7/27/16 MLS ALL-STAR Game vs Arsenal Thur Night 7:30 ESPN, Carmel FC New DOC Named, Indy 11 Back on Top, Carmel High Soccer Camp 8/4

So we lead off with MLS this week as the Annual MLS All-Star game vs Arsenal live from San Jose will be played tomorrow night 7:30 pm on ESPN.  The top players in MLS will battle with EPL 2nd place finishers Arsenal in the match which should include young US prospect Gedion Zelalem.  Excited to watch on Thursday night and see how both teams look.  So my favorite boys in Green the Seattle Sounders have parted ways with coach Sigi Schmid – sorry to see it happen but the handwriting was on the wall for this one.  Seattle being at the bottom of the West with all the resources and fan support they have is just not acceptable.  This is like Chelsea being mid to lower table – with the money Seattle has that just can’t happen even without top player Martins.  One of my favorite MLS Players Nat Borchers (THE BEARD) at Portland tore his achilles heel Sat vs LA and is lost for the season – get well Timbers Nat!

The Olympic Soccer run for a 4th straight Gold Medal starts for the US Ladies next Wednesday night 6 pm on NBCSN – the full soccer schedule can be seen below.  Also the ICC with European teams across the US gets hot and heavy on ESPN starting tonite on ESPN2 at 7:30  Real Madrid vs PSG, 9:30 pm Bayern Munich vs AC Milan and 11:30 on ESPN – Liverpool vs Chelsea.  (see the complete schedule below)

The Indy 11 were back in the win column Sat night at the Mike – a 1-0 win over Edmonton pushing them back into 1st place overall as they stand tied with the NY Cosmos.  They travel to Miami this Saturday night, 8 pm on beIN Sports before returning for an important 3 game home stretch of games on Wed, Aug 3, Sat Aug 6 + 17 all at the Mike.  The Wed night match will have no TV – so plan to get out to the Mike to see in person.

Proud to announce that Carmel FC has named a new Director of Coaching Matt Coyer.  Coyer will begin Aug 8 and has more than 17 years of coaching experience.  Coyer is returning home as he was a former Carmel Dad’s club player and member of the Carmel High School State Champ teams in 1985 and 1987 before playing at IU.  Good luck to all those players trying out for Carmel High Soccer both boys and girls – next week and of course at the private schools around as well!  Finally –Carmel FC – Summer CFC Technical Training continues this week.  If you are a goalkeeper – I am continuing my personal Monday night GK trainings July 25, Aug 1 if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

Locally they are still taking signups for the 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  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.

GAMES ON TV

 Wed, July 27

7:30 p.m. (ESPN2        ICC Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain, Columbus, OH
9:30 p.m. (ESPN2,       ICC Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan, Chicago Soldier Field
11:30 p.m. (ESPN,       ICC Liverpool vs. Chelsea, Rose Bowl

Thur, July 28                 

7:30 a.m. ESPN3          ICC Borussia Dortmund vs Man City

(ESPN, UniMás) MLS All-Stars vs. Arsenal 7:30 p.m.

Sat, July 30

1:00 p.m. ESPN            ICC Barcelona vs. Celtic,
3:00 p.m. ESPN            ICC Chelsea vs. Real Madrid – Mich Stadium
5:00 p.m. (ESPNews                          ICC Bayern Munich vs. Inter Milan,
10:00 p.m. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) Liverpool vs. AC Milan,
(11:30 p.m., ESPN       ICC Paris Saint-Germain vs. Leicester City,

Indy 11@ Miami – 8 pm BeIn sports

Sun, July 31

1:00 p.m. Fox, Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers,
4:00 p.m. ESPN Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy,

Wed, Aug 3

ICC Barcelona vs. Leicester City, ICC 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
United States women vs. New Zealand, Olympics group stage, 6:00 p.m. (NBCSN)
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, International Champions Cup 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2
Chelsea vs. AC Milan, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Portland Timbers vs. CD Dragon, CONCACAF Champions League  10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

Sat, Aug 6

12 noon ESPN                ICC Liverpool vs Barcelona – Wembley

United States women vs. France women, Olympics group stage, 4:00 p.m. (NBCSN)

Sun, Aug 7

11 am ???                        Community Shield Leicester City vs Man United

Tues, Aug 9

United States women vs. Columbia, Olympics group stage, 6:00 p.m. (NBCSN)

Sat, Aug 13                      EPL Season Starts

7:30 a.m., CNBC:         Hull City vs. Leicester City 
10:00 a.m. NBCSN    Everton vs. Tottenham, Middlesbrough vs. Stoke, Southampton vs. Watford
12:30 p.m., CNBC:     Manchester City vs. Sunderland

Sun, Aug 14

8:30 a.m., NBCSN:      Bournemouth vs. Manchester United
11:00 a.m., NBCSN:
   Arsenal vs. Liverpool

Full Olympic Men’s and Women’s Soccer Schedule Announced by NBC

International Champions Cup – TV Schedule in July

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

Indy 11 Schedule

EPL TV Schedule

carmel soccer camp (1)

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.

MLS

Allstar Preview MLS vs Arsenal

USMNT youngster Zelalem in Arsenal squad for MLS Allstar Game

Arsenal Keeper Cech out to stop former Teammate Drogba

What to Know about Arsenal

Allstar Game Should keep the same format – Doug Mcintyre ESPNFC

Allstar Game needs a New Look – Jason Davis ESPN FC

Seattle Coach Sigi Schmid is Out – Matt Doyle MLS.com

MLS Power Rankings

NYCY Vieira slams Red Bulls Coach Jesse Marsch

Is Seattle Coach Sigi Schmidt in Trouble?  Video

Saves of the Week – MLS

NWSL Save of Week

NWSL Goalie Scores Game Winning Header 

INDY 11

3 things FCE

Indy 1 FCE 0 Game Recap

NASL Roundup – Indy 11 take 1st

Tix on sale for 8/3 Wed game vs Jax and 8/6 vs OTT and 8/13 vs OKC

Networking Night 8/3 5:30 till 7:15 pm

 USA

Soccer Schedule Announced by NBC

US Ladies Christen Press in ESPN Body Issue

US ladies cruise past Costa Rica 4-0

US Rookie Olympians ready for Golden Chance

US reveals New Olympic Jerseys

What happens to US Yedlin with Moyes in Charge at Sunderland?

Bayern’s Green happy with Growth in the US of soccer

US Players Yedlin and Vickers Play well for Tottenham in ICC

Dempsey Proud of US Effort in the COPA America

U.S. OLYMPIC WOMEN’S SOCCER TEAM –GROUP STAGE BROADCAST SCHEDULE 

DATE BROADCAST TIME (ET) OPPONENT NBC NETWORK
Aug. 3, 2016 7 p.m. local / 6 p.m. ET New Zealand NBCSN, Soccer Specialty Channel, NBC Universo, NBCOlympics.com, NBC Sports App
Aug. 6, 2016 5 p.m. local / 4 p.m. ET France NBCSN, Soccer Specialty Channel, NBC Universo, NBCOlympics.com, NBC Sports App
Aug. 9, 2016 6 p.m. local / 6 p.m. ET Colombia NBCSN, Soccer Specialty Channel, NBC Universo, NBCOlympics.com, NBC Sports App

 World Leagues

What’s Trending in Europe

Man U put players on Chopping Block

Sunderland hire David Moyes to replace new England Manager Allardyce

Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

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.

==========================================================================

If you are a goalkeeper – I am doing my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25  + Aug 1.

U-9-U12 6 till 7 pm

U13 and above 7:00 – 8:15 pm

if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

==============================================

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools

MLS All-Stars vs. Arsenal FC | 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game Match Preview

MLS ALL-STARS vs. ARSENAL FC
July 28, 2016 • Avaya Stadium, San Jose, Calif.
7:30 pm ET (ESPN, UniMás, TSN, RDS)

The 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Game will pit the best of Major League Soccer against English Premier League giants Arsenal. The English club, participating in the MLS All-Star Game for the first time, will face off against the All-Stars at the home of the San Jose Earthquakes, Avaya Stadium, which opened in 2015.

Youthful All-Star Lineup

Sure, there are plenty of big, veteran names on the All-Star roster, but what marks this group may be the youth. With two young goalkeepers in Quakes stopper David Bingham and Philadelphia’s Andre Blake, and two rookie defenders in Blake’s Philadelphia teammate Keegan Rosenberry and Chicago’s Brandon Vincent, there are some up-and-comers getting a chance to shine, right now. Add in the likes of Columbus midfielder Wil Trapp and Orlando City striker Cyle Larin, and there is certainly an infusion of youth in this year’s group of MLS All-Stars.

Arsenal preparing for upcoming season

The North London side, which surged to a second-place finish in the Premier League last season, will certainly be in the reckoning for silverware again in 2016-17, between the league, the UEFA Champions League, where Arsenal routinely reach the knockout rounds, and the domestic cups, including the FA Cup, which they last won in 2014-15. With Arsene Wenger the club’s longest-tenured manager, at the helm for another season, and a group of talented players returning, the club will look to continue preparations for the season ahead with a clash against the MLS All-Stars.

Can the winning streak continue?

Given the parameters in play, with a group of players from various teams coming together for a couple days at most, it can be tough for the MLS All-Stars to get results against their visitors. But in fact, the MLS All-Stars have won the last two editions of the midseason classic, 2-1 to Arsenal’s biggest rivals Tottenham Hotspur last year, and 2-1 to German giants Bayern Munichin 2014. Can the MLS team make it three years in a row?

2016 AT&T MLS ALL-STAR GAME ROSTERS:

2016 AT&T MLS All-Stars:

Goalkeepers (2)David Bingham (San Jose Earthquakes), Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union)

Defenders (7)Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Laurent Ciman (Montreal Impact), Andrew Farrell(New England Revolution), Liam Ridgewell (Portland Timbers), Keegan Rosenberry(Philadelphia Union), Brandon Vincent (Chicago Fire), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps)

Midfielders (9)Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas), Giovani dos Santos(LA Galaxy), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Kaká (Orlando City), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Andrea Pirlo (New York City FC), Wil Trapp(Columbus Crew SC)

Forwards (7)Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact), Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto FC), Cyle Larin (Orlando City), Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), David Villa(New York City FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

 Arsenal FC:

Goalkeepers (3): Petr Cech, Emiliano Martinez, David Ospina

Defenders (7): Hector Bellerin, Krystian Bielik, Calum Chambers, Mathieu Debuchy, Kieran Gibbs, Rob Holding, Nacho Monreal

Midfielders (9): Santi Cazorla, Francis Coquelin, Mohamed Elneny, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jeff Reine-Adelaide, Chris Willock, Jack Wilshere, Granit Xhaka, Gedion Zelalem

Forwards (4): huba Akpom, Joel Campbell, Alex Iwobi, Theo Walcott

 USMNT youngster Zelalem in Arsenal squad for US tour

Gedion Zelalem, 19, is heading to the United States of America with Arsenal.On Monday Arsene Wenger and his squad — he named 23 players to the roster which included teenager Zelalem — flew to the U.S. ahead of their game against the MLS All-Stars in San Jose, Calif. on Wednesday.The Gunners will also play Chivas Guadalajara at StubHub Center, Carson, Calif. on Sunday to round off their two-game tour of the U.S.Wenger has named a strong squad for the tour, with the full list below.The only major absentees are players who made a deep run in major tournaments with their countries this summer.Arsenal’s French contingent who reached the final of EURO 2016 — Laurent Koscielnyand Olivier Giroud — aren’t in the squad, while Alexis Sanchez is omitted after winning Copa America Centenario with Chile and suffering an ankle injury plus Aaron Ramseyhasn’t been named in the squad after reaching the semifinals of the European Championships with Wales.

Mesut Ozil is also left out after reaching the final four of EURO 2016 with Germany but the likes of Jack WilshereGranit XhakaSanti CazorlaPetr CechTheo WalcottAlex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Santi Cazorla all make the trip.As for Zelalem, Arsenal boss Wenger thinks highly of the youngster who was born in Germany but spent his formative years in Maryland, hence why he was able to obtain U.S. citizenship and play for the U.S. national team. The fluid two-way midfielder has silky skills on the ball but is still young and his body is yet to develop into a powerful unit.That perhaps explains why Zelalem is yet to make his debut for Jurgen Klinsmann’s full national team but he did play a starring role in Tab Ramos’ U-20 side during the World Cup in 2015. His progress with the U-23 side has somewhat stalled in recent months after Zelalem was loaned out to Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish second-tier last season. After a good start to the campaign with Rangers he found minutes hard to come by in the second half of last season.ProSoccerTalk spoke to Wenger about Zelalem in the summer of 2015 and he said he will always give him, and other youngsters, a chance to impress in preseason before either including him in the first team squad of loaning him out.With Wilshere, Ramsey, Cazorla, Francis CoquelinMohamed Elneny and Xhaka in front of him in the pecking order for a midfield spot, it seems likely that the young U.S. national team prospect will again spend time away from the Emirates Stadium in the upcoming season.A few strong performances in preseason could change that though.

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech: I don’t want Drogba to score fr MLS All-Stars

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech wants to make sure his old Chelsea teammate Didier Drogba doesn’t take the bragging rights when the Gunners take on the MLS All-Stars this week.Cech and Drogba, who both joined Chelsea in 2004 and won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and one Champions League trophy together before the Ivory Coast striker ended his first stint with the club in 2012, will be reunited on opposite sides of the pitch for Thursday night’s game in San Jose, California.Drogba, 38, is now playing for the Montreal Impact, while Cech joined Arsenal last summer after losing his starting spot at Stamford Bridge to Thibaut Courtois.The pair remain good friends and Cech said he has extra incentive to keep a clean sheet in the game.”Obviously I hope that he [Drogba] doesn’t score because then for a whole year he would text me a picture of the goal,” Cech joked at a news conference.However, Drogba does have a great scoring record against Arsenal and has netted 15 goals in his first 15 appearances against the Gunners.Cech, who also played against Drogba when Galatasaray faced Chelsea in the Champions League in 2014, said he will enjoy another reunion.”I’m looking forward to playing against him here,” he added. “It’s been a very long time when I didn’t have this opportunity.”

Why the MLS All-Star Game format should remain unchanged

Every year around this time, as MLS’s annual All-Star Game approaches, out come the articles questioning whether the match needs a reboot, or if it is still worth playing at all.We get it. For a league that continues to insist that it must play on the same dates as some World Cup qualifiers because the calendar is just too crowded, scheduling a midseason exhibition match against an undermanned European squad preparing for its own campaign seems like an odd priority.Coaches certainly don’t love it.”We maybe have a different view from players,” admitted Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who’ll be without Clint Dempsey in training this week because of Dempsey’s involvement in Thursday’s All-Star tilt against Arsenal (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/WatchESPN).”Players appreciate the All-Star game because they get bonus money and an opportunity to play against a big-name club. But for a team like us that has had three midweek games in a row, to have an important guy play in another one seems sort of terrifying.”It’s a valid beef, and it’s not the only one dissenters have. Here’s the thing, though: Despite being a glorified friendly match, MLS’s midsummer classic still matters on a number of levels.Mainly, there’s the exposure. Thursday’s match will be broadcast live in 166 countries, and playing Arsenal, which has been one of the world’s most popular clubs over the last two decades, guarantees that the MLS product will reach fans that normally wouldn’t give it a second look.All-Star week has also become a celebration of the growing North American game, and doubles as the de facto American soccer convention since MLS Cup stopped being held at a neutral site following the 2011 season. On the business and marketing side, it is can’t-miss, one-stop shopping for league and team executives, media and sponsors. More than anything else, though, the All-Star game matters because players on both sides actually try.Unlike the farcical Eastern Conference versus Western Conference games of the league’s early days — the six East-West contests between 1996 and 2004 averaged nine goals scored — the MLS-against-decorated-guest format has produced compelling, hard-fought soccer more often than not. When one thinks back to then-Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola refusing to shake hands with MLS boss Caleb Porter after the home side’s 2-1 win two years ago, it’s hard to argue with commissioner Don Garber’s oft-repeated claim that his league boasts “the most competitive All-Star Game in all of sports.”The win against Bayern wasn’t the league’s only success, either. The MLS All-Stars have also beaten Chelsea twice, including just months after the Blues won the 2012 Champions League title. Last year, goals from Kaka and David Villa were enough for MLS to defeat Tottenham Hotspur, whose lone strike came from Harry Kane, a team that went on to finish third in the Premier League.Those victories certainly don’t hurt the league’s credibility at home or abroad. And while there’s always a risk of embarrassment when a hodge-podge All-Star squad faces one of the planet’s richest and deepest clubs — Manchester United out-scored MLS 9-2 in back-to-back wins in 2010 and ’11 — it’s a gamble worth continuing.There’s also the novelty of it. Seeing a Thierry Henry turn back the clock against former France teammate Franck Ribery in 2014 was flat-out cool. So was watching Landon Donovan score against Manuel Neuer, or DeAndre Yedlin shut down fellow U.S. prospect Julian Green — his roommate at the World Cup in Brazil — in that game in Portland.Other U.S. national teamers, including ex-MLSers Yedlin, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, Tim Howard and Brian McBride have all played for foreign teams against the hosts.”It’s something I always looked forward to as a fan,” said Philadelphia Union defender Keegan Rosenberry, who at 22 is the second youngest player on the MLS roster after Orlando City striker Cyle Larin.Now Rosenberry is looking forward to making a mark alongside living legends and fellow first-time All-Stars like Didier Drogba and Andrea Pirlo against an opponent he couldn’t have imagined facing this time last year, when he was still a college student.”It’s an honor for me, my family and my club to be part of it,” Philly keeper Andre Blake, another first-timer, told ESPN. “It’s an All-Star game, but it’s still something that at the end of the day you want to go and showcase what you can do.”If Garber gets his wish, and MLS one day becomes capable of competing for the sport’s best players while they are still in their primes, the All-Star game might become unnecessary. For now, though, it’s an entertaining diversion that participants take seriously and supporters enjoy.Long may it continue.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Major League Soccer’s All-Star Game needs a new look

That Arsenal’s squad for this week’s MLS All-Star game is missing a host of key players gives further credence to the idea that, after 20 years, the league’s showpiece summer occasion has become little more than a distraction right in the middle of what is supposed to be the ramp-up to the most competitive portion of the season.A shift in format 11 years ago has robbed the game of any legitimate sort of competition, leaving behind nothing but a friendly featuring a visiting foreign club and there are multiple problems with the current MLS All-Stars vs. preseason mode European squad format.The first is the name power of the opposing squad; while this year it is Arsenal and its famous brand taking on the MLS team in San Jose on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN), in years past the game has featured such “powerhouses” as Celtic, Fulham, and Everton. But even when some of the European continent’s bigger teams make the transatlantic voyage, their squads are often dominated by reserves, unknown youngsters and faded stars. That’s exactly the case this year with the Gunners.After a busy international summer, the list of players manager Arsene Wenger has at his disposal is woefully bereft of the team’s most famous names. Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey, Olivier Giroud and Laurent Koscielny have all been rested, while Per Mertesacker pulled out on Monday with an injury.No offense to David Ospina, who was excellent in net for Colombia at Copa America Centenario, but it’s a commentary on the state of the Arsenal team for the All-Star Game when his name is highlighted in an MLS press release. Ospina isn’t even Arsenal’s first-choice keeper; that role is filled by Petr Cech (the first name mentioned in the release, and though he’s a big name, he’s still a goalkeeper).Other notable names listed for effect were the now-injured Mertesacker, as well as Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott and Gedion Zelalem, the last of whom makes the cut because he’s a young American prospect. None, though, can measure up to those who are missing. Indeed, none of the English players are even regular starters for Arsenal.There are two debates to be had around the All-Star Game: One is whether it should be played at all and the second concerns what format it should take.If the game is still needed to help boost the league’s profile, it might be time to take a hard look at the way it’s presented. Not only are visiting foreign teams often lacking their stars, but it is worth wondering if it’s wise for MLS to continue to set up its players as second billing in its own event.Fixing that particular problem wouldn’t be difficult. MLS could simply go back to the original format, pitting the Eastern Conference’s best against the best from the Western Conference. Such a game would put more of the growing talent of the league on display, even if it wouldn’t grab the attention of some Euro-focused American soccer fans.Alternatively, a previously used format could be also brought back, with a team of Americans facing off against a select side of foreign players.

A proposed starting XI of U.S. players for the 2016 All-Star Game.A proposed starting XI of foreign players for the 2016 All-Star Game.

Another possible wrinkle would be the “fantasy/playground” concept, where the captains or honorary coaches of each team pick a side from a group of selected all-stars. The NWSL has adopted the idea, after both the NHL and NFL chose to spice up their respective all-star contests with this intriguing process.As MLS continues to grow and improve, the juice of the All-Star Game in its current format becomes less and less worth the squeeze. Players no doubt appreciate the recognition, and many have contract bonuses based on their selection, but playing for pride against a famous club like Arsenal, no matter who lines up wearing their jersey, still fits the narrative of MLS as an up-and-coming league with something to prove.The negatives are getting ever closer to outweighing the positives. MLS coaches don’t like sending their best players away to play in a game that doesn’t matter, especially since it risks their health. If the league is going to let the All-Star Game undermine its competition, it at least needs to make it worth the effort.Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.

Arsene and his men: 10 things to know about 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star opponents Arsenal

February 11, 201612:59PM ESTArielle CastilloSenior Editor

California will be teeming with Gooners come this summer.But what is it about Arsenal Football Club that has seen club win over legions of Gooner supporters around the globe? Here’s a short list of only some of those things with which all Arsenal fans identify.

1. It starts on the field

Take this Barclays Premier League season, for example, which has seen North London-based Arsenal bouncing around the top reaches of the table, sometimes in first place, sometimes in fourth. But they’re doing it in Gunner fashion … with style.And fan favorite Mesut Ozil, a German national team member and 2014 World Cup winner, has a lot to do with it. The latest in a long line of world-class players to don an Arsenal shirt, at the time of publishing he’s already racked up 16 assists this season in Premier League alone, a category in which the club leads the league.Ozil’s popularity has inspired this song among fans. (Yes, the tune may or may not have appeared previously among West Ham supporters, but before that, it was a thing among various other teams, going back to Celtic, too.)Anyways, Ozil’s he’s serving up all these assists to whom, exactly? Most of the time, it’s striker Olivier Giroud, known to some as “French Jesus.”It’s this combination that has Arsenal fans dreaming big for the stretch run in the race for the EPL title, and perhaps even in the UEFA Champions League where they face mighty FC Barcelona in the Round of 16.

2. Cannons, Gunners, and Gooners

Arsenal’s club crest famously features a cannon, which first appeared there in 1888. The back story? In a nutshell, the club, founded in 1886, was originally based in the borough of Woolwich, which had a strong military influence. Even when the club moved to Highbury, London, in 1913, they kept it.That’s where the team gets its nickname, the “Gunners.” Fans, meanwhile, go by a derivative of that—”Gooners.”

3. Gunnersaurus

All that explains the name of the team’s official mascot since 1994, Gunnersaurus. He’s an extremely tall green dinosaur with a penchant for pre-match handshakes.He’s got a cute back story, too. During the 1993-1994 season, the club ran a youth contest asking kids to design a new mascot. The winner? Young fan Peter Lovell, who submitted “Gunnersaurus Rex.” Vice Sports recently did this great interview with him about the genesis of Gunnersaurus.

4. Diverse from the early days

Not only is Arsenal friendly to oversize green reptiles, but it has welcomed a diverse cast of players and fans from the early days

Integration came late to the English top flight, with some teams not debuting their first black players until the 1980s. Arsenal was among the earlier teams to integrate, with Brendan Batson’s 1971 first-team debut.The club’s location in Highbury, meanwhile, borders on several neighborhoods of varying social class, making the team’s fan base one of the most diverse in the Premier League, too.

5. Media Firsts

Arsenal has made history a few times in popular culture, too. They and Sheffield United became the first English League teams to be broadcast live on the radio for their game on January 22, 1927. Then, on September 16, 1937, a friendly between Arsenal’s first and reserve team becamethe first soccer match in the world to be televised live.

6. St. Totteringham’s Day

Arsenal fans generally healthily distrust other London teams, like Premier League clubs Chelsea FC and West Ham United, as well as Championship club Fulham. But their absolute fiercest rivalry is with the other Premier League team in North London—Tottenham Hotspur. (Yup, they were the visiting opponents for the 2015 AT&T MLS All-Star Game.)The matches between the two are known as the North London Derby—but fans have invented a celebration that goes beyond that: St. Totteringham’s Day. Supporters first invented it on independent website Arseweb in 2002; the day falls on the first in which Arsenal have officially gathered enough points to finish ahead of Tottenham in the league table.

7. Wenger for the Win

In a high-pressure league that leaves little room for failure, Arsenal’s head coach, Arsene Wenger, stands out for pure longevity—he’s been the club’s gaffer since 1996. It was he who led the team’s so-called “Invicibles,” a star-studded lineup that took the team to a league triumph for the 2003-2004 season, without a single defeat.Off the field, Wenger’s also known for being ridiculously, ridiculously suave and cool. Just check this recent model-esque fashion photo shoot he did for French magazine L’Equipe Sport & Style. He even offered some meaningful words upon the passing of David Bowie. What a guy.

8. Celebrity Fans

Just like the everyday fan base, Arsenal’s celebrity supporters span a pretty wide range of professions and sensibilities. Media tycoon Piers Morgan is famous online for his impassioned Twitter play by plays, while sex symbol Idris Elba is also a longtime home supporter.So is author Nick Hornby, whose book Fever Pitch became an American movie about baseball, but actually centered around Arsenal fandom.Stateside, famous Gooners include Mr. Beyonce himself—titan Jay-Z. (For real—he said he was first taken by Thierry Henry.)That’s all just to name a tiny few, of course.

9. The Gooner Diaspora

Arsenal boasts one of the largest global fan bases worldwide, with an especially healthy and well-connected fan community in the US. Arsenal America, the official US supporters’ umbrella organization, currently lists some 66 regional clubs on its web site, from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Winston-Salem, North Carolina. There are so many American Gooners, in fact, that they recently celebrated Gooner Gras, an unofficial annual gathering of hundreds of fans in New Orleans.Back in the UK, Arsenal are also one of the few teams to boast a truly internet-infamous supporters’ rock band, the Away Boyz. Their thing is tongue-in-cheek, Arsenal-themed parodies of ska, punk, and pop songs.

10. Trophies

None of this would matter if the team didn’t actually take home some silverware. Luckily, their trophy case is pretty full. In the last 30 years alone, domestically they’ve racked up five Premier League titles, seven FA Community Shield titles and seven FA Cup titles. In fact, they hold a record for most FA Cup wins ever, with 12 total, starting with their first in 1930.

Armchair Analyst: The bell tolls for Sigi Schmid as Sounders make a move

July 26, 20165:27PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

Sigi Schmid did not get the Seattle Sounders to the promised land. He just took them everywhere else.Schmid’s tenure as head coach in Seattle came to a not unexpected end on Tuesday when the Sounders announced, via press release, that the club and the only man who’d guided it during the MLS era were parting ways. During Schmid’s tenure the Sounders won four US Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield, competed in the CONCACAF Champions League multiple times, and sold players to teams in some of the biggest leagues in Europe.The one thing they did not do, however, was win MLS Cup. And as much as anything else, that’s why — for the first time in a decade — he’s looking for a job today.Schmid knows it, and didn’t shy away from it.”I’m proud of the success we’ve achieved in winning five major trophies in Seattle, qualifying for the postseason for seven straight seasons,” he said in a statement released by the team. “My only disappointment is that we were unable to bring home an MLS Cup to our tremendous fans, who have always been supportive through good times and bad.”The failure to win MLS Cup was the subtext of every story about the Sounders since roughly the middle of 2013, when they went from “consistent winner with big ambitions” to “high-spending SuperClub with guys like Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins on the roster.” A team that spends big should, it was reasoned, win big. And to be fair to both Schmid and the Sounders, they came oh-so-close to one of the best seasons in league history in 2014, when they won the Shield/USOC double, and nearly knocked out perpetual nemesis LA Galaxy in the Western Conference championship.It wasn’t to be, of course. And though 2015 started off well — few seem to remember how good the Sounders were in the spring before losing about half the team to international duty and injury — the regular season ended miserably. That misery has carried on and intensified in 2016, then came to a head this past weekend in alistless 3-0 loss at Sporting KC, a game in which they managed just one shot (which was off target, and in the 88th minute, and sounded like this).The biggest criticism of Schmid over the years, including at previous stops in Columbus and LA — he won a Shield/MLS Cup double in both spots, by the way — was that his teams were always too reliant upon their best player, and lacked a Plan B. It was Carlos Ruiz or bust in LA, and thenGuillermo Barros Schelotto or bust in Columbus. I don’t totally buy into that, but I don’t totally notbuy into that.However, it’d be unfair to reduce his Seattle tenure to that, since there were two distinctly successful runs under his guidance: One centered around Fredy Montero in the pre-Martins days, and then one centered around Dempsey and Martins starting in 2013.”Their gameplan,” one Western Conference front office-type said to me late last season, “is to just get the ball to those guys and let them do [expletive] that no one else in the league can do. When that happens, they’re good. If you can stop them from doing that, they’re not.”Thus, when Martins was sold to a team in the Chinese SuperLeague this offseason, the result was predictable:

Sounders with and without Martins starting 2013-16

With/Without Goals/Game Shots/Game Points/Game Win %
With 1.8 9.5 1.9 59.1%
Without .9 8.7 1.1 30.6%
2016 1.0 12.75 1.0 30.0%

The arrival of Jordan Morris has cushioned the blow only marginally, as he’s bagged seven goals. But Morris and Dempsey have the on-field chemistry of two cats meeting each other for the first time, which means those thrilling 2-vs-5 forays that defined the Sounders from 2013 through 2015 are no longer part of the equation. Nor has there been any subsequent injection of creativity from the midfield (yet), which has stunted the team’s ability to turn possession into penetration.While “Plan B” and “tactics” are usually the first things mentioned by Schimd’s detractors, they must come to terms with this: The raft of new, veteran signings added last summer have proved to be more of a hindrance than a help. Roman Torres got hurt and has yet to play this season;Andreas Ivanschitz is a part-time starter who serves a nice dead ball, but has been a liability from open play; and while Nelson Valdez is by all accounts a great locker room presence for a team that needs much, much more of that, the 32-year-old DP forward has 1 goal and 1 assist in just over 1000 regular season minutes.Those guys were supposed to keep the window of opportunity open for the Dempsey/Martins core at least through 2015, a roll of the dice to give an aging core one last shot at glory. Instead, they helped slam 2016’s window shut before the season ever really got started.Schmid paid the price.

A few more scattered thoughts:

  • Seattle were lucky to have Sigi— stability in the world of sports is a gift, especially for expansion teams. Given Schmid’s ties to LA, I’m going to assume LAFC will be thinking about that very thing. And given Schmid’s ties toCarlos Bocanegra, who’s the technical director at Atlanta United and who played for Schmid at UCLA… well, I don’t think Sigi will be out of a job for long.He may not be the sexiest hire to make, but expansion teams need stability above all.
  • It’s never been clear to me who made the pushto sign Valdez, Ivanschitz and Torres last summer. Perhaps it was Schmid, or perhaps it was GM Garth Lagerwey, or perhaps even owner Adrian Hanauer. Seattle’s front office has always presented a united front on those types of moves.
  • You could make a decent argument that Schmid, at the very least, deserved a month or two of coaching imminent arrival Nicolas Lodeiro before making a final judgement on his continued employment:

I’ve maintained that Seattle are more “talented team missing one or two crucial creative pieces” than “bad team, no hope.” Lodeiro should provide a lot of answers for this team over the next half-decade no matter who’s coaching him.

  • Speaking of, Sounders assistant Brian Schmetzerwill be Schmid’s interim replacement.Schmetzer’s been a major presence in Seattle soccer for nearly four decades, and the team will be in good hands with the former USL coach of the year. Folks connected to the club, however, don’t expect him to become the fulltime boss.
  • Who, then, is on the shortlist for replacements?I can only offer rank speculation, so here goes:
  • You’d have to assume that Toronto FC assistant and former Chivas RIP head coachRobin Fraser will receive one of Lagerwey’s first calls
  • Former Red Bulls head coachMike Petke should put his name into the hat
  • Rio Grande Valley (USL) head coach Wilmer Cabrera, who also coached Chivas and spent time as an assistant underOscar Pareja in Colorado, is a name that will come up
  • Ezra Hendrickson, head coach of Seattle’s own USL team, deserves a look
  • Jeremy Gunn at Stanford could be an interesting darkhorse candidate, though his teams are a little too direct for my taste
  • My personal favorite is current New York Cosmos head coachGiovanni Savarese. He’s handled big stars and big egos, and also helped guide a nascent academy and shown confidence in younger players
  • Schelotto would be the perfect candidate if he wasn’t already at Boca Juniors, which is the best job in the Americas and a launching pad toward worldwide managerial superstardom

That said… this is Seattle, and it wouldn’t shock me if they still wanted to do something high profile. Marc Connolly, take it away…

he other option in the “high profile” category? USWNT head coach Jill Ellis, assuming her squad wins Olympic gold next month in Rio. At that point she’ll have won back-to-back World Cup/Gold, and there’s not much left to prove once you put those two together. There’s also no reason to think she couldn’t make a fair go of it in MLS.4

THREE THINGS: #INDVFCE

Three takeaways as the “Boys in Blue” take three points vs FCEJul 25, 2016

In our latest “Three Things,” the importance of bounce back ability, winning sloppy, and why next week’s match is more than just a building block for the rest of the Fall Season.

1) BOUNCE BACK ABILITY

Like in last week’s match against Minnesota United FC, the early goal set the tone for the hosts in Indy Eleven’s 1-0 win over FC Edmonton. Unlike the home side last week, however, the Eleven were unable to put a second on the board inside the opening quarter of an hour to put the match a little further out of reach for the Eddies.Perhaps the most important takeaway once the whistle blew after a hot and heavy 90 minutes is the bounce back ability this team showed. Riding a 12-game unbeaten streak that was snapped in the grasp of MNU on the road, it would have been easy for the team to return to Indianapolis with low spirits, or to build up a false sense of confidence and go into the match with big chests but not in the right mindset. Instead, head coach Tim Hankinson took the route of resilience, pushing his team back towards their focus.“We talked during the week about the old sports expression from hero to goat and back again. It’s a saga we live by in sports to get back on top. The most important word I have in my life as a sportsman and in my life is resilience. The ability to get knocked down and fight your way back into it. If you can apply resiliency it will go a long way for this team to getting back on top again,” said Coach Hank.The job is not done, though. Indy Eleven head to Miami FC next Saturday night, a match that did not do them any favors last time around in the Spring Season. The battle continues.

2) WINNING SLOPPY – THREE POINTS IS THREE POINTS
In the midst of 90+ degree heat, no amount of water breaks, respite, or breathers could have injected more energy into the match.

As the match wore on, passes were played into the wrong channels, to the wrong feet, and marking became an afterthought as Jon Busch was forced into making two of his three saves in the second half, and was saved by a last-gasp clearance by Brad Ring on opposition ‘keeper Matt Van Oekel’s header near the end of the match.Ring, who was a key central figure in the match, is a perfect example of a tale of two halves. Below is his first half passing hart – 19/24 – a pretty solid set of numbers.

The second half? A little different, with just a slight uptick in red.

Regardless, the three points shot Indy Eleven back to the top of both the Fall Season table and the combined table, a familiar site for the “Boys in Blue” in 2016.

3) MORE THAN A BUILDING BLOCK

The Sunshine State has not been kind to Indy Eleven this year. In the Spring Season, four trips south resulted in Coach Hankinson & co. returning with just four points. But the fall can be different, and this Saturday’s match may be the most important so far.Miami FC are a completely different side – a lot has changed for them already – but held Indy Eleven scoreless in the June 4 clash at FIU Stadium. This week has to be different for Indy.“Indiana’s Team” is embarking on their last match of July before the dog days of August see them play seven (!) games in 32 days, three consecutive at home before three straight on the road, the last of which is a trip to New York to face current holders of the second place spot, the Cosmos. Therefore, as Miami attempts to climb the table and take points at home, Indy will have to be on their toes and braced for the heat as this stretch is the longest of the year.

Indy Eleven Returns to Win Column, Top of NASL Standings

1-0 Victory over FC Edmonton Gives Indiana’s Team Leads on Fall, Combined Season TablesINDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, July 23, 2016)  In a clash of two of the NASL’s top teams, Indy Eleven emerged the winner from a hard fought 1-0 result over FC Edmonton in front of 8,119 fans at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. With its return to the win column following its first loss of 2016 a week prior, Indy Eleven also returned to the top of the NASL standings both for the Fall and Combined Seasons.“We talked during the week about the old sports expression ‘from hero to goat and back again,’” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “The most important word I have in my life as a sportsman and in my life is resilience – the ability to get knocked down and fight your way back into it. If you can apply resiliency it will go a long way for this team to getting back on top again.”WATCH: “After the Whistle” reaction from Hankinson, Greg Janikci & Gerardo Torrado

After being victimized by two early goals last weekend in Minnesota, Indy Eleven (3W-1D-1L, 10 pts. in Fall Season; 7W-7D-1L, 28 pts. in Combined Season) came out and flipped the script via defender Greg Janicki’s third tally of the season just 13 minutes in. The chance was created when defender Nemanja Vukovic was tripped up 30 yards from goal to set up Dylan Mares’ perfect free kick service to Janicki, who headed home from eight yards to move the scoreboard for the home side.Edmonton striker Jake Keegan was unlucky not to even things up in the 22nd minute as he ran onto a free ball just 10 yards from goal, but his rising shot just missed the upper right corner. Two minutes later Indy ‘keeper Jon Busch spilled Adam Eckersley’s well-served cross from the left side, and while Daryl Fordyce was there to pounce on the loose ball he couldn’t turn to shoot and the danger was eventually cleared by the Eleven backline.Mares almost played provider once again before the half hour mark when he gathered a turnover on the right flank and fired a far-post cross for Eamon Zayed, but Matt VanOekel came off his line and just got a piece of the service to stop a certain second for the “Boys in Blue.”Indy Eleven had two more chances to push the lead at the end of the first half, first on a long-distance chance by Zayed that VanOekel got two hands to and steered just wide. On the ensuing corner it was Vukovic steering a header on frame, but it fell right to a waiting VanOekel on his line.The first quality look of the second half came at the stroke of the 58th minute when Eamon Zayed was played behind the backline, but VanOekel cut off the angle well at his left post, going low to block the shot wide. One minute later, the first starting appearance in NASL play for Indy Eleven midfielder Gerardo Torrado would come to a finish, the famed Mexican international exiting his central midfield spot for Nicki Paterson.A nice run to the endline by Edmonton striker Tomi Ameobi caused panic in the Indy six-yard box in the 62ndminute, but his cutback pass would be overrun by a trio of Eleven defenders in addition to its intended target, winger Dustin Correa. The end-to-end action would continue with two more chances for the Eleven in quick succession, but forward Justin Braun’s open header off a Vukovic cross was sent right to VanOekel, who moments later got just enough of Mares’ far post shot to push it wide for a corner.Indy Eleven looked like it padded its lead in the 75th minute when substitute Don Smart’s diagonal through ball sprung Braun behind the backline. While Braun’s square ball was finished off by Zayed into an open net, the offside flag went up to keep the visitors within striking distance. Two minutes from time it was Smart almost helping Indy find paydirt again when he sent a pinpoint cross to Zayed, whose header had VanOekel beat but fell just wide of the right post.Edmonton had two chances deep into stoppage time, first when Daryl Fordyce’s header at the near post was deflected out by Brad Ring for a corner. VanOekel would venture forward and get on the end of the ensuing set piece, but his header from 10 yards was also cleared out by Ring inside the six, securing the return to the win column for Indiana’s Team.Indy Eleven will return to action next Saturday, July 30, when it heads back to South Florida for a second meeting of the season against the Miami FC. Kickoff from Ocean Bank Field is set for 8:00 p.m. ET for a match that can be viewed live on beIN SPORTS and beIN SPORTS en Espanol in addition to the channel’s online component, beIN SPORTS CONNECT.Indy Eleven will then return home for a three-game homestand that will start on Wednesday, August 3, against Jacksonville Armada FC. The 7:30 p.m. match will mark the first Indy Eleven broadcast on CBS Sports Network, and the match can also be heard live on Exitos Radio 1590 AM and www.Exitos1590.com(Spanish). Tickets for the contest are available starting at just $11 and can be purchased online atIndyEleven.com or over the phone at 317-685-1100 weekdays from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
NASL Fall Season
Indy Eleven  1 : 0  FC Edmonton
Saturday, July 23, 2016  Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN  Attendance: 8,119

Indy Eleven:
Fall Season: 3W-1D-1L, 10 pts.
Overall Season: 7W-7D-1L, 28 pts.

FC Edmonton:
Fall Season: 2W-1D-1L, 7 pts.
Overall Season: 7W-3D-4L, 24 pts.
Scoring Summary:
IND – Greg Janicki (Dylan Mares) 13’

Discipline Summary:
IND – Brad Ring (caution) 59’
FCE – Nik Ledgerwood (caution) 78’
Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch; Nemanja Vuković, Greg Janicki (capt), Cory Miller, Marco Franco; Omar Gordon (Don Smart 68’), Gerardo Torrado (Nicki Paterson 60’), Brad Ring, Dylan Mares (Lovel Palmer 82’); Eamon Zayed, Justin BraunIndy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Daniel Keller, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Souleymane Youla

FC Edmonton (4-2-3-1): Matt VanOekel; Adamn Eckersley, Karsten Smith, Shawn Nicklaw, Allan Zebie (Johann Smith 80’); Nik Ledgerwood (capt), Shamit Stone; Jake Keegan (Gustavo Salgueiro 76’), Daryl Fordyce, Dustin Correa (Sainey Nyassi 71’); Tomi Ameobi United FC bench: Tyson Farago (GK)

Clint Dempsey satisfied with U.S. performance at Copa America

Clint Dempsey called the performance of the United States at last month’s Copa America Centenario “a great experience, something I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids about.”The U.S. reached the semifinals of the tournament before falling in the third-place game against Colombia 1-0.Prior to that, the U.S. won its group thanks to wins over Costa Rica and Paraguay, and defeated Ecuador in the quarterfinals before being soundly beaten 4-0 by Argentina in the semifinals.That Argentina match notwithstanding, Dempsey thought there were positives to be taken away from the Copa.”I thought it was a good tournament for us, to progress to the semifinals of a major competition,” Dempsey said in an exclusive interview ahead of the MLS All-Star Game on Thursday (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN).”Copa America is always important. I’m happy with that. But still, after the tournament, we were left wanting a little bit more.”Maybe you think you could have gotten third place in that last game against Colombia. You would have liked to have gotten third and hang your hat on that, but [I’m] proud of the performance of the team. I thought we did well.”After the U.S. fell to Colombia 2-0 in the opening game of the tournament, the hosts’ disappointing display resulted in some calls for Dempsey to be removed from the lineup. But the U.S. forward answered with a team-high three goals, scoring in each of the U.S. victories.Dempsey said the calls for him to sit were simply part of the life of being a professional soccer player. “I think you’re always under fire, whether it’s from the media or from the coaches,” he said. “You always have to perform, and if you don’t perform you’re out. You always have to have that kind of mentality being in the hot seat and trying to keep pushing.”Sometimes you’re able to figure things out, and sometimes you maybe struggle a little bit, but you’ve got to keep pushing, keep fighting. I’ve always had that mentality.”The U.S. now must find a way to carry that momentum into the last two games of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying, but Dempsey says the national team’s sole focus is on the upcoming games against St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 2, as well as and Tobago four days later.”We’ve got to look at these next two games,” he said. “You have to get results in these next two games. You can’t look past it. We have to get the right results against St. Vincent, against Trinidad if you we want to get to the hex. September is what it’s all about.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team 

USWNT cruises past Costa Rica in final pre-Olympic warm up

Matt ReedJul 22, 2016, 11:08 PM EDT

The U.S. Women’s National Team wasn’t really lacking confidence heading into Friday night’s clash with Costa Rica, but the squad’s utter dominance certainly didn’t hurt things as Jill Ellis’ group gets ready to head to Brazil for next month’s Olympic Games.The USWNT captured a 4-0 win against Costa Rica in the side’s final send-off match before the Olympics, extending the no. 1 ranked team in the world’s unbeaten streak to 15 matches.It only took a quarter of an hour the USWNT to find the lead, but it always looked like it was coming for Jill Ellis’ group. Meghan Klingenburg made a great run deep into the Costa Rica area, and played a perfect square pass across the face of goal for Crystal Dunn to give the U.S. the lead in the 15th minute.Mallory Pugh got her name on the scoreboard in the 22nd minute after making a brilliant darting run forward and beating the Costa Rican goalkeeper at the near post.The U.S. pushed their advantage to 3-0 on the stroke of halftime when Becky Sauerbrunn’s free kick was headed home by Carli Lloyd in first-half stoppage time.With a number of chances in the second half that didn’t take the right bounce for the USWNT, Christen Press made no mistake from close range in the 79th minute and gave the home nation a four-goal lead.Dunn continues to impress on the international stage, and nearly gave the U.S. an advantage after just seven minutes. The 24-year-old gathered the ball inside the penalty box before unleashing a strong effort that struck the crossbar and stayed out.The U.S. found another dangerous opportunity three minutes later, when Carli Lloyd was brought down from behind on the edge of the penalty area. Costa Rica defender Katherine Alvarado was shown a yellow card for the rash tackle, but the USWNT couldn’t make anything of the ensuing free kick.While Costa Rica put in a valiant effort against their competition, the Ticas were no match for the Americans, and failed to muster up any shots on target throughout the night. The 29th ranked team in the FIFA World Rankings struggled to move the ball past midfield for most of the outing largely due to the USWNT’s constant press.

US Womens Team

OLYMPIC ROOKIES READY FOR GOLDEN CHANCE IN BRAZIL

WNT Jul 25, 2016

When head coach Jill Ellis named her roster for the 2016 Olympic Games, there were many familiar names. The team assembled to travel to Brazil is an exciting mix of veterans and up-and-coming talents, but one roster note stands out: of the 18 players named to the team, 11 will be competing in their first Olympic Games.The group of Olympic rookies, featuring players with more than 50 caps down to those with just a few, includes: Morgan Brian, Crystal Dunn, Whitney Engen, Lindsey Horan, Julie Johnston, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Allie Long, Alyssa Naeher, Christen Press and Mallory Pugh.“Certainly going into the World Cup, we recognized we had more of a senior roster,” Ellis said in discussing the Olympic Team selection. “Now, it’s not just having your eye on the Olympics this summer, it’s having your eye on what’s beyond that. Getting younger players experience in this world event will help down the line. I think that’s part of what you have to do in this position is always plan to continue winning world championships. It’s a great infusion of new players – a slightly different style in terms of different players and pieces and putting it all together – and that’s actually been good. It’s refreshing, as a staff, to work with different faces and try to blend them.”Brian, Engen, Johnston, Klingenberg, Krieger, Naeher and Press were all part of the World Cup championship team in 2015, while Dunn, Horan, Long and Pugh will experience their first world championship at the senior level, although the quartet have each have represented the USA in a youth World Cup.“Myself and other older players do have some experience from last year’s World Cup, even if this is our first Olympic Games, so we can bring that to the table,” Naeher said. “Those that have been at the Olympics before will give support to us first timers and we can reciprocate by bringing what we learned during the World Cup experience to those who are experiencing their first world championship.”Krieger, who started every game at the 2015 Women’s World Cup at right back, was an alternate for the 2008 Olympic Team and was almost certain to make the 2012 squad when a devastating ACL injury dashed her dreams. Four years later, soon-to-be 32-year-old Krieger became the oldest first-time U.S. Women’s Soccer Olympian – a fact she embraces.“After three tries, it’s finally happened,” Krieger said. “I’ve waited for this my entire life and I’ve trained for it my entire life. You play to be able to compete at the highest level and you dream of this when you’re young, so making it a reality is amazing. Add to that, we are playing for ourselves and for Team USA so it’s inspiring to see so many athletes be a part of this. There’s extra motivation and extra support.”Four years ago, Klingenberg and Press were still trying to break into the team when they were named alternates for the 2012 Olympic squad. Klingenberg had just two caps at the time and Press had yet to debut.Now, after starting every match at the 2015 Women’s World Cup and playing the most minutes (384 out of 450) of any U.S. player in the Olympic Qualifying tournament, Klingenberg is a key cog on the back line. Press has an impressive strike rate, having scored 34 goals in 70 caps since debuting at the beginning of the 2013, including her first World Cup goal that came against Australia in the tournament opener last summer.“When Jill called me she said, ‘this call is a bit different than four years ago,’ and it was one of the best things,” Klingenberg said. “I was happy and proud in 2012 as an alternate but I wanted to be on the team and win a medal with my teammates and win a medal for the USA. So to be able to go to Brazil is special and I’m humbled and honored to represent it with this group of people. We have a great team with incredible people.”Dunn, who was among the final 25 players vying for 2015 Women’s World Cup spots before the roster was trimmed to the 23 that represented the USA in Canada, has become a valuable part of the U.S. attack, scoring 10 goals in 2016, behind only Alex Morgan’s 11. Horan, who came back to the U.S. this year after playing professional soccer in France with Paris Saint-Germain for more than three years, has developed into a strong presence as a holding midfielder, while her club teammate and fellow midfielder Allie Long made a return to the WNT scene in April and played her way into a spot on the Olympic Team.As for Pugh, the 18-year-old forward became the second youngest women’s soccer Olympian in U.S. history. She will be about a month older than Cindy Parlow was at the 1996 Atlanta Games. The selection put an exclamation point on an incredible debut year for Pugh, who has played in 14 of the USA’s 15 games so far in 2016 and has recorded seven assists, a team-leading mark, as well as scored three goals. “When [Jill Ellis] called, a bunch of emotions were going through my mind,” recalled Pugh, who is also the captain of the U.S. U-20 Women’s National Team that will compete in the U-20 Women’s World Cup in Papua New Guinea later this fall. “I was a bit in shock because I know I’ve worked hard and it’s because of my teammates on the National Team, on the U-20s and back at home that have pushed me. I appreciate that from them and I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today without them. I thought, did that really just happen? Am I going to go to the Olympics? I will not only be with amazing athletes on my team but also on Team USA. It will be so cool to see so many different athletes, find out their journeys and be inspired by them.”To win the gold, teams will have to slog through six games in 16 days, including three group games in the span of a week. Among several other strong contenders to win the tournament, the USA is poised to make a strong run, one in which several first-time Olympians will no doubt play major roles should the Americans once again step to the top of the podium.The U.S. WNT will kick off Group G play at the 2016 Olympic Games against New Zealand in Belo Horizonte on Aug. 3 (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBC Universo). The team then remains in Belo Horizonte to face France on Aug. 6 (4 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBC Universo) before taking off to Manaus for its final Group G game vs. Colombia (6 p.m. ET; NBCSN, NBC Universo).

Bayern’s Julian Green encouraged by football’s growth in United States

Julian Green believes football is on the rise in the United States as he looks to raise the profile of the game even further while on tour there with Bayern Munich.Green, 21, is part of Bayern’s squad for a preseason tour of the U.S. and the USMNT international has said how impressed he is with how the sport is developing in his home country.”[It’s developing] very well indeed,” he said on Bayern’s official website. “Everyone saw the enthusiasm for soccer at the 2014 World Cup. It was unbelievable! And I have the impression it’s still developing.”The tour is certainly very special for me personally. I was born in the USA, my father lives here, and I play for the U.S. national team. The USA is my home, just as Germany is. I’m delighted to be here with Bayern.”Although the aim of the tour is to prepare Bayern for the 2016-17 season, Green expects to enjoy his time in familiar company. “The people are so relaxed,” he said.”They’re very warm and they’ll give us a tremendous reception. It’s easy to feel at home in the USA, and we’ll enjoy the next few days. We have a packed schedule but I think it’ll be a good tour. It’s a great country and we’re visiting fantastic cities. Everyone at Bayern can look forward to our stay here.”Being back in the United States will also give Green the chance to keep up with some of his other passions without having to stay up late.”I’m a big fan of Hockey in general and especially of my hometown team, Tampa Bay Lightning,” he said. “I try and watch as many of their games as possible, although the difference in time zones makes it difficult. I also follow the NBA and play a bit of basketball in my free time.”

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7/22/16 Indy 11 Return Home Sat Night, ICC Starts with Man U drubbing, MLS NY Darby Sun 12:30 Fox, MLS All-Star Game vs Arsenal Thurs 7:30 on ESPN

Ok so maybe the Summer of Soccer is still here – as the International Champions Cup takes center stage starting this weekend in the US and around the world over the next 2 weeks.  The games are on the ESPN networks which should provide plenty of coverage and games within driving distance:  Real vs PSG at Columbus, Bayern vs AC Milan in Chicago, Real vs Chelsea in Mich Stadium have a certain appeal as well.  Now I like this tourney but remember this is pre-season on a summer with the Euros and COPA which will keep most of the real stars on these teams limited to a ½, if they play at all. Oops forgot the. US ladies play Costa Rica tonite 9 pm ESPN

Our Indy 11 finally had their NASL tying 13 game unbeaten streak broken at Minn 2-0 after some questionable home calls did the 11 in.   They return to the Jake for FC Edmonton this Sat, July 23 7:30 pm (TV8)- make plans to support your 11 by buying tickets for Family night for as little as $11.  Its also College Nite with $9 tix with College ID.  Turning to MLS – I watched Seattle/Portland on Sunday and what an atmosphere at the Rose Pad at PP– the MLS defending champs appear to be turning the corner here near the All-Star Break with the impressive 3-1 win.  Man my other team Seattle is just self destructing.  Neat story on Matt Hedges former Carmel High star at Dallas.  Coming this weekend – the NY Darby as NYCFC faces the NY Red Bulls 12:30 pm on FOX on Sunday followed by KC hosting Seattle 3 pm on ESPN, while Sat has the LA Galaxy hosting Portland on ESPN at 3:30 following the ICC Celtic vs Leicester City match at 12:30.  The MLS All Star Game vs Arsenal is just a week away (July 28 7:30 ESPN).

Locally they are still taking signups for Carmel High Asst and Carmel FC coach Carla Baker (a former Iowa coach and former Canadian National Team GK) and her sister Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin’s annual Post2Post Soccer field player camp  – July 25-28 —9 am to 3 pm just $195 @ Badger Field.  Finally –Carmel FC – Summer CFC Technical Training returns this week . If you are a goalkeeper – I am continuing my personal Monday night GK trainings July 18, 25, Aug 1 if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

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.

Indy 11

Gameday Preview vs FC Edmonton

Dual Roles – nice story on Players with Families

Vukovic on Week 3 Team of Week

3 things Indy’s loss to Min United.

Family Nite at the Mike Sat Night just $11

Tough own goal for Min United GK Sammy NdJock

Min United Goalie Own Goal – funny video

International Champions Cup

Dortmund thrashes Man U 4-1 in China

Unique challenge for Man City vs Man U in ICC Mon

Schedule on ESPN

What to Watch For in ICC video

Tix still available for Real vs PGS at Columbus, Bayern vs AC Milan in Chicago, Real vs Chelsea in Mich Stadium

ICC Website

MLS

Power Rankings

MLS Allstar Roster Announced

Not the Perfect Match – Kries and Orlando FC – Jeff Carlisle

Check this Tifo from Portlands Providence Park Sunday

NY Darby – NYCFC vs NY Red Bulls

Around MLS – Seattle Slumps, NYCFC finally loses

Should US Youth Clubs be Compensated?– Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

A Mom’s Text supports Dallas and US Defender Matt Hedges – former Carmel High star

USA

Brad Guzan to Middlesbrough?

USMNT Golden Generation Has Passed – ESPNFC Noah Davis

US youngsters light up pre-season

US Players Hot List

Christen Press Role on US Ladies

World Leagues

Only way is down for Leicester – ESPNFC Tony Evans

Conte’s 5 point plan to get Chelsea on track – ESPNFC

5 things Pep Must do at Man City

GAMES ON TV

See the Complete TV Schedule online www.theoleballcoach.com

Fri, July 22

9 pm  – ESPN ,     US ladies vs Costa Rica – last Olympic Send off Game

Sat, July 23

5 am – ESPN2                                        ICC Melborne vs Juve

12:30 pm                         ESPN                                    ICC Celtic vs Leicester City

3:30 p.m. (ESPN)                                 Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy

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

Sunday, July 24:

12:30 p.m. (Fox,)                                 New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC,

3:00 p.m. (ESPN,)                                Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders,

5 pm ESPN                                               ICC Inter vs PSG

Monday, July 25

5 AM ESPN 2                                           ICC Man City vs Man United  China

Tuesday, July 26

5 AM ESPN3+ESPN desportes     ICC Juventus vs Tottenham

Wed, July 27

7:30 p.m. (ESPN2        ICC Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain, Columbus, OH
9:30 p.m. (ESPN2,       ICC Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan, Chicago Soldier Field
11:30 p.m. (ESPN,       ICC Liverpool vs. Chelsea, Rose Bowl

Thur, July 28                 

7:30 a.m. ESPN3          ICC Borussia Dortmund vs Man City

(ESPN, UniMás) MLS All-Stars vs. Arsenal 7:30 p.m.

Sat, July 30

1:00 p.m. ESPN            ICC Barcelona vs. Celtic,
3:00 p.m. ESPN            ICC Chelsea vs. Real Madrid – Mich Stadium
5:00 p.m. (ESPNews                          ICC Bayern Munich vs. Inter Milan,
10:00 p.m. ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) Liverpool vs. AC Milan,
(11:30 p.m., ESPN       ICC Paris Saint-Germain vs. Leicester City,

Indy 11@ Miami – 8 pm BeIn sports

Sun, July 31

1:00 p.m. Fox, Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers,
4:00 p.m. ESPN Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy,

Wed, Aug 3

ICC Barcelona vs. Leicester City, ICC 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
United States women vs. New Zealand women, Olympics group stage, 6:00 p.m. (TV NBC?)
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, International Champions Cup 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Chelsea vs. AC Milan, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Portland Timbers vs. CD Dragon, CONCACAF Champions League group stage, 10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

Sat, Aug 6

12 noon ESPN                ICC Liverpool vs Barcelona – Wembley

Sun, Aug 7

11 am ???                        Community Shield Leicester City vs Man United

Sat, Aug 13                      EPL Season Starts

7:30 a.m., CNBC:         Hull City vs. Leicester City 
10:00 a.m., NBCSN    Everton vs. Tottenham Hotspur, Middlesbrough vs. Stoke City, Southampton vs. Watford
12:30 p.m., CNBC:     Manchester City vs. Sunderland

Sun, Aug 14

8:30 a.m., NBCSN:      Bournemouth vs. Manchester United
11:00 a.m., NBCSN:
   Arsenal vs. Liverpool

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

International Champions Cup – TV Schedule in July

EPL TV Schedule

 Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

Post2Post Soccer Camp
Carmel High Asst and Carmel FC coach Carla Baker (a former Iowa coach and former Canadian National Team GK) and her sister Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin 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.

==========================================================================

If you are a goalkeeper – I am doing my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25  + Aug 1.

U-9-U12 6 till 7 pm

U13 and above 7:00 – 8:15 pm

if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

==========================================================================

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools

 

Congrats to 2 Indiana Teams in the National Championship Finals in Oklahoma. 

Boilers FC Gold (IN) only needed one early goal to claim the Under-16 Boys National Presidents Cup title 1-0 over FSC Force (NC). The goal came from Mohamed Ayad in the ninth minute.  The U16G Fort Wayne Sport Club 00G Strikers claimed second place in the National tournament and won the Fair Play award. Karmen Koch was named Most Outstanding Player and Koch, Jorden Habiby, Cali Geiger and Kayla Amidon were named to the Best 16 Team. Congrats to both Indiana teams – from Indiana Soccer.

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven vs FC Edmonton  Saturday, July 23, 2016 – 7:30 p.m. ET  Carroll Stadium – 

Indy Eleven:
2W-1D-1L, 7 pts., 3rd in NASL Fall Season
6W-7D-1L, 25 pts., 2nd in Combined Season

FC Edmonton:
2W-1D-0L, 7 pts., 4th in NASL Fall Season
7W-3D-3L, 24 pts., 3rd in Combined Season

Watch Live: Local: WISH-TV   National: None  Online: ESPN3.com

Indy Eleven’s Last Time Out – Minnesota United FC 2 : 0 Indy Eleven  In the words of Indy Eleven Public Relations director John Koluder, “all good things must… yadda yadda yadda.” After matching the best ever NASL unbeaten streak in their 3-0 win over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers at Carroll Stadium, Indy Eleven suffered their first loss since October 2015 and the first of their 2016 NASL campaign away to Minnesota United FC.Christian Ramirez got in the scoresheet inside the opening three minutes from the penalty spot after Greg Janicki was judged to have brought down Danny Cruz in the box. After seeing his attempt saved by Eleven ‘keeper Jon Busch last weekend, Ramirez made sure to bury his redemptive chance to put the Loons ahead early. Things went from bad to worse for “Indiana’s Team” just three minutes later when outside midfielder Stefano Pinho bounced a cross into the area that Ramirez was there to finish off, securing his brace and further his side’s lead to two after seven minutes of play.One of the positives to come from Saturday’s loss, however, was the NASL debut of Mexico legend Gerardo Torrado as he replaced Nicki Paterson to see the field in the second half of action. Making an immediate impact, Torrado began moving the ball around the park and was helpful in his team’s attempt to claw back into the match, but the Eleven were unable to capitalize on any chances as the opportunity to set the unbeaten record slipped through their hands.

FC Edmonton’s Last Time Out – FC Edmonton 1 : 0 Ottawa Fury FC   Quite the fight took place last Sunday when FC Edmonton welcomed fellow Canadian side Ottawa Fury FC in a 1 : 0 result that featured a lot more than just the one goal. Limited first half chances for both sides saw things scoreless at the break, but the second half featured plenty of action from the get-go. Featuring in the NASL Team of the Week for his performance, Eddies ‘keeper Matt VanOekel put in an excellent shift saving two battered efforts at his net inside just before the hour mark, but things looked to turn for the worse immediately afterwards. After receiving a yellow card earlier in the match, a strong challenge from Pape Diakite saw him sent off with a half hour to play, leaving newest signing Kartsen Smith to help clean up the back.Momentum shifted back the way of the hosts in the 82nd minute, though, when second half sub Sainey Nyassi drove up the pitch to swing in a low cross into the path of midfielder Nikolas Ledgerwood, who tapped home the first and only goal of the game to secure three points for the Eddies.

Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: MF Gerardo Torrado

After putting in a solid second half against MNU last weekend, midfielder Gerardo Torrado will likely see more of the pitch this Saturday night against FC Edmonton.A hard-nosed player who runs the center of the park, Torrado will be useful in distributing the ball as well as holding down the area just in front of a back four who were beaten twice for the first time since Minnesota United’s last visit to Carroll Stadium – a 4-2 win for the “Boys in Blue.” Though head coach Tim Hankinson has had a number of players at his disposal in the midfielder, it seems as if Torrado has impressed in his time with the club so far and may have earned a consistent place in the rotation depending on how “Coach Hank” wants to attack the Eddies in their return to Carroll Stadium. If Torrado is fit and ready to fire, expect to see him for at least the same amount of time on Saturday night, if not more than he featured against the Loons.
Who to Watch, FC Edmonton edition: MF Jake Keegan

While FC Edmonton have had a number of different goalscorers in the fall season, one man has stuck out as a consistent chance creator in the side: midfielder Jake Keegan. This is Keegan’s first year in NASL action as he signed with the Canadian side following a stint in the Irish league, but the New York native has already impressed tallying up four goals and one assist in 13 appearances. An attacking threat that moves in waves behind the strikeforce, Keegan will look to disrupt the area just in front of the defense and create chances in limited space.In his last visit to “The Mike,” Keegan was on the scoresheet in a one-all draw that saw FC Edmonton steal a point away from home. All signs will point to him being heavily involved in the action when the two meet again in the hot heat of Indianapolis.

Match-up to Mark: FW Eamon Zayed vs. GK Matt VanOekel

Though on a bit of a dry spell, forward Eamon Zayed still sits near the top of the league scoring charts and is confident he can fire home this weekend as “Indiana’s Team” looks to bounce back from their first loss of the year. However, in his way stands Eddies ‘netminder Matt VanOekel, who has impressed in the fall season with two clean sheets in three matches.Zayed has been working closely with his strike partner Justin Braun on how they can continue to link up and exploit space, something the tandem proved excellent at in the Spring Season as the Eleven were crowned champions. Now the battle becomes how the pair can stay similar in mindset but variable in attacking threat with forwards Jair Reinoso and Souleymane Youla looking to put their name on the scoresheet given the chance.There is no doubt Zayed wants to be back firing, and told IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart that as chances would come, he would be sure to finish.”As soon as the match finished in Minnesota, I couldn’t wait to get back on the pitch and fight again. We’ve been working, training really hard still, and don’t believe that we’ve been set back by our first loss. The extra work on the training ground, the extra work put in watching film, it all paid off in the spring and will continue to as the fall goes on. We’re confident and we can’t wait for Saturday night.”

THREE THINGS AT MNU

Thoughts following Indy’s first taste of defeat in 2016

1) “All good things must …” yadda yadda yadda

It had to come eventually, right? After 13 games over a three-and-a-half month span, the “Boys in Blue” finally got their first taste of NASL defeat. The fact that it happened on the road against a very good Minnesota side might not have been all that surprising, however, the manner in which it came likely caught the team a little off guard.Coach Tim Hankinson spoke in the days before the match about how United FC would likely come out of the gates hellbent to take the game to the Eleven, so the approach to the start of Saturday’s game was expected. However, the result was not – it’s not often that teams are punished that harshly for two defensive mistakes that quickly in a game. That’s exactly what happened though, and before you know it the Loons are up 2-0 and showing no signs of slowing.To Indy’s credit, as they have all season, the guys played to the end. For awhile there in the second half I’m sure I wasn’t the only one thinking, “You know, if they can just get that first one on the board …” Alas, the sharpness wasn’t there, and that “first one” would never come, despite the Eleven grabbing a hold of the game in the second half.Perhaps it was the miles logged over a long week that finally caught up to them, perhaps it was just their time to lose. At the end of the day, the opportunity lost to gain the top spot in both the Combined and Fall Season standings is what the squad will rue more than the snapping of an unbeaten streak that had to come … eventually.

2) “Torrado Warning”

As mentioned above, Indy managed to turn the run of play in its favor after halftime, and part of that success came through the introduction of Gerardo Torrado. The El Tri legend finally made his NASL debut with a 45-minute shift that should have fans of the “Boys in Blue” downright giddy, and a look at the Opta Stats chalkboard bears out why:

1) Torrado finished with 26 of 29 passes completed on his 36 touches (passing chart to the right). Sure, maybe that level of precision is expected from a traditional “number 5” who’s entrusted to make the “smart pass,” except for the fact that …

2) 23 of his 29 passes were attempted in the attacking half of the field, including three “key passes” that contributed to his four chances created – IN JUST 45 MINUTES. Some of that (or maybe a lot of it) can be chalked up to the duel circumstances of the team being in a “goal-hunting” position on the scoreboard and Minnesota essentially conceding possession to the visitors, but the team was also in that position for the last 39 minutes of the first half as well, when only two key chances were created in comparison to 12 in the second half.

3) Torrado’s average position was roughly 15 yards more up the field than the man he replaced, Nicki Paterson, and another five past fellow central midfielder Brad Ring (don’t believe it … look below). While that likely won’t be the “new norm” for the Indy Eleven midfield (make no mistake, Torrado wasn’t brought in to be a traditional playmaker) it could provide a look into how Hankinson might – or at least can – use El Borrago when he’s inserted into the starting lineup, which one would expect to happen this Saturday against FC Edmonton.

3) Do the Loons Have Our Number? Not So Fast …

With Indiana’s Team taking the season series two wins to one it’s hard to say Minnesota indeed “has Indy’s number” … but the number two is indeed meaningful, as the Loons are the only team to score multiple goals on the “Boys in Blue” in 2016. Minnesota – which indeed possesses the highest-scoring attack in the NASL – twice in three meetings put two on the scoreboard against Indy Eleven, but only once was it enough to result in defeat.When it comes to who Indy Eleven might host in the playoffs, Minnesota could very well be high on that list … if they aren’t hosting a game themselves as the potential Fall Season champion, that is. What is for certain is that these two Midwestern (or close enough) squads have built up a certain amount of contempt for each other in three somewhat chippy games, and that might only get magnified should a meeting in the postseason come to pass.

So Where Does Indy Stand?

Fall Season: 2W-1D-1L, 7 pts., 3rd place

With New York falling hard on the road at Rayo OKC, the “Boys in Blue” stayed within two points of the front-running Cosmos while falling just one place on the table, being lapped by Rayo, which has gone undefeated in its first four Fall affairs.

Combined Season: 6W-7D-1L, 25 pts., 2nd place

Again, Indy Eleven sits just two points behind the first-place Cosmos, but no one stands between the “Boys in Blue” and New York on this table.

What’s On Tap?

A hard-charging FC Edmonton side (7-3-3, 24 pts. in Combined Season; 2-1-0, 7 pts. in Fall) comes to the Circle City this Saturday on Family Night, presented by McDonald’s (7:30 p.m. ET, live on WISH-TV, ESPN3.com & Exitos Radio 1590 AM). Edmonton currently sits just one point behind Indy Eleven in the Combined Season standings, making a return to the win column for Indy important in order to gain a little breathing room on another contender for the Fall Season (and therefore a threat to the #1 seed in The Championship).

MLS All-Stars will take on Arsenal at 7:30 PM ET Thur-July 28. ESPN, UniMás, TSN or RDS. More information

All-Star Team

# GK BINGHAM, David San Jose Earthquakes
# GK BLAKE, Andre* Philadelphia Union
# D BESLER, Matt* Sporting KC
# D BIRNBAUM, Steve D.C. United
# D CIMAN, Laurent* Montreal Impact
# D FARRELL, Andrew New England Revolution
# D RIDGEWELL, Liam Portland Timbers
# D ROSENBERRY, Keegan* Philadelphia Union
# D VINCENT, Brandon Chicago Fire
# D WASTON, Kendall Vancouver Whitecaps
# M BECKERMAN, Kyle** Real Salt Lake
# M DIAZ, Mauro** FC Dallas
# M DOS SANTOS, Giovani* LA Galaxy
# M JONES, Jermaine Colorado Rapids
# M KAKÁ* Orlando City SC
# M KLJESTAN, Sacha NY Red Bulls
# M NAGBE, Darlington* Portland Timbers
# M PIRLO, Andrea* New York City FC
# M TRAPP, Wil Columbus Crew SC
# F DEMPSEY, Clint* Seattle Sounders
# F DROGBA, Didier* Montreal Impact
# F GIOVINCO, Sebastian* Toronto FC
# F LARIN, Cyle Orlando City SC
# F PIATTI, Ignacio Montreal Impact
# F VILLA, David* New York City FC
# F WONDOLOWSKI, Chris San Jose Earthquakes

HEAD COACH: Dominic Kinnear (San Jose Earthquakes)

Colorado Rapids retake top spot in Power Rankings after Dallas slips up

Thanks to a big defeat for last week’s number one, the Colorado Rapids climb back to the top of the Power Rankings, while a pair of Eastern Conference teams make big jumps.

  1. Colorado Rapids(+1)
    The league’s longest unbeaten streak rolls on followingColorado’s 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City. It’s almost as if winning is a habit the Rapids have just fallen into, especially at home, where the Rapids have dropped just four points all year.
  2. FC Dallas(-1)
    Oscar Pareja chose to rest a number of key players in Seattle on Thursday and suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss. The weekendwin over Chicago helped salvage the week as the first team romped 3-1.
  3. LA Galaxy(+1)
    Back-to-back 1-0 wins are hardly attractive enough to make anyone take notice, but if L.A. strings together enough of them, everyone certainly will. That would suit Bruce Arena just fine.
  4. Portland Timbers(+1)
    The champs scored a blow in the great battle for Cascadian supremacy with a 3-1 win over Seattle on Sunday. More importantly, they got Diego Valeri back at his full powers, as evidenced by his two-goal outing.
  5. New York City FC(+3)
    The 3-1 loss in Kansas City a week ago proved to be nothing more than a blip. In Montreal on Sunday, the new three-headed monster of David Villa, Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison all scored again, with Harrison’s the pick of the bunch, in a 3-1 victory over the Impact.
  6. Montreal Impact(-3)
    Montreal’s loss to NYCFC was a hit to their standing in the East, but more pointedly, it was another reminder that — at least in recent months — they’ve been more productive withoutDidier Drogba in the lineup.
  7. Philadelphia Union(+3)
    The Union rose to the occasion with an excellent second half against the Red Bulls to salvage a 2-2 draw on Sunday, a trait that proves this is a different Philadelphia team than we’ve seen in recent years.
  8. New York Red Bulls(-2)
    They’ll be disappointed to draw after taking a lead in Philadelphia, but the Red Bulls do have another two goals from set pieces to add to their incredible total in 2016.
  9. Sporting Kansas City(-2)
    No one wins at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, so it’s tough to hold a road loss to the Rapids against Peter Vermes and his team. Still, a giving the ball away so close to goal is something good teams can’t — and don’t — do.
  10. San Jose Earthquakes(+2)
    The Quakes really were holding on for dear life after losing Anibal Godoy and Alberto Quintero when Simon Dawkins popped up with a winner in the 2-1 victory over Toronto. Goonies never say die.
  11. Toronto FC(-2)
    There are no excuses for a team to lose a game in which they held a two-man advantage. Manager Greg Vanney is going to spend the week facing some pretty uncomfortable questions.
  12. Real Salt Lake(-1)
    Real Salt Lake have just three points from the past five matches, and it’s starting to do damage to the club’s standing in the Western Conference. A flat attack isn’t helping.
  13. Vancouver Whitecaps(no change)
    The Whitecaps miss Kekuta Manneh, but it’s the defense that let them down at home in a 2-2 draw with Orlando City. The normally good David Ousted let in a soft goal that undid Vancouver.
  14. New England Revolution(no change)
    The way things are going for the Revs, a road point is a good result, even if it came with no goals. Defensive issues have plagued them, so perhaps they can build on the 0-0 draw in Salt Lake City.
  15. D.C. United(+2)
    D.C. benefited from a questionable red card and came out of Columbus with a 1-1 draw, though they’ll choose to focus on Fabian Espindola’s getting a goal and Lloyd Sam’s making his United debut.
  16. Orlando City SC(-1)
    Cyle Larin isn’t scoring at the blistering pace he did in 2015, but the Canadian striker is on the verge of double digit goals for a second straight year.
  17. Seattle Sounders(+2)
    There’s nothing like a decisive loss to a rival to undo any good feelings. The Sounders desperately needed the big 5-0 win over FC Dallas in midweek, but they also needed to back it up with a good performance against the Timbers — and they didn’t.
  18. Houston Dynamo(-1)
    With the season likely lost, the Dynamo can take positives from playing the Galaxy to statistical stalemate at the StubHub Center over 90 minutes despite being on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline.
  19. Chicago Fire(-1)
    Last weekend’s sign of life, a home win over Sporting KC, gave way to the reality of the Fire’s situation in the form of a 3-1 road loss to FC Dallas. That’s now 26 games without a road win for Chicago.
  20. Columbus Crew SC(no change)
    Ola Kamara scored, but Columbus couldn’t figure out a way to make it stand up for a win … again. Time is slipping away quickly from Gregg Berhalter and his team.Jason Davis

Jason Kreis taking over at Orlando City has makings of an imperfect marriage

Jason Kreis is back working in MLS, having been named as the new coach of Orlando City SC on Tuesday. The surroundings will no doubt look different from his previous stint with New York City FC. Orlando is a long way from New York in all manner of ways, from geography to the vibe of each city.But when it comes to Kreis’ new and old clubs, there are an uncomfortable number of similarities. It leads one to wonder whether he has exchanged one bad situation for another. Both organizations are headed by ambitious owners who want considerable sway over personnel decisions. That in and of itself is no crime. In fact, in many ways it’s a positive, so long as their philosophy matches that of the manager they hire.That certainly wasn’t the case for Kreis when he was in New York. Owners City Football Group opted for big, splashy signings like David Villa, Andrea Pirlo and Frank Lampard, regardless of whether they happened to fit with what the team needed. Kreis wanted to duplicate the clearly proven blueprint that worked for him when he was in charge of Real Salt Lake. It was that clash of styles, in addition to the less-than-stellar results on the field, that led to Kreis’ firing at the conclusion of last season.That’s why this seems like such an imperfect marriage. The Lions have spent much of the past nine months thrashing about in a way that goes well beyond the performances on the field. Former GM Paul McDonough did a credible job building the roster for its expansion season, and Orlando came within five points of making the playoffs. Then owner Flavio Augusto da Silva decided to bring in former Benfica executive Armando Carneiro to oversee all things soccer. Since McDonough’s authority was fatally undermined, he resigned and popped up at Atlanta United. Then, in a stunning turn of events, Carneiro soon followed McDonough out the door, with founder and minority owner Phil Rawlins taking over the GM duties.Former coach Adrian Heath insisted during the preseason that the crisis had been averted, but the subsequent acquisitions were of the head-scratching variety. Antonio Nocerino was the most egregious example; he’s a savvy veteran, but he no longer possesses the mobility needed to be effective in MLS.Of course, when a season goes bad, there is always a question of who bears more of the responsibility: Is it the head coach or the GM? The coach will say, “I did the best I could with what was given me.” The GM insists, “I went out and got the players the coach wanted.” When the ship is sinking, there is usually just one life jacket to go around between those two individuals, with the GM, typically, having one hand on it already. It seemed a matter of time until Heath was finally cut loose, and while the timing of it was something of a surprise, the outcome wasn’t.It is into this organizational morass that Kreis is wading, and given the club’s penchant for big names like Kaka and Julio Baptista, it’s difficult to see how much his situation has changed for the better. Without question, Kreis is a smart coach whose experience in New York will serve him well. It’s certain he will have insisted on being given the requisite control that he lacked in his previous head-coaching job. But promises are one thing, reality is another. When a Nocerino is pushed on him, will management listen when he says no? Or will he once again be forced to make do with a roster not of his making?The onus isn’t just on Kreis. Orlando’s management will need to learn some lessons as well.Would Kreis have been better off waiting for a different opportunity? There are bound to be some positions opening up at the end of the season. Given the struggles that the Seattle Sounders are going through at the moment, it’s possible Kreis might have linked up with old boss Garth Lagerwey. But the number of MLS managerial opportunities remain few, and it’s impossible to predict when the perfect job will become available. Wait too long, and you run the risk of being forgotten.While Kreis was viewed largely as having been done wrong by New York City FC, his reputation still took a hit. He can’t afford to fail again.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle. 

Middlesbrough keen to sign Brad Guzan from Aston Villa – sources

Middlesbrough are in talks to sign U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan from Aston Villa, sources close to the North East club have told ESPN FC.Guzan’s future at Villa has been in doubt since the club’s relegation and the Championship club are willing to let him move on as they look to trim their wage bill.The 31-year-old came in for criticism from some fans last season as Villa struggled and he lost his place in the starting XI to Mark Bunn for the final few weeks of 2015-16.The recent arrival of goalkeeper Pierluigi Gollini from Hellas Verona has raised further questions over Guzan’s future at Villa Park with the Italian expected to be No. 1 under Roberto Di Matteo next season.<Middlesbrough have already signed former Barcelona and Manchester United goalkeeper Victor Valdes this summer and they want to bring in Guzan to provide cover and competition for the Spaniard as they prepare for life back in the Premier League.Guzan was first-choice keeper for United States during this summer’s Copa America as they reached the semifinals and he is keen on staying in the Premier League.The shot-stopper, who joined Villa from Chivas in 2008, has made over 150 appearances for the club and Villa are prepared to let him leave on a free transfer to speed uphis departure with the player entering the final year of his contract.]

USMNT ‘golden generation’ with Donovan, Dempsey has already passed

Fans of the United States men’s national team spend a lot of time waiting for talent to arrive. There’s a sense that the American program should be better, that the skill level should improve over time — and it has. The first 35 athletes in the player pool are better overall than they were 20 years ago.While there are multiple, overlapping reasons for this improvement — including a focus on youth development, the growth of Major League Soccer, recruitment of dual nationals, and more money in the game — there’s no doubt that American soccer is growing stronger. What’s missing, however, is an evolutionary leap forward, an influx of talent that resets expectations rather than simply continuing the upward trajectory.What’s missing is the U.S.’s Golden Generation.Golden generations become legendary and secure their places in history; think of the Netherlands in the 1970s, with Johan Cruyff, Piet Keizer, Willem van Hanegem, Johnny Rep, Ruud Krol and Johan Neeskens. Or the potent Colombian crew from the late 1980s and early 1990s that featured Carlos Valderrama, Rene Higuita, Leonel Alvarez, Faustino Asprilla, Freddy Rincon and Adolfo Valencia.England had one in the 2000s with David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Rio Ferdinand, as did Spain from 2008 to 2016: Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol. Belgium currently has one of its own with Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Christian Benteke and Vincent Kompany, among others.It appears that every country gets a golden generation eventually. So why not the U.S.?Well, the reality is that the U.S.’s time has already come and, mostly, gone.In the 18 months between Nov. 3, 1981, and March 9, 1983, Jermaine Jones, Landon Donovan, Kyle Beckerman, DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey were born. That quintet includes arguably the best American player ever (Donovan) and the team’s most dangerous goal scorer (Dempsey), along with Beasley, the only American male to play in four World Cups. Beckerman, for his part, is a vital man in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s mind with a decorated club career, while Jones is a midfield mainstay.Donovan and Dempsey are two of the U.S.’s all-time Best XI and Beasley is in the top 20. That’s a pretty good year-and-a-half period, significantly better than what we’ve seen elsewhere, especially if you add in auxiliary talent like Herculez Gomez, Oguchi Onyewu and Ricardo Clark, who was born one day after Dempsey.Consider a few alternatives. The closest comparison is probably the generation that precedes this group, which includes the likes of Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Carlos Bocanegra, Pablo Mastroeni and Josh Wolff, along with injury-prone Cory Gibbs and John O’Brien. These players achieved some success, but their individual accomplishments don’t rise to the level of Donovan or Dempsey. Additionally, Donovan and Beasley played major roles in the team’s biggest achievement, the 2002 World Cup run. The current generation — led by Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Guzan and Fabian Johnson — hasn’t gotten close, either.There are a few issues with this golden generation thesis. For one, Jones developed completely outside of the U.S. system in Germany and didn’t join the American squad until 2010. However, it is worth noting that it is not unusual for a player to grow up in one country and play for another in the current international soccer landscape; just because Jones came of age in Germany doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be counted as part of the American generation. The same goes for Johnson.Furthermore, Jones, Donovan, Beckerman, Beasley and Dempsey never played a major tournament together; Jones was injured and Beckerman was absent during the 2010 World Cup, while Donovan was left off the 2014 roster. While we’ll never know how (if at all) Donovan’s inclusion would have impacted the proceedings at the 2014 World Cup, it’s hard to argue that he wouldn’t have made a positive contribution, one that would have bolstered the legacy of his generation. Remember, too, that Jones was one of the U.S.’s best players in Brazil. Imagine what could have been if he recovered in time to reach South Africa.ESPN FC asked American soccer expert Brian Sciaretta about this theory. He didn’t agree.To me, a golden generation is one that is completely unparalleled and I don’t really think that Donovan, Beasley and Dempsey rise quite to that level,” he said. “That is also probably a good thing. You want a steady pipeline of players, not something that can come across as a fluke.”But that’s the point: The pipeline exists, but it’s failing to churn out better players. As good as the Bradley, Bedoya, Guzan and Johnson generation has been, it hasn’t touched the one that came before it. The following one has been worse.There’s a perception that the American soccer program, one of the richest in the world, should produce talents like Donovan and Dempsey with more regularity, churning out a steady flow of very good players. But the fact is that it doesn’t. This causes frustration for supporters, media and Klinsmann.”I’m not sure why it seems that some Americans with talent sometimes reach a certain level in soccer and then settle with that instead of pushing themselves to the next level,” the head coach said during an interview last week. He went further a bit later, saying: “You need talent but also to be extremely hungry and driven — driven by the people around you who keep pushing you — and it doesn’t help to be surrounded by people who compliment you every day and give you pats on the back.”There’s truth in Klinsmann’s comment. But at the same time, what if Donovan, Dempsey and Beasley led a generation that truly was an aberration, one that was the exception rather than the rule? It’s not a stretch to think that’s the case.If you accept that premise, you come to a disturbing conclusion: While we sat around waiting for the breakthrough, we were actually watching the revolution. And the next one might be further away than we expect.Noah Davis is a Brooklyn-based correspondent for ESPN FC and deputy editor at American Soccer Now.

U.S.’s Besler, Diskerud, Yedlin cooling down while young players impress

With Liga MX back in action as of last weekend and MLS rounding into midseason form, it’s time to bring back the U.S. national team Hot List.

Who cares if most European leagues are still weeks away from kicking off the 2016-17 campaign? With World Cup qualifying set to resume in September and a gaggle of youngsters hoping to break into Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad between now and Russia 2018, there’s plenty to talk about already. Here are nine players who are trending up or down during the dog days of summer.

Warming up

 Kellyn Acosta, DF/MF, FC Dallas (MLS)

Why he’s here: After being in and out of Oscar Pareja’s lineup at the beginning of the season, Acosta has started seven of FCD’s last eight matches in central midfield, including the club’s four recent wins.

What this means: The versatile 20-year-old played left-back during his two U.S. appearances, both of which came earlier this year. But with veteran Kyle Beckerman’s decorated national team career ending, Acosta’s maturing game in central midfield could put him in contention for a holding role for the Americans.

 Terrence Boyd, FW, RB Leipzig (Germany)

Why he’s here: Now finally recovered from the knee ligament injury he suffered in late 2014, the 25-year-old striker had a goal and an assist in his first match in 19 months, albeit a preseason friendly.

What this means: It’s early yet, but regular playing time in the Bundesliga — Leipzig clinched promotion from the second tier in Boyd’s absence — could quickly vault the German-American back into the national team picture.

 Greg Garza, DF, Tijuana (Mexico)

Why he’s here: The hard-tackling left-back missed nine months following hip surgery, but he returned to the Xolos starting lineup for last week’s Apertura opener.

What this means: Garza played well in the 2-0 win against Morelia, and nearly scored on a long-range shot. With the left-back position wide open for the U.S., look for the Texan — still just 24 and already capped nine times by Klinsmann — to be recalled as soon as September if he continues to impress in Liga MX.

 Julian Green, MF/FW, Bayern Munich (Germany)

Why he’s here: The 2014 World Cup veteran started in Bayern’s first game of the preseason and impressed, scoring once and setting up another goal.

What this means: After just one senior appearance for Bayern in 2015-16, a good first impression on new coach Carlo Ancelotti can’t hurt the 21-year-old’s chances of seeing more minutes — especially with Arjen Robben sidelined for the start of the season.

 Perry Kitchen, MF, Heart of Midlothian (Scotland)

Why he’s here: Fresh off Copa America Centenario duty with the U.S., the former D.C. United destroyer jumped right into Europa League qualifying with Hearts.

What this means: If the half season he spent in Scotland raised his game, making Europe’s second-tier club competition would provide Kitchen, 24, with even more valuable experience and eventually help him assume a bigger role with the national team.

 Keegan Rosenberry, DF, Philadelphia Union (MLS)

Why he’s here: The rookie right back was recently named an MLS All-Star starter following an impressive start to his professional career.

What this means: While there might be fewer depth issues at right-back than on the left, Rosenberry’s emergence has him on Klinsmann’s radar; he trained with the U.S. last month after the national team played a Copa match in Philly.

Cooling down

 Matt Besler, DF, Sporting Kansas City (MLS)

Why he’s here: Besler started two games and played well en route to the Americans’ fourth place Copa finish and was also named an MLS All-Star. But the SKC captain has been an unused sub in two of his club’s last three games, including last week’s 1-0 loss at Colorado Rapids.

What this means: Strange as it was to see a healthy Besler on the bench,Sporting coach Peter Vermes insisted that he was merely sticking with a lineup that had played well in the vet’s absence. It will be interesting to see if the 29-year-old is back in central defense for Sunday’s contest against the Seattle Sounders (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Mix Diskerud, MF, New York City FC (MLS)

Why he’s here: Not only has Diskerud not played in NYCFC’s last six games, he hasn’t even been in uniform. The former U.S. regular’s most recent appearance was in a U.S. Open Cup loss to second-tier New York Cosmos on June 18.

What this means: It won’t be easy for Diskerud to break back into Patrick Vieira’s team, not with City sitting atop the Eastern Conference. But the Norwegian-American’s relatively high salary makes him difficult to trade. As such, don’t expect him to add to his 38 U.S. caps anytime soon.

 DeAndre Yedlin, DF, Tottenham Hotspur (England)

Why he’s here: Yedlin is here through no fault of his own, really; his immediate future could hinge on whether or not Sunderland boss Sam Allardyce stays with the Black Cats or becomes England’s next manager instead.

What this means: Yedlin helped Sunderland avoid relegation while on loan from Spurs, but a permanent move north is less likely if Allardyce leaves. That said, the 23-year-old proved he can play in the Premier League last season, and other suitors will be on notice if he’s not going to be a regular with Tottenham. Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN T

DUAL ROLES-Indy 11

Trio of “Boys in Blue” touch on juggling pro career and fatherhood

Jul 20, 2016 By:Scott Stewart
Being a professional soccer player with Indy Eleven is no walk in the park. With training at least five days a week, gym workouts, and just taking great care of the body in general on top of a game – or two – every week, there is a lot on your plate.When you add fatherhood to the spectrum, things only pick up. But for defender Greg Janicki, midfielders Brad Ring and Nicki Paterson, and even head coach Tim Hankinson, it’s all part of the process.“When people used to talk about kids you kind of would shrug it off and say whatever, but then you have a kid of your own and the little things are so cool,” explained Janicki. “Everything is something new for them. It’s just awesome seeing them grow.”The 32-year-old defender now has two children – Adrian (two years and three months old) and Will (five months old), and feels the weight of fatherhood more than ever.“It’s a lot of work, don’t get me wrong. As a soccer player you need your rest and stuff and you don’t get that as much as you would like anymore. But, at the same time it helps take your mind off of things pretty easily if you have a bad day or a bad game or something like that,” remarked the recent birthday boy.Midfielder Brad Ring also joins Janicki in the column of two-time fathers. As a typical veteran might do on the field, Ring best explained the new challenges he and his wife are beginning to face with a pair of youngsters in the household tactically.“Two is definitely harder than one in my opinion. With one, you trade off shifts with your wife and share responsibility. With two, you are shifting the focus back to two vs. two and go ‘man-on-man’ as opposed to being able to tag team. We’re still in the hard newborn phase, but give it a couple of months and it will all pick up,” said Ring.While Paterson considers himself in the younger veteran category on the pitch, he’s a rookie as a father – but states that he couldn’t be happier to be alongside his wife on this journey.“Just seeing your son’s smile on his face when he sees you in the morning, or wakes up from a nap – it’s probably my favorite part. I have to give a huge shout out to my wife though, because moving to a different country we don’t have the support system that some of the other guys do and I know that can be difficult,” said Paterson.“She deserves so much credit, so when I’m able to I repay her however I can.”The sentiment of crediting their wives, while different for Janicki, was also echoed by the defender.“Some nights when she works at midnight and I have the kids to myself it can be difficult. But, she makes incredible sacrifices for me so I see that I do what I can to repay that. It’s all part of the process,” said Janicki.Unsurprisingly, it is no different for Brad Ring and his wife and fellow Indiana University alumna, Juli.

“One of the hardest things is the away games. You feel a bit guilty leaving your wife with more responsibility. You try and make up for it when you’re back which makes Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday harder, but it is what it is and you push through it. (Juli) deserves more than I can put into words,” said Ring.From a coaching standpoint, the demands are just the same if not increased. Head coach Tim Hankinson has been with his wife, Yvette, for years, enough to have five children between the two of them – but the price he paid was not a simple one. Days away became months away, but it’s a sacrifice he knew was necessary at this level.“It grounds me to be a father and husband. Coaching has taken me around the world, but a lot of the time you aren’t able to spend full-time with your family,” lamented Coach ‘Hank.” Going to India, I saw my sons for just a couple of weeks over a nine-month period. In Jamaica, I saw my family only one time for a long weekend.“These stints can take you away for periods at a time and you can’t uproot your family and turn their lives upside down, so you communicate with Skype and WhatsApp and remind yourself that you’re connected and you’ll be together soon.”With grown children, the difficulties that are present for Coach Hankinson are far different than the three of Janicki, Ring, and Paterson, who all have newborns to take care of.“Right now the challenges revolve around just waking up at night. In those first few months getting them to sleep through the night is tougher. He gets up around 3 AM and 6 AM and me and my wife switch off and do one shift every night, so that presents its challenges,” Janicki said. “You just have to plan your day around things and make sure he’s fed and got enough sleep so everyone is happy and the day goes easier.”“You can’t look too far into the future on the soccer front, but ‘Family Greg’ is just trying to keep the kids happy (laughs). We might have another one at some point – my wife wants four – but keeping everyone together and happy is a daily chore that I look forward to in the immediate,” said Janicki.

Nicki Paterson is on the same page.

“He’s a newborn and there’s a lot to take care of. When I have to practice for three or four hours a day, I want to give my wife a break when I come back. I won’t see there isn’t a lot to handle, though. He’s constantly growing and becoming more mobile, so I see a lot more time on the ground than I used to!”For fellow midfielder Brad Ring, logging mileage is already part of the process.“Before kids … you might get to go home and play video games, maybe watch a movie, or just kind of hang out and keep things low-key, but my two-year-old wants to go out and play soccer, he wants to go to the park and to splash zone or the pool. It’s just a lot more time on your feet playing entertainer,” said Ring.While sleep may be missed on a daily basis and road trips keep players away for stretches at a time, rather than dwell on those moments these Indy Eleven dads have gained a new perspective on how important it is to live in the here and now and enjoy every new moment for their families.“With soccer you never know how long you have in the game. I wanted to take advantage of that opportunity and was happy I was able to do so, but now I love ‘dad mode,’” beamed Ring. “Having my two-year-old experience everything is awesome – he talks about everything. After the last home game when the BYB guys set off some smoke, he wouldn’t stop talking about it. The entire car ride and even after we got home was just, “Lincoln score goal and they blew smoke!’ It’s great for me and it’s leaving a lasting impression as well.”

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Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –  Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com ,Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com  , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

7/15/16 COPA Better than Euros?, Indy 11 – 13 straight Unbeaten, US Lady Olympic Team Announced, Seattle vs Portland Sun 2:30 on Fox

So the summer of Soccer with COPA America 100, and the EUROs is over.  I for one would argue that the COPA America was actually a better and more entertaining tournament what are your thoughts?  Maybe because it was in the US – and the games were on at night with US announcers doing the games – but in the end I enjoyed the COPA games better and honestly at least from the Elite 8 on – the better games were in the COPA. Now while I thought the COPA was better – lets not pretend that Fox Sports covers soccer or any sport better than ESPN.  One can argue about the use of American vs English announcers and color commentators – but seriously ESPN’s coverage half a world away blew Fox Sports coverage away.  From the live broadcast on site, to the live announcers doing the games, to the ridiculous decision by Fox that they wouldn’t show the US game vs Argentina or any other US soccer game on the main Fox Network.  Seriously – despite the additions of some solid announcers and studio folks at Fox Sports – the folks in charge are still light years behind ESPN in production and presentation.  I sure do hope they get their shit together as they are carrying the World Cup in 2 years.

As the summer of soccer winds down – MLS and NASL soccer take over the landscape.  Our Indy 11 survived the stormy weather and a 3 hour delay Wednesday night and pasted a 3-0 beatdown on the Ft. Lauderdale strikers.  On the way they tied the NASL record for 13 games without a lost.  It is on to Minnesota United this Sat night on beIN sport before returning to the Jake for FC Edmonton on Sat, July 23 7:30 pm – make plans to support your 11 by buying tickets for Family night for as little as $11.  Turning to MLS – huge feature game this Soccer Sunday – as the US Top soccer rivalries – THE CASCADIA CUP gets under way as defending MLS Champs Portland face the struggling Seattle Sounders Sunday afternoon at 2:30 pm on FOX.  Later that day 5 pm on ESPN – #3 Montreal faces NYCFC as former Chelsea stars Drogba and Frank Lampard meet for the 1st time in the US.  Locally there is still time to get your kid signed up for Carmel High Asst and Carmel FC coach Carla Baker (a former Iowa coach and former Canadian National Team GK) and her sister Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin’s annual Post2Post Soccer field player camp  – July 25-28 —9 am to 3 pm just $195 @ Badger Field.  Finally –Carmel FC – Summer CFC Technical Training continues in July. If you are a goalkeeper – I am beginning my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18, 25, Aug 1 if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

Indy 11

Highlights of the Late Late Game

3 things Indy 11 win over Strikers

Indy 11 Tie Record – Indy Star

Indy 11 – Game Recap

Delays can’t stop the 11 – Flyergroup

MLS

Power Rankings MLS

Cascadia Cup Showdown Seattle at Portland

Dempsey to miss game with Red Card

Seattle v Portland vs Vancouver Facts

 US LADIES

US Ladies Olympic Team Announced

What you Need to Know as ladies set for Olympics

Hope Solo 100th Shutout Video

Cool US Women’s Video

US Ladies Beat South Africa 1-0

3 things we learned in US Win

 USA Men

US Men rise to #25

Copa America – Post Mortem – US Players Ratings & Review

It could be USA vs Mexico Nov 1 in Columbus if US wins their Group

Dempsey Talks Youth Development in the US with Colin Cowerd

What Now – Darlington Nagbe

What Now – Graham Zusi

 What Now Michael Bradley

What Now DeAndre Yedlin

COPA 100 vs EUROs

Ronaldo and Messi show national pride different results though

Euro 2016 Review – 24 thoughts Marcotti

Euro 2016 Best and Worst Moments ESPNFC

Euro 2016 Worse in Years – Chris Jones ESPNFC

Copa Highs and Lows

Copa America 100’s Legacy –the Goalkeeper

COPA 100 Pays off Bigtime for –the Goalkeeper

 World Leagues

Daily Around the World of Football – ESPNFC

Chelsea after Leicesters Kante

Summer Preview how is your club doing?  

Most Wanted Players

Why Leicester Should Have let Vardy Leave

Mourinho’s Squad delimas at United  Richard Jolly ESPNFC

 GAMES ON TV

See the Complete TV Schedule online www.theoleballcoach.com

Wednesday, July 13

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

Saturday, July 16

Indy 11 @ Minn – 8 pm BeIn Sports

Sunday, July 17:

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

Fri, July 22

8 am – ESPN 3        Man U vs Borussia Dortmund

Sat, July 23

5 am – ??                                                  ICC Melborne vs Juve

12:30 pm                         ESPN            ICC Celtic vs Leicester City

3:30 p.m. (ESPN)         Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy,

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

Sunday, July 24:

12:30 p.m. (Fox,)         New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC,

3:00 p.m. (ESPN,)        Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders,

5 pm ESPN                       ICC Inter vs PSG

Wed, July 27

7:30 p.m. (ESPN2        ICC Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain,
9:30 p.m. (ESPN2,       ICC Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan,
11:30 p.m. (ESPN,       ICC Liverpool vs. Chelsea,

Thur, July 28                 

(ESPN, UniMás) MLS All-Stars vs. Arsenal 7:30 p.m.

Sat, July 30

1:00 p.m. (ESPN  Barcelona vs. Celtic,
3:00 p.m. (ESPN Chelsea vs. Real Madrid,
5:00 p.m. (ESPNews Bayern Munich vs. Inter Milan,
(ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) Liverpool vs. AC Milan, 10:00 p.m.
(11:30 p.m., TV TBD) Paris Saint-Germain vs. Leicester City,

Indy 11@ Miami – 8 pm BeIn sports

Sun, July 31

1:00 p.m. Fox, Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers,
4:00 p.m. ESPN Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy,

Wed, Aug 3

Barcelona vs. Leicester City, ICC 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
United States women vs. New Zealand women, Olympics group stage, 6:00 p.m. (TV NBC?)
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, International Champions Cup 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Chelsea vs. AC Milan, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Portland Timbers vs. CD Dragon, CONCACAF Champions League group stage, 10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

 MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

International Champions Cup – TV Schedule in July

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

 Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

Post2Post Soccer Camp
Carmel High Asst and Carmel FC coach Carla Baker (a former Iowa coach and former Canadian National Team GK) and her sister Former Pittsburgh Head Coach Sue-Moy Chin 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.

==========================================================================IIf you are a goalkeeper – I am doing my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25  + Aug 1.

U-9-U12 6 till 7 pm

U13 and above 7:00 – 8:15 pm

if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

==========================================================================

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US Womens Team

Full USWNT squad Announced for 2016 Olympics

GOALKEEPERS (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)

FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)  Alternates: Heather O’Reilly, Ashlyn Harris, Emily Sonnett and Samantha Mewis.

Paterson rounds into form as Indy Eleven tie NASL record

Phil Friend, phillip.friend@indystar.com3:54 p.m. EDT July 14, 2016

Coming into Wednesday night’s match against Fort Lauderdale, Indy Eleven midfielder Nicki Paterson’s season had been mostly quiet.Through 12 games, Paterson accounted for one goal and one assist, starting 10 matches while being substituted out in seven of them.But the Scotland native was anything but silent Wednesday in helping the Eleven put together their best 45 minutes of the season, tallying two assists in a first-half blitz and 3-0 victory over the visiting Strikers at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium.With the victory, the Eleven tied the North American Soccer League record at 13 straight games unbeaten. And the spring season champs can thank Paterson, who played a more advanced role Wednesday.The 31-year-old appears to be rounding into form at the right time. In July 2015, as a member of the Ottawa Fury, Paterson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee and missed a significant amount of time.Almost a year later, Paterson is finally at the point where he’s comfortable.”It took me a few games to get going,” Paterson said. “At the beginning of the season, we tried to focus on good defensive shape and protect the defense. I like to go box-to-box and get involved into the attack and, tonight, I had the opportunity to get a little bit more forward.”The game was delayed by more than three hours due to storms that swept across Central Indiana. That was of no matter to the Eleven.Indy got on the board in the 10th minute after a Paterson cross was misplayed by a Strikers defender and the ball fell right to Eamon Zayed, who smashed it home for a 1-0 lead.Eleven minutes later, Indy took a 2-0 lead with Zayed turning provider this time on Duke Lacroix’s goal. In the 26th minute, Paterson delivered another perfect pass, this time off a corner kick, finding captain Greg Janicki, who buried the header to make it 3-0.”I spoke to Greg before the game. I said, ‘Well, maybe tonight, you’ll get one,’ and he got one,” Paterson said. “I’ve been trying to put in good deliveries all year, and these guys are good in the air, so if I can put in a good ball, then we’ll get a chance of scoring.”The Eleven were on the attack constantly in the first half, and could’ve made it 4-0 or 5-0 as Justin Braun and Lacroix both hit the post a minute apart, with Paterson playing a vital role in the buildup to both.“It’s about time,” Indy manager Tim Hankinson said with a smile. “Nicki’s a great passer of the ball. That’s his quality. We want to see more of that. He’s still a year away from his ACL surgery. I feel like he’s starting to get to the point where he looks like the old Nicki that got us interested in bringing him here. His game is higher than it’s been all year and we hope that continues to go in that direction.”If it sounds like Fort Lauderdale didn’t want to be on the pitch, well, there may be something to that. After the weather delay, the team stalled the start of the match by another 10 minutes by not coming onto the field, and once they got there, the Eleven ran roughshod over them.”With the conditions, I could tell they didn’t want to be here,” Zayed said. “I knew they were there to be taken advantage of, and that’s what we’ve done. We did a professional job … played well and steamrolled them.”The 13-match unbeaten streak ties the record held by the Carolina RailHawks (2011) and New York Cosmos (2014-15).”We don’t talk about it very much, but the players understand it,” Hankinson said. “We’ve got a good game going right now. A lot of confidence, and very good at not beating ourselves.”

THREE THINGS – IND V FTL

Trio of takes from “Soccer After Dark” win vs. Strikers  Jul 14, 2016

After every game, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will give his three takeaways from the latest performance of the “Boys in Blue.” Well, usually it’s Scott Stewart … however, this week John Koluder will take over the recapping spot, continuing with the “Soccer After Dark” special against Fort Lauderdale at “The Mike.”

1) Over before it Started

The “latest win in Indy Eleven history” might have ended at around 12:30 a.m., but judging from the ways the teams came out in the opening minutes it was really over before it began.  Indy head coach Tim Hankinson mentioned in his post-game comments that the key adjustment from the last time out against Fort Lauderdale back in May would be to have the wing midfielders – this time around Dylan Mares and Duke Lacroix – pressure like crazy and as high up the field as necessary whenever the Strikers’ outside backs got the ball. The result, when combined with supporting pressure from central midfielders Brad Ring and Nicki Paterson and forwards Eamon Zayed and Justin Braun, was the creation of turnovers at will and shots raining down (if you will) on Diego Restrepo.  While it might have seemed like the Strikers were unready for the opening whistle, the reality was it was Indy’s gameplan that put the visitors on their heels from the get-go, and resulted in the result being signed, sealed and delivered with Greg Janicki’s header 26 minutes in. The first half numbers bare that out: 12 shots, seven shots on goal, three goals – and perhaps four more clear-cut chances that would have been frustrating not to convert on other nights, but would only have served as proverbial “cherries on top” in this one.

2) Paterson Provides Service on a Platter

Heading into last night’s game, Nemanja Vukovic (aka “Mr. Team of the Week”) was the only member of the squad to have registered multiple assists, with all three of his helpers coming in the last three games (two vs. Carolina and one at Puerto Rico). However, with a couple of stellar services on Wednesday night, midfielder Nicki Paterson drew even in that department, first on a cheeky chip to Zayed for the opener and then on the above-mentioned corner kick delivery to Janicki’s noggin.  On Paterson’s fine delivery on the evening, Hankinson joked “it’s about time” following the match. That said, the Indy gaffer stressed that ability to set up goals was one of the qualities that drew the club to seek out the Scotsman in the off-season, and it appears he’s finding his playmaking mojo more and more.Players coming back from an ACL injury like that one that cut short Paterson’s season last year always take time to build back their legs, then their minutes, then their touch and then their confidence. If last night is any indication, all those boxes appear to be checked.

3) Lucky Number 13

“Distractions” are a coach’s natural enemy, and they can come in many forms. One such form is a three-hour (rounding up here) storm delay pushing back your regularly-scheduled kickoff, but in reality that’s a neutral one as both teams involved have to deal with the same inconvenience.

However, only Indy Eleven had to manage the extra baggage that comes with extending an unbeaten streak to league-record proportions on Wednesday night. Coach Hankinson admitted that, while he didn’t talk about it with the players, they absolutely knew what a result in the game would mean. Judging from the way they came firing out of the gates, the “Boys in Blue” had anything but on their minds – unless their intent was to leave no doubt that the streak would reach a record-tying 13 games.  So now that Indy Eleven has evened the undefeated runs of the Carolina RailHawks of 2011 and the New York Cosmos spanning the 2013-14 campaigns, well, now what? Is the pressure now even greater to take sole possession of the record … or is it lessoned now that the record book must be rewritten with Indy’s name included? Can it serve as extra motivation against a Minnesota side eager to knock the Eleven down a peg after two recent defeats to Indiana’s Team … or is last weekend’s prickly encounter with the Loons all the motivation the Eleven will need? Only one thing’s for sure – if those questions are answered it will provide perhaps the worst offense in the book of coaching distractions, providing the other teams with bulletin board material.

So Where Does Indy Stand?

Fall Season: 2W-1D-0L, 7 pts., 2nd place

  • Indy kept pace with the front-running Cosmos (3-0-0, 9 pts.), who notched a 3-0 win of their own Wednesday night against Jacksonville

Combined Season: 6W-7D-0L, 25 pts., 2nd place

  • See note above, just change Cosmos record (to 9-0-4, 27 pts.)

What’s On Tap?

Can Indy Eleven make it a perfect nine points in eight days? Do the Boys in Blue have the Loons’ number? Find out Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. ET … watch it go down wherever you are across the country on beIN SPORTS (or via their beIN SPORTS CONNECT online component if you have their channel on your cable/satellite package).

How About a Fun Fact?

Indy Eleven pulled even in its all-time series with Minnesota last weekend, the 1-0 win at “The Mike” putting the ledger at 4W-0D-4W for each side.

 Commentary: Extra importance in Sunday’s Portland vs. Seattle clash

July 14, 20162:27PM EDTGreg LalasVP, Content

Sunday will see another edition of the biggest rivalry in MLS – Portland vs. Seattle – for the first time this season. And it will be televised nationally (3 pm ET on FOX, MLS LIVE in Canada), so there’s no excuse for anyone to miss it.This time, you definitely don’t want to miss it, because despite the fact that the game is simply a mid-season, midsummer meeting, the result matters even more. To both teams.Here’s a prediction: Whoever wins on Sunday will embark on a season-defining run that will pull them up from their lowly spots.Odds are it will be the hosts, Portland, though I wouldn’t put money on that.Right now, the Timbers are just outside the playoff spots, in seventh place in the Western Conference. Not a big deal, right? After all, they are the defending MLS Cup champs. They have lots of talent, from US national team player Darlington Nagbe to Nigerian goal beast Fanendo Adito the veteran redwoods in the back, Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgwell. And they still have 14 games to play.But let’s be honest: The Timbers have been less dominant in matches and they have a total of eight total draws, tied for second most in MLS.But if you look at things a little more, you see they aren’t in the dire straits it might seem they are. For one, they are awesome at Providence Park (6-2-2 record, 20 of 30 available points). And if you take a longer look at their recent record, you see they are riding an eight-game unbeaten streak(3W, 0L, 5D).Meanwhile, as any MLS observer will tell you, the Sounders possessed the statistically most anemic offense in the league. And yet it boosted them out of last place in the league on Wednesday night – a 5-0 whitewashing of league leaders FC Dallas.“It lifts the spirits a bit,” Sounders captain Brad Evans said. “Now we’ve got a taste of victory and hopefully we can start to get consecutive results and start to pick up some points and make up some ground.”But, as so often seems to be the case with Sounders on the field, there are caveats. Star strikerClint Dempsey will miss the Timbers match after receiving his first career MLS red card against FC Dallas.So, without Deuce, Seattle’s attacking burden falls squarely on the shoulders of rookieJordan Morris, who has seven goals on the season heading into his first Portland-Seattle match.What better time for Morris to stamp his name into Pacific Northwest soccer lore than against the Timbers on Sunday? 

FC Dallas, Colorado Rapids hold their positions atop the Power Rankings

It’s as-you-were for the three spots in the rankings, but a couple of teams did make significant moves in Week 17.

  1. FC Dallas(no change)

Maxi Urruti’s stunner was everything FC Dallas’ deserved, and more than enough to keep the club atop the power rankings for a second week — and it feels like it could be a long stay at the top.

  1. Colorado Rapids(no change)

If there were any reasons to think that Tim Howard wasn’t still good enough to make a difference for the Rapids, he put them to rest in Vancouver with a remarkable, point-saving stop.

  1. Montreal Impact(no change)

The Impact will hope Harry Shipp’s goal on Saturday was just the first of many, but especially now that he has had time to settle in after the shocking offseason trade from Chicago.

  1. LA Galaxy(+3)

Gyasi Zardes is starting to round into the Galaxy’s most consistent chance creator. His cross to Robbie Keane for the lone goal against Seattle showed off his rapidly improving vision.

  1. Portland Timbers(no change)

The Timbers have failed to score in their last two matches. On the plus side, they’ve gotten clean sheets in both, holding the Rapids and Red Bulls goalless.

  1. New York Red Bulls(no change)

The silver lining for the Red Bulls in their goalless draw with Portland was the return of Damien Perrinelle. Unfortunately Perrinelle was forced on when Gideon Baah went off injured.

  1. Sporting Kansas City(+1)

Matt Besler’s benching is a big story, but Sporting fans will be more focused on the encouraging, 2015 MVP finalist-level performance from Benny Feilhaber.

  1. New York City FC(-4)

NYCFC’s win streak came to an end in Kansas City, but Frank Lampard scored his fourth goal in five games, reminding everyone that his knack for finding the net is one of the reasons the club signed him in the first place.

  1. Toronto FC(+1)

Sebastian Giovinco looks like he understands that TFC’s season is going to hinge on what he can do for the Reds in the attack. With so many crucial pieces out, the margins are small in Ontario.

  1. Philadelphia Union(+2)

Injuries and the loss of Vincent Nogueira will put extra pressure on the experience crop of midfielders the Union still have under contract. Ilsinho’s strong shift against United show those losses don’t mean Philly is destined to crash.

  1. Real Salt Lake(-1)

On the good side of things, RSL fought back to equalizer after falling behind at home against Montreal. On the bad side, RSL drew at home in a game that felt important after a bad run a week ago.

  1. San Jose Earthquakes(-1)

After starting strong and ranking among the league-leaders in goals, Chris Wondolowski has gone without scoring since late April. Some of that is down to his Copa America duty, but the Quakes need Wondo back on the scoresheet.

  1. Vancouver Whitecaps(+1)

The ‘Caps dive right back into the fray on Wednesday against Real Salt Lake in yet another big match out west. Vancouver hasn’t beaten a Western Conference opponent since May 7.

  1. New England Revolution(+4)

Kei Kamara’s contributions are more than the goals he scores, which is why New England made the trade to get him. Against Columbus Kamara did everything asked of a center forward.

  1. Orlando City SC(-2)

A feckless performance against Houston on Friday night doesn’t bode well for the post-Adrian Heath era in Orlando, though it will be a couple of games before it will be fair to judge the move.

  1. D.C. United(-1)

United got taken apart in Philadelphia in part thanks to conceding two first half penalties. Ben Olsen has to figure out his best lineup, especially now with Lloyd Sam in the mix.

  1. Houston Dynamo(-1)

The plan on the road in Orlando for Wade Barrett’s team appeared to be to simply made it hard for the Lions. They accomplished that job, but with a chance at the playoffs slipping away, they’ll need to be more proactive.

  1. Chicago Fire(-1)

The Fire took a step forward last week with a home win over San Jose, but was back on the losing side again this week. With the loss in Toronto, Chicago has gone two calendar years without a road win.

  1. Seattle Sounders(no change)

The answers in Seattle aren’t apparent, and might not be found in the team as currently constructed. The pall over the team is palpable and Sigi Schmid is fending off questions about whether he should stay on.

  1. Columbus Crew SC(-3)

When Columbus traded away Kei Kamara, the thought was they’d miss his goals. It turns out Ola Kamara is more than prolific enough, it’s just that Crew SC don’t win when he scores.Jason Davis is a writer from Virgi

US and Mexico jump in latest FIFA World Rankings, Canada falls

July 14, 20163:44PM EDTSam StejskalContributor

The US and Mexico both climbed in the latest edition of the FIFA World Rankings after their showings at this summer’s Copa America Centenario, with the US rising six spots to 25th after their appearance in the semifinals and Mexico moving up two spots to 14th after reaching the quarterfinals of the tournament.Canada fell seven spots to No. 100 in the ranking, good for 11th amongst CONCACAF countries.Argentina held the No. 1 spot despite losing the opa America Centenario final in a penalty shoootout to Chile, who remained in fifth. Euro 2016 champions Portugal climbed two spots to No. 6, while runners-up France moved up 10 spots from 17th to seventh. Belgium (No. 2), Colombia (No. 3), Germany (No. 4), Spain (No. 8), Brazil (No. 9) and Italy (No. 10) filled out the top-10.Euro darlings Iceland and Wales both made big jumps, with Iceland moving up 12 spots to No. 22 and Wales climbing 15 places to move to No. 11. Copa America surprises Venezuela and Peru also had significant rises, with Venezuela improving 31 places to move to 46th and Peru climbing 14 spots to place 34th.No. 27 Costa Rica is the third-ranked team in CONCACAF behind Mexico and the US, with Panama (No. 51), Jamaica (No. 55) and Trinidad and Tobago (No. 58) also claiming spots in the top-60. Haiti had a big fall after their rough showing at the Copa America, dropping 26 places to tie Canada in 100th.You can find the full July FIFA World Rankings here.

5 managers most likely to replace Jurgen Klinsmann if he leaves for England

By Rob Usry  @RobUsry on Jul 11, 2016, 6:19a 89 

Remember back in March when the United States got embarrassed by Guatemala in World Cup qualifying, 2-0, away from home? Jurgen Klinsmann was supposedly on the “hot seat” after that match, so we decided to make a list of managers who “could” replace him if he was fired. Admittedly, that list was half-hearted at best. I never truly believed Klinsmann was in danger of losing his job, but ya know, stay topical and all that!  Fast forward to the present and now there’s more talk about Klinsmann not being the USMNT manager anymore. His seat has cooled considerably thanks to a successful Copa America run. Now the threat of him leaving apparently comes from England and their vacant national team manager position. I’d still bet a heavy sum of money that Jurgen isn’t going anywhere and that these rumors are your typical English tabloid nonsense, but until either party denies it, we have to treat it as a possibility.  Let’s imagine a scenario in which Klinsmann does in fact take the England job. What happens to the USMNT? CONCACAF World Cup qualifying resumes in 53 days with no friendlies in between. Sunil Gulati and the rest of the USSF board would need to find a replacement who could adapt to the team quickly and get them ready for their two important matches. Familiarity and logistics would be key and the role would likely be an interim one for the time being. Here are five managers that make sense:

Jason Kreis

When you look at resume, familiarity, and availability, no manager makes more sense than Jason Kreis. The former Real Salt Lake and New York City FC manager was last seen by Klinsmann’s side helping him during training sessions and scouting future opponents for the Copa America. While we don’t know the extent of Kreis’s role within the Klinsmann setup, he was certainly there and knows the player pool.  He’s currently unattached and available to fill-in. Aside from his one season with NYCFC, Kreis has a great track record of success as a manager. His appointment would be relatively seamless with the players likely already familiar with him. He checks all the boxes and would seem the most obvious candidate at this point.

Imaginary SSFC Bookie Odds: 3/2

Tab Ramos

Cohesiveness within the federation is one thing Klinsmann has preached from day one. He’s always been a proponent of each level of the the system — from the senior team all the way to the youngest youth levels — being on the same page. Looking at in-house candidates within the USSF, the most logical promotion would be current U-20 head coach Tab Ramos.  While Andi Herzog is the U-23 manager and Klinsmann’s assistant, he is a Klinsmann guy through and through. It’s hard to imagine him staying around without Jurgen staying. That leaves Ramos as the next guy on the depth chart. He guided the last crop of U-20’s to the 2015 World Cup quarterfinals and would likely be familiar with the senior team along with the rest of the player pool.

Imaginary SSFC Bookie Odds: 4/1

Guus Hiddink

So, your national team is in a pinch and needs a reliable manager to come in and save the day? There’s an app for that. That app would be called Guus Hiddink: International Manager Savior — The Dutch legend has managed several national teams in their time of need. Most notably, he led the South Korean team to a fourth-place finish at the 2002 World Cup. Four years later he took over Australia and got them to the knockout rounds for the first time ever. He is a international specialist that can adapt to any situation at any time.

It wouldn’t be the ideal scenario, but there’s no doubt that Hiddink could come in on short notice and do the job. He’s been out of work since leaving Chelsea at the end of last season and is just waiting by for the Guus signal to be flashed so he can come to the rescue once again.

Imaginary SSFC Bookie Odds: 8/1

Roberto Martinez

Ever since doing some analyst work for ESPN during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Roberto Martinez has been a fan favorite among American soccer supporters. Well, now seems like the perfect chance for the fans to get their man assuming Klinsmann leaves. Martinez was just fired from Everton at the end of last season and is currently waiting for the next opportunity to arise. If the USSF don’t want to wait to make a splash, you can’t go much bigger than Martinez.

While familiarity is thrown out of the window with this choice, it would likely please the majority of the fans and you’d have a long-term replacement while keeping that global recognition factor that came with Klinsmann. Is it the most logical move? No. But if Martinez to the USMNT is ever going to happen, it would seem this would be the best chance.

Imaginary SSFC Bookie Odds: 10/1

Sigi Schmid

Let’s say the USSF get desperate and need to try and poach a manager from their current team today. The Seattle Sounders seem to be the team in most need of a change at the top. Things just aren’t going well for them this season and talk around the league is that Sigi Schmid is on the hot seat. The USMNT could use a veteran with his track record of success to take over to at least get them to the new year. It’s hard to see Seattle putting up much of a fight in their current circumstances if the USSF came calling.

Imaginary SSFC Bookie Odds: 15/1

——-

While we’re putting odds on events likely to happen, it’s probably at 10,000/1 that anything actually materializes between Klinsmann and England. However, this is our Top 5 most logical short-term replacements for him if it does. Does our list make sense? Who would you add to the list?

US vs MEXICO In NOVEMBER IN COLUMBUS??

The draw for the hexagonal, the second phase of men’s World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF, took place this morning. No team besides Mexico had qualified for the tournament when the draw took place. To many, this made the drawing mundane and boring, but to hardcore fans of El Tri, this was an opportunity to start speculating about future opponents and the road to the World Cup in Russia.Following the draw, many fans of both the United States and Mexico took to social media in an excited frenzy to talk about the fact that their favorite national teams could be facing off against one another during the first match day of the hexagonal qualification process. However, in order for the match to take place the United States would have to win their first round of qualifying group. They currently sit in second place behind Trinidad and Tobago and have Guatemala nipping at their heels in third place.Should the United States manage to win their group, a hotly contested match against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on the first day of November is expected.

Clint Dempsey discusses US youth soccer development with Colin Cowherd

July 1, 20163:40PM EDTCharles BoehmContributor

y now most soccer watchers are familiar with Clint Dempsey‘s rise from humble origins in Nacogdoches, Texas to superstar status with the Seattle Sounders and the US national team.“Deuce” remains a crucial player for club and country at age 33, and his backstory makes him an authoritative voice on the topic of player identification and youth development, an area of ongoing debate in the United States.Dempsey offered up his opinion on this topic in a guest appearance on Colin Cowherd’s “The Herd” talk show on FS1 Thursday.Cowherd asked him whether it’s fair to say that the “pay-to-play” youth set-up prevents many kids from moving up through the ranks.“I think so. I think that’s fair. Especially if you’re trying to play club ball,” Dempsey said. “To some of the clubs’ credit, they do have scholarships, they have players they help in being able to deal with the fees. I was lucky enough to play for a club that helped me with that.“It’s difficult for kids to get that right type of coaching, get that development. And if you’re growing up in a small town, really all you have is the recreational league that you can play in, the high-school team that you can hopefully play for, play in men’s league, Hispanic leagues on the weekends, and hope that someone can see you there.”Dempsey pointed to the example of his fellow Texan and former USMNT teammate Jose “Gringo” Torres, who was offered a place in the youth system of Mexican club Pachuca as a high schooler and today plays for Tigres in Liga MX.“Some kids, like Jose Torres, he’s from Longview, Texas, he went to Mexico first, because he was spotted down there in some of the games that he was playing in Longview and he got that opportunity,” said Dempsey. “So there’s some kids from the States actually going to Mexico and playing there instead of in this league, because sometimes that’s an easier way to go, through the connections you have or the people you meet.”Discussing the USMNT’s unique mix of overseas-based dual-nationals and homegrown talent, Dempsey also noted the challenges posed by the country’s sprawling size and diversity.“We have a lot of different people from all different countries and everybody has kind of different styles – [we have to] kind of figure out what our style is as a country,” Dempsey said. “How do we want to play? Do we want to be a team that’s possessing the ball and being creative and creating chances, or are we going to be a counterattacking team? I think there’s a lot of questions you have to ask yourself. What’s going to be your country’s style of play?“But there are a lot of talented kids that are here in the United States that just play pickup or play men’s league or something, maybe don’t have the money to play club ball. They may just play for their high-school team or they’re maybe not on a big enough team to really get scouted by colleges, or be able to get picked up by some of these academies, or getting tryouts with an MLS team. It is something we’ve got to address and fix. At the same time, you can’t ignore the talent that’s outside the States and being developed elsewhere.”

USWNT: Reigning champs release roster for 2016 Olympics in Rio

Leave a commentBy Joe Prince-WrightJul 12, 2016, 12:24 PM EDT

The U.S. women’s national team have released its roster for the Olympics in Rio de Janiero this summer.Head coach Jill Ellis has named 18 women to the squad with seven players who won Gold at London 2012 returning to represent Team USA.14 of the 18 squad members were also part of the U.S. side which won the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Canada, while Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath will all be playing in their third Olympics, plus Solo also attended the 2004 Olympics as an alternate.There are no real shocks in the roster but the fact that midfielder Megan Rapinoe has recovered so quickly from ACL surgery in December of last year to make this squad is quite remarkable.The U.S. is the big favorite heading into this tournament in Brazil and has won four out of five gold medals at the Olympics, failing to win Gold only at the 2000 games in Sydney where it won silver after falling to Norway in the final.Down in Brazil the U.S. have been placed in Group G and will face New Zealand on Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. ET and France on Aug. 6 at 4 p.m. ET. Both of those opening group games will be in Belo Horizonte, while they finish group play against Colombia on Aug. 9 at 6 p.m. in the Amazonian city of Manaus.Below is the roster in full, including the four alternates Ellis has named.

Full USWNT squad for 2016 Olympics

GOALKEEPERS (2): Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), Hope Solo (Seattle Reign FC)

DEFENDERS (6): Whitney Engen (Boston Breakers), Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Meghan Klingenberg (Portland Thorns FC), Ali Krieger (Washington Spirit), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (6): Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Megan Rapinoe (Seattle Reign FC)

FORWARDS (4): Crystal Dunn (Washington Spirit), Alex Morgan (Orlando Pride), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (Real Colorado)  Alternates: Heather O’Reilly, Ashlyn Harris, Emily Sonnett and Samantha Mewis.

US women’s national team set for Olympics: Here’s what you need to know

July 14, 20163:38PM EDTCharles BoehmContributor

On Tuesday afternoon head coach Jill Ellis released the final roster for the US women’s national team’s Olympic squad, signaling the home stretch in the run-up to their campaign for an unprecedented fifth gold medal at next month’s Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro and other venues across Brazil.Millions will tune in both at home and abroad as the most successful team in North American soccer history tries to better their own program’s brilliant past, a task that falls on the shoulders of the 18 players named on Tuesday (plus four alternates available in case of injury).With their Aug 3. opening Olympic match vs. New Zealand now exactly three weeks away, here’s what you should know about the USWNT and their latest gold-hunting expedition.

This team is (still) chasing history

The USWNT wrestled a rather large monkey off their collective back in Canada last summer whenthey marched to a world-record third Women’s World Cup championship. It ended a painful 16-year cup drought dating back to the sensational 1999 title won on home soil, and allowed several veterans like Abby Wambach – international soccer’s all-time leading scorer, man or woman – to ride into the sunset with satisfaction.The Olympics – where the women’s soccer tournament is a bigger deal than the men’s, for several reasons – have been a far more fruitful competition for the USWNT: They’ve won four out of the five gold medals on offer since the sport debuted at Atlanta 1996. But as so many successful teams do, the US women seem to have found a fresh source of motivation despite all that domination.In five chances, no team has ever won a Women’s World Cup and Olympic gold in back-to-back years. That’s the next target for a USWNT group that has grown accustomed to winning everything it takes part in, and it seems to have kept veteran stars like Carli LloydMegan Rapinoe (both of whom are recent returnees from injury), Hope Solo and Alex Morgan focused and hungry.“One of the things that I really looked into is, why has the repeat never been done? Is that a change in personnel? Is it complacency?” Ellis told reporters in an in-depth conference call after the roster release. “I actually had a lot of individual meetings in this last camp and that was one of the questions I posed to players: Are you as hungry? Do you feel as focused? And the resounding response was yes.“The players want to make history, want to try and be the first team to go back to back.”

Who’s standing in their way

The USWNT will likely be tested but not troubled by their group-stage opponents New Zealand, France and Colombia. A slick and skilled but unpredictable side, France are the toughest test on that list, and could well meet the US again in the knockout stages – which is where the real danger awaits for the defending champs.Germany are a perennial menace. Australia continue to improve. Canada – who narrowly lost to the US in an epic 4-3, extra-time semifinal slugfest at Old Trafford four years ago – are more eager than ever to knock off their “big sister” border rivals on a big stage. But the trickiest adversary may be the host nation. Brazil are desperate to host a successful Olympics and will be particularly eager for glory in their favorite sport, so expect the home fans to give the USWNT a not-so-hospitable welcome.

The USWNT didn’t rebuild – they reloaded

If you’re one of the fans of the US men’s national team who’ve expressed frustration at Jurgen Klinsmann’s continued reliance on many of the same 30-something players who starred at the 2014 World Cup, the measured youth movement led by Ellis should be inspiring.The US women’s game has seen the rise of a new generation of driven, technically adept talents who’ve grown up in a more advanced youth development environment than their predecessors. Even with the USWNT the No. 1-ranked team in the world, players like Morgan BrianLindsey Horan and Crystal Dunn have made powerful cases for important roles, pushing the veterans and making the squad younger, faster and better-rounded.“Once the World Cup was over, I had a call to our president, Sunil [Gulati],” said Ellis on Tuesday, “and I said that … if we are about winning world championships, we can’t just have all our focus be on the Olympics. It has to be on looking at new players, looking at players to build for beyond. And he agreed. We still want to win a gold medal, we still want to be competitive this summer, and that’s still a high, high priority. And I think we can do that. But we can also start to build players for the future.“We’ve got the best young players out there right now.”The program even has its own answer to Christian Pulisic: Mallory Pugh, who was brought into the USWNT at the tender age of 17 at the beginning of this year. But unlike the men’s team, this teenage phenom isn’t just on the roster: She’s a regular.A quick, aggressive attacker who can play out wide or up front, Pugh has started nine of the USWNT’s 14 matches thus far this year, and appeared in all but one of them. Having drawn comparisons to none other than the legendary Mia Hamm, she’s in the mix for a starting role in Brazil despite the wealth of veteran talent around her. Pugh is set to attend UCLA this fall, but nearly signed a pro contract with NWSL and US Soccer in January and could someday take a streamlined path to the pros, much like what MLS’ Generation adidas once did for young male players.

When, where, how to watch

The USWNT play group-stage games in Belo Horizonte vs. New Zealand and France on Aug. 3 and 6, respectively, then visit Manaus to face Colombia in the same Arena Amazonia that hosted the USMNT’s 2-2 World Cup with Portugal in 2014. Eight teams will advance to the knockout stage, with quarterfinals on Aug. 12, semifinals on Aug. 16 and the gold-medal match set for Aug. 19 at Rio’s Maracana Stadium.Though programming details have not yet been released, women’s soccer will be included in the NBC/Universal network’s 2,084 hours of Olympic coverage across 11 of its broadcast and cable channels, including NBC and Telemundo, and all 2016 Olympic events will be streamed live on NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports Live Extra app for authenticated pay TV subscribers.

3 things we learned from the USA vs South Africa friendly

By Stephanie Yang  @thrace on Jul 10, 2016, 4:00p 5 

the United States beat South Africa 1-0 on Saturday, a scoreline that doesn’t quite reflect the game’s imbalance. But for all that the US had the lion’s share of the attack, they still didn’t finish or get the ball into dangerous enough positions. Here’s a few things we learned from the game.

Jill Ellis seems to have a plan for non-ideal scenarios

Last night, Tobin Heath and Morgan Brian were both unavailable. Ellis started a central midfield of Lindsey Horan, Allie Long, and Christen Press, with Press free to move back and forth as needed in support of Alex Morgan. It almost paid early dividends from the very start, but for most of the game they were thwarted by South African pressure and their own bad passing.As for the wings, that’s where Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh came in, and they were both right as rain in their assigned roles.Even though the US couldn’t wring more than one goal out of this configuration, they certainly still managed to press into South Africa’s defensive third with it, making it a viable option in case of (knock on wood) injury or if Ellis just wants to rotate her roster.

Ellis prefers an overall attacking mindset as opposed to a more solid defensive line

Exhibit A: Kelley O’Hara starts over Ali Krieger.

Ellis wants her team to dig into games early, and that means lots of pushes up the flanks from both Meghan Klingenberg and Kelley O’Hara, overlapping with Dunn and Pugh (or Heath). Perhaps she feels she can do this because she has the security of anchors Becky Sauerbrunn and Julie Johnston staying at home, and to be fair, that’s one hell of a security system.This close to the Olympics, there’s no more whiff of experimentation about it. O’Hara will be the starting right back in Brazil, and the team will come out of the gate at a fairly high tempo against the likes of Colombia, New Zealand, and France. Especially for the two teams that aren’t France, a little early shock and awe could make a huge difference for the US, allowing them to keep teams on the back heel instead of settling into the game.

Mallory Pugh, Christen Press, and Crystal Dunn are the present and future of this team

Never mind that Press is often pushed out of position to play support to Alex Morgan or other strikers, she still manages to create threats around the box, especially with her good first touches and interesting movement to create space for herself. Give Press half a chance anywhere inside the box, and she’ll bring the ball down either for herself or able to lay it off for someone with a shot.Combine her with Dunn and Pugh, who are both so good at carrying the ball deep and then cutting in themselves or sending in service, and they paint a very exciting picture for the future of the USWNT front line. It’s not even that Pugh needs a little more seasoning (though surely she hasn’t peaked at all yet), she’s ready right now. And Dunn has been honing herself to a razor’s edge no doubt since last year’s World Cup roster disappointment, becoming not just a goalscorer herself but a creative attacking engine.They might have all been just a bit off in the game against South Africa, but they’re certainly capable of more fluid interchange, and all that matters is that they peak together at the right time in August.

Copa America Postmortem: Darlington Nagbe

By Rob Usry  @RobUsry on Jul 8, 2016, 7:15a 7 

Hi, my name is Rob. This will be a Darlington Nagbe Copa America review without mentioning Jurgen Klinsmann. Starting…now.The Portland Timbers midfielder came into the Copa riding a mini wave of success. He had come off the bench in the final two warm-up friendlies against Ecuador and Bolivia to record a goal and assist between his appearances. It appeared as if Nagbe would play a big part for the United States in this tournament. Would he fulfill those expectations?Nagbe played in three of the six matches in the Copa, all as a substitute. Here are his numbers:

Games Played: 3

Minutes: 47

Shots: 1

Tackles: 1

Defensive Actions: 2

Positives

You may be thinking to yourselves right now, “Rob, why did you pick a guy who played 47 minutes over more important players?” — Well, that’s how the order of selection went. I apologize.When contemplating positive moments for Nagbe, it has to be a good sign that in the three matches the U.S. were down in, he was called on to make a difference. Even over the backup striker Chris Wondolowski. He wasn’t trusted to start in important situations, but when desperation kicked in, he was there. That’s better than not being used at all, I suppose. As for on the field, he didn’t hurt his chances at more playing time. He was confident with the ball in his few minutes and helped maintain possession just a little bit better when he came on.

Negatives

On the opposite side of the equation, it’s a puzzling thought that people keep referring to Nagbe as a young player. At 25, Nagbe has 171 caps in MLS and is already smack in the middle of his prime. He’s not getting younger and treating him as a green prospect is doing him a disservice.

In his measly 47 minutes he didn’t do much at all. The third-place match was his most effective outing, blowing past players and drawing a foul. His free kick attempt was the team’s last shot on goal of the tournament, so there’s that. But all-in-all he did very little. Is he to blame? Maybe. His role was to be an impact substitute and he didn’t deliver. Expecting Nagbe to be a dynamic sub in 15-20 minutes of action was never going to work out. He is and has always been a 90-minute player who takes over the match in spurts. His intricate and precise passing and movement over a full match is what makes him such a valuable player. He has never been and will never be a super-sub.

Copa Grade: Incomplete

Despite playing three matches, he barely got over a half of soccer under his belt in the entire tournament. It’s completely unfair to judge him based off that really small sample size, just like it’s unfair to think he should be starting based off two good friendly performances.

What’s Next

We can only speculate that Nagbe will continue on to play a role for the national team. His skill set and superb technical ability makes him a special player. He will likely continue being an important player for the Timbers. Only time will tell if he’ll be given the chance to do the same for the USMNT.

Copa America Postmortem: Michael Bradley

By Rob Usry  @RobUsry on Jun 30, 2016, 7:15a 49 

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In this Postmortem series we’ll be examining each player on the USA’s 23-man roster and how they performed during the Copa America and what’s next for them heading into the conclusion of World Cup qualifying.

Excitement and optimism surrounded Michael Bradley heading into the Copa America Centenario. Jurgen Klinsmann had finally given up on the ‘Bradley is a No. 10’ experiment and pushed him back to his more natural holding midfield role. Many people, including myself, lobbed pressure onto his shoulders by subscribing to the “As Bradley goes, so goes the national team” theory.

The USMNT captain started all six of the team’s matches in this tournament. Here’s a look at his stats:

Games Played: 6

Minutes Played: 529

Goals: 0

Assists: 0

Yellow Cards: 1

Positives

Just as the manager gets credit/blame when things are going well/poorly, the captain of the team usually goes through the same roller coaster. There’s no denying that Bradley’s on-field performances as a whole were a letdown. However, the team showed great spirit in some of the matches. Most notably against Paraguay when they had to play 40 minutes down a man. The team banded together and prevented a goal from going in. That amazing show of teamwork eventually paid off immensely as the difference between a 1-0 win a 1-1 draw ended up winning the USA their group.

As much as it’s the new fad to pile onto Michael Bradley for the team’s overall struggles in losses, he deserves some of the credit for the vastly improved team spirit that they showed throughout the Copa America.

Negatives

Okay, now that’s out of the way, it’s time to take off the gloves. Of the 11 consistent starters for the U.S. in this tournament, it’s probably safe to say he was the most disappointing of the bunch. That pains me to say. I’m admittedly a big Michael Bradley fan. Yet, I pointed out after the opening match against Colombia that he had a real problem with handling pressure, both figuratively and literally. When the U.S. play against good teams that high press them in the midfield Bradley struggles mightily. Part of that could be his teammates failing to provide options, but the majority of the blame has to be put on him. In friendlies where teams allow the U.S. to play freely he looks like a world-class player and that’s where the inconsistencies in his play confuse a lot of people. He can look like a world-beater one match then look absolutely terrible in another. It’s an extremely frustrating trend.

We’ve noticed that in competitive tournaments that he’s leaned more towards the terrible side and I believe it still stems from the pressure issues. Against teams like Colombia or Argentina he’s expect to carry the midfield, but constantly loses the ball in tight spaces or misplaces passes. When he’s supposed to be the linchpin of the midfield that’s only going to increase the expectations of onlookers. Is Michael Bradley a bad player? I truly don’t think so. I honestly don’t think anyone in the U.S. national team player pool could step into his position and do a better job. Did Michael Bradley have a really bad tournament? Yes he did. ESPN even named him to their Worst XI of the tournament. Oof.

Copa Grade – D

Aside from a few of his patented long balls out to the flank to start an attack or some decent defensive plays in front of the defensive 18-yard box it was an extremely difficult tournament for Bradley. Some of his careless giveaways led to goals either directly or indirectly. His effectiveness in the passing game seemed a lot less noticeable than in previous tournaments. While he gets credit for being a leader on the field, his performances in several of the matches, including the most important ones, were detrimental to the team.

What’s Next

Bradley has already returned to Toronto FC and is reportedly on the mend from a knock picked up in the third-place match against Colombia. As much as USMNT supporters like to question Bradley’s position in the starting lineup, it’s hard to envision any drastic changes being made anytime soon. He’s the captain of the team and still, on paper, one of the best midfielders in the pool. I just can’t see Klinsmann dropping him ahead of two important World Cup qualifying matches. Perhaps his leash will be a little shorter than it was entering the Copa America, but he’s still one of the first names on the teamsheet, like it or not.

Copa America Postmortem: DeAndre Yedlin

By Rob Usry  @RobUsry on Jun 29, 2016, 8:30a 13 

Reflecting Andre Yedlin concluded the Premier League season on a major high. His consistent play after winning the Sunderland’s starting right back spot back in February was a contributing factor to the club beating relegation once again.He came into the Copa America Centenario with the USMNT right back job on lockdown. Yedlin started in five of the team’s six matches. Here’s a look at his numbers:

Games Played: 5

Clean Sheets: 2

Red Cards: 1

Yellow Cards: 1

Minutes Played: 408

Positives

It’s been a long time since the United States men’s national team had a consistent back four. Klinsmann finally stuck with one during the Copa America and Yedlin played a big part of it. This tournament wasn’t exactly his showcase event, but he held his own defensively against some world-class players. His defensive awareness has improved tremendously. The amount of times he was caught out of position and had to rely on his pace to recover was drastically reduced from his previous showings with the national team.There are still growing pains with Yedlin, but he’s showing real promise as a full-time right back who is still adjusting to being a defense-first player instead of one that bombs forward without abandon.

Negatives

Okay, after all the nice things that were just said it’s time to get mean. There were several negatives to focus on for Yedlin during the Copa, but it’s important to preface it by stating that he’s still learning. This was his first chance in a major tournament to be ‘the guy’ at right back. In the first match against Colombia he was whistled for a handball. Some will argue that it was a poor moment and some will call it unlucky. Obviously you’re taught to keep your hands behind your back in a crossing situation, but it’s hard to blame him in this situation. It’s just rotten luck in my biased opinion. Other than the handball, he held up really well in both matches he played against the No. 3 team in the world.  The next and far more egregious error was against Paraguay in the final group match. Needing just a draw to advance to the quarters, the U.S. had a 1-0 lead at halftime. Five minutes into the second half they were down a man after Yedlin was sent off for back-to-back bookable tackles in the span of a minute. It was immature and reckless and he paid for it dearly by missing the next round. There’s no defending this. It was just a silly decision by a young player. We can only hope he learns from the mistake and never does it again.

Copa Grade – B-

The two glaring mistakes aside it was a solid tournament for Yedlin. It could’ve been a lot better, but he showed his promise and why he’s got a great chance to secure the right back spot for a long time. His defense is steadily improving and his overlapping is still a threat on the flanks.

What’s Next

Yedlin returns to Spurs in the preseason with rumors abound about his next move. Sunderland are reportedly interested in bringing him back permanently, while other Premier League clubs have been sniffing around. It’s vital that he finds another situation that offers him the chance at winning steady playing time. If he can do that he shouldn’t have any competition for the USMNT right back job in the near future.

on the Copa América Centenario’s legacy

Updated: JUNE 27, 2016 — 3:48 PM EDT by Jonathan Tannenwald, STAFF WRITER  @jtannenwald

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – As the last crescendo of Argentina’s stirring national anthem thundered across MetLife Stadium, the scene looked more like Buenos Aires than a sprawling American suburb.From fancy sideline seats to the highest nosebleeds, the stands were full of those legendary blue and white stripes. Albiceleste, to use the Spanish term for both the color scheme and the team’s nickname: on jerseys, flags, even balloons that soared into the sky as fans raised their voices.At the end of the night, the party moved across the Andes to Santiago. Though Chile’s red-clad fans were outnumbered, their cheers were loud and clear when La Roja lifted the Copa América Centenario trophy. The players joined in the fun, dancing in a big circle after the ceremony.But a moment’s glance away from the field reminded all 82,026 fans in attendance that they weren’t in Argentina or Chile. They were in the United States. That fact is worth celebrating too.This tournament truly was America’s Copa América. The nation’s melting pot of Hispanic immigrants turned out in droves to support every participating nation. Thousands of tourists came from abroad to electrify this country’s biggest cities and stadiums.Overall, nearly 1.5 million fans attended the 32 games nationwide. Millions more watched on television in English or Spanish – and often times both.The action was wildly entertaining, with an average of 2.84 goals scored per game.Can there be any doubt left that the Copa América Centenario lived up to the hype?

Almost all the stars who came here delivered. To name just a few: Chile’s Alexis Sánchez, the tournament’s most outstanding player; Colombia’s James Rodriguez; the United States’ Clint Dempsey; Mexico’s Jesus “Tecatito” Corona; and Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho.And of course, there was the star of all stars, Argentina’s Lionel Messi. Is he really done playing for the national team? Or were his stunning remarks a veiled threat to Argentina’s federation, which has treated him and other star players poorly?Messi’s millions of fans across the globe gasped in collective astonishment when the news broke in the late hours of Sunday night. He was surely haunted by his missed penalty kick in Sunday’s shootout. But before then, he led Argentina to the title game with five goals and four assists.Remember the hat trick against Panama in 18 minutes after he came into the game as a substitute? Or his free kick for the ages that sank the United States? Surely Messi’s brilliance is worth remembering just as much as his failure, if not more.

The same can be said for the Copa América Centenario as a whole.No, the tournament wasn’t perfect. Some stars didn’t play, the ticket prices were too high to attract casual fans, and too many games were marred by chants of a Spanish-language homophobic slur.But for three thrilling weeks, a joyous soccer spectacle was front and center on the American sports landscape.Fox Sports 1’s English-language broadcasts of United States games smashed the channel’s men’s soccer viewership records. Many other games drew audiences equal to or greater than ESPN’s coverage of the supposedly superior European Championship.Univision was an even bigger winner, as its broadcasts drew an average of nearly three million viewers per contest. On more than a few occasions, the network beat English-language networks head-to-head in prime time.Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Copa América Centenario’s success is this: It was planned and executed in just over eight months.

Yes, the tournament was originally announced a few years ago. But those original plans were full of bribes and kickbacks that put the event in the Department of Justice’s crosshairs. The indictments that came down last spring include many references to ill-gotten gains from the Copa.

Soon after Attorney General Loretta Lynch became a household name worldwide, the U.S. Soccer Federation demanded that if the corrupt contracts weren’t torn up, the tournament wouldn’t be allowed here.(It’s fair to wonder whether U.S. Soccer could have been more insistent in the first place. At this point, one can only say better late than never.)

The meetings where everything was ultimately cleaned up took place in September and October of last year.Only then could organizers pick the stadiums, set the game schedule, sell tickets and secure travel arrangements for participating teams. FIFA also had to be convinced to put the tournament on its official calendar, a requirement to get European club teams to allow their big stars to play.Venues were confirmed just before Thanksgiving. The draw was held just before Christmas. Tickets went on sale in February. One of the tournament’s marquee names, Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernández, confirmed he’d play in late April.All those things happened in a total of 224 days. World Cup hosts get six years to prepare.If that doesn’t prove to the world that the United States is ready to host soccer’s biggest spectacle for a second time, what will?You could say the Copa’s success is just another sign of soccer’s growth in the United States. Or that you aren’t surprised a Latin-flavored tournament was popular with Latino audiences. But something about this event felt like more than just another milepost on soccer’s journey to prominence here.Maybe it’s this: For the first time in a while, a big soccer event was genuinely fun.Yes, there was plenty of serious soccer played. Just ask Brazil coach Dunga, who was fired because the five-time World Cup champions didn’t make it out of the Copa group stage.But overall, the tournament was full of drama, creativity and excitement.Going forward, there will be much talk about the Copa’s legacy – and in particular, whether a combined tournament of the Americas can become a regular occurrence.There’s lots of interest, but also lots of questions. How can it fit in global soccer’s increasingly congested calendar? Should the United States always host it, or should it rotate around many nations? Can FIFA get the winner into the Confederations Cup?

Whatever happens in the future, here’s something to ponder about the present.Perhaps this summer’s spectacle can be a catalyst that finally turns this country’s soccer establishment toward what South America’s creative brilliance brings to the game, and away from Europe’s self-proclaimed moral superiority.Some of that superiority is earned, of course, especially in Spain and Germany. But what about England, whose soccer culture has been put on a pedestal by Americans for decades? Has the worship of everything with an English accent truly made this country’s soccer better?After watching the dynamism of Argentina, Chile, Colombia and others, you might conclude it hasn’t.

The change that’s required won’t be easy. It can’t be done in the time it takes you to drive your children to perfectly-manicured fields in gated suburban soccer complexes for rigidly-coached practices and tournaments.Indeed, that long-cherished routine is part of the problem.Messi, Sánchez and countless other South American greats first played soccer on hardscrabble courts and back-alley streets. They taught themselves the skill, savvy and relentless desire needed to become elite players.Just as importantly, their families didn’t pay thousands of dollars to youth teams and event organizers along the way. For many Hispanic-American and African-American children, it costs too much simply to play soccer in this country, never mind to attend a professional game.If America’s mainstream soccer culture continues to raise barriers to those and other groups, the national team program – men’s and women’s – will not fulfill its vast potential.Asking so much of one three-week soccer tournament may seem like a lot. But remember all the questions before the Copa América Centenario about whether it was a big deal?We have the answer now: It was indeed a big deal.Perhaps its legacy can be a big deal too.

Copa América Centenario bets pay off big for Univision, Fox Sports

Updated: JULY 1, 2016 — 11:23 AM EDT by Jonathan Tannenwald, STAFF WRITER  @jtannenwald

Fox Sports 1’s broadcast of the U.S.-Argentina Copa América Centenario semifinal in Houston drew 3.290 million viewers, the channel’s largest ever men’s soccer audience.

Of all the entities that benefitted from the Copa América Centenario’s great success, few gained more than the two television networks that brought the tournament’s action into American homes.Both Fox and Univision drew massive audiences for their telecasts in English and Spanish, respectively. Fox’s rivaled and in many cases surpassed ESPN’s viewership for the European Championship, while Univision’s average viewership for the group stage was higher than its average viewership for the 2014 World Cup.Just because everything looks rosy now, though, doesn’t mean the industry always believed that would be the case. Indeed, as anyone who has followed the FIFA corruption scandal knows, for much of last year it seemed the tournament wouldn’t happen at all.Univision Sports president Juan Carlos Rodriguez was convinced – and he had more at stake than almost anyone. His network wrote a $60 million rights fee check as soon as the tournament was first announced in 2014.Twelve months later, Rodriguez was staring at a bust. But twelve months after that, he was staring at a smash hit.Rodriguez doesn’t like talking publicly about the key role he played in making the Copa América Centenario happen. But ask around the industry and you will find plenty of people who praise his specific role in the meetings last autumn that secured the event’s existence.I spoke with Rodriguez this week, and asked if he was willing to reflect on the work he did. He wasn’t quite ready.”I think we have to meet each other and have a lot of tequilas, and I’ll tell you the whole story,” Rodriguez said. “It’s a book, for sure.”

He did, however, drop a few hints.”I’m paid to generate value for the company, and soccer is a very profitable landscape for everyone involved,” he said. “Two years ago, we made the bet, and I think we delivered.”Rodriguez added that it was “an easy bet,” and it’s easy to see why. If you’re surprised about Univision’s viewership beating its World Cup average, remember that the Hispanic audience doesn’t care too much about most teams from Europe, Africa and Asia. Games between those nations bring a World Cup average down. Take them out, and you get what Univision got last month.There weren’t just big audiences for games involving Mexico, the United States, Brazil and Argentina. Every game of the tournament drew at least 1.2 million viewers on Univision networks, including those with smaller nations like Panama, Haiti and Bolivia.”People want to watch official soccer matches – I think that’s the game-changer that we are very proud of,” Rodriguez said. “We were able to deliver an event that was an official event where countries were battling for an official trophy, not just these friendlies that everyone is doing in the U.S. that are going nowhere. Our audience has matured enough so that they can decide what is for real and what is not for real.”A good chunk of that audience was bilingual, just like the tournament as a whole. Many fans watched one half of a game in English and the other in Spanish.Rodriguez is fine with that.”It matches with the way the country is growing,” he said. “This is not about a first-generation of Hispanics coming to the U.S., or Anglos following [English-speaking] people. I think today there is a combination of second generations and third generations that is growing.”

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Fox paid just $15 million for English-language Copa rights – a quarter of what Univision spent, and a relatively small sum by sports TV standards. More importantly, the deal wasn’t made official until this past January, well after all of the legal disputes around the tournament had been settled.It was well-known around the soccer community for some time before then that Fox was going to do the deal. But the symbolism of the timing wasn’t lost on anyone. Nor was the fact that if everything went right, Fox was sitting on a potential gold mine.”I had very high expectations for this tournament,” executive soccer producer David Neal told me. “Players like Messi, Chicharito [Javier Hernandez]; the Brazil, Argentina, Chile teams that have played often in the United States in friendlies or exhibitions but very rarely in the U.S. for matches that really had stakes attached to them.”There were definitely stakes. And as you saw during Fox’s broadcasts, the network’s on-air talent wasn’t afraid to raise them. It wasn’t just the soccer studio crew either. Big-name talkers such as Colin Cowherd turned the spotlight – and the pressure – up to the highest levels.”It’s absolutely important, and it grew organically,” Neal said. “That kind of commentary, not only does it attract attention but it raises awareness. It’s a wonderful things to us to see our corporate brothers and sister talking about the sport as well.”Cowherd’s presence in particular caught a lot of the “soccer bubble” community off guard. Most soccer-centric types in this country tune out most mainstream sports talking heads on the assumption that they all hate the sport. That’s not true in Cowherd’s case. He wasn’t forced by higher-ups in Fox’s to talk about soccer.”Soccer has been on his radar for quite some time,” Neal said. “He did a piece for us in the pregame show before the U.S. semifinal [against Argentina] about the growth of soccer, and the fact that it’s truly appearing on the mainstream more and more. He thinks soccer is on the brink of becoming one of the top four. He thinks it’s going to supplant hockey.”Nothing grows soccer in this country more than good performances by U.S. national teams, and Fox got that in the Americans’ run to the semifinals.After the U.S.-Colombia game came within a whisker of setting Fox Sports 1’s men’s soccer viewership record, every subsequent U.S. game set a new high mark – culminating with an audience of 3.290 million for the U.S.-Argentina semifinal.”The United States, after the first match, caught fire, and then things aligned in a way that exceeded expectations,” Neal said. “I thought it would be a significant event, and then it became a really significant event.”I asked Neal if the tournament would have been such a hit on his network if the U.S. hadn’t done well. This was his answer:

It was important, but it wasn’t crucial. Was it good news for us to see the U.S. make the semifinals? Absolutely, but it wasn’t something that we thought was crucial. We thought that having the marquee players and marquee teams from central and South America would be sufficiently attractive, and then the U.S. [run] was really a bonus.

One of the things that we’ve learned from our friends at ESPN is that the sophistication level of the American soccer watcher is at such a high level already that even as recently as the World Cup in 2014 when the U.S. went out in the round of 16, the audience continued to grow. We felt confident going in that it would be true [here].

It was indeed true. A prime time doubleheader of Chile-Bolivia and Argentina-Panama on Fox’s over-the-air network drew over a million viewers. So did the quarterfinal doubleheader on FX that included Chile’s 7-0 demolition

of Mexico and Argentina’s 4-1 rout of Venezuela. Chile’s semifinal win over Colombia drew nearly a million viewers despite an hours-long thunderstorm delay, and the Argentina-Chile final drew 2.9 million viewers.

Of course, Fox being Fox, there were plenty of critics among those millions of viewers. I asked Neal to address some of the loudest talking points that surfaced on social media. He was glad to.Let’s start with the most controversial addition to the network’s coverage, Fernando Fiore. Long a star of Univision’s sports coverage, Fiore made the jump from Spanish to English television last year. His role with Fox is part-host, part-analyst, part-raconteur.Fiore really wasn’t that controversial a hire, especially for anyone who ever watched him at Univision. Plenty of viewers liked his contributions a lot. But some people who didn’t know of him before the Copa were surprised by his outspoken personality.I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a fan of Fernando’s work. I’ve also crossed paths enough with him over the years to know him somewhat well. But this space isn’t about my view. Here’s Neal’s take:

He is a force of nature, and anyone who knew him from his work in Spanish on Univision was certainly not surprised to see the energy that he brought to us. One of the things that I love about Fernando as part of our on-air talent is that he’s very unabashed about saying I’m not an ex-player, I’m not an ex-coach, I’m a fan.  I think that’s an important aspect of any telecast – you want to have the fan’s point of view as well. I thought Fernando’s wide range of emotions, his analysis from a fan’s point of view, his knowledge of history of the game – particularly of old south and central American soccer – he has proven to be encyclopedic.

Another subject I saw a lot of complaints about was in-game broadcast production. Things like replays, cuts to fans in the crowd and camera angles.All of those things were controlled by a central production crew run by Host Broadcasting Services, the firm that FIFA hires to produce its tournament broadcasts. Fox didn’t run the show, and indeed, many of HBS’ employees aren’t American. For example, the broadcast of the final was directed by Scotland native Grant Phillips.  “It’s a fact of life in international soccer,” Neal said. “One director may vary from another in terms of how often they cut to cameras. That’s true of American directors and any others.”  On the whole, Neal was satisfied with HBS’ work. Every game had a minimum of 26 cameras, he said, and the semifinals and final had between 30 and 40. But if he needed to have a word with the crew, he could do so.”We had a daily dialogue with the host broadcaster,” Neal said. “If we had concerns about close-ups and cutaways and those sorts of things, we were encouraged to give feedback. Especially during the semifinals and finals, I thought the level of coverage was extremely high.”  Another subject Fox got criticized over was having a lot of games called off monitors instead of sending its broadcast crews to stadiums. The tournament was in the United States after all, so why not?  Well, there were a few reasons. The biggest was that unlike for the World Cup, the Copa didn’t build press sections into seating bowls of stadiums. They all (at least as far as I know) used the existing press boxes and broadcast booths.On the print side of things, there was enough room for everyone. But on the television side, there wasn’t always. A lot of South American TV networks sent crews to the U.S., and by the letter of the law, they had just as much of a right to booth space as Fox.At Lincoln Financial Field, for example, not only were all the TV and radio booths occupied, but coaches’ boxes and production rooms were also turned into broadcast spaces.”Because there were so many rights-holders and there was only so much real estate in these stadiums – we always like toe be at as many venues as we can, it’s just logistics as far as how many spaces are available and how many broadcasters we have,” Neal said. “In group play we had 12 days of consecutive games and four teams. It was a lot of traveling and [sometimes it made more sense] to have them stay in L.A. for a day or two.”Fox’s decision was also a bit of a hedge on its bet on the tournament as a whole. Yes, Neal’s expectations were high, but a bet is still a bet. The network kept its talent roster to four broadcast crews, and kept its studio crew at home in Los Angeles through the tournament’s early stages.But as the tournament caught on with fans, Fox got the green light to spend more. So you saw the studio crews go to Seattle and Houston for the United States’ knockout round games.Lastly, let’s address a point that is always one of the big ones when it comes to Fox’s soccer coverage: its use of American play-by-play voices instead of Brits.  Fox has a long, proud track record of developing American voices to call the world’s game, and that effort continued this summer.FC Dallas play-by-play voice Mark Followill got a big national stage at the Copa, after quietly getting Bundesliga and CONCACAF assignments in recent months. Justin Kutcher returned after debuting at last year’s Women’s World Cup. Mark Rogondino returned to the fold to call a few MLS games after the league’s Copa break ended.Critics are still out there, complaining that Americans can’t know the game as well as others. But the tide is changing, thanks in no small part to the emergence of John Strong. At this point, the 31-year-old Oregon native shares the top of Fox’s depth chart with the dean of American soccer broadcasting, J.P. Dellacamera.  It’s one thing to have Americans call a tournament of the Americas. What will happen, though, when Fox airs the 2018 World Cup in Russia? That’s the most demanding audience in soccer, and it might just demand that Fox use its British brethren from Sky Sports instead – especially global superstar Martin Tyler. Fox also has a strong partnership with Sky Sports’ operations in Germany and Italy. Sky Deutschland helps to produce some of Fox’s Bundesliga features, and Sky Italia’s Massimo Marianella contributed to Fox’s coverage of the FIFA presidential election in February. Neal is well aware of the pressure that will be on him, and told me Fox is already starting to make plans.”Everything we do, whether the women’s World Cup or the Copa America now or the Confederations Cup next year and the qualifiers in between involving the U.S. national team and Mexican national team, there is a common characteristic that it is about building our team for 2018,” he said. “We have not filled all our spots [for 2018]. We had effectively four broadcast teams for the Copa America [and] need at least two more for the World Cup. We are not excluding anybody.”Ultimately, Neal said, “it’s impossible to predict [right now] what all of our voices are going to be.There is some time to settle that matter. A more immediate objective is to bring the momentum from the Copa América Centenario into coverage of Major League Soccer.It was impossible to miss the many ties between MLS and the Copa, not least because Soccer United Marketing ran much of the tournament’s commercial operations. But there is a greater philosophical question of whether the Copa can get the MLS community to pay more attention to South America, and to bring more South players into the league instead of aging Europeans.

Yes, this is the same subject I wrote about a few days ago. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that when I asked Neal and Rodriguez for their opinions, they said many of the same things that I did.  But really, I barely had to ask them. They said it on their own.”The style of play that we saw in Copa América Centenario – and almost equally important, the level of passion from the fans, the thousands that filled stadiums and the millions who watched on television – the sport is the same [as in Europe], but the passion and excitement of soccer in the Americas, I think it’s something that has got enormous growth potential,” Neal said. “And I think this tournament, over three-plus weeks, showcased it very, very well.”It’s no surprise that Neal is very much in favor of having more combined tournaments of the Americas in the future. It’s even less of a surprise that Rodriguez is too.”Absolutely, the answer is yes,” Rodriguez said. “In a six-month period, everyone proved that things can happen. If we have four years to plan, it would only get better.”Making it happen will take a lot of heavy lifting by CONCACAF, CONMEBOL and FIFA officials. The U.S. government’s investigation into corruption in soccer across the Americas could also have an impact, especially relating to who gets to be at the negotiating table.

Rodriguez told me he believes that FIFA and CONCACAF are indeed committed to the reform packages they have approved. He has particularly strong faith in soccer governing officials in the United States.  “I think that U.S. Soccer and MLS have never been engaged in any of that – I can assure that this part of the world has nothing to do with the holistic world story,” he said. “I cannot say more because I don’t know more, but I do know that the sport itself is trying to clean the governing part. There is a new president, there is a new general secretary [of FIFA], there is a new president of CONCACAF [Canada’s Victor Montagliani] that for sure has been – he went through all the required screenings.”

Let’s end this piece with some optimism. If you’ve read my past interviews with Rodriguez, you know he’s very bullish on what Univision can bring to Major League Soccer.Rodriguez had a lot to say on the subject this time too. Here are his words, unfiltered (as they often are), on where he thinks American soccer can go if it speaks a little more Spanish in the years to come:

I think everything is ready for soccer to explode in the U.S., and we’re all trying to find the fuel and the ignition that really makes this the beginning of an incredible growth… If we really take a look and dive in the numbers, we might presume that one of the biggest paths for soccer’s growth is the U.S. is Hispanics. It is all the Hispanics [and] Latinos. We really represent the possible growth of MLS.

So if the U.S. is eventually going to host the World Cup in 2026, I presume that there are a lot of things that we can all do together, and for this I can tell you that we work very close to MLS and SUM in the future of more investments and more things that make more sense to watch the growth of the sport. The thing I am most proud of is the growth of the sport in the U.S. We are really being part of it, and we’re very happy about that.

We have literally invested thousands, I would say almost millions of dollars, in the broadcast experience. So from a technology perspective, from a commentator’s perspective, from a data perspective, our experience of watching South American soccer – in our case, Mexican soccer – has grown a lot in the last four years…

It is important that we, the guys in the industry, understand that by having an enhanced experience, it’s a lot easier to compare it to the world-class events that we get to see on television. So we have put [our production] at least at the same level of the ultra-high-class events. Therefore it’s fun to watch. You are informed and entertained at the same time.

That’s one piece: it becomes more appealing. The second piece is: MLS has done an incredible job in, let’s call it, rejuvenating the image of the league in the U.S.

It’s not only old players coming to America to retire here. Today, it is a full league that is between the best 10 leagues in the world, I would say, in terms of investments, in terms of stadiums, in terms of organizations, in terms of players now, in terms of development.

So this is starting to become an appealing market for players to come to the U.S. Plus security issues, plus the good living there is in the U.S. Everything is starting to be in place for a better proposal.

Euro 2016 verdict: Our writers’ best, worst and most surprising moments

Now that Euro 2016 has come to an end, our writers reflect on the tournament’s highs and lows.

BEST GAME

Gab Marcotti: Italy vs. Germany. Plenty of drama, proper rivalry, proper managers and history made. What more could you want?

 Iain Macintosh: Wales’ victory over Belgium will live long in the memory for so many reasons: It was unexpected, it was a triumph of team spirit and it made Welsh-blooded ESPN FC man Chris Jones crumple and sob openly into the back of my shirt. Which I can’t wear again.

 Chris Jones: Wales 3-1 Belgium. Not just because it meant so much to me, but because it really was an objectively great football game. An unexpected winner, terrific tension and action and two of the tournament’s top goals. A magical night. (Sorry about the shirt, Iain. A fiver’s in the mail. Send back the change.)

 Raf Honigstein: Germany vs. France. Of the handful of matches that delivered football of genuine quality, this was by far the best. The hosts were sharp and dangerous every time they ventured into Germany’s final third; the World Cup winners were at their controlled, fluid best in possession. The game was decided by two fluke goals, but that doesn’t detract from its brilliance.

Julien Laurens: Italy vs. Germany. I thought tactically it was a fascinating contest between two great managers and two very clever sets of players. The drama of the penalty shootout was something else as well.

 John Brewin: The obvious answer is France vs. Germany but, of the matches I attended, Croatia’s 2-1 win against Spain in Bordeaux will be most remembered. Spain’s hold on the title was loosened by Ivan Perisic’s late winner; it meant they would have to face Italy next. It was a shame that Croatia froze in the round of 16 against Portugal.

 Nick Ames: France’s semifinal win over Germany ended up being relatively comfortable but, for over an hour, it was the kind of toe-to-toe contest between two big hitters that this tournament generally lacked, and was fascinating for it.

 Miguel Delaney: France’s semifinal win over Germany was really the only truly high-quality game of the tournament — bar maybe Croatia vs. Spain — and was elevated by the stakes and the intensity of the ending. It also made for what felt like the biggest event of Euro 2016, especially since France then lost in the final.

 Graham Hunter: Wales 3-1 Belgium. This was an immense game, far better than France vs. Germany in that the better team won and did so despite falling behind. It was also won with two world-class goals in a cauldron atmosphere. And Wales, unlike France, won without the benefit of schoolboy errors — Hello, Germany! This was football in its pure state.

 BEST GOAL

Marcotti: Xherdan Shaqiri vs. Poland. We can talk about the importance of goals all we like — and it was pretty important — but when you pull off something that improbable and spectacular, you ought to be rewarded.

 Macintosh: Time was running out. Humiliation beckoned. And then Dimitri Payet stepped up and thundered an extinction-level event for France past Romania’s Ciprian Tatarusanu in the opener. And that’s how tournaments should begin.

Jones: Hal Robson-Kanu’s manufacture of a dream goal out of what seemed a blown chance. One of the best turns any of us has seen, followed by a perfect finish to give Wales a shocking lead over Belgium that they wouldn’t relinquish.

 Honigstein: Shaqiri. The idea. The audacity. The execution. A flawless piece of football artistry.

Laurens: Shaqiri against Poland. His technique was perfect and it was such a difficult goal to score.

 Brewin: I was lucky enough to witness Shaqiri’s bicycle kick for Switzerland against Poland but, for technical brilliance, I

cannot look beyond Cristiano Ronaldo’s header against Wales. His hang time was so long that the ball had hit the back of the net by the time he returned to earth.

 Ames: Luka Modric’s volley for Croatia against Turkey was technically perfect. Don’t underestimate the skill it takes to run onto a ball coming down from that kind of height, make a clean contact and keep it down. It still baffles that Croatia exited at the round-of-16 stage.

Delaney: Radja Nainggolan’s strike against Wales had emphatic power, supreme precision and was just beautiful to watch.

Hunter: Robson-Kanu. By miles. No other contenders. Not even close.

 BEST MOMENT

Marcotti: Iceland’s players celebrating with their fans. A whole nation bought into the tale of 23 men who, really, aren’t that different from them. It’s what sets international football apart.

 Macintosh: Once the burning humiliation had passed, it was an honour to witness Iceland beat England so comprehensively in front of their incredible fans.

Jones: This might seem like a small moment, but I’ll never forget it: The look of abject terror on goalkeeper Michael

McGovern’s face 11 minutes into Northern Ireland’s match against Germany and his swallowing of it as he made save after save. Close second: When that giant moth landed on Cristiano Ronaldo’s face to feed on his tears.

 Honigstein: Simone Zaza’s penalty miss will continue to delight for decades. What’s Schadenfreude in German?

Laurens: The “Uh!” clapping by the Iceland players and their incredible fans after their win against England. It was amazing.

 Brewin: Perhaps it came in the very first match. I was in a Bordeaux bar full of Frenchmen cursing their team as Romania looked like holding the hosts to a 1-1 draw. Then came Dimitri Payet’s brilliant late winner and the whole place was jumping in renewed belief as beer was thrown everywhere.

 Ames: Iceland’s win over England. It doesn’t matter that England were atrocious; this was a remarkable night with joyful scenes at the end and it should show teams everywhere that, with the right attitude and application, anything is possible.

 Delaney: Almost the entire Portuguese squad running onto the pitch when Eder scored in the final. It was just pure, unfiltered joy and obviously filled with even more meaning because of what will become the tournament’s most famous moment: Ronaldo’s injury.

 Hunter: The Ronaldo-Joao Moutinho interaction before Portugal’s penalty shootout vs. Poland and Ronaldo’s reactions to the stress. Their tournament swung right there, before a spot kick was even taken. It was stark evidence of team spirit, unity and a new “Cristiano the true leader” persona. Great theatre.

 BEST PLAYER

Marcotti: Antoine Griezmann. Poor in the opening game and in the final, but outstanding in between. Without him, France would have watched the final on TV — simple as that.

 Macintosh: A very tough call; there was no standout contender. But Pepe’s performance in the final might just nudge him into pole position.

 Jones: He was a disappointment in the final, perhaps, but Griezmann’s run over the length of the tournament and his singular performance against Germany in particular, still earn him the nod.

Honigstein: Griezmann. It didn’t quite work out for him in the final, but his goals and consistently threatening performances marked him out in a competition defined by misfiring forwards.

 Laurens: Griezmann. Considering he had already played 63 games this season before the Euros began, the guy is a superhero to have done what he did. No one has ever scored six goals in this competition apart from Michel Platini (and now Griezmann), and “GR7” deserves a lot of credit even if his final display was disappointing.

 Brewin: Griezmann has been the star of the show but, for a player playing his position at a level higher than anyone else, it has to be Leonardo Bonucci. He reminded that nobody does defending better than the Italians.

Ames: This was not a tournament filled with moments of great attacking quality but there was plenty to admire in one of its centre-backs. Pepe gets plenty of negative press as a master of the dark arts but he was imperious this summer and, like Portugal, grew as Euro 2016 progressed. He was the rock on which their remarkable month was based.

 Delaney: Pepe has a strong claim, because he ended up personifying this Portugal more than Ronaldo, but Griezmann ultimately did more for France than any other player in the tournament did for their team.

 Hunter: Griezmann, though there were too few contenders in the end. Pepe played well, but Griezmann got people off their seats with his flair. Wales teammates Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are fighting for bronze.

 BIGGEST SURPRISE

Marcotti: Portugal winning the tournament despite Cristiano Ronaldo being either wasteful or sidelined for about half the matches. So much for the notion of the one-man team. In an era of superstars, this was a collective triumph.

 Macintosh: Hands up if you genuinely expected Hal Robson-Kanu to execute a perfect Cruyff turn and put Belgium to the sword? Nope? That’s what I thought.

 Jones: It has to be Iceland, right? Not just their win over England, but their hard-nosed play throughout the group stage, too. It’s ridiculous that they even qualified. Did anyone on earth have them playing in the quarters?

 Honigstein: We had many tales of plucky underdogs having their day, while established powers contrived to go out in unexpected ways. Portugal’s win over France, France’s win over Germany and Germany’s win over Italy all went against the tide of history. The biggest surprise, however, was that England managed to hit a new low. For all their problems and psychological frailty, scraping a single win from matches against Russia, Wales, Slovakia and Iceland is still an “achievement” that beggars belief.

 Laurens: Wales’ incredible run to the semifinals. They played with so much heart and faith and mixed the talent of Bale and Ramsey with the discipline of the others. They also offered two of the best performances of the tournament against Russia and Belgium. And their fans are amazing, as is Joe Ledley’s dancing!

 Brewin: The positive critical reception handed to England for their performances in drawing 1-1 with Russia and 0-0 in Slovakia. Too many excuses were made for failing to beat poor opposition and what followed against Iceland cannot be regarded as a surprise.

 Ames: Hungary’s tournament ended with a resounding judder against Belgium, but they were full of enterprise in the group stage despite being billed as stodgy no-hopers. Their win over Austria was perhaps a double shock — both for the quality of Hungary’s performance and the flatness of the opponents, a team that had been billed as a dark horse.

 Delaney: Portugal having so much success after a group stage in which they looked so unconvincing. Credit goes to Fernando Santos for figuring it out.

 Hunter: Wales. What they did was bigger than Iceland’s achievement and I think that, without the suspensions they suffered, Wales would have been finalists. We knew they had ability and thrived in a good system, but to handle a tournament, with all that pressure and tiredness, and to play so well following the gut punch of losing late to England, was impressive.

 Marcotti: French manager Didier Deschamps in the semifinal and final. Yes, I know he beat Germany. Yay. But the scheme was wrong and France suffered a lot more than they needed to.

Macintosh: England. Bloody England. They always let you down.

 Jones: Zlatan Ibrahimovic never whimpers, but his international career ended with one. Sweden managed a single shot on target in three dismal group-stage matches. That’s the worst kind of impossible.

 Honigstein: Austria’s finishing fourth in one of the weakest groups was an unexpected sporting disaster considering the individual quality at their disposal.

 Laurens: That most of the big stars, including Ibrahimovic, Thomas Muller, Robert Lewandowski, Andres Iniesta, Cristiano

Ronaldo and Ivan Rakitic, didn’t really shine consistently and struggled to have a significant impact.

 Brewin: I cannot help feeling we might have seen a better overall standard of entertainment if UEFA had not decided to follow the edicts of the 2014 World Cup by asking referees to be lax. Coaches and defenders got wise. Lewandowski, to take a leading example, took a great deal of punishment.

 es: The lack of truly edge-of-the-seat, see-saw games, particularly in the group stage. It took a long time to reduce 24 teams to 16.

 Delaney: The amount of defensive football, which I think is partially the consequence of the tournament’s featuring so many low-quality managers unable to come up with anything else. Once this approach was successful for a few of the so-called lesser teams, it just spread.

 Hunter: Spain. They went out at a ludicrously early stage and with a whimper of a tournament they should have won.

Sorry, CR7, Portugal epitomised Euro 2016: cynical, unsporting, awful

This was the first European Championship to feature 24 teams. It won’t be the last, but it should be.It pains me to say that. Allowing more of Europe to participate in the continent’s grandest tournament seems like a good and inclusive thing at first glance, especially in divisive times like these. If we want to spread the joy of the game we love, we need to be the opposite of football’s dismissive snobs. We need to make room for more accents and more styles; we need to sow the seeds for bigger dreams.And if this tournament were a ranking of fans, the so-called minnows won every game they played. In the midst of terrorist fears and a French summer seemingly destined to be devoid of sun, they provided much-needed spirit in every city buoyed by their happy presence. The Irish and the Northern Irish? Fabulous. The Welsh? Lovely as always. The Icelandic? Maybe the best of the bunch.But the football? The actual tournament? The kindest adjective I can think of: forgettable. The least kind: dismal. I attended 15 matches. I really enjoyed four of them. Only two, Wales 3-1 Belgium and Italy 2-0 Spain, were beyond good. They were beautiful. (I wasn’t in the stands for Italy vs. Germany, which was also great.) Most of the rest were middling to bad; that’s in large part to this tournament’s expanded format and the play it encouraged.A group stage that eliminates only eight of 24 teams is, pretty obviously, ridiculous. Never mind the third-place weirdness that saw poor Albania having to wait around to find out they were done. Teams knew they had a decent chance of advancing if they managed a single win. In fact, the way the seeding broke down, winning sometimes hurt. Germany were rewarded for topping their group with knockout games against Italy and France. Any tournament structure that provides a built-in disincentive to win needs to be quickly dismantled.The group stage also made plain the disparity between the teams with real title hopes and those who were in France as a polite courtesy. The record books show that Ukraine participated, but I have no recollection of them. Russia and their Ultras were a stain on and off the pitch. (Can’t wait for that World Cup!) Northern Ireland didn’t belong on the same patch of grass as Germany; God love them, but they even had to park the bus against… Wales? The early stages of this Euro seemed like a merciless prolonging of the inevitable, the grind of endless preparations. It turned us all into sous chefs.The knockout rounds were meant to provide relief and reward. For the most part they didn’t, especially the Euros’ inaugural round of 16. That gave us three dirges, three lopsided matches, one shock result but not an especially great game and a single worthy contest, which occurred only because it featured two world powers meeting too early in the tournament.But by far the biggest condemnation of these Euros is the team that won it: Portugal.It’s time for me to get something off my chest.Portugal the side — not the country, not the people, but the 23 men who represented them — were awful. I don’t think I’ve ever loathed watching a football team as much as I do them. (You’re off the hook, Paraguay.) They were cynical and unsporting and suffocating and the flat-out bottom of international football. They were Greece in 2004 without the underdog’s spirit. Greece had to play the way they did. Portugal didn’t. Given a choice between beauty and brute tactics, between victory and doing just enough to get by, they chose the lesser option every single time.They advanced out of the groups after draws with Iceland, Austria, and Hungary, and the one against Hungary they barely managed. They had the easiest group, and they finished third in it. They finished 15th out of the 16 teams to advance and they only nipped Northern Ireland on goals scored. Portugal’s goal differential was fittingly, forebodingly, zero.Their round of 16 game against Croatia was, on paper, a premier match-up. It turned out to be the most punishing single match of the tournament. Neither team recorded a shot on target until the 117th minute. I thought Italy and Sweden’s near-stalemate in the group stage would be the dullest game I’d see. Not so, because I had to watch Portugal. I had to watch them again and again.They had to choke Poland into penalties in a quarterfinal that felt like being confined to a wet basement. They had a three-minute offensive burst against a depleted Wales in their semifinal, good enough — “Portugal: We’re Good Enough!” — for their single win in regulation. And in Sunday’s final, extra time was as inevitable as the descending night. If anybody bothers to remember that match, Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury will be the thing that sticks. It was a game when the giant moth on his face could steal the spotlight instead of being drawn to it.I still can’t believe you can win Euro by winning once in 90 minutes. I have a friend who somehow likes Portugal and said, “They didn’t lose, either.” But we did. So did football.My great fear is that other teams will see what Portugal did here and seek to emulate them, that their “style” of play will become as insidious as pollution. I’ve written before that one way to counter that tendency is to bring back the Golden Goal while also removing the coward’s out of penalties. Another way is to make tournaments harder, not softer. Yes, Greece did what Greece did but that tournament has always been considered an anomaly, an unfortunate fluke. Now, with a second such win in 12 years, it’s becoming more like the frightening norm.This tournament should give permanent pause to FIFA’s recent talk of a 40-team World Cup. (We’re already going to have Qatar playing three lucky somebodies in 2022.) And UEFA’s continent-wide iteration of its championship in 2020 should be the last of the 24-team Euros. Reversion is an ugly word with often ugly connotations, but it’s not nearly as ugly as football played at its watered-down, hopeless worst.Congratulations, Portugal. Enjoy your title. The rest of us will be over here, putting an asterisk next to it and doing everything we can to make sure it will never happen again.Chris Jones is a writer for ESPN FC.

Premier League 2016-17 preseason review: Your club’s summer so far

With Euro 2016 over, focus will quickly shift to the 2016-17 season, and what a campaign lies in store.How will Leicester fare as defending champions? Will there be fireworks in Manchester as Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola do battle again? There are plenty of subplots ahead of the new campaign and clubs are busy at work trying to add to their squads before the big kickoff on Aug. 13.How is your side shaping up this summer? Our ESPN FC club bloggers give their verdict on their preseason so far.

ARSENAL: The early capture of Granit Xhaka started Arsenal off on the front foot but the failure to convince Jamie Vardy to leave Leicester  and Arsene Wenger’s insistence that he will only buy “one or two” more players speaks to the lack of ambition which has taken hold at the club. Vast sums will be spent this summer by rivals and Arsenal need to keep pace. Unless you believe Olivier Giroud’s impressive form at Euro 2016 means a new striker is no longer a priority …
Rating: 5/10 — Tom Adams

BOURNEMOUTH: It’s been a slow but steady start to the summer for Eddie Howe and Bournemouth. Tying Callum Wilson down for a further four years will please fans after his promising start to Premier League life, but the departure of both Matt Ritchie and Tommy Elphick has left a lot of work to be done in the transfer market. The few signings the club have made so far, such as Nathan Ake from Chelsea on loan, have hinted at a promising start, but the Cherries still need to bring in a couple more established stars to push on from their 16th place finish last year.
Rating: 6/10 — Will Kent

BURNLEY: It’s good that Euro 2016 has been around to distract Burnley fans, as very little has happened at Turf Moor. Joey Barton’s decision to leave for Rangers was a blow and it looks like star defender Michael Keane may join Leicester City, and there have been no new first-team arrivals yet. Preseason is under way and high-class signings are needed fast if Burnley are to be competitive.
Rating: 3/10 — Jamie Smith

CHELSEA: The tactical discipline and team ethic exhibited by Antonio Conte’s Italy side at Euro 2016 was a hugely encouraging sight for everyone connected with Chelsea. The opportunistic signing of £33 million Michy Batshuayi from Marseille, ahead of interest from London rivals Tottenham, West Ham and Crystal Palace, has provided a further boost, though problem areas in midfield and defence still desperately need addressing.
Rating: 7/10 — Phil Lythell

CRYSTAL PALACE: For years Palace fans have been urging the club to get their transfer business concluded early, so three quality signings in the first week of the summer window should keep all Eagles supporters happy. Andros Townsend, Steve Mandanda and James Tomkins could even be joined by Christian Benteke if reports are true, leaving fans feeling like Christmas has come five months early.
Rating: 9/10 — Jim Daly

EVERTON: New manager Ronald Koeman has lifted supporters without actually doing all that much (yet) — imagine the uplift when real progress becomes noticeable. His decision to bring forward preseason training while pursuing several big name players signals intent and points to an exciting summer ahead. A backup goalkeeper is the first addition to a squad requiring careful attention.
Rating: 7/10  — Luke O’Farrell

HULL CITY: Almost six weeks after winning promotion in the Championship playoff final, excitement has been diluted by a summer of uncertainty. Steve Bruce has finally committed his future, but supporters crave clarity on a proposed takeover of the club. Fresh blood would not go amiss either. No new faces have yet arrived to boost the ranks.
Rating: 4/10 — Phil Buckingham

LEICESTER: The champions have already enjoyed a superb preseason. Last season’s top scorer Vardy has snubbed Arsenal and N’Golo Kante and Riyad Mahrez still might stay, too, although the former is being hotly pursued by Chelsea. Claudio Ranieri has broken the club’s transfer record to bring in Nampalys Mendy, who plays very similarly to Kante. CSKA striker Ahmed Musa is also close to joining. As things stand, Leicester will start with a stronger and deeper squad than last season and there’s no reason to think they can’t get out of their Champions League group, especially if a couple more signings arrive.
Rating: 9/10 — Ben Jacobs

LIVERPOOL: “Underwhelming” best describes Liverpool’s summer so far. Sadio Mane has arrived for big money but his circa £32m arrival will be offset by the sale of Benteke. That looks to be a significant upgrade at least, but Liverpool still have glaring needs in midfield and at left-back. The emphasis seems to be on signing young players for Jurgen Klopp to develop as he did at Borussia Dortmund, so how successful this window is will only become clear in a year or two.
Rating: 5/10 — Dave Usher

MIDDLESBROUGH: Newly promoted Middlesbrough have been busy in the transfer market so far, with manager Aitor Karanka picking up four young European stars, including Ajax’s Viktor Fischer, Atalanta’s Marten de Roon and former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes. However, Boro’s biggest question surrounds who gets the role at No. 10. Could they secure the services of Gaston Ramirez after his heroics last season? Will Stewart Downing win back a position that he was so effective in at West Ham, or will it be someone new entirely? There’s a lot for the Teessiders to look forward to in 2016-17.
Rating: 8/10 — Catherine Wilson

MAN UNITED: It has been an extremely promising start, with Jose Mourinho not only making all of the right noises in his news conference but also moving swiftly in the transfer market to address the most glaring areas in the squad. That deals for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Eric Bailly and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are concluded bodes very well for the rest of the preseason. Should Mourinho be able to add Paul Pogba to the mix, United will emerge as one of the title favourites.
Rating: 8/10 — Musa Okwonga

MAN CITY: The summer has started with an unprecedented bang. A new manager — and not just any manager, either — plus two quality additions to the squad in Ilkay Gundogan and Nolito. With the prospect of more fresh blood to come, the feelgood factor at the Etihad could scarcely be higher than it is right now.
Rating: 9/10 — Simon Curtis

SWANSEA: While rival clubs have been busy, Swansea have been slow to act so far. The addition of Leroy Fer has seemed inevitable since the Dutchman impressed on loan last season, while Mike van der Hoorn will simply replace loaned-out Kyle Bartley at the bottom of the defensive pecking order. Bafetimbi Gomis appears to be set for a season-long loan at Marseille, but where is his replacement? Hal Robson-Kanu would be a start, but bigger moves must be made — and soon.
Rating: 3/10 — Max Hicks

SOUTHAMPTON: It has been a summer of change for Southampton with Claude Puel taking over as manager following Ronald Koeman’s surprise departure to Everton. The Frenchman needs to move quickly to replace big-name departures Mane and Victor Wanyama to ensure he makes a smooth transition to the Premier League.
Rating: 4/10 — Alex Crook

SUNDERLAND: New or extended contracts for star striker Jermain Defoe, full-back Patrick van Aanholt and keeper Vito Mannone are encouraging, as is the departure of players with no future at Sunderland (Steven Fletcher, Danny Graham and Santiago Vergini will be followed by others). But talk of manager Sam Allardyce being favourite for the England job is a worrying distraction and progress on transfers has been slow. Roll on the first big signing. West Ham’s Diafra Sakho would be a great start.
Rating: 5/10 — Colin Randall

STOKE: It’s been a slow summer for Stoke fans, who are starting to become ever-so-slightly anxious at Mark Hughes’ lack of signings and the radio silence on Marko Arnautovic’s future at the club. Missing out on Nathan Redmond was a blow and a drawn-out chase for Saido Berahino and an unknown quantity from Egypt gives little encouragement that the necessary upgrades will be in place for the new season
Rating: 5/10 — James Whittaker

TOTTENHAM: Tottenham have prioritised the right areas and completed two important deals so far. The signing of Victor Wanyama should give Mauricio Pochettino the ability to rotate with more confidence in midfield — which will be important as the club prepare to re-enter the Champions League — and a new striker,Netherlands international Vincent Janssen, has finally arrived to ease the pressure on Harry Kane. 
Rating: 7/10 — Ben Pearce

WEST BROM: It’s been a decent start, with long-serving James Morrison and exciting academy products, Sam Field and Jonathan Leko, signing new contracts. The signing of Matt Phillips from QPR should help solve some of West Brom’s attacking problems.
Rating: 7/10 — Matthew Evans

WEST HAM: Slaven Bilic moved quickly to secure the signings of Sofiane Feghouli and Harvard Nordtveit but the chase for a top class striker continues, and until that is satisfactorily concluded, there’s a sense of dangerously unfinished business. The names being touted are encouraging and there’s still plenty of time, but a swift resolution would put fans’ minds at rest.
Rating: 7/10 — Peter Thorne

WATFORD: Watford have held on to Troy Deeney, added a couple of strikers and a centre-back and rejected a remarkable £38m offer for Odion Ighalo. Walter Mazzarri will want his major business concluded during the next fortnight as preseason gets underway — a midfielder and some wing-backs remain the priorities.
Rating: 6/10 — Michael Moruzzi

==========================================================================

If you are a goalkeeper – I am doing my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25  + Aug 1.

Just $10 per session – or $20 for 3 sessions.

U12 6 till 7 pm

U13 and above 7:00 -8:15 pm

if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

  ATP_Gen_350x250

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –  Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com , Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com  , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

 

7/12/16 Portugal Wins EURO Final w/o Renaldo, Undefeated Indy 11 Home tonite vs Ft. Lauderdale 7:30 pm TV 8

So wow what a Euro Final result!  Who would have believed Portugal could pull the upset without Renaldo on the pitch – but somehow they did with team spirit, great defense and FANTASTIC Goal keeper play.  Rui Patricio was fabulous between the pipes  – as he saved at least 3 balls that absolutely should have been goals on his 8 save performance on the day.  I was rooting for Renaldo to finally win a trophy – and his team did with him passionately firing them up from the sideline after leaving in the 25th minute with a left knee injury.  He got hurt in the 8th minute in a collision with Payett and came on and off 2 times after having work done on his knee – the crying Renaldo being taken off on a stretcher in the 25th minute looked to spell doom for the offensively challenged Portugal.  But with some fantastic saves from Rui Patricio, a great defense led by Real Madrid teammate Pepe, and with Renaldo screaming, coaching and cajoling his team to victory – Portugal pulled off the improbable and Won it all for the first time ever!!

INDY 11

So I was at the Indy 11 game Sat Night – and can I just say this – Isn’t it AWESOME to have WINNING TEAM?!!?   I mean seriously who would have thought Year #3 with a new coach, new GM, new Goalie and obviously more investment in better players would lead to a SPRING SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP and an undefeated season.  This team just has heart and a belief that they aren’t going to lose.  I mean the difference that new Goal Keeper extrodinaire Jon Busch has brought has been unbelievable –(this veteran of 10+ years in MLS might be THE Biggest difference certainly amongst the players).  He organizes his defense, leads the team as captain and makes ALL of the SAVES – not the just tough ones or the easy ones but ALL of them!!  The offense actually scores goals now with Braun (man bun) and Zayed working hard and being dangerous up front.

Huge kudos to Indy 11 Owner Ersal Ozdemir as after the trophy presentation he brought the trophy straight to the fans and walked it thru the Brickyard Battalion allowing pictures to be taken and fans to actually hold the trophy and touch it.  I dare say I don’t think any Owner in Any Sport has ever done that.  Congrats to our Indy 11 on the Spring Championship – now get out there and go to a game!!  There is a Wednesday night special against Ft. Lauderdale at 7:30 pm (TV 8 and BeIn Sports) and another next Sat Night 7/23 vs Edmonton (TV 8).  Carmel FC – Summer CFC Technical Training continues in July.

If you are a goalkeeper – I am beginning my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25, + Aug 1 if interested RE:or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

GAMES ON TV

Wednesday, July 13

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

Saturday, July 16

Indy 11 @ Minn – 8 pm BeIn Sports

Sunday, July 17:

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

Fri, July 22

8 am – ESPN 3        Man U vs Borussia Dortmund

Sat, July 23

5 am – ??                                                  ICC Melborne vs Juve

12:30 pm                         ESPN            ICC Celtic vs Leicester City

3:30 p.m. (ESPN)         Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy,

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

Sunday, July 24:

12:30 p.m. (Fox,)         New York Red Bulls vs. New York City FC,

3:00 p.m. (ESPN,)        Sporting Kansas City vs. Seattle Sounders,

5 pm ESPN                       ICC Inter vs PSG

Wed, July 27

7:30 p.m. (ESPN2        ICC Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain,
9:30 p.m. (ESPN2,       ICC Bayern Munich vs. AC Milan,
11:30 p.m. (ESPN,       ICC Liverpool vs. Chelsea,

Thur, July 28                 

(ESPN, UniMás) MLS All-Stars vs. Arsenal 7:30 p.m.

 Sat, July 30

1:00 p.m. (ESPN  Barcelona vs. Celtic,
3:00 p.m. (ESPN Chelsea vs. Real Madrid,
5:00 p.m. (ESPNews Bayern Munich vs. Inter Milan,
(ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) Liverpool vs. AC Milan, 10:00 p.m.
(11:30 p.m., TV TBD) Paris Saint-Germain vs. Leicester City,

Indy 11@ Miami – 8 pm BeIn sports

Sun, July 31

1:00 p.m. Fox, Sporting Kansas City vs. Portland Timbers,
4:00 p.m. ESPN Seattle Sounders vs. Los Angeles Galaxy,

Wed, Aug 3

Sweden women vs. South Africa women, Olympics group stage, 12:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Barcelona vs. Leicester City, ICC 2:00 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Canada women vs. Australia women, Olympics group stage, 2:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Brazil women vs. China women, Olympics group stage, 3:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Zimbabwe women vs. Germany women, Olympics group stage, 5:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
United States women vs. New Zealand women, Olympics, 6:00 p.m. (TV NBC?)
Real Madrid vs. Bayern Munich, International Champions Cup 7:30 p.m. (ESPN2,
France women vs. Colombia women, Olympics  9:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
Chelsea vs. AC Milan, 9:30 p.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Portland Timbers vs. CD Dragon, CONCACAF Champions League  10:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

Sat, Aug 6

Liverpool vs. Barcelona, ICC  12:00 p.m. (ESPN, ESPN Deportes)
Canada women vs. Zimbabwe women, Olympics , 2:00 p.m. (TV TBD)
United States women vs. France women, Olympics  4:00 p.m. (TV TBD)

 MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

International Champions Cup – TV Schedule in July

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

Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

 

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.

Euros

Portugal’s Team Spirit afterRenaldo injury drives the Win – Marcotti ESPN FC

Renaldo gave moving ½ time Speech

France’s Coach Deschamps to blame for tactical Naivety – Delaney ESPNFC

Renaldo could never have imagined Winning Euros like this – Macintosh EPSNFC

Renaldo told Eder he would score

Portugal Grinds Way to Win – SI Jon Wilson

France Laments Broken Dream in Loss – ESPNFC

Top 10 Goals of Euro’s 2016

Golden Boot Winner France’s Antoine Griezmann

Portugal domintes Best XI voting   

UEFA TOP PLAYER Antoine Griezmann, France: 6 goals (2 assists, 555 minutes)

UEFA EURO 2016 adidas Golden Boot: Antoine Griezmann, France: 6 goals (2 assists, 555 minutes)
UEFA EURO 2016 adidas Silver Boot: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: 3 goals (3 assists, 625 minutes)
UEFA EURO 2016 adidas Bronze Boot: Olivier Giroud, France: 3 goals (2 assists, 456 minutes)

Golden Glove – Rui Patrício (Portugal);

EUROs BEST XI

The team (4-2-3-1): Rui Patrício (Portugal); Joshua Kimmich (Germany), Jérôme Boateng (Germany), Pepe (Portugal), Raphaël Guerreiro (Portugal); Toni Kroos (Germany), Joe Allen (Wales); Antoine Griezmann (France), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Dimitri Payet (France); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).

INDY 11

3 things about the Win

Recap of the 1-0 win over Minnesota  

Permanent Relegation Game Recap – Ft. Carroll – Aaron Gunyon

 

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

 

Cristiano Ronaldo’s ‘unbelievable’ half-time speech inspired Portugal – Soares

Cristiano Ronaldo gave the Portuguese squad what has been described as an “unbelievable” half-time speech, telling his teammates he was “sure” they would beat France in their 1-0 Euro 2016 final victory despite having to go off injured after 25 minutes, Cedric Soares has revealed.The full-back also said that Portugal were “in shock” when their star captain had to be substituted but that, far from being dejected, a “fantastic” Ronaldo helped motivate the players.”It was a very tough moment,” Soares said. “I remember, for me and the team, everybody was a little bit in shock I think.”In half-time, Cristiano had fantastic words for us. He gave us a lot of confidence and said ‘listen people, I’m sure we will win, so stay together and fight for it.'”It was really unbelievable. I think all the team had a fantastic attitude. And we showed tonight when you fight as one you are much much stronger.”Asked whether Ronaldo was downbeat after having to go off, Soares said: “No, he was fantastic. His attitude was unbelievable. Always he helped a lot our teammates, he always had a lot of motivational words and all the team of course reacted to them, so it was very good.”Ronaldo spent much of the second half and extra-time acting as an effective assistant manager, giving instructions from the bench, and Soares praised this as beneficial to the players.”Yes, he had fantastic words for each player in each moment of the game … I’m really really happy to be part of this group and be champion.”Portugal won the game thanks to Eder’s 109th-minute long-range strike. After the game, as Soares spoke to ESPN FC, Ronaldo led a conga line through the mixed zone, although he interrupted his singing to hug any players who were talking to the media.Miguel Delaney is a London-based correspondent for ESPN FC  

 Portugal’s team spirit after Cristiano Ronaldo’s injury drives Euro 2016 win

SAINT-DENIS, France — Ederzito Antonio Macedo Lopes, aka Eder, is a 28-year-old Portuguese forward. In his eight seasons as a topflight footballer, he has scored 48 league goals for four different clubs in three different countries. Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro, aka Cristiano, is a 31-year-old Portuguese forward who scored 48 league goals in a single season, just two years ago.On a muggy Sunday night in Paris, each was critical in helping Portugal win their first-ever major international trophy. And because football, like the bottomless coffee cup at your local diner, never runs out of surprises, it happened in the most unthinkable way.Ronaldo left the game in tears after just 25 minutes, taking with him (in the eyes of most observers) whatever residual chances Portugal might yet have harbored. Eder came on with 11 minutes to go in regular time. He had never scored in a competitive game for his country. Sending him on smacked of desperation, the choice you make when you have no alternative — a bit like Butch and Sundance deciding to burst out of their hut and take on the entire Bolivian Army.And yet it was Eder, big and lanky and unloved by the purists, who harpooned a loose ball and drove from left to right with 11 minutes left in extra time.You felt as if he was just going to run into somebody and maybe see if he could win a free kick. Laurent Koscielny approached but simply bounced off him, like the giant sponges at the drive-through car wash. Realizing he was in space, Eder then unspooled a low, nasty rocket that tucked inside Hugo Lloris’ near post.”He actually told me when I sent him on that he was going to score,” manager Fernando Santos said after the match. “I smiled. But then the ugly duckling turned into a beautiful swan.”As Eder turned to celebrate, he was mobbed as the entire Portugal bench cleared and streamed onto the pitch. All of them, bar one.Ronaldo, who had re-emerged from the tunnel with his left leg heavily bandaged as the game wound into extra time. Spending the previous 20 minutes at the edge of the technical area — serving as part-cheerleader, part-assistant coach, part-uberfan but mostly big brother — he took a moment for himself. He wandered down the touchline, head in hands, sobbing with emotion, and then he celebrated with his brothers.On this night, he and Eder were equals, as were the other 21 Portugal players. So too were the staff, kit men, physios and everybody else in Santos’ village. Because that’s what it took.The Portugal boss would say as much in the wake of their win. “Cristiano was the definition of teamwork. They all were.” It was a stark contrast on Sunday night between a team that was far greater than the sum of its parts and dealt with misfortune, versus a collection of individuals that added up to less than the sum total.Didier Deschamps’ decision to keep the same setup we’d seen against Germany (and, before that, against Iceland) came back to haunt him. It was a statement by the manager, forcing Paul Pogba to reinvent himself as some kind of next-gen Claude Makelele, and it would come to impact the whole match.Just as they had done against Germany, France came out of the gates very quickly, buoyed by a ferociously partisan crowd. Eight minutes in gave us the early turning point, perhaps a result of France’s furious tempo. Dimitri Payet went in hard on Renato Sanches, with referee Mark Clattenburg waving play on. The Frenchman then zeroed in on Ronaldo, who was receiving the ball by the touchline. Payet’s left boot nicked the ball away but his right knee caught Ronaldo’s planted leg and the Real Madrid star crumpled to the ground. Clattenburg again waved play on. Ronaldo struggled to get up, tears welling in his eyes, face contorted in a grimace.France had an excellent chance minutes later but Antoine Griezmann’s flicked header was pawed away by the immense Rui Patricio. Another clash and Ronaldo was back on the ground, this time sobbing. Something landed on his face, first on his eyebrow, then on the arch of his nose. Maybe it was a butterfly, maybe a moth, one of the many that infested the Stade de France on the night. He did nothing to shoo it away, seemingly not feeling it at all. Maybe it was the pain or the adrenaline. Maybe it was the sorrow. Maybe it was all of the above. He left the pitch for treatment and, in his absence, a powerful run from Moussa Sissoko resulted in a venomous finish that Patricio tipped over his bar.Ronaldo returned but could go no further. He gave the captain’s armband to Nani and limped off the pitch, applause from both sets of fans raining down around him. On came Ricardo Quaresma and at that stage, Portugal were very much on the back foot, particularly when Sissoko, operating somewhere between a runaway locomotive and an Ironhead Harley, roared through the Portuguese lines. The half ended with Cedric catching Payet with a knee to the back. It smacked of a classic revenge foul, but fortunately for both teams, things did not escalate.Without Ronaldo, Portugal switched to a 4-5-1 and tightened up in central midfield and here you realized just how Deschamps’ scheme wasn’t helping. Stuck deep in midfield, Pogba struggled to contribute offensively. With Griezmann swallowed up in traffic and Payet’s contribution waning, France became predictable. Deschamps sent on the fresh wheels of Kingsley Coman and his cross found Griezmann, whose header was just high. Coman again set up a great chance when he played in Olivier Giroud (a rare appearance on an otherwise anonymous night) but again, Patricio was heroic in palming it away.With extra time (and maybe penalties) looming, both managers turned to their bench. Santos turned to Eder for Renato Sanches, while Deschamps called upon Andre-Pierre Gignac (for Giroud). As it would happen, both replacements would get a chance to win the game. Only one would take it.Ten minutes from time, a Portugal counter saw Nani’s cross/shot force Lloris to punch away straight to Quaresma, whose overhead kick was saved again by the Tottenham keeper. It would have been a Hollywood ending, but instead, we saw two more gilt-edged French opportunities. Sissoko, in full-on beast mode, unleashed a frightening strike that Patricio somehow deflected. And then, deep into injury time, Gignac received the ball with his back to goal, turned Pepe inside and out with an agility you just don’t expect from a man his size and fired a shot that clipped Patricio’s post.With Eder on the pitch, Portugal switched to a more linear 4-3-3 to mimic France and the game seemed destined for penalties. Raphael Guerreiro sent a free kick (awarded for an incorrect handball when Clattenburg appeared to get Eder and Koscielny confused) thundering off Lloris’ woodwork. You thought it was the highlight of the game; little did you know what would come next.The final minutes saw Ronaldo and Santos stalking the edge of the technical area, Master and Commander. “Cristiano was crucial,” Santos said. “He was so important to us, he didn’t think of his misfortune. He talked to everyone, he incentivized them, he made them believe that tonight was our night.”Man of the match honors went to Pepe, but they could have easily gone to Patricio or Guerreiro. Or heck, the entire 23, because this was all about them and the man who molded them. “We were innocent as doves but also wise as serpents,” Santos said. And he meant it.”Right now, I want to go home and kiss my mother, my wife, my children, I’d like to hug everyone, every last one,” Santos added, before turning to his faith. “But I want to thank above all my best friend and his mother for making me so humble, for having allowed me to illuminate his name, because all that I do is for his glory.”Pepe dedicated the victory to the Portuguese diaspora around the world, a set of emigrants that included Santos in his three separate stints in Greek football. But the last word went to Ronaldo who, like Ricardo Carvalho, was there in 2004, the only other time Portugal played in a final and an occasion that ended in heartbreak.”Since 2004 I’ve asked God for another chance, another opportunity to win something for my people,” Ronaldo said. “Today I was unlucky personally, but it turned out as one of the happiest days of my career. I always believed we could do it as a team. I just wasn’t sure it would happen this way.”The fact that it did might make it all the sweeter.Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN FC, The Times and Corriere dello Sport. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.

France’s Euro 2016 final agony down to Didier Deschamps’ tactical naivety

SAINT-DENIS, France — After one of the biggest disappointments in French football history, a clearly deflated Didier Deschamps tried to put it down to “tiny details.””It was a close match,” the France manager said after his side’s 1-0 defeat to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final. “We had chances, as did the Portuguese, but unfortunately they scored.”Or, more specifically, Eder scored. Fernando Santos’s decision to bring the striker on initially raised eyebrows, only for the player to then raise the roof with his 109th-minute long-range strike.It only reflected better on the Portuguese manager that Eder was supplied by another sub in Joao Moutinho. That in turn reflected badly on Deschamps. Santos’ subs did not just win this game; they also highlighted just how poor the French manager’s own decisions were.Deschamps’ attempts to put the defeat down to “tiny details” was understandable, but the reality was that France lost because he himself got too much wrong. That is what it boils down to.There is a lot of blame to go around with the hosts, but more must be placed at Deschamps’s feet than anyone else. He admitted afterwards that France “threw away a great chance to be European champions” but it looks even worse when you properly lay out why it was such a great opportunity.France had the fortune to play a final in their home stadium against a less talented team, whose biggest star had to go off after just 25 minutes.Everything was going the hosts’ way, but Deschamps got almost nothing right. He squandered it all, in a piece of mismanagement to rival Marc Wilmots’s poor work with Belgium.It was not just that Deschamps failed to maximise those ample advantages. It was really about how much his decisions actually minimised the effectiveness of his players. He made such talent look less than the sum of their parts.A distinctive feature of France’s entire tournament has been Deschamps getting his starting lineups wrong, only to fix it halfway through to see his side through. It happened in four of their six matches before the final, but was most notable in the round-of-16 game against Ireland, when he finally moved Antoine Griezmann into the centre.That initially seemed a sign of Deschamps’s impressively proactive approach, and decisiveness, his willingness to make necessary changes. Instead, it now just looks more like he was getting lucky, and never had a clear idea. He clearly couldn’t fix his problems when it mattered most. He had run out of ideas.The most damning thing was so much of what could be fixed seemed obvious. From the start of the tournament, it has been clear that Deschamps was struggling to find a balance in midfield given the type of players available to him. He still persisted, however, with some hugely puzzling configurations that were proven to not work in previous games.The final, illustrated that most; it seemed as if the midfield trio was set up to get the best out of the worst player in it, while also subduing the performances of the better ones.This is not to say that Moussa Sissoko is not a quality player, but he clearly hasn’t had the career or talent of Blaise Matuidi or — especially — Paul Pogba. While those two toiled, however, it was Sissoko who was released to express himself.That is utterly bizarre when you just stop and think about Pogba’s best qualities. The 23-year-old has been widely criticised for not doing more with his ability throughout the tournament, but Deschamps should take the blame for it, rather than the player himself.Pogba was only rarely used in the role best suited to him, when he could get forward and fully utilise that awesome power and inventive range of passing and shooting. We saw some of it in the second half of the semifinal against Germany, after N’Golo Kante had been brought on.Despite that, Deschamps inexplicably reverted in the final and even, arguably, regressed. Pogba was placed in a holding midfield role and often seemed as if he had been instructed to stay as close to the centre circle as possible. That meant Sissoko was off doing the things that the Juventus midfielder usually excels at. What could Pogba have done had he been in the same shooting positions as Sissoko?And what must Anthony Martial have be thinking? He was ludicrously underused in this tournament, and that only served to ask even more questions of Deschamps’ tactics.If the manager’s decisions in midfield were confusing, his decisions in attack were just confounding. Right from the start of the tournament, there has been argument that Martial should be starting every single game up front even if he is more a winger than a striker, because his sleek running would just better fit the type of angled passes players like Griezmann were regularly trying.Olivier Giroud’s aerial qualities and lay-offs meant there was still some logic in Deschamps’s decision to persist with the Arsenal striker, despite some of his misses and the comedy of his slow running against Germany, but there was absolutely no logic in only ever replacing him with Andre-Pierre Gignac.This was once again a move that had been proven to be ineffective, but Deschamps still persisted with.It arguably cost him more than anything in the final, with two big moments. Gignac might have done well at the end of normal time to leave Pepe on the ground with a turn, but the better decision was probably to just play the ball back out to the on-running teammate in a much better shooting position.Having eschewed that, Gignac still should have scored with his shot. He hit the post, but was at least someway sharp in that moment. That was not the case with his second moment.A few minutes into extra time, Griezmann had the ball on the left and looked to play it into the box, only for Gignac to be beaten to it in a way that suggested he did not expect it to come to him. By contrast, Martial is supreme at sensing those opportunities and suddenly acting on them.Gignac’s selection, however, illustrates how long-running some of Deschamps mismanagement has been. It is not just that the striker should not be in the team. It is that he should not be in the squad. It simply remains remarkable that Gignac was picked ahead of Kevin Gameiro, let alone Martial.From all these criticisms, the French manager could justifiably point out that the team still created enough chances to win the game, and it all would have been so different had Griezmann scored that second-half header.The key point, however, is that France should not have needed to rely on such margins. The gap in quality between themselves and Portugal was too big, but Deschamps’s work served to narrow it.He never came close to finding a formation that just fit the players available to him. It was almost always so disjointed, so stilted.”I can’t hold anything against my players,” Deschamps said afterwards. “They gave everything tonight.”Some of them would be justified in holding it against him, because the French manager got almost nothing right.Miguel Delaney is a London-based 

Cristiano Ronaldo could never have imagined winning Euro 2016 like this

SAINT-DENIS, France — Cristiano Ronaldo will have dreamed of this moment for years. He has won almost everything there is to win for his clubs, but he had never won anything for his nation. Even in his strangest dreams, he could never have imagined that it would happen for him this way.This is not how Ronaldo usually wins. Ronaldo usually wins with well-struck shots or sublime subtlety like that back-heel against Hungary. He wins when he endures the sort of pressure that crushes ordinary men like tin cans. But he had never won from the technical area, arms aloft, directing his players through the last stages of a lung-busting cup final prior to Sunday.A glimpse into the future? Ronaldo the manager? Probably not. He will need neither the money nor the stress. But here he was, injured and exhausted, channelling every thing he had, every last ounce of personality and celebrity, all in the hope that it might make some kind of difference on the pitch. And perhaps it did.Asked afterward if he felt that this was the high point of his career, he agreed. “I always say I win everything in terms of clubs, then as individual, but I always say I never win something for Portugal,” he said. “But I win tonight. I’m so happy, it’s a moment I cannot describe.”I’m so glad, it’s something unbelievable in my career, something that I deserve. Today I had bad luck because I had a small injury, but my colleagues do it. They run, they fight, we played against everyone, we played against 70,000 people in the stadium, nobody believed, but we won.”It would have been a profound shame had Ronaldo’s tournament ended, as it seemed it might, with the sight of him being carried from the pitch, his knee beyond immediate repair, his face streaked with tears. For all that he can rile and annoy people, he is one of the greatest footballers of his generation. He will be 33 when the next World Cup rolls around, 35 for the next European Championship. This really was it.If he had failed out on the turf, that would be fine. That would be football. But to be neutralised by a crunching challenge before he’d even had a chance to impose himself on the game, that just felt like cruel fortune. He didn’t want to go. He tried twice to continue, even as the French fans jeered and howled. But eventually even he had to relent. His race was run. On the pitch, at least.”It was tough because we lost our main man,” Pepe said. “We had all our hopes in him because he’s a player who can at any minute score a goal, because we know his abilities, but when he said he couldn’t go on, I tried to tell my teammates that we have to win it for him, that we were going to win it for him, that we were going to fight for him.”Ronaldo, knee strapped and training top on, reemerged at full-time as his teammates slumped, drained and depleted on the turf. He strode through their ranks like a king before a battle, a quiet word here, a pat on the shoulder there. He did it again after the first period of extra time, looking measured and composed.But when Eder slammed home his 109th-minute winner, that composure evaporated. Ronaldo celebrated alone on the sidelines, his hands over his face as the entire bench raced onto the pitch to mob the goal scorer. The tears flowed freely, the adrenaline coursing through the Real Madrid man’s veins. He couldn’t sit down. He couldn’t take his place with the other players. He had to be there, on the touchline, making an impact. Any kind of impact.One member of the coaching staff tried to urge him back to the bench, but with limited success. Like the moths that surrounded the Stade de France floodlights in their thousands, Ronaldo was irresistibly drawn to the action. In the end, the coaches left him alone, happy to let him shuffle up and down the touchline, bellowing instructions at players who were probably too tired to listen. And the clock ticked down.Pepe, named man of the match, laughed when a journalist asked him how he felt about his new “assistant manager,” but he was diplomatic about it.”The gaffer is our leader,” he said. “On the pitch, we’re all managers, because the gaffer lays down the tactics and on the pitch we do our best, but in fact the older players are there to incentivise and help younger ones.”Seconds before the final whistle, Ronaldo grabbed coach Fernando Santos and shook him vigorously. Santos looked awkward and uncertain. Managers do not celebrate until everything is confirmed. But then referee Mark Clattenburg blew his whistle and there was nothing left to worry about.”Our skipper, he had an immense effort,” Santos said later. “We had amazing team spirit, he had amazing team spirit. Twice he tried as much as he could to get back on the pitch, but he couldn’t do it. But being there in the locker room, on the bench it was very important to us, the way he reached the lads, incentivised them, he believed, like I believed, that tonight was our night.”Again, the bench ran to the pitch to celebrate. Again, Ronaldo stood alone for a moment, eyes wide and flushed in the face. He hugged a coach and they fell to the floor, Ronaldo’s shoulders heaving. And then he was back on his feet. He limped out to the pitch, congratulated his teammates one by one and because, even in the strangest dreams, some variables will always remain the same, he peeled off his shirt.This is the victory Ronaldo had craved for so long. The international success that moves him, permanently if his retirement holds, ahead of Lionel Messi: one medal to none. It is the culmination of a life spent in constant pursuit of excellence. No, this is not how he would have imagined it happening, but as he lifted the trophy above his head and

roared with delight, you suspect that he wasn’t even remotely concerned.Iain Macintosh is a writer for ESPN FC.

Cristiano Ronaldo told me I’d score Portugal’s winning goal – Eder

Portugal’s Euro 2016 final hero Eder says Cristiano Ronaldo told him he’d score the winning goal against France, and hailed his country’s triumph as “an amazing moment” after their historic 1-0 defeat of the hosts at the Stade de France on Sunday.The 28-year-old forward came on in the 79th minute for midfielder Renato Sanches and made his presence felt with a thunderous strike past France’s Hugo Lloris in the 109th minute to give Portugal their first major tournament title.Speaking after the match, the Lille man revealed the Real Madrid superstar,who was forced off with a knee injury in the 25th minute, predicted his decisive goal ahead of time.”Cristiano told me I would be scoring the winning goal. He and all my teammates,” Eder said. “He gave me strength and positive energy. And that goal was really important.”A lot of hard work went into it. We worked hard from the first minute and right from the beginning of the Euro. We were spectacular. The Portuguese people deserve this.”Eder had played just 13 minutes at the European Championship before coming on in the final, but said he’d always believed his moment to make an impact would come.”Since the first day [I thought my opportunity would come]. Ever since Fernando Santos called me up. He knows what my capabilities are and so does our group,” Eder said.”They trust me and I have worked hard to contribute and today it was possible. I’m very happy about what we’ve achieved.”He added: “It was an amazing moment. Our team worked really hard. We knew that the Portuguese people were behind us.”We fought with immense strength, we were amazing. I think we deserve this title due to the work we put in, all the players and the staff. Portugal had been wanting this title for so long.”This is fantastic and well deserved. Congratulations to every single one of us.”Defender Pepe highlighted Portugal’s difficult road to European glory after captain Ronaldo limped out of the match early.”This was tough as we lost our main man and we had all our hopes on him because he can score a goal at any moment. When he couldn’t go on I tried to tell our teammates that we had to win it for him,” the Real Madrid star said.”The coach set us up very well, the subs came on at the right time too. We poured our blood, sweat and tears into this. We’ve written a brilliant page in the book of Portuguese football history.”Speaking to RTP after the match, Paris-born full-back Raphael Guerreiro said the triumph was the pinnacle of his career.”It’s not really sunk in yet,” Guerreiro said. “I play for Lorient usually, and winning this title at the end of the season sounds incredible for me. And it’s in France too, so it’s even more special. It’s spectacular, and I hope we’ll perform well in the next tournaments too.”We didn’t pay much attention to the critics, as we were winning our games. We concentrated on each game as it came. The goal was to win the tournament, and in the end we won it, thanks to the whole team.We worked hard on and off the pitch, and we deserve it. It’s a very good reward. At the moment it’s the best moment of my career.”

Portugal grinds its way to Euro 2016 title, overcoming Ronaldo injury

Portugal beats France 1-0 in extra time to win Euro 2016 title

Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal pulled out a win against France in the Euro 2016 Final.

BY JONATHAN WILSONADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Sun Jul. 10, 2016

PARIS – Portugal won a single game at this European Championship in normal time. It got through the group stage as a best third-place team. It has played grim, attritional football throughout the knockout phase. But, for the first time, it has a European trophy. When the ends are glory, nobody in Portugal will mind much to quibble about the methods after a 1-0 triumph in extra time over France on Sunday.Portugal won the Euros because of its defense. After the shambles of the 3-3 draw against Hungary to finish the group stage, manager Fernando Santos retreated into the utmost pragmatism and created a unit that conceded a single goal in 420 minutes of knockout play. Scoring goals, the message seemed to be, would look after itself. And so it proved. Even without Cristiano Ronaldo, forced off after 25 minutes with a knee injury, Portugal found a 109th-minute winner, hammered home from about 30 yards by Lille striker Eder–an unlikely source for a unlikely victory.Until then, the game had been largely representative of the tournament. There have been flashes of quality and flare, but for the most part the play has been drab and cautious, blanket defenses overwhelming inadequate attacks. Much was sideways, much was backward, much was predictable and France, faced with the obduracy of Portugal’s defending, looked short of ideas and inspiration.This was never going to follow the pattern of the Germany game, of France being forced back and striking on the break. Portugal’s method since the end of the group stage has been to absorb pressure, using the energy of its midfield, along with the enormous presence of William Carvalho, all clanking movement and octopoid limbs, to stifle the opposition. So it proved again, France being allowed to dominate possession as Portugal hastened to fill gaps.WATCH: Ronaldo runs through all emotions, lifts trophy for Portugal

Portugal’s attacking threat, restricted throughout the tournament, was diminished further by an early challenge by Dimitri Payet on Ronaldo. No foul was given but, as Payet won the ball with his left foot, his right knee banged into Ronaldo’s left. The Real Madrid forward collapsed in obvious distress, weeping, but struggled on with heavy strapping before finally accepting the damage was too serious and going off for Ricardo Quaresma. A Cedric foul on Payet 10 minutes later seemed a fairly clear attempt at gaining retribution.As against Germany, there was an early French surge, but although an Antoine Griezmann header drew a fine save from Rui Patricio after Pepe’s slip had given Payet time to float a ball into the box, it produced no breakthrough.The singing of La Marseillaise prior to the match had been notably poor, one half of the stadium getting a syllable or two ahead of the other half–perhaps the inevitable result of France’s fans spending too much time dabbling with the Iceland thunder clap rather than practicing what they’re good at–and that served as a metaphor for a disjointed France display. Perhaps the stoppages for Ronaldo to receive treatment upset the rhythm, perhaps his disappearance affected its concentration, perhaps Portugal held the ball rather better after Ronaldo had gone off rather than repeatedly trying to feed him quickly, but there was little fluency in France’s attack, little sense that a breakthrough might come. There was one smart turn and shot from Moussa Sissoko, preferred on the flank as Deschamps stuck to his 4-2-3-1, but that was a rare moment of incisiveness in a largely drab first half.It didn’t improve much after halftime.Portugal did what it set out to do and made the game one of grim attrition. Payet, France’s hero in the group stage, was removed just before the hour for Kingsley Coman, the thinking presumably being that his pace might help penetrate the Portuguese ranks. He did land a cross on Griezmann’s head midway through the half–but the Atletico Madrid forward put the chance over–and then created a chance for Giroud that was well-saved by Rui Patricio.The Portugal goalkeeper also made a full-length diving save to keep out a long-range blast from Sissoko, while Nani almost caught out Hugo Lloris with a deft chip. And then, quite unexpectedly, from nothing, substitute Andre-Pierre Gignac turned Pepe in injury time and rolled a shot past Rui Patricio and saw it bounce back off the post. A sudden smattering of chances could disguise the fact that there was little pattern to the game, little quality. As Portugal vs. France clashes go, this was far more World Cup 2006 than Euro 84.Quite suddenly, just after halftime in extra time, there came a furry of chances in a Portuguese rally. Raphael Guerreiro hit the bar with a free kick and then, within a minute, Eder drifted in from the left and struck a fearsome shot past Hugo Lloris. It was a goal whose quality was utterly out of keeping with the game and, in truth, the tournament.But nobody in Portugal will care about that.

UEFA EURO 2016 adidas Golden Boot: Antoine Griezmann, France: 6 goals (2 assists, 555 minutes)
UEFA EURO 2016 adidas Silver Boot: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: 3 goals (3 assists, 625 minutes)
UEFA EURO 2016 adidas Bronze Boot: Olivier Giroud, France: 3 goals (2 assists, 456 minutes)

UEFA European Championship top scorers; 1996–2008: from final tournament group stage)
2016: Antoine Griezmann (France) 6
2012: Fernando Torres (Spain) 3
2008: David Villa (Spain) 4
2004: Milan Baroš (Czech Republic) 5
2000: Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands), Savo Milošević (Yugoslavia) 5
1996: Alan Shearer (England) 5

 UEFA European Championship final tournament overall top scorers
9: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
9: Michel Platini (France)
7: Alan Shearer (England)
6: Antoine Griezmann (France)
6: Wayne Rooney (England)
6: Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden)
6: Thierry Henry (France)
6: Patrick Kluivert (Netherlands)
6: Nuno Gomes (Portugal)
6: Ruud van Nistelrooy (Netherlands)

THREE THINGS – IND VS MNU

Trio of takeaways from latest game in Eleven’s 12-game undefeated streak

Jul 10, 2016

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Three Things: Eleven vs. Minnesota
Takeaways from tricky three-point result vs. the Loons

After every game, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will give his three takeaways from the latest performance of the “Boys in Blue.” Well, usually it’s Scott Stewart … however, this week John Koluder will take over the recapping spot, starting with what was a tricky three-point result against Minnesota United FC at Carroll Stadium.
1) “Zero” Chance

Scott Stewart (along with several of the other bloggers that cover Indy Eleven) correctly pointed out inFriday’s preview that goalkeeper Jon Busch would likely have some extra work to do with the Loons’ high-flying attack coming to town. Little could he have known, however, that the game’s pivotal moment would indeed come down to “Buschy” going mano y mano against the NASL’s Golden Boot race leader and “fresh-off-a-hat-trick” scorer Christian Ramirez in the 38th minute.

After ditching his much-needed hat, Busch would recall his PK homework during the week (he gave a hat tip to assistant coach TIm Regan for his weekly PK video reel), guessing correctly to his left to beat Ramirez’s spot kick to the post. Just moments later Busch would be on the spot at that same post to corral J.C. Banks’ half-chance that turned out to be a full one, headed towards the upper corner.

Up to that point Minnesota was building some momentum in attack, but that clearly changed as Indy gave up just two shots from distance in the 50 minutes that followed. In a season where Busch had been called upon to step up largely on the road, this was the veteran’s night to shine at “The Mike,” and that one moment flipped the course of the match. The team’s defensive display overall led to a fourth shutout, now the 11th time in 12 games in which the Boys in Blue have allowed just one goal or less. Goals are nice, but that’s what gets you to the top of the table.
2) More from Mares

After either coming off the bench or not appearing at all in four of Indy’s first five games, Dylan Mares dangerous abilities eventually could not be denied. While the third-year pro was rewarded by head coach Tim Hankinson with starting nods in the team’s previous eight competitive matches leading up to Saturday against Minnesota, last year’s co-leading scorer hadn’t cracked the scoresheet, but with 18 shots (good for third on the team heading into last night) it certainly wasn’t for a lack of effort.

A game-changing moment in the 78th minute changed all that, and it could very well open the flood gates for the “Eleven Original.” Mares has Loons’ midfielder Lance Laing partially to thank for a pass right to his feet 30 yards from goal, but from there it was all Mares, who confessed after the game that he didn’t notice netminder Sammy Ndjock off his line before unleashing his lash into the upper right 90 – he just felt like having a go from 25 yards felt right. And boy was it.Mares wasn’t done there, as he would make a play that was just as big in the Indy goal with regulation time winding down. The one shot Busch couldn’t get to on the evening, Ramirez’s close-range header in the 90th minute, could have been a gut-wrenching equalizer, but the alertness of Mares – who drifted from his corner kick duty on the post when he saw Busch step off his line – allowed him to head away the chance right on the line, preserving the result for Indy.While those two moments are obvious standout ones, what might have gone unnoticed was Mares’ steadiness throughout, as he completed 36 of his 40 passes on the night (as you can see to the right). With Indy fans knowing full well what the 24-year-old midfielder is capable of its not fair to deem Saturday a “breakout performance” for Mares, but it was certainly his best one of the season and could instill him with more confidence – and therefore make Indy even more unpredictable in attack.
3) Better Late Than Ever … or “Winning Time”

8 out of 17 … as in eight of Indy Eleven’s 17 goals scored in its 12 regular season games have been scored beyond the 75th minute. It doesn’t matter what level you play at, the ability to be that clutch in “winning time” will keep you in contention for trophies, which in this case has been borne out by the fact that those goals have resulted  in 11 of the squad’s 22 standings points earned.While Indy Eleven’s ability to score late has been well-documented, what perhaps has gone unnoticed is the lack of scoring by the opposition in that crucial final quarter-hour. No, not the minimal damage done, but the COMPLETE LACK OF GOALS CONCEDED. That’s right, Indy Eleven has outscored the opposition 8-0 in the last 15 minutes of games. That, my friends, is the stuff of champions.
So Where Does Indy Stand?

Fall Season: 1W-1D-0L, 4 pts., 4th place (but really T-2nd with 3 other teams, with everyone sitting on a +1 goal differential)

Combined Season: 5W-7D-0L, 22 pts., 2nd place (2 points behind New York, which pulled one out at the death Saturday at Miami)
What’s On Tap?

The meat of a 3-games-in-8-days sandwich, this Wednesday’s home contest against Fort Lauderdale (7:30 p.m. kickoff, as always, at “The Mike).
How About a Fun Fact?

Indy could tie the NASL modern era’s longest regular season undefeated streak of 13 games, set originally by Carolina in 2011 and equaled by the Cosmos across the 2013-14 seasons. Ottawa twice was on the cusp of equaling the mark last year, so you can bet that Nicki Paterson, Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Colin Falvey will do what it takes to get Indy across that line this time around.

Penalty Kick Save and More Late-game Heroics Lift Indy Eleven to 1-0 Victory over Minnesota

Win Keeps “Boys in Blue” Undefeated in 12 Straight Games to Start 2016 Campaign

INDIANAPOLIS (Saturday, July 9, 2016) – Dylan Mares provided the latest set of late-game dramatics for Indy Eleven, scoring his first goal of the season with 12 minutes remaining and heading a ball off the line in the 89th minute to give the “Boys in Blue” a 1-0 victory over Minnesota United FC in front of 8,066 spectators at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch earned a fourth clean sheet on the season for Indy by saving four shots, including a penalty kick stop on the league’s leading scorer, Christian Ramirez, late in the first half.  The result kept Indy Eleven undefeated through 12 games to start the 2016 season, and was preceded by the team lifting the league’s Spring Season trophy in front of its appreciative fans.

STATS: Visit the Opta MatchCenter for full stats from #INDvMNU

Both sides’ best chances within the first 20 minutes were finished – but they were also both nullified for offside, Eamon Zayed giving the Brickyard Battalion false hope just 50 seconds in, while J.C. Banks’ header of Christian Ramirez’s half-bike towards goal in the 18th minute fell to the same fate.Minnesota would take control of the better chances after the half hour mark, starting when Stefano Pinho’s cross found the head of a darting Banks, but the Loons’ central playmaker saw his 10-yard shot flash just wide of the right post.In the 37th minute it was Pinho creating a penalty kick opportunity when he fell over the foot of Indy midfielder Dylan Mares just a step inside the box. However, Busch would deny Ramirez on the ensuing spot kick, diving low and to his left to bat the shot wide. Banks had a half chance off the ensuing corner when he hooked in a shot from 15 yards, but Busch jumped to his upper left 90 to pick the ball out.The first chance of the second half fell to Minnesota left back Justin Davis, whose heavy shot from 30 yards was corralled by Busch on his line with a slight leap.The game increasingly looked like it would be a stalemate until the 78th minute, when Mares made Minnesota’s Lance Laing pay for a turnover in the final third. The Loons’ midfielder tried to play out of his end but instead put the ball right on Mares’ feet 30 yards out, from where he floated a ball that caught Ndjock off his line. The goal was Indy’s eighth of the year past the 75th minute,Minnesota had two good chances to equalize in the final minutes, first in the 88th minute as the ball popped to Daniel Mendes at the top of the area, but the substitute midfielder’s poke was deflected just wide of the right post. Off the ensuing corner Ramirez headed a ball that beat Busch but not Mares, who headed the ball himself off the line to keep Indy ahead into and through the five minutes of stoppage time.Tonight marks the first game of a three-game week for Indy Eleven, which will turn around and host the Fort Lauderdale Strikers this Wednesday, July 13 (7:30 p.m. ET, live on WISH-TV, beIN SPORTS & beIN SPORTS CONNECT). Tickets for “Networking Night” at Carroll Stadium remain available starting at just $11 and can be purchased online at IndyEleven.com or by calling 317-685-1100 (Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.).Indy Eleven and Minnesota will renew acquaintances in one week’s time, this time Minnesota playing host to the “Boys in Blue” at the NSC Stadium in Blaine, MN, in a match that can also be viewed live on beIN SPORTS and online via their beIN SPORTS CONNECT viewer.

NASL Fall Season     Indy Eleven  1 : 0  Minnesota United FC
Saturday, July 9, 2016    Michael A. Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN   
Attendance: 8,066

Indy Eleven:
Fall Season: 1W-1D-0L, 4 pts.
Overall Season: 5W-7D-0L, 22 pts.

Minnesota United FC:
Fall Season: 1W-0D-1L, 3 pts.
Overall Season: 6W-1D-5L, 19 pts.

Scoring Summary:
IND – Dylan Mares (unassisted) 78’

Discipline Summary:
MNU –Aaron Pitchkolan (caution) 29’
IND – Justin Braun (caution) 75’
IND – Greg Janicki (caution) 89’
IND – Lovel Palmer (red card) – post-game
MNU – Tiago Calvano (red card) – post-game

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch; Nemanja Vuković, Greg Janicki (capt), Cory Miller, Lovel Palmer; Omar Gordon (Duke Lacroix 63’), Brad Ring, Nicki Paterson (Souleymane Youla 73’), Dylan Mares; Eamon Zayed, Justin Braun (Marco Franco 84’)  Indy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Daniel Keller, Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Don Smart

Minnesota United FC (4-2-3-1): Sammy Ndjock; Justin Davis, Tiago Calvano, Brent Kallman, Kevin Venegas; Aaron Pitchkolan (capt) (Daniel Mendes 83’), Juliano Vicentini; Stefano Pinho, J.C. Banks (Damion Lowe 79’), Danny Cruz (Lance Laing 69’); Christian Ramirez    United FC bench: Steward Ceus (GK), Jamie Watson, Jack Blake, Ismalia Jome

 WELCOME TO FT CARROLL – Permanent Relegation Game Recap

From the first time Tim Hankinson spoke to the fans in Indianapolis, he had said he was looking for warriors.  It’s not an uncommon philosophy in sports, but it is one easier said than done.  He’s found them! And they defend Carroll Stadium with a grit that would inspire General Lew Wallace and his hipster beard.  The Eleven held the Fort on Saturday night and battled hard against the visiting Minnesota United FC.  The 1-0 scoreline will not tell the full story but the Indy Eleven were once again victorious at home.  The banks of the mighty White River are still safe and the checkered banners still hang proudly around the stadium.  The Mike has become a fortress.

Indy Eleven are undefeated on the season due to technicalities and definitions, but there is no denying the Indy Eleven’s stats when playing for the Brickyard Battalion at home.  This team really likes red and blue smoke.

  • 13 goals during 6 home games in NASL competition.
  • 4 wins and 2 draws in NASL competition.
  • 6 wins and 2 draws including USOC and a mid-season friendly
  • 5 game home win streak (Including wins against both the best of the USL and Liga MX)

The boys in monochromatic blue (At Home) are the most dangerous team in North America right now.  This team is both inspiring and inspired when playing in blue socks, shorts and shirts.  Jon Busch is the only exception because he plays 10 feet tall wearing sweatpants and a dad hat.  Jon Busch is 39 but still managed to unlock gamebreaker mode in the 37th minute.  He guessed correctly and denied a penalty attempt from from Christian Ramirez who happens to lead the NASL in goals. Busch had it the whole way in a classic “ball never lies” scenario.  That save kept a 0-0 score heading into the halftime break and and was what paved the way for Dylan Mares’ second half performance.

There are three players remaining from Indy Eleven’s original 2014 roster.  Mares is one of them and proved why on Saturday night.  Mares stole the show and Man of the Match with not one but two game changing plays.   Luck is what happens when practice meets preparation.  Mares converted from distance with a perfectly weighted ball in the 78th minute.  He intercepted Lance Laing and punished Minnesota by himself while simultaneously forcing goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock to question everything he knows about physics. And Mares was the hero again.  This time it was in the 90th minute.  Every one of the Eleven were beaten on a corner except for the native Hoosier patrolling the goal line.  He was in a perfect position and he headed the ball clear in the end.  After the game Mares was asked about his positioning during that play.  His response was simpe and mater of fact.  He didn’t seem too impressed with his game winning save.  “I am always on the front post.” The score held after 5 minutes of stoppage time.  Celebrations and congratulations among the players showed just how truly devoted to each other and the result they were.  This game meant something.  The team was yelling and embracing as if they had just achieved glory in an ancient battle.

Even with a guaranteed home match in the playoffs, the Eleven are pursuing greatness and hope to claim more victories in the process.  Winning the NASL Spring Season has allowed them the chance to rest, but they aren’t taking it.  The team knows how important home field advantage is to them and the The Brickyard Battalion.  This team has stated goals of going undefeated and raising more hardware like they did on Saturday.  An idea that sounded crazy three months ago seems surprisingly attainable today. The spring trophy was shared but it will be put away as a reminder.  Although it is a beautiful sight to behold, as a fan of this team, it is not the ultimate goal.  The warriors will keep grinding out points through sheer acts of will, heroism, and guts and we will love them for it.  The next few days will once again test the inner strength of this team.  Moments of heart and brilliance may be called upon with an upcoming home match on Wednesday and the Minnesota rematch only three days later.  A poor man’s home and home fixture will be sandwiched with a visit from Ft Lauderdale Strikers.   It’s going to be one of those things where we have just got to come in mentally tough.  We have 3 games in one week and we have just got to stay focused.  Everyone has to be ready.” -Dylan Mares

The advantage in the Wednesday match will surely go to the Eleven as they are hosting and with one more day of rest.  The strikers will be road weary having traveled to Edmonton on the Sunday before.  It will be tough as the Strikers are on a bit of a run themselves, but I think the real challenge will be in not looking too far ahead to the looming trip north.  The dying moments at Ft. Carroll got more than a bit chippy on Saturday.  Minnesota will have 6 days to stew and to study.  Their gameplan wasn’t really that far off and the offside trap was very effective against Indy.  The Eleven will be thinking and preparing for one game at a time.  Indy having bested and embarrassed a team with championship ambitions will provide more than enough fuel for the Loons to bring everything they have, but Indy Head Coach Tim Hankinson will have something up his sleeve for sure.  His substitutions and changes on Saturday earned Indy 3 points.

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If you are a goalkeeper – I am beginning my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25  + Aug 1.

U12 6 till 7 pm

U13 and above 7:00 -8:15 pm

if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

=====================================================================

Earn Your Accredited College Degree at ½ the Cost and Time of Traditional Schools

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –  Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com ,

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

 

7/8/16 EUROPEAN CUP FINALS Sun 3 pm ESPN, Indy 11 return home Sat to get Champ Trophy, US Ladies in Chicago Sat 1 pm FS1

So we are down to the final in the European Cup – so I next week I will go through comparing the COPA American Cup to the European Cup and why I think the COPAs were better.  But for now lets enjoy this SUMMER OF SOCCER Finale as the European cup will bring us the Host Nation – FRANCE fresh off an opportunistic win over the World Champions Germany at home on Thursday.  Though Germany were better in the 1st half – the unfortunate hand ball on the German captain turned the tide just before half.  And I thought France really outplayed them overall in the 2nd half though Germany did the post twice in extra time and made the French Keeper Loris make one hell of a save in the 92nd minute.  I said before I thought the winner of France and defending World Champs Germany would lift the trophy on Sunday afternoon – I really actually hope that Portugal both gives them a game and maybe even takes it to extra time where anything could happen.  Renaldo has come alive for his country when called upon here the last few games and has Portugal on the brink – 12 years after his last appearance in a final.  At 31 this could be Renaldo’s last real chance to lift a trophy for his country – I for wouldn’t mind seeing that.  Anyway coverage starts at 2 pm for the 3 pm final on Sunday on ESPN. 

US Ladies Play at Chicago Soldier Field on Sat 1 pm

Not sure why this isn’t getting any local play or even any really soccer play – but the US ladies play just 2 more tune-ups before departing for a shot at another Gold Medal in the Olympics.  The team which has some new names and new players will take the field Saturday at 1 pm on Fox Sports 1 (12 noon Chicago time) Tickets are still available!  Hope Solo could collect her World Record 100 shutout.

INDY TO GET CHAMP TROPHY SAT NIGHT

So our Indy 11 return home this Saturday night at 7:30 pm at the MIKE and on Wish TV 8 vs Minnesota United.  The 11 will receive their 2016 Spring League Championship Trophy before the game – so arrive early to take in all the festivities.  The 11 came from behind once again this past Sat night at NASL league newcomer Puerto Rico as new player Souleymane Youla scored in extra time to secure the 1-1 tie and keep the Indy 11 as still the Only NASL undefeated team in 2016.  This game will mark the 1st game in league play for new signee Torrado – that should be fun to see.  MLS heats up this weekend at Seattle returns Clint Dempsey to the lineup for a home matchup with the LA Galaxy Sat at 3 pm on ESPN.

Carmel FC – Also Summer CFC Technical Training continues in July.

If you are a goalkeeper – I am beginning my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25 if interested RE:or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

EUROPEAN FINALS

Tale of the Tape in the Final ESPN FC

Renaldo on the Brink of History with Win  

Brace yourself for the Final – SI

Griezmann becomes Frances Leader Ian Macintosh ESPNFC 

France Sieze the moment in Win over Germany-Marcotti ESPNFC

Germany the Better Team says dejected German coach Low – ESPNFC – bullshit

That Kind of Game for Unlucky Germany ESPNFC – Honigstein

Ian Darke and Taylor Twelman – A Tale of 2 Strikers video

French Keeper Lloris fantastic save

Portugal Renaldo has Dreamed of Making a Final Again

CR7 Steals the Show for Portugal

Portugal performs when they have to – Marcotti ESPN FC

Portugal Manager Santos is Happy

Wales loss to Portugal hurts by Euro Run Never forgotten ESPNFC

Bale disappointed but Proud after lost to Portugal

Euro to Stick with 24 Teams

 US  

Ladies begin Equal Play Equal Pay Campaign this Sat

Hope Solo set to break Century Mark for saves for US

5 things to Know about South Africa for Sat’s 1 pm Game in Chicago on FS1

Tickets Still Available for Soldier Field Game

 

Klinnsman says US foundation is disconnected

US could face Mexico at home in 1st Game of Hex

Dempsey open to Super Sub Role for 2018 World Cup

Bobby Wood a Huge Positive in COPAs for US

 INDY 11

Blood Shambles Preview of Min game

Indy 11 to Receive Spring Season Trophy at Sat Nights Game!

GAmeday Preview

Indy 11 3 Things in Indy’s 91st Min Goal saving Tie @ Puerto Rico

Indy 11 July 9 game – Bring School Supplies to Donate

Vukavic on team of the week

 MLS

MLS Talking points on weekend Games

Bragging Rights on line Seattle host LA Galaxy Sat   3 pm ESPN VIDEO

Duece is Back to Right the Ship for Seattle vs LA Sat

Orlando City coach Adrian Heath out

Save of the Week MLS

 GAMES ON TV

Saturday, July 9: 

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

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

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

New York Red Bulls vs. Portland Timbers, 6:00 p.m. (ESPN2,

Sporting Kansas City vs. New York City FC, 8:00 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)

Wednesday, July 13

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

Saturday, July 16

Indy 11 @ Minn – 8 pm BeIn Sports

Sunday, July 17:

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

Sat, July 23

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

Sat, July 30

Indy 11@ Miami – 8 pm BeIn sports

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

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

 Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

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

Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
CHS Men’s Head Coach Shane Schmidt, a former U-20 US National Team player, runs his annual camp from 9 am to 2 pm July 11-15. $175 @ 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.

If you are a goalkeeper – I am beginning my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25 if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

 Portugal vs. France: Euro 2016 final tale of the tape

The ESPN crew debate who will reign supreme in the final: France or Portugal?

The final of the 2016 European Championship is set, with Portugal and France out to battle for continental honours. Here is a position-by-position breakdown of how the teams will fare on the field on Sunday.

GOALKEEPER

Portugal’s Rui Patricio is a good, competent goalkeeper and his fine penalty shootout save to deny Jacob Blaszczykowski proved crucial in the quarterfinal against Poland. It’s no surprise that Everton, flush with cash now, are reported to be interested in his services. But for all his strengths, he is not Hugo Lloris.The French goalkeeper is indubitably one of the world’s best now. It’s not just that he’s agile and brave, nor that he has the reactions of someone who cracked the Matrix some time ago; he does the less spectacular things well, too. He deals well with crosses, distributes well and exudes confidence.

VERDICT: Portugal have a good goalkeeper. France have a nearly perfect one.

DEFENCE

It’s no coincidence that Portugal have looked far more resilient since the introduction of Jose Fonte in the knockout stages. Ricardo Carvalho, Pepe and Bruno Alves are all established centre-backs, but all are approaching the end of their careers. Fonte is 32, so no spring chicken himself, but age has not yet wearied him. He’s more mobile, aware and cautious than the others. And he needs to be. Right-back Cedric Soares’ inexplicable switch-off against Poland which resulted in Robert Lewandowski’s goal could have seen his team eliminated. Fonte’s calming influence is needed more than ever.

What a month it’s been for Samuel Umtiti. First he signs with Barcelona, then he breaks into the national team at just the right moment and ensures that no one at club or country has cause to regret their faith in him. Alongside Laurent Koscielny, who has been solid throughout the summer, they make a formidable pair. The only concern is the physical state of Patrice Evra and Bacary Sagna on the flanks. So much depends on their ability to get up and down the wings. But neither of them are young and with so little recovery time after the semifinal, can they cope with the Portuguese threat?

VERDICT: Both defences are vulnerable, but you’d trust the French back line more. Just.

MIDFIELD

Renato Sanches is pivotal to this Portugal midfield. Whereas it looked slow and cumbersome in the early games, since his arrival it has looked dynamic and aggressive. Sanches can drive attacks forward, fearlessly running at players with the ball at his feet, but he also knows when to fall back into line and help defend. William Carvalho, suspended for the Wales game, will be important too, holding the back of the midfield together against those surging Paul Pogba runs.

And how Pogba can run. This has been a mixed tournament for the man tipped to soon be the most expensive in world football. He has not been a failure, as some have suggested, nor has he been consistent. But he can break any team, given the chance. Blaise Matuidi, on the other hand, has been excellent; mobile, intelligent and blessed with a well-rounded skill set that makes him good at everything. The biggest surprise has been Moussa Sissoko, miserable for Newcastle United in England but increasingly useful to France head coach Didier Deschamps. And then there’s Dimitri Payet, the saviour in the group stage, but waning in the knockout rounds. Has he got anything left in the tank?

VERDICT: Portugal have improved, but France should dominate the middle.

ATTACK

What can you do about Cristiano Ronaldo? Not very much. If you hope to battle him on the ground, he’s quick and brilliant. If you hope to battle him in the air, he’s strong, brave and quite possibly in possession of anti-gravity boots. You can try to frustrate him by tripping, clipping and elbowing him, but that just makes him angry, and you won’t like him when he’s angry. And, of course, if you double-team him, you leave room for Nani. On his best days, Nani is half the player that Ronaldo is, but half a Ronaldo is still more than enough to turn a game. Nani is quick and, when he doesn’t overthink things, he can be deadly. Portugal have their weaknesses, but not in this department.

Poor old Olivier Giroud. A target man in more ways than one — both for crosses into the box and howls of abuse whenever anything goes wrong. He is not in the class of Ronaldo or even in the class of his sidelined compatriot Karim Benzema. But he does have his uses. If he wins the ball in the air, he can release the whippet-like Antoine Griezmann. Theirs is the old-fashioned but highly effective “big man, little man” partnership, and it’s been enough to take them to the final. Whether it will be enough to win the European Championship remains to be seen.

VERDICT: Ronaldo is the trump card, but France certainly have goals in them.

MANAGER

Portugal boss Fernando Santos has had a good tournament, proving himself brave enough to make sweeping changes when necessary and communicating with honesty and integrity when he has to explain them. He knows the weaknesses of this team and he has learned how to hide them. Portugal haven’t quite clicked this summer, but they’ve made it all the way to the final anyway.Deschamps is another manager who has been forced to react in almost every game, discovering that his intricately laid plans don’t work quite as well as his improvised ones. But he has held himself well throughout the tournament, rarely betraying the stress he must be under, praising his players where he can. He’s nearly there.VERDICT: A dead heat. Two good managers, doing their best with the resources available.Iain Macintosh is a writer for ESPN FC. 

Cristiano Ronaldo winning Euro would give him special place in history

PARIS — Yup, this would be a game-changer. For all the silverware Cristiano Ronaldo has won at club level, helping Portugal become European champions would be something different.It’s not simply about the old argument over whether you can be in the conversation about being the greatest of all time (GOAT) if you never win the sport’s biggest prizes. That’s a popular, if silly, equation which infects other sports as well: Just ask Barry Sanders or Dan Marino, Elgin Baylor or Allen Iverson. Indeed, it’s often used to refute the GOAT claims of his archrival Lionel Messi. He’s been in four major finals for Argentina and lost every last one, most recently last month’s Copa America final.You can rationalize away that argument in many different ways, most persuasively the fact that football is a team sport and whether or not you win titles is often down to other factors, like the talent around you.But winning a major tournament at the international level is a wholly distinct experience. And if Ronaldo did it with Portugal, who were not among the pre-Euro favorites, it would be entirely new.Since 2003, when Ronaldo joined Manchester United, and through his years at Real Madrid, he’s generally been the best player on the best team (or close to it). Most of the time he stepped on the pitch, he was the favorite on the heavy favorites and, perhaps, an instant turnoff to the kind of neutrals who instinctively cheer on the underdog.There’s nothing underdog about Ronaldo. Not in the way he plays. Not in the way he talks. Not in the way he looks. Not in the way he dresses. That’s fine. He doesn’t pretend otherwise. In fact, he embraces it.But this Portugal side is different. This is a classic side in transition, a blend of veterans on the slide or close to it (Pepe, Nani, Bruno Alves, Joao Moutinho, Ricardo Carvalho) and inexperienced guys who have yet to hit their prime (Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Mario, William Carvalho, Renato Sanches, Danilo, Andre Gomes). It’s not a coincidence that going into the semifinal against Wales, Ronaldo had 42 more caps on his own than the rest of Portugal’s outfield players combined, minus Bruno Alves and Nani.What’s more, before the victory over Wales, they hadn’t actually won a game in regular time of 90 minutes, drawing all three group stage matches, going deep into extra time against Croatia and beating Poland on penalty kicks. They alternated periods where they created plenty but finished poorly with moments when they seemed content to defend and do little more. Ronaldo, Nani and the keeper, Rui Patricio, are the only players to have started every game and, especially in midfield, we’ve seen manager Fernando Santos continually tweak his personnel in search of the right fit.On the flip side, Portugal have defended extremely well in most matches (Hungary being the exception), worked tirelessly — though not always effectively — in midfield and displayed a level of unity and team spirit we rarely see from top sides.In short, they scrapped and clawed and bruised their way this far. Don’t take it from me. Ask Ronaldo.”We are a team, a unit,” he said after the Wales game. “I’ve done my best to work hard and help out, not just by scoring goals but by fighting and scrapping. We’ve all done it together.”That’s the quality of Ronaldo we don’t usually see, the fighting and scrapping part. Not because he’s lazy — he isn’t — but because most of the time the teams he’s played for don’t need to fight and scrap to the degree we’ve seen from Portugal in this tournament.This is a blue-collar, hard-hat team. That makes it different from the usual canvas on which Ronaldo works, but also distinct from the others in the GOAT conversation. Consider the other obvious parallel, the one with Diego Maradona’s performance at the 1986 World Cup. That, too, was a scrappy, humble team with a resident superstar. The difference is that Maradona carried the side through the knockout stages. Ronaldo hasn’t done it to the same degree. While his goal against Wales was as immense as it was important, for most of the knockout phase he hasn’t had his scoring boots on right. He’s been crucial, and without him they may not be here, but he hasn’t been the one-man juggernaut that Maradona was on a comparably talent-challenged side in 1986.But that doesn’t diminish Ronaldo. On the contrary, it shows a maturity and willingness to sacrifice his role and find other ways to make himself useful while he waits for the finishing mojo to kick back in.People often comment on his diva tendencies. In the right context — say, Real Madrid, the self-described Harlem Globetrotters of football — it’s not a problem. A little extra showbiz does no harm. But here, at least until the likes of Joao Mario and Renato Sanches become the players their agents say they will become, Portugal don’t need a diva. They need a big brother, someone to take responsibility, give reassurances, chase away the fears and be the first into battle.Ronaldo has embraced that role, even when he hasn’t been at his best.This is uncharted territory for him, an entirely different habitat.Winning the Euros would mark not just his first major trophy with his national team, but his country’s. It would mean succeeding where the Portuguese legends — Eusebio and Mario Coluna to Luis Figo and Paulo Futre — have come up short. It would mean doing it while proudly carrying the underdog label, unlike 2004, his only other appearance in a major tournament final, when Portugal were heavy favorites against Greece.It won’t have much of an impact on the GOAT debate, because opinions are highly fossilized and unlikely to change. But if Ronaldo’s team becomes the champions of Europe on Sunday, it will shift the needle in another way. He will have done it without a top-drawer supporting cast, while enduring a finishing slump and donning a hard hat and work boots.That, for a guy in the GOAT conversation, may well be a first.Possibly, it may also end up being more satisfying than the solar system of league titles, Champions League trophies and Ballon d’Or honors he has piled up.Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN

Griezmann, Ronaldo take center stage in France vs. Portugal Euro 2016 final

Euro 2016 host country France defeated Germany 2-0 on Thursday and will now face Portugal in the final.

BY BEN LYTTLETONADD FAVORITETwitter EmailPosted: Thu Jul. 7, 2016Updated: Fri Jul. 8, 2016

The 1984 European Championship. The 1998 World Cup. The 2016 European Championship? France is closing in on a third straight major tournament win on home soil after beating world champion Germany 2-0 in a compelling, captivating, stunning semifinal at the Stade Velodrome in Marseille. It will now play Portugal in Sunday’s final in at the Stade de France in Paris.Portugal may have preferred to face Germany, given its record against France. Portugal has not beaten France in 10 games, and it’s lost two semifinals, at Euro 2000 and the 2006 World Cup (both decided on controversial penalties). There were also two recent defeats in friendlies. This tournament has seen teams break lengthy hexes in the last two rounds, though, with Germany overcoming Italy for the first time in competitive play and France beating Germany for the first time in a tournament since 1958.Here are a few opening thoughts ahead of an intriguing final clash:

This final is about the two Madrid-based stars

If Portugal’s run to the final is credited to one player, Cristiano Ronaldo, the impact of France’s main man has been greater.Antoine Griezmann scored both goals against Germany and has now got six in the tournament, three ahead of anyone else (and that includes Ronaldo and Dmitri Payet).  All of France will want Griezmann to score again in the final: Les Bleus have never lost when the Atletico Madrid striker has scored. His latest brace means France has now won eight games and drawn two when he has found the back of the net.Athletico could be responsible for the smartest transfer business all summer by extending his contract (and increasing the buyout clause) before things got underway in France. More than Paul Pogba, more than Gareth Bale (even more than Hal Robson-Kanu!), Griezmann is the one player who is closing the gap on Lionel Messi and Ronaldo atop the world’s individual hierarchy.Perhaps Sunday, he can bridge it even further and draw some revenge for the Champions League final, where Atletico fell to Ronaldo’s Real. Griezmann missed a penalty in regulation, and both converted in the PK shootout–where Ronaldo’s spot kick clinched the victory.WILSON: Portugal rides its defense, Ronaldo’s heroics into Euro final

Portugal’s selection dilemma

Portugal coach Fernando Santos was without the suspended William Carvalho against Wales and has a selection dilemma on his hands: to keep Danilo, who is more consistent and was excellent in the semifinal, or restore the Sporting youngster. He has also reworked his center back pairing, with Pepe injured and Bruno Alves joining the faultless Jose Fonte. Pepe may return if he recovers in time, but Ricardo Carvalho, who started Portugal’s first game, has slipped out of the reckoning.This is why Santos, after the Wales game, spoke of Portugal’s squad depth.”We’re not the best team in the world, but we know that we are not pushovers, either,” he said. “We work hard. And above all, we are a team. A team of 23, plus all the fans too.”Santos has made Portugal so hard to beat. In his 13 competitive matches in charge, Portugal has won nine and drawn four. He has quietly rotated his team throughout the tournament, but kept the same 4-4-2 shape with the unlikely strike partnership of Ronaldo and Nani at the top. Both have scored three goals (Ronaldo has added three assists, Nani one), and Nani says he has taken on a surprising mentor role.“We try to pass our experience because we have been through a lot of the things which are new to the younger ones,” he said.

A worthy champion will be crowned

Cynics have claimed that the draw clearly favored the host nation, and this was its biggest test. Beating Germany, which in the first half played some of the best football we have seen this summer, shows that it would be a worthy European champion.Can we say the same for Portugal? Why not? Even though it was a third-place finisher in its group, it has had a tougher run to the final, beating Croatia (in extra time), Poland (on penalties) and Wales (in normal time) compared to France (Ireland, Iceland, Germany). It has proven to be tough side to break down, even if it lacks the obvious flair of its opponent Sunday.A thrilling final awaits.

France seize the moment against a dominant Germany to reach Euro final

Antoine Griezmann scored a brace to put the hosts into the final against Portugal on Sunday.

MARSEILLE, France — Sometimes, all it takes is for your opponent to scratch on the eight ball.France’s 2-0 defeat of Germany at Euro 2016 wasn’t undeserved; it was simply a reflection of the nature of this sport. Whether you dominate or are dominated, sometimes winning or losing rests on other factors, such as luck or individual brilliance. If it goes your way, it doesn’t mean you’re undeserving. It just means you were there to seize the moment when the gods smiled on you.Now France have a chance to win their fourth major tournament and their third on home soil after Euro 1984 and the 1998 World Cup.”It was a very tough game. Germany really made us suffer,” France manager Didier Deschamps said. “But we never gave up. And we suffered together — the players on the pitch, the fans in the stands and watching at home. And that saw us through.”We made history tonight. We don’t have the power to solve all the problems of the French people, but we can generate happiness and confidence. And that’s important.”Deschamps stuck with the starting XI that pummeled Iceland, a strategy that was somewhere between bold and foolhardy. It’s one thing to leave Blaise Matuidi and Paul Pogba on their own in midfield when you know your opponent is physically exhausted and likely to sit deep in their own half. It’s quite another to do it against manager Jogi Low’s Germany, a team predicated on committing waves of moving bodies forward intent on passing through your lines. An extra holding midfielder comes in handy in those situations.That said, Low had his own decisions to make. With Mats Hummels suspended and both Mario Gomez and Sami Khedira injured, Low switched from the 3-5-2 employed against Italy to the more familiar 4-2-3-1. Emre Can joined Bastian Schweinsteiger, an injury doubt until 24 hours earlier, in front of the back four, with Toni Kroos in the hole. Thomas Muller was up front, with Mesut Ozil and Julian Draxler wide.Perhaps fueled by a rousing rendition of their anthem — nowhere is it more appropriate for “La Marseillaise” to be sung than here — Les Bleus came out of the gate on the front foot. Seven minutes in, we saw perhaps the best move of the tournament: Antoine Griezmann and Matuidi combined on a stunning series of first-time passes (including a back-heel) that resulted in Griezmann firing on goal, only for Germany keeper Manuel Neuer to palm the shot away.It was the sort of move that jacks up the decibel count. But Germany — in case you had not realized it by now — are not easily fazed or intimidated. Schweinsteiger and Kroos wove their spidery webs increasingly closer to France keeper Hugo Lloris’ goal. Can thundered his way through the middle, sometimes becoming a de facto adjunct striker. Muller fired an uncoordinated effort wide. Lloris had to make a tremendous strong-handed stop from Can’s deflected snap shot, which bounced on the way in. And Schweinsteiger fired high.All Germany lacked, perhaps, was a bit of precision in the final third, but it was as sustained a spell of dominance as you’re likely to see against a top side.Still, this is a low-scoring sport and things can turn in an instant. Two such situations went France’s way late in the half. First, Olivier Giroud caught Jerome Boateng in possession and trundled through with a clear path at Neuer’s goal. It may have been an optical illusion, but the Frenchman seemed to slow down even as he ought to have been accelerating. Nor did he hear — or heed — the desperate Griezmann steaming through on Giroud’s right. Instead, Giroud’s run was brought to an end by an outstanding tackle from the unheralded Benedikt Howedes. As the ball trickled out of play, Giroud got up slowly, incredulously, while Howedes clenched his fists and let out an earthy scream.It seemed that the way things were going, this was the only opportunity France would have. Instead, just before half-time, they got another — this one out of the blue.Schweinsteiger led with his arm in contesting a corner kick that was headed toward Patrice Evra and deflected the ball away with his hand. Referee Nicola Rizzoli, after advice from the official behind the goal, who had a clearer view, pointed to the spot. It was a baffling mental error, eerily reminiscent of the penalty that Boateng gave away in similar circumstances against Italy, which nearly cost them the game.Griezmann buried it from the spot, and for the first time in 525 minutes of Euro 2016 football, Germany were in the hole. It was entirely against the run of play.”The goal was a shock, because until that point France had not really created anything,” said Low. “I had to calm my players down in the dressing room, because it makes no sense to waste energy with anger. But it changed everything.”There’s obviously some Didier fairy dust doing the rounds because, almost straight after the restart, France had another sterling opportunity. A delightful long-range daisy cutter from Pogba found a wide-open Giroud who — again — hesitated and lost the moment. His finish was blocked, a clear-cut chance evaporated.At this stage, you got the sense that Germany might take over. Their dominance had been sterile thus far, but that old cliche — screw up an opportunity at one end (and it was two for Giroud) and get punished at the other — would kick in. Except more misfortune was on the way for Germany. Boateng went down with a muscle injury at the hour mark and Low sent on Shkodran Mustafi.Germany were patient, perhaps too patient — Low would later say the French counterattack was a concern, especially Pogba and Griezmann — and the minutes ticked by without the one-sidedness of the first half.Low waited until minute 68 to send on Mario Gotze for Can, and Deschamps countered, finally, with N’Golo Kante. Barely a minute passed and it was 2-0. Germany tried to play the ball out of the back after a restart. Pogba, growing as the game went on, led the press and stuck a big boot between Mustafi and Joshua Kimmich to steal the ball. A quick look up and an early ball for Giroud, and Neuer’s punch cleared the ball, but only as far as Griezmann, who sent it straight back in, past the Germany keeper.”That was great work from Paul,” Griezmann said. “I sort of waited around to see if the ball might come out to me, and it did.” Low was rather less pleased.”We try to play from the back, yes, but in that situation, when it’s three against three in our own area, you just have to get the ball away because it’s too dangerous,” he said. “We didn’t do that.”Everything was turning a deep, French blue.Germany sounded the charge. Minutes after conceding the second goal, Kimmich found the post from distance. Draxler’s free kick came close. Kroos, metronomic as ever, found Howedes, whose close-range header was a smidgeon high. Then, in injury time, Lloris pulled off the save of the match when he kept out Kimmich’s header.The crowd roared, the players and the fans did the borrowed “huh” hand clap, and Deschamps beamed like a child with a gold star.Low, as ever, was coldly analytical. When asked what Germany did wrong, he simply said: “Nothing.””I have to compliment my players,” he said. “We were the better team. It was just bad luck that we conceded. We still created the best chances. We didn’t have the luck we needed.”At the World Cup in 2010 and at the Euros in 2012, we were eliminated in the semifinals by opponents [Spain and Italy, respectively] who were better than us,” he added. “Today, that wasn’t the case. We were better than the French.”You may or may not agree with him. Certainly, to Deschamps and to the French, it matters little. Sometimes it’s not just about being better throughout the match. It’s about being better in the blinks of the eye that decide it.Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN

 Antoine Griezmann overcomes slow Euro 2016 start to be France’s leader

MARSEILLE, France — Didier Deschamps may be a bit of a romantic at heart. As the last seconds of France’s semifinal victory over Germany ebbed away, he chose to withdraw Antoine Griezmann from the fray and allowed the 25-year-old to stride off the pitch to a thunderous ovation from a delighted Velodrome. He deserved every last ripple of the applause.This is a man who was reduced to tears by Germany’s victory over France in 2014. A man who missed a penalty in the Champions League Final just six weeks ago, yet still had the courage to take another when his country needed him. A man who started the tournament so indifferently that he was dropped for the second game and didn’t score his second of six goals until the knockout rounds began. And he is the man who, with two more goals to his collection, has sent France to the final in Paris. But afterward, he was keen to share the credit.”It’s a whole crew behind us,” Griezmann said. “A load of work done by the physios, the staff and the players that haven’t played any minutes but still work like crazy. It’s a group effort. We’re so thrilled to get to the final and we’ll make the most of it tonight. I missed my penalty in the Champions League final and I wanted to make sure that hit the back of the net.”Griezmann is rapidly emerging as the man of the tournament, growing in confidence with every game. He skitters around the final third, little thrusts of pace pushing him into positions where he might find sustenance — like a header down from Olivier Giroud, or a long ball over the top from Blaise Matuidi. He’s always moving, always searching — like a fox in your backyard after a particularly enthusiastic barbecue, convinced that there’s a bit of sausage out there in the grass somewhere. On six occasions now, he has been proven right.It’s a far cry from the Griezmann we saw in the first game against Romania, nervously swinging at the ball, radiating anxiety at every turn. Deschamps might be a romantic, but knew he couldn’t risk another performance like that in the second game against Albania. Griezmann was duly replaced by Antony Martial. He returned again for the meaningless third group game against Switzerland and did enough to retain his place for the first round of 16 against Ireland. And that’s when his tournament burst into life.Giroud will be mocked for aspects of his performance in Marseille, but it was back in Lyon versus the Irish that he helped unlock Griezmann’s brilliance and set him on his way. Giroud’s tireless work in the air, smashing into Shane Duffy and Richard Keogh and winning the knockdowns, gave his younger teammate the chance to run into space. Griezmann had already brought France back from a goal down with his own powerful header. Three minutes later, Giroud put him through and France were in front.Their relationship began to flourish. “He’s a little man who gives us a little bit extra,” said Giroud in Marseille, before correcting himself. “A lot extra.”Giroud, of course, is not favoured by a comparison to the Atletico Madrid man, looking somehow even more glacial than usual. When Jerome Boateng inexplicably mistimed a header on the halfway line, the comparison looked even harsher. Griezmann would have been in the penalty area in seconds, looking to loft the ball over Manuel Neuer’s head. Instead, as Giroud trundled into life, empires rose and fell, stars burst into their glorious death throes far away in the night sky, and Giroud plodded on like spaghetti sliding slowly down a kitchen wall. When the next opportunity like that emerges, all of France will pray it falls to Griezmann.And now France return to Paris in search of victory and, perhaps, some degree of catharsis. Last November, while her brother was playing for France against Germany at the Stade de France, Griezmann’s sister was caught up in the Paris terror attacks. Maud Griezmann escaped the Bataclan Theatre unharmed but 89 people were killed. Eight months later, memories and emotions surrounding that awful night will continue to be revisited. Griezmann, though, will seek to maintain the focus he has shown throughout.”Just before the Romania match, the President came to talk to us about the security measures in and around the stadium and we were pretty calm. It was our duty to win the matches to entertain the French people and go all the way. That’s what we needed to do as the French national side.”And now they are just a single step away from glory. One win against a Portugal side that, whatever its strengths or weaknesses, is certainly a less foreboding prospect than Germany.”We’re like kids,” grinned Griezmann. “There’s a whole country behind us and we have to give 100 percent for them.”Now we have to win the final.”Iain Macintosh is a writer for ESPN FC. 

Germany coach Joachim Low: We were the ‘better team’ against France

Germany coach Joachim Low believes his side were the “better team” in their Euro 2016 semifinal loss, though he conceded that France are worthy finalists.Didier Deschamps’ France side spent the large majority of the game on the back foot, with Germany ending the game having had 65 percent possession.However, despite having the majority of the ball, Low’s team struggled to create many goal-scoring opportunities and they eventually fell to a 2-0 defeat.And Low, who guided Germany to World Cup success two years ago in Brazil, couldn’t pick a major fault in his side’s performance and put the result down to bad luck.”We were the better team,” Low said. “We put in a lot of effort, showed good body language, got forward and were good in one on ones.”We were unfortunate to concede a penalty a minute before half-time, that was bad luck. We had our chances but didn’t score.”Today we didn’t have the luck we needed; in 2010 and 2012 when we went out, the sides were better than us. Today we were better than the French but for the goals and result.”But despite his opinion of his own team’s performance against France, Low said he thought Les Bleus would go on to win the final against Portugal.”France have succeeded in getting to the final — if you win 2-0 you deserve it,” he said. “I think France will win against Portugal — Portugal haven’t convinced me that much so far.”France have a very good side but we were the better team today.”

Germany had 65 percent possession and 17 shots on goal, but only six were on target.

Germany were playing without Sami Khedira and Mario Gomez, who were both injured in the quarterfinal win against Italy, and the suspended Mats Hummels, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Emre Can made their first starts of the tournament.Jerome Boateng also left the semifinal on the hour mark with an injury, and Low said Germany were not the same side without the missing players.”There were injured players, Khedira and Gomez, Hummels was suspended and Boateng went off injured — they’re hard players to replace,” Low said.”The side did everything I told them, showed a lot of courage so there’s nothing to reproach them for.”Antoine Griezmann’s penalty put France ahead against the run of play before half-time before adding a second goal by poking home a loose ball.Low said the 72nd-minute strike was a momentarily lapse in an otherwise good defensive effort.”We didn’t get the ball away from a dangerous position — we did that quite well throughout the game,” he said. “We dominated France, most of all in midfield, but for this goal we didn’t.”We created pressure in the second half but there was always the danger on the counter — we invested everything and we tried everything, and we had our chances.”It was an abrupt end to the tournament for the reigning World Cup champions, but Low said he looked ahead with optimism.”This was a good tournament for us. We have great energy in this side, they showed great effort — also in training in Evian — and in the games they’ve proved their great team spirit.”It was impressive how players who didn’t play helped the side, so there’s going to be a short analysis but I haven’t seen too many errors in this tournament from us. Overall, we have a great side.

Germany suffer “that kind of game” as France triumph in Euro 2016 semifinal

MARSEILLE, France — Here, at last, almost at the end of the competition, was a match that truly delivered. Germany vs. France — the World Cup winners against the European champions-elect, in the country’s finest stadium — served up a classic battle between contrasting styles. It was 90 breathless minutes full of drama, incident and an overall quality of football that lived up to its “final before the final” billing.However, for the dejected players of the losing German side who mostly shuffled through the Stade Velodrome mixed zone with drooped shoulders, all the excitement and sense of occasion was long gone an hour after the final whistle, dissolved into the wet, heavy Marseille air along with their hopes for a second consecutive trophy triumph.In their tired minds, the big night had already shrunk to resemble a sad but rather mundane event, the kind of game that everyone who’s ever played or watched football at any level has witnessed a hundred times, the kind of game where you play well enough to win but contrive to lose anyway, the kind of game that stubbornly refuses to go the way of cheers and hugs and only ever ends in sighs and shrugs. Because that, too, is football.And it was that kind of game. “This one is relatively easy to explain,” said Germany’s Toni Kroos with a wry, philosophical smile. “France played the way we expected and we found the solutions we had hoped to find. But then we conceded a second penalty [after the one against Italy] in a way that you simply cannot prepare for. You have to deal with that. And we dealt with it, quite sensibly. We had chances, we had France running [after the ball]. But we didn’t score the goals.”That was the crux of the matter on Thursday night. Germany manager Joachim Low believed his team was “the better side,” dominating possession and pushing the hosts deep into their own half. “If we had played at home like [France played], the crowd would have booed us,” said keeper Manuel Neuer of France’s, but it all counted for nothing on the scoreboard. Football is like that, and you can’t even say it’s unfair. That’s just the way it is.Who would know that better than a German national team that for decades have been specialists at grinding results against the run of play? France turned the tables on them. After losing two World Cup semifinals against the bogey team on their Eastern border, despite having the better team, France managed to win from a position of relative weakness.To put it differently, the Germans left the competition feeling that they had beaten themselves.Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger’s instinctive, fatal handball just before half-time put Germany on course for defeat even though they had, for 30 minutes at least, “played the best football at the Euros,” as Kroos said. “It was a reflex,” the inconsolable Schweinsteiger explained. “It’s always difficult when you mark zonally, there’s so much movement.” Nobody blamed referee Nicola Rizzoli for the call.”I understand why he gave it,” said Neuer, “but from my keeper’s point of view, I can tell you: I would have saved that ball anyway.” Sadly, the laws of the game don’t concern themselves with such subtleties.A series of needless mistakes at the back — a risky pass, a bad first touch, a keeper making the rash decision to come out and tip away the cross instead of staying put — gifted Antoine Griezmann, who converted the penalty kick after the handball, a second goal 18 minutes before the end. By this time Germany must have realized it wasn’t going to be their night. They created three or four more decent opportunities but couldn’t score. It was that kind of game, an everyday occurrence at the worst possible time.Never a player to admit guilt easily, Neuer maintained that it was “better to lose this way” than to go out in the semifinal as the inferior team, as they had done in 2008 and 2010 (both vs. Spain) and in 2012 (vs. Italy). “We’ve done well on the whole; there’s a good mix for the future, as well,” said the Bayern goalie.General manager Oliver Bierhoff was less able to see the positives, on the other hand. “It’s frustrating, it’s unnecessary,” he said. “You don’t have to go out that way.”Two lapses of concentration were simply two too many at this stage of the competition, and against a side that had in Griezmann precisely what Germany were missing: a striker in a rich vein of form, so hot that he can burn a path to the final in France all by himself.Asked for a quick word on his goal-less Euros, Thomas Muller, the man who was supposed to be Germany’s Griezmann, answered with an expletive. It wasn’t meant as a curse, more as a descriptive noun. “My game was tonight typical of our team on a whole; we worked hard but got nothing in return,” said the Bayern forward, with deep disappointment evident in his voice.Muller, 26, mustered only a couple of scuffed half-chances before the break and even fewer in the second half. He looked utterly überspielt: “played out,” mentally drained, without energy and ideas. Without the injured Mario Gomez and Marco Reus, who once again pulled out on the eve of the tournament, Low’s squad lacked cutting edge. All the fine possession play and crosses from useful positions could never make up for that deficit.New players could emerge in time for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, just as Joshua Kimmich, Jonathan Tah, Julian Weigl and Leroy Sané have emerged since the World Cup in Brazil. With a bit of luck, one of them will either be a striker or will be very good at doing a striker’s job.Muller will still be there, too, even if Schweinsteiger will probably call it a day. In the aftermath of elimination, he felt too raw to make the decision to resign: “I haven’t yet had the time to think about [it],” said the Manchester United midfielder. He had naturally envisaged a different ending; there was no sense pretending that Germany could be content with going out at the penultimate hurdle.”When you’re together for six weeks, all that matters is the title,” said Bierhoff.If there was any solace, though, it could be found in the fact that this was ultimately only that kind of game for Germany. It’s neither a one-off nor a historic chance missed, but the sort of bad result that can happen only if you play well to begin with. They’ll get a chance to do better in two years’ time.Raphael Honigstein is ESPN FC’s German football expert

Cristiano Ronaldo: Portugal have ‘dreamed’ of making Euro 2016 final

Cristiano Ronaldo said Portugal have “dreamed” of making the final of Euro 2016 “since the very beginning.”Portugal progressed to the tournament’s final after beating Wales 2-0 and Ronaldo opened the scoring himself with a superb headed goal in the 50th minute.But despite his own individual performance, he preferred to focus on the entire team right down to medical staff.”It’s what we have dreamed of since the beginning,” Ronaldo said. “We knew it would be a long road and we’re still in the tournament.”We have believed right from the start. We had difficult moments, but it’s like I always say: It’s better to start poorly and have a positive ending.”The players deserve it, the coach deserves it. The entire medical staff as well. They have been doing an excellent job with the players’ fitness.”We haven’t won anything yet as I said a few days ago, but the dream is still alive.”The Portugal captain hailed the team’s togetherness throughout the tournament, and said he always believed they would advance to the latter stages of the competition.”Of course we are a team. The national team are a unit. That’s how we’ve been acting since the start. I’ve tried to help out, not just by scoring goals but by fighting, scrapping,” Ronaldo told UEFA.  “To get to the final you have to have all 23 players in the squad fighting.”I’m very happy. I believed in my heart that we’d go far. Maybe it didn’t start as we wanted to but this is not a 100-metre race. This is a marathon.”He added: “Portugal are not just about Cristiano Ronaldo, we are a team. But I was able to score today and I’ve helped the team get to the final by scoring a goal.”Teammate Cedric Soares was also full of praise for his nation’s performance, and said they will prepare the best they possibly can for Sunday’s game.”This is all about winning and that’s why we’re going to Paris,” said Soares, whose team will face either France or Germany in the final on Sunday. “France and Germany are both amazing teams, but we’ll prepare the best we can for the final.”It’s amazing. Incredible to be in the final, it defies description but we’ve earned this, we deserved the congratulations.”We were united, focused, but we have to congratulate Wales too, it was the first time they reached the semis, we knew they were a good team but we came out on top.”Ronaldo and Portugal were stunned on home soil in the final of Euro 2004 by unlikely champions Greece in the former Manchester United star’s first taste of the tournament. “Euro 2004 was special, I was just 18 and it was my first tournament. Now we are in the final again and we hope we will win it,” Ronaldo said.”I didn’t think many people thought we would make the final but we have and that makes me very proud.”Portugal forward Nani, who scored the second against Wales on Wednesday, admitted his goal came as a surprise and said the victory was cause for celebration.”It’s a weird feeling [to have scored],” Nani said. “It was a surprise goal; it was instinct.”I didn’t even have time to prepare my celebration. I just wanted to celebrate and dedicate the goal to my family who were there in the stands.”I’m very happy to play my part and help our national team. It’s an honour to represent our country — this amazing national team that’s doing an excellent job.”At this moment we have to celebrate, because it’s an amazing moment. It’s a historic moment for our country. And we have to celebrate.”Follow ESPN FC across social media o 

Ronaldo, Portugal accept manager’s challenge to reach Euro 2016 final

Cristiano Ronaldo broke the deadlock shortly after halftime and Portugal march on to the final on Sunday.

LYON, France — On Oct. 11, 2014, Portugal coach Fernando Santos took charge of a battered side — they had just lost a home European qualifier against Albania — for the first time in a friendly against France. The game ended in a 2-1 defeat for the Portuguese, but far more important than the result was a challenge laid down by the new manager.

“I called my players together in the bowels of the Stade de France and told them that our goal was to be right back here two years later for the final of Euro 2016,” he said after Wednesday’s 2-0 semifinal win against Wales. “And now we have done it. Now we have a final to play. And I don’t just want to play it. I want to win it.”With his dark eyes and often dark demanour, Fernando Santos doesn’t often give way to emotion, beyond a certain melancholy orneriness. But after this win on Wednesday, he was positively beaming. His men had upheld the oath they made that day.”We’re not the best team in the world, but we know that we are not pushovers, either,” he said. “We work hard. And above all, we are a team. A team of 23, plus all the fans too.”The gods of football protocol move in mysterious ways, which might explain how we ended up with both teams in their second strip and, in both cases, green: dark for the Welsh; minty fresh for Portugal.Both sides also ended up without two projected starters. For Wales, it was the suspended Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies, replaced by Andy King and James Collins. Portugal were without the banned William Carvalho, who was ably spelled by Danilo. And they also lost Pepe after he failed a late fitness test; in came Bruno Alves.Portugal did not win because of the absentees, but they did serve as a reminder that the difference between medium-sized nations and smaller ones is often measured in depth beyond the first XI.King, as natural a replacement for Ramsey as you’re likely to find, did everything the Arsenal man normally does, but he simply didn’t do it as well or with as much quality. Collins, a big, bruising center-half, was asked to play on the edge of a back three in a role usually filled by Davies, whose day job is left-back and an attacking one at that.Contrast this with Portugal. There is a drop-off from Pepe to Bruno Alves, but we’re still talking experienced, veteran and uncompromising center-backs. And Danilo, if anything, was a better match than Carvalho in a game like this.More important was the fact that Fernando Santos was able to welcome back Raphael Guerreiro, perhaps the best left-back in the tournament when fit, and he also seemed to have found the right midfield balance ahead of Danilo, with Renato Sanches and Adrien Silva joining Joao Mario.And yet the first half felt as if the contest could have gone either way. Ten minutes in, Ronaldo tumbled to the ground and complained energetically; replays showed Collins had him in something between a headlock and a sleeper hold when Cedric Soares’ crossed into the Welsh box.Meanwhile, a Hal Robson-Kanu cross found King cutting in ahead of Jose Fonte to head just over the bar. It was the kind of chance that left you wondering whether Ramsey might have had more luck.As for the two marquee names, Ronaldo was often frustrated in the first 45 minutes, though just before the break, he did well to get on the end of an Adrien Silva cross. His timing, however, wasn’t as good, and the chance went over the bar.Bale was often driven wide by Danilo’s presence, though he had a decent whack from 12 yards after a set-piece corner routine caught Portugal entirely unprepared. The Welsh star also unearthed at least one of his mighty gallops that wreaked havoc in the Portuguese lines and ended with a shot at Rui Patricio.As the teams filed back out after half-time, you felt each had a path to victory. For Wales, it meant keeping Portugal in areas where they could not inflict damage and were waiting for either the moment of individual brilliance or an opposition mistake.

For Portugal, it was also about those two factors, but they had a third weapon on their side: Their passing and movement simply meant they had a wider range of solutions and, in football, that often equals creating more situations where you can make your individuals count AND force errors.Both came together in minute 50. Portugal played a short corner and, from Raphael Guerreiro’s subsequent cross, Ronaldo cleverly lost his marker. James Chester tried to pick him up as the ball came in, but he was no match as the man from Madeira rose into the sky and powered the ball under the bar.When you see Ronaldo take to the air like that — part kangaroo, part levitating holy man — you’re reminded that if the rest of his skill set was entirely mediocre, he could still make a living as a one-trick pony target man on a mid-table side.”That first goal was going to be crucial,” Wales manager Chris Coleman said later. “We lost our concentration for five minutes, and when you’re up against the quality of a team like Portugal, then they’ll capitalize on it.”Wales were still absorbing the shock and regrouping when Ronaldo struck again, pouncing on a short clearance and unleashing a shot from the edge of the box. He may or may not have mishit it but, either way, it flashed into the area where Nani, who had shaken off Collins, deflected it past Wayne Hennessey. (Renato Sanches appeared offside and that might have thrown the Welsh defense but, in any case, he was not interfering with play.)It was a kick to the gut and a further swing of momentum, which was already going Portugal’s way. Ronaldo sent a scary free kick — perhaps the best one he’s taken for a long time in a national team shirt — whistling over Hennessey’s bar.Ronaldo’s reaction — mouth open, jaw locked, fists clenched, eyes wide — told the whole story: He was close to berserk mode. A few minutes passed before Portugal were on the verge of the knockout blow again. A nasty Nani shot was parried away by Hennessy, and Joao Mario tucked the rebound just wide.By this point, Coleman had called up whatever artillery he had left and on came Simon Church, Sam Vokes and Jonny Williams. But Portugal were unfazed. They could smell it. Bale stormed around the pitch, but all he could muster were two long-range efforts, with not quite enough Welsh mustard to beat Rui Patricio.At the final whistle, both teams saluted their supporters. The Welsh put on red shirts, which they then threw into the stands. And their fans? They stood as one, as they’ve done throughout this tournament. And they sang what has become their Euro 2016 anthem: “Don’t take me home … Please don’t take me … I just don’t want to go to work …”They’ll have to now; it’s over. At least in some ways. But not in others.”I told my players that this tournament may have ended, but it’s not the end for them,” Coleman said. “They’ll be here when I’m long gone. Tonight was simply a challenge too far.”Indeed it was. On the night when it all come together for Portugal, the Dragon was slain. Just as it was in 1958. Back then, it was a man named Pele who scored the winner as a Welsh legend named John Charles was forced to watch from the stands. On Wednesday, it was a man named Ronaldo, perhaps on the way to legend status himself, and Ramsey was the forced absentee.Portugal can look ahead to a match against Germany or France. Ronaldo, the only man to have been to the final before, back in 2004, was philosophical:”I was just 18 back then; it was my first final,” he said. “Now, we’re one step away from being European champions. Dreaming is free, so let’s keep dreaming.”Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN FC, The Times and Corriere dello Sport. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.

Cristiano Ronaldo steals headlines from man-of-the-match Adrien

Cristiano Ronaldo broke the deadlock shortly after halftime and Portugal march on to the final on Sunday.A controlled and dominant display by Portugal on Wednesday resulted in a 2-0 victory over Wales to book a place in the Euro 2016 final on Sunday in Paris. Portugal will face the winner of Thursday’s semifinal between hosts France and reigning World Cup champions Germany.Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani scored goals any centre-forward would be proud of, further justifying coach Fernando Santos’ decision to play the two wingers as strikers in this tournament. Each has notched three goals in Portugal’s six matches so far.Ronaldo, the captain who scored and provided the assist for Nani’s goal, will inevitably hog the headlines, but midfield dynamo Adrien did the most to make Portugal tick Wednesday, with a forceful and skilful display in the centre of the pitch

Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):

GK, Rui Patricio, 7/10 — Did not have a whole lot to do, but did his job when called upon, especially when diving to repel a wicked swerving shot from Gareth Bale in the 80th minute that could have put Wales back into the match.

DF, Cedric Soares, 8/10 — After watching Vieirinha play the group matches, Soares has taken his chance with both hands in the knockout stages. Competent both in his defensive duties and when lending a hand in attack, he produced one brilliant robbery of the ball followed by a dangerous cross into the Wales box in the 25th minute. Not afraid to try his luck from range.

DF, Jose Fonte, 7/10 — Fonte’s participation in this tournament is a neat metaphor for his whole career. The Southampton captain had to work hard for years as he steadily made his way to the top of the game. Initially not a starter at Euro 2016, Fonte patiently waited for his chance. He has played the past three games, has not put a foot wrong, and looks odds-on to start the final on Sunday.

DF, Bruno Alves, 7/10 — A surprise selection after Pepe’s injury, the big centre-back let nobody down, using his strong aerial game to good effect to help nullify Wales’ threat from set pieces.

DF, Raphael Guerreiro, 7/10 — His fourth game for Portugal at Euro 2016, his fourth highly positive performance. Composure, invention, incisiveness all rolled into one. Fans of A Selecao will be praying he remains fit for the final.

MF, Joao Mario, 7/10 — Much more involved than against Croatia and Poland, Mario showed flashes of what he is capable of with some excellent combination play, particularly with club colleague Adrien, and generally kept the ball well. Will be disappointed not to have scored when he followed up Nani’s effort in the 66th minute.

MF, Danilo, 7/10 — A sound display in his usual style, keeping things simple and using his height and muscle to good effect. Almost capped the night with a goal: Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey just managed to keep out Danilo’s shot after a strong run into the box.

MF, Adrien, 8/10 — Man-of-the-match performance from the Sporting Clube de Portugal captain, bossing the centre of the pitch with a typical all-action display. Combined tenacious tackling and tracking with swift passing and clever combinations. Another player, like Fonte and Cedric, who did not feature in the group phase but who is now surely a certainty to line up in the final.

MF, Renato Sanches, 6/10 — The 18-year-old sensation showed his rawness with a series of errant and rushed passes, especially in the first half when he looked ill at ease wide on the right. Improved significantly in the second half, and he will have an important role to play in Paris, for sure.

FW, Nani, 8/10 — It’s remarkable to think that Nani was probably the most contested starter among Portugal fans in the lead-up to Euro 2016. He has been a revelation in his new centre-forward position. The news that he has signed for Valencia will only further boost his confidence. Scored his third goal of the tournament with an opportunist strike and threatened to add to that tally. Reborn.

FW, Cristiano Ronaldo, 8/10 — For the second match running, Ronaldo was denied a clear penalty as James Collins somehow got away with a headlock more in keeping with a wrestling ring than a football pitch. Ronaldo’s thumping header broke the deadlock, his mishit shot led to Portugal’s second, and he twice came close to scoring again, once after rounding the keeper but running out of angle, and from a free kick that just cleared the bar.

Substitutes:

MF, Andre Gomes, N/R — Kept Portugal in the ascendency when he replaced Sanches, and on one excellent break set up a great chance for Ronaldo late on.

MF, Joao Moutinho, N/R — Replaced an exhausted Adrien for the last 10 minutes. Steady as ever.

FW, Ricardo Quaresma, N/R — Given five minutes, it was time enough to win a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box.

Women’s socer team to wear shirts, temporary tattoos in protest

Originally posted on Larry Brown Sports  |  By Larry Brown  |  Last updated 7/7/16

US women’s soccer team members wear Equal Play for Equal Pay shirts. Hope Solo on Twitter

 

The US Women’s national soccer team is preparing to get as vocal as possible about their mission to receive equal pay and treatment as the Men’s national team.According to the New York Times, ahead of their game Saturday against South Africa in Chicago, theUSWNT plans to wear T-shirts endorsing an “Equal Play Equal Pay” message. The players union is also creating temporary tattoos with the same slogan for the players to wear on the field during their matches.Due to the terms of their collective bargaining agreement with the US Soccer Federation, the team is not allowed to strike. But they will have a chance to renegotiate terms when the current agreement ends after the year. The Olympics also frown upon athletes using the Games as an opportunity to make social and political commentary, but the women are looking to use their platform leading up to Rio to their advantage.Among the complaints from the women’s team — led by Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, Hope Solo and Becky Sauerbrunn — is that their travel conditions, field conditions, and pay are all significantly worse than what the men receive. While it’s true that in the past the men received more in TV money and brought in more fans/ratings and higher ticket prices, the opposite has occurred lately due to the recent success and explosion in popularity of the women’s team.

SOLO POISED TO HIT CENTURY MARK FOR SHUTOUTS

WITH ONE MORE SHUTOUT, HOPE SOLO WILL ADD ANOTHER MILESTONE TO HER LEGENDARY CAREER

WNT Jul 8, 2016

Hope Solo’s first shutout did not come like many that would follow under bright stadium lights in front of a massive, screaming and adoring crowd. It came more than 16 years ago during an 8-0 win at a closed-door international – the U.S. played those back then – against Iceland in Davidson, North Carolina. There was only a smattering of people in the stands.It was a modest debut for what would grow into a spectacular career, perhaps the best for an international goalkeeper. And against South Africa on July 9 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Solo has a chance to achieve a milestone never before reached when she goes for her 100th shutout.Should she hit the century mark in the next match, the shutout would come in her 197th cap, giving her a clean sheet in just under every second match she has played for the USA. It’s a remarkable achievement, especially considering the amount of important matches she has played in World Cups, Olympics, and qualifying for those tournaments. And despite the increasing competitiveness of the women’s game internationally, the wins and shutouts have continued to accrue at the same rate.

She’s earned shutouts on dusty fields on the southern coast of Portugal, in ultra-modern stadiums built for a World Cup in South Korea, in massive multi-purpose stadiums in China, in the soccer-specific stadiums of the USA and in some of Europe’s green cathedrals. Playing behind a strong U.S. team for her entire career, Solo has had her share of matches in which she was not called upon to make many saves, but during her tenure there has been a much more common scenario. These are matches that feature several dangerous moments, ones that happen in a flash, where she has stepped up to keep an opponent off the board with a brilliant save or a brave punch in goal area traffic, bringing crowds to their feet, impacting games tremendously, and yes, enabling her to earn a bushels of shutouts.“She has the ability to remain totally focused for 90 minutes, whether it’s making saves in the 20th, 45th or the 92nd minutes,” said U.S. goalkeeper coach Graeme Abel. “That focus and efficiency in her performances allows her to remain in control at all times, and it’s a huge positive for any team to have a player like that in goal.”

Solo’s athleticism has always been world class, and when you add her in prodigious kicking game, her physical abilities are perhaps peerless to any goalkeeper who has ever represented her country. But it is her mental game and her tremendous competitive focus that has pushed her into the realm of the best-ever at her position.Her mentality and ability to lock in and focus on the job at hand while directing the defense and owning her penalty box are legendary.They say you practice like you play, and anyone who has ever played with and against Solo in practice knows of her tremendous training ethic.“Hope’s attention to detail both on and off the training field and her drive for perfection while evaluating video is a key factor in transferring performances from practice to match days,” said Abel. “Those qualities are main reasons that she’s had so much longevity in a position that continually evolves.”Another impressive stat is where she has earned those shutouts, with more coming in difficult environments abroad (53) than on U.S. soil (46). Of her 99 shutouts, almost a third have come in FIFA or CONCACAF tournaments, earning 16 in World Cup and Olympic play, and another 15 in World Cup or Olympic Qualifying.Her shutouts have come against 28 different countries, with 10 each against CONCACAF rivals Canada and Mexico. A total of 37 of her shutouts have come against European teams and 52 against the likes of world powers like Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, England, France, Japan, Nigeria, Norway and Sweden.In 2016, Solo has earned nine shutouts in her 10 wins so far, including seven in a row, tying her own record for most consecutive games played with clean sheets (she had seven in a row back in 2005). One must think, considering the way the U.S. team is playing so far this year, she has a good shot to break her personal record of 13 shutouts in a calendar year, set in another Olympic year in 2008.Of course, Solo and the U.S. team famously earned five consecutive shutouts in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, allowing a goal against Australia in the first match and two to Japan in the World Cup Final, but in between the USA completely smothered opposing attacks.It was the match against Australia where Solo made two other-worldly saves, and several more that would qualify as tremendous if it wasn’t for her two stops in the first half that perhaps changed the course of the World Cup.In just the fifth minute of the match with the scored tied 0-0, Australian attacker Emily van Egmond unleashed a blast from just 16 yards out that was headed into the upper right corner before Solo threw her body to her left and with a brilliant reaction save, pushed the ball off the crossbar with both hands.That set the stage for Megan Rapinoe to put the USA up 1-0 in the 12th minute. Just a minute later, Solo amazingly topped the first save with another lighting reaction to push away Sam Kerr’s point-blank volley with her left hand.But perhaps one of her most important “saves” of the World Cup came when she didn’t even touch the ball.In the 59th minute of a tight Women’s World Cup semifinal match against Germany, Julie Johnston was whistled for a penalty kick for pulling down massive striker Alexandra Popp. Up stepped Celia Sasic, one of the best penalty kick takers in the world. Solo played the mental game with Sasic and won it, making her wait about three minutes before the kick was taken. The German star missed just wide left to keep the score at 0-0.No German player — man or woman — had ever missed a penalty kick in a World Cup. That miss set the stage for Carli Lloyd’s heroics when she converted a penalty kick in the 70th minute, and for a Kelley O’Hara goal that finished off the game near the end to send the USA back to the World Cup Final.It was just another example of how Solo impacts games, which she does with her voice, her presence and her soccer savvy, helping her defense defuse chances before they come to fruition. These are all factors that have been keys to her earning so many shutouts as well.Those were just a few moments of many, albeit under the brightest of lights, that spotlight the impact Solo has on matches. Whether she gets the shutout or not (and her 99 so far shows that she often does), what has been abundantly clear is that whenever she’s in goal, it’s highly likely the U.S. will get the win.“To be able to set records and reach milestones such as these at any level is a great achievement,” added Abel. “But to do it on the world’s stage is just a phenomenal feat.”

Jurgen Klinsmann hails U.S. advances but calls foundation ‘fragile’

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann has told CNN he believes the foundation for soccer in the United States is “fragile and disconnected” in comparison to some of the systems in place for world football powers such as England, Germany, Spain and France.Klinsmann, 51, said that the growth of the sport in America has been remarkable and believes soccer has truly arrived in the nation.However, the California-based coach called the challenges facing the U.S. a complicated puzzle compared to other countries and one that’s “not perfect yet” in a wide-ranging interview.”The foundation in the United States is still fragile and disconnected compared to other countries,” Klinsmann said. “The youth leagues do their own thing, the professional system is not really connected to the amateur system, and that’s not really connected to the college system.”So there are holes in the system, like in a Swiss cheese, and there’s a loss of quality. We’re working on connecting those pieces, on connecting player development, and on continuing to build a pyramid in this amazing country.”Klinsmann led the national team to the country’s best-ever finish in a Copa America at the competition’s 100th anniversary edition, which was hosted in the U.S. last month.The fourth-place finish came after winning a challenging group and advancing to the semifinals, before being outclassed 4-0 by Lionel Messi and Argentina and then losing to Colombia in the third-place playoff.”It’s a bigger puzzle in the United States than in other countries, and it’s not perfect yet. That’s what makes it so exciting; we’re building something great here,” Klinsmann said. “We don’t have a system in place like France or Germany or even South American countries.”If you look at the FA in England, it’s more than 100 years old and they already have their infrastructure, scouting, coaches’ education, national training center, and the pyramid is connected.”There’s relatively little infrastructure work to do in England because it’s all there. Here in the United States, building that infrastructure is still important. That’s what’s so fascinating and rewarding about this.”Klinsmann said he understands the frustrations of U.S. fans who want to compete at the highest level with the world’s top teams, but the Germans urged patience by saying there’s “no gain without pain.”He added: “The transition is happening step by step. We’re playing against the bigger nations, we’re attacking those bigger nations and holding our own against them.”There’s no growth without taking risks. And there’s no growth without failure along the way. We’re getting out of our comfort zone, and we’re making some big strides forward.”The next step is to become one of the best soccer nations in the world. The USMNT has become an important engine for growth in the United States. We’re trying to do everything we can to make the national team as successful as possible in the World Cup, which is the benchmark for everyone around the world.”

Clint Dempsey open to super-sub role for United States at 2018 World Cup

Clint Dempsey said he would be open to a super-sub role off the bench for the United States at the 2018 World Cup if that’s what the team asked of him.Dempsey, 33, was back to his best for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario, scoring three goals for the Americans as the team reached the semifinals only to lose to Argentina and then Colombia in the third-placed match to finish fourth.By the time the World Cup in Russia rolls around, though, Dempsey will be 35, and he admits he would be willing — and possibly forced — to be used as a substitute.”Yeah, I could do that,” Dempsey told Colin Cowherd on FS1. “It would be tough, but at the same time you have to look at it in the right way.”You have to say, ‘All right, if I do play, am I fit enough that I can go 90 minutes nonstop?'” Dempsey said. “Or is it, ‘Do I put in a 60-minute shift, 70-minute shift and get subbed? Or do you come on maybe later in the game when everybody’s tired and try to get goals?”So being a goalscorer, that does appeal to me, that I could come on in a game and change it. I would be open to it.Dempsey added that it was an honour to represent his country in any capacity, having done so 131 times, scoring 52 goals, just five behind the all-time mark for the U.S. set by Landon Donovan.”[I’ve] been able to play in three different World Cups,” Dempsey said. “That would be nice to be able to say that you were in a fourth. Not a lot of people can say that.”The one-time U.S. captain also talked about youth development and player identification, underscoring some of the challenges and opportunities that exist for up-and-coming soccer players in the States.Asked if “pay-to-play” scenarios for youths was a detriment to kids whose families couldn’t afford expensive travelling teams, Dempsey said: “I think so. I think that’s fair. Especially if you’re trying to play club ball.”To some of the clubs’ credit, they do have scholarships, they have players they help in being able to deal with the fees. I was lucky enough to play for a club that helped me with that.”It’s difficult for kids to get that right type of coaching, get that development. And if you’re growing up in a small town, really all you have is the recreational league that you can play in, the high-school team that you can hopefully play for, play in men’s league, Hispanic leagues on the weekends, and hope that someone can see you there.”

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven vs Minnesota United FC
Saturday, July 9, 2016 – 7:30 p.m. ET  Carroll
 Stadium – Indy Eleven

Team Records:

Watch Live:

  • Local: WISH-TV
  • National: beIN Sports

Last Time Out – Puerto Rico 1 : 1 Indy Eleven

Indy Eleven began their 2016 Fall Season trek away from home at Puerto Rico FC in a one-all draw with the expansion side. A first half that featured plenty of action, PRFC began the match on the forefront and looked likely to be first on the scoresheet. Kicking their way through the opening 45 minutes, the physicality was upped a notch as the match matured though neither team were able to capitalize on a limited number of chances in a scoreless first half.After a flurry of chances for the “Boys in Blue,” the hosts did eventually end up opening the scoring as forward Hector Ramos nicked in a cross from Kyle Culbertson in the 74th minute to swing momentum back in their favor. Continuing to battle back, though, “Indiana’s Team” pushed against the grain to create a few chances in the final 15 minutes and right at the death, they got the goal they were looking for. Defender Nemanja Vukovic swung in a lifted cross off a set piece, and there to meet it on his NASL debut was forward Souleymane Youla. The Turk nodded the delivery across the line and Indy Eleven ended up stealing an important point away from home.

Last Time Out – Minnesota United FC 5 : 1 Carolina Railhawks

Minnesota United FC made quite the statement in the opening game of the fall slate with a 5-1 thrashing of Railhawks FC at home last Saturday night. Two goals from Christian Ramirez, both within five minutes of each other, got things off right for the hosts, and the midfielder also bagged an assist on Stefano Pinho’s finish in the first minute of added time to make it 3-0 at the end of the half. In the 47th minute, Tiago Calvano added a fourth goal to fully boost the rout, and Christian Ramirez completed his hat-trick in the 75th minute on the back end of a cross from midfielder Danny Cruz.The consolation goal for Railhawks FC came in the 90th minute from Matt Watson, but it was hardly enough to put a dent on Minnesota United FC’s party as they highly impressed in the fall opener.-> TICKETS | Craft Beer Night – Indy Eleven vs. Minnesota United FC <-

Eleven on Revenge Watch

Though the 4-2 win over Minnesota United FC on May 21 in the Spring Season was as sweet as the club had seen in history, the problem with every big win is the return – and there is none bigger than Saturday for the Loons. As Indy Eleven hoist the Spring Season trophy pregame, no doubt the former spring champions will look on with a glimmer of revenge in their eyes ahead of one of the biggest clashes of talent in the Fall Season.Despite being just 1/22 of the way through the second portion of the year, this match has a lot of promise. Firstly, it features the two top goalscorers in the league in Christian Ramirez and Eamon Zayed. The former jumped to the top of the charts with his first week hat-trick, while Zayed sits solely in second after his hat-trick to end the spring against Carolina. From a team standpoint, the game also features two of the best defenses in the league as the Eleven have conceded just nine goals in eleven matches to the Loons’ 13 goals in the same frame. With Saturday night’s contest being the fall home opener and against one of the fall’s strongest sides, “Indiana’s Team” can circle this match on the calendar as a must win.
Spring Season Champs Means Little in Fall

It would be all too easy for Coach Hankinson’s side to sit back and coast through the fall – after all, winning the spring means automatic placement into the four-team playoff in November – but that isn’t the mindset. Hunger is the mindset, and the desire to push forward and keep their place as the team to beat in the NASL.Champions, unbeaten, etc. it’s all great. But when the Loons travel to Indianapolis for the first of two meetings between the sides in one week, the “Boys in Blue” have the challenging task of putting it all at the back of their mind. Knowing that this week is the first of a few where the team is in action multiple times in a seven day span, the Spring Season feat must serve only as a motivational reminder of where this team has been, but also where they can go moving forward.Indy Eleven OG’s: How Brad Ring, Don Smart, and Dylan Mares keep riding the Eleven wave
Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: GK Jon Busch

He’s one of, if not the, best ‘keepers in the league with one of the best defenses in front of him, but Saturday’s task at hand for Jon Busch may be his toughest in an Indy Eleven uniform so far.The Loons are red hot right now and have plenty of attacking options at their disposal, while Indy Eleven will be missing their stalwart and captain Colin Falvey in the center of defense due to injury. While Cory Miller has proven an incredibly effective replacement, it’s likely that “Buschy” will be facing a few shots on goal Saturday night – just as he could have been had Falvey been fit. Regardless, the 18-year MLS vet will have a big test on his hands (and feet) on Saturday night.
Who to Watch, Minnesota United FC edition: FW Christian Ramirez

An easy pick for Player of the Week, Minnesota United FC forward Christian Ramirez was the star of the show on Saturday in his video game-like performance that featured three goals and one assist in their 5-1 win. amirez, who now leads the league in goals (8), is capable of scoring from any angle and has proven to be more than your typical bundle of a forward. His first goal against Carolina was a dipping volley that Railhawks FC ‘netminder Akira Fitzgerald had no shot to save, while his second goal was a simple capitalization on a defensive error that allowed him to slot home. Before completing his hat-trick, Ramirez laid off for midfielder Stefano Pinho for the team’s third goal of the game, and he finished off the day by tapping home from two yards out for the last of the Loons’ five goals.With a lethal combination of pace, skill, and finishing ability, Ramirez is the one to watch Saturday night.
Match-up to Mark: FW Eamon Zayed/Justin Braun vs. GK Sammy Ndjock

While plenty has been said about Minnesota’s attacking threat, it’s Indy Eleven forwards Eamon Zayed and Justin Braun who present an equally tough-to-handle tandem. Two of the top scorers in the league, Zayed and Braun bring different assets to the game that bring plenty of problems to the opposing defense and ‘keeper. ayed is tall, strong, and physical, but also possesses the innate ability to slip in behind a defender like a true poacher. Meanwhile, Braun is quick, but also physical, and has an intelligence element in his game that makes him tough to mark, and tough to follow. Loons ‘netminder Sammy Ndjock has been excellent this year and proved as much in last week’s win over Railhawks FC, but if Zayed and Braun get plenty of touches on the ball Saturday night, he may have as much to deal with as he did in the 4-2 Eleven win in May.

Bring Us Your Best – Indy Eleven v Minnesota United PREVIEW 7/9/2016

Midfield choices, who starts and who doesn’t? (Nicki Paterson and Gerardo Torrado pictured)


By: James Cormack

The one thing you can probably be sure of, tomorrow’s match between Indy Eleven and Minnesota United is unlikely to be a dull encounter. These two sides have never been involved in a draw, in seven previous encounters Indy Eleven have won three and Minnesota has won four. All three of Indy Eleven’s victories have been at Carroll Stadium.

This match will also see the leagues two highest scoring players face off against each other, Éamon Zayed and Christian Ramirez. Goals are something that has never been lacking when these two meet, in all seven meetings a total of 28 goals have been scored, an average of four goals per game.

The teams last met on May 21st in Indianapolis with the result going 4-2 in Indy Eleven’s favor. Since that match both teams have won 6pts in NASL League play, Indy with a win and three draws and Minnesota with two wins and two losses. Indy Eleven opened the fall with a lackluster draw in Puerto Rico while Minnesota started with a bang defeating Carolina Railhawks 5-1 at home.

Danny Cruz and Omar Gordon

Both sides progressed from their opening matches in the US Open Cup against USL opposition and both teams exited at the hands of MLS opposition. During the season break both teams played in exhibition play against Liga MX opposition. Indy Eleven defeated Mexican champions FC Pachuca 1-0 while Minnesota fell to León 4-2.

Coming into the last game Minnesota United were on a hot streak with five wins and a draw in six games, the defeat to Indy Eleven saw a mini slump which ultimately was responsible in some part for the Loons missing out on the Spring Championship. Minnesota ended the Spring with the 3-1 win over Miami and put five goals past Carolina in their fall home opener. Despite some key injuries within their roster they are finding their feet again and are scoring for fun.

Christian Ramirez emulated Éamon Zayed’s heroics of scoring a hat trick against the Railhawks by scoring one of his own against the same team last weekend, also grabbing the golden boot top spot from Zayed. Since the final game of Spring Indy Eleven have scored three goals in three games against Chicago Fire, CF Pachuca and Puerto Rico FC.

It is fair to say both teams have been struggling with various injuries over the course of Spring, despite still being undefeated Indy Eleven have had their share of dropped points and sub par games. This game is going to be a close contest, maybe we’ll see the first ever draw, who knows? Minnesota will be keen to make up for the previous encounter and as ever Indy Eleven will try to keep up their record of raising their level in the toughest games.

So can we expect many changes…?

As far as Minnesota goes it seems like they have found a good formula in their last couple of games, despite missing key players such as Ben Speas they have found a good midfield combination that has complimented their defense and are allowing less goals. Main problem is they can’t start the same line up as last week because Jeb Brovsky picked up a red card and is suspended.

To me it always seems weird to see a Minnesota lineup without the versatile Vicentini in it so he would be the obvious choice to slot in alongside Pitchkolan. Otherwise I doubt there will be any other changes to their starting XI.

Indy Eleven may elect to start the same lineup this week as they did last. It is unlikely Colin Falvey will feature and will be given as much time as possible to recover from his groin injury, we have the comfort of knowing we have a post season to look forward to so there is no point in bring players back prematurely and risking further complications.

Jair Reinoso also is unlikely to be ready and although Don Smart may feature in the 18 man roster the likelihood of him getting a lot of time on the field is slim, may not yet suit up. One of the big question marks is who will start in the midfield.

Siniša Ubiparipović is a threat!

Gerardo Torrado is now eligible to play, although he was given time off to return home to tie up personal affairs it is not clear how long he has been back or if he has been in training (did not see him in the trophy presentation rehearsal) my gut feeling is he will be in the 18 man roster but may not start the game, possibly used in the second half to tighten the screw if required.

I would see it as logical for Tim Hankinson, while not wanting to make too many changes, to use the fact we have qualified for post season as an opportunity to take advantage and implement some player rotation so that key players are getting adequate competitive field time. Considering that if there are any changes to the lineup this week I expect Lovel Palmer will start in place of Franco, and possibly Souleymane Youla in place of Justin Braun.

I have been impressed with Youla so far but I feel he needs more game time and experience in this league, and Braun with his pace and physicality would be a menace to bring on later when the game has slowed and legs are tired.

That one is a big ‘if’ though but not unlikely, Zayed and Braun together caused the Minnesota defense and Sammy N’Djock to have nightmares at the Carroll, but I think Braun coming on later could also cause the same difficulties. So we have options and no harm in using them.

Wild Card lineup: Given that we know Tim Hankinson can sometimes pull surprises from the bag, I am not ruling out the possibility in a change of formation and Indy could start with a 4-2-3-1 and elect to bring in a part of the roster we often forget.. Siniša Ubiparipović could be that pivot behind a lone forward that could help find a way to the Minnesota goal, he is also a player more than capable of striking from anywhere inside the final third? A triangle of passing between Ubi, Ring and Paterson could put both wings and the center forward into dangerous positions.

Potential Starting XI: Busch, Palmer, Miller, Janicki, Vukovic, Mares, Ring, Paterson, Gordon, Youla, Zayed. Subs: Cardona, Franco, Braun, Torrado, Keller, Ubiparipović, Lacroix.

We don’t need to ask if we can win, we know we can…..

I think the key to pulling of a win in this game will be not only how we deal with Minnesota’s midfield coming forward, but also how we find a way of playing through them in attack. It will certainly be more difficult than the last game. There is nothing to say the Loons defense or goalkeeper won’t be as shaky as they were last time, but getting to the point of pressuring them may be the difficult task.

The Minnesota defense and midfield will be much more connected and the rout to goal will be more difficult. Indy will need to look upon every set piece and corner as gold dust and make sure that they take full advantage of them.

We may see some route one football although I hope not too much, we have physical players up front that have the ability to win balls in the air and take full advantage of them. With Vicentini and Pitchkolan in the mix in front of the back four that may prove a lot more difficult.

Quick accurate passing and taking advantage of space when it is available will be the key to getting to and behind the Minnesota defense and finding goals, a far as us defending we will have to press hard in midfield and break down any Minnesota attack as early as possible, I know the way we setup we some times like to let the other team come to us, that could prove costly against this Minnesota team in current form.

Who to watch…?

This may come as a surprise, but if I had to put a bet on a player being MVP this week I am going to pickJon Busch, in the absence of captain Colin Falvey he provides a lot of experience and communication at the back. Minnesota are going to go for the throat, and I have a feeling Busch, with a big performance, could be the Adams Apple that frustrates Minnesota all night.

MLS Talking Points: Players face former clubs, Galaxy and Sounders renew rivalry

Goal.com 1 hour 14 minutes ago

This weekend marks the beginning of the second half of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, and the Week 18 slate features rivalries, reunions and familiar faces in new places.LA Galaxy coach Bruce Arena and Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid will renew acquaintances as the two most successful coaches in MLS history square off in a battle of Western Conference underachievers. FC Dallas looks to maintain its hold on first place in the Western Conference with a win against a San Jose Earthquakes side that has yet to lose a match at home this season.In the East, Kei Kamara’s first match against the Columbus Crew since being traded will grab plenty of headlines, while former New York Red Bulls winger Lloyd Sam is expected to make his D.C. United debut this weekend, as DCU takes on the Philadelphia Union at Talen Energy Stadium.The post-Adrian Heath era begins at Orlando City, with the Lions playing their first match since the club parted ways with the popular coach. Perhaps it is fitting that Orlando City’s first match without Heath will come against the other team in MLS to undergo a coaching change this year, the Houston Dynamo.Here is Goal’s guide to the major stories to watch for in MLS Week 18…

IT’S A BIG WEEKEND FOR …  REUNIONS

 

Kei Kamara’s departure from the Columbus Crew was one of the must surprising developments of the season, and this weekend Kamara will get his first chance to exact revenge against the team that traded him just months after they were in the MLS Cup final. Kamara’s trade to New England hasn’t really worked out for either team so far, as the Revs and Crew are both currently outside the playoff places in the Eastern Conference.Chris Pontius will also have a chance to face his former team this weekend, as the Philadelphia Union winger faces off against D.C. United in a battle of Eastern Conference rivals. Pontius has enjoyed a career renaissance with the Union, who have enjoyed a surprisingly strong first half of the season. He already faced D.C. United once this season, in a 1-0 Union victory in May, but will look to have more of an impact on the result this time around.

DON’T MISS …  LA GALAXY vs. SEATTLE SOUNDERS

 

The LA Galaxy and Seattle Sounders have traditionally squared off as Western Conference leaders, but this time around they will face off as underachieving teams in desperate need of points.The Sounders are tied for last place in the West, with just one win in seven matches. With Clint Dempsey back from international duty and the club expected to add reinforcements in the now-open MLS transfer window, a reversal of fortunes is expected. That turnaround can start at home on Saturday against a Galaxy side mired in its own slump.The Galaxy enjoyed a 2-0 win against Vancouver last Monday, snapping a seven-match winless slide. With Robbie Keane and Gyasi Zardes back from international duty, a Galaxy surge could very well be in the cards. Saturday’s trip to Seattle should show us just how close the Galaxy are to hitting their stride.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

 

If you’re a fan of seeing top center backs taking on the best forwards in MLS, then this weekend’s slate of individual battles is for you. Here are the top 10 individual matchups to watch this weekend in MLS:

  1. Matt Besler vs. David Villa.NYCFC is on a roll right now, and Villa is the key to the club’s attack. Sporting KC has the central defenders to contain Villa, led by Besler, who should be ready to make his first post-Copa America start.
  2. Michael Parkhurst vs. Kei Kamara. The former Crew teammates face off for the first time since Kamara was traded, and you can rest assured Kamara will be desperate to score a goal or two.
  3. Osvaldo Alonso vs. Steven Gerrard. If the Sounders are going to stop the Galaxy attack, then Alonso needs to keep Gerrard under wraps. The English midfielder is coming off a two-assist game against Vancouver.
  4. Dax McCarty vs. Darlington Nagbe. This matchup should be fun to watch, as the Red Bulls and Timbers face off in a battle of two of the league’s best midfields.
  5. Chad Marshall vs. Robbie Keane. Containing the ever-dangerous Keane is never really a one-man job, so look for the Sounders to give Marshall some help to try and stop the Irish star.
  6. Matias Laba vs. Jermaine Jones. The Rapids failed to score in their last match, and they will need Jones to shake free of the tenacious Laba if they’re going to find goals in Vancouver.
  7. Matt Hedges vs. Chris Wondolowski. Whether it’s Hedges or the in-form Walker Zimmerman, FC Dallas must contain Wondolowski to have any chance of pulling off a road win in San Jose.
  8. DaMarcus Beasley vs. Kevin Molino. Beasley has quietly put together a stellar season, and the Dynamo will need him at his best to slow down the dangerous Molino.
  9. Marcelo Sarvas vs. Roland Alberg. Sarvas has been one of the keys to keeping D.C. United in the Eastern Conference playoff picture and he will need to lock down the red-hot Alberg if D.C. is going to win in Chester on Saturday.
  10. Sacha Kljestan vs. Diego Chara.  If the Timbers are going to grab a road win at Red Bull Arena, Chara will need to keep Kljestan from having too much room to operate.

Sounders welcome Dempsey back for LA visit, first in “series of big games”

July 7, 20168:52PM EDTAri LiljenwallContributor

TUKWILA, Wash. – Crunch time may have arrived earlier than usual for the Seattle Sounders.Ahead of their home matchup with the LA Galaxy at CenturyLink Field on Saturday (3 pm ET, ESPN), the Sounders sport a 5-9-2 record, a mark that leaves them tied with the Houston Dynamo for last place in the Western Conference with 17 points.The MLS season is still less than halfway through, and Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid stopped short of using the term “must-win” while speaking with reporters after his team’s practice on Thursday. But given their current position on the table, Seattle’s upcoming slate of games has suddenly become much more high-stakes than your typical July fixtures.“We’ve got a series of big games [coming up],” Schmid said. “I know they were in different competitions but we’ve had three positive results in our last three outings. So we’re going to be ready to play [on Saturday] and put our stamp on the game and compete.”The Sounders have netted an MLS-low 14 goals in 16 games thus far in 2016, leading to some speculation that Schmid might consider tinkering with the new 4-3-3 formation Seattle implemented before the start of the season – a change that has yet to pay consistent dividends.But if he has any plans to make any sort of notable tactical adjustments, Schmid didn’t divulge them on Thursday.“We’re committed to getting the best players onto the field,” Schmid said. “I’ve always said formations are a reflection of players’ tendencies. You can play what you call a 4-2-3-1 and sometimes it’ll look more like a 4-4-2.“That’s something [the media] likes to talk about more than me…I know everyone loves to talk about that because it’s simple. There’s no explanation needed, just numbers.”As they try to reassert themselves into the Western Conference playoff picture, the Sounders hope the return of Clint Dempsey can provide a remedy to those attacking struggles. The star forward hasn’t started a game for Seattle since May 21 while on US national team duty at this summer’sCopa America Centenario, but will be available on Saturday.Schmid also said on Thursday that defender Chad Marshall passed the MLS concussion protocol and has been cleared after he exited last weekend’s match against Toronto with a migraine. Panamanian center back Roman Torres, however, is still a few weeks away from his return to the lineup as he continues to rehab from a torn ACL suffered last season.

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

If you are a goalkeeper – I am beginning my personal Monday night GK trainings July 11, 18 + 25 if interested RE: or email shanebestsoccer@gmail.com

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –  Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com ,

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

7/5/16 European Cup Semi Finals Wed/Thur 3 pm ESPN, Indy 11 return home Sat to get Champ Trophy, US Ladies at Chicago Sun

So we are down to the final 4 in the European Cup – as 2 of the games were blowouts and 2 came down to PKs in Extra Time.  Sad to see Iceland’s miracle run come to an end but we knew the home French would just be too strong, especially with the home crowd behind them.  My Italy and GK Gigi Buffon lost on PKs in heartbreaking fashion to Germany as it went to 9PKs.  Germany were the better squad on the day but not by much. I am looking forward to the Germany vs France A list game on Thursday 3 pm on ESPN  – a battle of true heavyweights of European soccer.  Wales vs Portugal Wed 3 pm is also intriguing – though I think the winner of France and defending World Champs Germany will lift the trophy on Sunday afternoon.

So our Indy 11 return home this Saturday night at 7:30 pm at the MIKE and on Wish TV 8 vs Minnesota United.  The 11 will receive their 2016 Spring League Championship Trophy before the game – so arrive early to take in all the festivities.  The 11 came from behind once again this past Sat night at NASL league newcomer Puerto Rico as new player Souleymane Youla scored in extra time to secure the 1-1 tie and keep the Indy 11 as still the Only NASL undefeated team in 2016.

For those of you with daughter’s its not too late to get tickets and check out the US Women’s National Team as they prepare for the Olympics with a game this Sunday USA vs South Africa at Chicago’s Soldier Field.  The game is also on TV 1 pm Fox Sports 1.

Finally, another fun day at the July 4th CarmelFest Parade as Carmel FC had a parade float and lots of folks walking See the pics below – thanks to all who organized and helped!  Also don’t forget summer CFC Technical Training has begun.

CFC2016parade
Carmel FC players Prepare for the July 4th parade! 
CFC2016paradeMartins
The Martins helped decorate and prepare the float along with lots of other volunteers. 

EUROPEAN CUP SEMI-FINALS 

Top 10 Goals of Euros

Top 10 Saves Euros

Who will win the Golden Boot?

Predicting Who will Advance to Euro finals – ESPNFC

Euro Semis – Who will Advance

SPI Predicts France vs Portugal Final

Yellow Card Suspensions Are Cruel Punishment for Stars –Marcotti – ESPNFC

Why Wales are in the Finals –

How can Wales Deal without suspended Aaron Ramsey and others?  

Wales not worrying about Renaldo – eSPNFC

Renaldo – last Real Good Chance to Win one?

Muller Not Worried about Goal Drought  

 Klinnsman not the Right Guy for England – ESPN FC Noah Davis

Why are England the laughing stock>  Ian Darke – ESPNFC

Wenger Better off at Arsenal than England – ESPNFC

Spain Coach Del Bosque Steps down

Iceland return to Hero’s Welcome

Renaldo – hurts to see Messi in Tears

 Top 10 Saves Copa America

 INDY 11

Indy 11 to Receive Spring Season Trophy at Sat Nights Game!

Indy 11 3 Things in Indy’s 91st Min Goal saving Tie @ Puerto Rico

Indy 11 – Review PR1 Indy 1

Bloody Shambles Review of 1-1 game @ Puerto Rico

Zayed Wins NASL Player of Month Award

Indy 11 July 9 game – Bring School Supplies to Donate

Permanent Relegation @prpodcastshow

Tonight-Tues 7/5- Make your way to @FishersChatham and join us as we welcome @SUbiparipovic28 & Vuko to the show! Starts at 7pm!

USA

US Ladies name 24 woman roster for South Africa game at Chicago

Tickets Still Available for Soldier Field Game

MLS

Tim Howard Opens for league leader Colorado Rapids with a Clean Sheet in Win

Power Rankings NYFC Move up

NYFC Finally break the Trend vs NY Red Bulls in NY Darby

MLS – Not the Same as when Howard left it –EPSN FC Jason Davis

America’s Champions League – Midfield Press

 GAMES ON TV

Euro Semifinals

Wednesday, July 6
Portugal vs  Wales- Lyon (9 p.m. CET/3 p.m. ET, ESPN)

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

Saturday, July 9: 

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

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

Final

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

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

Wednesday, July 13

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

Saturday, July 16

Indy 11 @ Minn – 8 pm BeIn Sports

Sunday, July 17:

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

Sat, July 23

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

Sat, July 30

Indy 11@ Miami – 8 pm BeIn sports

MLS TV Schedule ‘ They Are Back

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

 Soccer Camps – Boys and Girls -Ages 6 – 14

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

Goal2Gol Soccer Camp
CHS Men’s Head Coach Shane Schmidt, a former U-20 US National Team player, runs his annual camp from 9 am to 2 pm July 11-15. $175 @ 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.

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

GOLDEN BOOT LEADERS

Antoine Griezmann leads the way in the race to win the adidas Golden Boot at UEFA EURO 2016.France forward Griezmann moved onto four goals after scoring in the first half of Sunday’s 5-2 quarter-final victory against Iceland. He also provided two assists, one of which was for Dimitri Payet, who went level with Gareth Bale and Álvaro Morata on three goals when he struck Les Bleus’ third. Olivier Giroud, who had broken the deadlock at the Stade de France, joined that trio on three goals by heading in the hosts’ fifth of the night. He also chalked up an assist to climb ahead of Payet and Bale and ensure a French 1-2-3 in the chart going into the semi-finals.
Assists are used to separate players on the same number of strikes, before minutes played are then taken into consideration.

Golden Boot leaders *
Antoine Griezmann, France: 4 goals (2 assists, 345 minutes)
Olivier Giroud, France: 3 goals (2 assists, 300 minutes)
3 Dimitri Payet, France: 3 goals (2 assists, 377 minutes)
4 Gareth Bale, Wales: 3 goals (1 assist, 443 minutes)
Álvaro Morata, Spain: 3 goals (0 assists, 289 minutes)
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal: 2 goals (2 assists, 510 minutes)
NB: Only goals scored in normal or extra time count towards a player’s tournament haul – penalties in a shoot-out do not. 

Portugal, Wales, Germany and France are a step away from Euro 2016 final

Host France will try to march on when they take on world champion Germany while Portugal look to end Wales’ dream run in Euro 2016.

Portugal, Wales, Germany and France are just one step away from the Euro 2016 final. Who will make the showdown in Paris?Predict the semifinals by voting in our match polls …

PORTUGAL: If you had told any Portugal fan before the tournament started that Wales would be standing between them and the final, they would not have believed you. Even less so if you added that they had reached the last four without winning a single game in 90 minutes and generally playing less-than-inspiring football. Yet you won’t find anyone complaining in Portugal.Ever since the swashbuckling football played by Luis Figo, Rui Costa and co. announced the country as contenders to be taken seriously at major tournaments with a run to the semis at Euro 2000, the team has made a habit of losing gloriously and/or unluckily. As coach Fernando Santos says: “I prefer to win ugly and still be here rather than play pretty and be at home.”What Portugal have lacked in cohesive football they have made up for in heart and commitment. In each of their last three matches — against Hungary, Croatia and Poland — there were times when they were teetering on the verge of elimination but each time they found a way to win.This is Portugal’s fifth semifinal at a major tournament since the turn of the century. They have won only one of the previous four, but it is that new-found, never-say-die attitude as much as their superior technical proficiency to Wales that will take Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates to the final in Paris.Portugal 2-1 Wales — Tom Kundert

WALES: “Don’t be afraid to dream … don’t be scared of failure,” were Chris Coleman’s words following the 3-1 quarterfinal victory over Belgium, and of the four teams remaining at Euro 2016, Wales are the only team the words can really apply to. Having gone beyond expectations and hope, this team truly has nothing left to fear.But while fans dream, there is still reality to contend with. For the first time since easing Joe Ledley into the tournament, Coleman is without a full complement of players, with Aaron Ramsey and Ben Davies suspended. Ramsey’s loss is a significant blow — especially given that he gave arguably his best ever Wales display against Belgium — and will prompt a tactical shuffle in midfield with Jonny Williams likely to get the nod for his propensity to win free kicks in Gareth Bale territory.Davies’ absence will get less column inches, but its impact could be just as severe. The Tottenham defender has been one of Wales’ most consistent performers in France and will be a hard act to follow for either James Collins or Jazz Richards.Despite largely misfiring throughout the tournament, Portugal will undoubtedly be favourites, especially as Wales are forced to make changes. The doggedness of the Portuguese thus far suggests they will win out. All dreams have to end at some point.

Portugal 2-1 Wales — Glen Wilson

GERMANY: The penalty shootout drama was costly for Germany — Mats Hummels picked up his second yellow card and will sit out the France match, Mario Gomez’s wonderful comeback ended with a muscle tear and holding midfielders Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira are major doubts for the last four meeting with the hosts.Germany’s squad still oozes with talent, and with Joshua Kimmich already in the starting XI, Liverpool’s Emre Can or Dortmund’s Julian Weigl could be thrown in, as could Schalke youngster Leroy Sane. None of them have played a minute at the tournament, but have constantly been praised by Joachim Low for working hard in training.However, as Low might consider going back to a classic 4-2-3-1 system, there could be as many as four changes, and Germany will play a rampant France side, with the hosts storming past Iceland in the quarterfinals.Whereas Italy based their game on defending and waiting for their chance, France will attack the Nationalmannschaft with all of the country backing the hosts to reach the final in Paris. This was always going to be a tournament in a transition period for the world champions, but their road looks likely to end in Marseille on Thursday.Germany 1-2 France   Stephan Uersfeld

FRANCE: Hosts France finally delivered the sort of performance in their 5-2 win over Iceland that many have expected of them since the start of Euro 2016. Now into the semifinals and brimming with confidence, they are faced with reigning world champions Germany.Didier Deschamps’ men were lethal in attack against the spent Icelanders and Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann and Dimitri Payet all featured prominently. The Germans will be a much tougher proposition than Lars Lagerback and Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side, though, so Les Bleus must tighten up at the back.Although they will be missing a number of regulars, Joachim Low will still be able to align a starting XI of the highest quality and the French will need to raise their game another notch or two to advance. Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante will return from suspension in Marseille but Deschamps should consider keeping more or less the same starting XI that he fielded against Iceland.

France 2-1 Germany (after extra time) — Jonathan Johnson

France and Portugal projected by SPI to make Euro 2016 final

The Euro 2016 semifinals begin on Wednesday. Below is a look at both of the matchups, including the Soccer Power Index (SPI) projection. (Note: SPI does not account for injuries or suspensions).Entering the tournament, the two teams most likely to make the semifinals and win the tournament according to SPI were the two teams facing off in Marseille on Thursday: France and Germany.France, currently the No. 2 team in SPI, is still the favorite to win it all thanks in large part to home field advantage. With that, France is projected to make the final 66 percent of the time, according to SPI.Had this match been played at a neutral site, it would be about as close as can be, and France would be a 52 percent favorite over No. 4 Germany according to SPI.This is Germany‘s sixth consecutive semifinal at a major tournament dating back to the 2006 World Cup — the only European country ever to reach that many consecutive semifinals. France is making its first semifinal appearance at a major tournament since reaching the final at the 2006 World Cup.France has scored 11 goals, most of any team in the tournament, and is the first team to have three different scorers with three or more goals in the same tournament: Antoine Griezmann (4), Dimitri Payet (3), Olivier Giroud (3). Scoring will be a bit tougher against Germany, as it has conceded one goal this tournament, the fewest of any team, and that came from the penalty spot.Home advantage has helped France in major tournaments, it is unbeaten in its last 17 major tournament home games, dating back to Euro 1984 (15-2-0). France’s last major tournament loss at home was at Euro 1960, the first edition of the tournament, when it lost the third-place match to Czechoslovakia.Germany, however, has advanced in seven straight major-tournament knockout games against host nations, including 7-1 over Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semis. The last host nation to eliminate Germany in a major-tournament knockout game was England in the 1966 World Cup final.

France and Portugal are favoured to advance.

The other semifinal features No. 14 Portugal, which SPI gave the fifth-best chance to make the semifinals and win the title prior to the tournament, and Wales.Wales was ranked No. 49 in SPI entering the tournament, the third-lowest among the teams in the field (No. 54 Albania, No. 59 Hungary). As a result, SPI gave Wales a 3.5 percent chance to make the semifinal and 0.2 percent chance to win the title before the tournament started, the third-lowest of any team.Since then, Wales has jumped to No. 20, and though it is still an underdog, SPI gives Wales a 41 percent chance to reach the final.Portugal and Wales will be meeting for the fourth time in their history, and the first time in a competitive match. It is only the second meeting between these two countries in the last 65 years (Portugal won a friendly match in 2000.)This will feature a matchup of Real Madrid club teammates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. These two have faced each other before, but not since the 2008-09 season when Ronaldo’s Manchester United beat Bale’s Tottenham in all three meetings, including the League Cup Final on penalties.For Portugal, it is playing in its fifth Euro semifinal, the most of any team to never win a European Championship title. Portugal is led by Ronaldo, who has taken 38 shots, 16 more than any other player at the tournament. Of those 38 shots, 10 have been on target, tied for second-most, trailing only Bale (13).Wales enters the semifinals having scored 10 goals, second-most in the tournament and most ever by a country in its Euro debut. Though scoring may prove a bit more difficult without the suspended Aaron Ramsey, who leads Wales in touches, passes completed and chances created in the tournament.

Euro 2016 semis: Will Portugal show up? Are France ready for revenge?

Euro 2016 has reached the semifinal stage, with Portugal facing Wales on Wednesday and Germany taking on France the following days. Here is one big question for each of the final four.

Will Portugal finally come to play now that the focus is on them?

Much has been made of Portugal’s becoming the first team to reach four European Championship semifinals since 2000. But that mark comes with another, much less-desired record: Portugal are also the first team to reach a European Championship semifinal since the competition’s 1996 expansion while only managing to win one game (the victory over Poland in penalties is officially a draw). Moreover, their 1-0 victory over Croatia didn’t even come in regular time; Ricardo Quaresma’s 117th-minute goal sealed the deal.What’s more, Portugal have only been in a winning position for a total of 22 minutes during Euro 2016 so far. This can perhaps be credited to an overly defensive approach, one that doesn’t necessarily suit the technical abilities of so many promising young players.Regardless, there has been an odd sense of caution about Portugal in virtually all of their games, bar the 1-1 draw with Iceland and the 3-3 with Hungary, where they knew they needed to score. That adventure was a consequence of desperation rather than design.Now, for the first time in the knockout stages, Portugal will face a side just as willing to sit back as they are. Will it cause a change in the approach of Fernando Sanches’ men, or will it bring the worst stalemate yet? If Portugal are to finally win this competition after coming close on multiple occasions, it does feel like they will need to put in one flourishing performance. Will this be it?

Can Wales maintain their brilliant momentum without Ramsey?

That Wales advanced to the semifinals is an amazing accomplishment in and of itself. One of the glories of their quarterfinal win against Belgium was how brilliantly and assertively they imposed their gameplan. This was not a calculated counterattack against a superior side with Wales holding tight and riding their luck. This was a team with the assurance to stand up to a stellar attack.The ultimate proof can be found in how proactively Wales came back from behind. Similar teams in their situation would have most likely buckled, but Wales hit back with a physical force greater than Radja Nainggolan’s 13th-minute opener. There was a sweeping and unhesitatingly adventurous quality to their three goals, especially Hal Robson-Kanu’s turn for the second and Sam Vokes’ emphatic header for the third, which sealed the deal.That kind of courage and fully-committed play should give Wales the confidence to take on anyone, but there is a catch: Aaron Ramsey is suspended after two yellow-card bookings, and his absence could affect Wales’ style of play. The Arsenal midfielder is so crucial due to his ability to brilliantly link breaks with his natural running game.He is the perfect player to connect the two different parts of the Welsh team: that sturdy defence and the world-class power of Gareth Bale. Chris Coleman said that Ramsey’s performances have been “off the chart” — so the manager might now have to plot a slightly different way to play. It could mean Wales have to be more cautious than they have been in any game other than their loss vs. England.

Will absent players do more damage to Germany than their fired-up opposition?

On the face of it, some of Germany’s feats at Euro 2016 should boost their confidence to a level where they feel they can get through anything. They offered the attacking performance that everyone had been waiting for in their 3-0 round-of-16 win over Slovakia and broke a huge psychological and historic barrier by eliminating Italy from a international tournament for the first time ever.Can Germany physically hold up when their team has effectively been stripped of its spine, though? Main centre-back Mats Hummels is suspended, Mario Gomez will miss the rest of the tournament and there are major doubts over midfielders Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger.Germany could probably weather one or two of those changes with relative ease, but more than that? Will too big of a reconfiguration be needed from Joachim Low, and in turn upset Germany’s balance? Will they remove the fluency that the team is belatedly discovering?

Not to mention the fact that a makeshift lineup will be facing a French side fired up to avenge historic barriers of their own. The hosts have lost their last three competitive knockout games to Germany: the 2014 World Cup quarterfinal, the 1986 World Cup semifinal and the 1982 World Cup semifinal. It’s a lot for Low to consider.

Are Deschamps and France ready for revenge?

Get ready for a lot of references to Toni Schumacher over the next few days. Schumacher was the goalkeeper who arguably should have been sent off for his collision with Patrick Battiston in the semifinals of the 1982 World Cup, which ended a 3-3 draw before West Germany beat France 5-4 on penalties. It’s a controversy that has never completely gone away, partly because France have since failed to beat Germany. The onus will be on Didier Deschamps’ side to finally win now that they’re in form — and at home. And while that might add to the pressure, it could also take some focus off of the huge tactical decisions that the French manager will be forced to make ahead of the match.

Does Deschamps continue with the new, fluid attacking formation that he’s stumbled upon at risk of being too open?

Or does he go back to a more conservative midfield and potentially remove his side’s impetus? There is also the question of whether to include N’Golo Kante; the midfielder has been one of the best in Europe this year, but it did not seem a coincidence that his suspension against Iceland made France better going forwardsCan Deschamps really consider leaving out such a brilliant protective midfielder against an attack as good as Germany’s? It may be required in order for France to take the game into their own hands, go at the world champions and seize a chance at history. Miguel Delaney 

 Suspending players like Aaron Ramsey for yellow cards is cruel punishment

PARIS — We call it cruel, because it is. A player picks up a second yellow card in a tournament and he’s gone, forced to sit out while his teammates do battle.

And so, both Portugal (William Carvalho) and Wales (Ben Davies, Aaron Ramsey) will be short-handed when they square off in Lyon on Wednesday. Similarly, Germany will be without the services of Mats Hummels against France on Thursday.

UEFA’s tournament regulations stipulate that, up until the semifinal, if you get two yellow cards in separate games you are banned for the next one. It doesn’t matter how you get them or when you get them: it could easily be the opener and the quarterfinal, some three and a half weeks apart. After the quarters, the slate is wiped clean: the only way you miss the final is if you get sent off in the semis.In the past, we’ve seen plenty of high profile players missed out on finals. Roy Keane and Pavel Nedved were banned for the Champions League final in 1998-99 and 2002-03, respectively, and Michael Ballack famously was suspended for the 2002 World Cup final against Brazil. That’s part of the reason why the protocol was changed before the 2010 World Cup.The question is whether it ought to be changed further. If you’re Davies, Ramsey, Hummels or Carvalho, you would say yes. Why not wipe the slate clean earlier? Say, if you get two yellows in the group stage, you miss the Round of 16, but if you only get one, the clock resets in the knockout phase?The problem with that approach is that it would not have made any difference to Ramsey, Hummels or Carvalho, all of whom got their bookings in consecutive matches after the group stage. In fact, unless you do away with suspensions entirely, it’s not easy to find a formula that works.The obvious solution would appear to be lifting the threshold to three yellows before the ban kicks in. That’s how they do it in the Champions League, with an additional ban coming at every odd-numbered (fifth, seventh, etc.) card after that. Indeed, domestic leagues go even further, with bans being applied only after the fourth or fifth (depending on the competition) caution.The argument against this, though, is that those are simply longer tournaments and it’s a question of frequency. One way to look at it is how many cautions you can get in a tournament without getting a ban. If you bump it to three games in the Euros, then a player could theoretically accumulate yellows in four of seven games (two up to and including the semifinal and then the semifinal and final) without ever getting suspended. In the Champions League, that ratio is 5 in 17 and in domestic leagues, while it varies by country, it will usually be something like four or five in 38.In other words, in a shorter tournament the impact of every disciplinary decision is magnified. And what you want to avoid is a situation where a player gets a “free hit” and cards don’t have consequences.This is all part of the officiating conundrum. In a perfect word, referees would get every decision correct and deal with infractions, wherever possible, with a stern, Mark Clattenburg-style lecture. Broadly speaking, this has been the officiating trend from both FIFA and UEFA over the past few years: referees are encouraged to let play run more and to defuse situations without resorting to cards wherever possible.But when players are booked, it has to have consequences that go beyond the possibility of a sending off: and that means suspending players. Otherwise, you’re offering up the proverbial “freebie” foul.It goes beyond that. Referees are generally praised when they manage games in such a way that nobody needs to be sent off. That results in officials being very aware of who has already been booked and, sometimes, a yellow card becomes a license to get away with more because referees are reluctant to show a second caution. (The extreme example of this is cautions for time-wasting. Few referees have the guts to give a second yellow for time-wasting, so it’s often guys who have already been booked who look to eat up the clock.)So bans for accumulated cards are, in a sense, a way of spreading responsibility for punishment from the individual referee to the collective. Yet there’s another, fundamental problem at work here and it has to do with basic principles of crime and punishment.When we commit a crime in real life, the sentence has three functions. It acts as a deterrent, it’s punitive and it offers compensation to the victim. Yellow cards, and bans for yellows, fulfill the first two criteria, but not the third. The fact that, for example, Davies and Ramsey will miss Wales’ next game offers no redress whatsoever to their “victims” (I’m using the term loosely here) who suffered from their actions, Belgium. Instead, it gives an advantage to their next opponent, Portugal.We’re so used to it that we don’t really think about it, but Portugal’s chances of winning the Euros are increased by some percentage simply because they are facing a Wales team without two regulars, one of whom, Ramsey, is arguably their second-best player. And this happens every time a player is suspended: there’s a third-party beneficiary here.Is there a better solution? I don’t know. I’m not a fan of sin-bins — temporary red cards — but there’s an argument to be made that if Ramsey or Davies had been punished for their second tournament bookings against Belgium with, say, 10 minutes off the pitch it might have been a fairer solution than making them miss the semifinal.

Of course, then you’d consider the fact that the only reason they would have been sin-binned is for cautions they committed in earlier games which had nothing to do with Belgium. And so you end up tying yourself in knots, asking yourself the same question: Why should Belgium benefit from the fact that Davies and Ramsey committed an infraction against previous opponents?The bottom line here is that this accumulated bookings system is a tough racket. There’s no perfect or even good way of handling this. It’s tough on those who miss out — though less tough than if they were missing a final — but ultimately the rules were clear before the tournament began.Gabriele Marcotti is a columnist for ESPN FC, The Times and Corriere dello Sport. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti. 

How Wales can cope vs. Portugal without the suspended Aaron Ramsey

UEFA’s harsh disciplinary rules for Euro 2016 were always likely to claim unfortunate victims, and it’s particularly disappointing one of those suffering this week will be Wales’ Aaron Ramsey.The Arsenal man is a hard-working, talented midfielder for the competition’s only remaining underdogs. He had lit up the competition with some decisive contributions in the final third, recording a goal and four assists in his five appearances so far, and is precisely the type of player you want to watch in a major semifinal. Alas, he’ll be watching from the stands.Aside from Gareth Bale, likely to be the main focus because of his clash with Real Madrid teammate and rival Cristiano Ronaldo, Ramsey is the worst player Wales could have lost.After impressive displays in his first four games, Ramsey’s performance in the 3-1 quarterfinal victory over Belgium was truly exceptional. Manager Chris Coleman has used Ramsey in two separate roles in the past couple of years, either as a deep midfielder in a 3-5-1-1 system or in a No. 10 role alongside Bale, which makes the system more 3-4-2-1.Against Belgium, however, it was difficult to tell which role Ramsey was playing, because he was everywhere: deep when Wales were without possession, and between the lines when Wales had the ball. He continually made dangerous runs into the right-hand channel, partly benefiting from all the attention was on Bale. He created three chances in open play from that right flank, including the pass for Hal Robson-Kanu’s superb goal, and three chances from set pieces, including the out-swinging corner that Ashley Williams powered home.Replacing Ramsey won’t be easy. In fact, it’s fair to say Wales don’t have anyone who can adequately fill that gap in the side, no one who possesses the stamina to play a box-to-box role and support both phases of play so effectively. Coleman’s obvious solution, however, will be turning to Jonny Williams.Williams will, in all probability, never start a game of this enormity ever again. A hugely likeable, creative attacking midfielder, he’s (only slightly) ironically dubbed “Joniesta” by fans of his club side, Crystal Palace, because of his low centre of gravity, his ability to slalom past opposition challenges and his penchant for a through-ball.

In truth, he has struggled to make an impact in the Premier League, playing just 12 times in three seasons in the top-flight with Palace, partly because of injury problems. He spent most of last season out on loan to Championship clubs, Nottingham Forest and MK Dons, the latter suffering relegation to England’s third tier.Williams is, however, a wonderfully gifted footballer — the type who probably belongs outside British football, in a league where the tempo is slower and the fondness for creative midfielders is significantly greater.In that sense, he shares qualities with England’s Adam Lallana and Ireland’s Wes Hoolahan, who both excelled at times in this competition, despite frustrating seasons at club level. Euro 2016 matches have generally been slow, with compact defensive blocks requiring talented creators to pick them apart. Williams could be that man on Wednesday in Lyon, France, especially as Portugal aren’t likely to know much about him — and it’s not often you say that ahead of a European Championship semifinal.Williams was impressive when starting in Wales’ opening group game, accelerating the play with quick bursts past opponents. Slovakia’s inability to halt his mazy dribbles fairly meant Williams was fouled four times, including for the free kick that resulted in the opener — a trademark swerving Bale free kick. With two free-kick goals in the tournament so far, Bale has managed two more than Ronaldo has in seven international tournaments combined. Don’t underestimate the importance of a player like Williams being capable of winning those free kicks in dangerous positions.Portugal’s system could play into Williams’ hands too, especially as their primary holding midfielder, William Carvalho, is another who is ruled out after having collected two bookings. In Portugal’s quarterfinal match against Poland, which Portugal won on penalties, manager Fernando Santos used a peculiar 4-1-3-2 formation that allowed Joao Mario, Adrien Silva and Renato Sanches to dovetail behind Nani and Ronaldo, but left Carvalho somewhat exposed ahead of the defence. If Santos lines up that way once again, Bale will surely be watched carefully by Portugal’s stand-in holding midfielder, probably Danilo, which would open up space for Williams.Wales must also cope without the suspended left-sided centre-back Ben Davies, who Coleman has described as Wales’ best defender in the competition so far. He would have been particularly useful, as a natural left-back, because he would have been up against makeshift centre-forward Nani, a natural right-winger. Instead, Coleman is likely to turn to James Collins, an entirely different type of centre-back who is formidable in the air but somewhat slow on the turn. Wales have backup players capable of coming into the side and doing a job, but both Davies and Ramsey lack proper replacements in their unusual roles.Wales need to forget about that, however, and ensure the stand-ins are able to play to their strengths. Collins will need to be supported closely by left-wing-back Neil Taylor playing a deeper role than against Belgium, while Williams can be fed in tighter situations than Ramsey, who likes galloping into space.It’s difficult to imagine the disappointment Ramsey and Davies must be feeling, forced to sit out the biggest game in Welsh football history. They’ll desperately hope, of course, that Wales will have an even bigger game on Sunday.Michael Cox is the editor of Zonal Marking and a contributor to ESPN FC

 Bale, Coleman and the other reasons why Wales are in the Euro 2016 semis

Wednesday’s Euro 2016 semifinal will be the fourth in five tournaments for Portugal but there are several reasons why Wales have nothing to fear.

Bale has been brilliant

While other Euro 2016 managers have struggled to get the best out of star men like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Robert Lewandowski and Cristiano Ronaldo, Chris Coleman has found a formula for Gareth Bale.He hasn’t quite been the free-flowing wizard of the dribble seen at his Tottenham and Real Madrid peak; the forceful defending allowed by somewhat lax refereeing in France has seen to that. Instead, Bale has made use of another side of his game: his supreme physique which, he says, has been achieved despite the fact that he doesn’t like going to the gym.As a lone striker he took a battering against Slovakia in Wales’ opener, but being partnered since — be it by Vokes or Robson-Kanu — has allowed Bale a little more space. He scored from open play against Russia, having previously netted free kicks against Slovakia and England.Beyond that, Bale is prepared to work just as hard as the more prosaic talents around him.

A band of brothers

Bale is a globally recognised face and a star for Real Madrid but, when on Wales duty, he is just one of the lads and among friends who have known him for a decade; the likes of Chris Gunter, Sam Vokes, Andy King, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor were contemporaries at youth level.Meanwhile, Joe Ledley has become an internet sensation for his post-match dance routines but almost didn’t make the squad after suffering a broken leg at Crystal Palace. However, manager Coleman has said repeatedly that he would have taken Ledley to France come what may, such is the importance of his personality to the squad’s mentality.This group is easy in its own company, with players adept at soaking up their colleagues’ pressures while history is made.

Coleman the unlikely tactician

Prior to taking the national team job in 2012, indifferent spells in club management at Fulham, Real Sociedad (where he left following an incidentinvolving a washing machine and a night club), Coventry and Larissa provided no silverware. Having succeeded the late Gary Speed, Coleman subsequently lost his first five matches and was the target of fans’ criticism.And yet, four years later and having led Wales to their first major tournament since 1958, Coleman has outwitted opposing coaches, aside from his team defending far too deep and inviting England on in an eventual 2-1 group-stage loss.Playing five at the back and putting both Neil Taylor and Ben Davies into his team looked like an attempt to accommodate his best players, yet it has been hugely effective, especially in beating Russia 3-0 in Toulouse and then in pulling apart Marc Wilmots’ admittedly loose plans for Belgium in a 3-1 quarterfinal win.

Wales have been underestimated

They were seen as Bale plus 10 others, but four teams have now paid the price of underestimating Wales, with Belgium’s collapse being the most recent example. Beyond Bale and the excellent Aaron Ramsey, whose loss through suspension will be keenly felt on Wednesday, the rest have risen to the occasion.Joe Allen has taken on a midfield responsibility rarely handed him by Liverpool, while James Chester, often a reserve at West Brom or played out of position at full-back, has been strong as part of a three-man central defensive line.Robson-Kanu scored the goal of a lifetime in the quarterfinal with a Cruyff turn that fooled three Belgians and then Vokes scored an expertly guided header to make it 3-1. Euro 2016 has given such players the chance to show off their talents.

A mission of passion

Were Wales to have exited from the group stage, they would still have been history makers. Instead, they have grasped the nettle with passion and determination and, in reaching a semifinal, have matched England’s best achievements of the last 50 years.It has helped to have such fervent support behind them and the relationship between players and fans is strong. They are on this ride “together, stronger”, to use the motto that, in an era of empty corporate cliches, works and embodies the collective message perfectly. Success has become a shared emotion.At the squad’s HQ at Dinard, Brittany, it has been all but open house and Bale, notoriously reticent in the past, has done five media appearances and marked himself out as very quotable.”I think we’ve got a lot more passion and pride about us than them,” he saidabout England’s players ahead of the teams’ meeting on 16. Wales may have lost that game but further events in France have proved him wholly correct on that assertion. John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC.

 Why are England, home of the Premier League, now a laughing stock?

Despite England’s early lead, their defensive frailties were exposed by a resilient Iceland.

Ian Darke, -ESPNFC –Fifty years of hurt and counting. Where do the England football team go from here?It is a question we ask every two years as another tournament ends in tears. But this was different, even worse than the World Cup in Brazil. At least there, Roy Hodgson’s team lost to two highly ranked teams in Italy and Uruguay before taking an early plane home.This time they melted down against Iceland, a country with more volcanoes than footballers.Take nothing away from the underdogs. They carried out their plans to perfection against opponents who simply unraveled at the first sign of trouble.Here was humiliation on a grand scale, arguably the worst night in England’s 144-year football history.Why is it always like this for the nation which invented the game? How did the country with the richest league in the world become serial flops and, let’s be brutally honest, a laughing stock? England have never won an away knockout game at the European Championship, and they haven’t reached any tournament semifinal for 20 years.At the heart of the debate is a mentality among some English fans which says the Premier League is all that matters. The league will kick off again on Aug. 13, and it may even seem as if the Euro debacle never happened as domestic dramas take over.That mindset is dangerous. English football needs a strong England team. It can’t go on like this, stumbling from failure to failure.The new manager needs to have a bigger talent pool to pick from. Brexit may make it easier to introduce a quota system dictating that every Premier League club has to field, say, five English players.Time, too, to stop talking about a mid-winter break and actually introducing it. The unrelenting schedule demanded of Tottenham’s players in particular left some looking jaded in France. Harry Kane was especially flat and unable to live up to the hype. A two- or three-week January break might make a difference.Then there is the key question of who should be manager. Roy Hodgson, preferred to fan favourite Harry Redknapp, always looked an uninspiring safe choice. You sense this very decent man was selected more for his ability to fit in with FA culture than a real belief that he could lift a major trophy. Falling on his sword in Nice was the only realistic option after such a calamitous and clueless exit from the Euros.It was hard to detect a Plan A, let alone a Plan B.Yet the squad does have talent, albeit the defence and now keeper positions are a real concern.What is required is a man who knows international tournament football and its subtle sub-plots. That rules out Eddie Howe (too young) and Alan Pardew (only club pedigree). Sam Allardyce, who is smarter than many give him credit for, might be a shrewd gamble given the limited field. He would be sound and pragmatic, and knows how to win when it matters. Just a hunch, but Big Sam might be surprisingly good and would jump at the chance.But my top choice would be to re-appoint Glenn Hoddle, who produced one of England’s most tactically astute displays of the modern era in Italy to qualify for the 1998 World Cup, at which the team were so unlucky to lose to Argentina on penalties. Hoddle lost the job for articulating some controversial religious views, and his man management back then needed some work. But now older and wiser yet still with a forensic mind on players and strategies, he has plenty of appeal.Besides, the FA are auditioning for a football coach, not the Archbishop of Canterbury. Knowing Glenn a little, whether he would want to give up a successful media career and have all the hassle is open to question. One thing is for certain: High-level action is needed to produce a united effort to prioritise a better England team.That means the Premier League and FA forgetting differences for a common goal. Otherwise the so-called “most exciting league in the world” will look like a competition for foreign mercenaries that just happens to take place in a land that used to be good at football and is in danger of becoming internationally irrelevant. Ian Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, is ESPN’s lead soccer voice in the U.S. Reach him on Twitter 

INDY ELEVEN TO RECEIVE SPRING SEASON TROPHY JULY 9TH

Indy Eleven to Receive NASL Spring Season Championship Trophy Prior to July 9 Kickoff vs. Minnesota

NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson to Hand Off Trophy During Pre-game Ceremonies Next Saturday Night at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium

INDIANAPOLIS (Friday, July 1, 2016) – Indy Eleven will not have to wait much longer to receive the first piece of hardware for its trophy case, as NASL Commissioner Bill Peterson will be in attendance at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium next Saturday, July 9, to present the undefeated “Boys in Blue” with their NASL Spring Season trophy.The presentation will take place during the pre-game ceremonies of Indy Eleven’s  NASL Fall Season home debut against Minnesota United FC, set to kickoff at 7:30 p.m. ET.Tickets for the match – which could feature the official NASL debut of new Indy Eleven midfielder and Mexican National Team legend Gerardo Torrado – and passes for the club’s third annual Indiana Craft Beer Festival, presented by Union Jack Pub & Murello’s Uptown Bail Bonds, are available at IndyEleven.com or over the phone at 317-685-1100 (weekdays, 9am-5pm, closed on July 4th holiday).“Indy Eleven fans have proven they are the best in the NASL over the last three seasons.  We cannot wait to lift the trophy in their honor and the team’s honor on July 9th,” said Indy Eleven president Jeff Belskus. “Every Indy Eleven supporter should look forward to being a part of this evening and join the club in thanking our very special collection of players and coaches.”As has been tradition since the NASL began its split-season format in 2013, Commissioner Peterson will hand the trophy off to the captain of the respective season’s victor, with Indy Eleven defender Colin Falvey set to take the handoff on Saturday evening in the minutes leading up to kickoff.  Details regarding opportunities for fans to take photos with the first trophy in team history will be unveiled on IndyEleven.com and the team’s social media channels early next week.Indy Eleven (4W-6D-0L) will begin its 22-game Fall Season – and quest for a second piece of hardware in 2016 – tomorrow, Saturday, July 2, when it travels to the Caribbean to serve as the opposition in Puerto Rico FC’s Inaugural Game. Fans can watch the 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff from the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel in Bayamon live on WISH-TV and online via ESPN3.com.

RECAP – PUERTO RICO 1 : 1 INDY

Youla’s header at the death keeps Eleven undefeated, spoils PRFC party

Jul 2, 2016

Late Goal Keeps Indy Eleven Undefeated, Brings Puerto Rico’s Inaugural Game to 1-1 Finish

Newcomer Souleymane Youla Debuts with 92nd Minute Header to Share the Spoils  

BAYAMON, Puerto Rico (Saturday, July 2, 2016) – The season may have transferred from Spring to Fall, but Indy Eleven’s ability to score pivotal late goals transferred well, forward Souleymane Youla’s 92nd minute goal bringing Puerto Rico FC’s Inaugural Game to a 1-1 draw. The goal by the Guinean international Youla, making his NASL debut on the evening, offset a 74th minute goal by Hector Ramos that had the 6,474 fans in attendance at the Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel ready to go home as winners following their own team’s NASL debut.It was a quick start for the home side, as Puerto Rico forward Joseph Marrero put Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch to the test just 20 seconds in from 20 yards out, but the veteran netminder was alert to steer to low shot wide of his right post and out for a corner.From there the game devolved quickly into a physical affair for the first 15 minutes, with Puerto Rico trying to assert itself through a serious of physical challenges, one of which left Indy’s Justin Braun bloodied and off to the sideline for treatment for several minutes. Just after Braun re-entered in the 9th minute it looked as if Indy got on the board first when Nemanja Vukovic headed home a Nicki Paterson free kick from 35 yards out, but the goal was nullified after the offside flag went up.Puerto Rico FC would deal with an injury blow just before the half hour mark when forward Oliver pulled up without suffering contact, the Brazilian being subbed out for Kyle Culbertson in the 29th minute.NASL June Player of the Month Eamon Zayed had his first good look of the match for the visitors in the 33rdminute when he got on the end of Omar Gordon’s low cross, but the Irishman’s redirect from eight yards skipped just wide of the near left post.Both sides would get a quality look in the final moments of the first half, starting with Paterson pushing a 20-yard free kick just past the far right post.  A minute later it was Hector Ramos almost getting to a loose ball inside the six, but Eleven defender Cory Miller slid in to take the ball off the PRFC attacker’s foot at the last moment.Puerto Rico come out more composed in the second half, and it was Ramos nearly starting the stanza well in the 49th minute but he couldn’t quite reach Culbertson’s well-struck square ball across the six yard box. Three minutes later Marrero got to the endline and cut a ball back into the heart of the area for an onrushing Sidney Rivera, but his shot in plenty of space was skied over goal.The game would lull for a bit, but Vukovic jolted it back to life in the 65th minute when he stepped past a defender and unleashed a 25-yard yard shot that took a deflection and whistled a foot past the left post. It was Vukovic playing provider to his former Sacramento teammate Braun five minutes later with a perfectly-weighted far post chip, but Braun’s knick flashed just wide of the right post. A minute later captain Greg Janicki came up for a dead ball chance and saw his header also take a deflection, and Indy seemed to have the momentum going its way for the final 20 minutes.But Puerto Rico would go ahead against the run of play, and with a little bit of controversy in the 74th minute.  After Brad Ring looked to have taken an elbow in the center circle play was allowed to continue on, and Puerto Rico pushed into the final third despite the Indy midfielder staying on the ground behind the play. The advantage worked for the home side as Culbertson’s well-placed cross from the left found a streaking Ramos, who touched past Miller then slammed home on the line to set up a potential dream start to Puerto Rico’s campaign.Indiana’s Team had other ideas though, and it would keep the pressure up in the final 10 minutes through a series of seemingly endless set pieces. Vukovic’s short ball to Zayed nearly paid dividends in the 87th minute, but the Irishman’s sliding shot missed wide. A minute later substitute defender Lovel Palmer crashed the six to get a head on a Vukovic corner that PRFC goalkeeper David Meves smothered on his line.Puerto Rico would commit one too many fouls in a dangerous position, setting up one last Vukovic service that deservedly paid off. The left back’s free kick from five yards outside the corner of the area was placed perfectly to the six, where the substitute Youla headed home with authority to bring things all square and keep Indy undefeated with five wins and six draws in NASL action.Indy Eleven returns home to Carroll Stadium next Saturday, July 9, to face off against Minnesota United FC (7:30 p.m. ET, live on WISH-TV), with the game being preceded by the trophy presentation honoring the club’s Spring Season championship. Tickets for the popular Craft Beer Night at “The Mike” are available starting at $11 and can be purchased at www.IndyEleven.com, while passes for the two-hour craft beer tasting event can be secured with or without a game ticket at http://craftbrew16.indyeleven.com andhttp://craftbrewtaste16.indyeleven.com respectively. Call 317-685-1100 for more details (Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.).
NASL Fall Season   Puerto Rico FC  1 : 1  Indy Eleven
Saturday, July 2, 2016
    Estadio Juan Ramon Loubriel – Bayamon, Puerto Rico   Attendance:  6,474

Indy Eleven:
Fall Season: 0W-1D-0L, 1 pt.
Overall Season: 4W-7D-0L, 18 pts.

Puerto Rico FC:
Fall Season: 0W-1D-0L, 1 pt.
Overall Seaso: 0W-1D-0L, 1 pt.

Scoring Summary:
PRFC – Hector Ramos (Kyle Culbertson) 74’
IND – Souleymane Youla (Nemanja Vukovic) 92+’

Discipline Summary:
PRFC –Rudy Dawson (caution) 12’
PRFC –Ramon Martin Del Campo (caution) 46+’)
IND – Nicki Paterson (caution) 59’
PRFC – Kyle Culbertson (caution) 59’

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch; Nemanja Vuković, Greg Janicki (capt), Cory Miller, Marco Franco; Omar Gordon (Duke Lacroix 55’), Brad Ring, Nicki Paterson (Souleymane Youla 79’), Dylan Mares (Lovel Palmer 81’); Eamon Zayed, Justin BraunIndy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Daniel Keller, Sinisa Ubiparipovic

Puerto Rico FC (4-3-3): David Meves; Ramon Soria, Cristiano Dias, Rudy Dawson, Ramon Matin Del Campo; Tyler Rudy, Chris Nurse, Oliver (Kyle Culbertson 29’); Joseph Marrero (Brian Bement 67’), Hector Ramos, Sidney Rivera (Pedro Mendes 79’)PRFC bench: Trevor Spangenberg (GK), Jorge Rivera, Camilo Botero, Paulo Mendes

ZAYED NAMED NASL’S BEST FOR JUNE

Irishman becomes first player in club history to earn monthly honor

Jun 30, 2016

Irishman’s Heroics Helped Indy Eleven Lift Spring Season Trophy

NEW YORK/INDIANAPOLIS (Thursday, June 30, 2016) – The month of June may have only had two league games on the schedule for Indy Eleven, but forward Eamon Zayed made quite an impact in that short period of time.The Irish veteran’s incredible hat trick against the Carolina RailHawks on June 11 helped the Boys in Blue bring home the North American Soccer League (NASL) Spring Season Championship in dramatic fashion. For his heroic efforts, Zayed was voted as NASL Payer of the Month, marking the first time in Indy Eleven’s two-and-a-half seasons of play a member of squad has earned the recognition.“Individual honors are extremely rewarding, so I’m delighted, but this Player of the Month award is a reflection of the hard work and teamwork put in by all the players and staff,” Zayed said. “This was Indy Eleven’s month, but it’s only the beginning. The real challenge starts now if we want to bring home the NASL Championship.”Indy Eleven entered its game against Carolina needing to score four goals and win by at least three, and it did just that with a 4-1 victory. Zayed found the net in the 16th, 65th, and 85th minutes to help the Boys in Blue clinch their first piece of NASL silverware and guarantee themselves a home semifinal game in The Championship, the league’s four-team postseason tournament, in November.Zayed, 32, enters the NASL Fall Season atop the scoring chart with six league goals – one above Minnesota United’s Christian Ramirez and Rayo OKC’s Michel. In addition to scoring Indy’s biggest goals of the Spring Season, the Irish forward, who represents Libya at the international level, tallied the game-winner in a 1-0 win over Liga Bancomer MX Champion CF Pachuca on June 26. Zayed led off the month with another game-winning goal on June 1, Indy’s second in a 2-1 comeback win over USL side Louisville City FC in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.“Down the stretch in important games leading up to the Spring Season Championship, Eamon put himself in a great spot to finish his chances and that certainly, along with our defense, was the difference maker in being able to win it,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “In a series of games like that, you have to have a striker that knows where to be, when to be there, and how to finish his chances. Eamon was crucial to our success in that area.”The 6-foot-2 forward joined the Boys in Blue prior to the 2016 Spring Season after spending last year in the Malaysian Premier League with Sabah. Prior to that stint, Zayed was a prolific goalscorer in the League of Ireland. The Dublin native starred for the likes of Bray Wanderers, Drogheda United, Sporting Fingal, and Derry City, among others. A Leicester City youth product, Zayed has also played at the professional level in England, Norway, and Iran.Zayed took home more individual league honors than any other NASL player over the course of the 10-game Spring Season, winning Player of the Week twice to go along with today’s Player of the Month award.Indy Eleven returns to action this Saturday, traveling to the Caribbean to take on Puerto Rico FC in its inaugural game at Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium in Bayamon. Kickoff for the opening game of Indy’s 22-game NASL Fall Season is set for 7:30 p.m. ET, and the match can be seen live locally on WISH-TV and nationwide via streaming video on ESPN3.

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