance off the bench during the Copa.” Christian Pulisic is a jewel with a great future,” Klinsmann said. “But when we throw him in, we have to make sure we know how cold the water is, because the South Americans here are incredibly physical.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine

Central Defender John Brooks blossoms for the USA, embraces his dual-nationality

USMNT takes confidence from Costa Rica drubbing, moves on to Paraguay

SI senior writer Grant Wahl breaks down how the U.S. men’s national team can build on its big win over Costa Rica when it faces Paraguay in Copa America.

BY BRIAN STRAUSADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Fri Jun. 10, 2016

PHILADELPHIA—John Brooks was born in Berlin and has lived there all of his 23 years. He’s spent the past decade at his hometown club, Hertha BSC, and in January he signed a new contract lasting until the summer of 2019. But he’s no homebody.Homebodies don’t feel so drawn to cultures and places so far away. They don’t get so comfortable, so quickly, in new environments. And they don’t dream of representing a country that isn’t entirely their own. Brooks has a map of Germany tattooed on his left arm and a map of Illinois on his right. His father is from Chicago, and that connection to the U.S. was a powerful force in Brooks’s life long before he scored that magical goal against Ghana at the 2014 World Cup.As a child, Brooks would meet his best friend, Jerome Kiesewetter, at a Berlin park, where they’d play soccer and imagine wearing the red, white and blue instead of Germany’s weiß und schwarz.“We always said when we were big, we want to play for the U.S. team,” Brooks told SI.com. “We liked everything about it. We just felt American, even when we were in berlin. It’s not easy to imagine a time when Brooks wasn’t big. Broad shouldered and standing an imposing 6-4, he looks like a center back designed in a laboratory. But he wasn’t, of course, and his learning curve has been all too human. Last summer was his first opportunity to anchor the U.S. defense at a major tournament.Brooks had started only 11 international matches when the 2015 CONCACAF Gold Cup kicked off, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann declared the rising Hertha star and Club América’s Ventura Alvarado ready for the responsibility.The U.S. attack struggled, intensifying the spotlight on Brooks’s mistakes. There were two in the knockout rounds, and they helped consign the Americans to fourth place.“It wasn’t easy, the whole tournament. But for me it was good to learn,” Brooks said shortly thereafter. “It was a new competition—a new type of soccer. It was very tough games, very hard games and I took a lot out of it.” A year later, on the eve of Saturday’s do-or-die Copa América Centenariogame against Paraguay, Brooks told SI.com that the welcoming and supportive atmosphere inside the U.S. locker room, not to mention the manager’s persistent faith, helped turn the national team into another piece of his extended American family.“In the past, of course you felt a little pressure. I was new. I had to prove myself,” Brooks said. “But the coach took the pressure from me, and I think now I found my spot. I don’t feel any pressure and I just feel comfortable around the team. Everybody’s nice—the staff, everybody on the team. So it’s just like a family. It’s nice to be here.”Brooks plays like he’s increasingly at home with Hertha and the U.S. When healthy, he was a key contributor to his club’s seventh-place finish and qualification for next season’s Europa League. Hertha posted nine shutouts in Brooks’s 20 Bundesliga starts compared to only four in the 14 remaining games. And he’s been in imperious form for the U.S. His positioning, ability to anticipate passes, sound decision making and dominance in the air has been critical as the Americans have yielded only three goals during this five-game stretch (and only one from open play).“It’s been a couple years that he’s gone through this. He was a young kid before. You’ve seen the progress and the experience he’s had over in Germany. This year’s been a fantastic year for him and I think he’s just showing his true caliber,” said Geoff Cameron, Brooks’s partner in central defense.“He’s got a lot of potential and the good thing is he’s humble and he’s quiet and he’s eager to play and to learn,” Cameron added. “He’s got a really, really bright future. I enjoy playing alongside of him. There are times where I use my strength and my speed to cut down a pass and I don’t really have to do that as much because he’s got the speed and he’s got the strength. He’s powerful. He’s got a lot of ability and a skill set that a lot of people should admire. For me its great to play alongside a guy like that.”Midfielder Jermaine Jones wasn’t as interested in Brooks’s trajectory. Asked Thursday what he thought of the defender’s progress, Jones said, “He’s old enough and he plays on a high level in the Bundesliga so he knows how to handle all this stuff.”Brooks laughed Friday when his teammates’ comments were shared.“A little bit of both are right, of course,” Brooks said. “Now I’m starting in the Bundesliga. I started almost every game when I was not injured so of course I learned a lot and it helped me. But I’m still a young player and I still see a lot of what the experienced players do and take it in for me. So I think I have both a little bit.”The key is playing time. His potential got him started, faith in his promise kept him going and now performance has made him a linchpin for club and country. Any future the U.S. has at this Copa América will be thanks in part to Brooks and an increasingly cohesive back four. Inside of a year, he’s become a player who can lay the foundation for a long tournament run.STRAUS: Dempsey’s motivation evolves as his career winds down“Everybody needs games,” he said. “And now I’ve had a lot of games, a lot of different type of opponents and of course you get into a feeling where, O.K., now you don’t have to step out or now you have to step out. I think I’m also at an age where I’m not like young-young, with no experience. I’ve had a lot of games in the Bundesliga, a couple of games here and I feel more comfortable with everything.“It’s perfect, perfect for a young player when you know you’re allowed to do mistakes,” he continued. “Not everything is perfect. Not every game will go the perfect way. But you know and you feel you’re allowed to do it. It’s way better than to feel pressure the whole time.”Comfort does not lead to complacency, at least for Brooks. He’s flourished at Hertha despite family and familiarity and he intends to do the same for the U.S. He said he’s energized by the travel that grinds others down. He’s played in countries he never imagined visiting and has already been to more of the U.S. than many who were born here. Last weekend, he saw his father’s hometown for the first time in memory and helped lead the Americans to a 4-0 rout of Costa Rica at Soldier Field. “Unbelievable city. Unbelievable! It’s nice,” he said of Chicago.Brooks is a Berliner-American, and time doesn’t define the depth of his connection. That’s been more than apparent this summer, as he’s emerged as someone who may help determine the national team’s defensive destiny for a decade.“Of course it’s always nice to be at home, play for my home team,” he said of his “perfect situation” in the German capital.“I always wanted to play for Hertha in our home stadium in front of my friends and family,” he continued. “This dream became true and now it’s for me its a perfect situation. But still, I’m not afraid to leave home. I’m not like ‘Berlin, Berlin’. I’m open for everything. Of course, these trips [to the U.S.], the other half of my family is from America so its always nice to be here to see where my other half is from.”

Guzan turns page to Copa after brutal experiences in Aston Villa’s season

BY BRIAN STRAUSADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Fri Jun. 3, 2016  I sure do wish Liverpool or someone would take a Flyer on Guzan – he’s a good Keeper still if playing on a decent team. 

The guy who decided to accost Brad Guzan this time wasn’t a random member of the public who happened to catch a glimpse of the goalkeeper from across the street. He was an employee. And he wasn’t a Villa Park regular. He was a Birmingham City fan. Yet still, the stranger couldn’t resist.“My wife and I, we had taken our son to a local little theme park and somebody there noticed who I was, one of the workers there, and they then just wanted to speak,” Guzan recalled. “They wanted to vent their frustration. They wanted to vent their frustration on behalf of their friends, then wanted to obviously share their excitement for the terrible season that we’re having.”This was far from the first time this had happened. Guzan had been approached frequently during Aston Villa’s slide down the Premier League standings, whether it was en route to his car outside the stadium or at a restaurant in town. It wasn’t pleasant, but he understood the environment and the consequences of the choice he made back in 2008, when he left MLS for England. He’d signed up for this. But his family hadn’t.“My wife was right next to me,” Guzan said of the theme park incident. “It didn’t go on long. It was maybe a minute or so, maybe two minutes and that point, when I realized where the conversation was going. That’s when we decided to walk away. “You understand the fans’ passion and you understand their loyalty to the club. You understand their disappointment. We understand that. And again, they then have the right to express that frustration,” Guzan continued. “Sometimes in some ways it’s better than others, in terms of in certain ways as opposed to not-so-great ways. And being over here you understand all that and that’s part of what makes English football, English football. Some individuals express their disappointment better than others.”This was, to put it mildly, a season of disappointment for Aston Villa and its American goalie.The club had been struggling under the leadership of former Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner and had finished 15th, 16th or 17th in consecutive seasons. But the Villans had stayed up. Launched in 1874, Aston Villa was a key player in the formation of the Football League 14 years later.It’s a seven-time champion, a seven-time FA Cup winner and the biggest club in England’s second city. Villa belongs in the top tier. And the 2015-16 campaign kicked off in promising fashion. Buttressed by the signings of England defenders Micah Richards and Joleon Lescott, Ghanaian forward Jordan Ayew and others, Villa won its season opener, 1-0, at Bournemouth. Guzan posted the shutout.It was his first and only league triumph. The plunge was sudden and precipitous. Villa lost nine of its next 10 games (the other was a draw) and on New Year’s Day, it propped up the table at 1-13-5. Guzan was benched in January and again in late April. But the season had been lost long before that, becoming a gut-wrenching, often humiliating slog toward the inevitable. For the first time since 1987, Villa would be relegated. And in England, you don’t get to leave your frustration at the office. It comes to you. The siege Guzan was under didn’t end when the whistle blew.U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann believes that pressure and accountability forge better players. He’s often said that the European environment, where athletes hear from fans at the butcher and the baker, represents the truest test of a player’s commitment and resolve. Of course, since it’s 2016, that scrutiny occurs in more modern contexts as well, whether it’s at a theme park, a restaurant, within the pages produced by England’s voracious press or on social media.  “Jurgen is spot on when it comes to the pressures of playing in Europe,” Guzan told SI.com. “It’s no longer just, ‘I’ve got a game on the weekend or whatnot.’ It’s much more than that. You go to the grocery store, you go into town, you go the coffee shop, wherever you are, you’re getting looks—looks from people who are are obviously not happy. You’re getting comments from opposing fans, expressing their satisfaction for how the season’s been. You get it from all angles—and in terms of the stick you’re getting from supporters, both supporters from Aston Villa and supporters not from Villa as well—it does put on that added pressure to try and perform. And again, when things aren’t going your way, it’s a steep hill to climb.”Guzan’s season hasn’t scared off Klinsmann, who named the 31-year-old the starter for this month’s Copa América Centenario. The tournament kicks off Friday against Colombia in Santa Clara, California. Guzan is a 12-year pro with 45 senior caps, and he’s trained since he was a teenager to maintain a goalkeeper’s confidence and short memory.Tim Howard, the two-time World Cup starter slated to back up Guzan at the Copa, told ESPN that his colleague has the tools required.“I’ve always said that if you could build a goalkeeper and you could take this guy’s hands, this keeper’s feet—the brain would be Brad’s,” Howard said. “His mental strength and fortitude is better than anyone I’ve ever seen. He has the ability to, even in the midst of chaos, to shrug things off and not in a flippant way. For me, he’s the best goalkeeping mind I’ve ever been around.”That composure helped steel Guzan this season in Birmingham. He lives in the city center and vowed not to allow the chaos to consume him. His habits weren’t going to change.“We still go about our days,” he said.But for the goalkeeper, his teammates and everyone associated with the club, there still was no escaping the miserable vortex created by Villa’s impending relegation. Before selling the team last month to Chinese investor Tony Jiantong Xia, Lerner released a statement admitting that, “a nagging sense of inevitability” had set in by mid-September. Manager Tim Sherwood was fired the following month and in early January, Guzan got his own taste of the swelling negativity. Villa had driven southeast to Buckinghamshire for an FA Cup third-round game at Wycombe Wanderers. Mark Bunn was in net and Guzan took his place on the bench next to Lescott. There, according to reports, they passed the time by chatting and at one point, spitting gum toward the sideline. A group of traveling supporters who felt Guzan and Lescott weren’t displaying the decorum appropriate for players at a club in free fall gathered behind the dugout, yelled and banged on the plexiglass. Guzan and Lescott yelled back. And so “Gumgate” ensued. Following the 1-1 draw, Richards confronted the fans behind the bench.“There’s no passion,” one yelled.“Do you think this is going to help our situation?” Richards asked. The team needed a gauntlet of security guards to reach its bus safely (again, this was an away game) and Guzan and Lescott quickly became the poster children for Villa’s apparent ambivalence. Former club captain Andy Townsend told the BBC, “This team hasn’t won in 16 games so there is nothing back for those fans at the moment other than misery and mickey-taking when they are going to work on a Monday morning. For [Guzan and Lescott] to allow themselves to get dragged into that nonsense and rubbish is immature and actually it just shows a bit of ignorance at the moment to the situation of where the club are at. To clearly be antagonizing a few fans around them—just back off, apologize and don’t be so daft quite frankly.” Guzan was reluctant to speak about the incident specifically, but he was able to paint a picture of the media maelstrom that surrounds a big club in a relegation fight.“When you’re going through a season like we did this year, everything gets looked at under a microscope that much more. Every mistake gets analyzed that much more. Everything seems to go against you when you’re at the bottom of the table and you’re fighting for your life …. things just seem not to go away,” he said.“The world we live in, everybody’s got a platform to express their opinion and obviously writers and the press over here, it’s a very big platform. And when everybody then gets The Sun, the Daily Mail or the [Daily] Mirror, the general public are reading what these writers want to put in there and most of the time it’s whatever they really want. Their job is to get the readers excited.”As the nightmare season dragged on, a few Villa players made those jobs easier. In March, shortly after fans staged a walk-out during a home loss to Everton, captain Gabriel Agbonlahor—a Birmingham native—was pictured with a shisha pipe while on vacation in Dubai. Later, he was spotted at a nightclub with Richards. Agbonlahor was benched the following month, apparently for fitness issues, and then was photographed partying again on the evening Villa’s relegation was sealed with a loss at Manchester United. He was suspended.  Speaking on Sky Sports, former Villa winger turned pundit Paul Merson said, “In this day and age you’ve got to have a bit of respect. I’d be sitting down with him now and strongly advising him not to go out in Birmingham for a long time because it will be dangerous for him.”A week later, Agbonlahor apologized and resigned his captaincy. He’s the club’s longest-serving player.  Meanwhile, Lescott was getting hammered for calling the confirmation of Villa’s relegation “a weight off the shoulders.” He already was on fans’ and reporters’ watch list for his tweet featuring a $160,000 Mercedes that was sent out after a 6-0 loss to Liverpool on Valentine’s Day. He claimed it was an accident.

Clint Dempsey’s USMNT motivation evolves, but his hunger remains

BY BRIAN STRAUSADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Wed May 18, 2016Updated: Thu May 19, 2016

It was May 2012, the U.S. national team was preparing to kick off a new World Cup qualifying cycle and Landon Donovan, the program’s all-time leading scorer, sat down with four reporters at an Orlando hotel and began revealing the physical and emotional fatigue that led to that notorious 2013 sabbatical and then his retirement the following year.“All players reach a point in their career where it’s natural to lose some of that hunger, that desire,” Donovan said that day. “There’s no question at some point, sooner rather than later, I’ll be pretty burned out and it’ll be time to take a step back.”Then Clint Dempsey came up. The Texan was (and still is) only one year younger than his former teammate. But as Donovan’s fire started to flicker, he saw no such ebb in Dempsey.“Clint’s a little bit of a different animal,” Donovan said. “He still has that crazy hunger to succeed, more so than most. That’s great. That’s a beautiful thing and the more players we have like that, the better it’s going to be.” Some of that “crazy hunger” is the result of temperament and some of it comes down to timing. That same week, Dempsey offered a few details on its origin. He pointed out that Donovan already was established at age 17—a golden ball winner at the 1999 U-17 World Cup and a reserve at Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen. At that age, Dempsey was just trying to get a game. “I did it every way possible. I was playing pickup, high school, club ball. I was playing in a men’s league, then I want to [Furman] University,” he said. “I just tried to do everything I could. I was grinding because I knew it was going to be difficult. And even though I’ve come this far, I’m humbled in the fact that I know it could have easily not have happened.” Dempsey made his pro debut at 21 and earned his first U.S. start on March 9, 2005—his 22nd birthday. When Donovan turned 22, he’d already started for his country 39 times.“It’s always been a race against time really for me,” Dempsey said back in 2012. “It’s kind of my mentality, to make up for lost time.”His three-hour-rides to riches story is well known. It began with the long-haul drives from Nacogdoches to Dallas for practices, the unexpected death of his 16-year-old sister, Jennifer, and his 2004 emergence with the New England Revolution. Dempsey went on to become an icon at Fulham, the first American to score in three World Cups and the recipient of a life-changing, $33 million commitment from the Seattle Sounders in 2013.An extended contract expires at the end of next season. Dempsey turned 33 last month and is father to four children. He’ll bea first-ballot Hall of Famer. All that’s left to write is the conclusion to his unparalleled story, and the denouement could begin at next month’s Copa América Centenario. A fourth World Cup is a long two years away, the body ages quicker in its mid-30s and the pressure to bring an MLS Cup to Seattle is intensifying.Donovan’s all-time U.S. scoring record is out there, calling (Dempsey trails by eight). So is the April spawning season, which Dempsey, an avid fisherman, has missed just about every year of his adult life.to: 

His hunger hasn’t diminished, but his perspective has changed now that he can glimpse the finish line. Dempsey spent years fighting to prove himself and secure his place. Now he hopes to hold off the next generation for just a little bit longer. He’ll relish this Copa América played on home soil, before big crowds against elite opposition. There are accolades still to win and a sport still to build, and Dempsey, who’s still the national team’s most reliable finisher, intends to squeeze every last drop out of his remaining opportunities.“With the national team, you never know how long you’ve got so you always have to be pushing and making the most of it,” he told SI.com this week. “At certain times during your career, at different ages, you feel better than others. But you still want to be productive and make the most of it. You want to be able to look back at it and be proud of what you were able to to when you were playing …. I’m proud of what I’ve done. But I’m still pushing while I’m still playing.”Dempsey’s importance remains indisputable. That was evident at the 2014 World Cup, where an early goal helped spark the U.S. to a cathartic 2-1 over Ghana and a late goal provided a crucial (but short-lived) lead against Portugal. And it was evident at last summer’s ill-fated CONCACAF Gold Cup, where the stuttering Americans might have exited even earlier if not for Dempsey’s tournament-high seven markers. He was poor in October’s Confederations Cup playoff but then looked revitalized in March as he tallied one goal and one assist in a vital 4-0 qualifying demolition of Guatemala.With Jozy Altidore now out thanks to his infuriatingly frail hamstrings and heirs apparent Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood still finding their international feet, the U.S. attack likely will revolve around Dempsey once again.His combination of ruthlessness in the penalty area and an ability to withdraw, find the ball and create within ephemeral slivers of space remains unique among current American players.“There haven’t been many soccer players in U.S. soccer history that are game changes like Clint is,” Donovan said recently on the Sounders’ club podcast. “If the team needs a special player, a special moment or a goal, there’s not too many names on the U.S. roster that you would look to and say, ‘Yeah, that’s the guy who can do it.’ I think the team needs him.”That need ensures the pressure on Dempsey remains high. This Copa América isn’t a farewell tour and he hasn’t ruled out trying to hang on for a fourth World Cup. In addition, the sour taste of 2015 still lingers.“It’s a situation where you want to get back to playing good ball and progressing the game in the States,” he told SI.com. “When you don’t do well in the Gold Cup and we didn’t do well in the playoff game, it’s a chance to kind of bounce back from that, get back on track and doing things right. I look forward to playing in the tournament and to try to do something special.“I’ve always put pressure on myself to perform well,” he continued. “I think what I’ve done in big games I’ve played has showed that. My mentality doesn’t change as far as that’s concerned, to be the best and make the most of those games that I’m available for no matter the situation.”It represents a different sort of tension than the type he felt when he was younger—wondering if he’d be able to secure the opportunity, respect and stability he sought.He often felt compelled to defend his record, reminding people of his statistics when playing for the U.S. or in a withdrawn role and taking umbrage when some suggested that his form for country occasionally didn’t match his form for club.There were hints of angst and frustration his words, as if his career could be snatched away at any time. “That’s just being young and worrying about stuff that doesn’t really matter,” Dempsey explained. “At the end of the day, you know what you’ve accomplished and you don’t have any control over other people’s opinions. People are going to think what they want, and as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more at peace with that and not stressing about those type of things.”Dempsey’s motivation has evolved. His power doesn’t have to come from the chip on his shoulder. He now has his own established standards to meet, not to mention a country that’s counting on him. He acknowledged that he’s “not blind” to the fact that Donovan’s scoring record is “out there,” but he’s aware that “there’s a balance to do it in the right way.”Dempsey said the key is, “To stay hungry, but also not to be so hungry that you’re missing opportunities to help your team win games, like finding the right pass instead of taking that shot.”If he plays well, victory will come. And if victory comes, so will the statistics—not to mention future opportunities. Dempsey said he wants to continue to represent the U.S. and hopes to deliver a championship to Seattle. He is not longing for retirement, as Donovan seemed to be in 2012. But Dempsey doesn’t fear it. He’s taking it “one tournament at a time,” he said. At 33, he now recognizes how far he’s come.“The work you put out there, and when you know you’re out there trying to make a difference and make an impact and gains for both club and country, that’s good enough for me. It’s not going to be all that when I’m done,” he said. “I’ll have the memories for myself. It’s not about what’s written about me. I’ll be out in the country. I’ll be fishing and hunting out in the country.”If he’s caught on a TV set in a jacket and tie arguing with Alexi Lalas, “you’d better come flatten me,” he said.“For me, it’s been about playing the game as long as I could, to be able to take it as far as I could and to be able to take care of my family,” he said. “I come from a small town. To go see the world and be able to hold your own, that’s something that gives me pride. That’s something I can tell my kids and grandkids about, and hopefully inspire others to do the same thing.”

HOW TO OBSESS OVER ARGENTINA – A GUIDE FOR THE USMNT FAN

JUNE 20, 2016

It was already easy enough to look at Argentina and wonder whom the USMNT would face in the 3rd-place game before Chile demolished Mexico on Saturday night. Argentina had barely booked their place in the semifinals of the Copa Centenario before Chile made friends with the back of El Tri’s net. All of a sudden, the other favorite was no longer an issue. That leaves Argentina, the world’s #1 team, and a tough assignment for the USMNT. Tough, but not impossible.Don’t worry. This isn’t going to be another Copa America history lesson where we dredge up an old result and try and fail to deftly apply it to what’s happening right now. This version of Argentina and the USMNT aren’t familiar with each other, and prior to kickoff in Houston on Tuesday (9pm ET – Fox Sports 1), that can play however you want. With that in mind, here’s what should be keeping USMNT fans up nights. Well, at least one more night.

Messi is Messi

It’s almost hard to stress how much Lionel Messi changes things. Without him, Argentina is still a top ten team but they’re not as scary. Their attack isn’t as random. They probably won’t punish as many misplays. The tactical shifts to try to isolate their obvious routes toward goal have a better chance of working. With Messi? What he represents for club and country isn’t just randomness. It’s using that ability to move around in the attack so effectively. When Messi is on, the other team has little choice but to shift their tactics. Good luck isolating him completely. This isn’t marking a target forward out of the game by putting a big body or two on him and wearing him down. It’s also not playing the kind of frustration soccer employed effectively by the USMNT in the past against teams like Portugal and that other world soccer superstar. Messi is different because he does the kind of things that seem to not just surprise his own team, it surprises him. If the USMNT goes defensive, it means man marking Messi whenever he’s in Argentina’s attacking half. That’s a risk-reward scenario that normally favors Messi.

Overlooking the rest of Argentina’s attack

No team at this level is going to focus so solely on the superstar that it frees up the other attacking players. That’s what happens with an overmatched team in the group stage, not the semifinals. The problem with having to deal with one of the most effective players in the game is allowing his teammates more space and time on the ball. Gonzalo Higuian is an issue. So is Erik Lamela. They stretch the attack, giving Argentina options they haven’t even needed so far in the Copa Centenario. That’s not building up Argentina into even more of a favorite to win this tournament, it’s just looking at their roster and how they’ve played. For all the criticisms directed at first Uruguay and then Brazil as they exited in the group stage, Argentina’s game has been on since they beat Chile 2-1 to open Group D. Remember, that Chile goal came three minutes into stoppage time.

Goals against

Argentina has only given up one other goal in this tournament, with Venezuela pulling a goal back to make it 3-1 in the 70th minute of their quarterfinal. Argentina responded immediately. Lamela made it 4-1 in the 71st. That’s as much as the USMNT needs to know about Argentina’s ability to respond. Whatever momentum shift might have happened even two goals down, Argentina squelched it. That’s the kind of demotivator that takes teams out of games regardless of the score, the quick realization that your opponent will be there with an answer.

Cards

This has been far from a clean disciplinary tournament for the USMNT. In the last two games, they haven’t been able to get through 90 minutes with 11 players on the field. They also lost two more players due to yellow card accumulation. Argentina has yet to play a game where they’ve seen more cards than their opponent. Nicolas Gaitan is the only Argentine player absent due to yellow card accumulation. Gaitan took over a starting forward job in in place of Messi for the first two games and then from Angel Di Maria, out with injury since the second Group D game against Panama. Considering the level of Argentina’s attack and their insistence on running with three forwards, this is more of an inconvenience than a crisis. It’s the other team trying to figure out solutions to problems throughout their lineup. USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s use of the same 11 players when available means there haven’t been many tactical surprises for the USMNT. Now, without Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood, and Alejandro Bedoya they have no choice.

 

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6/17/16 US Wins–Advances to COPA SEMIs on Tues Night 9 pm Fox Sports 1, Indy 11 Take Chicago Fire to OT, Copa and Euro Cups Continue with full weekend slate

US Wins – Advances to COPA SEMIs vs Argentina on Tues Night 7 pm Fox Sports 1, Indy 11 Take Chicago Fire to OT, Copa and Euro Cups Continue with full weekend slate

Wow so the US Wins a huge knockout game against #11 ranked Ecuador 2-1 in the COPA last night in front of the best US and in fact the best City for Soccer in the US Seattle.  I thought the US played one the best 45 minutes they have played in the Klinnsmann era in the 1st half. The 2nd half- well lets just say we held on much like US teams have done in the past by out hustling, out fighting, out scrapping and somehow figuring out how to keep the ball out of the net but 1 time.  Guzan stood tall and again played a world class match, while Brooks and Cameron were stellar in the middle once again.  The US won literally every head ball into the box.  I even liked the German flipping Johnson to the left inserting Bezler – who proved even though he is not a natural left defender he is the US 3rd best true defender behind the center back pairing currently playing so well.  Beez won no fewer than 4 headballs and was able to survive against world class winger Man Us Valencia.  The midfield was solid until Jones got the STUPID RED CARD for half throwing a punch/slap during a mele with Ecuador early in the 2nd half.  While Dempsey continues to show he is a world class finisher – and he really really played hard in front of his home crowd in Seattle – it was really young forward Bobby Wood who opened up the Ecuador defense with his lightning runs along the edges giving room and service for Dempsey to operate at his best.  I thought Dempsey, Brooks, Guzan and Wood were equally players of the game – as was the entire team in their US Gritty 2-1 win.  The Outlaws and entire crowd was electric and I honestly thinked helped the US  WIN this game with their support – man I would have given my left big toe to be in attendance.  Oh well.  Congrats USA – now its on to Tuesday night 7 pm on Fox Sports and a match-up with World #1 Argentina and the world’s best player Lionel Messi.

The COPA has been just fantastic and I am glad to see as we move thru the Quarters and Semi’s the fans are really showing up now.  Oh and we don’t have explosions in our Stadiums and fighting in the streets like the European Cup.  Finally great job by the Brickyard Battalion traveling to Chicago for the Indy 11 US Open match with the Chicago Fire – the traveling crew was obvious and loud and helped the 11 take the Fire to a shootout – where they barely loss by 1?  Great performance by Indy 11 and a great performance by the traveling fans showing everyone Indy knows how to support its Pro Soccer Team!  Enjoy the COPA games on Fox Sports1 tonite Columbia vs Peru at 8 pm and FX on Saturday night with Argentina vs Venezuela at 7 pm, and perhaps the most anticipated Quarterfinal Mexico vs defending champs Chile at 10 pm of FX.

 USA

US Advance – Grant Wahl SI

Armchair Analyst – US Set the Tone – MLS

US loses 3 key players for Semi’s

The Replacements – best options?  MLS

Klinsys decisions for Semis

Everyone played together

Team Spirit was key to Win – ESPN FC McIntyre

Dempsey Does it Again!! – McIntery eSPN FC

US coach hails maturing program – ESPN FC

US meet objective beat damn good Ecuador – MLS

US Seattle Was Rocking the Home Energy

US Player Ratings – MLS

US Player Ratings – Jason David ESPN FC

Zardes Talks Argentina mls

US Emerson Hyndman sign with EPL Side Bournemouth

 COPA

Copa top 10 goals

Columbia plan aggressive apporoach vs Peru

James shakes off injury to win for Columbia

Peru looks to break down Columbia

8 unsung heros in group stages

Argentina Still improving Messi says

Messi is a football Giant

Mexico not the favorite

INDY 11

Indy 11 take Fire to OT in US Open Cup

Indy 11 Secure Spring 2016 NASL Championship

Champs Square off Sunday – June 26th – 1 pm at the Mike – Mexican Champ Pachuca and USMNT player Omar Gonzales vs the NASL Champs Indy 11

EUROS

Conte Hails Italy tough win vs Swedes

Doubts on Germany Attack>

Guide to Euro’s 2016

Euro Full Bracket

Full TV Schedule EUROS

ALL GAMES ON TV

Friday, June 17
Italy vs. Sweden — Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Croatia — Saint-Etienne (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spain vs. Turkey — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America Columbia vs Peru — East Rutherford, New Jersey (8 p.m. ET/1 a.m. CET on Fox Sports 1, UniMas)

Saturday, June 18
Belgium vs. Rep of Ireland — Bordeaux (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Hungary — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Portugal vs. Austria — Paris (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America Argetina vs. Venezuela –  Foxborough, MA  7 p.m. FX

Copa American Mexico vs. Chile  Santa Clara, CA 10 p.m. FX

Sunday, June 19
Switzerland vs. France — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Romania vs. Albania — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)\

Monday, June 20
Slovakia vs. England — Saint-Etienne (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Russia vs. Wales — Toulouse (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Tuesday, June 21
Northern Ireland vs. Germany — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Poland — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Croatia vs. Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Turkey — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America USA vs. Argentina- Houston, TX – 7 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, June 22
Hungary vs. Portugal — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Austria — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Italy vs. Rep of Ireland — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sweden vs. Belgium — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America Chile vs Columbia   Chicago, IL  8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Euro Round of 16  Starts Saturday, June 25

Sat., 6/25

Copa America L29 vs. L30 Glendale, AZ 8 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26

Copa America final  East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

Copa America Centario Schedule   TV Schedule

COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGOstill seats left for 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

 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

Indy 11 Soccer Camp NEXT WEEK June 20-23 — 9 am till 12 noon Ages 5-14 $135 @ Badger Fields

Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Badger Field July 9th

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

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

USA’s new, promising identity on display in Copa win over Ecuador

Can USMNT advance to Copa America final without key players?

SI senior writer Grant Wahl discusses how the U.S. men’s national team will approach the Copa America semifinals without Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones.

BY GRANT WAHL

Posted: Fri Jun. 17, 2016

SEATTLE — So now we know.We know it’s possible for the U.S. men’s national team to combine the identity that defined its past (courage, spirit, athleticism) with the identity it wants to have in the future (playing good, technical soccer). For much of the last two years it was hard to see an identity on this U.S. team as it lurched from a post-World Cup hangover into a full-fledged malaise.But on Thursday, in the U.S.’s 2–1 victory over Ecuador in the Copa América quarterfinals, we witnessed a team that has revealed over the last three wins a blueprint for What Comes Next in the history of the USMNT. It is in fact possible to retain your best traditional qualities while taking the next mandatory steps as a soccer nation.Progress isn’t a zero-sum game.The U.S. will face Argentina or Venezuela in the Copa América semifinals on Tuesday in Houston, and if the Americans are to take one more step and reach the final, they will have to summon what they did on Thursday in a first half that was marked by some truly good soccer and a second half that was defined by that famous U.S. grit and resilience.There were moments in the first half against Ecuador when the U.S. played some of the best soccer it has shown against any good opponent in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s five-year tenure. Intricate passing, smart runs, intuition: The ingredients were all there, except for the final pass or finish. Clint Dempsey’s well-taken goal put the U.S. up 1–0 at halftime, but the lead could have easily been bigger.Then in the second half, as the game descended into chaos and two red cards were shown (to Jermaine Jones and Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia), the old U.S. fight-or-flight instinct kicked in.We saw a come-at-me-bro courage from the Americans, one that had disappeared at times over the past two years, and that team-wide commitment paid off as the U.S. held on desperately to triumph.Did it come at a cost? You’d better believe it. Three U.S. players will be suspended for the semifinals: Jones (on a straight red card that Klinsmann called “an absolute joke” and “a disgrace”), Bobby Wood (for yellow-card accumulation) and Alejandro Bedoya (for yellow-card accumulation), who could be the hardest one to replace given his indispensable yeoman’s work during this tournament.But the overall lesson from this game was a positive one: The U.S. identity may finally be evolving the way Klinsmann promised from the start in 2011.  • WATCH: Jordan Morris leads march to the match at USA-Ecuador

“I thought in the first half we played very well in moments,” said captain Michael Bradley. “If we were a little bit sharper, a little bit better when it came time for the final shot, the final cross, maybe we can be up more than just 1–0.” “In the second half, the game becomes chaotic, it gets turned on its head a little bit as a lot of these games do,” Bradley continued. “Anybody who has watched any of these games in this tournament, it’s not surprising. Then when there’s a few red cards and when Ecuador gets back to 2–1, you know at that point it’s going to be a frantic finish. And style points go out the window. And it’s about the willingness from every guy to do whatever it takes.”No U.S. player combined the good soccer/junkyard dog role better than Dempsey, who was involved in several of the U.S.’s most attractive passing sequences (to say nothing of his goal) but also showed the desire and grit that allowed him to beat his Ecuadoran foes to the ball in the box, which turned into the game-winning assist to Gyasi Zardes.In the first half, Dempsey said, “I thought we played well, created some good chances. We had some good looks in front of goal. Unlucky not to score more. At the same time, we kept fighting in the second half. It wasn’t as pretty. We didn’t keep possession as well. It’s always nail-biting when you can see the goal, and they had some good chances to equalize.”At 33, Dempsey has become a national soccer treasure. There is something classically American about him, an East Texas kid with no soccer pedigree who refused to accept that he had no business playing on the world stage.Dempsey broke barriers with his will and his skill, and now he’s shattering the idea that his national team career was coming to an end.With three goals in the Copa América, Dempsey is tied for the Golden Boot lead with Lionel Messi and Philippe Coutinho. And his 52 international goals are now only five behind Landon’s Donovan’s U.S. record.• U.S. soccer releases a video in support of Orlando victims “Clint is special, and he showed that tonight,” said Klinsmann on Thursday. “He showed it the last few weeks. He showed it his entire career … The performance from him tonight was unbelievable.”As goalkeeper Brad Guzan said of Dempsey, “He’s been doing it for so long that it’s almost come to be expected a little bit. If he gets half a chance, more times than not he’s going to put it on frame, and if he gets a clear chance, more often than not he’s going to score. He’s a big-time player for us.”It seems appropriate that Dempsey would be part of this Copa América semifinal run, part of this promising identity that the U.S. team is finally adopting. Skill and fight, guile and grit: Dempsey has all those qualities. Increasingly his teammates do, too.“They made a huge step forward tonight,” Klinsmann said. “They absolutely deserved to win.”Now the semifinals await.

USA must deal with loss of three key players for Copa America semifinal

June 17, 20163:26 AM EDTAri LiljenwallContributor

SEATTLE – Once the euphoria of their dramatic 2-1 Copa America Centenario quarterfinal victoryover Ecuador at CenturyLink Field on Thursday wears off, the US national team will have to contend with the looming reality of replacing some key contributors.The US will be without midfielder Jermaine Jones, who was sent off after the referee determined his hand made contact with the face of an Ecuador player during a 52nd-minute altercation.The act earned Jones an ejection, only offset by the fact that Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia was also sent off during the sequence for a tackle on US midfielder Alejandro Bedoya, turning the game into a 10-on-10 affair for the duration of the contest.Asked his thoughts on Jones’s red card at his postgame press conference, US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann didn’t hold back.“An absolute joke,” Klinsmann said. “I was right there. The fourth [officlal] made that decision. Not the referee. The referee didn’t see it. He followed the advice of the fourth official out there. It’s a disgrace, a decision like that.”Jones isn’t the only USMNT regular that will have to sit for the semifinal. Bobby Wood and Bedoya each picked up yellow cards on Thursday, meaning they’ll have to sit out the game due to accumulation.“Obviously we’re going to miss Bedoya and we’re going to miss Bobby in the semifinals,” Klinsmann said. “So it’s not easy. But I think this is a team that has so much desire to grind it out.”On the other hand, Klinsmann can look forward to the return of DeAndre Yedlin for Tuesday’s match, after he served a one-game suspension on Thursday for a red card he picked up in the team’s group stage mach against Paraguay.But the task of replacing the trio of Jones, Wood and Bedoya doesn’t figure to an easy one for the US, which will play the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Argentina and Venezuela (7 pm ET, FX, Univision, UDN).“We’ll give everything we have with all the respect for the upcoming opponent,” Klinsmann said of his team’s impending semifinal fixture. “The same as we talked about Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay – they’re all wonderful teams. We’ve come so far and now we’re even hungrier for the next step.”

Klinsmann’s decisions as United States prepares for Copa America semifinals

EATTLE — The U.S. men’s national team could be forgiven for taking some extra time to bask in the afterglow of its quarterfinal triumph over Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario.Let’s face it: Excluding the Gold Cup, it’s not that often the U.S. wins a knockout game in an international tournament. You have to go back to the 2009 Confederations Cup, when the Americans beat heavyweight Spain 2-0, to find the last time they won such a match after the group stage. So when the players gathered in a circle at midfield after the final whistle, singing and jumping in unison, it was a right they had earned. Now they’ll face the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Argentina and Venezuela on Tuesday in Houston.”It was a great night,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “To go deep into a tournament, you need to be able to win games in different ways. I think we’ve done that. We’ve had nights where we played very well, scored goals. We’ve had other nights where we’ve had to defend, to suffer together, to make sure that our mentality carries us through. Tonight was probably a little bit of both.”After playing perhaps its best, most balanced half of the Copa, the U.S. survived a chaotic second 45 minutes to claim a 2-1 victory. The price it paid was steep, however. Jermaine Jones was sent off in the 52nd minute along with Ecuadorian midfielder Antonio Valencia. Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya later picked up their second yellow cards of the tournament, meaning they’ll be suspended for the semifinal. A U.S. soccer spokesman told ESPN FC that it was considering appeals for Jones’ ejection and Wood’s yellow card. That said, it seems unlikely the U.S. will get the relief it seeks.So now Klinsmann must look forward, and he faces another set of tricky selection decisions. He certainly deserves immense credit for getting his choice of players right against Ecuador. He slotted Fabian Johnson in at right-back for the suspended DeAndre Yedlin, and deployed Matt Besler — normally a center-back — at left-back. Given Besler’s lack of experience at the position, it seemed risky, but it worked. Both held up well for the most part against Ecuadorian wingers Jefferson Montero and Valencia, though Montero found more space after the dual ejections. The U.S. midfield also provided Johnson and Besler with loads of defensive support.But now Klinsmann is faced with finding replacements for three players, not one. And while Venezuela has been one of the surprises of the tournament, Argentina is a heavy favorite to move on to play the hosts in Houston. TheAlbiceleste have a glut of talent, but most of all, Klinsmann will need to plan for one Lionel Messi.”Well, we’ll take it the way it kind of comes along,” Klinsmann said. “We don’t need to talk Argentina any bigger than they are. We had two years ago [Cristiano] Ronaldo coming to Manaus, [with Portugal]; big game, too. We had them down there 2-1 until the 96th minute. So we’ll give everything we have with all the respect for the opponent. We’ll talk about the opponent the same as Colombia, Ecuador and Paraguay because they’re all wonderful teams. But we’ve come so far now and we get even hungrier for the next now, even if we totally understand it’s a big one.”There are some simple decisions for Klinsmann. One is in the center of midfield, where Kyle Beckerman is the likely choice to replace Jones, playing alongside Bradley, although Darlington Nagbe is an option as well. Yedlin has served his suspension, meaning he can resume his place on the right side of the U.S. defense.There is some merit to the idea of pushing Johnson into a wide midfield role, but that would mean sticking with Besler for another game at left back. That seems a step too far. Playing Besler there against Ecuador is one thing. Putting him up against the likes of Ever Banega, Angel Di Maria and, in particular, Messi is quite another. That points to Johnson returning to left-back, but as you’ll see, this choice can end in a blind alley.Wood will be difficult to replace. His diagonal runs did plenty to upset Ecuador’s defense, and his presence has been a boon to Clint Dempsey, who scored for the third consecutive game. Gyasi Zardes could be deployed up top given that he’s played a similar role at times for the LA Galaxy, and he’d be in a position to give Dempsey the support the Seattle forward needs to be effective. Klinsmann seemed to be leaning that way in his postgame news conference, as he talked up the growth of Zardes and Wood in the same breath. That would leave Graham Zusi to play one of the wide midfield slots.So if Johnson is at left-back, there is one more hole to fill, and Klinsmann’s options are down to two players who have never started a game for the U.S. national team: Nagbe and Christian Pulisic. Nagbe, at 25 years old, is more experienced. Pulisic is just 17 but has the Bundesliga pedigree. Klinsmann could opt to deploy one of them centrally, leaving Zardes to help protect one of the flanks, or trust them to play out wide. Or Klinsmann could just keep Besler at left-back and move Johnson to left mid, and spare two inexperienced players at the international level from being thrown to the Argentine wolves. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Klinsmann go that route.Of course, there will be more to the team’s preparation than deciding on personnel. There will be the task of coming down from the high of Thursday’s victory. But the U.S. won’t want to wash all of that good feeling away. The team’s confidence is at its peak, and it’ll need to carry that into the semifinal regardless of the opponent.”It’s a semifinal, it’s a huge occasion,” Bradley said. “It’s a big game, it’s a chance to get into the final. If it’s Argentina, great. If it’s Venezuela, we’ll be ready the same way.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

U.S. team spirit key to sealing place in Copa America semifinals

EATTLE — If Clint Dempsey is on the downward slope of his decorated U.S. national team career, somebody forgot to tell the 33-year-old Seattle Sounders forward.Playing in front of his home fans at CenturyLink Field, Dempsey’s goal and assist helped the U.S. record a 2-1 win against Ecuador on Thursday, vaulting the Copa America Centenario hosts into next week’s semifinal in Houston.It was the third straight game in this tournament in which Dempsey scored his side’s opening goal, and this consistency is nothing new. Dating back to the beginning of last year, the Texan has now found the net in 13 of his past 18 international appearances.”I don’t marvel at it now — he’s been doing it for so long that it’s almost come to be expected a little bit,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said after Thursday’s match. “If he gets a clear chance, more often than not he’s going to score. He’s a big-time player for us. I couldn’t be happier for him.”Dempsey took home Man of the Match honors for his performance, but there were no shortage of other candidates on the night. Far from a one-man show, this was a team win of the very highest order; a signature victory; a litmus test passed with flying red, white and blue.The U.S. squad had been in a rut for the better part of two years heading into the competition. It’s easy to forget after Thursday’s result that they would have been all but eliminated from World Cup qualifying contention with a home loss against Guatemala back in March. They won that game 4-0, and now, they’re likely to face off against Lionel Messi and mighty Argentina for a spot in the Copa final on June 26 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.”Our program is maturing,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said afterward. “Our players are maturing. They are learning with every game they can play in this type of an environment. This is what we had hoped for.”The fans are starting to get what they had hoped for, too. After too many listless displays under Klinsmann, his team appears to be finally finding its identity. The funny thing is, it’s a new and improved version of the one it’s always had; while there’s more quality in the player pool than there has been in more than a decade, team spirit and hard work still makes the U.S. more than the sum of its parts.Let’s be clear about this, though. Beating Ecuador — FIFA’s 13th ranked team — was no fluke. The U.S. enjoyed the majority of the possession in the first half, even after going up a goal, and they had the better of the scoring chances.The balance tilted when the game opened up shortly after halftime, as both teams were reduced to 10 men — Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia picked up a second yellow for a hard foul on Alejandro Bedoya; Jermaine Jones saw a straight red for confronting Valencia — and as the South Americans desperately tried to get back into the game. In the end, though, the home team deserved to move on.”It was a great night,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “To go deep into a tournament you need to be able to win games in different ways. I think we’ve done that. We’ve had nights where we played very well, scored goals. We’ve had other nights where we’ve had to defend, to suffer together, to make sure that our mentality carries us through. Tonight was probably a little bit of both.”With DeAndre Yedlin suspended, Klinsmann was always going to have to make one lineup change, yet Matt Besler was still a surprise inclusion on Klinsmann’s team sheet. It was the central defender who was charged with keeping Valencia in check on the left flank, while normal left back Fabian Johnson slid into Yedlin’s spot on the right.”I’ve got to be honest: I was a little nervous going into the game,” Besler said. “I don’t have a ton of experience playing left back. I thought we did well going up a guy like Valencia, who plays at Manchester United, one of the biggest clubs in the world. It’s not an easy task. But I think for the most part we handled him. I just tried to play within myself.”He also got help from Bedoya in front of him, and center back John Brooks to his right — who seems to be getting better with every game. The team was the star on Thursday, and although it has already met Klinsmann’s goal of reaching the semifinals, the sense is that these players have their sights firmly set on the trophy, and that they fancy their chances of hoisting it. That’s a remarkable turn of events since losing to Colombia in the Copa opener.”We haven’t won too many second-round games against big opponents,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati told reporters following Klinsmann’s news conference, just over a week after he sounded like he was considering parting ways with the German manager. “Now we’re guaranteed two more games.”It’s not the third-place game the players are thinking about, however. “A lot of guys have been huge for us, have stepped up and played well,” said Dempsey, deflecting the credit for the win. “We’re still not going to celebrate too much because we know there’s a lot of work to be done. We want to get to the finals. Hopefully we can do that.”After what happened on Thursday night, nobody is going to tell him they can’t.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on

 

Clint Dempsey does it again as US beats Ecuador en route to Copa semis

SEATTLE — The U.S. national team is on to the semifinals of the Copa America Centenario after a hard-fought 2-1 win over Ecuador on Thursday in front of a raucous home crowd of 47,322 at CenturyLink Field. Goals by Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes on either side of half-time paced the Americans, who will meet the Argentina-Venezuela winner on Tuesday in Houston, Texas.Here are three quick thoughts on Thursday’s big win.

  1. Dempsey does it again

When Dempsey was left off coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster in November for the first two qualifiers of the 2018 World Cup cycle, it appeared that the veteran’s national team days could be numbered. But Dempsey, who was recalled for a pair of March qualifiers, has been so good in this tournament that Klinsmann started off this week in Seattle by saying he hopes the 33-year-old is still kicking around in Russia two years from now. Nobody should count him out.”Deuce” has been lights-out for the Americans during this Copa; his 22nd-minute strike against Ecuador was his third in three games, and he also helped set up Zardes’ game winner. Dempsey is tied with Argentina’s Lionel Messi atop the tournament’s goal-scoring leaderboard. Simply put, Dempsey — who continues his assault on the retired Landon Donovan’s all-time goal-scoring record, now just five goals shy of Donovan’s 57 — remains the country’s most reliable scorer by a country mile.Two years is an eternity in soccer. A lot can and will happen between now and then. But Dempsey has been brilliant in this competition, and a head-to-head meeting with Messi & Co. in the semifinals is his likely reward.

  1. The hosts are playing with house money

With Klinsmann’s pretournament goal of reaching the semifinals met, the pressure is off the U.S. If they do face Argentina — the Albiceleste are a heavy favorite to beat Venezuela on Saturday in Foxborough, Massachusetts — it’s a game nobody expects them to win, which can only help the hosts. The Americans will be short-handed. Jermaine Jones was red-carded in the second half for confronting Michael Arroyo after Antonio Valencia’s hard foul on Alejandro Bedoya, and Bedoya and Bobby Wood will also miss out after picking up their second yellows of the tournament. But that only means more opportunities for reserves like Kyle Beckerman and Graham Zusi, who were excellent in helping close out Thursday’s win after entering as substitutes.It’s even possible that 17-year-old Christian Pulisic will get a shot up front in Wood’s place. Why not? At this point, the U.S. has nothing to lose.

  1. Ecuador unable to use its biggest advantage

It was no secret coming into this match that Ecuador’s big strength was on the wings. With Valencia and Jefferson Montero running riot on the flanks, that was always going to be the place where coach Gustavo Quinteros’ team would find the Americans most vulnerable — especially since U.S. right-back DeAndre Yedlin was serving a one-match suspension for the double-yellow he picked up in the hosts’ Group A finale.Klinsmann responded by moving starting left-back Fabian Johnson to the right side and sliding Matt Besler — a career center-back — into Johnson’s vacated place. It looked as if Klinsmann was overthinking things yet again; the coach could have simply plugged Michael Orozco, who filled in ably for Yedlin vs. Paraguay.It was a bold move, one Klinsmann would’ve been heavily criticized for if it hadn’t worked out. But it did. The left-footed Besler isn’t a full-back, but he started all four games for the Americans at the 2014 World Cup, and he is a better defender than Orozco. Bedoya helped out in front of Besler, who was able to contain Valencia while Johnson shut down Montero on the opposite side.With Yedlin available for the semis, Besler will probably be back on the bench. Still, this is one example of Klinsmann’s tinkering that hit exactly the right note.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann hails maturing program and players

SEATTLE – U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann hailed his side’s quarterfinal victory over Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario, noting the growth of this team since its performance at the 2014 World Cup.The U.S. prevailed 2-1, but was made to sweat out a chaotic second half, one which witnessed the ejections of U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones and Ecuador’s Antonio Valencia. The Americans were up 1-0 at the time through Clint Dempsey’s 22nd minute header.They later added to their lead through Gyasi Zardes’ tap-in in the 65th minute. But Michael Arroyo’s 74th minute goal from a set piece set up a nervy finish, one that saw Enner Valencia squander some clear chances.”Obviously we talked before about the magnitude of this game,” said Klinsmann during his postgame news conference. “I didn’t talk much about Ecuador because I didn’t want to make them too big. This team is damn good.”This team is [second] in World Cup qualifying in South America. It was not by accident that they put us into big difficulties the last 15-20 minutes because this is one of the top teams in the world. But our program is maturing. Out players are maturing. They are learning with every game they can play in this type of an environment.”Klinsmann fully expects to use this win as a platform for bigger things, starting with Tuesday’s semifinal against the winner of Argentina and Venezuela. “Right now this team, I think they’re more convinced, more confident,” he said. “Confidence you only build over a long period of time, playing big teams and you get some results against big teams. Sometime you will get a loss, like against Brazil, but then you go over a stretch of the last couple of years to Italy, Bosnia, Holland, Mexico — Azteca, finally — and that’s where you grow.”The match marked the third consecutive game that Dempsey has scored in this tournament, and Klinsmann was full of praise for the U.S. forward. Dempsey now has 52 international goals, five behind all-time leader Landon Donovan.”Clint is special,” said Klinsmann. “And he showed that tonight, he showed it the last couple weeks, he showed it his entire career. So when he was not there for a couple of times — that’s why we wanted to bring some youngsters out there and give them a go — I always had a great relationship with him, and he was right there where he should be. And this performance tonight from him was unbelievable.”The win did come at a cost for the Americans. In addition to Jones being ejected, Bobby Wood and Alejandro Bedoya picked up yellow cards that will see them suspended for the semifinal. Klinsmann was especially livid about Jones’ red card, which he received for pushing an Ecuador player after Bedoya had been taken down by Antonio Valencia..”Unfortunately we lost Jermaine for that incident which is an absolute joke, because I was right there and the fourth official made that decision, not the referee,” said Klinsmann. “The referee didn’t see it. He followed the advice of the fourth official out there and it’s a disgrace, a decision like that.”Obviously we’re going to miss Ale and we’re going to miss Bobby for the semifinal. Not easy, but I think it’s a team that has so much desire to grind it out.”With right-back DeAndre Yedlin suspended, Klinsmann opted to switch usual left-back Fabian Johnson to right-back to contend with Ecuadorian speedster Jefferson Montero. He then chose Matt Besler, a center-back by trade, to play left-back. The moves paid off, though the back line received considerable help from wide midfielders Bedoya and Zardes. The U.S. wingers also tested Ecuador at the other end.”With the two wingers that they have, with [Juan Carlos] Paredes coming from behind and [Antonio] Valencia there, that is difficult to deal with. Then you need the help of your wingers Gyasi and Ale to do a lot of defensive work as well.”But they are also growing and maturing. They pushed them back, they made them work also defensively and that’s another step forward from two years ago. We pushed the game back into the other half, and make them work the same way as well. It’s cool, then you have the feeling, ‘We can go eye-to-eye here.’Jeff Carlisle covers MLS 

 

Armchair Analyst: USMNT set the tone and punish Ecuador en route to semis

June 17, 20161:52 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

There’s a great behind-the-scenes clip from the old USMNT documentary called “Our Way: The Story of the United States’ 2002 World Cup Journey” in which then-head coach Bruce Arena is pumping up his charges ahead of the opener against Portugal.”First foul, first card, first shot, first goal,” Arena fairly screams at the likes of Landon Donovan,John O’BrienBrian McBride and Earnie Stewart. You can see that they’re buying in not just regarding what Arena’s saying, but also regarding what he actually means: Go out there and set the tone. Punch them in the mouth and make them fear you in the first 10 minutes, and take control of this game.That is, of course, exactly what happened. The US hung three on Portugal inside half an hour, then held on against a ferocious comeback to take a 3-2 win and start a journey that would only end two weeks later in the quarterfinals.On Thursday night in a 2-1 win over Ecuador in the Copa America quarterfinals, there were shades of that ethos visible for the US from the start. Maybe we’ll never see behind-the-scenes footage of this one, and maybe I’m reading too much into the way the team carried itself out of the locker room, and maybe Jurgen Klinsmann was busy diagramming tactics on a chalkboard rather than giving motivational speeches. Perhaps none of the similarities of intent I saw were actually purposefully there.But whether it was purposeful or not, the US absolutely set the tone in this game, putting Ecuador on the back foot from the start and forcing them to play catch-up. Everybody played a role, but let’s start up top:

The Boxer

One of the great debates in the field of soccer analytics is “How do we accurately measure what happens off the ball?” Opta does great work tracking touches and events, but that run that pulled a defender away? We don’t see that on the chalkboard or in any sort of numbers that teams make public (lots have SportVu cameras that track that stuff, but all the info is guarded like a state secret — none of it is publicly available).What happens off the ball matters a whole hell of a lot. And what Bobby Wood did off the ball in this one was the equivalent of a boxer going into a match and just thumping body blows against an opponent from the first minute. He took the wind out of Ecuador’s chests, gave them the yips, and wouldn’t let up:Wood is driven, fast and relentless, and incredibly north-south. His instinct is almost never to come to the ball — he’d rather try to split defenders, or at least draw them into his own run.He showed that to Ecuador from minute one, and because of his work Frickson Erazo and Arturo Mina ended up becoming preoccupied with the space behind them rather than the play going on in front of them. When you hear broadcasters or coaches or armchair analysts use the term “disconnect”, this is what they’re talking about: the pressure of worrying about Wood’s runs disconnected the central defense from the central midfield, and that opens up space.

Clint Dempsey happens to thrive in that space:

Dempsey was a second forward in this game, and the beauty of that role for him is that he gets to just sort of run around and figure out where he can do the most damage. Notice how he’s arriving inside the 18 when there are three other Yanks already there, and that Ecuador can’t figure out that he’s the real danger man until it’s too late?That’s because of the space Wood created and the tone he set. This is how a forward partnership is supposed to work, and why a team with two good forwards can line up without a true playmaker and still be consistently dangerous.Cesar Luis Menotti, who coached Argentina to the 1978 World Cup, always said that soccer is about partnerships. Can you figure out how to become more dangerous together than you would be as individuals?Wood and Dempsey figured that out. Wood pummeled La Tricolor with body blows until there was an opening for Dempsey to land a crushing overhand right that, eventually, scored the US a knockout.

I Am A Rock

For as great as Dempsey and Wood have been, their partnership has been overshadowed by the work of John Brooks and Geoff Cameron in central defense. Both before and after Jermaine Jones‘s infuriating red card, the two of them were dealing with the surfeit of attacking threats Ecuador present like the veteran, high-level pros they are. Cameron had one bad clearance, but otherwise was impeccable, and Brooks has just about exhausted the list of adjectives with his superlative play throughout the tournament.The US have now gone nearly 10 hours without conceding an open play goal. Brooks is the biggest reason why. He is the best individual defender left in the tournament, and his and Cameron’s is the best partnership.This is such a huge change from the Brooks of last year’s Gold Cup, who was often timid to start games — he’d invariably lose the first physical duel, or get beaten in the air by an attacker half-a-foot shorter than him. His progress over the past year from “Bundesliga starter who’s more just a kid with potential” to “backline anchor who’s drawing understandable interest from Bayern Munich” is almost fantastical.Two years ago, of course, Brooks scored what will probably forever be the greatest goal of his career — there aren’t too many folks who can claim to have scored a game-winner in a World Cup. So it was fitting that he celebrated the anniversary with the type of calm, composed and leaderly display from the back that any team with designs on a trophy needs:

America

Part of Klinsmann’s mandate when he was hired was to move the US away from the 4-4-2 (then considered archaic) and into what folks feel are more modern, proactive and attacking formations — most notably the 4-3-3. Klinsmann fed into that and, for years and years, has fought against playing in a 4-4-2 even when it was the obvious choice.He has finally come home to America.We’re still, it turns out, a 4-4-2 country. Maybe that changes when Christian Pulisic gets more than a sightseeting tour, or maybe it’s when we produce our own Juan Roman Riquelme. Perhaps that’s soon, or perhaps that’s never.

For now, this is us:

That’s a network passing map made using Opta data. The circles represent the aggregate position of each player’s measured events, and the thickness of the lines connecting players represents the number of passes exchanged back and forth.It’s lopsided and it wasn’t often flowing, but make no mistake: That was a variant of the 4-4-2 (more of a 4-1-3-2 with Michael Bradley holding in front of the back line as the “1”) the US played, and that Ecuador mostly couldn’t figure out.The reason the 4-4-2 became obviated on the world stage is because teams — starting mostly with France in 1998 — played a 4-2-3-1 and would use numerical superiority to control play through central midfield, which is the most profitable real estate on the pitch. That is still the way to crack open a 4-4-2 team, but Ecuador were never up to it.Things changed after the Jones red, and Ecuador almost made the US pay:

It also remains to be seen how the US will cope without Jones and Alejandro Bedoya in the semis (likely against Argentina). Jones solves problems with his legs and Bedoya with his brain, and their ability to anticipate/physically blow through most tactical obstacles is a big part of why Ecuador never really controlled the game.It will have to be a different story without them, though not necessarily a different formation. The 4-4-2 may be a security blanket for the US, but it does provide real warmth and comfort.

A few more things to ponder…

  1. I didn’t love the decision to startMatt Beslerat left back and flip Fabian Johnson to the right side in place of the suspended DeAndre Yedlin, but it worked out. Besler struggled a bunch with his positioning in the first 45 when the US had the ball — he received a couple of back-passes from Brooks, and the left back should never be receiving back-passes from the left center back — but proved crucial once the US went into desperation mode in the second half.
  2. And as for Johnson… I still think the US misshis creativity on the wings in midfield. Full credit toGyasi Zardes for his workrate and his productivity, but I still say that putting Johnson in that spot and, say, Eric Lichaj at left or right back gives the US a better chance to be dangerous on the regular.
  3. Gyasi’s first touch says what’s up:
  4. For as great as some of the desperation defensefrom the US backline was, so much of this result came down to Ecuador’sEnner Valencia missing chances he usually buries. He had multiple chances to equalize late in this one and will probably have a sleepless night thinking about it.
  5. FC Dallas youngsterCarlos Gruezostruggled to leave an imprint on this game. His passing map is comedic in that it vividly tells the story of a young man scared to take risks:

His ineffectiveness was only exacerbated by Christian Noboa’s injury and eventual substitution.

  1. The Jones red card was, as I mentioned above,absolutely infuriating. Part of what makes him great is how he can ride the line of “geez that’s way too much” without stepping over, but putting hands to the face of an opponent isalways going to be a red card. He blew up in last year’s playoffs, and now he’s blown up in a crucial knockout round game for the USMNT. Instead of becoming steadier and more stable as he ages, he’s grown more combustable and become more of a risk.
  2. Antonio Valencia‘s red card was cheap as hell.I’m glad he’s going home.
  3. I really don’t know who Klinsmann will put into his XI next week.But the one thing I do hope is that Zardes is moved up top in place of the suspended Wood, since Dempsey always plays best off of a true No. 9.

US hail “rocking” Seattle crowd in Ecuador win: “We feed off that energy”

June 17, 201612:31 PM EDTAri LiljenwallContributor

SEATTLE – US national team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya had never been to Seattle before his team took on Ecuador in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinals on Thursday.He’s unlikely to forget his first visit anytime soon.The US bagged a 2-1 victory over Ecuador to advance to the Copa semifinals, aided by a raucous and heavily pro-US crowd of 47,322 onlookers at CenturyLink Field that Bedoya credited after the game as a catalyst for the result.“I had never been here before, so I was already looking forward to it,” Bedoya said. “This is as close as you’re going to get in these tournaments against these teams to a [heavily] pro-America crowd. You could see me, myself and other players, after we scored, trying to get the crowd amped up and everything.”Bedoya said that the energy provided by the C-Link crowd wasn’t just for show – that it actually gave his team a noticeable boost throughout the night.“We feed off that energy, right?” Bedoya said. “We knew it was going to be a pro-America crowd and feeding off that energy helps a lot. It makes you run that extra little bit. For sure, it helps.”US forward Gyasi Zardes and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann both credited the American Outlaws, the team’s unofficial supporters group, with making their presence felt in especially impressive fashion.The Outlaws took over the Brougham End at CenturyLink, the section normally occupied by the Seattle Sounders’ Emerald City Supporters group, leading the crowd in their usual array of songs and chants throughout the contest.“The crowd is like the backbone of the team,” Zardes said. “That’s what I always say. The American Outlaws today, you could feel the atmosphere rocking. They were just behind us the whole way.”Klinsmann says Thursday was a continuation of the expanding and dedicated support he’s noticed since he took over as US coach in 2011.“We had the best crowd of all nations down in Brazil [at the 2014 World Cup],” Klinsmann said. “In our World Cup qualifiers, it’s a real home advantage for us. The Outlaws are organized throughout the entire country and even followed us to Puerto Rico for a little warm-up game. It’s growing on all levels.”

Geoff Cameron on USA’s defensive effort: “Everybody worked together as one”

June 17, 20169:01 AM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributor

Nobody said the Copa America Centenario would be easy for the US national team, and especially not when they reached the knockout rounds.Defender Geoff Cameron retained his place in central defense on Thursday, in the USMNT’s 2-1 quarterfinal round win over Ecuador at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, and afterwards discussed the tall order ahead of his team in that game, and the tournament as a whole.”We’ve known from the get-go,” he told FOX’s Jenny Taft after the game. “We knew it was going to be tough playing against Colombia [in the opening match of the tournament] and the caliber of team they are.”But saying that, we won our second game and third game. We’re in the quarterfinals and now we’re on to the semifinals.”The defensive backbone of Brad Guzan in goal and Fabian Johnson, Cameron, John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin across the backline that served the US so well in group-stage wins over Costa Rica and Paraguay did not remain intact for this game. Yedlin was out serving a one-game suspension following his red card in the Paraguay game, with Matt Besler stepping in against Ecuador.“I thought Matt was solid today,” Cameron said. “He stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. And they have some quick wingers. But Fabian moved over to the right and Matt stepped in to the left and it was clockwork. Guys were organized. They talked. And they communicated with one another.”Everybody worked together as one and I think that’s why we’re so successful. Everybody is leaving it out on the field. People didn’t think we’d be in the semifinals and here we are.”The final 10 minutes were as nervy as any the US have faced in quite some time, but despite Ecuador’s furious attempts to complete their second two-goal comeback at this Copa America, the Americans did just enough to get the win in regulation.”When Graham [Zusi] came in and moved over to that side he kind of locked down that side a little bit better and blocked some crosses and so it was easier for us to step out,” Cameron explained. “But they were throwing guys forward. They wanted to get a goal. It was just tough. Guys just threw themselves in.  “And you know you have to have luck sometimes, and the luck’s going our way. And we just have to keep it going.”With the US now set to face either tournament favorite Argentina or surprise quarterfinalist Venezuela in the semifinal round, Cameron and company believe they can keep the current run going.”Anything is possible and the fact that the teamwork, the guys that are in the locker room we’re all sacrificing ourselves for one another and leaving it all out on the pitch,” he said. “We’ve done that every single game so far, and you’ve seen the success of it.”

US national team meet Copa America objective vs. “damn good” Ecuador side

June 17, 20162:48 AM EDTAri LiljenwallContributor

SEATTLE – Before the start of this year’s Copa America Centenario, US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said that advancing to the tournament’s semifinals should be his squad’s baseline expectation.Consider that mission accomplished following the USMNT’s nail-biting 2-1 quarterfinal triumphover Ecuador at CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Thursday – a victory that Klinsmann says carries extra symbolic weight considering the magnitude of the stage and the quality of the opponent.The US topped an Ecuador squad that is currently FIFA’s 13th-ranked team in the world and one that boasted one of the more dynamic attacking corps in the tournament.“That team is damn good,” Klinsmann told reporters at his postgame press conference. “This team is leading World Cup qualifying in South America. It was not by accident that they put us into difficulties the last 15-20 minutes because this is one of the top teams in the world.”The US benefitted from another standout performance from Clint Dempsey, who continued his strong run of form with a headed goal off a Jermaine Jones cross in the 22nd minute  — his third of the tournament.Dempsey also added an assist on the USMNT’s second goal on a cross to Gyasi Zardes in the 65th minute, more validation for the 33-year-old Seattle Sounders star, who had seen his starting status with the national team come into question in the days leading up to the tournament.“Clint is special,” Klinsmann said. “He’s showed that in the last couple weeks and he’s showed that through his entire career. He’s right there where he should be and this performance tonight from him was unbelievable.”Thursday’s performance certainly was not without its share of theatrics for the US, namely a double red card that saw Jones and Ecuador winger Antonio Valencia each sent off in the 52nd minute, as well as a rocket goal from Ecuador’s Michael Arroyo in the 74th minute that cut the US lead to 2-1.Klinsmann said that his team’s response to those adverse circumstances was biggest takeaway from Thursday’s result – particularly from his younger players.“Our program is maturing,” Klinsmann said. “Our players are maturing, they are learning with every game we can play in this type of an environment…We brought a few youngsters with along the way the last two years and they made a huge step forward tonight. They deserve this win.”

Here are the lineup changes Jurgen Klinsmann has to make for semifinals

June 16, 201611:53 PM EDTBenjamin BaerAssociate Editor

After having to play without DeAndre Yedlin against Ecuador, Jurgen Klinsmann has even more decisions to make when the US national team face the winner of Argentina and Venezuela in the Copa America Centenario semifinals.After beating Ecuador 2-1 on Thursday, Alejandro Bedoya and Bobby Wood will miss the semifinal thanks to yellow card accumulation while Jermaine Jones will also miss the game after he was shown a straight red card in the 52nd minute.Now the question becomes who will replace those players in one of the biggest games in the history of the US national team.

Alejandro Bedoya

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Graham Zusi or Christian Pulisic.

Klinsmann could go with Zusi on the right wing and push Gyasi Zardes to the left after the Sporting Kansas City midfielder has shown well during his substitute appearances. Zusi would be a similar player to Bedoya, with both showing the ability to complete passes at a high level, while Pulisic would be a bit different look with his ability to take on defenders in 1v1 situations.

Jermaine Jones

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Darlington Nagbe

There’s no doubt that Jones is a huge loss for the US. Klinsmann could deploy Nagbe in a spot that would be similar to the one he occupies for the Portland Timbers. The 25-year-old would provide a little less bite in the midfield but would add some creative punch.

Bobby Wood

POSSIBLE REPLACEMENT: Chris Wondolowski or Zusi

Wood has been more at home when deployed at center forward during this tournament so, while they are very different players, Wondolowski would slot into that position next to Clint Dempsey. Klinsmann could also push Zardes up top and play Zusi on the right wing.

US Player Ratings: Clint Dempsey leads way in Copa America win over Ecuador

June 17, 20161:12 AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor

The US national team reached the Copa America semifinals for just the second time thanks to a 2-1 victory over Ecuador that was both solid and extremely nervy near the end. Clint Dempsey and Gyasi Zardes did the business in attack, giving the red, white and blue boys enough cushion to withstand a furious Ecuador comeback attempt. At times, the home side made things a lot tougher on themselves than they had to be, but they kept following Dempsey’s dogged example to the final whistle to earn advancement.

Brad Guzan (7.5) – The netminder came up with three saves, including a big stop near the break. Guzan also made a key cross claim as part of commanding his area.

Fabian Johnson (6.5) – Switched to right back, Johnson definitely had some trouble dealing with Jefferson Montero’s dribbling work and crossing. However, he battled all game long, sticking a disruptive foot in on some important occasions. His influence moving forward was limited, but the ‘Gladbach star ended up with four tackles among several defensive stops.

Geoff Cameron (6.5) – The Stoke City man was largely solid at the back and on the ball, but got away with a couple of large errors. Cameron was left to wipe his brow in relief after both an early muffed clearance and losing Enner Valencia on a 77th minute cross to the doorstep.

John Anthony Brooks (7.5) – Aside from a hair-raising own goal scare late in the game, Brooks was again the star-wearing marshal at the back for the US. The importance of the Hertha Berlin defender’s shot block on Michael Arroyo near the half-hour cannot be over-estimated and he piled up eight area clearances.

Matt Besler (6.5) – Filling in at left back, the Sporting KC got plenty of help dealing with Antonio Valencia and made a couple of big step plays to keep Ecuador from invading his corner. However, he also was let off the hook after badly losing restart mark Enner Valencia shortly after the break. His grade rises above passing for the cross to Zardes that helped set up the winning goal play.

Michael Bradley (6) – It was a strange first half for the midfield general, who had to clean up for himself after making a particularly bad giveaway in the 17th minute. He was better in the second half, and especially down the stretch, but can certainly offer more over 90 minutes.

Jermaine Jones (5) – The Rapids troublemaker’s grade is a tale of two halves: the full one and the short one. In the opening frame, he disrupted in the US end and worked possession in Ecuador’s until serving a pinpoint cross for Dempsey to nod home the opener. However, Jones went for a highly foolish face slap to see red when Antonio Valencia momentarily handed the hosts a man advantage. The inexcusable lapse in judgment cost him two full points on this report card and his place for the semifinal.

Gyasi Zardes (7) – It took the Galaxy attacker a while to get into the game, in part because of a lack of touches. Zardes kept plugging away, however, and played two parts in the winning goal play. His header kept the ball alive for Dempsey, who eventually returned the favor with the pass Zardes tucked home. He also added a few important help plays on the track-back.

Alejandro Bedoya (6) – The Nantes attacker will again draw some heat for squandering a couple of chances, but that does not tell the entire story of his performance. Bedoya repeatedly linked well in the build and set up a decent chance for Dempsey. He gets docked slightly for picking up the yellow card that will keep him out of the semifinal.

Clint Dempsey (8) – Unsurprisingly, the man they call “Deuce” stepped up in the big game. Dempsey’s firm but accurate header opened the scoring and his tenacity on the ball set up Zardes for the decider. He also could have earned an assist for the slip pass near halftime that saw Bedoya’s effort saved.

Bobby Wood (7) – Even though he didn’t make the score sheet, Wood was always stretching and pulling apart the Ecuador defense with runs across the final third. He also traveled a long way back to pitch in with a couple of important defensive stops in the second half.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (7) – This is a tricky one, as the excellent result might overshadow that the team got away with some things in gaining it. Some of these do not fall on the boss, but his odd refusal to replace the ejected Jones with another midfielder really allowed the visitors to take control and build rally steam. Were it not for a couple of woefully missed Enner Valencia chances, the USMNT could have easily entered the final stage of the match in a tense deadlock with added open space for Ecuador’s shifty attackers, or even behind.Still, Klinsmann has done what he set out to do, guiding the team to the final four. This Ecuador win was the toughest of the bunch so far and he deserves some credit.

Subs:
Kyle Beckerman (6.5) – The Real Salt Lake bulldog pitched in with three area clearances, including an important intervention 12 minutes from time.

Graham Zusi (6.5) – The Sporting KC ace came on to make four defensive stops in nine minutes to help the team drain the clock.

Steve Birnbaum (-) – Only on for less than a minute.

Clint Dempsey, John Brooks lead U.S. into Copa America semifinals

It took every ounce of effort it could muster, and the team lost several players to suspensions in the process, but the United States managed to squeak by Ecuador 2-1 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle and earn its way into the Copa America Centenario semifinals.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s gamble to start Matt Besler at left back worked, just barely. The Americans held on down the stretch under severe pressure from Ecuador and prevailed thanks to big nights from a number of players at both ends of the pitch.

 

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

GK Brad Guzan, 7.5 — Made several important saves and got off his line quickly in the closing stages when the U.S. defense was being tested by Ecuador’s direct balls.

DF Fabian Johnson, 7 — Solid defensively in the face of the very difficult task of stopping Jefferson Montero. Got forward in a limited capacity and gave the attack a wide outlet.

DF Geoff Cameron, 7 — Responsible for numerous crucial clearances, though there were a few obvious errors during his night. Bailed out on a missed clearance when Ecuador failed to take advantage.

DF John Brooks, 9 — Another immense performance by a player who has now put in an entire tournament of them. Provided last-ditch defense over and over down the stretch of a game that threatened to get away from the U.S. Provided a few good balls forward as well.

DF Matt Besler, 6.5 — Handled his unfamiliar role well enough, mostly in a stay-at-home capacity. Looked a little lost at times.

MF Alejandro Bedoya, 7 — Excellent as a buffer on the left side of the field, covering for the inexperience and relative immobility of Besler. Made mistakes in the final third, and wasted one golden chance that might have made things easier for the U.S.

MF Michael Bradley, 7 — “Quiet” in the sense that he didn’t impact the game dramatically in the attacking end, but that doesn’t mean his efforts weren’t effective. Did good work in distribution minus a few turnovers.

MF Jermaine Jones, 5.5 — Ruined an otherwise effective performance with a silly reaction that earned him a red card early in the second half. Defended well before his dismissal. Played the cross that Dempsey headed home for the opening goal.

FW Gyasi Zardes, 7 — Scored what would ultimately prove to be the winning goal, in part because of his effort to win a cross in the air. Gave excellent two-way coverage on the flank. Had his usual frustrating moments but made up for them.

FW Clint Dempsey, 8.5 — Did his thing as only he can do. Scored the U.S. opener with his head and set up the second American goal for Zardes. Refused to be eliminated as a factor and forced himself into the game.

FW Bobby Wood, 8 — Instrumental to the American effort to get forward thanks to his willingness to run the channels and latch onto long balls. Directly responsible for starting the move that turned into the first American goal. Sullied his performance with a late yellow that will see him suspended for the semifinal.

Substitutes:

MF Kyle Beckerman, NR — A little to eager to lump the ball forward with the Americans under pressure in the last 15 minutes, but otherwise brought the type of bite and energy the team needed as a late substitute.

MF Graham Zusi, NR — Made two massive recoveries in his limited time, and stretched out possession when desperately needed with long runs up the sideline.

DF Steve Birnbaum, NR — Entered the game in the final few seconds.Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer.

 

Gyasi Zardes talks potential matchup vs. Argentina in Copa America semi

June 17, 20162:04 AM EDTSimon BorgEditor-in-Chief

LA Galaxy forward Gyasi Zardes scored the game-winning goal on Thursday night as the USA punched their ticket to the Copa America semifinals for the first time since 1995 with a 2-1 quarterfinal win over Ecuador.For that semifinal match next Tuesday in Houston, the USA will likely be relying on Zardes to score again after starting striker Bobby Wood received a yellow card that triggered an automatic one-game suspension. Zardes could potentially move from his regular right midfield position to his preferred center forward role in order to take over for Wood at NRG Stadium. That’s where many are expecting the USA to face world power and No. 1-ranked Argentina, a team that takes the field for its quarterfinal on Saturday night.”It means a lot,” Zardes told Univision after the match about the prospect of facing theAlbicelestes. “Argentina is a good side, but they have to do their part and win their game first [vs. Venezuela on Saturday, 7 pm ET on FX, Univision, UDN]. But whoever our opponent is, our coaches do an amazing job at getting us prepared. And I have full faith and confidence in our coaching staff.”Those are the kind of positive vibes in US camp that Zardes feels are fueling the USMNT’s Copa America run. The Americans were organized and worked hard in the first half, but Ecuador’s second-half onslaught in search of an equalizer pushed the USA deeper and deeper into their own area and into emergency defending situations.“You know, our team showed a lot of character,” Zardes told FS1 after the match. “Our captain,Michael [Bradley], brought us in and, as well, the coaching staff made some key substitutions. But our mindset was moving forward. It wasn’t dwelling on the past. And as you can see, the result is what it is because of everything that happened.”The unique thing about this group is unity. We battled for each other,” Zardes continued. “We’re working hard together. It’s been over a month with each other and you can see the brotherhood. It’s amazing.”In the first half, Zardes was busy on both side of the ball to cover his right flank, where teammate and right back Fabian Johnson also pushed up frequently in the first half.But even with all his tracking back, Zardes still found a way to be involved in attack and in the 65th minute he was there at the back post to touch a ball over the goal line served up by US teammateClint Dempsey.Zardes was very matter-of-fact when it came to how the USA created their goal-scoring opportunities against Ecuador.”Just making third-man runs,” Zardes explained, “and really just linking up. It was really pretty easy.”Easy? There’s got to be a secret. How does Zardes find it in him to put in all the work he does?”The energy here is just phenomenal. It was the backbone,” he said about the Seattle fans. “American Outlaws really came out and supported us. Not only that, our whole team — it was a hard fought battle and we came out victorious.”

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6/15/16 Indy 11 Win the Spring League Title- Play Chicago tonite!, US Play Thurs Night 9:30 pm Quarterfinals of COPA, Euro Cup in full Swing

So wow Your Indy 11 – with a huge 4-1 home win over Carolina coupled with a NY Cosmos Tie – snatched the Spring League Title with 18 points and Zero losses on the spring season. The only team in the league with NO losses – they needed to score 4 goals in the final to catch NY on Goal Differential and that’s just what they did !!  That means YOUR Indy 11 are NASL FALL LEAGUE CHAMPIONS and have already secured a spot in the Playoffs at the end of the Fall Season.  Now its on to the US Open Cup tonight at 8:30 pm in Chicago vs the MLS Squad Chicago Fire.  Watch it LIVE ONLINE HERE

The US reached the Quarterfinals with a huge game on Thursday night vs Ecuador – a winnable game by my account.  Will be great to see the US crowd at Seattle – the best soccer fans in the US – hopefully they will let the fans sing the national anthem – like every friggin one in Europe does.  A win here could set up a huge match with Argentina and the world’s greatest player (besides Buffon) Lionel Messi.  I am still bumming I missed the Messi 3 goal explosion in Chicago – but I will be there for the COPA Semi-Finals in Chicago next week either way.  I really think the COPA games have been more exciting that the group stages of the European Cup so far – but hey you have to love this Summer of Soccer with Euro games on all day and COPA on all night. Friday night has the allstar doubleheader of Argentina vs surprising Venezuela at 7 pm on FX, followed by Mexico vs Chile (defending champs) at 10 pm again on FX – not Fox Sports1.

ALL GAMES ON TV

Thursday, June 16
England vs. Wales — Lens (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Northern Ireland — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Germany vs. Poland — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa aMerica Peru vs Columbia – 8 pm Fox Sports 1

Copa America USA  vs. Ecuador Seattle, WA 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Friday, June 17
Italy vs. Sweden — Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Croatia — Saint-Etienne (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spain vs. Turkey — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America Argentina vs. Venezuela –  Foxborough, MA  7 p.m. FX

Copa American Mexico vs. Chile  Santa Clara, CA 10 p.m. FX

Saturday, June 18
Belgium vs. Rep of Ireland — Bordeaux (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Hungary — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Portugal vs. Austria — Paris (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America 1D vs. 2C Foxborough, MA  7 p.m. FXCopa America 1C vs. 2D anta Clara, CA 10 p.m. FX

Sunday, June 19
Switzerland vs. France — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Romania vs. Albania — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)\

Monday, June 20
Slovakia vs. England — Saint-Etienne (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Russia vs. Wales — Toulouse (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Tuesday, June 21
Northern Ireland vs. Germany — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Poland — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Croatia vs. Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Turkey — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America W25 vs. W27 Houston, TX 9 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, June 22
Hungary vs. Portugal — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Austria — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Italy vs. Rep of Ireland — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sweden vs. Belgium — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America W26 vs. W28 Chicago, IL  8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Euro Round of 16  Starts Saturday, June 25

Sat., 6/25

Copa America L29 vs. L30 Glendale, AZ 8 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26

Copa America final  East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

INDY 11

Indy 11 travel to Chicago to face Fire in US Open Cup 4th Round Game tonite

Watch the Game Live Here   http://www.chicago-fire.com/post/2016/06/15/watch-chicago-fire-vs-indy-eleven-730-pm-ct

Indy 11 Secure Spring 2016 NASL Championship

Chicago Fire Pre-game Writeup

Champs Square off Sunday – June 26th – 1 pm at the Mike – Mexican Champ Pachuca and USMNT player Omar Gonzales vs the NASL Champs Indy 11

USA + COPA

US Weary of Ecuador

USA has chance to prove Knockout Chops – Grahnt Wahl SI

US Bench Players Play big Role  

What to Expect from Ecuador in Quarters

US Fends off Paradguay for spot in Quarters

Argentina and Mexico top Power Rankings as Copa Continues

COPA AMERICA: Full group standings, results, statistics, schedule

EUROS

Guide to Euro’s 2016

Euro Full Bracket

Full TV Schedule EUROS

MLS TV Schedule ‘ On Break June 3-June 17 for COPA

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

Copa America Centario Schedule   TV Schedule

COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGOstill seats left for 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

 

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn Your College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools  www.achievetestprep.com/shane

  Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

INDY ELEVEN WINS NASL SPRING SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP

First Title in Club’s Three-Year History Comes with Home Match in Semifinal Round of The Championship in November

INDIANAPOLIS (Sunday, June 12, 2016) – A day after a thrilling 4-1 home victory over Carolina vaulted Indy Eleven to the top of the North American Soccer League’s Spring Season standings, “Indiana’s Team” can now officially celebrate the first title in club history thanks to today’s FC Edmonton win over Fort Lauderdale.“The incredible effort every player and staff member has put in over the last three years culminated with a display last night worthy of a championship,” said Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir. “Everyone associated with Indy Eleven – players, coaches, staff, sponsors and especially the best fans in the sport – helped us achieve this Spring Season Championship. We’re honored to win this for the State of Indiana.” To start its third season of play, Indy Eleven finished the 10-game Spring Season undefeated (4W-6D-0L), square with the New York Cosmos on 18 points and also even in the league’s first two tiebreakers, goal differential (+7) and goal scored (15). The third and decisive tiebreaker, head-to-head results, went Indy Eleven’s way thanks to its dramatic 2-1 comeback win over the Cosmos at Carroll Stadium back on April 16.“The club couldn’t be any prouder to bring a trophy to the outstanding supporters of Indy Eleven, whose energy we fed off all Spring Season to make this happen,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “The building of this team since December and the way these players have come together is a testament to what can happen when you fight for and believe in each other. The entire Spring campaign, but specifically last night’s perormance, showed the tremendous passion, character and talent of our roster, which is looking forward to even more success through the Fall Season and into The Championship.”Along with the Spring championship comes an automatic berth into The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament. As the Spring champ, Indy Eleven has earned the right to host a Semifinal Round game during the first weekend of November at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium (no date has yet been finalized). The Semifinal winner with the most points will earn hosting rights for The Championship Final the following weekend.Indy Eleven will next turn its attention to its continuing run in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, which continues this Wednesday, June 15, with a Fourth Round affair against Major League Soccer side Chicago Fire SC. Kickoff on Wednesday night from Toyota Park in suburban Bridgeview, Ill., is set for 8:30 p.m. ET.Indy Eleven will next return home to Carroll Stadium on Sunday, June 26, for an exhibition match pitting champion against champion with Liga MX Clausura Season winner C.F. Pachuca coming to “The Mike” for a 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff. Tickets for that match – which will feature the debut of new Indy Eleven midfielder and Mexican National Team legend Gerardo Torrado – are available starting at just $11; for full ticket details, visit www.IndyEleven.com/Pachuca.

PREVIEW: #USOC2016

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven at Chicago Fire
Wednesday, June 15, 2016 – 8:30 p.m. ET / 7:30 p.m. CT
Toyota Park – Chicago Fire

Team Records:

  • Indy Eleven: 4W-6D-0L, 18 pts, 1st in NASL Spring/Overall Season
  • Chicago Fire: 2W-5D-5L, 11 pts, 10th in MLS Eastern Conference

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Last Time Out – Indy Eleven 4 : 1 Carolina Railhawks

There are not a lot of dramatic three-goal wins in soccer annals, but Saturday night’s 4-1 win over Railhawks FC fell in that select category as it crowned “Indiana’s Team” the 2016 NASL Spring Season champions. A hat-trick from Eamon Zayed and the third goal of the season for Justin Braun gave the “Boys in Blue” the three standings points, four goals and three-goal winning margin they needed to surpass the New York Cosmos for first place at the end of the 10-game Spring sprint. Zayed opened the scoring in the 16th minute following a cross from left-back Nemanja Vukovic to get the party started, but the Railhawks fought back in the 29th minute when Nazmi Albadawi countered with a strike from just outside the area to square the match at one-all. Just before halftime, the momentum swung back in Indy’s favor as Braun tapped in another ball from “Vuko” to restore the lead.Right out of the break, “Indiana’s Team” went all-out for the two goals it needed, but found little in the way of a scoring chance until the 65th minute. Again the Irishman Zayed was at the heart of the play as Jamaican winger Omar Gordon found his teammate on an aerial ball in the center of the box, which the forward headed hard and low to beat Railhawks FC ‘keeper Akira Fitzgerald. Needing one more goal and being willed on by the 9,341 fans in attendance, Indy Eleven pressed on and eventually found the magical fourth goal with little time to spare. In the 85th minute, beautiful team play resulted in Duke Lacroix corkscrewing a low ball towards the far post where Zayed was waiting to tap home, putting the finishing touches on the 4-1 victory.Thus the Spring Season title was capped off with an undefeated record (4W-6D-0L), making Indy just the second club to do so after the New York Cosmos achieved the same feat last season. For the full IndyEleven.com recap, click here.
Last Time Out – Chicago Fire 1 : 1 Portland Timbers

Having not played a competitive match in over two weeks, the Chicago Fire last took to the pitch in a 1-1 draw with defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill. Both goals came in the opening twenty minutes of the match, and the Timbers got on the scoresheet first in the 18th minute when Diego Valeri took down a miscued clearance from a Fire defender, dangled his way towards the byline, and fired a low effort past Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson. However, just two minutes later Chicago found an equalizer through the feet of forward David Accam. Fire midfielder Joao Meira lifted a pass across the back line of the Timbers to the feet of other forward Kennedy Igboananike, and the latter whipped in a low cross that Accam tapped home past Timbers ‘netminder Jack Gleeson.Though the Fire outshot their opposition 17-8 total (6-2 on goal), they were only able to salvage a point at home and remain at the foot of the MLS Eastern Conference standings in 10th place. For a full match recap, click here.-> TICKETS | Indy Eleven vs. C.F. Pachuca <-
Fourth Round History

Wednesday will mark Indy Eleven’s second Fourth Round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in three tries, previously reaching the round during its inaugural season in 2014. That year, the “Boys in Blue” defeated the Dayton Dutch Lions 5-2 at home in the Third Round, setting up a meeting with MLS’ Columbus Crew in Akron, Ohio, that resulted in a heartbreaking 2-1 defeat in added extra time.Former midfielder Blake Smith was on the scoresheet that night for Indy Eleven in the 62nd minute to balance out former Crew forward Bernardo Anor’s fourth minute strike as the match went to extra time level at one a piece. The Crew, who were down to ten men for the final hour of the match, went down to nine in the 110th minute when Daniel Paladini was shown a straight red for an errant elbow. However, now-Cosmos forward Jairo Arrieta buried a penalty in the 114th minute to put the hosts in front down the stretch in front of a crowd just shy of 2,000 on the University of Akron campus.Combined with last year’s Third Round loss to USL side Louisville City FC (0-2, a.e.t) and a 2-1 win over the same squad in the same round just two weeks ago on June 1, Indy Eleven carries a 2W-0D-2L all-time USOC record into Wednesday night’s match-up against the four-time Open Cup champion Fire SC.
Run of Form

After winning the 2016 Spring Season undefeated, “Indiana’s Team” has stretched its unbeaten run to, ironically, 11 games in all competitions (10 NASL, 1 USOC), the longest in club history. Facing an MLS side for the second time in three years, Indy looks to take that run to 12 games at Toyota Park on Wednesday night.Four wins and six draws in league play brought the “Boys in Blue” to first in the league table, and a U.S. Open Cup win in the Third Round over Louisville City FC propelled them to the next round of the competition. If the Eleven are to pull off a big win following its exhausting “Miracle at the Mike,” it will need all hands on deck just as it did against Louisville two weeks ago.
Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: GK Jon Busch / Keith Cardona

It’s unclear who will be between the posts when Indy Eleven battles Chicago on Wednesday night, but either way both ‘keepers on the roster have something to play for in this Fourth Round tie. For Jon Busch, a trip to Chicago signals a return to his twice former club. Named the 2007 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year during his first tenure with the Fire, Busch left in 2010 for San Jose only to return in 2015 after five seasons out west. Signing as a free agent with Indy Eleven, Busch has made a massive impact so far as both one of the best ‘keepers in the league and the club’s goalkeeping coach. Busch currently sits third in the NASL with a 0.80 goals against average, consistent with his output in his last three matches in which he’s stopped eight of 10 shots faced.Contribute to Jon Busch’s “Saves for SEALs” charitable program today! 

For Keith Cardona, Wednesday night would be another opportunity to show why working with Busch has only helped him improve since the veteran signed in January. Cardona started all 10 matches he appeared in for Indy last season behind Kristian Nicht, but has only made one such start this season – in the squad’s 2-1 win over Louisville City FC in the Third Round of the U.S. Open Cup at “The Mike.” Cardona was impressive in the midweek win, conceding just the one goal – which came isolated against then-USL leading scorer Chandler Hoffman – in 90 minutes of action. Regardless of who is in goal, the U.S. Open Cup tie will be a test for either ‘keeper as the Eleven seek their first-ever way out of the Fourth Round. While the Fire’s attack has scored multiple times just once in its 11 MLS games thus far – its season-opening 4-3 loss to NYCFC – the “Men in Red” will be well-rested and have fresh memories of its more potent attack the last time out against Portland.
Who to Watch, Chicago Fire edition: MF Arturo Alvarez

Having tallied three assists while notching a goal in his 11 starts of the 2016 season, Arturo Alvarez is one of the biggest threats the Fire can employ in the midfield. After leaving MLS play in 2011 after a year with Real Salt Lake, Alvarez had a two year stint in Hungary and a three year stop in Portugal before returning to the United States to sign with Chicago. Since his return, the Salvadoran international has made waves in the Windy City to lead the team in assists through the early part of the MLS season. The Houston native will be one to mark for Indy’s midfield as his right-foot has proven deadly for setups on multiple occassions.
Match-up to Mark: Indy Eleven attack vs. Chicago Fire defense

Perhaps the biggest thing to watch hot off the heels of putting four past Carolina is the Eleven attack against the Fire defense. Zayed’s hat trick heroics on Saturday pushed him into the top of the NASL’s scoring charts with six tallies (not counting his USOC game-winner against Louisville two weeks ago), while Braun has collected all three of his goals and his assist in 2016 play in the squad’s last four NASL outings. While Chicago’s offense has been sputtering its defender has been on point, allowing just two goals in their last three matches while taking four points from those encounters.

Match Preview | Chicago Fire Set to Begin U.S Open Cup Play

More than two weeks since the club’s last competitive match, the Chicago Fire are set to return to action and make their entrance into the 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night when they host North American Soccer League (NASL) side Indy Eleven. Kickoff at Toyota Park is set for 7:30 p.m. CT with a live video stream available on Chicago-Fire.com, with Dan Kelly and Frank Klopas on the call. The Fire returned to training last Monday after a week-long hiatus in accordance with the MLS break for Copa America Centenario. Focus began with a fitness assessment before shifting gears into preparation for a return to competitive play.  “Everyone has looked sharp fitness-wise with getting touches on the ball and making sure that when Wednesday comes we’re sharp and ready to go,” Fire midfielder Arturo Alvarez said. “I don’t think we can look back and look for any excuses. It’s time to get going again.”The Fire rank as one of only two MLS sides to have claimed four U.S. Open Cup trophies, raising the historic silverware in the club’s inaugural 1998 season and again in 2000, 2003 and 2006. A year ago, Chicago advanced to the tournament’s semifinals for the 11th time in club history and for the third straight season, along the way improving to 39-13-4 all-time in Open Cup competition. The Fire are a stellar 26-1-1 all-time in matches played in the state of Illinois.This year’s tournament began with 91 teams and has been whittled to 32, welcoming in the 17 U.S.-based MLS clubs for the Fourth Round.  With a large number of new faces on the 2016 Fire roster, the historical context of the U.S. Open Cup tournament has been an emphasis in the team’s build up to Wednesday night’s match. Assistant coach and Fire all-time U.S. Open Cup appearance leader Logan Pause spoke pointedly to the team about his experiences in the tournament and the thrill of lifting the trophy in 2003 and again in 2006.“He gave a speech to our guys where he involved all the rest of the guys who played and won,” Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic said. “Michael Harrington here in MLS (2012 with Sporting KC) and Johan Kappelhof who won with Groningen the Cup competition in Holland. There was very, very good feedback from the locker room, from the group, and Logan is the best guy to talk about this competition and explain how important it is for the history of our club and also for our fans.”

on Monday expressed a desire to devote every available resource to Wednesday and future U.S. Open Cup matches. The Fire will be without midfielders John Goossens and Collin Fernandez, both still recovering from injury, while forward Michael de Leeuwawaits the July 4 window for his playing eligibility and striker Gilberto remains unavailable for selection. Otherwise, Paunovic has a full choice of players from which to field his lineup.”This kind of competition gives us the opportunity to manage and have more players involved in competition,” Paunovic told reporters. “The level is very good, which is also why we want to win every single game, so we can keep the competitiveness in the team and competitiveness for each spot. As I’ve said many times before, that’s very important for us. What we are going to do for sure is we will play with the best possible team in order to win. There will be some changes, but we believe that all of those changes will be very competitive and helpful to win the game.”

WEDNESDAY’S OPPONENT: INDY ELEVEN  

  • Indy Eleven, which debuted in NASL in the spring of 2014, will arrive in Bridgeview for its first competitive match against the Fire riding high after clinching a first-place finish in the NASL spring season thanks to an unbeaten 4-0-6 mark. The spring championship, which Indy Eleven claimed thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker with the New York Cosmos, provides the club an automatic berth in The Championship, the NASL’s four-team postseason tournament in November.• Head coach Tim Hankinson also guided his side to a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Louisville City FC in the U.S. Open Cup Third Round, securing a place in tonight’s match. Éamon Zayed, who leads the club with six goals this spring, provided the game-winning goal to help Indy Eleven avenge an Open Cup loss to the Louisville-based club last season.

READ: Back From Break, Pauno Looks Ahead to U.S. Open Cup

  • Indy Eleven’s roster features two names familiar to Chicago Fire supporters in veteran goalkeeperJon Busch(10 starts in 2016) and defender Lovel Palmer (seven starts). Busch made 90 appearances in two stints for the Men In Red while Palmer appeared in 56 matches during the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Marco Franco, a 2014 first-round SuperDraft pick of the Fire, also now calls Indy home.”We know that they have a lot of experienced guys who’ve played in MLS,” Paunovic said of Wednesday night’s opponent. “They’re doing very good and their performance in NASL is great. We know that we are going to have a tough game but also we give a lot of importance to this competition. We want to win. It’s going to be a hard game for us but we expect that our fans will give us the support in that game.”

 

United States wary of talented Ecuador in Copa America quarters – Klinsmann

SEATTLE – The United States may have avoided five-time World Cup champion Brazil in the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario, but coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t taking the opponent they did get in Ecuador lightly.”They have some special players in that side,” Klinsmann said of FIFA’s 13-ranked team before rattling off the names of some of Ecuador’s stars, including English Premier League trio Antonio Valencia of Manchester United, Enner Valencia of West Ham and Swansea City’s Jefferson Montero.”It’s a good team,” added the U.S. coach.Yet Klinsmann still likes his squad’s chances of advancing at CenturyLink Field in front of the Seattle Sounders’ boisterous supporters-even if he thinks the outcome could go either way for the No. 31 Americans.”To play this game in front of the Seattle crowd is huge for us,” he said. “It’s a 50-50 game. Anything can happen in that game, and every little small piece can make the difference.”Klinsmann went with the same lineup in all three of the tournament hosts three group stage games, marking the first time since 1930 that the U.S. has gone with the same starting 11 in back-to-back-to back matches.Despite losing the tourney opener to Colombia on June 3, the Americans finished atop Group A after beating Costa Rica and Paraguay. As a result, the U.S. ducked a date with the top team in Group B. That turned out to be Peru, which eliminated Brazil on Sunday night in a hugely controversial upset determined by a blatant handball that was somehow missed by officials.Klinsmann will have to make at least one change against Ecuador. Defender DeAndre Yedlin, a Seattle native and former Sounder, is suspended for the match after picking up two yellow cards early in the second half of Saturday’s 1-0 over the Paraguayans in Philadelphia.”It’s a bummer that DeAndre cannot play, but I’m not worried because I know whoever plays instead of him will get his job done, will give everything he has,” Klinsmann said.The coach wouldn’t let on who Yedlin’s replacement might be.”No, I’m not going into details about that, if you don’t mind,” he said, eliciting laughter from reporters. “We’re working on it.”Still, veteran defender Michael Orozco is the clear favorite to fill Yedlin’s role at right back. Orozco manned the spot for the final 40 minutes in Philly, helping the shorthanded Yanks keep the clean sheet.”If I get the chance to play I’m going to do as best as I can,” Orozco said.Whoever gets the nod in Yedlin’s place, Klinsmann said all of his players must be ready to perform in the high-profile, do-or-die match.”I think the players realizing that there’s everything to play for,” he said. “This is the stage you want to be at as a player. This is where you define your value in the global soccer community. This is where you’re getting watched — if you want to get watched — from the top clubs in the world. They’re going to watch and analyze every game at the Euros and they’re going to watch and analyze every game at the Copa America.Klinsmann added: “So this is the platform for a player that you want to be at, so take that opportunity. This is what I’ll tell them.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 

What the United States can expect from Ecuador in Copa quarterfinal

Ecuador arrived to the United States for the Copa America Centenario as joint-leaders of 2018 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying. Their strong start to that campaign included victories away to Argentina and at home to Uruguay, and they have continued that form into the Copa by progressing from the group stage of the competition for the first time since 1997 with draws versus Brazil and Peru and a victory over Haiti.Head coach Gustavo Quinteros’ side will be the next opponents for the United States in Thursday’s quarterfinal in Seattle. U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann has made it clear that he expects a tough game against a team coached by a man he came up against on U.S. soil as a player during Germany’s 1-0 win over Bolivia at the 1994 World Cup, and Ecuador certainly possess sufficient thrust and quality to suggest that is exactly what his side will get.

Style of Play

Ecuador usually line up in a 4-4-2 formation, with two mobile forwards and two out-and-out wingers in the form of Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero. They are a very athletic team and play an energetic style of football based around organised pressure on the ball and swift and direct counter-attacks once possession is won. Quinteros always asks his teams to play with a lot of intensity and his Ecuador side are no different in that regard.

Key Player

Christian Noboa holds Ecuador together with his excellent passing range from the centre of midfield. He regularly receives the ball from the defence before moving it on swiftly and accurately out to the flanks or forward into the feet of the strikers. It is a key role and Ecuador can often struggle to function effectively as a team when the 31-year-old isn’t on his game.Noboa has also contributed strongly when given license to move forward into the final third. He chested down and finished emphatically from inside the area for the third goal in the 4-0 win over Haiti, having previously assisted the first with a well-weighted ball in behind to Enner Valencia. His superb outside-of-the-boot return pass to Montero released the Swansea man to square for Miller Bolanos to equalise in the 2-2 draw with Peru.

Strengths

Ecuador possess pace aplenty, especially in forward areas. The direct and incisive dribbling of the two wingers regularly advances them into the final third, while Enner Valencia’s tireless movement into the channels provides another valuable outlet. They are regularly able to get themselves into good positions in and around the penalty area.With the likes of Bolanos, Noboa and Walter Ayovi, they have players capable of striking good efforts on goal from medium-to-long-range positions.Ecuador are a strong and physical side and are capable of putting good pressure on the ball when they press together as a unit high up the pitch. At their best, they are unrelenting, consistently winning possession and then moving forward with speed down the flanks to put crosses into the area or win themselves set pieces in advanced areas.

Weaknesses

The problem for Ecuador often comes in turning potentially dangerous positions into good-quality opportunities. There can be a marked lack of precision to their play in the final third, with a mix of underwhelming deliveries into the area and uncertain finishing sometimes preventing them from making the most of these situations.They can also be quite ragged in their defending at times. Sharp combination play, such as that exhibited by Peru in the first half of their 2-2 draw, can drag their proactively minded central defenders out of position and create space in and around the area. Their desire to push forward can sometimes leave them vulnerable to the counter-attack.When Noboa is pressed heavily, as he was in the first half against Peru, Ecuador lack a similarly gifted distributor to take over and provide a quality supply to those upfield.

Previous Meetings

Darlington Nagbe scored in the final minute of play to secure the United States a 1-0 victory when these sides met in Texas last month in a pre-tournament friendly. Both sides put out strong starting XIs in a tight match that featured just three shots on target.In that respect, it was typical of encounters between these sides. Of the six meetings since the turn of the century, only two have seen more than one goal. The United States has recorded three victories to Ecuador’s one in that time, while the two sides have shared a draw and a win apiece in their three encounters during Klinsmann’s reign as national team head coach.

 

After winning Copa group, USA has chance to prove knockout chops

The USA defeated Paraguay in its third game of Copa America on a Clint Dempsey goal in the 27th minute.

BY GRANT WAHLADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Sun Jun. 12, 2016Updated: Mon Jun. 13, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — Now a new Copa América begins for the United States. The U.S. has persevered through the group stage, shaking off an opening loss to Colombia and winning twice against Costa Rica and Paraguay to reach the knockout rounds of another major tournament, even winning the group with a late helping hand from Los Ticos.But the lingering memory of the last truly major U.S. knockout-round game (Gold Cup excluded)—a 2-1 extra-time loss to Belgium at World Cup 2014—is of the Americans being so outplayed by Belgium that they needed a superhuman performance by goalkeeper Tim Howard to stay in the match.If the U.S. is going to show growth and have any chance of reaching coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s goal of making the World Cup 2018 semifinals, it needs to take the next step. It needs to start playing good teams toe-to-toe again in the knockout rounds of major tournaments—just like the U.S. did at World Cup 2002 against Mexico and at the 2009 Confederations Cup to beat Spain. “The whole old story is the underdog story, and I cannot hear that story anymore,” Klinsmann said after the U.S.’s 1-0 victory against Paraguay on Saturday. “I want to see them risk things. Let’s go for it. Because if you’re not going for it, sooner or later they’re going to break you down.” “The knockout stage is very mentally driven,” he continued. “It’s an absolute mental game. It’s when you step on the field and you see certain jerseys. It’s kind of sniffing at each other and saying, ‘I’m ready for you.’ This is all about the moment. This is what they need to believe in … It’s kind of easy to say, but now it’s becoming a mental learning curve, the upcoming game. This is what we hopefully improve on now.”The U.S. knows it will be playing its quarterfinal in Seattle on Thursday against the second-place team from Group B. But it won’t find out the opponent—Brazil, Ecuador or Peru—until after Sunday’s games. All three would provide a significant challenge, but the team with the mystique, obviously, is Brazil.If that ends up being the opponent, Klinsmann said, he wants the U.S. to focus not on the famous yellow jersey but instead on going after top teams and not playing for the counterattack. He wants to see the U.S. back line, which has been terrific in this tournament behind John Brooks and Geoff Cameron, keep playing a high line and resist the urge to drop back. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for our team to play these types of games,” said Klinsmann. “We have nothing to lose. If it’s Brazil, they are the big-time favorites, five-time world champions. We love them. But why not go at them? Why not be courageous? Why not put pressure on them and give them a game? This is what we’ll prepare for. Every team has weaknesses.”Major-tournament knockout games are one of the primary reasons Klinsmann was hired back in 2011. If knockout-game performances are about mentality, Klinsmann has a giant presence the second he walks into a room as a World Cup-winning player.(It’s also why I think he should wear a World Cup championship ring, even if World Cup championship rings aren’t a thing.)Every U.S. team in every major tournament has an identity, and this one has more of a swagger than some. You get that from Clint Dempsey and Jermaine Jones and now, finally, from a fearsome center back tandem in Brooks and Cameron. When Brooks raced back to save a goal in the first half against Paraguay, his fist pump after making the play was an image no U.S. fan will soon forget. That was the moment that the 23-year-old Brooks realized in a U.S. uniform for the first time: I own these guys.That’s swagger.ages“We seemed to rise to the occasion [the last two games],” Cameron said. “We showed our grit, our hard mentality and our teamwork. When teams come together and have that special cohesiveness and that team environment, I think you can go a long way. I’ve been fortunate enough to player here right now and feel that, and you feel something special happening.”Now, too, there’s a chance for this U.S. team to hit mainstream sports fans and rally the American public. The NBA Finals may end on Monday. The Stanley Cup final will be over by Wednesday at the latest. The biggest sporting event in the U.S. on Thursday could very well be the U.S. Copa América quarterfinal.And this U.S. team wants to show them something.

USA fends off Paraguay, reaches Copa America quarterfinals

The USA defeated Paraguay in its third game of Copa America on a Clint Dempsey goal in the 27th minute.

BY GRANT WAHL

ADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Sat Jun. 11, 2016

PHILADELPHIA — The U.S. overcame playing down a man for 42 minutes and rode Clint Dempsey’s 27th-minute goal to beat Paraguay 1-0 on Saturday and advance to the quarterfinals of the Copa América Centenario. The night got even better later on, when Costa Rica lent a hand by beating Colombia 3-2, giving the U.S. first place in Group A through the goal-differential tiebreaker. Dempsey’s goal, the 51st of his U.S. career, came on a decisive finish after Gyasi Zardes had done good work down the left in a 1-on-2 situation before sending a low cross to the East Texan.DeAndre Yedlin picked up two yellow cards in the span of a minute early in the second half—the second on a two-footed challenge that defied belief. He will be suspended for the quarterfinal. The game changed after Yedlin’s dismissal, with U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann going into retrenchment mode by sending on Michael Orozco as a right back and removing Dempsey.WATCH: All the key moments from USA’s 1-0 win over Paraguay

The U.S.’s quarterfinal opponent won’t be learned until Sunday.Here are three thoughts on the game:

Lineup consistency matters

Klinsmann picked the same starting lineup for the third straight game, the first time he has done so during his five-year tenure as the U.S. coach. And the regular choices have been key. These U.S. players showed a renewed familiarity with each other on Saturday, whether it was in the attacking third between Wood and Dempsey or in the central defense with the rampant Geoff Cameron and John Brooks. When the U.S. lost to Guatemala in a March World Cup qualifier, former U.S. players almost universally questioned why there weren’t more core players in Klinsmann’s U.S. group. Now there are more players, and it shows in the way this team is playing together.WAHL: Stable lineup calls important to BedoyaGive credit to Klinsmann, who could have benched Zardes for this game but stuck with him, only to see Zardes be part of the decisive goal against Paraguay. Dempsey, too, had been hearing calls for his benching earlier in the tournament, but he has responded with two goals in two games and showed that he continues to be the guy the U.S. relies on to score important goals.

This U.S. central defense was solid again

The Americans had their second straight clean sheet, which is a ticket to happiness in international soccer tournaments.Brooks and Cameron have provided the central-defense stability that was missing in last year’s Gold Cup, and the 23-year-old Brooks in particular was fantastic on Saturday, making a highlight-reel play to rush back and save a goal off the foot of Miguel Almirón in the first half.Then on a rare occasion when Paraguay got through the back line, goalkeeper Brad Guzan made a huge one-on-one save at the end of the first half on Darío Lezcano. There was one exception on the U.S. back line, though, because …

Yedlin made one of the rashest plays in recent U.S. history 

You could certainly argue that Yedlin’s first yellow card wasn’t deserved, but there’s no way you could say that about his second yellow within a minute on a reckless two-footed challenge. It’s a shame: Yedlin had taken a real step forward in his game over the past two months, improving his defense, and it showed with the national team.The U.S. ended up overcoming Yedlin’s red on Saturday by going into “prevent defense” mode, but it’s going to continue hurting the U.S. in the quarterfinal with Yedlin serving a suspension. Orozco is a downgrade at right back. That said, for a U.S. team that lost its first game in this tournament, having the chance to play in a quarterfinal is nothing to complain about.Now a new tournament begins.

 

 

tates bench players play big role even if they don’t get on the field

. ATTLE — By now you might have heard how unusual it is for a U.S. national team coach, or any national team coach, for that matter, to use the same lineup in three consecutive matches. Bob Bradley never did it during his four years at the helm. Neither did Bruce Arena, Steve Sampson, Bora Milutinovic or Bob Gansler, the men who led the Americans at the six World Cups before Brazil 2014.In fact, before current boss Jurgen Klinsmann trotted out the same starting 11 for the Yanks’ three group stage games at the Copa America Centenario, the last time a U.S. team remained unchanged for three straight matches was at the inaugural global showpiece in Uruguay in 1930.Turnover is a fact of life in the international game. Outside of tournament play, national squads are rarely together for more than two matches. Form, injuries, club commitments, suspensions, coaching plans and formation changes all play a role in this lack of continuity.There’s no doubt that Klinsmann’s use of the same starters through the first round helped the U.S. find its feet after a Copa-opening loss to Colombia. But it also has resulted in a top-heavy distribution of minutes; heading into Thursday’s quarterfinal match against Ecuador, more than a quarter of the Americans 23-man squad have yet to play at all.When a team is confined in close quarters for six weeks, however, the role the reserves play becomes every bit as important to its fortunes.”A tournament is decided by the chemistry of a group, not necessarily by the best team,” Klinsmann said before the Americans trained on Tuesday at Seattle University. “It’s how a group grows together, how they support each other, how they stay in a good mood for a longer period of time, how they sense problems, how they solve problems.”Camaraderie has long been one of the American team’s core strengths. It’s one of the reasons — perhaps the main one — why the U.S. has punched above its weight against more talented foes for more than two decades.Don’t believe it? All anyone has to do is get on YouTube and search for video of Jermaine Jones’ equalizer against Portugal at the last World Cup. Check out how when Klinsmann’s reaction is shown, third-string goalkeeper Nick Rimando — the lone player with virtually no chance of playing a minute in the biggest event of his career — absolutely loses his mind on the bench behind the coach when Jones’ strike settled into the side netting.On the rare occasions when that togetherness wasn’t there, like at the 1998 World Cup in France — where the U.S. was eliminated after two games — the results have been disastrous.”Everybody wants to start, but there’s only 11 spots,” Kyle Beckerman, a starter in 2014 who has been limited to only two brief substitute appearances at the Copa so far, told ESPN FC on Tuesday.”It’s not going to go perfect for everyone. How do you react to that? Can you be a positive when things aren’t going your way? Jurgen is huge on making sure everybody’s important to this team, wanting the guys on the bench to have energy so the guys on the field can feel it, and being supportive any way we can.It’s not always an easy balance, though. While reserves have to be cheerleaders, they also have to prepare as if they are going to play and be ready at a moment’s notice.That was the case when DeAndre Yedlin, the starter at right-back, took two quick yellow cards in the second half of Saturday’s win against Paraguay and backup Michael Orozco suddenly found himself on the field defending against a desperate foe.”Obviously it’s hard going into a game that is very intense without getting a warm-up,” Orozco said.The second string will have to be prepared against Ecuador and possibly beyond. Seven Americans are carrying yellow cards into Thursday’s tilt. If any of them pick up another in helping the hosts advance, more changes will be necessary for the semis. Before the tourney started, Klinsmann noted that the lineup that starts a competition is rarely the one that finishes it. The coach has to believe that anyone on his roster can step in if called upon.”The spirit of the bench is there,” Klinsmann said. “Everybody feels appreciated in his own role right now, and this is what could make a tournament very successful.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 

 

Argentina, Mexico top Copa America Power Rankings as quarterfinals loom

The 2016 Copa America Centenario group stages are over. As the 16-team field has been trimmed to eight, Tim Vickery ranks the quarterfinalists on their journey to the final at MetLife Stadium on June 26.

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  1. ARGENTINA (no change):The only team with a 100 percent record, the pre-tournament favourites have lived up to their billing so far. The defence still does not look entirely trustworthy and the injury to Angel Di Maria opened up the other worry, that the big stars might be exhausted after the club season. But coach Gerardo Martino has rationed his use of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero, who should have some gas left in the tank for the final straight.
  2. MEXICO (+1):Coach Juan Carlos Osorio is a good fit for Mexico. His emphasis on rapid transitions to wide areas can bring the best out of the country’s tricky wide players. They are virtually the home team in this competition, especially with a highly favourable itinerary that has cut down their travelling time. The doubt is that they make the pitch big, so will the best teams be able to exploit the space and threaten the team’s good defensive record?
  3. COLOMBIA (+3):Losing the last group game to Costa Rica when coach Jose Pekerman fielded an understrength team may have done Colombia a service, bringing them back down to earth after the euphoria of two wins. The James Rodriguez-Carlos Bacca link-up will worry any defence, and the pair are surrounded with other interesting attacking options. There is, though, a lack of authority in the central-midfield positions, and much might depend on the form of keeper David Ospina
  4. CHILE (+3):Do the reigning champions have their mojo back after the win over Panama? If Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal combine as they did in that game then attacking swagger is guaranteed, with the team throwing men forward at pace. They always give the opponents a chance, though; open to the counterattack, defending badly and with keeper Claudio Bravo in poor form. The quarterfinal with Mexico should be one of the tournament highlights.
  5. UNITED STATES (no change):Losing the opening game has forced an “every match is a cup final” mentality that has brought the best out of Jurgen Klinsmann and co. They have now built up some momentum and have settled on an interesting identity with a strong spine of Brad Guzan, John Brooks, Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey plus two quick wide strikers. The big problem, though, is that if they get past Ecuador, the chances are that Argentina await.
  6. ECUADOR (+3):The pressure is off now that they have made it out of the group for the first time since 1997, and if the U.S. overreach then Ecuador will look to smoke them on the counterattack. The priority for coach Gustavo Quinteros will be to shore up a defensive unit that is both individually weak and prone to lapses in concentration. And if they get past the U.S., Quinteros will have cause to remind his men that in a recent World Cup qualifier they beat Argentina in Buenos Aires.
  7. PERU (+5):With an experimental squad, Peru have exceeded all expectations by making the quarterfinals, let alone by topping the group. A new generation — with the likes of Christian Cueva and Edison Flores — are reacting well to being handed responsibility, keeper Pedro Gallese has done well and the team are clearly growing in confidence. But they look outgunned by quarterfinal opponents Colombia.
  8. VENEZUELA (+6):The shock story of the Copa. Disastrously bottom of the table in World Cup qualification, here they have defended doggedly and got the most from the attacking surges of Josef Martinez and Alejandro Guerra and the strong centre-forward play of Salomon Rondon. If forced out, though, the defence will surely be exposed, and they cannot always rely on keeper Dani Hernandez stopping everything that is fired at him. They can trouble Argentina, but it is hard to see how they can cope with Messi and co.

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

Indy 11 Soccer Camp June 20-23 — 9 am till 12 noon Ages 5-14 $135 @ Badger Fields

Kick in the Grass – 3 v 3 Soccer Tour at Badger Field July 9th

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

ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn Your College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools  www.achievetestprep.com/shane

 

6/9/16 US Wins plays Sat 7 pm FS1, Euro’s Start Fri 2:30 ESPN, Indy 11 add Mexican Star, can Win league Sat Night

So a huge bounceback win for the US in Chicago as we put up 4 goals in a must win game vs Costa Rica.  The stars for the US came thru as Jermaine Jones (1G, 1 assist), Clint Dempsey (1 G, 2 Assist), Michael Bradley and company put together one heck of a performance.  Now Costa Rica is not the team they were in the last world cup after their coach left 3 months ago, and without Claudio Bravo in the net – but still this win puts the US in perfect position to move on thru with a win or tie on Saturday night, 7 pm vs Paraguay on Fox Sports 1. Now the German (Klinsmann) was still perplexing choosing to play the old has beens (Wondo, Zuzi and Beckerman rather than giving the kids Pulisic and Nagbe more time to build their confidence.  Oh well who can figure out what the worse German is thinking.  Cudos however – on the mid 1st half switch to a 4-4-2 – with Wood up front with Dempsey and Zardes back to the wing spot – that changed everything and allowed the offense to really tick.  I think Mexico and Argentina look like the teams to beat at this point – Brazil bounced back but do look beatable in an expected 2nd round game for the US.

The Summer of Soccer Continues as the European Cup will kick off live from France this Friday afternoon at 2:30 pm – on ESPN – catch all the games live on the ESPN networks starting at 9:30 am and continuing with 3 games per day.  I like the home squad of France and perhaps Germany. I am worried for Italy and Belgium.  It will be interesting to see how the Great Britain teams do with England, Wales and Northern Ireland all in. Enjoy the games!!

Congrats to the Indy 11 – huge Signing – grabbing former Mexican Star Gerardo Torrado – the former Cruz Azul and Mexican National Team star midfielder is still a good player!!  The final spring season game is this Sat night, 7:30 pm (CH 8, ESPN3) with an outside change at 1st in the League on the line vs Miami.  Get yourself to the Mike to root on the Boys in Blue!  Finally – good luck to all of you Travel players at tryouts next week – Mon/Tues.

armel FC Travel Soccer Tryouts for 2016-2017 teams June 13/14  
CLICK HERE to register

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

USA

US Rout Costa Rica – SI

Gulati calls results into question -sI

Can US Build off Win?  ESPN

Klinsmanns Squad shows knack of Delivering when needed

Clean Sheet gives US Confidence

How US Kept Hopes alive with Win – ESPN FC

EUROS

Euros – Bracket Predictor

Expert Predictions SI

Ronaldo, Bale, Pogba, Kane 1o keys players in Euros

Euro Dark Horses

Alternate Predictinos Euros

Hosts look part of Euro Champion

Power Rankings

Magnificent 7 Teams?

Questions for Germany

World According to Zlatan

The Beauty of Manual Neuer – SI Graht Walh

What to Watch for Euros

Guide to Euro’s 2016

Euro Full Bracket

Euro’s full squad list

24 Teams in 24 Days – a Complete Look ESPN FC

Full TV Schedule EUROS

 COPA

Summer of Soccer- SI

Inside the Mind of Mexico’s Chicharito

Indy 11

Indy 11 sign former Mexican Superstar Gerardo Torrado

3 Things – 0-0 Tie with Miami

ALL GAMES ON TV

Fri, June 10 European Cup Starts

3 pm ESPN                       EURO- France vs Romania

Chile vs. Bolivia — Foxborough, Massachusetts (7 p.m. ET/12 a.m. CET on FOX, UniMas
Argentina vs. Panama — Chicago, Illinois (9:30 p.m. ET/2:30 a.m. CET on FOX, UniMas)

Sat, June 11

9 am  ESPN                      EURO – Albania vs Switzerland

12 noon ESPN               EURO – Wales vs Slovakia

3 pm ESPN                       EURO – England vs Russia

7 pm Fox Sport1 USA vs Paraguay

9 pm FS2                          COPA – Columbia vs Costa Rica

Sunday, June 12
Turkey vs. Croatia — Paris (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Poland vs. Northern Ireland — Nice (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Germany vs. Ukraine — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Ecuador vs. Haiti -6:30 p.m.FOX Sports 2

Brazil vs. Peru-8:30 p.m.  Fox Sports 1

Monday, June 13
Spain vs. Czech Rep — Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Rep of Ireland vs. Sweden — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Belgium vs. Italy — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Mexico vs. Venezuela 8 p.m. FoX Sports 1

Uruguay vs. Jamaica 10 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tuesday, June 14
Austria vs. Hungary — Bordeaux (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Portugal vs. Iceland — Saint-Etienne (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chile vs. Panama 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Argentina vs. Bolivia 10 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, June 15
Russia vs. Slovakia — Lille (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Romania vs. Switzerland — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
France vs. Albania — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Thursday, June 16
England vs. Wales — Lens (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Northern Ireland — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Germany vs. Poland — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America 1A vs. 2B Seattle, WA 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Friday, June 17
Italy vs. Sweden — Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Croatia — Saint-Etienne (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spain vs. Turkey — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America WB vs. RA — East Rutherford, New Jersey (8 p.m. ET/1 a.m. CET on Fox Sports 1, UniMas)

Saturday, June 18
Belgium vs. Rep of Ireland — Bordeaux (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Hungary — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Portugal vs. Austria — Paris (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America 1D vs. 2C Foxborough, MA  7 p.m. FXCopa America 1C vs. 2D anta Clara, CA 10 p.m. FX

Sunday, June 19
Switzerland vs. France — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Romania vs. Albania — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)\

Monday, June 20
Slovakia vs. England — Saint-Etienne (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Russia vs. Wales — Toulouse (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Tuesday, June 21
Northern Ireland vs. Germany — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Poland — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Croatia vs. Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Turkey — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America W25 vs. W27 Houston, TX 9 p.m. FOX Sports 1Wednesday, June 22
Hungary vs. Portugal — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Austria — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Italy vs. Rep of Ireland — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sweden vs. Belgium — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America W26 vs. W28 Chicago, IL  8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Euro Round of 16  Starts Saturday, June 25

Sat., 6/25

Copa America L29 vs. L30 Glendale, AZ 8 p.m. FX

Sun., 6/26

Copa America final  East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

MLS TV Schedule ‘ On Break June 3-June 17 for COPA

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

Copa America Centario Schedule   TV Schedule

COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGOstill 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

Jurgen Klinsmann shows knack of delivering U.S. wins under pressure

CHICAGO — Throughout much of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as manager of the U.S. national team, the Americans have shown an uncanny knack for getting results when their collective back — and, in particular, Klinsmann’s back — has been against the wall.Sure, there have been exceptions. Last year’s loss to Jamaica in the semifinals of the Gold Cup was one instance when the U.S. fell short. The CONCACAF Cup final against Mexico was another.But think back to the moments when Klinsmann was at his most vulnerable, such as the home World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica in 2013. That match was immediately preceded by the now-famous Sporting News article that called his managerial acumen, and handling of players, into question.The U.S. prevailed 1-0 in the snow, and followed that up with a gritty 0-0 draw against Mexico at the Azteca. The pressure eased, and U.S. was then on its way and largely cruised through the rest of that qualifying campaign. Then there was the home qualifier against Guatemala last March, one that immediately followed a dreadful 2-0 defeat in Guatemala City. The U.S. roared back to win 4-0, and again any stress was released.So when the U.S. squared off against Costa Rica in its second Copa America Centenario match, it found itself in a somewhat familiar position. It had lost, not unexpectedly, its opener against Colombia. The U.S. needed a response against the Ticos in order to keep its hopes of progressing to the tournament’s knockout stages alive. A win would also serve to mute some of the dissatisfaction surrounding Klinsmann’s job performance. A “Fire Klinsmann” banner was clearly visible when the game started. The U.S. got exactly what it needed, earning an emphatic 4-0 victory. Jermaine Jones delivered a monster two-way game in midfield, Clint Dempsey was much more involved in the attack and the defense was able to see out the win while keeping a clean sheet. As for the banner, it was no longer visible by game’s end.It raises the question of: How does the U.S., more often that not, respond in those situations? Attributes such as the relative strength of the next opponent and getting a home game at the right time play a part. But this is also a veteran group, and for all the excitement that surrounds young players such as Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic, it’s clear that experience does count for something.”We’ve talked so many times about the ability to know how to navigate a group stage,” said U.S. captain Michael Bradley. “And, you know, it’s not always going to be perfect. You know there’s going to be ups and downs; you know there’s going to be certain moments when you don’t get exactly what you deserve. But you have to be able to keep a strong mentality and understand just how to keep yourself going, live to see another day, you know?”He later added, “We have a lot of guys who have been in situations like this before. We spoke before the game about knowing that on these kinds of nights you need mentality, commitment and balls and all these things to carry you through.”Klinsmann deserves some credit here as well, and he proved himself to be tactically flexible in this match, reverting to a 4-4-2 in which Wood was paired up top with Dempsey. Soon a 2-0 lead, courtesy of Dempsey’s penalty and Jones’ well-placed strike, ballooned to 3-0 thanks to a goal from Wood, and the U.S. cruised from there.Of course, looked at another way, why does the U.S. continue to back itself into must-win situations? Granted, the Colombia result was largely expected, and making life difficult for itself is in many ways a U.S. trait. As an example, the Americans blew a chance to take care of business at the 2002 World Cup when it lost its last group stage match to Poland 3-1, only to be rescued by South Korea’s win over Portugal.But some more-recent hiccups can’t be written off so easily, such as the Guatemala loss. Inconsistency has been a hallmark of Klinsmann’s time in charge.That example is relevant given that the U.S. is now in control of its Copa America destiny ahead of Saturday’s group-stage finale against Paraguay. A draw will almost certainly be enough to move on to the quarterfinals.Costa Rica would have to thump Colombia by six goals for a draw to not be enough, which is simply not going to happen. But a loss would see the Americans eliminated, so Saturday’s match against Paraguay is another potential step in the team’s growth in that it would be a different kind of experience.The U.S. has a chance to show a level of consistency, to close the deal on its own and not rely on help, and leave no doubt as to whether it belongs in the knockout stages. That would also be a sign that Klinsmann’s up-and-down tenure is headed back up again.Klinsmann, for his part, isn’t even entertaining the possibility of falling short against Paraguay.”I think that the team understands perfectly how the situation looks, that we have to get things done,” he said. “They gave everything they have. They know now they’ve put ourselves back in the driver’s seat with that result tonight.”For us, it’s not a thought, ‘What if we would lose the game?’ We never think that way. Some comments today were, ‘What if you lose that game?’ Why would you think that way? It’s three games; find a way to get your points.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

US COMES THRU IN CHOCAGO

BY BRIAN STRAUSPosted: Wed Jun. 8, 2016

CHICAGO — Ten years ago, Soldier Field’s primary tenant overcame a 20-point, second-half deficit and won a Monday Night Football game, prompting the losing coach, Dennis Green of the Arizona Cardinals, to unleash one of sports’ great rants.“The Bears are who we thought they were,” he yelled, more than once. You probably remember the rest.On Tuesday night at Soldier Field, we learned that the temporary tenants also are who we thought they were. “We’ve qualified for [every World Cup] now since ’90, three out of the last four in the second round. But we haven’t broken through to match up well against the world’s elite,” U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati said earlier Tuesday when assessing the state of the national team following Friday’s Copa América Centenario loss to Colombia. The 2–0 setback was the catalyst for considerable consternation among American fans and pundits, many of whom worried the program was regressing.But it is, in fact, right where it’s been for a while—right where it’s expected to be. The U.S. hung in but ultimately didn’t really trouble the No. 3 team in the world. And then on Tuesday at Soldier Field, where it faced elimination with a loss, it demolished Costa Rica, 4–0, to put itself in position to advance to the Copa quarterfinals. Lose in official competition to one of the world’s elite? Check. Beat a visiting CONCACAF rival in official competition? Check. Play better when desperate? Check. There’s no point in drawing conclusions about the state of the team after a particular group-stage game, captain Michael Bradley said following Tuesday’s win. Every tournament starts with a trilogy. The U.S. (1–1–0) will meet Paraguay (0–1–1) in Philadelphia on Saturday and will move on with a win. A draw almost certainly would be enough as well. Paraguay was dominant at times but fell to Colombia, 2–1, later Tuesday.Bradley and his teammates are who they thought they were. They knew Colombia was outstanding, but felt the margins weren’t insurmountable. Defeat wasn’t demoralizing. And they were confident in their composure, their measured perspective and their ability to bounce back. They’d done it before.• WATCH: Dempsey, Jones, Wood, Zusi score for USA vs. Costa Rica

“We have a lot of guys who have been in situations like this before and we spoke before the game about knowing on these kinds of nights, you need mentality, commitment, balls and all these things to carry through,” Bradley said. “We talked so many times about the ability to know how to navigate a group stage, and you know it’s not always going to be perfect. You know there’s going to be ups and downs. You know that in certain moments maybe you’re not going to get exactly what you deserved. But you then have to be able to keep a strong mentality and just understand how to keep yourself going—live to see another day.”Jurgen Klinsmann was certain he knew his team. The Americans were unable to create or threaten Colombia on Friday, but the manager felt that was influenced heavily by Los Cafeteros’ early goal and their comfort on the counterattack. It wasn’t an indictment of the U.S. So he started the same 11 players against Costa Rica in the very same formation.“We’ve been on the road since three weeks,” Klinsmann said after Tuesday’s win. “We try to build the chemistry. We try to build a real positive spirit and we try to build confidence for the players to play with the best teams coming from South America.“I see a team progressing—a team that badly wants to prove itself with these caliber teams in the Copa América. There’s great energy there, but we’re still in this learning process. When you analyze Colombia again, I think this was a very encouraging performance by us against Colombia, but obviously the result is 2–0 and especially in the U.S., that’s all that matters to a lot of people. For the team it’s important that they know where they stand.”

GALLERY: Fans of Copa America Centenario

Klinsmann targeted the Copa semifinals before the tournament kicked off. That’s reasonable for a host team that’s competitive but not often contending for a title. And thanks to Tuesday’s win, the final four remains possible. The Colombia loss wasn’t the end of the story. The U.S. was beaten by Germany at the 2014 World Cup and still advanced. It lost to Poland in 2002 and wound up in the quarters, and it made the final of the 2009 Confederations Cup after losing to Italy and Brazil in the group stage. The Americans may not be among soccer’s elite. But they’re often good enough to get through.“We showed it today that we can beat people and there’s no point to be scared about somebody,” said Jermaine Jones, who scored the Americans’ second goal and was outstanding as the primary marauder in midfield. “We knew that Colombia is a really good team and you can lose against them. It’s a normal game. With all respect, Costa Rica and Paraguay, we know that with the quality we have we can beat both … We knew [Colombia was the favorite]. Not only we knew that, you guys knew that too. You were all saying, Colombia will be No. 1 and it will be tough for us to come out. So we’ve been focused on Costa Rica and Paraguay.”

The U.S. hasn’t progressed to the point where it has the sort of creativity, touch and dynamism to unlock a high-level opponent that chooses to stay compact and defend. But against a team like Costa Rica and in a game that opens up like Tuesday’s, this is a squad that possesses sufficient skill and commitment to do the job. Jones was imperious, Bradley was composed and Clint Dempsey was able to find those pockets just in front of the back four from which he can put defenders into disarray. Wood demonstrated his finishing bona fides with a slick 42nd-minute goal, profiting from Klinsmann’s switch to a 4–4–2 late in the first half.The U.S. won’t come in first place and won’t wind up in last. There’s everything to play for in Philadelphia. That’s totally normal, as Klinsmann would say. For the Americans, it always comes down to the wire.“Certain things didn’t flow perfectly but they managed to get the goals and it kind of balances things out a little bit. I think we we’re right there in the driver’s seat to get through the most difficult group in the Copa América,” Klinsmann said.

“You talk Colombia, you talk No. 3 right now. If you watched yesterday Argentina-Chile, this is another level,” he added. “We watched it in the coaches’ room and we were exhausted at halftime because they went 200 miles an hour, technically it was unbelievable perfection. It was just sprinting for 90 minutes all over and that’s the soccer that we want to see, because it means you understand where these teams are coming from. So this is a huge, huge showcase for the game here in the United States and for our players to see that, to watch that on TV and then you watch who they bring off the bench, Argentina, holy moly! But this is what we want. This is why it’s such a gift to host the Copa América.”The U.S. is a long way from Argentina. But it didn’t play Argentina in Chicago, it played a Costa Rica team that hasn’t won a competitive game between the two on American soil in more than two decades. And the U.S. won the game it was supposed to win, and did so handily.“Just like in any competition, in the first round if you start off with a loss your backs are against the wall, so you need to perform,” said Dempsey, who opened the scoring on a penalty kick that was his 50th goal in a U.S. jersey. “At the same time, look at the last two World Cups … We got out of difficult groups and we showed what our level could be. Tonight we put in a professional performance and now look to do that in the next game.”

U.S. keep their Copa hopes alive vs. Costa Rica: Here’s how they did it

he United States scored three goals in the first half against Costa Rica and didn’t look back, winning 4-0 in front of nearly 40,000 fans at Soldier Field in Chicago on Tuesday. It was the first U.S. win in Copa América play since a 3-0 decision on July 14, 1995, against Argentina.After Friday’s 2-0 loss against Colombia, the United States’ chance to advance out of Group A dropped from 57.5 percent chance to a 38 percent chance, according to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index. But Tuesday’s win nudged it back up to a healthy 72.1 percent.So what changed?- In its first game against Colombia, the United States registered 54 touches and three chances created in the first half. Against Costa Rica, the U.S. doubled its chances created and had 71 touches.- U.S. captain Clint Dempsey was more effective in the final third. He created five chances against Costa Rica after failing to create a single goal scoring opportunity versus Colombia. He also registered two assists for his first multiassist game in a competitive tournament for his country.- Against Colombia, the United States registered one shot on target out of 12 shots taken, its lowest total in its previous 31 games. (They managed one versus Honduras on Oct. 14, 2014.) It took just nine minutes for the U.S. to match that total against Costa Rica, as Dempsey scored from the penalty spot.- 41.7 percent (five of 12) of U.S. shots hit the target against Costa Rica. Just 8.3 percent (one of 12) of the shots hit the target against Colombia.- John-Anthony Brooks led the defensive charge against Costa Rica, recording 11 of the 31 U.S. clearances — the U.S. team total against Colombia. As a team against Costa Rica, the U.S. recorded 16 tackles, more than double its total against Colombia (seven).

Sunil Gulati calls Jurgen Klinsmann’s recent USA results into question

Did Jurgen Klinsmann get off the hot seat after Costa Rica blowout?

SI senior writer Grant Wahl explains why Jurgen Klinsmann’s job is still on the line.

BY BRIAN STRAUSPosted: Tue Jun. 7, 2016Updated: Wed Jun. 8, 2016

CHICAGO—A year of tension and frustration, which has included a fourth-place finish at the CONCACAF Gold Cup, a loss to Mexico in the ensuing Confederations Cup playoff and a World Cup qualifying setback in Guatemala, has changed the tone around the U.S. national team and increased the pressure on manager Jurgen Klinsmann to an unprecedented degree. Awarded a contract extension before the 2014 World Cup and given a sweeping mandate to alter the long-term trajectory of the program, he now may be coaching for his job at the Copa América Centenario.The U.S. fell, 2-0, to Colombia in Friday’s opener and faced elimination if it lost to Costa Rica Tuesday at Soldier Field. Several hours before the match,which the U.S. won 4-0, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati hosted a reporters’ roundtable and stressed, “We have to win games.”For several years, it’s been almost pointless to question Klinsmann’s job security. He was given robust resources, a lot of power and a lengthy list of technical and cultural issues to address. Many of those required significant time to analyze, assess and improve, affording him ample leeway. And surviving a difficult group at the World Cup seemed to provide him tenure.COPA AMERICA: Live standings, statistics, gamecasts

But Gulati’s tone on Tuesday suggested that security largely has evaporated. He would not say directly whether Klinsmann would be fired if the U.S. fails to reach the Copa quarterfinals, but there seemed to be little question that the manager’s status is less certain now than it’s ever been.“There’s short-term goals and long-term goals. The reality is, the business we’re in, specifically the business coaches are in, you don’t get to see through many long-term goals if you don’t hit the short-term goals,” he said. “There are things overall in his role as technical director that we think we’ve made good advances in, but we need to win games and we need to win games in competitive play. The first few years, obviously we did that. In the [2013] Gold Cup we were very successful and the World Cup we could talk about all day, but last summer in particular with the Gold Cup and then the reprieve we had [against Mexico], we didn’t get it done.”PLANET FUTBOL Gulati indicated that the focus must be on official competitions, where Klinsmann has compiled a 23-9-6 record since taking over and a 5-4-3 mark since the 2014 World Cup (heading into Tuesday’s match).“The Gold Cup matters. Copa América mattrs. The Confederations Cup matters if you qualify. So, if you’re ranking all those things then obviously playing in the World Cup is singularly the most important thing. But all those competitions matter,” Gulati said. “They’re an assessment of where you are.”Five years into Klinsmann’s tenure, the national team isn’t where Gulati thought it would be. Now he expects the U.S. advance from the Copa’s Group A despite last week’s loss.“There are areas where I would have hoped for more progress and other areas where we’ve done well. That in many ways reflects recent results ….  Results over the last 18 months overall haven’t been what we would have hoped for,” he said. “We’ll look at everything after the end of this competition. I don’t get too high or too low based on one game, especially when it’s in this tournament against a very good team [Colombia]….We’ll wait and see how the next two games go and hopefully some additional games after that before we assess where things are again.”Following the Copa América, the U.S. won’t have another meaningful game until it plays World Cup qualifiers against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and then Trinidad and Tobago in early September. Hypothetically, Gulati would have time to make a change, if he felt there needs to be one.Klinsmann is signed through the end of 2018, leaving only a year and a half on his contract.“Whenever we look at important competitions like this, it’s thorough analysis and evaluation,” he said. “We’re at a break point after a big competition and before next set of important competitions, which is in the fall, so we look at all of those things.”Gulati concluded by saying that he didn’t want to address hypotheticals, stressing that a loss to Colombia on its own shouldn’t come as a shock. But, he said, “We have to win games … no one has ironclad job security. Jurgen’s already said, for coaches and players, it’s about results.”Gulati addressed several other topics during the hour-long meeting, including the Copa itself, FIFA and even the upcoming presidential election:

Permanent combined Copa talks ‘inaccurate’

Gulati said reports this week that there have been discussions about combining the Copa América and CONCACAF Gold Cup permanently are “completely inaccurate.He said, “There have been no discussions about future events with U.S. Soccer or between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL about this. I made sure that in order to make the second part of that statement I talked with [CONCACAF president] Victor [Montagliani] yesterday. He’s had no discussions with anyone at CONMEBOL about it. So, there is nothing imminent, no plans, no discussions have taken place.”That doesn’t mean there won’t be more potential cooperation between the North and South American confederations in the future.“If were thinking about a combined event in the future, it wouldn’t have to be a Copa América. It would be some new created event, where there might be an equal number of teams [from the two confederations] for example, or all of those things that are specific to Copa América wouldn’t necessarily be in place,” he said. “What we might talk about for a future event would be a new event.”

A Trump presidency could impact a World Cup bid

U.S. Soccer may not host another Copa, but it certainly would like to bring a second World Cup to American shores. Having been beaten controversially by Qatar in the race to host the 2022 finals, the U.S. now is waiting for FIFA to establish the rules and procedures for bidding for 2026. Gulati has said that the U.S. won’t commit to bidding until those parameters are established in early 2017. Meanwhile, he’ll be watching this November’s election results.“I think the world’s perception is affected by who’s in the White House, yes, and so it has some bearing,” Gulati said. “I think having somebody in the White House that gives a the country an outward-looking view and a personality that’s more easily accepted around the world is positive for the United States and then more specifically for hosting events here and our general image from a sports perspective. But it’s far beyond sports.”Gulati wouldn’t rule out a bid if Donald Trump wins the presidency.“We’re going to bid for a World Cup if we think we’re going to be successful,” he said. “I think whether we can be successful in a World Cup or L.A. in an Olympic bid is affected by the world’s view of our leaders, and not just the leaders of the soccer federation.”

EURO-s PREDICTIONS

BY SI STAFFPosted: Wed Jun. 8, 2016

The first 24-team European Championship commences on Friday in France, when the host nation takes on Romania to kick off a month-long tournament to determine the continent’s top squad.Les Bleus have competition looking to prevent them from capturing another trophy on home soil. Spain is the two-time defending champion of the competition, aiming for an unprecedented three-peat. Germany is hoping to add another European trophy to its cabinet after winning the World Cup two summers ago. Belgium enters the competition as Europe’s top team in the FIFA world ranking, coming it at No. 2 overall behind Argentina. The Euros are no stranger to dark-horse runs either, none more stunning than Greece’s run to the title in 2004, and there are many capable “lower-tier” sides ready to spring a surprise at Euro 2016.Here are our predictions for how the competition will play out and who will ultimately be lifting the trophy at Stade de France on July 10:

Alexander Abnos

I can’t believe I’m actually picking England to win this thing. I mean, this isEngland we’re talking about; a team that seemingly always succumbs to pressure amid too-high expectations. Still, this year’s group provides many reasons for confidence.It has in-form forwards, plentiful options in midfield, and  a goalkeeper capable of match-winning saves. It’s been on a tear since the 2014 World Cup, winning 17 of its 21 games including an unblemished record in qualifying for this tournament. England has the youngest team at Euro 2016, and it’s often young players that play fearlessly enough to make big impacts at big tournaments like these.It’s that same lack of fear that I believe will help England finally shrug off its demons this summer. I could very easily be wrong, of course. France is deep at every position and won the 1984 Euros and the 1998 World Cup playing at home, as it will be this year. Croatia has all the ingredients to make a surprise run. Germany and Spain haven’t looked like the unstoppable forces they once were, but they’re still Germany and Spain, and both will be motivated to win their fourth European title, which would be most all-time. All that said, based on what essentially amounts to a hunch, I’m picking England to win its first European Championship on the 50-year anniversary of its last major trophy. May God save the queen–and also have mercy on my soul.

Avi Creditor

Belgium’s golden generation was supposed to blossom in the 2014 World Cup, learn some lessons while growing as a world power, then take its place on the winner’s podium as soon as Euro 2016. Surely it’s not that simple, and the Red Devils are missing key defensive pieces in Vincent Kompany and Nicholas Lombaerts, but there remains enough matured talent, especially in the attack, to spoil France’s party in the semifinals and then lift the trophy at the expense of two-time defending champion Spain. DEITSCH: Viewer’s guide to the summer of soccer on TV

As for some other picks, this is more of a “what I want to see” than anything else, although there are sporting merits to the selections as well. Ronaldo vs. Bale? Spain-Italy 2012 final rematch? Powerful Germany vs. everyone’s favorite underdog Iceland? A Germany-Belgium red-black-yellow flag derby? Zlatan vs. England again? Sign me up.GALLERY: The many hairstyles of Paul Pogba

Ben Lyttleton

The group stage predictions mostly explain themselves; I think Slovakia is an underrated side in Group B and and Czech Republic in Group D.

It’s when the knockout stage comes that things get really interesting. The biggest shock will be the Czechs beating Belgium, which has individual talent in abundance, but I have reservations over whether Marc Wilmots can get the best out of it. I fancy Czech boss Pavel Vrba to be one of the stars of the tournament and his team, most of whom are based in the Czech league, is greater than the sum of its parts.Austria and Poland are other dark horses that could go deep, and I think France may have a scare against the Austrians in the quarterfinal. England-Portugal is impossible to call, so I am going for Portugal, this time without needing penalties, to progress. France’s route to the final may not be serene, but it has improved since losing to Germany at the World Cup, and a final on home soil could set up a third straight home success for Les Bleus.

Brian Straus

Overall, I’m a fan of the tournament’s expansion. A continental championship should be more inclusive than a World Cup, and the addition this summer of countries like Iceland, Albania and Wales, among others, offers novelty, enthusiasm and the chance to appreciate different stars and stories.

The one negative is that the diluted group stage will be a bit easier to navigate for the blue bloods. The favorites will be more spread out, and as a result are less likely to trip up and finish second. And this year, with the way the draw works out, that means the three best teams at Euro 2016 should be in the same half of the bracket once the knockouts commence. It’s kind of a shame that only one of France, Germany or Belgium will play in the final at Stade de France.The pick here is France. Les Bleus have a history of making the most of home-field advantage. Plus, they’re loaded, peaking at the right time and won’t have to play another title rival until the semis. This will be the tournament of Pogba and Griezmann. The bracket’s JV half contains some talented but flawed teams. Spain is the best of the bunch and with something to prove after a disastrous 2014 World Cup, the reigning champs will fall to France in the final.

Grant Wahl

It’s remarkable that the two-time defending Euro champion, Spain, is receiving such little love heading into Euro 2016.I know Spain was miserable in the World Cup two years ago, but look for Vicente del Bosque’s team to remind everyone how good it is over the next month and reach the final.That said, France is the team that will raise the trophy on home soil, just as it did in World Cup ’98.The wealth of young talent France has is scary, and Paul Pogba is about to become a megastar.As for upsets, I’m going with Iceland, which proved in qualifying that it can beat anyone in Europe. I have them upsetting Belgium in the round of 16 and reaching the quarterfinals.

Jonathan Wilson

As hosts, France is an overwhelming favorite for me. It has strength in depth in all areas with the possible exception of fullback and has won the last two tournaments it has hosted. By contrast, there are major questions about its two main rivals, Spain and Germany. Spain has lacked fluency throughout the qualifying campaign, while Germany still hasn’t resolved the issue of who will play at center forward or fullback, while defeats to Ireland and Poland in qualifying don’t bode well.England, if it gets the defense right, has the pace in forward areas to counterattack dangerously, although a quarterfinal against an Italy side more dogged than dazzling would be tough. Belgium still doesn’t seem to have worked out how to get the best from its remarkable array of talent, while Russia is aging. Poland, if Robert Lewandowski is at his best, could perhaps trouble Spain in the quarters.

 

France top Euro 2016 Power Rankings, Germany second, Spain third

Euro 2016 kicks off on Friday, but who are the favourites to win it all at the Stade de France on July 10? We asked Miguel Delaney to rank the 24-team field.

  1. FRANCEA vibrant squad of staggering strength and depth, fired forward by home advantage — but missing key experience and a top striker in Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. The wonder is whether they can evolve to go on and win it, similarly to the side that won the World Cup at home in 1998. On talent and positional balance alone, they’re the best team in the competition. They just have to prove it.
  2. GERMANYArrive as world champions, but also having largely failed to show that status in a flat qualifying campaign. The absence of a top-class goalscorer seems to reflect a lack of ruthlessness in the side. The expectation around the squad, though, is that they will do what Germany so regularly do and properly focus come crunch time.
  3. SPAINThe defending champions — but that oddly might be one of their biggest problems. Spain still have Vicente Del Bosque at the helm and, successful as he’s been, the argument is that his loyalty to experience has come at the expense of reinvigorating a team with the talent pool to win what would be a record third European Championship in a row, fourth overall.
  4. BELGIUMOne of the highest-quality squads in the tournament, their biggest obstacle might be that manager Marc Wilmots rarely seems able to get the best out of that talent, choosing to sacrifice expression for tactical discipline. Will be hard to beat, but the frustration is that they should find winning easier.
  5. ITALY:An Italian side with fewer elite players than any other in recent history, but with a proper star manager in Antonio Conte. His intensity, combined with what is probably the best defensive unit in the competition, could mean they surprise many.
  6. ENGLANDA strong, young starting XI with the potential to grow over the course of tournament, the wonder is whether conservative coach Roy Hodgson can find the tactical balance to get the best out of his players and finally advance beyond the quarterfinals.
  7. CROATIA:A smooth qualification to the finals reflected their smooth style of play, and the general feeling is that this is the best Croatian generation since the team that reached the quarterfinals of Euro 96 and semifinals of France 98. They have a decent chance of replicating that feat, depending on whether they can beat Spain to first place in their group.
  8. AUSTRIA:The young side increasingly being vaunted as the team most likely to emulate Denmark 1992 or Greece 2004 and come from outside to win the tournament. Austria is much more entertaining than both of those previous champions, and while it’s possible that it’s still too early for them as a group, David Alaba could lead them into the later stages of the competition.
  9. PORTUGALThe squad with the tournament’s greatest player in Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal is much more difficult to define as a team. The mixture of familiar faces like veteran Ricardo Carvalho and brilliant young talents like Joao Mario marks a potential generational imbalance. It will be up to Ronaldo to cover the extra ground.
  10. POLANDAlmost a lighter version of Portugal in that the team has one star that rises well above a very mixed group. Robert Lewandowski’s goals should at least see them into the last 16.
  11. SLOVAKIAA decent squad whose qualifying run included a victory over Spain, they could defy expectations with talents like Marik Hamsik.
  12. SWITZERLANDSome good talent, but none of it really shaped in a competitive way, and there is little optimism about their play right now. They have not evolved since the 2014 World Cup and the main hope is that a forgiving group sparks a new confidence and cohesion.
  13. CZECH REPUBLIC:Lacking the star quality of their finest displays in tournament history — finalists in 1996 and semifinalists in 2004 — they do have a surprising resilience that saw them top a group featuring the Netherlands and Turkey in qualifying. Their ability to dig deep will be key if they hope to advance out of a tough group featuring Spain, Croatia and Turkey.
  14. WALESGareth Bale is yet another of that distinctive band of Euro 2016 star players charged with lifting his country to greater levels, but Wales do have some good support behind him despite their relatively modest quality. Their reliable defence gives the Real Madrid forward the perfect platform for those rapid breaks.
  15. ICELAND:The story of the qualifying campaign, they became the smallest country to ever qualify after beating the Netherlands twice and defeating Turkey and the Czech Republic too. These big wins emphasise just how capable this side is of stunning.
  16. TURKEY:Only got into the tournament through last-minute dramatics, but that kind of test could mark the making of a promising young team. The question is whether more experienced stars like Arda Turan will be in form to properly complete the side.
  17. RUSSIA:An uninspiring and aging team is only enhanced by the tactical nous of manager Leonid Slutsky. The main hope is that his innovation, as well as the cohesion of groups of players at Zenit and CSKA Moscow, will be enough to grind their way through.
  18. UKRAINE:An average outfit elevated by Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, their match against Northern Ireland will most likely determine if one of them can win and get out of the group.
  19. SWEDEN:If Swedish football coverage almost always seems to be about Zlatan Ibrahimovic, it’s because their play is too. He simply dominates everything. He gives them a chance, but also puts focus on the limitations of his supporting cast.
  20. REPUBLIC OF IRELAND:A limited team, but one with more competitive intensity and cohesion than most others. This quality will make them tough to beat, and has the potential to offer a much more respectable campaign than the disaster that was 2012.
  21. ALBANIA:A team of few top players but unique unity, bolstered by the spirit around the side and the fact that there are so many members of the country’s diaspora playing. Advancing out of a qualifying group that featured Portugal, Denmark and Serbia shows they are anything but an easy opponent.
  22. NORTHERN IRELAND:A very limited group of players, but manager Michael O’Neill has crafted his team into a unit adept at limiting what their opposition do. They could really frustrate superior sides.
  23. ROMANIA:Almost got into the tournament by default — drably advancing out of a poor group. The team, largely devoid of quality, looks unlikely to do much. Similar to Switzerland, their main hope of progressing is based on the relative ease of their group play outside of an opening match against France.
  24. HUNGARY:Squeezed through a weak group to even get to this point, likely making them the weakest side in the tournament. Now that they’re actually here, they could be crushed by much tougher competition.

Euro 2016: The team and player that will unravel and other big predictions

Everyone with any sort of connection to football has now been asked who will win the European Championships, who will score the most goals and who will be the dark horses. But what about the other big questions, like which superpower could really mess this up? We asked Iain Macintosh to look into his crystal ball.

Which superpower could really mess this up?

In 2014, Spain bravely held off the challenge of both England and Italy by exiting the World Cup, a tournament title they were supposed to be defending, inside just seven days. That will take some beating. All three of those nations still retain that special combination of banana-skin filled groups and pulsating potential uselessness.But what about Germany? They’ve lost four of their last seven games. They weren’t playing great sides, either, with defeats to Ireland, Slovakia and, most shamefully of all, England. It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see them slipping up against Ukraine, Poland or even Northern Ireland.

Which team will be hated by the media in spite of their status?

Albania are the most Cinderella-ist of all the Cinderella stories at this summer’s tournament, but there’s every chance the world’s media will loathe them. How could this be? They are so unfancied that they’re under the underdogs. They’re so plucky that when they get up from their sofa, they leave traces of pluck in the fibres.But they harbour a dark and terrible secret. When they met Austria in a friendly earlier this year, they played in their second strip: white shirts. With white numbers. And white lettering. Madness. If they wear that shirt against Switzerland on June 11, it will be a nightmare for every journalist and commentator. Expect this to be reflected in the tone of the reports.

Who will have the shortest tournament?

England aren’t going to win the big prize, but they’ve got this one locked down. Someone will get injured almost instantly. Remember how high your eyebrows rose when you discovered that poor Ledley King had been included in England’s 2010 World Cup squad? Remember how he lasted barely two minutes in South Africa? It’s going to happen again, isn’t it?England have only three centre-backs in the squad, so they’re tempting fate on one count. They have Daniel Sturridge, so they’re tempting fate on two counts. They have Jack Wilshere, and three counts should be more than enough. Wilshere, whose inclusion came after missing almost the entire season, and at the expense of Danny Drinkwater, has to be the favourite to tumble.

Which team will unravel mid-tournament?

With the Dutch watching on television, this prize is wide open. You’d be tempted to plump for France, given the pressure they’ll be under as favourites and, more pertinently, their unrivalled capacity for chaos. But what about Portugal? We saw in 2014 what happens when Cristiano Ronaldo is held together by sticky tape and staples; he tries to win the game all on his own and the team suffers for it. If his heroics aren’t enough, how long will it be before someone in a Portugal shirt breaks down and screams, “For the love of all that is holy, Cris. Let someone else take a free kick!”

Who will flip out and do something absolutely stunningly foolish?

When it comes to Grade A wobblies, you can never really rule out Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The big, mercurial Swede is a law unto himself. But this is probably his international swan song and he has a brand to protect now. A more likely barmpot is the cut-price Zlatan, Austria’s Marko Arnautovic. Jose Mourinho once said that Arnautovic had “the attitude of a child,” a conclusion aided by the former Inter Milan forward’s decision to wear boots inscribed with the words, “Champions League Winner 2010,” even though he wasn’t in the victorious squad. He’s been caught speeding, he’s fought teammates, he’s insulted entire cities, and last week, he was embroiled in a spitting scandal. The world waits for his next move.

Which fiery manager will soon be watching from the corporate box?

You’d always think that the managers to be sent from the touchline would be the most volatile men, but it doesn’t always work like that. In 2008, it was the unassuming Joachim Low who found himself watching Germany’s quarterfinal clash with Portugal from the posh seats after a spat with the Austrian manager Josef Hickersberger during their group stage match. Antonio Conte and Fatih Terim both seem to be the sort of chaps well capable of flipping out in the technical area. Then there’s Ireland’s Martin O’Neill. He might look unassumingly bookish, but there’s a fire that dwells within that man. And if assistant manager Roy Keane eggs him on …

Who will be England’s penalty villain?

This is obviously happening. Even England can’t mess up a group like that when three teams will probably progress to the knock-out stage. What do England do in knock-out stages? They lose on penalties. Or get obliterated by Germany. But mostly, it’s penalties. It doesn’t matter what you do, or how much you practice. England can’t win penalty shoot-outs. They’re like a cat with chopped whiskers, unable to walk through an open door. This is nature, people. And having tempted karma by discussing a move to Arsenal on the eve of the tournament, it’s Jamie Vardy who will welly his spot-kick into the second tier.

France, England, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Portugal’s Euro hopes

Our ESPN FC Euro 2016 bloggers covering the tournament’s top contenders make a case for why their side are the team to beat in France.

Group A

FRANCE: With home advantage on their side, hosts France are the team to beat this summer. Since coming back from the dead to beat Ukraine 3-2 on aggregate to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Didier Deschamps’ men have the French public behind them once again.

Historically, Les Bleus fare well on home soil. Their Euro 1984 and 1998 World Cup titles were both won in France, while Euro 2000 — their third major international title — took place in neighbouring Belgium. Aided by a favourable Group A draw, the confidence of Deschamps and his players should be high by the time they reach the latter stages.

Despite a number of pre-tournament injuries, the French still possess plenty of talent. The likes of Juventus’ Paul Pogba, Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, Paris Saint-Germain’s Blaise Matuidi and West Ham United’s Dimitri Payet all make the hosts a formidable force — Jonathan Johnson

Group B

ENGLAND: The good news for England coach Roy Hodgson is that a good chunk of the outstanding performers in last season’s thrilling and unpredictable Premier League were English. The best two strikers in the division were Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, who even more encouragingly seem to have developed a rapid understanding, each knowing where the other’s movement is likely to take them, despite not having played together much for the national team.

Then there’s Dele Alli, Eric Dier and Danny Rose, young players all who belied their lack of experience by taking Tottenham close to the title. In short, England have a fine collection of youthful talent. But the really promising thing about this team is that while they do have individual quality, they don’t have outstanding stars, players upon whom they rely and about whom there would be a national outcry if they were injured. Only goalkeeper Joe Hart is close to irreplaceable, making the collective much more reliable. This is a squad with plenty of options, and plenty of reasons to be cheerful. — Nick Miller

Group C

GERMANY: Germany might have had their fair share of problems following the 2014 World Cup. Some players retired, and those who stayed put in some sloppy performances in both the qualification phase and those friendlies in the past two years. They still won the group, and they will do so again in France. At that point, Mats Hummels will reunite with the Germany axis of Manuel Neuer-Jerome Boateng-Sami Khedira-Toni Kroos-Mesut Ozil-Thomas Muller, one of the strongest in the world. The national team’s fate of not having one individual superstar but a collective of hugely talented team players has worked wonders for them. This generation of German players might never produce a Ballon d’Or winner, but more silverware.

The latest test against Hungary has shown they have reached the level to win their group, and from there confidence can turn hope into belief, especially once Germany have made it past their first big name. — Stephan Uersfeld

Group D

SPAIN: Vicente del Bosque’s Spain won both the 2010 World Cup and the 2012 Euros based on an extremely solid defensive approach. That squad used their domination of ball possession primarily to defend, and only when the chance was ripe, to attack.After the disappointment of Brazil 2014, that competitive Spain seems to be back. With only three goals conceded in 10 qualification matches, scoring against Spain has never looked so hard. Defence wins you tournaments, as the old saying goes, and one could see the Del Bosque’s team putting together a phenomenal string of seven 1-0 wins.If you think that’s boring, Andres Iniesta and his midfield teammates will add some fun with a collection of tricks and ball skills that will no doubt keep many entertained, while the Spaniards head for their third consecutive Euro title. — Ed Alvarez

Group E

BELGIUM: In order to feel confident, Belgian football fans just need to look at the players in their squad. Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois are all world class, with five or six others being very close to that level. If that isn’t enough, the Belgian squad has been the costliest of the 24 to assemble, at £319 million. Added to that, Belgium are the highest FIFA-ranked European country. It’s a team that is always hard to beat and if the quality players can get it together on the pitch, these boys could go all the way.

ITALY: Italy may not have the most talented of squads and are suffering over the absences of key midfielders, but what they do boast is experience and a defence that can hinder even the strongest of attacks.

Coached by a man famed for his winning mentality and ability to light the fire of ambition in each individual within a squad, Italy will play with a never-say-die attitude, evidenced by the number of warrior-style players Antonio Conte chose to bring with him. A team many expect to fail, there is nothing Italy love more than to prove a point. Renowned for their ability to defeat the best of opponents, few possess their tactical knowledge, strong work ethic and pride. While they lack individual talent, Conte might just create a unit balanced enough to shock critics and achieve victory. — Mina Rzouki

Group F

PORTUGAL: Before the turn of the millennium, Portugal qualified for only four of 26 World Cups and European Championships. Since 2000, they have never missed a party (nine consecutive tournaments). It is illustrative of the football evolution of a country always besotted with the beautiful game, but only relatively recently a consistent guest at the top table.

But the Portuguese people want more. And with a healthy mix of youth and experience, the tournament’s best player in their ranks, and on the back of a seven-match winning run in competitive play — a record for Portugal — the Selecao’s time may have finally come. What’s more, Greece aren’t there to break our hearts. —

Germany’s big questions include shaky defence, Ozil’s role, Muller’s form

Turniermannschaft. It’s the word you’ll be hearing most in Germany this week, by way of boasts and prayers, as Joachim Low’s squad gets closer to its Euro 2016 opening game against Ukraine on Sunday. Turniermannschaft(“tournament team”) has been the unofficial nickname of theNationalmannschaft for decades now, a moniker that describes their uncanny ability to get results in big competitions, no matter how good or bad they are.(Granted, Germany weren’t quite such a Turniermannschaft when they crashed out in the group stage at Euro 2000 and Euro 2004, but those exceptions merely served to prove the rule.)The flip side of being a team for tournaments, however, is that you often have little idea about your true strengths or biggest problems before a ball is kicked in earnest. Since the World Cup win in Brazil, Low has taken theTurniermannschaft ethos to its logical extreme, experimenting with personnel and formations so vigorously that Germany ceased to be a team altogether, more often than not.Will things now magically come together the way they have largely done over the last five competitions? Or will their deficiencies drag the side down? Germany are world champions but they’re also world champions of worrying about their own flaws. Here are the five key questions still to be resolved ahead of “mission Euro win,” as tabloid Bild would have it.

1. Who’s playing at the back?

Concerns about a lack of balance and the fitness of midfield stalwarts Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger made Low adopt a very pragmatic set-up for the opening games at the last World Cup. Four centre-backs (Jerome Boateng, Per Mertesacker, Mats Hummels, Benedikt Howedes) made up the defence, Philipp Lahm was stationed in front of them as a guard. But out of those five, only Howedes is both still playing for Germany and fully fit for selection on Sunday.Boateng is doubtful (muscle problems). Hummels (hamstring) isn’t quite ready. The unfortunate Antonio Rüdiger is out of the Euros after rupturing his cruciate ligament in training. That leaves… well, not a lot. Low will be forced to field Valencia’s Shkodran Mustafi or move Howedes inside, leaving Emre Can forced to play as an unhappy right-back again, with Jonas Hector on the left.Bayern Munich’s talented Joshua Kimmich might be an alternative, on the right side of a back three or even as a centre-back, but in its totality, the defensive corps does not inspire a lot of confidence. The one bit of good news, perhaps, is that the need for extra security will increase the chances of Julian Weigl, the 20-year-old Dortmund midfielder destined for great things, of seeing action in the holding role.

2. Can Mesut Ozil make this his Euros?

Ozil only starred in a supporting role at the last World Cup, toiling on the right and the left as his successor at Real Madrid, Toni Kroos, shined as the de facto playmaker. For the Euros, however, the Arsenal midfielder has been once again earmarked in his favourite position: the central creative role.”I’m very, very happy to enjoy the confidence of the national [team] manager,” Ozil told SID this week. “I can be most effective as a 10.” Kroos is most likely needed further down the pitch, an area where Ozil himself has been tried out with a surprising degree of success in the national team. (The calm, classy influence of Ilkay Gundogan will be much missed.)Whether Ozil will play behind the striker(s) or in front of the defence is less important than the fact that Low trusts him to dictate the game once more. The Bundestrainer insisted that Ozil was “as good as 2012 or 2013” this season. It’s up to the former Schalke 04 player to justify that verdict and win over the few remaining doubters back home.

3. Gotze or Gomez up front?

Following his career resurrection in Turkey, the return of Mario Gomez (26 goals for league champions Besiktas) to the fold has given Low the valuable option to make Germany less dependent on game combinations. In theory, the orthodox and physically imposing striker is an ideal weapon against deep-lying defences, but Poland and the Ukraine might well defend by squeezing the space further up the pitch, which would render the 30-year-old pretty ineffective: he can’t play on the shoulder of the last man given his lack of pace.Despite coming off a pretty poor season with Bayern, Mario Gotze looks like the more natural fit for a team that’s learned to make the most of the freedom to interchange that playing without a target man provides. A nod to the scorer of the World Cup-winning goal in Rio would suggest that will Low stick to his aesthetic principles in attack rather adopting than a more direct approach.

4. Will Thomas Muller do his Muller shtick?

The 26-year-old Bayern forward has been in strangely ineffective form of late, looking like a man in dire need of some inspiration. While Muller can score at any given moment and doesn’t need to play well at all in order for his famous goal instinct to kick in, his confidence on the ball seems to have suffered a little bit.Is he still haunted by that tragic penalty miss against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League semifinal, the first real personal setback of his career? A coolly converted spot kick in the DFB Pokal win over Dortmund in Berlin would suggest otherwise but Müller doesn’t quite play with his usual, clunky and charming verve right now. The problem could become more prominent if Low shunts him out to the right side of the attack, where he’s more involved in build-up play.Germany are not reliant on a single player but without Muller’s goals and joyful anarchic streak up front, they will struggle to fulfil their potential this summer. The son of a BMW engineer needs to re-discover his drive, urgently.

5. What about Schweinsteiger?

A captain that doesn’t command authority by virtue of his performances is always a potential problem for any team. Without his history and heroics at the Maracana, the 31-year-old would presumably have not been picked by his country after the season he’s just had at Manchester United. But Schweinsteiger cannot live off past glories in France, nor can he rely on the goodwill and patience that have gone his way as he battles back from yet another injury.Two years ago, the gamble Low took on him (he entered the competition with a knee complaint) paid off but at Euro 2012, it certainly didn’t. Beset by a ankle complaint at that tournament, Schweinsteiger wasn’t able to get his team past Italy in the semifinal. He’s been written off before. Can the ultimateTurnierspieler (tournament player) come back one final time?Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC’s German

The methods behind Manuel Neuer’s sweeper-keeper madness

Three fearless predictions for Euro 2016

Who will win it all, who will flop and who will break out? Grant Wahl looks into his Euro 2016 crystal ball.

BY GRANT WAHLPosted: Tue Jun. 7, 2016

This story first appeared in the June 6, 2016, issue of Sports Illustrated.Subscribe to the magazine hereAt the highest level, modern soccer has a lot in common with the German autobahn. The speed of the game has no limits, and players are like the latest sports cars: faster, sleeker and more powerful than ever. The movement in soccer—end-to-end attacking, relentless defensive pressure—can be constant. And yet there remain players, goalkeepers, who impose calm. In 2016, no one on the planet balances order and chaos better than Germany’s Manuel Neuer, who is redefining his position in a way that hasn’t been done for decades.“I’m a little bit risky, but [I represent] security and protection, and you have to give your teammates that feeling as well,” says Neuer. “I’m a guy who likes to drive a car quite fast—but I wear a seat belt at the same time. So you have this balance. Maybe you can compare it.”Surrounded by Champions League trophies in Bayern Munich’s boardroom, Neuer has folded his 6’ 4″, 203-pound frame into a leather office chair. Like many Germans, Neuer, 30, speaks better English than he lets on at first—he ditches his interpreter entirely after a few minutes—and he draws a special pleasure from discussing his ultimate fast-lane experience: Germany’s round-of-16 victory over Algeria in World Cup 2014.To watch Neuer’s highlight video from that game, which includes an astonishing five clearances and 20 touches outside his penalty box, is to see a goalkeeper pushing the outer limits of what’s physically possible and, perhaps, mentally sane.Time and again, with Germany’s attack-minded back line pushed up near midfield, Algeria sends passes through and over defenders, hoping that fleet forwards Islam Slimani and Sofiane Feghouli can run onto the ball for a lightning-strike goal in the rain of Porto Alegre, Brazil. But there’s no joy for the men in green, no alegría for Algeria. Instead there’s Neuer venturing 35 yards from his goal, racing Slimani into the corner and sliding to block the striker’s cross before it reaches the penalty area. There’s Neuer, racing out again, propelling his head to clear a dangerous diagonal ball before crashing into the onrushing Slimani. And there’s Neuer covering on a misplayed back-pass, clearing the ball from danger an instant before Aïssa Mandi’s arrival.MORE: Full rosters for Euro 2016Neuer may look like a madman, but his objective is clear: to prevent scoring chances before they materialize, even if that means taking sphincter-tightening risks.“It’s better for me to get the ball before the [opposing] striker than to [wait and] have a one-on-one situation in the box,” he says. “If he can’t get the ball, he won’t get any opportunity.”And if Neuer fails? Then he’s committed the soccer version of hara-kiri. If he misjudges the speed and trajectory of either the ball or the striker and arrives too late, he may not only concede a goal but also look silly in the process.“I don’t feel the fear in my head in this moment,” he says. “I am always thinking positive. But you have to be sure to get the ball.”The circumstances in Brazil created a fairly unique situation: Germany deployed relatively slow center backs; Algeria’s front-line speed was formidable; and Neuer could station himself higher up the field because the ball was skidding on the wet sod, causing hard through-balls to reach him faster than they would in dry conditions. The keeper believes that his early stops put a degree of fear into the opposing strikers, causing them to pull out early in avoiding collisions.“A lot of their players didn’t want to go into the one-on-one because I’m big,” he says. Neuer’s heat map for the Algeria match, which shows the location of his touches and his positioning, is unlike anything you would associate with a traditional goalkeeper—it’s as though he’s playing two positions instead of one.

In fact Neuer’s coloring outside the lines of his penalty box has many experts considering him one of the greatest goalkeeping innovators, the next evolutionary step after Soviet legend Lev ­Yashin, who began counterattacks with quick outlets and intercepted passes outside his box. Yashin remains the only keeper ever to win the European Footballer of the Year award, in 1963, but consider: In 2014, Neuer was the World Cup champions’ only finalist for FIFA’s Ballon d’Or, alongside Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.Remarkably, the German language has yet to produce a 12-­syllable word that describes the goalkeeper position as played by Neuer. Give it some time, though. For now, there’s a 16-letter English handle that will be hard to top—one that Neuer endorses with a wide smile. The sweeper keeper.

**********

If Germany-Algeria was Neuer’s version of Rachmaninoff’s playing his Piano Concerto No. 3 at Carnegie Hall, then his childhood training was like learning scales on his teacher’s living-room piano. A netminder from age 4, Neuer discovered early on that he had a leading foot and a standing leg. For him it felt more comfortable jumping to his left than to his right to make a save. Dives to his right, he says, would result in awkward landings and a bruised hip. Neuer had to train himself to explode to his right more easily, just as a right-footed player would practice using his left foot on the ball. Other aspects of basic shot-­stopping came over time: positioning, covering his near post, keeping his hands in a ready position. Neuer absorbed them all. “I always want to save it,” he says, “but more important is that other players can’t get any rebound, any chance to get a goal.”But shot-stopping—once the hallmark of proficiency—is now a bare-minimum requirement. The 21st‑­century keeper also needs to organize his team’s back line and set-piece defenses, command the penalty area on crosses, disrupt opposing forays outside the box and initiate his own team’s attack. Comfort on the ball (with both feet) is mandatory, as is the ability to unspool passes to moving targets on a dime, over short and long distances, including with an overhand throw.What’s more, the strategic trend of extreme defensive pressure up high means that goalkeepers often need to make themselves available for besieged defenders in need of an outlet. (A 1992 rule change prevented goalkeepers from picking up deliberate back-passes, forcing them to use their feet.)Fortunately for Neuer, he also perfected these foot skills at an early age. When he joined the youth ranks of the German club Schalke in 1991, at age 5, the right-footed keeper would practice with the outfield players if there was no goalie training, which developed his weaker left foot. Schalke even considered switching Neuer to an outfield position when he was 13, partly out of concern that he wasn’t tall enough. Ultimately they kept Neuer in goal, fully equipped with the tools to redefine the position. (Schalke wasn’t able to hold on to him; Bayern Munich, as it so often does to its German rivals, poached Neuer for $31.5 million in 2011.)“To be a modern goalkeeper, I have to think offensively, to initiate our attacking moves safely and securely,” Neuer says. “Both my teams—­Bayern and Germany—usually have more than 60% possession, so I have to move outside the box to be involved in the passing game from the back.”With Bayern, Neuer almost never boots the ball aimlessly downfield, like so many other professional goalkeepers. Under recently departed manager Pep Guardiola, the high priest of possession-based soccer, the watchword for the team’s attacking philosophy was control. Why would a keeper boom the ball and risk giving that up“The passing game has become more important,” says Neuer. “We rarely just hammer the ball forward. I have probably twice as many touches now than I used to have at Schalke.”During this past European league season, for example, Neuer completed more passes—in fewer games—than prolific French striker Antoine Griezmann of Atlético Madrid.A stranglehold on possession by Bayern and Germany often leaves Neuer with few occasions to demonstrate some of his more traditional skills. But he still has to call upon them, knowing that one mistake can turn a game. How does he know when to come out for a cross? The thought process isn’t much different from deciding whether to leave his box to cut off a through-ball—though there tends to be more human traffic in his path on crosses, requiring him to read even more variables in a split second. “You have to know which players are in your area and whether you have a free way to the ball,” he explains. “If I know I can’t get the ball, then I have to stay in.”Television commentators tend to believe that a goalkeeper should come out for any cross inside the six-yard box. Neuer argues that this isn’t always the case. At 1,080 square feet (6 … 20 yards), he notes, the smaller box is still larger than many city apartments.“It depends how high the ball is coming into the box,” Neuer says of a cross into his six. “If it’s a high ball [your opponent] can’t reach, you can go out. But if it’s a very low ball and a striker is there, it’s very dangerous and you can’t.”Even in 2016, there are enough variables that the same keeper who’ll venture 40 yards from his goal to pick off a ball will sometimes refuse to move even six yards to make a clearance, depending on the situation.More commonly with control-­obsessed Bayern and Germany, however, the ball is at the other end of the field. One of the hardest parts of Neuer’s job is going 45 minutes without a scoring chance by the opposing team, then suddenly having to spring into action.LIONEL MESSI: The world’s best player, in his own words“Sometimes in the winter it’s very cold, especially in Bavaria,” he says, half-smiling but fully serious. “It’s not easy in this moment, because you have to go from zero to 100.” Such is life on the autobahn. Freshly showered after training, and wearing a gray designer sweater, Neuer turns toward the 65‑inch video screen in Bayern Munich’s boardroom and starts breaking down clips from a showdown with Borussia Dortmund last October. In addition to reviewing video of his own game performances and practices on a laptop with his goalkeepers coach, Neuer takes part in pregame tactical talks with the rest of his squad.Beyond its usual high-pressing approach, Dortmund will try to attack Bayern’s high back line the same way that Algeria did, by sending passes over and through the line, into space, for speedy striker Pierre-Emerick ­Aubameyang. Even so, Neuer keeps an aggressive starting position, the better to quickly attack through-balls, and in the eighth minute he intercepts one 35 yards from his goal, igniting the Bayern attack. “If I’m in my box and waiting for the ball to come to me, we lose time,” Neuer says. “If I’m standing higher, we have more time—and Dortmund can’t get into the real [balanced defensive] position the way they want.”oto: Alex GriGetty The sweeper keeper is in full view later in the game when Neuer races out 40 yards to head a piercing through-ball away from Aubameyang’s path and directly to teammate David Alaba, who immediately starts a Bayern fast break. Ten seconds and three lightning-quick passes later, Bayern has a shot in Dortmund’s box, and while it doesn’t go in, we’ve still witnessed one more world-class play by Neuer.And that’s just the obvious stuff. Before each game Neuer studies his opponent’s set-piece and penalty-­taking tendencies. He’s the one who sets up Bayern’s wall in defending free kicks near the goal. And when Dortmund has a corner kick, it’s on Neuer to organize Bayern’s zonal marking in the box. The key here, Neuer says, isn’t just the five defenders arranged in a horizontal line across the six-yard box but also the three teammates in a similar line near the penalty spot, whose job is to prevent Dortmund’s attackers from getting a full head of steam and leaping over the zonal markers or finding spaces between them.“It’s always a zone,” he says, referring to the area between the two parallel lines. “The second line of three players wants to block [the attackers] so they can’t go fast into the zone.”Bayern builds a 2–0 lead against Dortmund before Aubameyang scores on the break late in the first half to make it 2–1. How you respond to conceding a goal is also important, Neuer says.“Normally you know if you can change something or if you have made a mistake—every time there is something,” he says. “But you always have to start again at zero after a goal.”This game, however, is no contest. Bayern goes on to win 5–1, a major victory in its run to a fourth straight Bundesliga title. Neuer won’t make the headlines on this day, but his performance is terrific, in direct contrast to that of his Dortmund counter­part, Roman Bürki. The perils of the sweeper keeper are manifold: On two occasions Bürki allows goals after coming out for the ball and missing it.Being Manuel Neuer is a lot harder than it looks.

TORRADO BRINGS VAST EXPERIENCE TO ELEVEN

Former Cruz Azul captain is newest member of Boys in Blue

Jun 8, 2016

LEGENDARY MEXICAN INTERNATIONAL MIDFIELDER GERARDO TORRADO TO CONTINUE CAREER WITH INDY ELEVEN

LONGTIME CAPTAIN OF LIGA MX GIANT CRUZ AZUL TO BOLSTER “BOYS IN BLUE” FOR 2016 FALL SEASON

UINDIANAPOLIS /LOS ANGELES (Wednesday, June 8, 2016) – Speculation regarding the American club destination of legendary Mexican National Team midfielder Gerardo Torrado was answered today with Indy Eleven’s addition of the longtime Cruz Azul captain to the roster of Indiana’s North American Soccer League side. The announcement was made during a press conference held at the Loews Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, where “el Tri” is based during its Copa America stay in Southern California.Per club policy, financial details of the contract that brings Torrado – a three-time FIFA World Cup veteran with Mexico and the 11-year captain of Cruz Azul – to Indy Eleven for the NASL’s 2016 Fall Season will not be released.“I am thrilled to begin this new adventure as a soccer player. I am sure that with my teammates, the club and the great fan base of Indiana, we will achieve great things,” said Torrado. “I want to thank the leadership of the team – Peter Wilt, Tim Hankinson and Jeff Belskus – and Pepe Galvan for advising me during my career.”

Torrado is set to arrive in the Circle City on Thursday, in plenty of time to support his new Indy Eleven teammates in their decisive Spring Season contest this Saturday, June 11, against the Carolina RailHawks (7:30 p.m. ET kickoff, live on WISH-TV & ESPN3). Additional details regarding the chance for fans to welcome Torrado upon his arrival at Indianapolis International Airport tomorrow afternoon will be released later this evening via media advisory and the team’s social media channels.“The addition of Gerardo Torrado is a significant step towards achieving our club’s goals of winning a championship in 2016 and building our growing club’s reputation across the American and global soccer landscapes,” stated Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir. “Indianapolis is the greatest sports city in the country, and in Gerardo we are getting a great player and an even better person that we cannot wait for our supporters and the community to embrace.”Torrado is expected to make his Indy Eleven debut against his former Bancomer Liga MX foe CF Pachuca on Sunday, June 26, when the recently-crowned Clausura season champion will visit IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium in Indianapolis for a 1:00 p.m. ET exhibition match. Torrado will not be eligible to compete in official competitions for Indy Eleven until the FIFA summer transfer window opens on July 4. Pending U.S. Soccer’s receipt of his international transfer certificate, Torrado will be able to make his first NASL appearance on Saturday, July 9, when the “Boys in Blue” play host to Minnesota United FC at Carroll Stadium.“Players possessing Gerardo Torrado’s experience and quality, both at the club and international levels, are few and far between,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “I give our club’s leadership – especially (General Manager) Peter Wilt, who headed our negotiations in recent weeks – tremendous credit for seizing this opportunity to make our team stronger on the field and in the locker room. Gerardo is fit and ready to contribute and has the personality and professional attitude that will allow him to blend right into what has become a tight-knit roster over the last few months.”The hard-nosed midfielder was a stalwart for the Mexican National Team during his 15 years of service at the senior level from 1999-2013, his 146 “caps” tied with his comtemporary Pavel Pardo for the second-most in the nation’s history. The 37-year-old Torrado appeared in 11 of Mexico’s 12 matches across the 2002, 2006 & 2010 FIFA World Cups, starting 10 games, scoring once (2002 Group Stage, game-winner in 2-1 triumph over Ecuador) and serving as vice-captain during the 2010 tournament.“It’s tremendously exciting to welcome a player of Gerardo’s caliber to our league,” said NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson. “We’re looking forward to seeing his brilliant play and leadership as Indy Eleven battles for an NASL championship. The NASL is quickly becoming a destination for quality players like Gerardo, and today we would like to welcome him with open arms.”Torrado also brings nearly 20 years of top-level club experience between his playing days with Liga MX (Primera Division) squads UNAM Pumas, where he began his career from 1997-2000, and Cruz Azul (2005-2016), in between performing for four clubs across Spain (Tenerife, Polo Ejido, Sevilla and Racing Santander). One year after joining Cruz Azul in 2005, “el borrego” would become the captain of the Mexican City powerhouse squad, leading “los Cementaros” to both the 2014 CONCACAF Champions League and 2013 Copa MX titles in addition to four other Liga MX finals appearances.Torrado is expected to arrive in Indianapolis on Friday in advance of the most important match in Indy Eleven’s two-and-a-half seasons of play. Saturday’s Spring Season finale could give the “Boys in Blue” their first trophy – if they can capture a win over Carolina by four or more goals. Details of Torrado’s flight arrival in Indianapolis on Friday and media availability at Saturday’s game will be made available via a media advisory on Thursday.Tickets for Saturday’s pivotal match at Carroll Stadium against Carolina, Indy Eleven’s June 26 friendly vs. Pachuca and all other games at “The Mike” in 2016 are available for as little as $11 and can be purchased online at www.IndyEleven.com or by calling 317-685-1100 (Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. ET).

THREE THINGS – #MIAVIND

The “Boys in Blue” go scoreless in FloridaJun 6, 2016

1) Point: Florida

Indy Eleven travelled down to the Sunshine State for the fourth time in the Spring Season on Saturday to take their fourth point away in as many games in a scoreless draw against the Miami FC.Despite taking 15 shots in the 90-minute stalemate, “Indiana’s Team” managed just one on target as the attack was stifled in South Beach. On the defensive front, the team allowed just three shots on Busch’s goal, all saved, as Greg Janicki made his return to the back line after passing concussion protocol and making a full recovery from his facial fracture.

RECAP: Miami FC 0 : 0 Indy Eleven

Florida has been unkind to Coach Hankinson and co. though, as they were unable to secure three points in any of their four trips down. In the opening match of the season against the Rowdies, the Eleven shut down TBR in an impressive first outing as a squad – a 0-0 draw that night added the first point of the season to the total. Six weeks later, Eleven ‘keeper Jon Busch played out of his mind and saved all six shots he faced to extend the Florida shutout streak to 180 minutes in another 0-0 draw.

Two weeks after facing the Strikers, the 200+ minute scoreless streak against Floridian opposition finally came to a halt against Jacksonville when Armada defender Matt Bahner found the back of the net from distance to give the hosts an early lead. However, the “Boys in Blue” gave the fight all they had and tacked on an equalizer just after the 70th minute thanks to a powerful header from Justin Braun, who notched his second in as many weeks. Another trip, another point.

While taking seven points out of five total road matches (with no losses) is admirable, the squad may feel Saturday’s match against Miami was the one that got away. Now they have set themselves up for the most historic battle in Indy Eleven history on Saturday when they host the Carolina Railhawks needing a four goal margin of victory to secure a Spring Season title.

 

2) The Straight Road Ahead

Knowing what it will take for the squad to be crowned spring champs, things are fairly straight forward when they meet with the Railhawks in five days’ time.“Indiana’s Team” has only tallied four goals once in club history, the positive being that the occasion was just three weeks ago against Minnesota United FC at “The Mike” in a wild 4-2 win. The importance of this week’s match requires a balance between pushing everyone forward to get the necessary goals while having the awareness to stifle attacks by Carolina.

The Railhawks are coming off a 0-0 home draw with Jax Armada FC but have not recorded a league win since April 23 when they knocked off the Rowdies on the road, 3-1. Balanced in scoring, Saturday’s visitors have scored four first half goals and six second half goals. Three of the four first half goals have come in the opening half hour, while the second three of their ten total have been scored between the 45th and 47thminute.However, as of late scoring has not been their strong suit in the league, having not hit the back of the net since May 7 in a 3-1 loss at home against the Strikers. Additionally, Carolina hasn’t scored in a league win since April 23. As attack remains the focus for Indy Eleven going into Saturday, the 90-minute window will see total team balance a necessity with the only road to the end of the spring slate as straight forward as it can be.

3) Willed to a Win

The only undefeated team in the top three pyramids of U.S. Soccer, Indy Eleven has the opportunity to do something it never has before – secure a trophy. At second place in the NASL with three wins and six draws, two wins (NYC/MNU) and two draws (FCE/OTT) have come at Carroll Stadium. This Saturday, the Brickyard Battalion and thousands of others can will this team to victory.

TICKETS | Indy Eleven vs. Carolina Railhawks

Against New York, the continual beating of the proverbial (and physical) drum saw a late equalizer coupled with a late winner as Irishman Eamon Zayed scored his first brace in an Indy Eleven shirt. A few weeks later, the “Boys in Blue” had a chance to take down then-top the table Minnesota United FC. Shoot your shot, they say, and four goals from four different goalscorers saw the Eleven hit the target in the bullseye.Now, Indy Eleven needs your help again. It needs every single body inside “The Mike” to pound that drum and keep momentum to the good as the title chase comes to a close. Use the link above to access a special discount offering $11 off any two+ ticket orders at any price level, and season ticket holders can enjoy $11 off food and beverage deals as well as discounts on merchandise purchases $50 and above.Bring the noise. See you Saturday.

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6/6/16 US Must win Tues 8 pm in Chi, 2 tix avail, Copa Results

So the USA lost  a pivotal first game vs #3 Ranked Columbia (yes #3 in the world by the way).  The 2-0 loss was interesting as it was a set piece and a PK that decided the win for Columbia – the US actually outpossessed Columbia – let me repeat that – we had 55% they had 45% – this was even true in the 1st half.  Listen I thought the US outplayed them in the field – we had more possession in their half and the shots were even.  The Mexican Ref (yes out hated rival reffed this game – HOW CAN THAT HAPPEN? – only in COPA.  I have very little good to say about the way COPA is putting on this tourney – yes its in the USA – That is the only GOOD thing about what they are doing.  The refs have made horrible calls in multiple games that honestly affected the outcomes of the matches.  Brazil, USA, Jamaica- just to name a few. The stands are empty except the huge teams (Brazil, Mexico – the true home team, and the US sort of.  I saw a lot of fans dressed as empty seats in the opener – the opening ceremonies – how can that happen?  Well let me tell you – the DAMN COPA people demanded everyone buy full session passes – the Chicago that was 4 Games at in my case $75 per game for good level 2 seats – ($135 for level 1)  that’s $75 X4 = $300 + fees or $325 per tickets x 2 = $650 for 2 tix per game.  That’s not chump change.  Now I realize that is how the World Cup often sells but this is not the World Cup. It is however the biggest Soccer Tourney the US has seen since 1994 on the men’s side and now that the tickets are being sold per game – We (the USA fans should sell out the games now).  But the organization to start with was greedy – I a guess that is why there were only 15K fans in Chicago with me on Sunday (yes they said 25K – NO WAY).  Now it does look like the USA – MUST WIN game vs Costa Rica – is nearing a sellout – so that should be fun.  (I still have 2 tickets left at cost $75 per if anyone wants to join me and Bill and Family.)

Now on the US Men – well the German (read Klinsmann) put the team out there and they played ok I guess. Honestly they did out possess and had some real chances throughout the game.   I thought Bradley was horrific – worse player on the field in his natural #6 spot which was hugely disappointing and honestly in my mind probably cost us the game.  His passing was off all night long – worse I have ever seen him.  Now I think he bounces back vs Costa Rica – he can’t play much worse – you have to start him – I think in the same spot but we will see.  So at lot of talk about Dempsey being too old – but did someone see something I didn’t see?  Dempsey had our ONLY Dam Real Scoring Chances.  Now is he a target man (NO!!!)  I really think his spot is underneath say a Bobby Wood up top in a 4 /4 /2 .  But that is just my take.  He needs room to roam and be free to get into dangerous spots and create for a forward in front of him and play off one he’s underneath.  He’s perfect with Altidore – he’s still our best scorer – so lets put him in a spot where he can score.

I see Wood and Dempsey up front.  Nagbe (solid off bench- he’s the only player who can possess the ball) he’s got to come in for Jones who was a Ghost (besides his 1 shot above the post did you even hear his name called – I didn’t till he left the field and questioned the German’s tactics – which he should – the German has no tactics.  I thought the D was solid with Cameron being the best player on the field. Other than his losing his mark on the goal – he made multiple saves and covered for the AVERAGE Brooks who was run by at least 3 times before Cameron saved his a$$.  Yedlin was great on the edge, Johnson ok at a left back (I am still not sure he’s not best at left wing – especially if we fall behind – he is the only player on our roster to score multiple goals in Champions League by the way).  Maybe it’s a 4-5-1 in reality.

Shane’s roster rollout –

Wood

Dempsey

Johnson/Nagbe / Bedoya

Bradley

Castillo (Leija really but he’s off squad?), Brooks, Cameron, Yedlin

Guzan

Listen Costa Rica and Paraguay tied – 0-0 (the perfect result for the US) We win 2 games we are thru. Win 1 and tie 1 – you might survive.  The bottom line is Costa Rica – has beaten us lately – 2 in the last 4 games.  They are ranked higher than us – but this is a home game and the type of Game the US usually pulls out.  If this game is in the US home fortress known as Columbus, Ohio – I guarantee a victory.  But in Chicago – with I don’t know how many Americans on hand ??  I don’t know ?  Hopefully us AMERICAN’s actually show up and Support our US National Soccer Team – I know the American Outlaws have 6 sections behind the goal levels 1 and 2 sold out – 4 of us will be there in full voice and regala! GO USA please – I think we pull it out.  2-1 maybe in this very physical-must win match!! I Believe – I believe that we will, I believe that we will win!!

Oh yes don’t forget huge game tonite – Argentina vs Chile – in a rematch of last year’s COPA Final – 10 pm on Fox Sports 1!!

Carmel FC Travel Soccer Tryouts for 2016-2017 teams Academy (U10) June 7th, others June 13/14  
CLICK HERE to register

2 TICKETS TO SEE the USA Men Play LIVE – Soldier Field Chicago – Tues Night- June 7 @ 8 pm

So I have 2 tickets to the COPA AMERICA USA vs Costa Rica game on Tuesday night, June 8 pm (Central Time) in Chicago – Soldier Field. Tickets just $75 each (face value w/o the fees).. Re: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

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Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools www.achievetestprep.com/shane

USA Stories

Is Chicago a Good Luck Location for the US?

US vs Costa Rica Preview –

USA Stock up Stock down – Stars and Stripes

US Faces Must Win – Brian Straus SI

Time for Nagbe to Start- ESPN FC – McIntyre

Changes Dempsey needs to make for game 2 in Chicago – David ESPN FC

Is it time to Bench Dempsey? Stars and stripes

What we Learned – Stars and Stripes

Player Ratings – ESPN FC

2nd Largest Viewership of a US Game on Fox

US Ladies beat Japan 2-0 before game called

COPA America 100 in USA  

Mexico’s Marquez defies his age to lead Mexico to 3-1 win

Mexico shows their credentials in impressive win over Uraquay

Copa America – Fox COPA BRACKET PIX –

Some Copa predictions

SI Copa Predictions by the Writers

Fan’s Guide to the Copa America – ESPN FC

Power Rankings COPA  SI

Group A – Columbia and Costa Rica are the teams US Must beat

Group B – Preview – Brazil + Ecuador

Group C – Preview – Mexico and Uraguay

Group D – Argentina + Chile

Columbia in Copa

Concacaf Teams Fairing Well in Friendlies so Far

Full Squads are Announced for Copa America Teams

Mexican/Olympiacos Defender escaped on his own

Mexico will be the Home Team at Copa

Copa America – Top 25 Players

EUROS

Euros – Bracket Predictor

What to Watch for Euros

Guide to Euro’s 2016

Euro Full Bracket

Euro’s full squad list

24 Teams in 24 Days – a Complete Look ESPN FC

Full TV Schedule EUROS

ALL GAMES ON TV

Mon, June 6

7 pm FS1                          COPA – Panama vs Bolivia

10 pm FS1                       COPA – Argentina vs Chile

Tues, June 7

8 pm  Fox Sports1 USA vs Costa Rica – Solider Field – Tix Available!

10 pm Fox Sports 1   COPA- Mexico vs Uruguay

Fri, June 10 European Cup Starts

3 pm ESPN                       EURO- France vs Romania

Sat, June 11

9 am  ESPN                      EURO – Albania vs Switzerland

12 noon ESPN               EURO – Wales vs Slovakia

3 pm ESPN                       EURO – England vs Russia

7 pm Fox Sport1 USA vs Paraguay

9 pm FS2                          COPA – Columbia vs Costa Rica

Sunday, June 12
Turkey vs. Croatia — Paris (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Poland vs. Northern Ireland — Nice (12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Germany vs. Ukraine — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Ecuador vs. Haiti -6:30 p.m.FOX Sports 2Brazil vs. Peru-8:30 p.m.  Fox Sports 1

Monday, June 13
Spain vs. Czech Rep — Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Rep of Ireland vs. Sweden — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Belgium vs. Italy — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Mexico vs. Venezuela 8 p.m. FoX Sports 1Uruguay vs. Jamaica 10 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Tuesday, June 14
Austria vs. Hungary — Bordeaux (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Portugal vs. Iceland — Saint-Etienne (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Chile vs. Panama 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1Argentina vs. Bolivia 10 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Wednesday, June 15
Russia vs. Slovakia — Lille (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Romania vs. Switzerland — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
France vs. Albania — Marseille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Thursday, June 16
England vs. Wales — Lens (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Northern Ireland — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Germany vs. Poland — Saint-Denis (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America 1A vs. 2B Seattle, WA 9:30 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Friday, June 17
Italy vs. Sweden — Toulouse (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Croatia — Saint-Etienne (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Spain vs. Turkey — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Saturday, June 18
Belgium vs. Rep of Ireland — Bordeaux (3 p.m. CET/9 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Hungary — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Portugal vs. Austria — Paris (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Copa America 1D vs. 2C Foxborough, MA  7 p.m. FXCopa America 1C vs. 2D anta Clara, CA 10 p.m. FX

Sunday, June 19
Switzerland vs. France — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Romania vs. Albania — Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)\

Monday, June 20
Slovakia vs. England — Saint-Etienne (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Russia vs. Wales — Toulouse (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Tuesday, June 21
Northern Ireland vs. Germany — Paris (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Ukraine vs. Poland — Marseille (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Croatia vs. Spain — Bordeaux (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Czech Rep vs. Turkey — Lens (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America W25 vs. W27 Houston, TX 9 p.m. FOX Sports 1Wednesday, June 22
Hungary vs. Portugal — Lyon (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Iceland vs. Austria — Saint-Denis (6 p.m. CET/12 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
Italy vs. Rep of Ireland — Lille (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Sweden vs. Belgium — Nice (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN2)

Copa America W26 vs. W28 Chicago, IL  8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

Euro Round of 16  Starts Saturday, June 25

Sat., 6/25Copa America L29 vs. L30 Glendale, AZ 8 p.m. FXSun., 6/26Copa America final  East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1

MLS TV Schedule ‘ On Break June 3-June 17 for COPA

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

Copa America Centario Schedule   TV Schedule

COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGOstill 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 $135TBenjamin BaerAssociate Editor

The US will step on Soldier Field’s grass on Tuesday night knowing they will need at least a draw against their CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica (8 pm ET; FS1/UniMás/UDN). The good news for them is that they know that they can get results at the 92-year-old stadium in Chicago because they have done it before.The US national team has played in Soldier Field 13 times. In those 13 games, they have been able to come out with a win on six occasions, with the most famous one coming in 2007 when they defeated Mexico in the Gold Cup final thanks to a world-class goal from Benny Feilhaber.They had defeated Canada in the semifinals of that tournament at Soldier Field and six years later they would lift the Gold Cup trophy again in Chicago, after beating Panama.The USMNT’s last loss in Chicago came in 2007, two and a half months after they had defeated Mexico, when Brazil beat them 4-2. It is the US’ only loss in Chicago in their last six games.

USMNT games in Chicago (Soldier Field)

Date Opponent Result Match Type
8/3/73 Poland L, 0-1 Friendly
6/3/92 Portugal W, 1-0 Friendly
6/6/92 Italy D, 1-1 Friendly
6/13/93 Germany L, 3-4 Friendly
7/11/04 Poland D, 1-1 Friendly
5/28/05 England L, 1-2 Friendly
6/21/07 Canada W, 2-1 Gold Cup Semifinal
6/24/07 Mexico W, 2-1 Gold Cup Final
9/9/07 Brazil L, 4-2 Friendly
6/6/09 Honduras W, 2-1 World Cup Qualifier
7/23/09 Honduras W, 2-0 Gold Cup Semifinal
10/9/10 Poland D, 2-2 Friendly
7/28/13 Panama W, 1-0 Gold Cup Final

 

USA vs. Costa Rica, Copa America 2016: What to watch for

By Adam Whittaker Snavely  @Snaves on Jun 6, 2016, 6:15a 7 

Many people have had many scapegoats over the past few days. To some, Jurgen Klinsmann is the architect of this lumbering manatee of a team, and should be vilified accordingly. To others, certain players needed to be taken to task, as the midfield only looked disjointed and no one particularly covered themselves in glory on the night. There will also be those to whom the Colombia game was symptomatic of the entire U.S. development system and the way we have come to the state of the current player pool: maybe we just don’t have any really, really good players.I would like to propose that not one of those things was the problem with the U.S. against Colombia, but all three at once. Sorry for the gloom and doom, but that’s what I keep coming back to re-watching that game. The U.S. seemed to go out looking to press, but there was no organization to it and nearly all moves to pressure opponents in the attacking third looked reactionary and not in sync with other teammates around it. Klinsmann’s lopsided midfield shaded all the way to the left to help out Fabian Johnson(the player with the most glimmering credentials on this team), but he still had problems with Juan Cuadrado all night, and the midfield never really got any sort of meaningful linking play going into the attack. Bradley made rookie errors in possession. Gyasi Zardes, a man who played one of the worst passes I’ve ever seen at this level, might have been one of our best attacking threats.

One flick of the boot and Nagbe’s in on the backline, doing what he does best. Really. The guy who made that decision was one of our better players. The U.S. were just about a complete disaster against Colombia, who weren’t particularly good themselves on the night and never looked troubled. Now the U.S. will play Costa Rica, fresh off a draw against Paraguay. We should beat them, right? Wrong. The last four matches with Costa Rica have been a split affair, two wins apiece, and one of the USMNT’s wins came in the 2013 “B-Team” Gold Cup. We simply don’t live in a world where a victory against Costa Rica is an assumption anymore. It’s a coin flip, and one the U.S. will need to hope lands their way if they have any hope of advancing out of the group stage.

Recent Form:

United States

L (0-2) – Colombia – Copa America

W (4-0) – Bolivia – Friendly

W (1-0) – Ecuador – Friendly

W (3-1) – Puerto Rico – Friendly

W (4-0) – Guatemala – WCQ

Costa Rica

D (0-0) – Paraguay – Copa America

W (2-1) – Venezuela – Friendly

W (3-0) – Jamaica – WCQ

D (1-1) – Jamaica – WCQ

L (0-1) – Venezuela – Friendly

What to Watch For:

Who does Klinsmann put out – This is really my only section here, because I think that bouncing back is going to be difficult against a Ticos side that see the U.S. as being very vulnerable, and will no doubt come blazing out of the gates to take the game to the Stars and Stripes. On the other hand, just like the infamous “SnowClasico” in the last installment of CONCACAF’s Hexagonal, this game has the chance to galvanize a shaky-looking U.S. team and propel it onwards in the tournament. So what does Klinsmann do here? Will he change formation altogether after the flat performance against Colombia left the U.S. attack down to Clint Dempsey dragging himself in front of defenders and winning free kicks? Is Michael Bradley shifted around the field yet again after another disappointing performance against top competition? Does Klinsmann give the keys toDarlington Nagbe, or Christian Pulisic, or even introduce someone like Edgar Castillo into the mix to get Johnson out of defense and into the midfield where at least we’ll have an actual winger playing on the wing? Klinsmann’s got a mess on his hands, and the Ticos have the goods to exploit that mess the same way Colombia did: strong defense and quality attackers who will punish mistakes.

Lineup Prediction:

I have a sneaking suspicion Klinsmann might capitulate entirely and roll out a 4-4-2 almost identical to the one that so categorically sucked in the Gold Cup and last year’s CONCACAF playoff against Mexico, but it’s hard to tell how he plays this one. That would be a pretty direct admission that he had been playing Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes out of position, which is impossible in his book. So, here goes nothing:Sadly, I think Bobby Wood gets punished for not playing very well on the wing (who could’ve seen that coming). Jermaine Jones gets put in the sin bin for questioning the tactical approach against Los Cafeteros and Kyle Beckerman comes back again at D-Mid. I really do think Darlington Nagbe will start this game. I don’t know for certain whether that will be on the field, but I think it’s time. Clint Dempsey can do no wrong for Klinsmann, and he’s determined to make him the target forward that Dempsey will never be, so he leads the attack again, while Bedoya slots back out to the right wing after a bit of an anonymous outing against Colombia.Will it work? Meh. Maybe. As a bonus, here’s the lineup I would prefer to roll out against the Ticos.Free Bobby Wood. Let the man play where he scored 17 goals for this season. Rest Dempsey and let him wreak havoc as a sub after a physical outing on Friday. Nagbe and Jones patrol the middle as an 8/10 hybrid and pure 8, respectively, with Bradley hanging behind them. Finally, get Fabian Johnson into the attack. It’s one thing to try to shoehorn all of your best players into the same lineup, and another to not have any left backs. But if this team can’t put the ball in the back of the net anyway, keeping a clean sheet won’t even matter. The U.S. aren’t exactly at win-or-go-home mode yet, but it’s close enough at this point that I’m throwing caution to the wind. Let your best attacker attack, and see hat happens.

 

USA out to avoid repeating history in ‘must-win situation’ vs. Costa Rica

It was a tough start for U.S. men’s national team as it fell to Colombia 2-0 in the opening match of Copa America in Santa Clara, California.

BY BRIAN STRAUSTwitter EmailPosted: Sun Jun. 5, 2016

CHICAGO — In its 101-year history, the U.S. national team has played in 28 major tournaments that began with a round-robin group stage. In 27 of those 28, the first match proved prophetic.Twenty times the Americans won or tied the opener of a World Cup, Confederations Cup, Copa América or Gold Cup and 20 times, they qualified for the knockout rounds. The U.S. lost its first game on the other eight occasions. Seven times it failed to advance. The outlier came seven years ago, when coach Bob Bradley’s squad sensationally rebounded from two heavy defeats to rout Egypt and move on to the Confederations Cup semis. That goal differential miracle required in South Africa probably won’t come around again.Maybe it’s about the momentum it generates or stalls. Perhaps it’s simply the first indication of whether a team is good enough to escape the group.Either way, tournament openers typically set the stage. And if the commentary and collective angst that followed Friday’s 2-0 loss to Colombia is any indication, the curtain already is coming down on the Americans’ participation in thisCopa América Centenario.The U.S. wasn’t very threatening when it had the ball at Levi’s Stadium, made the sort of mistakes in its own end that good teams punish, and never really looked like a squad capable of challenging the Copa favorites. Whether one prefers to focus on a trend lasting two days or another lasting a century, the prospects don’t seem promising.PODCAST: What happened to the USA vs. Colombia?

On the inside, however, this is a team convinced that the weight of history—or that of Friday’s loss—has little impact on its future. From coach Jurgen Klinsmann on down, the national team seems to believe it still controls its fate and that the door to the quarterfinals remains wide open.“Everybody is a little bit too much our critic,” defender John Brooks told reporters on Sunday morning here in Chicago, where the Americans are preparing for Tuesday’s Group A match against Costa Rica. “I think the game that we saw [against Colombia] and that we played was O.K. We got caught on two set pieces. It’s little bit bad but we’re still in the [tournament]. Costa Rica and Paraguay tied, so everything is open for us.”Indeed, Saturday’s scoreless draw between Costa Rica and Paraguayleft the U.S. just one point out of second place. Victories on Tuesday and next Saturday in Philadelphia—games the Americans should be expected to win on home soil—will send them through. “I think we played our toughest opponent that we’re going to face,” midfielder Darlington Nagbe said Sunday. “The next two games are a good opportunity to go there and take points from that and control what we can do.”On Friday in Santa Clara, California, Klinsmann preferred to focus on the run of play against Colombia—the No. 3 team in the world—rather than the final score. He argued that the eighth-minute goal Los Cafeteros scored off a corner kick forced the U.S. to play to the strengths of an opponent that’s at its best when staying compact and counterattacking. The Americans won the possession battle but managed to put only two shots on target.“I mean, we were totally even. We didn’t give them anything,” the manager said. “It’s really important for our players to see that they’re absolutely beatable, that they come out of this game and say, ‘O.K., you know what? Give the three points to them. But it’s absolutely no problem going forward to say we play Costa Rica to get three points and we play Paraguay to get three points and then we’re in the quarterfinals.’ The message overall is positive to the players even though if we’re obviously disappointed we didn’t get any points.”STRAUS: Guzan details painful season on, off field at Aston Villa  The U.S. faced graver must-win circumstances in March, when a loss to Guatemala could have derailed qualification for the 2018 World Cup.Klinsmann’s team responded with a comprehensive 4-0 win.

“Everybody’s ready, ready for [Tuesday’s] game,” said Clint Dempsey, who notched the game-winner that night in Columbus. “It’s a must-win situation. Our backs are against the wall. We’ve been there before.”Dempsey’s role is one of the key tactical questions Klinsmann faces. The veteran forward spent too much time on Friday retreating into midfield to find the ball, and neither Gyasi Zardes nor Bobby Wood was able to stretch Colombia with runs behind the defense. Proactive possession became even tougher to maintain as the threat of Colombia’s timely pressure and counterattack pulled the U.S. midfield apart. Jermaine Jones said he spent so much time watching Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado that he was unable to contribute much going forward. Captain Michael Bradley had difficulty establishing his own rhythm and connecting with U.S. teammates, committing several troubling turnovers. Klinsmann could stick with the 4-3-3, or he could shift to a 4-4-2 that gives Dempsey more support up front. Consequently, Jones would play either as an attacking midfielder behind the forwards (the days of the two-man pivot appear to be over) or closer to the touchline. The latter would open up the No. 10 role for Nagbe. It’s one that many would like to see him play. But it also would force Jones into a wider spot, giving him less space with which to work.  Klinsmann likes having options and hasn’t been afraid to make changes. But he said Friday that alignment is less important than approach.“I think it plays no role at all. You keep a 4-3-3 or you go like the last 20 minutes [against Colombia] into a 4-4-2,” he said. “The key is to find ways to play through a very compact and very well organized Colombian side. We have to find ways there to find the forwards up front, to find spots to go through. It doesn’t really matter what system you play there. We have to find those opportunities against Costa Rica and finish them off.”Figure out a way to do that and avoid big mistakes in the back (Geoff Cameron lost his mark on the opening goal and DeAndre Yedlin committed a handball that resulted in a Colombian penalty kick), and Costa Rica can be beaten. Friday’s performance may leave fans thinking that those are big asks of a U.S. team that lacks forward momentum. But that hasn’t seemed to damage confidence here in Chicago. Costa Rica isn’t Colombia, and lessons were learned in Santa Clara. “It’s not a mentality question,” Brooks said. “We also showed a good mentality against Colombia and that mentality we have to bring on the field also against Costa Rica and Paraguay.”Dempsey understood the doubts and argued the U.S. is capable of erasing them at Soldier Field.“It’s not so much what you say. It’s what you do,” he said. “We got to go out and we’ve got to motivate the crowd. We’ve got to work hard and we’ve got to inspire them and get them on our side. We appreciate the fans’ support. It’s always awesome to be in a stadium and have a pro-American crowd. But at the same time, actions speak louder than words, and we’ve got to go out there and show what we can do.”

Darlington Nagbe start for United States could pay off vs. Costa Rica

Doug Mcintyer – ESPN FC – CHICAGO — With Tuesday’s match against Costa Rica being seen as a must-win for the U.S., it’s fair to wonder how different national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s lineup will look compared to the one that started the 2-0 loss to Colombia in Friday’s Copa America opener.U.S. die-hards have been clamoring for the inclusion of national team newbies Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic since before the tournament started, as both made an impact off the bench in the Americans’ final two pre-Copa tune-ups. Some fans — and a few pundits — have even suggested that Clint Dempsey, who had the home team’s three best chances againstLos Cafeteros, should be one of the players to make way.Changes are certainly possible. Klinsmann said weeks ago that given the short turnaround between group stage games, he’d probably need to switch up his starting XI to ensure players stay fresh.But based on his postgame comments Friday, when Klinsmann insisted he was “very pleased with the performance” against Colombia and “Clint was a warrior out there,” it’s hard to see the coach benching his most reliable goal-scorer in a game that his team, even if it doesn’t win, absolutely cannot lose.”I’m fine,” Dempsey, who was sporting a black eye after playing 90 grueling minutes in 80-plus degree temperatures in the opener, told reporters before the Americans trained Sunday. “I’m good.”Still, the smart money is on Klinsmann making at least one or two tweaks. For a U.S. team that struggled mightily to create chances last week — partly as a product of trailing the world’s No. 3-ranked team for almost the entire match, to be sure — inserting the slick-passing Nagbe into an attacking role would make a lot of sense.The Portland Timbers midfielder has impressed in his eight international appearances, all of them as a substitute. He’s prepared to play from the beginning against the Ticos if called upon.”I’m just staying patient because I think the team is playing well,” said Nagbe, who scored a late winner against Ecuador in the Americans’ penultimate tune-up. “If it’s off the bench, I’m fine with that. I’m just waiting for opportunities.”Still, it was interesting to hear his response when asked what the Americans could do better against the Costa Ricans: “As a whole, maybe just keeping the ball a little bit more, having more possession.”Those are precisely the qualities Nagbe offers. Now that he has some experience under his belt — and his teammates are familiar with how he plays — seeing what he can do from the start could pay off handsomely for the hosts.”I think chemistry is huge when it comes to the national team because you’re not together all the time,” he said. “It’s getting there.”But who would come out of the lineup to make room? Nagbe replaced Jermaine Jones against Colombia, and Alejandro Bedoya is the most-like-for-like player, but young forwards Gyasi Zardes and Bobby Wood are more likely candidates to sit. Could Dempsey be one too? The wondering will continue for another couple of days.

 

Brooks finally arrives  (What?  What game were you watching?  He was beat around and over like 3 times??? Seriously???  )

The John Brooks that American fans have been waiting to emerge as a dominant force since the 6-foot-4 central defender headed home that unforgettable winner against Ghana at the 2014 World Cup is finally here. Nobody doubted the 23-year-old’s talent; the German-American center back has been a stalwart in the Bundesliga for his hometown Hertha Berlin for much of the past three seasons. But for much of the past two years, he struggled to replicate those club displays with the U.S. — until this summer.What changed? Part of his evolution with the national team is rooted in failure. Brooks struggled in his first go-around as a full-time U.S. starter, when the Americans finished a disappointing fourth at the 2015 Gold Cup. But to hear Brooks tell it, that tournament, which was hosted by the U.S. and played in scorching July temperatures, helped prepare him for this year’s Copa America.”I think I finally found my spot a little here on this team,” Brooks said Tuesday. “When you come every time from Europe, it’s a little bit different here.”The Gold Cup was a good experience,” he added. “You can’t really compare, but it still was a good preparation for this Copa America, so I know what to expect. I learned a lot.”Brooks was perhaps the best American player against Colombia, but he thought his teammates did just fine too.”Everybody is a little too much of a critic. I think we played OK,” he said. “We’re still in the [competition]. Costa Rica and Paraguay tied, so everything is open for us.”

 What does he expect from the Ticos?

“The Colombia game was a tough game with a lot of physical battles,” he said. “I think Costa Rica is coming with the same.”Playing in Chicago is special for Brooks. His father’s family is from the area; some of them will be at Tuesday’s game. Brooks has a tattoo of the Windy City on his right elbow, with one of Berlin on his left.”It’s my first time here since I was 3 years old or something like that,” he said. “It’s nice to be back here again.”

 — The U.S. squad was en route to Chicago on Saturday and therefore wasn’t able to watch Costa Rica’s scoreless tie with the Paraguayans. The Ticos will be without defender Kendall Waston for the match after the Vancouver Whitecaps center back — a finalist for MLS defender of the year in 2015 — picked up a late red card in Saturday’s match. Yet Dempsey, who has battled Waston often as a member of the Seattle Sounders, doesn’t think that’s a huge edge for the hosts. “I’m sure they have other guys who can step in,” he said.

— One advantage the Americans have is rest — about 18 extra hours of it. “An extra day of rest is always good,” Brooks said. “We need it too. But still it’s going to be a tough game.”

— Whether or not Nagbe makes his first international start on Tuesday, he is thoroughly enjoying his maiden tournament experience. “You dream of these opportunities and these games,” he said. “To be on the bench against Colombia and seeing the atmosphere, the national anthems and the whole thing, it was great.”He also believes the U.S. can advance.”I think we played our toughest opponent that we’re going to face,” he said of the group stage. “The next two games are good opportunity for us to take points and control what we can.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 

Is it time to reduce Clint Dempsey’s national team role?

By Rob Usry  @RobUsry on Jun 6, 2016, 7:30a 13 

It’s time to have a very difficult conversation.Clint Dempsey has been a staple with the United States men’s national team since 2004. Twelve years and 125 caps into his international team career and the country’s second all-time leading goal scorer is beginning to show signs of slowing down.He’s not exactly at the stage where he’s painfully hanging on too long like some aging players do. Dempsey is still a more than useful player, but the fact remains his prime years are behind him.The 33-year-old’s position within the team has always — And I mean ALWAYS — been a hot topic of discussion. Is he a striker? Is he a winger? Is he an attacking midfielder? The answer to all of those questions: No.You can’t put a positional label on Clint Dempsey. If you have to pinpoint one label to describe him with, it would have to simply be “Soccer Player.” He doesn’t fit into any structured formation. If you try to come up with one, you’re just fooling yourself. Managers that have Dempsey in their team gameplan around him, they don’t insert he.  For many years, when he was at the top of his game and banging in goals left, right, and center that was perfectly acceptable. But what happens when that productivity and dynamic threat starts to diminish? As hard as it is to admit, you’re left with a player who is in the way from a tactical standpoint.During the USA’s opening match loss to Colombia in the Copa America Centenario, Dempsey had an average match. Despite having a header off of a corner kick saved off the line, a left-footed strike that went just inches wide and a free kick that was just saved, he wasn’t very dangerous in front of goal. Other than a handful of moments, he seemed lost within Klinsmann’s lineup. Having to play as the team’s target striker is just another in the long line of roles that he doesn’t fit in.The question now becomes, do you change the formation and strategy once again to try and accommodate a player who is on the decline? Or is it time to make the difficult decision to sit him on the bench and save him for late match situations?Most sentimental USMNT supporters, who don’t want to accept that Dempsey’s coming to the end of his national team career, will be begging for the former. A switch to a two-striker formation would likely have to happen in that scenario. A strategy that Klinsmann has used plenty with Dempsey and a plethora of partners with varying results.When Dempsey isn’t forced to play as a target striker he has a bad habit of drifting way too deep into the midfield to collect possession and make things happen. This, once again, ruins the formation and the gameplan as it leaves his strike partner on an island.Dempsey has been a conundrum for the USMNT his whole career. Scoring 49 goals during his time proves that something must’ve worked in the past. That something was simply throwing him out on the field and letting him do his thing. As Bruce Arena famously said about him, “He tries s***.” He’s made a career off of that mindset and play style.Unfortunately, Father Time leaves no man behind and Dempsey clearly isn’t the player he used to be. He still has some goals in him, but is it worth consistently pigeonholing him into the lineup to hope they come?It’s likely that Klinsmann will continue with the horse that got him here. But the idea of a Clint Dempsey-less USMNT starting lineup doesn’t seem so crazy anymore. It’s time for the possibility to be seriously considered.

USA vs. Colombia, Copa America 2016: Stock up, stock down

By Adnan Ilyas  @Adnan7631 on Jun 5, 2016, 6:30a 18 

 TWEET  SHARE (7) PIN Last night’s performance was tough to watch. The United States came out to start the Copa American Centenario and fell flat on their face. The U.S. was dull on attack and struggled to keep up with Colombia’s forwards. But Colombia wasn’t particularly sharp on the night either. No, what really doomed the USMNT was the team’s insistence to shoot themselves in the foot. The team’s offense was nowhere to be seen. The midfield was disjointed. And the defense was constantly exposed. While most of the players saw their stock go down, there were a few moments that weren’t so bad. Let’s start with who saw their stock go up.

Stock Up

John Brooks and Geoff Cameron

Yes, Cameron lost his marker on the opening goal. However, aside from that moment, the center back pairing did a decent job. In spite of the players in front of them frequently making unforced errors and turnovers in bad places, John Brooks was good all night, smothering fires in the middle and helping out the overwhelmed Fabian Johnson. Cameron took initiative upon himself and stepped up into midfield on several occasions. On the ball, he was mostly calm and collected. This pairing looks to have a good future.

Darlington Nagbe

Nagbe’s stock went up mostly because Jones and Bedoya started instead of him. Jones and Bedoya were completely disjointed and really poor on the ball. By not starting, Nagbe ends up looking like a whole lot better of an option then he did going into the match.

Stock Down

Michael Bradley

On Thursday, I said the following. “Bradley isn’t going to be losing the ball if a single attacking mid put him under a little pressure. That would be an exceptionally careless move.” Thank you, Michael. I will have you know, crow is not particularly nice to eat. I find it a bit gamey and deeply unsatisfying.

Bradley was bad. Really, really bad. His passes slowed the tempo down and made the American team listless in possession. When he tried to create opportunities through long balls, he over hit his passes. He repeatedly was dispossessed under the barest amount of pressure. Bradley couldn’t connect the attack to the midfield. That meant that the defense was repeatedly under pressure, even though the US had more possession. Bradley wasn’t complete trash. His corners were well placed and threatening. His positioning while on defense was decent and he had a number of good interceptions. However, Bradley needs to do a lot better moving forward. He is the linchpin of this US side and the team is dependent on him.

DeAndre Yedlin

DeAndre Yedlin did not have the best game. He failed to push up into attack. On defense, he was repeatedly exposed by the Colombian attack. Zardes left a better note on that right side when it came to defense. And then, of course, the penalty. Yedlin is a starter at right back in the best league in the world. He has no business turning away from a cross. That is not the kind of pedigree that we expect from players playing at the highest level. In a sense, that penalty represents Yedlin’s whole performance. He couldn’t keep up with Colombia’s attack down the right and was all too often late on the play. We thought the USMNT had figured out what to do at right back. Yedlin needs to step up and show the same kind of form he had at Sunderland.

Fabian Johnson

Fabian Johnson was one of the best players on a Borussia Mönchengladbach that played in the Champion’s League this season. He is one of the most technically gifted and creative players on the USMNT. And the only thing I remember him doing in Colombia’s half of the field was drilling a free kick into the wall. On defense, he was really bad. He was regularly torn up by one of Cuadrado or Arias. He regularly required John Brooks or Jermaine Jones to step in and help him out against a single player. And that hurt the team, especially in midfield. Take this quote from Jermaine Jones.”Today was more focused on Colombia and on the left side to help Fabi, so we lost one guy in midfield. So it was tougher to play, yeah.”If the central midfielders are doing double duty helping out the fullbacks, the team’s shape falls apart. And we saw that yesterday. The USMNT needs the fullbacks to be able to handle their own on defense.

Everybody else on that starting line up

Jermaine Jones and Alejandro Bedoya were missing in attack. Bedoya’s shot may have reached Pluto by now. Bobby Wood and Gyasi Zardes may as well not have been on the field. Dempsey complicated matters by dropping into the midfield instead of putting pressure on the center backs. While Deuce functioned as a clear focus for the team’s attack, there are questions of whether or not his inclusion makes the team too one-dimensional. And then, there’s Klinsmann. This was literally the first time we’ve seen this line up start. The defense had never played a whole match together. The midfield was disjointed. No player played at the same level as with his club. And all that’s on Klinsmann. His constant tinkering and reluctance to play players in their proper positions (Dempsey is not a center forward. Bobby Wood is. Play them where they go) has led to a performance that lacked chemistry. The whole team needs to do better going forward.

Midfielders Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones let U.S. down vs. Colombia

FC’s Brian McBride details Colombia’s superior difference-makers and how the U.S. needs to drastically improve.

In a game that turned on an early goal, thanks to poor set-piece defending, the United States fell to Colombia 2-0 in the opening game of the Copa America Centenario. The Americans played from behind all match and were forced to chase the game with a makeshift forward line that failed to create many chances.By the time Jurgen Klinsmann’s substitutions entered and helped turn the tide back the Americans’ way, it was too late.

The player grades reflect the way the game played out: a couple disastrous errors that the U.S. could not overcome combined with an ineffective night from players across the midfield and forward lines.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating): Shane adds his 2 cents in red – italics below –

 

GK Brad Guzan, 5 — Guzan was not at fault for either of the Colombian goals. He dashed off his line recklessly a handful of times, to varying effect. He looked shaky on a long shot in the second half.

 

5 -Bad Distribution  – light years behind Timmy in that area

 

DF Fabian Johnson, 4.5 — He held his own against Juan Cuadrado for the first half. Johnson was effectively eliminated as an attacking element by the lack of cohesion in midfield and a need to stay wary of the counter from Colombia.

 

DF John Brooks, 6 — Perhaps the best American on the field, minus a few errors, Brooks held firm against Carlos Bacca and provided good coverage in the air when Colombia attacked with crosses.

 

5 – Minus a few errors – Cameron covered his but no fewer than 5 times in the 1st half alone – he did get stronger as the day went on. 

 

DF Geoff Cameron, 5 — Cameron spent most of the night handling Colombia’s attackers and providing help to fellow defenders. Unfortunately, he lost Cristian Zapata on Colombia’s opener.

 

7 Cameron was the best field player for the USA in the first half – other than the bad mark on the goal.  He covered for Brooks multiple times.

 

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 3.5 — Yedlin made the egregious mistake of leaving his hand up on the penalty that put the game out of reach for the U.S. Beyond that bad moment, he put in a good defensive shift. He did not impact the game going forward.

 

5?  What game were you watching – yes on hand ball but otherwise – he played solid defense and make several runs up the side with decent service into the box.  3.5  you are drunk – a 5 or 5.5 at least. 

 

MF Michael Bradley, 4 (2.5)– Bradley was surprisingly bad with his passing and made poor decisions on multiple occasions. He lost in a midfield trio outnumbered and pressed by the Colombians. The set piece service was adequate but not great.

 

2.5 – This was the worse game Bradley has played in a US Uniform.  Bad service to boot – horrible !!

 

MF Jermaine Jones, 4 — Jones looked off the pace most of the night. He missed on several passes and was too easily dragged into ineffective positions. He turned the ball over on numerous occasions.

 

Really – he was a 2.5 at best – old guy turned the ball over didn’t hustle, couldn’t pass?  Off the bench !! 

 

MF Alejandro Bedoya, 4.5 — He finally made an attacking contribution late on with the Americans chasing the game. Otherwise, Bedoya was limited in his influence. He failed, along with his midfield mates, to connect with the forward line.

 

FW Bobby Wood, 4.5 — Wood was far from effective pushed out wide, where his talents are less in play. He battled physically all day but was unable to provide much danger as part of the forward line.

 

4.5 Yes – he’s a Center Forward – put him up top with Dempsey underneath!  

 

FW Clint Dempsey, 3.5 — Although involved in the few threatening moments the Americans had, Dempsey too often slowed down the U.S. attack. He isolated up top as a lone forward, which left his team with no backline pressure when he dropped into midfield.

 

NO – 4.5 he was the only dangerous player on the field for the US – he’s not a Target forward – he needs to be underneath free to roam and create magic.  

 

FW Gyasi Zardes, 3 — Zardes was marginalized at right forward in the 4-3-3. He was not equipped to provide a wide threat, and his questionable first touch led to a number of turnovers. He made good contributions defensively.

Substitutes:

 

FW Christian Pulisic, 5 — Pulisic showed his eagerness to make things happen but was limited to just a few moments of influence over the course of 25 minutes.

 

MF Darlington Nagbe, 5.5 — Nagbe added a new wrinkle to the American attack with his ability to dribble at defenders, though it came too late to make any difference to the outcome.

 

6 – this guy has to start a game for the US !!

 

MF Graham Zusi, NR — Zusi made no impact in a late cameo appearance.

Jason Davis is a writer from Virginia covering American soccer. He also hosts a daily soccer podcast that covers the beautiful game.

 

 

USA vs. Colombia in Copa America 2016 was second most viewed USMNT match in Fox Sports history

By Brendan Joseph  @brendan_joe on Jun 4, 2016, 2:00p 5 

A lot of people watched the first match.

The United States men’s national team lost the first match of the Copa America to Colombia, 2-0.   How many people watched? Take it away, Steven Goff of the Washington Post:

Steven Goff 

@SoccerInsider

FS1 drew 1.536m viewers for #CopaAmericaCentenario opener, 2nd in network history behind CONCACAF Cup last fall #usmnt

2:52 PM – 4 Jun 2016

Is that for all soccer matches or….

 

… Second for a U.S. men’s match, that is

Okay, so very high ratings, but not historic. Still, the viewer count should satisfy any television network executives who still worry about showing soccer during prime time.And that number, as pointed out by Jonathan Tannenwald, doesn’t include Univision’s ratings. To put it pessimistically, a lot of people watched the United States lose last night.In my amateur opinion, stellar ratings can most likely be attributed to three things. First, it’s the U.S. men’s national team which always brings good ratings. Second, the Copa America is a massive tournament. Third, FOX has been doing heavy promotion. If you’ve turned on a television in the last month, you have some vague knowledge of the Copa America’s existence.As a person who enjoys soccer on television, I hope the high ratings continue for the rest of the tournament. High ratings means more advertising dollars. More advertising dollars means more soccer on television. More soccer on television means I have an excuse to stay inside and avoid human interaction.

USA vs. Colombia, Copa America 2016: What We Learned

By Roderick MacNeil  @rodmacneil on Jun 4, 2016, 6:30a 90 

On Friday night the United States men’s national team opened Copa America Group A play with a disappointing, yet perhaps unsurprising, 2-0 loss vs. group favorites Colombia. Two very winnable games remain, but the margin for error has disappeared. Here’s what we learned:

The U.S. shouldn’t be overly impressed with winning the possession battle

It looks good on the stat sheet that the United States held 53% of the possession vs. Colombia. But the meaningfulness of that number is questionable. Colombia likes to play this way, and has used Friday night’s formula to great success in 2018 World Cup Qualifying thus far. In each of its three WCQ wins, Los Cafeteros found an early goal and were content to then play without the ball and counterattack. Colombia earned less than 40% of the possession in March WCQ wins against both Bolivia and Ecuador. In each case, a goal in the first 15 minutes set the tone. Friday night’s game followed a very similar script.This is not to say holding possession should be wholly dismissed. It is encouraging to see the U.S. hold the ball against a quality opponent, because that’s ultimately how Klinsmann wants his team to play (so he says). But after going ahead in the 8th minute, Colombia was content to sit back, clog up the middle, and challenge the Americans to create quality chances. Without any true creators on the field and no space to operate, that just wasn’t going to happen.

Michael Bradley must be much better

If Michael Bradley has a poor tournament, the United States will not advance from Group A. It really is that simple. Bradley’s 78% passing efficiency wasn’t remotely good enough, and was a major reason why the U.S. midfield was so ineffective. There were too many unforced errors, possessions given away, and multiple passes to nowhere… or in some cases, directly to the foot of an opponent.As good as Bradley looked in the last couple of pre-Copa friendlies, he was just as poor vs. Colombia. The U.S. needs better from its captain. Changes may be made to the Starting XI for Tuesday’s critical clash vs. Costa Rica, but Bradley will remain a constant. If we see another such performance in Chicago, this tournament will be over for the U.S. in a flash.

Fortune favors the bold, as they say

Jürgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup was less cynical than many feared, but still wasn’t bold enough. Yes, Klinsmann could have gone super-cynical and opted to start Kyle Beckerman at the expense of an attacking player like Bobby Wood. We can be relieved he didn’t go that far. Unfortunately, he also didn’t go far enough.Knowing Colombia’s counterattacking tendencies, the U.S. needed players with answers in the final third. Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic had minimal opportunity to impact the game over the last 25 minutes. By that time, Colombia was well settled into its defensive shell and content to run out the clock. What could the Nagbe/Pulisic duo have done playing on the front foot from the opening kickoff? It sure couldn’t have been less productive than what we saw.Klinsmann didn’t expect to beat Colombia. By playing it safe with his lineup choices, he got the result he both expected *and* deserved.

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