6/3/16 USA COPA America vs Columbia Fri/tonite 9:30 pm FS1, Europa Cup Starts 6/10, Real Madrid Wins Classic

The USA was impressive in its final tune-up before the Copa America starts this Friday night, with the US facing Columbia at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.  So maybe its false hope after 2 friendly wins but somehow I feel a little better about the COPA on this the morning of the 1st game. I like the new set up and formation – the German (Read Juergan Klinsmann) is finally playing most of  the players in their correct positions. I am anxious to see if the new back 4 can grow and hold steady with a fully confident Yedlin on the right, a recovering but starting in the EPL center in Geoff Cameron, a young but improving Brooks in the middle (or Beasler) and an experienced Johnson on the left.  I know Johnson is out of position – but we have tons of mids and no left back so I am ok with playing a player who was one of the best left backs in the WC last summer there.  I love the new midfield with Bradley in his proper #6 position, and Jones and Bedoya (playing in the middle finally- like he does for Nantes in France).   With 3 guys up front – the combo of Dempsey in the middle with Woods I think on the left with any of # of guys on the right (Zardes, Pulisic, Zuzi) I think makes for a potential lethal combo up front.  I love Nagbe and Pulisic coming off the bench for instance offense at some point. We’ll see if Nagbe can wrestle away a starting spot from Jones as attacking mid?  Guzan in the net is fine.  I do like the make-up of this team.  Now hugely important the US gets out with a Tie or no worse than a 1-0 loss to Columbia tonite – before bouncing back for a must win in ChicagoTues night (Shane has 2 extra tix call me)  vs a very solid Costa Rica side.   See the entire COPA AMERICA TV schedule below as games will be on Fox, Fox Sports 1, and Fox Sports 2 each evening next week and all weekend long all thru June (also look for the 1 hour COPA show late night every night on FS1.  The SUMMER OF SOCCER Continues – with the Europa Cup which starts next Friday afternoon and continues all of June – during the mornings and afternoons on ESPN and ESPN2 – I will have a full  breakdown on that next week.  Meanwhile – enjoy the start of the COPA America.

Huge congrats to los Blancos Real Madrid as they hoist their 11th European Championship with a win in PKs in the 1-1 thriller with Atletico.  I thought the red and whites were going to pull it off – and honestly was rooting for the underdog group but Bale and Renaldo and group came thru like the champions they are again.  Maybe money can buy everything.  The Indy 11 make a play again for 1st in the NASL when they go on the road to Miami Sat Night, 8 pm – that game will be on TV 8 in Indy and ESPN3 online.  Also good  luck to all those teams competing in State, President’s and Challenge Cup this weekend in Columbus. And don’t forget tryouts for club soccer start with Academy on Tues, and all other ages. 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

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

ALL GAMES ON TV

Fri, June 3  COPA AMERICA 100 STARTS

9:30 pm Fox Sports1 USA vs Columbia

Sat, June 4

12 noon ESPN3            Spain vs Bosnia

5 pm Fox                          COPA Costa Rica vs Paraguay

7:30 pm FS2                   COPA Haita vs Peru

8 pm  TV 8, ESPN3      Indy 11 @ Miami

10 pm FS 1                      COPA Brazil vs Ecuador

Sun, June 5 

12 noon ESPN3            Spain vs Bosnia

12:30 pm ESPN2         US Ladies vs Japan

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Italy vs Scotland

5 pm Fox                          COPA – Jamaica vs Venezuela

7 pm Fox Sports 1      COPA- Mexico vs Uruguay

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 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)

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. FX

Copa 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

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

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

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

USA

I still have 2 Tickets at Cost to the USA vs Costa Rica Game in Chicago Tues Night 7 pm – American Outlaw Tailgating

American Outlaw Video – 9 minutes

US Better chance than you think in COPA- Matt Doyle Armchair Analyst MLSoccer

http://www.foxcopabracket.com/predictions/list

US and Klinsy under pressure ESPN FC

Klinsy thinks US Can beat Columbia

Analyst: Tactical preview of USA-Colombia

Analyst: Picking my starting XI for the US

Analyst: Bradley’s shift is reason for hope

US Highlights from 4-0 win over Bolivia

Unite Together – March of the American Outlaws!

US has questions to Answer at Copa 5 things to Watch – McIntyre ESPNFC

US Youngsters Wood, Nagbe, Pulisic make case for 1st team time for US

Pay Disputes to Glory – US Copa 1995 – Read the story on ESPN FC

American raised Giuseeppe Rossi Regrets choosing Italy of US – agent says –  (yeah tough crap- Karma is a bitch to the Turncoat!!)

COPA America 100 in USA  

Copa America – Fox COPA BRACKET PIX –

Some Copa predictions

Fan’s Guide to the Copa America – ESPN FC

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

What to Watch for Euros

Guide to Euro’s 2016

Euro’s full squad list

24 Teams in 24 Days – a Complete Look ESPN FC

MLS

Pirlo needs to step up for NYCFC | Analyst’s Den

Analyst: Do NYCFC have a Pirlo problem?

INDY 11

Indy 11 faces Miami on Road

Indy 11 beat Louisville 2-1 to advance to face Chicago in US Open Cup

Indy 11 Forward Braun makes Team of Week again

Indy 11 tie Jacksonville 1-1 on road to move into 2nd place

U.S. roundtable: Is Jurgen Klinsmann under pressure? Is the squad right?

The Copa America kicks off on Friday as hosts U.S. play Colombia in Santa Clara, California. Ahead of the festivities, we asked ESPN FC’s USMNT writers and experts to answer some burning questions about the U.S. national team, Copa aspirations and how results might reflect upon Jurgen Klinsmann.

1. Is Jurgen Klinsmann realistic to expect the U.S. to reach the semifinals?

Jeff Carlisle: The semis seem a round too far in my opinion. Yes, the U.S. looks to be on the upswing thanks to the emergence of players like Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe and Christian Pulisic. The midfield looks have better balance that its had in some time, especially with Michael Bradley now occupying the No. 6 spot. But if form holds, the U.S. will likely face Brazil in the quarterfinals, an opponent still very much a cut above in all facets.

Doug McIntyre: Klinsmann said the final four is the goal, which is not the same as saying it’s expected. But it’s possible. The U.S. has reached a Copa semi before, in 1995. And unlike at a World Cup, they only need one knockout win to get there. The key for me is the first round. If the Americans can win Group A, they’ll probably avoid Brazil in the quarterfinal. That would increase their odds significantly.

Jason Davis: I’m not sure if it matters whether Klinsmann’s target for his team is “realistic” or not or even that the head coach himself actually holds that expectation. Considering that the event is on American soil and Klinsmann has talked about an achieving mentality, the semifinals of a 16-team tournament is the lowest bar that should be set. It means progressing from the group and winning one knockout round match; based on their recent play, that seems like a very unlikely turn of events but Klinsmann is right to project confidence with his statements.

Graham Parker: It’s realistic to expect the host nation in a regional competition to get out of the group. It ought to be realistic to expect that one of the top two teams in its half of that region would aim for a semifinal place but given the inconsistent form of the U.S. since the World Cup, let’s call it a realistic aspiration.

Noah Davis: It feels like a lofty goal, mostly because the U.S. likely needs to win its group to avoid Brazil in the quarterfinals, and I’m not sure the team can finish ahead of Colombia. But I like the ambition and I like that Klinsmann is very publicly stating a target. Should the Americans fall short of the semifinals, it will be interesting to see how Klinsmann handles the failure.

2. Which players have the most to prove this summer, and why?

Carlisle: I think John Brooks has the most to prove out of anyone on the roster. His physical gifts aren’t in question, though he isn’t as dominant in the air for someone who is 6-foot-4. But his biggest problem has been his tendency to lose concentration in critical moments. Brooks has been given plenty of chances by Klinsmann and not always delivered. If the U.S. is to progress deep into the tournament, he must step up in a big way.

McIntyre: With Jozy Altidore hamstrung yet again, Wood has to demonstrate that he’s ready to lead the forward line. Brooks has to prove that he can stay healthy and be the dominant center-back for the national team that he is for Hertha Berlin. Brad Guzan has to show he’s worthy of the starting keeper job Klinsmann gave him over Tim Howard. Finally, Clint Dempsey must demonstrate he can still produce at the highest level.

  1. Davis:Wood jumps immediately to mind, since he’ll be stepping into a starting role due to Altidore’s absence. We’ve seen flashes of his talent but he’s never been asked to be a consistent part of the U.S. attack.DeAndre Yedlin also has something to prove, namely that the defensive strides he made in England will carry over to meaningful games for the U.S. so the right-back spot can become a position of strength.

 

Parker: Guzan has had the kind of year with Aston Villa that might prompt him to want to remind everybody why he’s an international goalkeeper. But it’s also time to see if Gyasi Zardes can repay Klinsmann’s extended faith in him, and perhaps for Nagbe to suggest he can be more than a mercurial supersub. Also, let’s see how much Wood can cement his place.

  1. Davis:Brooks must prove he’s the center-back of the next 10 years (until Cameron Carter-Vickers comes calling). Nagbe must show he deserves a starting spot. Wood can become a first-choice forward with a strong showing at the Copa America. Dempsey can prove that there is enough gas in the tank to get him to Russia. Finally,Pulisic could send U.S. supporters into the stratosphere if he’s the truth — how much fun would that be?

 3. Did Klinsmann pick the right squad? What changes would you have made if you were coach?

Carlisle: I think one area where his choices could be questioned is full-back, and even that is more about his reserves at those spots. Michael Orozco is versatile but barely saw the field for Tijuana this season. Meanwhile, you had a guy like Eric Lichaj, who has been a mainstay for Nottingham Forest yet can’t seem to get much attention (though he did make the 40-man preliminary roster).As for the clamor surrounding Jordan Morris, he’s a player destined for the center of the field, not the wing, and with the U.S. now operating out of a 4-3-3, I question how much playing time he would have gotten at the Copa. He’s barely a dozen games into his pro career. Better for him to remain with his club and continue to develop.

McIntyre: I might have taken Morris because I think his power and speed could have been useful off the bench. I would probably have taken Omar Gonzalez over Orozco. And Tim Ream or Lichaj would have been my injury replacement for Timmy Chandler. I don’t think Edgar Castillo, who took Chandler’s spot, is able to defend consistently against top international teams.

  1. Davis:Any issues I have with Klinsmann’s squad are relatively small, though the choice of Chris Wondolowski over Morris is a strange one. Wondolowski is an excellent goalscorer in MLS and has buckets of experience that Morris lacks but at a one-off tournament and a roster already featuring a number of younger players, choosing the San Jose forward over a player Klinsmann identified out of college makes little sense.The decision to leave Gonzalez out is a head-scratcher as well; despite the center-back’s move to Mexico and his success with Pachuca, Klinsmann chose to bring the out-of-form Orozco. More than the impact on the roster, the Gonzalez omission is curious due to the message it sends.Parker:If anything, going through the 23-man squad you must try and be a little more understanding about Klinsmann’s endless tinkering given the current crop he’s trying to transform. For offering guile and awareness of team shape in midfield, I’d have brought Sacha Kljestan; as for Morris and Matt Miazga, I’d have made sure the U.S. qualified for the Olympics so they could continue to develop. I believe that was the plan, anyway …
  1. Davis:Mostly. If it’s my team, I’m probably taking Morris and Ream or Lichaj instead of Wondolowski and Orozco but I don’t feel all that strongly about those choices. The one place I think he erred is goalkeeper. If you’re going to take Howard, you should start Tim Howard. If not, move on. Howard is a good soldier and won’t cause problems but having him as a number two is a bad message to send. (Also: If you’re a U.S. player, do not take a sabbatical.)

Carlisle: I think the only way Klinsmann is put under any pressure is if the U.S. flames out with three heavy defeats. If the Americans progress to the knockout stages, I think the tournament will be looked upon as a success. Otherwise, World Cup qualifying remains the ultimate referendum and after the stumble in Guatemala City, the U.S. is now on course to reach the Hexagonal.

McIntyre: If the Americans bomb out in the first round of the Copa on the back of a dismal 2015, questions about Klinsmann’s future must be asked. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think at the very least they’ll survive the group.

  1. Davis:Klinsmann should be judged by every tournament performance and by the standards he set for himself. His mandate upon getting the job (and then being handed the technical director role shortly thereafter) was to advance the program in terms of both results and style of play. Tough groups aren’t an excuse, not when the rhetoric doesn’t match the approach.

Parker: He’s become so adept at endlessly deferring a verdict on him, steering the conversation toward process, that it’s hard to believe this will be a referendum; that said, failure to get out of the group might make it one.

  1. Davis:All games should be a referendum on Klinsmann. The pragmatist in me says that in a tournament as big as a Copa America, the only thing that matters is results. Sure, we’d all like to see the U.S. play pretty, attacking and possession-based soccer, but the more important thing is to get results. Good results are the first thing Klinsmann should be judged on. This is one of the most talented U.S. teams ever, playing at home. If the coach can’t find some points, that’s a problem.

 5. Pick your starting XI for the game vs. Colombia. That’s it.

Carlisle: (4-3-3) Guzan; Yedlin, Brooks, Cameron, Johnson; Jones, Bradley, Bedoya; Wood, Dempsey, Zardes

McIntyre: (4-3-3): Guzan; Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson; Bedoya, Bradley, Jones; Wood, Dempsey, Zardes

  1. Davis:(4-3-3) Guzan; Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson; Jones, Bradley, Nagbe; Pulisic, Wood, Bedoya

Parker: (4-3-3) Guzan; Johnson, Brooks, Cameron, Yedlin; Jones,Beckerman, Bradley; Wood, Dempsey, Zardes

  1. Davis:(4-3-3) Howard; Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Johnson; Bedoya, Bradley, Jones; Nagbe, Dempsey, Wood

Jurgen Klinsmann confident U.S. can beat Colombia in Copa America opener

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann believes his team has what it takes to beat Colombia when the teams kick off the Copa America Centenario in Friday’s tournament opener at Levi’s Stadium.”Having the opportunity to open up the competition with a game against Colombia, which is one of the best teams in the world, it’s a real pleasure,” Klinsmann told reporters during his prematch news conference on Thursday.”But it’s also something that in this specific moment you want to see where you stand, where you are right now. … I think we have strong enough, talented enough players to beat Colombia.”Klinsmann has set the goal of reaching the semifinals of the one-off joint CONCACAF and CONMEBOL tournament, which was organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of South America’s regional championship.But first they have to get out of a tough Group A that also includes Paraguay and CONCACAF rival Costa Rica. Three points in the curtain raiser would go a long way toward ensuring survival.”It’s a nice challenge, and for us it’s a way to benchmark ourselves, [show] how good we are, and give them a real, real tough game.”After a disappointing 2015, the U.S. is 6-1-0 this year. The’ve won all three of their pre-Copa tuneups, including victories against South American opponents Ecuador and Bolivia.Colombia will pose a stiffer challenge. Klinsmann noted that the Cafeterosboast several world class attacking players, including James Rodriguez of Real Madrid, Carlos Bacca of AC Milan and Juventus’ Juan Cuadrado.”They are all difference makers,” he said. “They are also beatable.”Ever since the U.S. lost to Belgium in the Round of 16 of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Klinsmann has stressed that the next step in the development of the national team is to consistently win knockout games at major tournaments. But the Americans were upset in the semifinals of last summer’s Gold Cup by Jamaica. And unless they win their Copa group, a potential quarterfinal date with Brazil, the Group B favorite, looms.Still, Klinsmann said his team is focused only on advancing, not topping the foursome and securing a potentially easier second-round matchup.”Step one is to get out of the group, which we will do. Then we will take it one game at a time,” Klinsmann said. “We don’t have the luxury to say, ‘What would be better?’ We have only one message: We’ve got to go through the group. And then whatever comes then in the quarterfinal is fine with us.”There are more pressing matters at hand, though, starting with Friday’s match against a team ranked No. 3 in the latest FIFA rankings.”The goal right now is to win tomorrow night,” Bradley said before the squad’s final pre-tourney practice.”I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about anything beyond tomorrow night at the moment.”Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Armchair Analyst: USMNT are better historically than you realize, explained

une 3, 20163:09 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

On Friday, the Copa America Centenario begins. It’s literally a once-in-a-century event, a tournament commemorating the first edition of the Copa America, the championship of South America (or “CONMEBOL”, the unwieldy acronym by which the confederation is known).Copa America has, through its history, proven a more slapdash and haphazard tournament than the World Cup or European Championship, which are held every four years. In the past, the Copa has been held every two years, or every three years. Occasionally the gaps have been longer, stretching six years back in the 1930s, and eight years without a Copa from 1967 through 1975.Starting in 2007, however, the powers that be at CONMEBOL decided to standardize and hold the tournament every four years during the summer following the World Cup. In 2007 Brazil won it, and then in 2011 it was Uruguay, followed by Chile–for the first time ever–in 2015.That makes this summer’s tournament a special, one-off event. It’s the first time the tournament’s been held outside of South America, and it’s been inserted into the middle of that four-year gap. (The next Copa is scheduled for 2019, not 2020).It’s a pretty big deal. Not as big as the World Cup, but bigger than any other tournament the US will play in for a long, long time.

Brazil, Argentina and Mexico are the favorites

Brazil are in a down cycle by their own standards, historically speaking. They took perhaps the most famous beating in soccer history two summers ago in the semifinals of the World Cup, losing by 7-1 to the eventually victorious Germans. They’ll also be without their best player, the lightning-quick and skillful winger Neymar, who has helped Barcelona to two La Liga titles, two Copa Del Rey titles and a UEFA Champions League title in his three seasons. He also has 46 goals in 70 appearances for la Seleçao, all at the tender age of 24. He’s really good, and the fact that we’re talking about him, instead of the guys who did make the cut, highlights Brazil’s attacking issues. They have a weaker squad than the team that disappointed by crashing out in the quarterfinals of last summer’s Copa.Nonetheless, they’re still Brazil. And the last time an unfancied Brazil team came to the US for a major tournament, in 1994 for the World Cup, they walked away as champions.A year before that Brazilian World Cup crown, Argentina won the Copa America behind the goal-scoring prowess of the brilliant striker Gabriel Batistuta. Given the wealth of talent that’s worn the Albiceleste over the last 23 years, it’s almost impossible to believe that’s their most recent major tournament victory, but it is.It’s not that Argentina haven’t come close. They were runners-up in the Copa in 2004, 2007, and 2015, and runners-up at the 2014 World Cup as well. Those three most recent tournaments have featured the almost indescribably great Lionel Messi, the man many (including yours truly) consider to be the greatest ever to play the game. In my mind, his exploits at the club level with Barcelona leave little room for argument.But because Argentina have so often been the bridesmaid in the Messi era, he is not beloved by his countrymen in the way that Diego Maradona or Mario Kempes are. He needs either a Copa America crown (which Maradona never won) or a World Cup crown (which he did, famously) in order to seal his legacy. Given the wealth of talent and experience in this Argentina side, and the fact that they made the finals last year, and the year before, perhaps third time’s the charm?

Or perhaps it’s time for Mexico to step up and compete with the big boys. El Tri have been almost comically consistent over the last 20 years, always making the knock-out rounds of the World Cup but never advancing beyond that. They’ve also had their fair share of success in the Copa America as invited guests, finishing second twice (1993 and 2001) and third place three times (1997, 1999, 2007). Add in a Confederations Cup title in 1999, and an Olympic title in 2012, and it’s hard to argue against Mexico’s place on the edges of the world’s elite.There was, of course, a blip in 2013, when a bad stretch in World Cup qualifying was compounded by the FMF’s scorched-earth policy toward managerial hiring, and Mexico almost failed to qualify for the Brazil 2014. But they made it on the last day (thanks to the US), and once they got there they performed well, as they always do. And then they lost dramatically in the Round of 16, as they always do.Now, however, those Olympic gold medalists are in their athletic prime, there’s been a period of relative managerial stability since the hire of former New York Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio. And in Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez they have the most in-form striker in the tournament. The “Little Pea” scored 26 goals in 40 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen this year, and has 44 in 82 appearances with El Tri. He’s also surrounded by quick and crafty wingers; a solid, no-frills midfield; and a defense that’s balanced and experienced.If there’s one worry, it’s that the heart of that defense is a little too experienced. Rafa Marquez is 37 years old and has been the goat in two of Mexico’s round of 16 flame-outs, against the US in 2002 and then in 2014 against the Netherlands. If he’s pulled out of his comfort zone and forced to run, Mexico’s margin for error shrinks significantly.The other three teams pushing into the “possible favorites” realm would be Uruguay–in spite of Luis Suarez’s injury–Chile and Colombia, who the US face on Friday night (9:30 pm ET; FS1).

How can the US possibly compete against that?

The same way we have for the last 25 years! I’ll get into the specifics of this current US team in the next section, but right now it’s time for a little history, because far too many casual US fans think that the US are a minnow on the world stage, not capable of competing against the very best in any significant competition.Nothing could be further from the truth.In 1994 at the World Cup, the US beat Colombia 2-1. Yes, they were helped by an own goal, and yes, Tony Meola had a big game in net. But Alexi Lalas also had a goal incorrectly whistled offside, and on the day, the US were the better team. That’s why they won.The following year, the US were one of the invitees to the 1995 Copa America and were drawn into the same group as Chile (win) and Bolivia (loss). The heavyweights in the group? Batistuta and the then two-time defending champions Argentina. They were prohibitive favorites, but a US victory would mean the Yanks topped the group and secured a more favorable draw in the quarterfinals.The US didn’t just win: They stomped Argentina into dust, dominating the champs to the tune of 3-0. They then went on to beat Mexico in the quarterfinals before falling 1-0 to Brazil in the semifinals.

That was one of many one-goal losses to Brazil over the past quarter century. The most famous is either Brazil’s 1-0 win in the 1994 World Cup round of 16, or the dramatic, thrilling, heartbreaking 3-2 loss in the 2009 Confederations Cup final. There was also the group stage of the 1999 Confederations Cup, which produced another close, hard-fought 1-0 win for Brazil.And it’s not just South American teams against which the US have had success. In that 2009 Confeds Cup run, the US beat Spain–who were, at the time, on a 37-game unbeaten streak–2-0 in the semifinals. Ten years earlier, they’d eliminated Germany in the group stage of the Confederations Cup with a similar 2-0 win. There was also a dramatic 3-2 win over Portugal in the 2002 World Cup, and a 3-0 hammering of (a very good) Egypt in the 2009 Confeds Cup, a 2-1 win over Ghana in 2014, and World Cup draws against the likes of Italy, England, and Portugal.All of that is added to the pile of dramatic wins vs. Mexico over the years. The best-remembered–please, let them never forget–came in the round of 16 in the 2002 World Cup. But there have been many, many more over the last 25 years, including Gold Cups and World Cup qualifying, and especially at home. For a long, long time, the United States was a fortress where Mexico simply weren’t able to get a result off the US’s best XI.Even if the argument is that the World Cup is the only true measure of greatness, US naysayers have to contend with this:

We’ve been keeping exclusive company for a long time. As Lalas said starting at the 1:47 mark of the video embedded at the top of this section, the US shouldn’t be scared of anybody in this tournament.So if your know-nothing friends say the US have no chance because, historically, we can’t compete with these teams, tell them to pipe down and do some research. We’ve been competing with these teams on more or less equal footing for decades.

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

Here’s the problem: Since the 2014 World Cup, the US have been on a historically (by their standards) poor run of form. They lost to Jamaica, at home, in the semifinals of last year’s Gold Cup — the first time they’ve ever lost to the Reggae Boyz in the US. They also drew Panama once in the group stage, and then again in the third place game (before losing on penalties). There were also a pair of dire one-goal wins over a struggling Honduras side and a game, but under-talented Haiti.It was the worst Gold Cup performance from the US this century.

Three months later came the ultimate humiliation: Mexico, who’d won the Gold Cup, came to Los Angeles and beat the US 3-2 in the CONCACAF Cup, securing qualification for the 2017 Confederations Cup and eliminating the US from that tournament for the second straight cycle. More to the point, it broke the cycle of US dominance over their Mexican counterparts under head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. I have repeatedly been critical of his overall planning and roster management, but from literally game one of his USMNT head coaching career until that loss last October, his teams had ruled El Tri.That’s obviously no longer the case. And things just kept getting worse, as the Mexico loss was followed by a home friendly loss to Costa Rica, and then a draw on the road at Trinidad & Tobagoin World Cup qualifying. A new low was found this March when a listless, haphazard US squadwere beaten 2-0 at Guatemala in a qualifier. It was the first loss to Guatemala in any competition since the Reagan administration, and it left the US on the brink of World Cup elimination before the Hexagonal–the final round of qualifying–had even begun.This was the darkest timeline.Then things got better.Four days after losing to Guatemala, the US hosted los Chapines and crushed them, 4-0–a result that clears the path to Hexagonal qualification. It also cleared some of the tactical rubble that’s part and parcel of Klinsmann’s methodology, as he switched the team into a “hey, that makes sense!” 4-3-3 lineup with balance, depth, and most of the players in their best spots.Coaching 101 is “play your best players in their best spots and build from there,” which is something at which Klinsmann has often failed. In that game he succeeded, and then in the two most recent friendlies, a 1-0 win over Ecuador and a 4-0 win over Bolivia, he succeeded again. (I wrote about that in-depth here, if you’d like to read more.)That’s no guarantee of success, especially since the other teams in the US group have stable, defined systems that they’ve drilled rigorously over multiple games. Klinsmann’s team, in comparison, have a formation and tactical approach that’s looked pretty good for 225 minutes against mostly “meh” competition–the bar for optimism is very low.But at least the US are now beating meh competition. A year ago, they were getting hammered.

This is because we have no talent, right?

No! Wrong, wrong, wrong! The US are as deep and talented as they’ve ever been.The goalkeeper starts in the English Premier League.Two of the probable starting defenders also start in the EPL, while the other two are Bundesliga starters.The midfield comprises guys who’ve played for top-four clubs in the greatest leagues in Europe, a starter for a good Ligue 1 club, a World Cup veteran, and one of the hottest young prospects in the world.Jozy Altidore will miss this tournament via injury, but his replacement–Bobby Wood–just secured a multi-million-dollar move to a Bundesliga club. Clint Dempsey led all scorers at least year’s Gold Cup, and Gyasi Zardes a) keeps racking up goals and assists, and b) is attracting interest from European clubs for a reason.This US team is so deep that a Bundesliga starter (Alfredo Morales) couldn’t make the roster. Omar Gonzalez, who was dominant in leading Pachuca to the Liga MX title, couldn’t make the roster. Jordan Morris, the best young striker in the pool and a regular for Klinsmann prior to this summer, couldn’t make the roster.Even if there’s no single player as good as Landon Donovan in his prime, no US team has ever had top-to-bottom talent like this. The US should absolutely get out of the group, and a tournament championship wouldn’t be a Leicester City-sized upset. It wouldn’t even be a Greece 2004-sized upset.

YESSSS!!!!!!! I AM HYPE!!!!!!!!!!!! USA!! USA!!! USA!!!!!!!

Yeah, read the subtext of Alexi’s tweet first. Because there’s been so much instability in terms of roster and lineup choices, it’s debatable as to whether or not the US really are a team. And while the talent on the roster is probably top six or seven in this tournament, talent alone is never enough.Want an example? Look at what happened to Mexico back in 2013 World Cup qualifying, that “blip” I talked about. That team, which was the most talented in the region, crumbled from the inside out to an almost fatal extent. Think it can’t happen elsewhere? Then try to put money on the Dutch to win this summer’s Euros.Talent alone is never enough, even for Brazil or Argentina. There has to be process and consistency with it. And that’s the big question for the US…

Jurgen Klinsmann, in blue, emotionally prepares the US fanbase for the announcement of his starting XI vs. Colombia.

Simply put: Nobody knows if Klinsmann will stay with what’s worked. In the World Cup he played Dempsey, a second striker or a winger, at center forward. He played Michael Bradley, a defensive midfielder or a box-to-box midfielder, as a trequartista. He played DeAndre Yedlin, a fullback, on the wing. He played Fabian Johnson, a winger, at fullback. He played Geoff Cameron, a central defender, at defensive midfield in the knock-out round against Belgium. And at the same time he sat his starting defensive midfielder–Kyle Beckerman–who had been, to that point, the best field player for the US.In the first four US qualifiers, he’s started four different lineups with three different formations. Over the last three years Cameron and John Brooks have started exactly two games together. Johnson still looks set to start at left back despite his defensive troubles, and Wood will, for some reason, probably start on the wing. Plus Bradley might play as a d-mid, or he might not.That’s a whole mess of questions to have heading into a major tournament, and Klinsmann’s ways are both opaque and inscrutable. Anyone who claims to know what he’s going to do when the games begin is fooling themselves, and trying to fool others.Despite all of that, the pieces are in place for this next month to be a triumph for the US, and for Klinsmann. The talent is there, and the experience is there, and the joyful naivete of youth is there, and the blueprint–the 4-3-3 with Bradley at d-mid, Cameron and Brooks in central defense, and a handful of attacking difference-makers scattered around them–is there.He doesn’t have to be a tactical mastermind to make it all work. He just has to put the right players in the right spots, and let them do their thing.If he does that, the US will compete like hell, trading blow-for-blow with anybody they come up against. Just as they have done for more than a quarter century. Bracket

Armchair Analyst: Tactical preview of USA vs. Colombia in Copa America

June 3, 20169:23 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

The United States, victors in their last three friendlies and a must-win World Cup qualifier before that, begin their journey in the Copa America Centenario against Colombia in Santa Clara on Friday night (9:30 pm ET, FS1, Univision, UDN).It feels, at least a little bit, like a different era for the USMNT. As of late, they’ve played with a type of urgency that’s been missing over the last two years, since the 2014 World Cup. Perhaps the change was brought about by the proximity of this tournament, a once-in-a-century opportunity, or perhaps it was the near-death experience of losing 2-0 to Guatemala (they responded with a 4-0 thumping in said must-win qualifier four days later).Or maybe it was a combination of those things, as well as a smart and hopefully semi-permanent formation switch to the 4-3-3. The US have run out in that formation in three of the last four games, and while formations should never be confused for tactics, putting your talent in a formation that maximizes (or at least doesn’t diminish) their talents can make for a tactical structure that’s more cohesive and more flexible. The fact that it puts the team’s best player — Michael Bradley — in his best spot — defensive midfield — is an added bonus.So while the US are not exactly soaring at the moment, they are at least flapping their wings and moving forward. That’s a welcome change after a two-year death spiral that nearly ended World Cup qualifying before most casual fans realized it had begun.With that as a preamble, let’s look at the match-up against Los Cafeteros …

What they’ll do: High & hard pressure

Folks tend to think of Colombia as an elegant and stylish attacking team, first and foremost. When you have players like James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado and Carlos Bacca, that tends to be the highlight on the scouting report. And to be clear: The US can’t let those three guys in particular, as well as a few others like Edwin Cardona and Marlos Moreno, get on the ball, get comfortable and set the rhythm. Whatever lineup the US come out in, they have to be willing to harry and disrupt the Colombian passing machine.But they also have to be wary of Colombia’s willingness to press high and murder teams that play sloppy out of the back.

Here are the highlights from their most recent World Cup qualifier, a 3-1 win over a good Ecuador team:The first and third Colombia goals came when they forced turnovers at the midfield stripe as Ecuador tried to play out of the back; the second came a few seconds after an attacking throw-in following a long sequence in which Ecuador were forced to defend.They absolutely smothered Ecuador in that game.

How to solve it: Kill ’em on the break

One of the more disappointing aspects of the Jurgen Klinsmann Era has been a reduced proficiency on the counterattack, long the US’s bread-and-butter. But if you lack cohesion overall, you’re almost certainly going to lack cohesion in transition from the defense to attack — which is, more and more, the most crucial moment of the game.The US, with an infusion of youth and speed in the form of overlapping right back DeAndre Yedlinand red-hot striker Bobby Wood, once again have the horses to get out and run, and both are in form. If they are given a chance to run, they will, and not even the gazelles on Colombia will catch them in space.The problem is that initial pass through the defense and into the attack. The likely starting central defensive pairing of Geoff Cameron and John Brooks can both provide top-level service, but given the Colombia press, it’s probably going to have to be “safety first” from those two — simple touches that break the press, rather than burning it to the ground with one look. That puts the onus on whoever the defensive midfielder is (Bradley or Kyle Beckerman) to A) be available for the easy outlet, and B) be ready to spread a killer ball to the flanks when the opportunity is there.Catching a stretched-out Colombia on the break inside of 15 minutes is the ideal start for the US.

What we’ll do: Set-piece dominance

While the US aren’t the counterattacking juggernaut they used to be, they’re still a big, athletic and dominant aerial team. Even when things were going their absolute worst against Mexico in last October’s CONCACAF Cup, they still did stuff like this:Cameron, Brooks and Clint Dempsey are all A+ aerial targets. Wood, Gyasi Zardes and Jermaine Jones will all get into the box on restarts and scrap. Bradley’s service is probably too valuable, but if Klinsmann want him in the box on restarts, Bradley knows what to do when he gets there.

How they’ll solve it: Hope

If the US get a bunch of set pieces in this game, they will score one. Colombia aren’t lying to themselves about that.“Surely, it’s a small problem we have right now and one we’ve worked on, focused mainly on set pieces,” center back Cristian Zapata said to our Diego Pinzon before Wednesday’s practice session at the San Jose Earthquakes’ training complex. “The team has lost its presence [inside the area]. We’ve got to be more alert and concentrated.”Haiti got their goal against Colombia last week off a corner kick; Ecuador’s came off a direct kick in that 3-1 loss; Bolivia, who nearly overturned a 2-0 deficit but fell just short in a 3-2 loss, constantly troubled Los Cafeteros on set pieces.

What does it mean for the US?

No matter how well the US play, they’re going to have to absorb some pressure and play through a bunch of smart and tactically sophisticated attackers and midfielders. I think Colombia’s coach, Jose Pekerman, is a little overrated in terms of his in-game management — he makes pretty bad substitutions and generally holds onto the good subs he does make too long — but he always has his teams prepared entering any given match.They will be prepped for this one as well, and they’re not a one-trick pony; it’s not all high press or nothing. Expect them to be particularly ruthless working down their own right-hand side, with Cuadrado trying to pin probable left back Fabian Johnson — ****sigh**** — deep and exploit his propensity for mental brownouts on the defensive side of the ball.If Johnson holds his own in that fight and the central defensive and central midfield structure are right, then the US can feel confident about going toe-to-toe with anyone. However, given Klinsmann’s penchant for tinkering, those remain a pair of giant “ifs.”

Armchair Analyst: Picking my starting XI for the USMNT

June 2, 201612:49 PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

Welcome to the Wednesday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today’s being the best Starting XI for the USMNT in Friday’s Copa America opener – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.

“First do no harm” is the Hippocratic Oath historically taken by physicians.I think it should be taken by managers across all sports as well. The very first thing a manager has to do is play his/her players in the correct spots, and the second thing is not to overtrain his/her team so they’re playing on shredded hamstrings from the very first whistle. Any manager who’s done that will have fulfilled the soccer version of the Hippocratic Oath.Over his nearly five years in charge, Jurgen Klinsmann has failed in that responsibility. He declared war on hamstrings from Day 1 with three-a-day training sessions, empty stomach runs and the like — which culminated in a rash of injuries at the 2014 World Cup and 2015 Gold Cup. Even more frustrating has been his stubborn refusal to play his best players in their best spots, which led to the Michael Bradley-as-trequartista experiment in Brazil; which led to Jermaine Jones getting handful of run-outs at center back; which led to Clint Dempsey as a lone target forward, etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum.Klinsmann’s tinkering has not gone away, nor will it. He is still very likely to start Dempsey as a No. 9, a pair of No. 9s on the wing, and his Champions League-caliber winger at left back.We still live in CrazyTown. But at least in this most recent trip to CrazyTown, the central midfield, the central defense, and the right back all make sense. If you have that spine together — all that crucial talent in the right spots — then you have a chance.So here is the Starting XI I think Klinsmann will trot out on Friday against Colombia in Santa Clara(9:30 pm ET; FS1)

GK: Brad Guzan
LB: Fabian Johnson
CB: John Brooks
CB: Geoff Cameron
RB: DeAndre Yedlin
DM: Kyle Beckerman
CM: Bradley
CM: Jones
LW: Bobby Wood
CF: Dempsey
RW: Alejandro Bedoya

This is an ultra-defensive set, since both Beckerman and Bradley are defensive midfielders, Jones is a defensive-minded box-to-box midfielder, and Bedoya is more of a link player than a pure creator on the wing.On the flip side, this lineup is almost guaranteed to have critical defensive breakdowns along its left side, especially in transition. Johnson does not play as a defender in Germany because of moments like this:Sure, the turnover happened along the right touchline. But why was Johnson pushed up so high along the left touchline? And why do we think this is an isolated incident when Johnson has had trouble tracking his runner after turnovers literally every time he plays in defense? With that in mind, here’s the Starting XI I would put out on Friday:

GK: Guzan
LB: Edgar Castillo
CB: Brooks
CB: Cameron
RB: Yedlin
DM: Bradley
CM: Jones
CM: Bedoya
LW: Johnson
CF: Wood
RW: Dempsey

Only one personnel switch, with Castillo coming in for Beckerman (and it would actually be Eric Lichaj if he’d made the 23-man roster). That shifts Bradley to d-mid — which I think is key — and Johnson up to left wing. I’ve also flipped Dempsey over to the right wing, where he’ll have superior defensive cover behind him (seriously folks, Yedlin’s legit as a two-way fullback).I think this gives me a more balanced and dynamic midfield, and ameliorates the defensive weakness of the left wide at least a little bit. Johnson is a forgetful defender as a fullback, but is as honest as they come for a winger. And while Castillo can be beaten at the back post — see Pachuca’s winner in the Liguilla championship — he’s not as prone to getting pulled out of position in transition. Against a team with the likes of James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado, that matters quite a bit.And yes, that means Beckerman, Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic and Gyasi Zardes start on the bench. I’m fine with all of that and you should be, too — choosing from a handful of game-changing subs is a luxury no US coach has ever had before. That means Klinsmann can mold the game to his liking as it goes on.Assuming, of course, that he first does no harm.

Armchair Analyst: Bradley’s shift to D-mid a reason for USMNT optimism

May 30, 201612:55 AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

ack in June of 2015, the US men’s national team were plowing through friendlies en route to a date at that summer’s Gold Cup. They cycled through lineups and formations, backline pairings and fullbacks. They downplayed results good and bad, and went into the tournament – which they hosted – with high expectations.The last friendly in prep for last year’s tournament was against Guatemala, the 93rd-ranked team by FIFA at the time. The US wiped them out, 4-0.Then came the Gold Cup itself, in which the US were wiped out. They were consistently outshot and out-played by the likes of Honduras and Haiti, and eventually lost in the semifinals to Jamaica. Then they lost again in the third place game to Panama, which wrapped up the most miserable US showing in the continental competition this century.On Saturday night the US faced 79th-ranked Bolivia in the final tune-up friendly before this summer’s Copa America. Once again it was a wipeout, with the US pummeling a weak foe by the score of 4-0, and once again it came with a new formation, a new lineup… and high expectations. Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t expecting to win, but he wants a semifinal showing (I think that’s a fair place to set the bar).Like last year, there are red flags that suggest this result was some kind of false positive. Like last year, there is a combination of young and veteran talent that seems to fit well together. Like last year, there is every reason to suspect that Klinsmann will undercut his roster’s strengths by playing certain players out of position and others through injuries.Unlike last year, however, I think there is real reason to be positive about this group. For the last 135 minutes – against admittedly weak competition – the US have figured out the shape of their midfield and used it to good effect. That is a vast departure from previous iterations of Klinsmann’s national team.Here’s a look at the midfield, the forwards and the (still worrisome) defense:

Bradley Where He Belongs

The big difference between the two teams – this year’s US and last year’s – is the presence ofMichael Bradley as the defensive midfielder. No offense to Kyle Beckerman or any of the other options, but Bradley’s a cut-and-a-half above thanks partially to his speed and mostly to his range of passing with either foot.Here he is picking up a secondary assist:That is where Bradley operates best, sitting deep with multiple options ahead of him (remember the Julian Green goal at the World Cup?). More importantly, by playing as a true defensive midfielder tasked with shielding the backline and spreading the ball around, he’s not asked to take turns swapping spots with Jermaine Jones.Klinsmann has put Bradley into a box with a specific role, and it is glorious. At the same time, putting Bradley in that box has allowed Jones to seek and destroy and link play all over the pitch. Jones is the team’s id, and Bradley its superego. The third leg of the midfield tripod in this one was Alejandro Bedoya – always smart, always in the right position, always perfectly suited to be the sidekick in any piece of play, the ego that connects the id and superego.Add in the likes of Beckerman and Darlington Nagbe off the bench, and this is the deepest and most balanced US midfield at least since 2002, and quite probably ever.I mean, Nagbe off the bench:No previous US coach has ever had a game-changer like that to call upon. The pieces are all there, and they all fit.And Klinsmann has finally showed signs he understands how to deploy them.

The Unusual Three

With the midfield sorted, the front three in this team’s 4-3-3 has become more functional and effective, though I still have plenty of reservations. Bobby Wood (a forward) and Gyasi Zardes (a forward) started on the flanks, while Clint Dempsey (a second striker) started at center forward.The US’s bread and butter has become the type of interchange we saw on the game’s opener, the first of two Zardes scored on the evening. Dempsey is naturally inclined to drop back toward the ball, changing the 4-3-3 to more of a diamond midfield with him as a back-to-goal No. 10. When the ball is being possessed on the right side of the field, that is Zardes’s signal to dive inside and make a forward’s run instead of a winger’s run:Dempsey tries to get into that spot early, and force the defenders either to A) step with him, or B) hold back and let him receive the ball, then turn. Most MLS teams realize it’s best to let Dempsey do the latter, but Bolivia obviously weren’t watching a ton of Sounders games ahead of this one.While Zardes has taken to this role with aplomb – not surprising given his surfeit of attacking roles with the Galaxy – Wood has struggled to leave an imprint. He doesn’t instinctively curve his runs, instead preferring to go direct to goal.And – this is important – neither guy is a chance creator. They don’t really link play and often struggle to present themselves to the midfield in build-up:

That’s a network passing graph made using Opta data. The circles represent the aggregate position of each player’s every touch, while the thickness of the lines connecting players represents the number of passes exchanged between each.If Wood and Zardes are on the wings, whoever is playing center forward (whether it’s Dempsey or someone else) shouldn’t expect a ton of traditional interplay with those guys.That, of course, puts the onus on the fullbacks to overlap…

Lost In Space

If Bradley as a No. 6 is the single best thing to take out of these friendlies, then Klinsmann’s apparently settling upon a No. 1 pairing in central defense is a close second. Geoff Cameron is an English Premier League veteran and John Brooks is a Bundesliga veteran, and one’s right footed and one’s left footed, and both start for their clubs, and both are World Cup veterans, and… I mean it’s really that easy, right?OK, well. Maybe it’s that easy now. Hopefully.Fullback is a different discussion, even though Klinsmann is mostly spoiled for choice. He started a pair of center backs out wide in this one, with Matt Besler on the left and Michael Orozco on the right. They predictably failed to leave much of an imprint pushing forward:

Besler is #5, and Orozco #14. Green lines are completed passes, and red incomplete. Both were OK at supporting the team in possession, but there were several bad turnovers that a better team would have punished, and it was pretty clear that both guys weren’t playing their natural spots.It looks like DeAndre Yedlin – another Premier League starter – and Fabian Johnson will be the starters when the US face Colombia next week (9:30 pm ET, FS1). Yedlin is obviously the right choice; Johnson, who starts on the wing in the Bundesliga, is still a liability at fullback.

Thanks to Ben Jata for clipping the following sequence for me:

With play occurring down the right side, why is Johnson pushed up so high on the left? He’s wildly out of position in case of a turnover, and even if said turnover happens just one time in 10… well, against a team like Colombia, Costa Rica or even Paraguay (who are dire), that type of space is deadly to concede.The beauty of the back four is its flexibility. When one fullback overlaps, the other stays back and slides central in order to help the central defenders and make certain the team keeps defensive shape. If both fullbacks overlap on the same play… I mean, that’s the equivalent of putting the pedal all the way down on your brand new sports car. It’s got to be thrilling, but it’s a deadly risk.And at the same time: Johnson is a winger! He’s a playmaker and a creator and a guy who can provide the type of linking among the front three that Zardes and Wood didn’t/don’t/haven’t. Pushing him up into his natural spot would give the US both more creativity and a more solid backline.

Is this progress?

Sort of. The US are playing their best soccer in two years and have a deeper roster than any previous coach has had to call upon (I haven’t even mentioned Christian Pulisic yet, right?). Their best player is finally in his best spot, the midfield is finally balanced, and the central defense finally has a go-to pair.Of course beating Bolivia isn’t a reason to celebrate:Any celebration should come after a quality, front-foot performance in the group stage and a win the quarters. From 1994 through 2010 the US beat the likes of Colombia, Argentina, Germany, Portugal, Spain and – of course – Mexico in games that really mattered. Since 2011, however, results like that are nowhere to be found.The fans have a right to ask for a return to those days. And the coach, if he looks at his roster and (finally) makes the right choices, has the goods to deliver it to them.

PREVIEW: #MIA HOST INDY 11

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview   Indy Eleven at the Miami FC
Saturday, June 4, 2016 – 8:00 p.m. ET  -FIU Stadium – Miami, FL
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Watch Live:

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Last Time Out – Indy Eleven 2 : 1 Lou City FC

Indy Eleven began their 2016 run at the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, June 1 as they hosted the USL’s Lou City FC at Carroll Stadium. Going a goal down into halftime at the feet of Lou City FC’s top scorer Chandler Hoffman, the “Boys in Blue” were once again in position to fight back. Justin Braun and Eamon Zayed were injected into the game just six minutes apart (40′ & 46′) and the move proved effective as Indy’s terrible twosome began to wreak havoc on the visitor’s back line. In the 58th minute, the tide turned in Indy’s favor for good. Omar Gordon intercepted a howler of a pass by LCFC ‘keeper Greg Ranjetsingh and, after some tidy footwork, the Jamaican used his left foot to find the back of the net and square the match. Ten minutes later, it was Eamon Zayed’s turn to put his name up in lights as a neat 1-2-3 between Mares, Lacroix, and Zayed resulted in the Irishman tapping home from three yards. Full-time saw “Indiana’s Team” advance to the Fourth Round of #USOC2016 with a trip to Chicago to face the Fire on the horizon. For a full recap, click here.

Last Time Out – Miami FC 1 : 2 Wilmington Hammerheads

In their U.S. Open Cup debut, Miami FC fell to USL side Wilmington Hammerheads 2-1 in South Beach at FIU Stadium. The hosts went 2-nil down in the opening five minutes of the game after Hammerheads forward Jeff Michaud and midfielder Justin Moose scored in the second and fourth minutes, but the NASL side would not go quietly. Though trailing by two goals at the break, it took just seven minutes into the second half for the franchise club to pull one back – this time through 28-year-old striker Jaime Chavez, the first of his Miami FC career. Drama ensued in the 80th minute with Chavez again at the center of the action, winning a penalty after a challenge from Wilmington ‘keeper Eric Ati. Miami forward Dario Cvitanich, who had been on excellent form in the opening games of the spring, stepped forward to the penalty spot. Cvitanich fired a low drive to the left side of the net, but Ati chose his dive correctly and stopped the spot kick to hold the Hammerheads ead. In the end, Miami FC dropped the Open Cup game and now have all eyes on finishing the spring season strongly. For a full recap, click here.

Laundry List of Injuries

It’s a testament to the will and depth of Indy Eleven that they have gotten to this point in the season with the amount of injury trouble the squad has faced. Unfortunately for Coach Hankinson’s crew, that injury trouble persists. Brad Ring has been sidelined since the beginning of May with a nagging knee injury, Sinisa Ubiparipovic has been on and off with a hip issue, Greg Janicki is still recovering from his terrible twosome of a concussion and facial fracture, and that’s just the beginning. Though the last two of that trio are making the trip to South Beach, both Ring and Lovel Palmer will not travel. Most recently, the Eleven saw Don Smart and Jair Reinoso exit Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup match having picked up a couple of knocks, though their status for this weekend’s game is still up in the air.While the injuries have allowed some fresh faces into the lineup (see Cory Miller, Marco Franco, etc.), consistency has been a difficult thing to achieve. As the spring season winds down with a potential championship battle set up for next weekend (pending this weekend’s results), health will be a major factor in “Indiana’s Team” finding success.

The Chase Continues

The “Boys in Blue” head into their fourth Florida contest of the 2016 spring season sitting second in the NASL table with the very real possibility of jumping to the top by June 11. To win the title, Indy Eleven need:

  • To take six points out of six in their next two games; and
  • The New York Cosmos to draw/lose at Fort Lauderdale on Saturday night

While the team realizes the ultimate goal, it’s imperative to Coach Hankinson that the focus remain only on Saturday night as dropped points against Miami FC would rule them out of the title chase. The state of Florida has not been kind to the Eleven having seen them escape with three points in three games, and while Saturday’s opposition is looking up the table at Indy they remain just as much a real threat to the Spring title chase as anyone “Indiana’s Team” has faced so far. The team must show focus and composure to leave with the right result – and all three points.

Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: FW Justin Braun

After not scoring in an Indy Eleven shirt until the game against Minnesota United FC two weeks ago, Braun has been on an absolute tear – scoring two goals and his last three games will tacking on an assist. While not on the scoresheet against Lou City FC midweek, his introduction into the match helped to create the space going forwrad that Indy would eventually exploit in their 2-1 win. Additionally, Braun was the hero in last week’s 1-1 draw with Jax Armada FC as he helped to salvage a point with a crucial 73rd minute equalizer. If his recent performances are any indication of what we will see Saturday night, Indy’s workhorse will be as active as ever when they go for the win.

Who to Watch, Miami FC edition: M Ariel Martinez

Though the Miami club fell in the USOC midweek, their NASL form as of late was capped with a significant 1-0 victory over previous title challengers FC Edmonton thanks to a goal from midfielder Ariel Martinez. Having started seven games in his seven appearances, Martinez has scored twice for Alessandro Nesta’s side and helped them take four points from their last two games against FCE and the Carolina Railhawks. The 30-year-old Cuban will be deployed behind a front two of Jaime Chavez and Dario Cvitanich, both of whom will be enough of a test, and will look to play as a traditional No.10 ahead of an Eleven back four that may yet see more changes at the weekend. Though Miami FC have been light in the scoring department, Martinez and Cvitanich have been rponsible for five of their six league goals, leaving Coach Hankinson a pair of clear choices on who to mark.

Match-up to Mark: MIA M Richie Ryan vs. IND M Nicki Paterson

After arriving to Miami as part of one of the biggest financial transfers in NASL history, Richie Ryan has been at the heart of the club’s midfield in his only two league games since leaving Jax Armada FC. Spending the 2014 and 2015 seasons with Ottawa Fury FC, Ryan left the Canadian club for the Armada in the offseason only for him to join Nesta and co. in the middle of May. A smooth midfielder operating dead center of the pitch, Ryan will be the facilitator for Miami when the pair clash at FIU Stadium.His opposite number will be Indy Eleven midfielder Nicki paterson, who after serving his USOC suspension from 2013 with the Charleston Battery on Wednesday, will be one of the fresher pairs of legs at Coach Hankinson’s disposal. Being deployed centrally all season, Paterson has shifted from a starting role to a bench role but may again find himself on the pitch from the first minute on with the injury trouble the squad is still wrestling with. That, and the set piece threat he has proven himself to be, may see him have a major impact on the match.

Strong Second Half Sees Indy Eleven Post 2-1 Win over Louisville City FC in U.S. Open Cup Third Round

Goals 10 Minutes Apart by Omar Gordon & Eamon Zayed Lift “Boys in Blue” to Fourth Round Match-up with MLS’ Chicago Fire SC

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, June 1, 2016) – Indy Eleven used goals by Omar Gordon and Eamon Zayed 10 minutes apart in the second half to post a 2-1 win over USL squad Louisville City FC in the Third Round of the 103rd edition  Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium.

The win for Indy Eleven, which avenged a loss to the same LCFC side in the same round one year ago and kept the NASL squad undefeated through nine games in 2016, advances the “Boys in Blue” to a Fourth Round contest at Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire SC in two weeks’ time. Kickoff at Toyota Park in suburban Bridgeview, Ill., on Wednesday, June 15, is set for 8:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. local).The opening 20 minutes would see neither team seriously threaten goal, although Louisville’s Greg Ranjitsingh was the more active of the goalkeepers in clearing his penalty area of crosses sent in. The lack of a clearance in Indy Eleven’s back third would lead to Louisville City’s opener in the 21st minute, as a pair of defenders couldn’t decide who would go after George Davis IV’s spinning through ball near the arc. The rolling ball would finally be run onto by Chandler Hoffman, who beat Indy ‘keeper Keith Cardona from 12 yards out to give the visitors the early 1-0 advantage.  An infraction called on Indy Eleven defender Cory Miller’s sliding challenge against Hoffman on the endline caused some confusion amongst both teams around the half hour mark, as referee Brandon Artis looked to initially signal a penalty kick, only to change his decision to an indirect free kick a few yards inside the area. Louisville’s ensuing free kick to the six did create a shot, but it couldn’t make its way through heavy traffic near the Indy Eleven goalline, the chance eventually dying on a LCFC foul seconds later.

Indy Eleven’s best look of the opening half came in the 43rd minute when Marco Franco’s wall pass with Don Smart freed the Indy right back into the area. Franco’s bouncing square ball missed its intended target of Gordon, but Duke Lacroix did get on the end of it, only to find his shot from 15 yards deflected out for a corner.

An increasingly physical game saw another appeal for a penalty for LCFC, this time in the 56th minute when Davis IV went down under the challenge of Omar Gordon in the top of the area, but Artis adjudged it to be a fair shoulder and play went on. Two minutes later it was Gordon equalizing for Indy, as he collected a failed clearance 20 yards out, took a touch inside into space and fired low and past Ranjitsingh to level things at 1-1.Just a couple minutes later Louisville had a great chance o go right back ahead, but Davis IV’s free kick from 22 yards out flashed just wide of the near left post. On the other Indy midfielder Dylan Mares was slipped into the top of the area on a nice 1-2, but a sliding tackle by Ben Newnam stopped him from an open look on frame. Those opportunities marked an entertaining 10-minute period of end-to-end chances, setting the pace for a frantic finish.

Hoffman nearly doubled his account in the 67th minute when substitute midfielder Ilija Ilic slipped him through the central defense, only to see his shot from 20 yards skip off the top of the crossbar. It was another second half substitute that would give Indy the lead a minute later, as Zayed finished off a well-worked break orchestrated by Mares and Lacroix, the latter supplying the final cross for an easy redirect from six yards out.A bungled clearance by Indy Eleven in the 88th minute nearly saw Hoffman equalize, but Cardona was alert off his line, diving in to take the ball off the charging attacker’s feet 10 yards from his line. A 22-yard free kick that sailed on Hoffman at the onset of four minutes of stoppage time would mark the last chance of any quality for LCFC to even up in the dying moments of the match.The undefeated Indy Eleven (3W-5D-0L, 14 pts., 2nd in NASL) will return its focus to league play and renew its chase for the NASL’s Spring Season title this Saturday, June 4, with its second visit in as many weekends to the Sunshine State, this time to take on The Miami FC. Kickoff from FIU Stadium in Miami is set for 8:00 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen live in Central Indiana on WISH-TV and across the nation online via ESPN3.
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – Third Round
Indy Eleven (NASL)  2 :  1 Louisville City FC (USL)
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN
Attendance: 2,145  -I was there!!

Scoring Summary:
LOU – Chandler Hoffman (George Davis IV) 21’
IND – Omar Gordon (unassisted) 58’
IND – Eamon Zayed (Duke Lacroix) 68’

Discipline Summary:
LOU – Cameron Lancaster (caution) 26’
IND – Eamon Zayed (caution) 81’
IND – Daniel Keller (caution) 84’

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Keith Cardona; Neil Shaffer, Nemanja Vuković (capt), Cory Miller, Marco Franco; Duke Lacroix (Gorka Larrea 77’), Daniel Keller, Dylan Mares, Don Smart (Eamon Zayed 45’); Omar Gordon, Jair Reinoso (Justin Braun 41’)Eleven bench: Jon Busch (GK), Colin Falvey

Louisville City FC (4-2-3-1): Greg Ranjitsingh; Ben Newnam, Sean Reynolds, Tarek Morad (capt), Kyle Smith (Enrique Montano 74’); Guy Abend, Paolo DelPiccolo; George Davis IV, Cameron Lancaster (Ilija Ilic 65’), Andrew Lubahn (Kadeem Dacres 69’); Chandler HoffmanCity FC bench: Scott Goodwin (GK); Paco Craig, Aodhan Quinn, Kenny Doublette

 

 

 

 Check out The Ole Ballcoach online https://theoleballcoach.wordpress.com/
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