I know it was a full week ago now – but wow what an ending in Brazil for the Olympics as the home standing Brazilians went to penalty kicks vs Germany in a drama filled intense affair. Congrats to Brazilians and Barcelona star forward Neymar as he slotted home the winner after a brilliant save by the Brazilian Goalkeeper on the 5th penalty. The atmosphere was spectacular and I was glad to see Brazil restore some of their national pride in their soccer team.
A job well done by US Soccer for suspending US Women’s controversial goalkeeper Hope Solo for 6 months and cancelling her national team contract – while excessive perhaps for this one offense – lets be real – this is like strike #4 or #5 for Solo. When is enough, enough? I stand by what I said 2 weeks ago when Hope said what she said. So disappointed in Hope Solo and her comments – seriously I try to coach Goalkeepers and get young girls excited about one of the toughest positions in soccer by giving them role models – but Hope Solo is an embarrassment to her team, The US national program, the sport of soccer and the entire country. Honestly how do her coaches even let her speak to the media. She’s 35, we don’t play another major competition for 3 years – I think its past time she not be allowed to represent our country anymore! Lets hope Jill Ellis and the US women’s soccer team can find a goalkeeper in the group who represents the US the way almost every other player on the team does with class!! Next Friday Sept 2/Tues Sept 6 the US men return to World Cup Qualifying with games @ St. Vincent and vs Trinidad & Tabago and the entire world league play will take an international break.
In Europe the Champions League Group Stage is set and it has some great match-ups with Man City and Barcelona in the same group as well as Arsenal again in with PSG (see complete list below). Congrats to Real Madrid’s Renaldo for winning the Player of the Year Award !! Both the German Bundesliga and the Spanish La Liga season’s kick off this weekend as 4 time defending champs Bayern Munich start play Friday vs Werder Bremen on Fox Sports 1 at 2:30 pm. Saturday features a huge game on FOX at 12:30 pm as US international Fabian Johnson and Borussia Monchengladbach host Mexican star forward Chicerito Hernandez and Bayer Leverkusen. The EPL has a Sat 7:30 am NBCSN match-up featuring Tottenham vs Liverpool, while a pair of 2-0 squads square off as regulation Cinderella Hull City hosts Manchester United at 12:30 on NBCSN.
Stateside MLS has a solid Sunday doubleheader this week on ESPN as the New York Red Bulls host New England at 2:30 pm followed by My Seattle Sounder’s, on a 4 game winning streak since changing coaches, traveling to defending champs Portland in the Cascadia Cup showdown #2 on Sunday at 5 pm. The Indy 11 fell to 3rd after their loss on the road last weekend as they travel to Ottawa for a Sunday match up at 2 pm on ESPN3 before returning Labor Day Sat for a 7:30 match up with Tampa Bay at the Mike.
Locally – High School soccer is underway and the Carmel Girls are back on top at #1 in the state after impressive early season victories, this week they host the Carmel Invitational at Murray Stadium with top 10 ranked foes Cathedral (9 am- Sat) and Fishers (7 pm Sat) coming to town (tix just $5) before traveling to Zionsville next weekend for match-ups against #2 Ranked Brebeuf, and Sacred Heart. The Guerin Varsity boys got 2 goals from Carmel FC U18 forward Julian Tessarzyk but fell in a heartbreaker at #6 ranked Lafayette Harrison 5-3. They return home vs Lawrence North 6 pm on Monday. The Carmel boys have opened with 3 straight ties – and will face Zionsville at home Sat at 2:30 pm. Next Friday – Sept 2 – the CHS boys host PACK THE HOUSE/MAKE GOOD DECISIONS NITE with FREE ADMISSION for CFC players in uniform. Finally Carmel FC had some great results at both the PikeFest and Westside Tournaments the past 2 weekends – with Academy Winners 07 Boys Blue, 09 Boys White, and 09 Girls Blue along with Championship winners 06 Gold Girls, 06 Girls Blue, and 05 Girls Gold. 04 and 03 Girls Gold finished 2nd in their divisions (pics below).
Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –
Fri, Aug 26 German Bundesliga + Spain La Liga Starts
2:30 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen
Sat, Aug 27
7:30 AM NBCSN Tottenham vs Liverpool
10 am NBCSN Chelsea vs Burnley, Everton vs Stoke
12:30 p.m., Fox Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen
Sun, Aug 28
2 pm ESPN3 Ottawa vs Indy 11
5 pm ESPN Portland host Seattle Sounders – CASCADIA CUP 2!
7 pm Fox Sport 1 Orlando City vs NYCFC
Wed, Aug 31
7:30 pm My Indy TV NY Cosmos vs Indy 11
Fri, Sept 2
3:30 pm beIN sport WCQ – US @ St. Vincent + Grenadines
European League – Over/Under – SI – Ben Lyttleton
Spanish La LIGA Season Preview
Bale nets Brace as Real Madrid start La Liga with Win without Renaldo
Germany Bundesliga Season Preview-Video
Can Dortmund knock Bayern off the Bundeliga Perch? ESPNFC
Chicharito Hernandez looks for steller Season with Bayern Leverkusen
Juve’s Higuain’s Instant Impact – Marcotti – ESPNFC Video
GK Jasper Cillessen moves from Ajax to Barcelona to be #2 GK
English Premier League
Man City Sign GK Claudio Bravo from Barca
EPL Investments paying off for Rich Clubs SI
Sterling and Zlatan Star in Manchester ahead of Manchester Darby next
Man City Already looks Impressive – David Mooney ESPNFC
Arsenal Still missing Physicality and Personality –
Hope Solo banned for 6 months by US Soccer
US Soccer Comes Down Hard on Solo – Grant Wahl SI
USA Today – Solo US Career Over?
Who Replaces Hope Solo for US Ladies?
Competition Brews for US Men Keepers
US Hot List – Altidore and Dempsey are Hot
Great Column Talking to US Players with WTF – Eric Wynalda
Weekend update – NYC Dazzle over LA, Seattle Wins Again
Sigi simply wasn’t working in Seattle anymore
MLS – GOALKEEPER WEEK Just Wrapped Up
Favorite for Goalkeeper of the Year in MLS
Nick Rimando voted best MLS Keeper ever – 1 of the Best PK Savers ever
Best Saves for American Goalie Andre Blake for Philly Union
What Happens when you put a field player in goal
Long List of American Goalkeepers in EPL – you will notice Carmel’s own Juergen Sommer on this list
Playoff Tickets go on sale Aug 29th
Champions League Draw has some Great Matchups
2006 Girls Gold – Pike Fest Champions
2006 Girls Blue — Pike Fest Champions
Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –
Fri, Aug 26 German Bundesliga + Spain La Liga Starts
2:30 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs. Werder Bremen
Sat, Aug 27
7:30 AM NBCSN Tottenham vs Liverpool
9:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2: Borussia Dortmund vs. Mainz
9:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus: Hamburg SV vs. Ingolstadt
10 am NBCSN Chelsea vs Burnley, Everton vs Stoke, Leciester vs Swansea, Southhampton vs Sunderland
12 pm beIN Sport Lazio vs Juventus
12:30 pm NBC Hull City vs Man United
12:30 p.m., Fox Borussia Mönchengladbach vs. Bayer Leverkusen
2 pm beIN Sport Real Madrid vs Celta De Vigo
8 pm beIN Sport, ESPN3 Miami vs Min United
Sun, Aug 28
9:30 a.m Fox Sport1 Hertha Berlin vs. Freiburg
11 am NBCSN Man City vs West Ham
2 pm ESPN3 ? Ottawa vs Indy 11
2:30 pm ESPN NY Red Bulls vs New England
5 pm ESPN Portland host Seattle Sounders – CASCADIA CUP 2!
7 pm Fox Sport 1 Orlando City vs NYCFC
Wed, Aug 31
7:30 pm CBS Sports Network Ft. Lauderdale vs Minn.
7:30 pm ?? NY Cosmos vs Indy 11
Fri, Sept 2
3:30 pm beIN sport WCQ – US @ St. Vincent + Grenadines
5 pm beIN Sport Honduras vs Canada
8 pm beIN Sport Haiti vs Costa Rica
10 pm beIN Sport Mexico vs El Salvador
Sat, Sept 3 *International Break *
7:30 pm Ch 8 ESPN3 Indy 11 vs TB Rowdies
Sun, Sept 4
12 pm Fox Sports 2 Denmark vs Armenia
12 pm Fox Sports ? ESPN3 Slovakia vs England
2:45 pm Fox Sports 2 Norway vs Germany
Mon, Sept 5
12 pm Fox Sports 1 Spain vs Leichenstein
Tues, Sept 6
2:45 pm Fox Sports 2 Belarus vs France
2:45 pm Fox Sports 1 Switzerland vs Portugal
8 pm Fox Sport 1 WCQ – US vs Trinadad and Tobago
8:15 pm beIN Sport Brazil vs Colombia
Fri, Sept 9
2:30 pm Fox Sport1 Bayern Munich vs. Schalke 04
Sat, Sept 10
7 am FS1 Celtic vs Rangers – Ireland
11 am NBCSN Man United vs Man City
9:30 am fox Sports 1 Bayer Leverkusen s Hamburg SV
10 am NBCSN Arsenal vs Southampton, Stoke City vs Tottenham, West Ham vs Watford
12:30 pm FS 2 RB Leipzig vs Borussia Dortmund
12:30 pm NBCSN Liverpool s Leicester City
7:30 pm YES New England vs NYCFC
7:30 pm beIN Sports Ft. Lauderdale vs Indy 11
9 pm beIN Sport Futsal World Cup – Colombia vs Portugal
Sun, Sept 11
9:30 am FS1 Werder Bremen vs Augsburg
11 am NBCSN Swansea vs Chelsea
11:30 am FS 1 Mainz 05 vs Hoffenhiem
7 pm FS 1 LA Galaxy vs Orlando City
9:30 pm FS 1 Women -Portland Thorns vs NY Flash
Mon, Sept 12
3 pm NBCSN Sunderland vs Everton
EPL TV Schedule on NBC + NBCSN
German Bundesliga TV Schedule on Fox Soccer and Gol TV
Neymar, Brazil finally win gold as program tries to reclaim glory
“Brazilian soccer is not dead.” Neymar’s penalty kick gave Brazil its first men’s soccer gold medal and sent the Maracanã into a long-awaited frenzy. GRANT WAHLSunday August 21st, 2016 Sports Illustrated
RIO DE JANEIRO — “Brazilian soccer is not dead.”It may not be a statement you’d put on a bumper sticker, but the words of Rogério Micale, Brazil’s men’s Olympic soccer coach, were exactly what this country was looking for from the nation’s first soccer gold medal in its history. Plenty of too-cool-for-school soccer observers will be quick to deride Brazil’s historic Olympic triumph—achieved on penalties against Germany—for what it isn’t instead of for what it is.
Here is what it is not:
- Revenge forthe 7–1 loss to Germany in the World Cup. (That trauma will never go away, and men’s Olympic soccer is an age-restricted tournament anyway.)
- Evidence that Brazil’s soccer structure has been fixed. (Even Brazilian federation insiders admit otherwise.)
- Reason to think Brazil will be a favorite to win World Cup 2018. (With the senior team currently in sixth place in South American World Cup qualifying, Brazil is hoping just tomake itto Russia.)But anyone focusing on those things is missing the point. Brazil’s stirring victory in a sold-out Maracanã Stadium on Saturday, featuring a glorious free kick goal and a game-clinching penalty by superstar Neymar, was pure theater, a chance with the world watching for Brazilians to finally start feeling some pride again in a national institution.At a time when Brazil has been taking hits for its political and economic shambles, for the Zika virus and Rio’s safety issues, for that awful 7–1, the chance to end nearly a century of Olympic soccer failures was something thatmattered here. No Olympic gold medal mattered to Brazilians more, in fact, than this one. Will the 2020 men’s Olympic soccer tournament mean much to Brazilians? Probably not. But this one certainly did.“I’m sure this will give reason for pride and confidence for the Brazilian people and the national team,” said Micale, the mild-mannered coach who brought the team back from two scoreless draws against South Africa and Iraq to start the tournament. “We know the huge responsibility on the shoulders of the Olympic team. After all, soccer is the No. 1 sport in Brazil. But this [post-World Cup recriminations] phase now is passed. We can look toward the future of Brazilian soccer more confident, more proud and, once and for all, Brazilian soccer is not dead.”The 24-year-old Neymar, in particular, lived a real-life Brazilian novela in this Olympic tournament. He is Brazil’s biggest sports star, and he was put on this Olympic team for two reasons: 1) Brazil had never won Olympic soccer gold before, and 2) It couldn’t afford an embarrassment on home soil. And so Neymar skipped June’s Copa América with the senior team and missed the start of the Spanish season for Barcelona to be here over the past three weeks.And it got off to a nightmare start for him. Brazil’s inability to score over 180 minutes against two lightly regarded Under-23 teams set off alarms all over Brazil. Fans started scratching out Neymar’s name on Brazil jerseys with magic markers and booing him from the stands. The Brazilian press was merciless too, and after the Iraq game Neymar refused to speak to the media in the postgame mixed zone and press conference. That would continue for the rest of the tournament, even after his moment of glory in the final.So be it. That’s his call. But whether he was talking or not, Neymar’s semifinal and final performances were electric. He scored just 14 seconds into the 6–0 semifinal win against Honduras and added a second on a penalty just before the end. Then in the final, Neymar’s gorgeous free kick goal grazed the underside of the crossbar and gave Brazil a 1–0 lead that threatened to send the Maracanã into orbit.Neymar tired as the night went on and Germany equalized as the game headed into extra time. He was visibly limping, at some moment barely able to move. But he had one more moment of magic left. During the penalties, which were taken well by both teams, Neymar had been given the No. 5 slot by Micale. It was actually bad strategy, since you never usually want your best penalty-taker to go fifth, for fear that he’ll never get the chance if his teammates miss.But from a dramatic perspective it was fantastic. In the fifth round, with penalties tied at 4–4, Germany’s Nils Petersen had his kick saved by Brazilian goalkeeper Weverton (one of the few Brazilian top-level players who comes from the Amazon). Neymar walked slowly to the spot with the Olympic gold on the line. “The only thing on my mind was I had to do this,” he told a TV reporter on the field.And so he did. Pandemonium in the Maracanã. “It gives us huge pride to share the gold medal with Neymar,” said Micale afterward. “We know he’s a reference for Brazilian soccer, but just as Neymar was brilliant scoring the fifth goal in the shootout, Weverton the goalkeeper made a special defense. We knew when we called him up that he might be called on to do exactly that. And he didn’t let us down.”The Maracanã rejoiced, and Rio rejoiced, and the medal that Brazil had to win was won.There are a lot of things that this gold medal is not. But it still matters. Brazilian soccer is not dead.
Barcelona to face Man City, Arsenal draw PSG in Champions League draw
Pep Guardiola will return to the Camp Nou after Manchester City and Barcelona were drawn together in the Champions League group stage on Thursday. Guardiola spent the majority of his playing career with Barcelona and led them to two European titles as manager in 2009 and 2011. And now in his first season as City boss, he will face off against his former club in Group C, along with Borussia Monchengladbach and Celtic, when the group stage begins next month.The Spanish champions beat City in the round of 16 in both 2014 and 2015, and the teams completed a transfer of goalkeeper Claudio Bravo to City just hours before the draw.The draw featured some other blockbuster matchups, as defending champions Real Madrid play Borussia Dortmund in Group F, Paris Saint-Germain face Arsenal in Group A, and Bayern Munich will meet last year’s runners-up Atletico Madrid in Group D.vThere were more favourable draws for the other two English clubs.vDebutants Leicester City were drawn with Porto, Club Brugge and FC Copenhagen in Group G, while Tottenham must play CSKA Moscow, Bayer Leverkusen and Monaco in Group E.
Sept. 13, 14
Sept. 27, 28
Oct. 18, 19
Nov. 1, 2
Nov. 22, 23
Dec. 6, 7
Round-of-16 draw: Monday, Dec. 12.
U.S. Soccer calls Hope Solo comments at Rio Games ‘unacceptable’
Aug 25, 2016
Goalkeeper Hope Solo has been suspended six months from the national team for what U.S. Soccer called “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.” After the United States was eliminated from the Rio Olympics earlier this month in a penalty shootout, the 35-year-old Solo criticized the winning Sweden team, calling it “a bunch of cowards.” “The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our National Team players,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said in a statement Wednesday. “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. National Team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action.”The suspension is effective immediately. Solo was previously suspended for 30 days early in 2015 for conduct related to an incident at the team’s training camp.”For 17 years, I dedicated my life to the U.S. Women’s National Team and did the job of a pro athlete the only way I knew how — with passion, tenacity, an unrelenting commitment to be the best goalkeeper in the world, not just for my country but to elevate the sport for the next generation of female athletes,” Solo said in a statement. “In those commitments, I have never wavered. And with so much more to give, I am saddened by the Federation’s decision to terminate my contract.”I could not be the player I am without being the person I am, even when I haven’t made the best choices or said the right things. My entire career, I have only wanted the best for this team, for the players and the women’s game, and I will continue to pursue these causes with the same unrelenting passion with which I play the game.”Richard Nichols, the executive director of the USWNT Players Association, said the union will file an appeal on Solo’s behalf. “Given the cited conduct and alleged policy violation, we believe the proposed discipline to be excessive, unprecedented, disproportionate and a violation of Ms. Solo’s First Amendment rights,” Nichols said. “We also question whether this action would ever have been taken against a male player or coach, who, in the heated moments after a frustrating defeat, questioned the tactics of the opposing team. Needless to say, we will file an appeal on Ms. Solo’s behalf.”The U.S. Olympic team dominated possession against Sweden in the quarterfinal match in Rio and finished with 27 shots, but Sweden scored on a counterattack in regulation — one of only two shots on goal it had in the game. After playing to a 1-1 stalemate over 120 minutes, Sweden edged the U.S. 4-3 in the shootout.Solo didn’t hold back in her comments afterward. “I thought that we played a courageous game,” Solo said. “I thought that we had many opportunities on goal. I think we showed a lot of heart. We came back from a goal down. I’m very proud of this team.”I also think we played a bunch of cowards. But, you know, the best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly believe that. I think you saw America’s heart. You saw us give everything that we had today. Unfortunately, the better team didn’t win.”Sweden coach Pia Sundhage, who coached the U.S. team to gold medals during the Beijing and London games, replied by stating: “It’s OK to be a coward if you win.”Solo was a lightning rod during the Olympic tournament, irking fans in Brazil when she posted a photo of herself covered with mosquito netting and armed with insect repellent on social media. Fans booed her mercilessly and hollered “Zika!” each time she kicked downfield. Then she caused a stir with her “cowards” comment.She has been making headlines throughout her career. She has vocally advocated for women’s rights. Solo was among the U.S. players who filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for wage discrimination, saying the men’s national team players have been paid much more than many on the women’s team, which for years has outperformed the U.S. men on the international stage.More recently, she has called for better conditions for players in the National Women’s Soccer League.She has also been trying to avoid a trial on misdemeanor domestic violence charges after a 2014 incident at her sister’s home, when the goalkeeper was accused of being intoxicated and assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew. Solo said she was a victim in the altercation.Earlier this year, an appeals court in Washington state rejected Solo’s request to avoid trial.Solo currently is playing for the Seattle Reign of the National Women’s Soccer League. They resume their season Saturday. Alyssa Naeher is the only other goalie currently on the USWNT roster.
U.S. Soccer suspends goalkeeper Hope Solo for six months for Olympics remarks
The U.S. women’s national team goalkeeper called Sweden “cowards” for assuming defensive tactics in an Olympic quarterfinal upset of the Americans. GRANT WAHLWednesday August 24th, 2016
U.S. Soccer has suspended goalkeeper Hope Solo for six months after her controversial comments at the Olympics and terminated her national team contract, the federation announced Wednesday. U.S. women’s coach Jill Ellis and U.S. Soccer general secretary Dan Flynn met with Solo, 35, in Seattle on Wednesday afternoon and gave her the news. The move follows Solo’s comments at the Olympics when she called the Swedish players “cowards” for their defensive style in eliminating the U.S. in the quarterfinals. Solo, who received public criticism from teammate Megan Rapinoe and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati for her comments, did not apologize for them.“The comments by Hope Solo after the match against Sweden during the 2016 Olympics were unacceptable and do not meet the standard of conduct we require from our national team players,” Gulati said in a press release. “Beyond the athletic arena, and beyond the results, the Olympics celebrate and represent the ideals of fair play and respect. We expect all of our representatives to honor those principles, with no exceptions.”Gulati continued: “Taking into consideration the past incidents involving Hope, as well as the private conversations we’ve had requiring her to conduct herself in a manner befitting a U.S. national team member, U.S. Soccer determined this is the appropriate disciplinary action.”Solo and U.S. women’s national team player representative Rich Nichols gave their responses to SI:
Hope Solo’s response to SI on her suspension.
Solo, the most dominant goalkeeper in women’s soccer history, has won one World Cup title and two Olympic gold medals in a U.S. career that has included 202 national team appearances and 102 clean sheets. Both are the most ever internationally for a goalkeeper, male or female. Solo has been involved in controversy as well. At the 2007 World Cup, U.S. coach Greg Ryan benched her for the semifinal against Brazil after she had started every game. Solo lashed out publicly after the U.S.’s 4-0 loss and was shunned by her teammates, but ultimately Ryan lost his job and Solo was welcomed back to the U.S. team under coach Pia Sundhage and won agold medal in 2008. As coincidence would have it, Solo’s controversial remarks at this Olympics were about Sundhage’s Sweden team.After Solo’s standout performance at the 2011 World Cup, where the U.S. finished second, she became a breakout personality and ended up on Dancing With The Stars. But in 2014 she was accused of a fourth-degree domestic violence offense in an incident involving her nephew and half-sister. That case has yet to be resolved. In early 2015, Solo was suspended for 30 days by U.S. Soccer after she and her husband, Jerramy Stevens, were stopped in a U.S. team van that Stevens was driving in Los Angeles. He was charged with DUI and served three days in jail.Solo was part of an impressive U.S. defensive display in winning the 2015 World Cup, but her performance in the 2016 Olympics was mixed. She made some huge saves in the U.S.’s 1-0 group-stage victory against France, but Solo’s howler against Colombia cost the U.S. two points in a 2-2 tie.Solo will still play for her NWSL club team, the Seattle Reign.
WHO REPLACES HOPE SOLO FOR THE US?
By: Laken Litman | August 25, 2016 12:02 pm
U.S. Soccer has terminated Hope Solo’s contract and suspended the record-setting goalkeeper from the U.S. Women’s National Team for six months for “conduct that is counter to the organization’s principles.” After the U.S. lost to Sweden in the Olympic quarterfinal, she called her opponent “cowards.” So if she’s not eligible for national team selection until Feb. 2017, who will replace her? Right now, coach Jill Ellis has two main options at goalkeeper: Alyssa Naeher, who was Solo’s backup at the Olympics, and Ashlyn Harris, Solo’s backup at the World Cup last year and an alternate in Rio. Neither has the experience, caps or accolades as Solo, but they’ll have to step up and earn a starting job. Because what if Solo’s career is finished? It realistically could be at this point. Solo, who has been the USWNT’s starting goalkeeper since 2005, is 35 now, which mean’s she’ll be 38 at the 2018 World Cup and 39 at the next Olympics. She had an overall disappointing performance in Brazil, even letting the ball slip between her legs against Colombia. Not to mention the other headaches she’s caused U.S. Soccer.
If she doesn’t return, these are the two most obvious choices:
Alyssa Naeher, 28 (caps: 7)
Naeher has been part of the USWNT for the last year, including the Rio Olympics, 2015 World Cup, and 2015 Algarve Cup. She played as a substitute for a few victory tour matches following the World Cup. She earned her first cap in a shutout victory against Argentina in 2014. She was the third string goalkeeper during the Olympics, but moved ahead of Ashlyn Harris for the No. 2 spot during the Olympics. Plays professionally for the Chicago Red Stars.
Ashlyn Harris, 30 (caps: 8)
Solo’s backup at the 2015 World Cup, she didn’t start any matches in Canada, but did during the Victory Tour. Has had several injuries hamper her college and professional career, and was demoted to alternate (third string) for the Rio Olympics behind Naeher. She plays professionally for the Orlando Pride. The USWNT is back on the field twice next month in a pair of friendlies against Thailand (Sept. 15) and the Netherlands (Sept. 18).
U.S. Hot List: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey finding form at the right time
unday is when the United States national team roster for next month’s World Cup qualifying matches, at St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Jacksonville, Fla., against Trinidad and Tobago, is expected to be announced.And at this late stage, Jurgen Klinsmann has more likely than not already made his picks.But while a number of the 11 names below will surely be included on the squad list — one that could be larger than usual if the coach is considering releasing players to their clubs should the Americans secure a place in the final “hexagonal” round of CONCACAF qualifying after the first game — a few others are here more because of recent developments and their long-term prospects within the U.S. program.Here’s who is trending up (and down) in the U.S. team this week:
Jozy Altidore, FW, Toronto FC
Why he’s here: Now with four goals in his last five appearances — his last this powerful solo effort in TFC’s 3-1 win at Philadelphia on Saturday night — Altidore is playing his best soccer since 2012-13, when he scored 31 goals in all competitions for Dutch club AZ Alkmaar.
What this means: Altidore’s recent strike rate has been off the charts, averaging a goal every 60.5 minutes since July 31. He has yet to play 90 minutes for the Reds since returning from a hamstring problem last month and so Klinsmann may still want to ease him in slowly but the 26-year-old, who has three strikes in four U.S. games in 2016, is making a strong case to start both qualifiers.
Matt Besler, DF, Sporting Kansas City
Why he’s here: A knee injury forced him to miss five weeks plus last month’s MLS All-Star game, but Besler returned to the SKC lineup on Saturday and helped his team pitch a clean sheet against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
What this means: A healthy Besler is good news for club and country, no doubt. But his extended absence — the 29-year-old was last seen for Sporting way back on July 13 — means it wouldn’t be a shock if Klinsmann leaves him home this time.
Clint Dempsey, FW, Seattle Sounders
Why he’s here: As with Altidore, his timing couldn’t be better. Dempsey added two more goals in Sunday’s 3-1 win against the Portland Timbers, giving him five (and one assist) in his last three games.
What this means: With Bobby Wood having just made his preseason debut for Bundesliga side Hamburg on Monday, don’t be shocked if Dempsey and Altidore, whose spot Wood filled admirably at Copa America, resume their partnership up top next month.
Brad Guzan, GK, Middlesbrough
Why he’s here: Guzan made his first start in Boro’s second game of the Premier League season on Sunday, leading his new employer to a 2-1 win at Sunderland.
What this means: Guzan got the nod after ex-Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes was injured in training and played well overall. He should keep his place at least for Middlesbrough’s next match, Wednesday’s League Cup tilt vs. Fulham. That should assuage any concerns about the 31-year-old’s match fitness heading into the international break.
Lynden Gooch, MF, Sunderland
Why he’s here: The 20-year-old made his second straight start for Sunderland and went 90 minutes in the loss to Guzan and Co. He was involved throughout, too, mostly on the left wing and was named the Black Cats’ man of the match.
What this means: The sudden emergence of Gooch is exciting for the national team. But the former U.S. under-20 is still more likely to get his maiden senior invite in October, when the Americans play friendlies against Cuba and New Zealand, than before two important World Cup qualifiers. Besides, staying in England this time around might keep him in rhythm and help him hold onto his place under David Moyes.
Josh Gatt, MF, Molde FK
Why he’s here: Gatt didn’t even feature in Sunday’s 4-2 win against Odds BK in the Norwegian Tippeligaen, but the 24-year-old winger, who won the last of his two U.S. caps in early 2013, deserves a mention for making manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s 18-man squad after missing most of the last three years because of knee injuries.
What this means: It’s way too early to talk about Gatt in the context of a national team return, but credit to the Michigan native — once one of America’s hottest prospects — for making it back.
Julian Green, MF, Bayern Munich
Why he’s here: Green, 21, played the final 24 minutes of Bayern’s 5-0 German Cup rout of lower division Carl Zeiss Jena last Friday.
What this means: It’s a promising sign than Green will get at least some time off the bench for Carlo Ancelotti’s side this season, if he’s not sold or loaned before the Aug. 31 deadline.
Geoff Cameron, DF, Stoke City
Why he’s here: The center-back dressed but didn’t play in either of Stoke’s first two Premier League games.
What this means: The 31-year-old joined up late for preseason after his stellar run for the U.S. at Copa, then took ill on the eve of the new season. But as long as Cameron sees minutes either in the midweek cup game against Stevenage or Saturday’s Premier League match at Everton, Klinsmann won’t be overly concerned.
Fabian Johnson, DF, Borussia Monchengladbach
Why he’s here: The versatile German-American played a combined nine substitute minutes in Gladbach’s two most recent matches.
What this means: We’ll have a better sense of where Johnson stands in manager Andre Schubert’s pecking order this time next week; the club plays a Champions League playoff-round match against Switzerland’s Young Boys before opening Bundesliga play against Bayern Leverkusen on Saturday. Either way, only injury will prevent him from lining up at left-back for the U.S. next month.
Darlington Nagbe, MF, Portland Timbers
Why he’s here: Since returning from Copa America duty, Nagbe has no goals and two assists in 12 games for the Timbers. The MLS champions have gone 3-6-3 during that span.What this means: To be fair, Portland’s recent struggles aren’t all down to Nagbe. But there’s still a sense that the midfielder could do more to impose himself during games, both at the club level and with the national team.
Christian Pulisic, MF, Borussia Dortmund
Why he’s here: The 17-year-old was left out of Dortmund’s squad for last week’s German Super Cup loss to Bayern and, while he made the roster for Monday’s cup match against Eintracht Trier in place of injured Mario Gotze, he didn’t see the field.What this means: In terms of his long-term prospects? Nothing. Those remain sky-high. But in the short term and as a practical matter, the attacking players BVB signed this summer — specifically Gotze, Ousmane Dembele and Andre Schurrle — appear to have impacted the youngster’s minutes already.So, if he’s not going to go on loan, it may be difficult for Pulisic, who made nine Bundesliga appearances (four starts) and scored two goals in the second half of the 2015-16 season, to play on a regular basis early on.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.
Christian Pulisic in Borussia Dortmund cup squad due to Mario Gotze injury
Dortmund play fourth-tier side Eintracht Trier in the first round of the DFB Pokal on Monday and coach Thomas Tuchel said Pulisic would fill in for summer signing Gotze, who has problems in the thigh/adductor region.”We will rest Mario Gotze as a precautionary measure, and we’ve decided Christian Pulisic will be named in the squad in his stead,” Tuchel told reporters. Pulisic, 17, was reported to be unhappy after he was not selected for Dortmund’s 2-0 Super Cup defeat against Bayern Munich and there had been speculation he would seek a temporary move to secure more regular game time this season.However, his father subsequently denied those claims and Pulisic himself vowed to fight for his place, saying: “I want to play as much as I can.” Tuchel also confirmed that 2014 World Cup winner Roman Weidenfeller, 36, will be his first-choice goalkeeper for all DFB Pokal matches.He said: “Roman Weidenfeller will play in goal in the cup matches, and Roman Burki will start in the other two competitions.”Stephan Uersfeld is the Germany correspondent
U.S. Hot List: Competition brews as Howard heats up and Guzan sits out
With less than two weeks to go until the U.S. national team’s roster for the World Cup qualifying matches against St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago is revealed, which players are putting themselves in position to participate?Attackers are leading the way once again, although at least two of them are probably best considered long-term projects rather than locks for coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad next month.The situation in goal is almost equally as interesting, with an open competition brewing between two of the program’s most decorated veterans. Injuries are again a factor, as is always the case, with time quickly running out for one regular starter in the midfield.It’s all below in this week’s U.S. Hot List.
Jozy Altidore, F, Toronto FC (MLS)
Why he’s here: Altidore was in Toronto’s lineup for the first time in three months against the Houston Dynamo on Sunday and scored a beauty of an equalizer in the 1-1 away tie. The veteran striker, who had come off the bench in the Reds’ previous three matches following a hamstring injury, now has three goals in his last 186 minutes of action.What this means: He’s sharp and noticeably svelte but still not fit for a full 90 minutes (Altidore was substituted midway through the second half against the Dynamo). TFC play three more times before the Americans convene in Florida ahead of their trip to the Caribbean, though, so the 26-year-old should at least be ready for a role off the bench for his country next month.
Steve Birnbaum, D, D.C. United (MLS)
Why he’s here: The central defender’s goal against the Portland Timbers on Saturday was his second in as many weeks; the 25-year-old also scored a94th-minute equalizer against the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 6.What this means: Birnbaum’s knack for finding the net — he had the game-winner for the Americans in a January friendly versus Iceland — is one of the reasons he’s been a regular for the U.S. this year. It’s also why he’s expected to move overseas at the end of the current MLS season.
Ethan Finlay, M/F, Columbus Crew (MLS)
Why he’s here: On Saturday, Finlay scored twice late in Columbus’ 3-3 tieagainst New York City FC — his first start for the Crew in a month.What this means: Finlay, 26, got off to a slow start this season after making his U.S. debut in January and didn’t crack the Copa America roster. Needless to say, Saturday’s performance comes at a good time.
Lynden Gooch, M/F, Sunderland (England)
Why he’s here: The 20-year-old Californian was a surprise starter in the Black Cats’ Premier League season opening loss to mighty Manchester City on Saturday, going 64 minutes on the left wing.What this means: It’s just one game, and next month’s international matches will probably come too soon for the former U.S. under-20 player, but Gooch’s speed, versatility and pedigree will probably be irresistible to Klinsmann later this year if he continues to earn minutes from manager David Moyes.
Tim Howard, G, Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Why he’s here: Howard stood on his head against the LA Galaxy on Saturday, making five saves — including three spectacular stops — in a 1-1 draw.What this means: The 37-year-old was Brad Guzan’s deputy at Copa America, but so far the pair have split the Americans’ four qualifying games of the 2018 cycle. With Guzan idle in England, expect Howard to get at least one of these two upcoming tilts, too.
Aron Johannsson, F, Werder Bremen (Germany)
Why he’s here: The oft-injured striker saw the field for the first time in nearly a year following hip surgery, appearing in Werder’s two most recent preseason matches.What this means: Even if Johannsson isn’t fully ready by the time the Bundesliga season begins (against Bayern Munich on Aug. 26) or for the September qualifiers, his return is great big-picture news for both the 2014 World Cup vet and the U.S., which is quietly building considerable forward depth heading into the Hexagonal.
Jordan Morris, F, Seattle Sounders (MLS)
Why he’s here: A week after running Orlando City SC’s back line ragged and setting up two Clint Dempsey strikes, Morris scored his team-high eighth goal of the season in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Real Salt Lake.What this means: Morris’ progress with the Sounders has been fun to watch this season. He has struggled at times, as expected, during his first professional season, but the 21-year-old Seattle native has also responded to the inevitable adversity with aplomb and is deserving of his first senior team invite of 2016.
Gyasi Zardes, M/F, LA Galaxy (MLS)
Why he’s here: Zardes came back from a two-game injury layoff in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup loss to FC Dallas, then started and went the distance against Colorado three days later, getting robbed by a point-blank Howard stop along the way.What this means: Given the amount of minutes the hard-running 24-year-old has played for the U.S. since making his international debut in 2015 — more than anyone besides Michael Bradley — having him healthy and available next month is hugely important for the team.
Brad Guzan, G, Middlesbrough (England)
Why he’s here: Guzan watched from the bench as former Barcelona keeper Victor Valdes manned the net for Boro in Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Stoke City.What this means: The decision wasn’t unexpected, as the job is considered Valdes’ to lose. But while the 34-year-old played well enough against Stoke, it was only Valdes’ eighth first-team appearance since leaving Barca two years ago (he made two for Manchester United in 2014-15 and five on loan to Belgium’s Standard Liege last season). The Spaniard is also mistake-prone at times. So while Guzan will have to wait for his chance, it figures to present itself at some point.
Jermaine Jones, M, Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Why he’s here: He was listed as questionable before the game in LA, but Jones (knee injury) ended up missing his sixth consecutive match.What this means: It’s looking less and less likely that Jones, 34, will be able to play any role for the U.S. next month.
Gregory Garza, D, Club Tijuana (Mexico)
Why he’s here: Garza was not in the Xolos‘ 18-man roster for Friday’s 2-0 victory over Leon.
What this means: Garza, 25, started the first two games of the season under former Mexico national team coach Miguel Herrera, but he could be falling victim to the Liga MX’s new 10/8 rule. Despite the fact that he holds Mexican citizenship through his father, the Texas-born left-back is no longer counted as a domestic player south of the border. If that’s the reason he didn’t dress, it’s a worrying development. He was on the bench the last two matches following a concussion scare.
Edgar Castillo, D, Monterrey (Mexico)
Why he’s here: The little full-back is out for two months with a knee injury, sidelining him for the U.S. games in September and October.What this means: While it’s true that Castillo is mostly a squad player for the Americans — he was added to the Copa roster only after Bundesliga-based German-American Timmy Chandler was forced to withdraw because of injury — his absence robs the U.S. of some badly needed depth at left-back.ESPN FC’s Tom Marshall contributed reporting from Mexico.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.
Over/Under: European club, season predictions for 2016-17
How many trophies will the elite clubs net in 2016-17? We predict that and more, taking a look at the major European leagues and seasons ahead.
BEN LYTTLETON Thursday August 18th, 2016 SI
With the new top-flight seasons set to kick off in Italy and Spain this weekend–and Germany one week later–and the Premier League just underway, there are lots of predictions to be made and questions to be answered. Will the competitive imbalance in France, Germany and Italy continue to be a problem? Will we see a surprise winner in any league? Will there be an outsider who cracks the Champions League elite? And just who will Jose Mourinho fall out with next?
With all of those questions–and more!–in mind, we take a look at the European club landscape in the over/under prism to provide as much clarity as possible entering a nine-month quest for trophies and championships:
Over/Under 2.5: Trophies for…
Carlo Ancelotti has already won his first trophy at Bayern, last weekend’s Super Cup win over Dortmund, getting him and his new club off to a winning start. But there was a clear difference in approach: Bayern had 45% possession and was happy to play on the break; it’s not quite the Pep Guardiola way, but it’s effective. With Dortmund recruiting smartly in summer, the question is whether it can push Bayern off the top spot in the Bundesliga. Ancelotti is a cup specialist, and the German Cup and Champions League might be where he sets his sights. Bayern will not find things as easy as this season.
The Spanish Super Cup is won, after Wednesday’s victory against Sevilla. Now all Luis Enrique needs to do is have his team defend its La Liga crown and win the Champions League or Spanish Cup (that’s all!). While the first XI may not change too much this season–with Marc-Andre ter Stegen likely to replace Claudo Bravo (who appears bound for Manchester City) as the first-choice La Liga goalkeeper, and Sergi Roberto replacing Dani Alves at right back, the supporting cast is stronger than ever. Midfield schemer Andre Gomes has joined from Valencia, Denis Suarez is back where he started and Samuel Umtiti and Lucas Digne improve the defensive depth.
Like Ancelotti, Mourinho got off to a winning start at Manchester United, winning the Community Shield as his first piece of silverware at Old Trafford. Next up? The Premier League title, which he says others are too scared to admit they are targeting. The signs were encouraging after the opening game at Bournemouth, and that’s before Paul Pogba has even started playing. Pogba could be a difference-maker, but depending on where he plays, he could also make threaten the place of Wayne Rooney. Mourinho will target cup runs too–including the Europa League–but might fall just short this time around.
Another big club, another new coach and this time Unai Emery has already won over his players and the fans at PSG. “We are working better tactically,” said Thiago Silva of Laurent Blanc’s replacement. Fans have also enjoyed Emery’s personal website launch, in which they are invited to pick their PSG team and see how it compares to his. PSG’s 4-1 rout over Lyon was a sign of where this season could go with Emery at the helm of a team that has won consecutive domestic trebles.
Over/Under 1.5: Trophies for…
It’s still early days for Guardiola, but the first week of the season has been encouraging, even if the team was helped by some generous defending from Sunderland and, particularly, Steaua Bucharest. The attacking potential of Sergio Aguero and his back-up cast is frightening, though if the Argentine is injured at the business end of the season, things could get tricky. The Premier League is the prime target for Guardiola, while a return to the Champions League semifinals (where Guardiola has never fallen short of reaching but has been eliminated in four straight seasons) is a possibility, too. Add a domestic cup to the mix, and the Pep project could be off to a flying start.
Real Madrid has now gone five seasons without winning La Liga, and this summer’s low-key transfer moves suggest an end to that run is not in the offing. The reigning Champions League holder will have its work cut out defending that crown, just as Cristiano Ronaldo, chasing a sixth straight season in which he scores at least 50 goals, might find Father Time catching up with him. It’s already won the UEFA Super Cup, besting Sevilla, so that leaves one of the league, Champions League, Copa del Rey and Club World Cup titles to take it over 1.5. Of the bunch, the Club World Cup (where UEFA entrants have won eight of the 12 titles) is the likeliest prize.
Over/Under 9: Points by which Juventus wins Serie A
- 17. 17. 9. 4. That’s how many points by which Juventus has won the last five Serie A titles. It looks locked-in for a sixth in a row after signing its rivals’ best players–Miralem Pjanic from Roma and Gonzalo Higuain from Napoli–but it could be derailed if, as it clearly hopes, it goes deep in the Champions League and its focus is split. After reaching the final in 2015, the aim is to go one better this year.
Over/Under 20.5: Goals scored by new Napoli’s Higuain replacement, Milik
Higuain scored more than a goal per game in Serie A last season (36 goals in 35 matches) and his replacement, Poland’s Arkadiusz Milik, will need to hit the ground running. Milik cost £34 million, after scoring 21 goals in the Dutch league last season. It’s a big purchase for Napoli, which will hope it pays off, but scoring in the Eredivisie and scoring in Serie A are two entirely different tasks.
Over/Under 1.5: Ligue 1 games PSG loses this season
Where do you go after winning the league four times in a row with barely a challenge? Last season PSG wanted to go unbeaten, and for 27 games, it looked possible. Then came a 2-1 loss at Lyon, and PSG’s version of the Invincibles was over. It lost at home to Monaco three weeks later. Can it come close again? With Hatem Ben Arfa, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Jese and Thomas Meunier among the new arrivals and Emery winning friends as coach, the question is when and not if PSG will win the league, even after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s departure. The real challenge is taking the next step in the Champions League and conquering Europe.
Over/Under 9.5: Leicester City’s final Premier League position
Last season’s surprise Premier League champion had a nasty wake-up call with its opening-day defeat at newly-promoted and written-off Hull City. But off the pitch it has sealed two big wins, with Jamie Vardy and, on Wednesday, Riyad Mahrez, signing new deals–so the attacking stars of 2015-16 will stay (at least until January offers roll in). Coach Claudio Ranieri says survival is the target, but regardless of European distractions, this squad is good enough to finish top half in the table. Expect the Foxes to regain their bite–maybe not against Arsenal on Saturday, but in the coming weeks.
Prediction: Over (top-half of the table)
Over/Under 3.5: Players Manchester City will be able to sell before the summer window shuts
It’s early days in the Pep-olution at the Etihad, but a few truths have already emerged after the first game of the season. Guardiola does not rate Joe Hart; there is no space for Yaya Toure in the squad; and Wilfried Bony, Eliaquim Mangala, Samir Nasri and Jesus Navas are all available if someone is prepared to take on their salaries. There is some talent in that group, but Guardiola will want to trim down his squad, and the focus for the City board next week will be selling rather than buying.
Over/Under 2.5: Number of Spanish players to make over 20 starts for Real Madrid this season
Zinedine Zidane has made his point as Real Madrid coach, as this is one of those rare summers during which the club has not made a big-money signing. Instead it has welcomed back two players, Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio, from successful loan spells. Zidane has won the power battle with Florentino Perez, for now, but will his Spanish contingent get much game time? Sergio Ramos will play if fit, and the same might go for Dani Carvajal, but what of Morata, Asensio and Lucas Vasquez, the winger who excelled last season and scored a penalty in the Champions League final shootout win? If Isco lasts the month, does he have a role to play, too?
Over/Under 3.5: Managers Mourinho will attack in the press
It’s been a relatively quiet start to the season for Mourinho, with only a mild poke at Jurgen Klopp and Arsene Wenger for their clubs not being big enough to sign Pogba. It was his early foray in the siege mentality/belligerent wind-ups in which he likes to engage. But there is plenty of time to go, and it promises to be interesting to see him lock horns with his bête noire Guardiola, as well as Wenger (again), Klopp (whose Dortmund beat his Real Madrid in the 2013 Champions League semifinal), and, of course, Ranieri, who was often on the receiving-end of his barbs when they were both coaching in Italy. The lower this number, the better United will be doing. Mourinho tends to pick fights when the pressure is greatest.
Over/Under 75.5: Combined La Liga goals scored by Messi, Suarez, Neymar
This is a generous estimate considering last season’s total scored between the three of them was 90 (out of 112 in total, so 80% of the team’s tally). But this is factoring in the potential of injuries and, given that Barcelona is looking to finally sign a fourth striker to give each of them some chance of a break, less playing time. Because all three are South American, holidays come in short supply: this summer they were with their countries for either Copa America or the Olympics, and the toll of traveling for international breaks and World Cup qualifying could start to add up–especially now that Messi has un-retired from international football.
Over/Under 3.5: Bundesliga coaches linked with jobs in England
It used to be Frenchmen, then Italians and very briefly Spaniards, but Liverpool’s feel-good factor under Jurgen Klopp will be noted by Premier League chairmen who have the likes of Thomas Tuchel (Borussia Dortmund) and Roger Schmidt (Leverkusen) on their radars. Also look out for Martin Schmidt (Mainz), Markus Wienzierl (Schalke) and Pal Dardai (Hertha Berlin).
Over/Under €49.5 million: Amount at which point Lyon will consider selling Alexandre Lacazette
We’ve been here before; 12 months ago, in fact, when Lyon’s tough negotiator and president Jean-Michel Aulas rejected bids for Lacazette and upset the player as well. This time around, Lacazette is playing it smarter. He scored a hat trick on Ligue 1’s opening day against Nancy, smiled when asked about his future and said, “Ask the president.” If someone bids €50 million for him, then Lyon will sell. Arsenal bid €35 million last month and might go up a level in the next two weeks.
La Liga 2016-17 preview: Barca and Real to contest the title, Atletico to slip
I think it was Confucius who once wisely said, “There are Five Things about everything.” How right he was — and here are mine as far as Spain’s new La Liga season goes.
1. A two-horse race for the title
Usain Bolt has turned the Olympic 100-meter final into a one-horse race for eight long years now. Still, the world devours it, loves it and venerates him. In the U.S. alone, 35 million people tuned in to watch the Jamaican sprint, have a cigar, chat to some competitors, grin for the cameras, make a cup of tea and meander home for gold. Again.But when people like me admit that this year’s Spanish title is a two-horse race, there’s usually a wailing and a gnashing of teeth, an end-of-times condemnation of everything in Spanish football from the TV money to the exquisite fine art they’ve developed here of making it as hard and confusing as possible to actually watch the thing. What makes me sadder now is that previously the thoroughbred stallions, Barcelona and Real Madrid, cut through the field not because the other competitors were poor, but because the two of them were utterly elite.Right now, however, when you look at the runners and riders it’s reasonable to fear that there has been an equine decline. And yes, I’m sorry, Atleti fans. They won’t — in fact, they can’t — win the league title.When Diego Simeone’s vastly impressive, vastly likeable group of players became champions in 2014, the two thoroughbreds were a touch lame. But right now, Madrid are a well-equipped squad (not by any means perfect in certain positions, mostly the back four) and also imbued with a confidence, a fighting spirit and a sense of mission which makes them good competitors. Conquering Europe will never, ever be made to look like a “second best” option for them, but the fact that they’ve won one Spanish title since 2008 means that La Liga will actually be their top priority.As much as I wanted Zinedine Zidane to isolate Madrid’s wrong-headed president, Florentino Perez, and make him change his ways by not accepting the job, he has been an absolutely wonderful addition to the racecourse here. Impishly happy in his work, elegant, tough, increasingly smart in his decision-making, full of leadership qualities and committed to attractive (read: winning) football, he has galvanised his club and it’s just terrific to watch.Then there’s Luis Enrique and his champions. Despite the adrenaline injection from a phalanx of young, hungry and technically able footballers like Samuel Umtiti, Lucas Digne, Andre Gomes and Denis Suarez, the absolute key factors are these: the front trident (Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez) is sublime and the key members of the squad are, somehow, managing to fight the psychological rust that usually ends winning eras.The transfer market hasn’t closed yet, so wild things could still happen, but look at it this way. Madrid lost the first Clasico 4-0 at home, dropped points stodgily until Rafa Benitez was sacked and coped with two-thirds of the “BBC” (namely Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale) starting just 21 and 26 league games respectively but still had the title in their sights until the final matchday. Throw in Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio (recalled to HQ after time at Juventus and Espanyol) and Barcelona have a rival on their hands.So what’s wrong with Atleti? Like Barcelona, we have to admire how they keep a fire raging in their bellies. Not just when they hear the roar of the crowd and the scent of win bonuses on game night. No: This is a club, a coach and a group of athletes who go to war every single day. They’ll be capable of winning the Copa and even the Champions League, but do they have the excellence, the “special” players, to dig out exceptional results in extremis?I’m not convinced.If Atleti are sitting top with a couple of games to go then, don’t worry: You won’t have to go to your bookmarks and use this to mock me. I’ll be happily patting them on the back and celebrating the two-steed race seeing a dark horse edging in front down the stand side. For now, I’m just happy to be working in a league that has two Usain Bolt-esque teams fighting to go higher, faster and stronger.
2. The next-tier contenders all have major flaws
I’d like to be more positive and more optimistic about the supporting cast. Football often benefits from change, innovation and problem-solving results. But no matter how you package it, Sevilla and Villarreal have lost two intelligent, successful, driven and high-quality coaches in Unai Emery and Marcelino. How they cope with that will be a test. Interesting and quite possibly fun, too.At Sevilla, it’s going to be fascinating to discover how well Ganso and Wissam Ben Yedder can add the kind of élan, chutzpah and Toreador instincts that the crowd love down there. Jorge Sampaoli will have his team well-drilled, full of hard work and raucous to play against, but is there a cutting edge?Valencia: I know them well and just think Pako Ayesteran is the bees knees. Bright, diligent, head over heels in love with football, blessed with a winning etiquette and endlessly hard working. One smart dude. But the squad lacks quality and they’re shedding too much of the talent they did possess. Storm clouds there, sadly.I admit I’ve high hopes for Fran Escriba but before September comes, Villarreal’s exceptional recruitment department needs to add more goals: either those who make them or take them.
3. Why you should watch out for Espanyol, Real Betis
I’m hugely intrigued and excited about two teams in particular as La Liga restarts. Quique Sanchez Flores is not only a coach of proven talent but he’s also Spanish football royalty: a title winner as a player, the godson of Alfredo Di Stefano, a man from an artistic family who’ve been beloved in this country for decades.And now there’s a “Dirty Dozen’ or “Kelly’s Heroes” feel about his Espanyol squad. The old soldiers accepting one big and thrilling last mission include Martin Demichelis and Jose Antonio Reyes, each of whom has supped the nectar at football’s top table in the past. Pablo Piatti and Leo Baptistao add the impish, lovable “Peter Pan” feel to the project: they’re awfully full of talent but too preoccupied with being cool to show it all the time.If they focus and get inspired by Sergeant Major Snchez Flores, then who knows? The mission might yield some laughs and some victories. No negative waves either.Nor will many of those be allowed at Betis. Gus Poyet is a phenomenon — misinterpreted, I think, because of his love of a laugh and some chatter. He has an impish sense of humour, a voracious hunger for life. The fact that he gobbled up finals and trophies wherever he went as a player indicates the truth: he’s intense, hard working, dedicated to winning. A stern rival.It’s true that Betis have a lot of workday players — not Charly Musonda (on loan from Chelsea), Matis Nahuel (borrowed from Villarreal) or Ruben Castro, mind you — but when Gus says he wants his team to play with character, attacking attractively and using the ball intelligently, he means it.It’s worth watching these two teams this season, I’d say.
4. Look out for Athletic, too!
I guess it went under most people’s radar that Athletic Club played 24 matches over and above their Liga campaign last season. Some achievement: they won a trophy, their first since the beginning of the 1980s, thanks to a Supercopa thrashing of Barcelona, they eliminated both Valencia and Marseille from Europe and experienced a valiant quarterfinal Copa defeat to the eventual winners, Barcelona.I think that speaks volumes about the quality, spirit and attitude at the club — particularly as they qualified for Europe again by finishing fifth. Hats off.You’re right about the question marks, though. Another year older for the dazzlingly special Aritz Aduriz, not far removed from Raul Garcia’s health scare, and Aymeric Laporte is still recovering both form and fitness after his broken fibula. But it’s worth keeping your eye on the exhilirating Iñaki Williams and watching how Guillermo and Oscar Gil develop.If Luis Enrique doesn’t renew his contract with Barcelona, then it’ll be third or fourth time lucky for Ernesto Valverde at the Camp Nou, I’d guess. There is still time for him to win a knockout trophy with Athletic just in case this does prove to be his last season at the mighty San Mames.
5. Must-see TV in Granada
Paco Jemez is a true managerial enigma: good enough to coach Rayo to more Primera Liga permanence than anyone outside that rock n’ roll club thought possible. Good enough to make Carlo Ancelotti ask him whether he could come and study training. At the same time, he’s either unwilling or unable to coach a team to defend.I know some Rayo players who’ll tell you he just doesn’t bother with anything other than “attack is the only form of defence.” Also, they’ll note that Jemez is a high maintenance guy who’ll have his work cut out to survive at a club which isn’t the hand-in-glove “fit” he had with Rayo.Now, he’s at Granada. New, demanding owners… same old demanding Los Carmones crowd but no Youssef El Arabi or Adalberto Peñaranda up front.For better or worse, there will be fireworks down in Granada over the coming months. Stay tuned. Oh, and welcome back.Graham Hunter covers Spain for ESPN FC and Sky Sports.
Season preview: Dortmund’s chance to knock Bayern off Bundesliga perch
A spending spree of €110 million on eight new players. The capture of two German internationals from two Bundesliga rivals. A disciplined, tactics-obsessed coach who will soon attract plenty of interest from the Premier League. Hold on a minute: Have Borussia Dortmund turned into the new Bayern Munich?BVB supporters and neutrals alike will hope that the 2016-17 will bring Thomas Tuchel’s men and the four-in-a-row champions from Bavaria much closer together, even to the point of the table(s) being turned. It’s certainly a compelling matchup: a new, completely reconstructed, hungry but necessarily unfinished Dortmund side versus the post-Pep Bayern of Carlo Ancelotti, a Champions League specialist who rarely delivers championships.The Italian’s remarkably modest record of three league titles in 20 years hints at the closest title race in years. But the sheer amount of talented players and smart coaches plying their trade in the 54th Bundesliga season should offer plenty of excitement beyond the Red vs. Black and Yellows tussle, with real quality football from top to bottom.
Three big storylines
Tuchel’s revolution and Ancelotti’s first year at Sabener Strasse aside, one of the biggest stories will be RB Leipzig’s hostile reception in their debut season in the top flight. The Red Bull-controlled and sponsored side are facing calls of stadium boycotts by opposing fans. They’ll be considered public enemy No. 1 by traditionalists who dislike a corporation gaming the system the way Red Bull have — legitimately — by taking over a fifth division side and rising through the leagues.Sporting success for RB will turn up the volume of dissent but could also inspire others to follow suit. The wider point is whether the league will allow more direct investment in the face of new money, mostly from China, flooding football elsewhere.Bayer 04 Leverkusen were tipped as champions by Hertha BSC coach Pal Dardai. That might be overly optimistic, but it isn’t altogether outlandish. Roger Schmidt didn’t lose any key players and gained German international Kevin Volland in attack. Overall, the team is good enough to consolidate in third place. Leverkusen’s relatively small stature and following, however, will see the bigger, more strategically important battle to become the third true force in the league continue.Schalke 04, under new manager Markus Weinzierl, and the reliably well-run Borussia Monchengladbach are well-placed to break up the Bayern vs. Dortmund duopoly, but strong competition will make that hard, as Hamburger SV and Wolfsburg harbour ambitions to make it into the Champions League too.This season will also see the momentous, historic introduction of live video evidence — kind of. The Bundesliga will trial the use of video referees by having officials watch three matches each week and take notes, for research purposes only. If that first run of tests proves positive, actual video referees could come in at the start of the next season.
World Cup winners Mats Hummels (Dortmund to Bayern), Mario Gotze (Bayern to Dortmund) and Andre Schurrle (Wolfsburg to Dortmund) were the biggest names to sign on the dotted line.Hummels has moved back to Bayern, where he started as a player, in order to win trophies, but his Germany teammates Gotze and Schurrle need to first find themselves again and fulfill their huge potential in the wake of false dawns.It’s a similar story with Mario Gomez (Fiorentina to Wolfsburg), while Portuguese teenage midfielder Renato Sanches (Benfica to Bayern) and Swiss talent Breel Embolo (Basel to Schalke) will aim to add to their burgeoning reputation.
The class of BVB duo Ilkay Gundogan (Man City) and Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United) will be missed — and not just by fans of Tuchel’s team.The loss of the prodigious German international Leroy Sane to Man City also hurts both Schalke and the league, even if the blow was cushioned by a transfer fee so inflated that Schalke 04 couldn’t possibly refuse to sell.
Who will win the league?
Dortmund’s typically smart acquisition of future stars (left-back Raphael Guerreiro, winger Ousmane Dembele and attacking midfielder Emre Mor) and underrated performers (Sebastian Rode and Marc Bartra) will enable Tuchel to rotate more, introduce even more tactical flexibility and speed BVB’s game up even further.The number of changes to the side will take some time to be implemented properly, and it’s hard to see Bayern drop too many points with the superlative squad at Ancelotti’s disposal. But if Dortmund manage to stay the course until the latter part of the season, when Bayern’s focus might well shift to the Champions League, a first title for the Black and Yellows since 2012 appears feasible.
Battle at the bottom
As much as underfunded Darmstadt admirably beat the odds to stay up last season, it’s difficult to see them repeat that feat, now that manager Dirk Schuster has moved on to FC Augsburg and Norbert Meier has taken over.In terms of individual potential, the Lilies simply can’t hold a candle to their opponents. Although many have tipped Werder Bremen to follow VfB Stuttgart down to Bundesliga 2 in May, the Northerner’s squad is good enough to stay up in relative safety, provided the club realise that Viktor Skripnik needs replacing.SC Freiburg will almost certainly keep the faith with Christian Streich, come what may, but their outlook is bleak. Like Darmstadt, Ingolstadt could suffer from “second season syndrome,” which is just a fancy phrase for the lack of quality catching up with you eventually.
EPL Notes: Investments paying off for Premier League’s wealthiest clubs
QUICKLY -Wealthy powers Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are gaining immediate returns for their expensive investments.PETER BERLINSunday August 21st, 2016 SI
Two weeks into the new Premier League season, a glance at the standings suggests a return to big business as usual. Only four clubs have won their first two matches. Three of them are the trio of oligarchs who had won 11 straight league titles before Leicester so rudely interrupted last season.All three are under new management, having hired the most prestigious coaches on the market. The fourth pacesetter, Hull, does not have a manager at all. In the transfer market, the two Manchester clubs have attempted to crush the competition under sacks of money. Net spending for both clubs is close to $200 million. Chelsea has spent half that amount, although that was on only two players, and, because of the sales of Mohamed Salah and Papy Djilobodji, is fourth in net outlay behind Arsenal (a stat which may surprise the Emirates Wenger haters). Hull has bought one player, Mohamed Diamé, for $7 million, but more on Hull later.So far, results suggest the wealthy threesome are all gaining immediate returns for their investments. On Friday, United beat Southampton 2-0. On Saturday, City won 4-1 at Stoke and Chelsea fought back to win 2-1 at Watford.
United already looks like a José Mourinho team: big, hard working, organized and ruthless in exploiting errors.The new manager has supervised a high-priced spine transplant. The early evidence is that the operation has been a success.At the heart of the defense, Eric Bailly is quick, tough and skillful. Ahead of him Paul Pogba, the luxury import from Italy, is flashier than a pimped-up Ferrari: powerful and fast and determined to show his value with every ostentatious touch. On Friday, his attacking intent repeatedly drove United forward. Southampton tacklers just bounced off. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored both goals. His movement, positioning and control are already shaping the way the team attacks. His finishing is breeding confidence in teammates who know if they create chances, Zlatan will score.Yet there is always a perverse side to Mourinho and his teams. This was his first home match as United manager. In the last 20 minutes, against an overmatched opponent, United could have gone for the throat. Instead, it parked the bus. Yet the home team had done enough to ensure that the demanding Old Trafford crowd went home justifiably happy.City is still a long way from a Pep Guardiola team, even if the final score at Stoke had a Barcelona look to it.For the second straight league match, City took the lead with a Sergio Agüero penalty (he also missed two the spot kicks in a 5-0 victory in Bucharest in the Champions League on Tuesday). The final score flattered City. In the last four minutes, as Stoke pressed, Nolito, a summer buy who was on for just 20 minutes, scored twice on the breakaway. Of the 10 players City bought in the summer only John Stones has so far made a league start. He already looks like an upgrade in central defense, which was not a big ask.Unlike Mourinho, Guardiola works in the long-term. He wore a broad and mischievous smile as he said: “I am a little bit surprised, in the short time, with the level we played here and in Bucharest.”Antonio Conte at Chelsea has only two new players, so far. At Watford, N’Golo Kanté, ran around industriously as Chelsea chased shadows. Michy Batshuayi came on in the 73rdminute. Just seven minutes later (and 12 minutes into his Premier League career), he received a gift that will make him feel at home, poking a rebound into an empty net.That goal and Chelsea’s late winner were both set up by Cesc Fàbregas. In just 12 as a sub he gave his best Chelsea display in more than a year. That might have something to do with the arrival of Conte, or it might say more about how Mourinho managed the Spanish midfielder.Chelsea was largely outplayed but still won. That’s a trick Conte’s Italy team managed against Spain and almost pulled off against Germany in the Euros this summer.Mourinho is winning well. Guardiola and Conte are winning.
Crazy Costa—Once again, Chelsea won with a late goal by Diego Costa. Once again, the striker probably should not have been on the field.There is a theory that Costa is a cunning provocateur who knows just how far he can go. Yet in the first two matches he has misbehaved in pretty much every possible way. Both at West Ham and at Watford he received a first yellow card for the pointless offense of dissent. At West Ham, he might then have been sent off for kicking goalie Adrian, at Watford he escaped punishment for a dive that would have scored 9.5 in Rio.Maybe referees simply cannot believe what they are seeing. Maybe Costa isn’t that dumb. If referees won’t punish him, he can keep being naughty.
Possession is not eight tenths of the result—On Friday at Old Trafford, Southampton had almost 60 percent of the ball and never looked like winning. On Saturday at Burnley the numbers were even more one-sided.Liverpool enjoyed more than 80 percent of possession and completed some 760 passes in 90 minutes. The Reds set all sorts of records for statistical domination – while losing a match.Burnley deservedly won, 2-0. It completed fewer than 130 passes. It only had two shots on target, but they were good ones. Liverpool had 26 shots, but 17 were from outside the box, and only five were on target.”We have never been bogged down with all the stats about possession,” Sean Dyche, the Burnley manager told the BBC.
To Hull and Back—For the first 104 years of Hull City’s history its only claim to fame was that it represented the largest city in England never to have had a top-division soccer club.The Tigers are starting their fourth Premier League season in eight years. This was one was widely expected to end the same way as two of the previous three, in relegation. That was before manager Steve Bruce quit on the eve of the season because the club was dormant on the transfer market. That inactivity looked particularly damaging because the squad that squeaked out of the Championship has been crippled with long-term injuries.The club is surrounded by confusion. The owner, Assem Allam, who has been feuding with fans, reportedly wants to sell and is also reportedly ill.Yet Hull might have got lucky. Bruce is a specialist in taking teams up to the Premier League but not at keeping them there. Mike Phelan, the deputy who has taken his place for now, was an assistant at United for 14 years while that club won 13 trophies.Phelan insists his club has only 13 fit senior fit players. So far he has used just 12 as Hull has won its first two games. On Saturday, a week after beating the champion, Leicester, Hull went toe-to-toe with Swansea and won, 2-0. The solitary replacement, Shaun Maloney, scored the first, six minutes after coming on. It is difficult to imagine Hull emulating Leicester over 38 matches. Yet the Tigers are showing they aren’t as badly wounded as they would like their foes to believe and that their claws are sharp.Anyone inclined to believe him might have wanted to tune in to West Ham’s first Premier League game at its new home on Sunday.The Hammers eked out a 1-0 victory with a late goal after Bournemouth was reduced to 10 men.The home team desperately missed Dimitri Payet, who has still to start a game this season. It won only because referee Craig Pawson, having shown Harry Arter a yellow card for the fashionable offense of dissent, was then prepared to show the Bournemouth player another yellow, for yanking back Cheikhou Kouyaté in the 77th minute.It was a dreary first league game in an arena fans of other clubs (except, perhaps, Manchester City) call “Taxpayer Stadium”. Until the naming rights are sold, its official name is The London Stadium or the Stadium at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It was built for the 2012 Games and has been pretty much given to West Ham rather than allow it to rust with disuse.In theory it holds 60,000 for soccer, 70 percent more than Upton Park. If West Ham can keep filling it once the novelty wears off, it will give the club financial muscle to compete at a higher level. Atmosphere could be an issue. The stadium will continue to be used for track and field to fulfill the promises London made to win the right to host the game. Part of that space has been used to make the field 4 meters wider and 5 meters longer than the Boleyn Ground. That should lead to more goals, though there was precious little evidence of that on Sunday.Despite retractable seating, a huge green carpet surrounds the field. Visiting teams will welcome the vast expanse of green carpet between the field and the passionate West Ham fans. Because those passionate fans stood throughout an exhibition game and a Europa League match safety cut capacity by 3,000 for Sunday.The 57,000 who were allowed in were present at a memorable occasion and an utterly forgettable match.
MLS Villa’s NYCFC dazzle, Dempsey boosts Seattle, Chicago snaps away woes
Week 26 of the Major League Soccer season saw New York City FC seal a 1-0 win over the LA Galaxy and a handful of away wins in an entertaining round of matches.
NYCFC shows its credentials
From the outset of Saturday’s clash between New York City FC and the LA Galaxy at Yankee Stadium, the visitors were obviously uncomfortable. A team who is at their best when utilizing every inch of a large field back in Carson simply did not have the space to impose themselves on their hosts. And while NYCFC has not always thrived when playing on their home patch — jammed as it is into the confines of a baseball venue — they instituted a tactical tweak to challenge of the Galaxy that worked wonders.Patrick Vieira’s team used Ronald Matarrita’s ability to get up and down the left flank, shifting the rest of the backline around to cover for his forays. Early in the match, Matarrita ripped a shot that deflected off of Galaxy goalkeeper Clement Diop and into the path of Villa. The Spaniard was offside when the shot was taken but nonetheless guided the aerial deflection into the net. The flag stayed down and the goal proved the difference in the game.Is NYCFC a legitimate MLS Cup contender? Even if it’s hard to know if that’s true, this win is additional evidence that Vieira’s side has progressed over the course of 2016. Early in the season, it had trouble slowing down anyone, much less a team with as much attacking talent on the field as LA.NYCFC is now unbeaten in four, with the two wins in that stretch coming at home against Western Conference playoff contenders. Forming a habit of taking victories against teams in what is usually considered the tougher conference can’t hurt down the stretch of the season, especially as it’s helping NYCFC creep up the Supporters’ Shield standings.The winning goal was also Villa’s 16th of the year, putting the Spaniard in the driver’s seat for MVP. If NYCFC finishes out their campaign with a top seed in the East, he’ll deserve it.
The Seattle Sounders have now won three straight after taking care of the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field by a 3-1 scoreline on Sunday night. Those nine points have the Sounders just two points back of the Timbers for the sixth playoff spot in the Western Conference, with two fewer games played. The Seattle revival shows no signs of abating and what looked like it might be a lost season has some hope.Sunday’s clash between the Cascadia clubs can be summed up by the divergent performances by players on each side. The winning Sounders got an immense night out of young midfielder Cristian Roldan. The University of Washington product cleaned up in the center of the field, drew the penalty that led to Clint Dempsey’s first goal, and then helped himself to a goal of his own, to cap off a good night. On the other side, Portland striker Jack McInerney — starting in place of Fanendo Adi for reasons that weren’t clear — missed several excellent chances that could have staked the Timbers to a lead and potentially changed the outcome.Seattle and Portland will do it again next Sunday — live on ESPN — after the Sounders make a midweek trip to Houston. While Portland is still winless at CenturyLink Field in the regular season, Seattle has a couple of wins to their name down the road at Providence Park. The match will feel even bigger than the usual Portland-Seattle clash considering the stakes might be a spot in the playoff places.
It was a weekend of surprising away wins for a number of teams. Houston won on the road for the first time all year, as did Columbus. And Chicago, a club that hadn’t won a match away from Toyota Park for more than two years, broke that ignominious streak with a 3-0 thumping of the Impact in Montreal.Houston got a goal from Ricardo Clark and a second on a set piece from David Horst to claim a 2-1 win over San Jose at Avaya Stadium. The Dynamo might not have much of a chance of making a run to the playoffs in the West, but Wade Barrett has shown during his stint as interim head coach that he can get strong performances from a team that looked poor under Owen Coyle.Unlike Houston, Crew SC is suffering through a season that is not just bad, but painfully below expectations. Gregg Berhalter’s team isn’t quite out of it yet, but the pressure to get the move up the standings underway is rising. A win on the road in New England helps, especially since it takes points off of a team that is also in the mix for a postseason berth in the Eastern Conference. The Revs’ continuing defensive woes fed into Crew SC’s desperation.Of all of the places for Chicago’s losing away record to end, Montreal was from the most likely. The Impact had lost just twice in 2016 at Stade Saputo, while the Fire’s sputtering attack made a win there unlikely. But a goal from new acquisition Luis Solignac via a counterattack set Chicago up to control the game by absorbing Montreal’s pressure.
A few quick thoughts on the rest of the happenings around the league:
Villa may have the edge at the moment, but Sebastian Giovinco isn’t going to relinquish his MVP title willingly. The Italian’s first touch on his goal in a 3-1 win vs. Philadelphia was truly special.D.C. United’s 2-2 draw with the Red Bulls at RFK Stadium was the type of game that leaves everyone unhappy. New York jumped out to a two-goal lead, only to have United execute a comeback and keep the Red Bulls to a single point. United can take some solace from their fight, but know that home games have to be wins at this point in the season.
Vancouver’s collapse — the Whitecaps have lost four in a row — couldn’t have come at a worse time. Carl Robinson’s team has a tough week ahead with a Champions League match against Sporting Kansas City on Tuesday night and a date against the Galaxy in LA on the weekend.
Indy 11 -tHREE FACTS AHEAD OF #OTTVIND
Three points before Sunday’s Fall Season battle Aug 25, 2016
1 – NUMBER OF WINS IN MEETINGS THIS YEAR
The lone win for Indy against Ottawa Fury FC is still at the forefront of most people’s minds having come just three weeks back in the middle of a three-game homestand at Carroll Stadium.Scoreless through the 90 minutes and into stoppage time, a late free kick was taken quickly by midfielders Brad Ring and Dylan Mares, and the latter swung in a deep cross that was met by Don Smart at the back post. Connecting all three of the Indiana OG’s, Smart somehow sent a ball hurdling towards goal that Ottawa ‘keeper Romuald Peiser could not keep out, instead punching it into the roof of his own net to give the “Boys in Blue” an extremely late lead.Indy held on through the final minute stoppage time to extend their home win streak one more game and knock off a Fury FC side that had won three straight games going into that night.
2 – TOTAL NUMBER OF MEETINGS THIS YEAR
It was cold, it was wet, and it was brutal – but the 2016 home opener back in April saw Indy Eleven draw one-all with Fury FC thanks to a late goal from left-back Nemanja Vukovic. Both sides lined up fairly different on that occasion than they do now, as Ottawa deployed a four man backline to their usual three man line now, and Indy head coach Tim Hankinson was still experimenting with the 4-2-3-1, a formation we never saw again after that night. However, the “Boys in Blue” would battle the conditions and fight all the way until the final whistle as the beginnings of their ‘never say die’ attitude shown through. After a spell of heavy pressure in the 89th minute, Don Smart lifted a cross into the area that defender Greg Janicki flicked on towards goal. Fury FC ‘netminder Peiser was in the way of the initial effort, but the ball trickled its way into the path of Nemanja Vukovic, and the Montenegrin opened his Indy Eleven account in dramatic fashion to secure the first point at home in 2016. With near stoppage time drama clearly a theme, expect the two sides to keep up the show this Sunday at TD Place.
3 – NUMBER OF FORMER FURY FC PLAYERS NOW IN INDY
Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Nicki Paterson and Colin Falvey all made the move from Indy to Ottawa in the 2016 offseason, and all three players have played a role in keeping the Circle City side near or at the top of the table at each point this season.For Ubiparipovic, despite his limited role thus far in the 2016 season, the No.10 has featured in seven games in both the Spring and Fall Seasons, starting five and contributing a crucial assist – Jair Reinoso’s opening tally against Rayo OKC back in April. The Serbian midfielder possesses a certain magic on the ball, with his quick touch, excellent vision, and mastery distribution all crucial elements of his game. Though we haven’t seen much of him in the fall, expect Ubi’s efforts both on the pitch and on the training ground to continue to influence Indy’s play.Scotish midfielder Nicki Paterson is the second addition of three, and controls the midfield with poise and energy when charged with holding down the center of the park. Appearing in 19 matches with 14 starts, Paterson has a trio of assists and one goal – his stunning free kick against MNU in the spring – on the statsheet and plays an integral part of Coach Hankinson’s side as an excellent variable whether starting or coming off the bench.Lastly, he’s the captain and his influence is well-known, and well heard, on Indy Eleven’s success in 2016. Colin Falvey made the switch from the 2014 Fall Champions to the 2016 Spring Champions in the offseason, and has started in all 13 appearances for the club. Had he not suffered a knock that kept him out for around six weeks, he would likely lead the team in appearances alongside “Iron Man” left-back Nemanja Vukovic, though the defender admits the time off allowed his body to fully recover to leave him ready for whatever comes next. Scoring one goal on the year – the winner against Rayo OKC – and assisting in keeping multiple clean sheets, Falvey is one of the many leaders Indy had been searching for heading into the year and remains that voice leading through the rest of the fall and into the playoffs.
THREE THINGS: #CAR win over INDy11
Our takeaways from a tough loss in Carolina -Aug 22, 2016
Road games in 2016 have not been kind to Indy Eleven. In the spring, the team captured just seven points in their five games away from Carroll Stadium, and won just one of those – their second test of the year in OKC. In the fall, the results have been even worse with a draw to Puerto Rico FC and losses at Minnesota United, and Miami FC now compounded by their third straight defeat in as many road games – Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to Railhawks FC at WakeMed Soccer Park. Heading into the weekend, Indy head coach Tim Hankinson emphasized on multiple occasions that teams at the top needn’t worry about their home matches as those were seemingly easy points in the bag, using the home records of FC Edmonton, the New York Cosmos, and Indiana’s Team as a reference point. Coach Hankinson pointed to the results on the road as the determining factor in the Fall Season title race, the only problem being that both FCE and NYC took care of business where his side did not.The Eddies took to the road against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and grinded out a 1-0 win in the “Sunshine State” thanks to a Daryl Fordyce penalty in the 76th minute, while the Cosmos traveled south to Puerto Rico FC and took home all three points due to a 91st minute stunner from midfielder Andres Flores. Meanwhile, a late-minute handball whistled on Indy midfielder Brad Ring gifted Carolina a stoppage time penalty, which Omar Bravo buried past Eleven ‘keeper Jon Busch to keep the three points in Carolina.It’s a long road to the Fall Season with plenty of ground left to cover, but if road results are to truly be the difference in the title race, then Coach Hankinson & co., need to pick up every point on the road they can, with chances against Ottawa Fury FC and the New York Cosmos in the next ten days.
LATE DRAMA NOT ALWAYS FAVORABLE
Indy’s success at the end of matches has been well documented this season, with last-gasp winners, stoppage time drama, and goals in the last quarter of an hour somehow always going the way of the “Boys in Blue.”Their fortune changed Saturday night.After twice taking the lead in the first half, the Bravo penalty in the fifth minute of stoppage that secured the win for Railhawks FC was the first time in league play that a late goal went against Indy to decide a win. In Miami a few weeks back, the South Beach side scored relatively late but had already built a 1-0 lead that was extended by a second goal in addition to Zayed’s late tally to pull one back. This time, however, it was the difference between stealing a point on the road and coming home empty-handed, with the latter being the unforunate result of this trip.It was inevitable that at some point, in some way, fortune had to favor the opposition at the end of a match. Now Indiana’s Team must hope this is one of just a few occasions.
With Indy now sitting third in the Fall Season table (19 pts) behind the New York Cosmos (20) and FC Edmonton (22), who also have a game in hand, each match means that much more.Fortunately, road contests against both the Cosmos and the Eddies present the opportunity for the Eleven to steal some points back and prove their strength away from home. Indy travel to New York next Wednesday (8/31) and will face FC Edmonton the first Sunday in October (10/2) with the title hopefully still in reach. Despite securing an automatic slot in the 2016 Championship playoffs, Indy is adamant about securing both titles after locking up the Spring Season in June, but have plenty of work ahead in doing so. The road continues this Sunday (8/28) in Ottawa against Fury FC.
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