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.
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
Copa America L29 vs. L30 Glendale, AZ 8 p.m. FX
Copa America final East Rutherford, NJ 8 p.m. FOX Sports 1
MLS TV Schedule ‘ On Break June 3-June 17 for COPA
COPA AMERICA 100 –GAMES IN CHICAGO – still seats left for USA Game , Argentina game and Semi-Finals.
International Champions Cup – ICC – @ Chicago – Bayern Munich vs AC Milan Soldier Field Wed 7/27 @ 8 pm Tix still available $35 to $135
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.”
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  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.”
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- FRANCE: A 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.
- GERMANY: Arrive 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.
- SPAIN: The 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.
- BELGIUM: One 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.
- 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.
- ENGLAND: A 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- PORTUGAL: The 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.
- POLAND: Almost 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.
- SLOVAKIA: A decent squad whose qualifying run included a victory over Spain, they could defy expectations with talents like Marik Hamsik.
- SWITZERLAND: Some 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.
- 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.
- WALES: Gareth 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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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