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

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

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

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

Shane’s Line-Up 4-2-2-1-1

Guzan

Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Beezler

Bradley, Beckerman

Nagbe,                                    Johnson

Dempsey

Zardes

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

USA

US Pokes a little fun a Mexico after defeat

How will the US Stop Messi  Video

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

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

US Not Scared of Argentina

Klinsmann why Can’t we win it?

Will US Go After Argentina?  GOAL.com

How to Obsess over Argentina – Guide for the US Fan

US has Stopped Messi before

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

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

US Protest Cards vs Woods and Jones fails

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

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

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

Clint Dempsey Still Pushing after all these years

 COPA

Mexico Loses 7-0

Without Marquez Mexico looked lost

Osario tinkering undone by superior team in Chile

Osorio Must have time to right the Mexican Ship

Messi Ties Argentine Scoring Record ESPNFC

Argentina Coach says look out for US

GK Ospina Plays Superman role for Columbia

 Europa

Minnows rise vindicates 24 teams ESPNFC Jolly

Why is scoring down espn fc Marcotti

Will Stars score in Final Group Games?

England must stop living on Brink to become legit Contender

Renaldodino was better than Messi and Renaldo – Deco Says

The Many haircuts of France’s Paul Pogba

ALL GAMES ON TV

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

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

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

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

 Euro Round of 16  Starts Saturday, June 25

Sat., 6/25

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

Sun., 6/26

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

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

European Championships This Summer on ESPN

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

Carmel Soccer Camps –Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

Ok so its almost Summer Camp time – below are some nice options for Soccer Camps this summer

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

Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
Carmel High School Soccer Men’s Head Coach Shane Schmidt, a former U-20 US National Team player, runs his annual camp from 9 am to 2 pm July 11-16. $150 before 6/30 @ River Road Fields.

Post2Post Soccer Camp
Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin and Former Iowa Coach Carla Baker run their annual field player camp for players of all abilities July 25-28 — 9 am to 3 pm $195 each @ Badger

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

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

First Look: USA vs. Argentina in Copa America semifinals

BY GRANT WAHLPosted: Sat Jun. 18, 2016

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

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

Kyle Beckerman has to come up huge 

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

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

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

Argentina’s back line has to be tested 

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

The World of Messi

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

The U.S. has to believe 

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

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

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

1. Klinsmann’s lineup

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

2. Pull Argentina’s defence apart

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

3. Guzan must be brilliant

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

U.S. ‘not scared’ of playing Argentina

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

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

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

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

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

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

June 20, 20165:08 PM EDTKristian Dyer

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

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

June 20, 201612:06 PM EDTSam StejskalContributor

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

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

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

 

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

8:50 AM – 20 Jun 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JUNE 20, 2016

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

Messi is Messi

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

Overlooking the rest of Argentina’s attack

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

Goals against

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

Cards

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

 

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