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 firstname.lastname@example.org
COPA 100 vs EUROs
COPA 100 Pays off Bigtime for –the Goalkeeper
Mourinho’s Squad delimas at United Richard Jolly ESPNFC
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)
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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, email@example.com: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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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:
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
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
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
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
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
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 Lloyd, Megan 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 Brian, Lindsey 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
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
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
Defensive Actions: 2
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.
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.
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
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
Yellow Cards: 1
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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