11/20/16 Time for Klinsmann to go?, Champs League Tues/Wed, MLS Conference Finals Tues/Sun,

 

Okay – so I have waited over a week since the horrifying loss at home to Mexico in Columbus and the meltdown in Costa Rica before writing.  I wanted to give myself time to calm down before joining the Masses in US Soccer calling for the dismissal of the GERMAN.  Those who have read my notes in the past – know I gave up on “the German” aka our US Men’s National Team coach Juergen Klinsmann long ago. Yes I will admit I was excited 6 years ago when we brought Klinsy in.  I was ready for more progressive soccer, a more attacking style of play.  But that is not what he has delivered.   I am not sure what I hate more – how horrible he is as a game day decider and manager or how smug and more intelligent he is than the rest of the soccer world.  You see Klinsy – despite the fact he has been seriously questioned at every head coaching job he has had – is untouchable in his mind.  His team loses and it’s the players fault, or it was part of the master grand plan to change things.  Listen I appreciate that he has brought in a lot of young players and given looks to a lot of players (especially players who have US parents overseas – read all our German players.)  On paper they are some of the best players we have Brooks, Johnson, Chandler, Johanson. But I think all the tinkering, the uncertainty with the players, the not confiding in players to build a base of players who trust him.  This guy has pulled idiotic move after idiotic move over the past 5+ years (Wondo for Landon in Brazil – really??).  The questionable moves have been countless, the wins impressive at times (Sweet 16 World Cup), Germany, Spain all friendlies mind you, COPA Final 4 appearance. The losses devastating – Gold Cup, losses to Jamaica, Guatemala, first home loss in Columbus, first home loss in home Qualifying, Gold Cup knocked out at Quarterfinals.  Klinsy continues to simply belittle the US fan – and act like we are stupid because we question him like any other coach in the world.  Listen in England heck in any other country playing competitive soccer – he would have been fired after the Gold Cup debacle.  Now – in this man’s opinion its time to cut ties and insure that we not only qualify for the World Cup in Russia – but that we build a good young, cohesive team of players that represent the jersey and play with the heart and skill and guile that American’s have always played with.  Sorry Klinsy you German –  your time should be over !!

MLS gets the Conference Finals started Tuesday night with the All Canadian battle of Montreal and Toronto with US stars Bradley and Altidore starting at 8 pm on ESPN.  Seattle and US youngster Jordan Morris host Colorado who will be without Timmy Howard at 10 pm on Fox Sports 1 – expect a full house in Seattle of over 45K!  Still the best atmosphere in US soccer in my mind.  Sunday Colorado will host the return leg at 4 pm on ESPN, while Toronto host their 2nd leg game next Wed eve 7 pm on ESPN.

Back to Champions League play this week with a few big games on the docket Tues/Wed in Match Day 5 –  The winner of Juventus and Sevilla advances to the knock-out round.  Leicester City and Monaco can advance with home wins as Bayern Leverkusen, Real Madrid, Man City, Benifica and Porto can advance with road wins.   The top seed is at stake for Arsenal as they host PSG Wed at 2:45 pm on Fox Sports1.

Tues, Nov 22

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox States    Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

USA

Those Questioning me Don’t Know Soccer – Klinsy Says –ESPNFC

Klinsy thinks You US Fans are Dumb –Stars and Stripes

Its Time for Klinsmann to go – Grant Wahl SI

Is it time for Klinsmann to go?  Peter Nolan – Got Soccer

More Reasons for Klinsy to go – FCYahoo

13 Worsts for Klinsy as US Coach

No Positives in Blowout Loss –ESPNFC Doug McIntyre

US Loses – Pressure on Klinsmann – Grant Wahl SI

What now ?  Jason Davis – US Soccer Players

Defensive Lapses doom US – Leaves Klinsy future in doubt –EPSNFC

Embarassing Player Ratings –ESPN

McBride – No Fight in this US team? Video

Klinsy Takes Responsibility for loss Video – 1st time ever  ??

US Asst Coach Tab Ramos Saw Pulisic when he was 11 – Wahl Pod Cast and Story

Despite Injury expect Jones to be there – Wahl SI

MLS

Playoff Schedule

What you Need to Know – Montreal vs Toronto

What you Need to know – Seattle vs Colorado

Altidore a Key player in Toronto run to Conference Finals

What if Jordan Morris didn’t Come to Seattle?

Alonso’s Play could lead Seattle to Finals

Lampard confirms he’s leaving NYCFC

Keene Leaves LA as best DP ever

Lampard and Gerrard were a Bust – ESPN FC

Champions League

Champions League This Week What to Watch For

Who can Go Thru on Matchday 5?

Arsenal v Paris

Sporting v Real Madrid

Sevilla v Juventus
Monaco v Tottenham

Celtic v Barcelona

Europa League Thurs What to Watch for

World

Mexico, Osario – cap tumultuous year with point vs Panama and 4 overall

Spain Late Push shocks England

Pep Guardiola’s Surprising Ban on Player Revealed No Sex after midnight

PLAYOFFS

Tues, Nov 22

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Sun, Nov 27

4 pm ESPN                       MLS – West Con Finals Colorado vs Seattle 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

7 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal  vs Toronto  vs 2nd Leg

GAMES ON TV

Tues, Nov 22

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm Fox States    Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

 Tues, Nov 22

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State      Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

2:45 pm ESPN 3           Leicester City vs Brugge, Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1                         Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm ESPN3            Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Whip Around Coverage of All Games

Sat, Nov 26

7:30 am NBCSN            Burnley vs Man City

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Hamburger vs Werder Bremen

10 am NBCSN                Liverpool vs Sunderland

10:15 am                          beinSport Real Madrid vs Sporting Gijon

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Chelsea vs Tottenham

12:30 pm Fox Sport2 Bayern Munich vs Bayer Leverkusen

Sun, Nov27

7 am NBCSN                   Stoke City vs Watford

9 am  beIN Sport        Genoa vs Juve

9:15 am NBCSN            Arsenal vs Bournemouth

11:30 am NBCSN         Man United vs West Ham

2:45 pm beIN Sport  Real Sociadad vs Barcelona

4 pm ESPN                       MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

1 pm beIN Sport         Real Madrid vs Leonesa –Copa Del Rey

3 pm beinSport            Man United vs West Ham – League Cup

7 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Toronto  vs Montreal 2nd Leg

Fri,  Dec 2

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Napoli vs Inter

2:30 pm Fox Sport 1                         Mainz vs Bayern Munich

Sat,  Dec 3

2:45 pm beIN Sport                          Barcelona vs Real Madrid  

7:30 am NBCSN            Man City vs Chelsea  

 Champions League – This Week’s Games !!

 TUESDAY’S MATCHES

Ronaldo returns home
Needing two more goals to reach his century in UEFA club competitions (and with 95 in the UEFA Champions League alone), Cristiano Ronaldo is heading back ‘home’ to Sporting CP with Real Madrid this week. Where better to bring up a milestone than the club where he started his professional career? The 31-year-old’s late free-kick helped turn round a match Madrid seemed destined to lose on matchday one before Álvaro Morata’s added time header sealed a 2-1 win.
Sporting v Real Madrid

Reus fit to feature?
Unable to face Bayern on Saturday due to a heel problem, Marco Reus could make his long-awaited return from an adductor injury as Dortmund look to strengthen their grip on top spot in Group F. “It’s a joy to see him in training,” says coach Thomas Tuchel, with Reus yet to feature this season, and his extravagant gifts could prove valuable against a Legia side that has improved since their 6-0 matchday one loss to BVB. Jacek Magiera has replaced Besnik Hasni in the hot seat and, after their remarkable 3-3 draw with Madrid, the race for a UEFA Europa League berth remains on.
Dortmund v Legia

Can Leicester lift the trophy?
Prior to this season, Leicester had not won a single game in European competition since 1961. However, as Claudio Ranieri’s side proved by winning the Premier League last season, the form book somehow does not apply to them. A draw would confirm their round of 16 place, and – with few expecting them to return to this competition any time soon – move them a step closer to the most improbable title success of all. Could it happen?
Leicester v Club Brugge

Sevilla out to scratch seven-year itch
Top of Group H and still unbeaten, Sevilla need just one point to reach the last 16 for the first time since 2009/10 – when they finished ahead of Stuttgart, Unirea and Rangers. Jorge Sampaoli’s attacking juggernauts have won their last three games in the section since drawing a blank against La Vecchia Signora on matchday one. Beating the Italian champions would also confirm top spot – so what can possibly go wrong? 
Sevilla v Juventus

Spurs hoping to turn corner
Tottenham travel to Monaco having finally ended a run of seven games without victory when a Harry Kane double sparked a 3-2 comeback win against West Ham at the weekend. It was the club’s first success in any competition since 2 October – and it could hardly have come at a better time, with Spurs needing all three points to bolster their Group E prospects. “It was fantastic to see Harry Kane score again,” said manager Mauricio Pochettino. “For me, he’s one of the best strikers in the world.”
Monaco v Tottenham

WEDNESDAY’S MATCHES

Big guns meet in north London
Top spot will be the prize on offer when Arsenal reacquaint themselves with Group A rivals Paris Saint-Germain on home turf, having rode their luck before claiming a 1-1 draw in France on matchday one. That result left a bitter taste in Parisian mouths, but Unai Emery feels it will be a different story this time around. “There are things we will change, mainly because we are a better team now,” said the Spaniard, who is hopeful Ángel Di María will be fit to feature. “It’s a game with big actors, great football players – that’s the beauty of it.”
Arsenal v Paris

Atleti aim to bury derby gloom 
“Losing bothers me,” said a rueful Diego Simeone after his Atlético side went down 3-0 in the Madrid derby on Saturday. “It’s not good. I’m hurting for everyone.” The pain of that result was acute, but the Colchoneros can pick themselves up by extending their record as the only team in the group stage with a perfect points tally. Already through following their last-gasp defeat of Rostov last time out, they will aim to make it five wins from five at home to PSV.
Atlético v PSV

Celtic eye 2012 repeat
Celtic fans will be dreaming of a 2012 repeat when Barcelona come to town. It was a famous European night at Celtic Park in the group stage four years ago as goals from Victor Wanyama and Tony Watt sealed a memorable 2-1 victory. Brendan Rodgers, meanwhile, may still be having nightmares about his side’s 7-0 loss at Camp Nou on matchday one. “You can park two double-decker buses in front of goal, but the world’s best players always find the space,” he said.
Celtic v Barcelona

Maradona mark in sight for Napoli’s Hamšík
Marek Hamšík has underlined his goalscoring credentials in November with goals against Beşiktaş in the UEFA Champions League and Lazio in Serie A – and for Slovakia against Lithuania in the European Qualifiers. Another strike against Dynamo Kyiv on Wednesday would move Napoli’s captain level with Edinson Cavani in third place in the club’s all-time scorers’ list with 104 goals, and edge him closer to Diego Maradona’s record of 115. The 29-year-old said: “I will never be like him, but beating his record would be special.”
Napoli v Dynamo Kyiv

Şenol Güneş’s art lesson
Beşiktaş welcome Benfica looking to leapfrog their fellow Eagles into the top two in Group B – and mindful that they will be through with a win if Napoli fail to beat Dynamo Kyiv. That would be an ideal scenario for Şenol Güneş, who raised a few eyebrows in Istanbul recently by making a bid to become the Henry Moore of football management. “I get asked what I do to mould players, but actually I don’t do anything,” he said. “I just scrape away their rough patches like a sculptor. Dealing with players and laying down principles in a team is the same as educating children. I think it’s something I’m good at.”
Beşiktaş v Benfica

Five teams are through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16, and 12 more go into the fifth set of group fixtures on 22 and 23 November able to join them with a match to spare. UEFA.com explains the permutations.

  • Through: Arsenal, Paris Saint-Germain, Atlético Madrid, Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund
  • Can qualify on matchday five: Benfica, Napoli, Beşiktaş, Barcelona, Manchester City, Monaco, Bayer Leverkusen, Real Madrid, Leicester City, Porto, Sevilla, Juventus
  • Cannot finish in top two: Ludogorets Razgrad, Basel, PSV Eindhoven, Rostov, Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, Legia Warszawa

 

 

 

USA’s dire start to the Hex shows it’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to go

QUICKLY All of the evidence piling up points to one logical outcome for U.S. Soccer: The time has come to move on from Jurgen Klinsmann.

GRANT WAHLWednesday November 16th, 2016 Sports Illustrated

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — It’s time for Jurgen Klinsmann to go.Whether the U.S. men’s national team coach’s boss, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, ends up agreeing with that opinion remains to be seen. But Gulati certainly didn’t give Klinsmann a clear vote of confidence in the moments after the U.S.’s dumpster-fire 4-0 World Cup qualifying loss to Costa Rica on Tuesday.“We won’t make any decisions right after games,” said Gulati inside the Estadio Nacional as red-clad Tico fans celebrated with glee outside. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation. Obviously it’s not a good start to the Hex, and today in particular was not a good performance.”The U.S. was putrid across the board in the second half, conceding three of the four goals and failing to execute on basic defensive aspects like putting pressure on crosses and marking the recipients of those crosses closely. The midfield gave the ball away too easily. John Brooks, Jermaine Jones, Timmy Chandler and Omar González all had poor games, but this was a total team effort when it came to the failure.Did some U.S. players quit on Klinsmann in the second half? It’s not 100% clear, but the fact that question needs to be asked says a lot in itself.  Here are the facts: The U.S. is in last place in the 10-game CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Hexagonal with zero points from the first two games—the first time the U.S. has ever lost the opening two games of the Hex (covering a span of six World Cup cycles). Thanks to the comically forgiving tournament format, the U.S. still isn’t in any acute danger yet of missing World Cup 2018. Four of the six CONCACAF teams are likely to make Russia 2018, the top three automatically and the fourth in a playoff exactly one year from now against the fifth-place team from Asia. (Have you ever visited Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates in November? Well, the U.S. might get that chance.)  How low is the bar for qualifying for Russia 2018 from the Hex? Well, keep in mind that Mexico won just two of 10 Hexagonal games in 2013—two of 10!—and still qualified for World Cup 2014. So it’s possible to say now that the U.S. is playing historically bad soccer to start the Hex, and yet chances are still good that the Americans will reach the World Cup.  “When you lose two games, there’s obviously some concern,” Gulati said. “But Mexico qualified [for 2014] with 11 points. There’s a lot of points left on the board, 24 to be exact. As I’ve said the last two cycles, the sequence of games matters a lot, and we’ve had what one would consider our two toughest opponents early … I’d be more concerned if we didn’t have any points and it was some of the other opponents.” The conventional wisdom has always held that Klinsmann would only be fired if and when the U.S. was eliminated from qualifying for World Cup 2018. But now the calculus has changed.It’s time for him to go because Klinsmann set up his team to fail against Mexico with a major formation switch that should have been tested first in a game with lower stakes, a formation switch that left his players unsure and disjointed as a unit. It’s time for him to go because the U.S. was not just beaten but overmatched against Costa Rica, and it’s a giant red flag anytime you’re wondering if the players have quit on their coach.  It’s time for him to go because you can imagine other coaches, including realistic replacements like Bruce Arena, getting more out of the same players than Klinsmann is for a paycheck in excess of $3 million a year. And it’s time for him to go when the captain, Michael Bradley, says other teams have a “clear idea” of what they’re being asked to do, one implication being that the U.S. does not.

Is Klinsmann the right coach to lead this U.S. team forward?“We’ll sit down tomorrow and look at things,” said Gulati.When asked if the results against Mexico and Costa Rica will influence the way he examines the coaching situation, Gulati replied: “Well, do facts matter? The answer is yes. It’s simple. The analysis is always different based on results and what you see. It’s not specific to the coaching situation, it’s just in general. It would be the equivalent of asking Jurgen, ‘Is your view of all the players different today than it was four days ago?’ Of course it would be when you lose two games.”After the U.S.’s 3-2 loss to Mexico in October 2015 capped a miserable year-plus following the World Cup, we suggested that U.S. Soccer would be better off letting Klinsmann keep his job as U.S. men’s technical director and bringing in another person to coach the team.  That idea still makes sense. Klinsmann is a big-picture guy whose talents lie in formulating a long-term plan. But I also think such a move is unrealistic, both on Klinsmann’s end (it’s doubtful he would accept such a demotion) and on that of a new coach (who would be doubtful to accept the job with Klinsmann still hanging around).After Tuesday’s game, Klinsmann called it the most painful loss of his five-year tenure as the U.S. coach. But does he still think he’s the right coach to lead the U.S. team forward?“I think so,” he said. “But I obviously understand when you lose two games, and especially two World Cup qualifiers right after each other, that there will be a lot of your comments. That is just part of the job. It’s part of the game. I told the team at the end, the last cycle we lost here too, so we gave away these three points here as well. We didn’t give away the three points at home against Mexico, so now we are three points behind what we did in the last cycle, and we won the group with 22 points at the end of the day.”“We know we have to come back right away in March against Honduras at home and then away [at Panama].”The crazy thing: If the U.S. were to beat Honduras 3-0 at home in their next qualifier in March, the U.S. would probably be in fourth place—and the fourth place team from CONCACAF is likely to make the World Cup.But the four months that stand between now and March would be plenty of time for a coach to come in and get familiar with everything needed to move forward with the U.S. team. Arena is no stranger to World Cup qualifying, and his contract with the LA Galaxy is set to end next month.Arena would help the U.S. rediscover an identity, one that has eluded this team since the end of World Cup 2014. It’s time to thank Klinsmann for his work. He got the U.S. out of a difficult World Cup 2014 group, and he steered the Americans to the Copa América semifinals this year. He did a terrific job recruiting dual-nationals and spotting prospects like Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris. Klinsmann also happens to be a really good guy and a World Cup-winning legend as a player.  But it’s time for him to go.

Jurgen Klinsmann thinks we’re being harsh (for treating him as he asked us to)

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo 16 hours ago

After almost every outlet covering soccer seriously called for his firing last week — Yahoo Sports included — United States men’s national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has hit back in a pair of interviews.On Sunday, he told the New York Times that all the critics  were “being disrespectful” and “ignoring the facts,” never mind that the USA lost both its first two World Cup qualifiers in the final round of games that will determine who goes to Russia. And that if you were to actually explore those facts, they would not be kind to Klinsmann or his record.Earlier in the weekend, Klinsmann said to Reuters that “When things go slightly wrong, there are some people who come out and are ready to chop your head off.”Klinsmann is, of course, well within his rights to defend himself. It’s just that in the context of his very own utterances and admonishments, his riposte does not just ring hollow but also hypocritical.Here’s Klinsmann speaking about the need for American soccer culture to hold its national team accountable in 2014:

“If you miss an easy shot in a game, you want the player to go to the supermarket or the butcher shop the next day and have a fan ask them why they missed that shot,” Klinsmann said then at South by Southwest, per USA Today’s For The Win blog. “We’re not there yet. But in the big leagues in Europe and South America, if you miss a shot, you’re held accountable for it. Then you don’t miss it anymore. This is something that will grow over time. The more it grows, the more often fans see [players] in the street and tell them, ‘You were crap yesterday.’ And this is important.”You can trifle with the psychological underpinnings of this motivational technique, but Klinsmann isn’t necessarily wrong about this. A certain social responsibility has helped drive players and national teams to strive for better. Public culpability can be a valuable tool, especially when you’re representing your country. This is a theme he has harped on again and again, for year after year. It’s just that when he has been criticized when results are slow in coming or altogether absent, Klinsmann seems capable of absorbing no criticism at all. Instead, he’ll invariably argue that his critics don’t understand the sport. And that they’re being “disrespectful.”“The fact is, we lost two games,” he told the Times. “There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.” Ah, another Klinsmann trope: If you think he’s doing a bad job, you know nothing.America, as Klinsmann seems to be arguing, needs to mature as a soccer nation to the point where the national team is closely scrutinized. But when his own shortcomings and failures are pointed out, they can’t possibly be coming from someone qualified to deliver that assessment. Or so goes his impossible logic.“A lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport,” Klinsmann said to the Times. But then this is true of every team everywhere. And there comes a point – which is now – where what matters “inside the team” doesn’t really matter when the performances on display and the adjoining results are as bad as the USA’s have been.In both interviews, Klinsmann spoke of the need for patience with a team in transition to find itself. These are odd requests to make, since we’re almost 2½ years into the new cycle, two major tournaments have come and gone since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the Americans have already played eight qualifiers and Klinsmann has been in charge for well over five years. He’s not exactly been desperate for time.He also made sure to tell both the Times and Reuters that he’d spoken to President Obama at a German state dinner over the weekend. In the Reuters interview, with the author of the comically one-sided, fawning and uncritical Klinsmann biography “Soccer Without Borders,” the German head coach claims to have received the backing of the outgoing president.“He said, ‘Coach, it didn’t go well in Costa Rica, but it’s only the start of the World Cup qualifying and you’ll get back on the right track,’” Klinsmann claimed. “He understands that it’s a long qualifying process.”We’ll just have to take his word for it. Even though his words tend to be meaningless when they no longer serve Klinsmann himself.Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports.

Is it Time for Klinsmann To Go?

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Peter Nolan

If Sunil Gulati won’t dismiss Jurgen Klinsmann then U.S. Soccer must replace its President with someone who will after the Americans were humiliated 4-0 by Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying Tuesday night in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Coming on the heels of Friday’s 2-1 loss in Columbus to Mexico, the U.S. has now lost the first two games of the Hex, the final round of World Cup Qualifiers.With eight games yet to be played, there is still time for the Americans to right the ship and qualify for Russia 2018, the question emerging from this performance is this; is Jurgen Klinsmann the right man for that job?The U.S. has never won in Costa Rica, so it was always going to be a big ask for the visitors to come away with a point, never mind three, but no one could have foreseen a beatdown of this magnitude.After last week’s inexplicable switch to a formation his team had essentially never used before, Klinsmann reverted to his team’s familiar 4-4-2 against the Ticos. But the coach’s stubborn insistence on staying with Tim Chandler and Matt Besler as his fullbacks seemed a curious one, and neither player repaid Klinsmann’s confidence.But his fullbacks were simply one part of the larger problem. Central defenders John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez played as if they had been introduced in the locker room immediately before taking the field, with Brooks mystifyingly bad on the night.Despite surrendering four goals, emergency goalkeeper Brad Guzan was probably the best American at the National Stadium last night and Tim Howard’s replacement almost got his team to the half with a clean sheet. Almost.Montreal Impact backup Johan Venegas ruined that plan when he sullied Guzan’s clean sheet in the 44th minute after he beat Brooks to the ball when Gonzalez allowed Christian Bolanos all too much time and space to play in his cross.Klinsmann made no changes at the half and his players did nothing with that reprieve. Bolanos, another MLS man with the Vancouver Whitecaps, made it 2-0 in the 68th minute when he powered a header past an abandoned Guzan.U.S. midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones were unable to generate any semblance of an attack throughout, with Jones especially prone to turnovers. Some, GotSoccer included, had called for Sacha Kljestan to start this match for Jones, who had to be feeling the effects of two energetic performances after his recent return from injury.Klinsmann stayed with Jones, understandably perhaps, but with the U.S. crying out for someone, anyone, to help gain some meaningful possession and complete a pass or two, Kljestan continued to sit.When Klinsmann did finally go to the bench he removed Christian Pulisic, who with Bobby Wood had provided the few dim rays of hope for the U.S on the night.Lynden Gooch showed some fight when he checked in for Pulisic and the Sunderland youngster could not be implicated for what was about to transpire.Joel Campbell, who had begun the night on the Ticos bench, entered the match in the 67th minute and within 11 minutes Campbell had doubled the U.S. deficit.Both of Campbell’s goals were gifts from the inept American defense as the U.S. did something generally unheard of from the U.S. MNT; it quit. It was not a pretty sight and afterward, Klinsmann told the press “I take responsibility and it is no problem. It is a learning experience for us.”It was an unusual, perhaps unprecedented move from the U.S. manager, who has been criticized in the past for his habit of calling out his players publicly.But it is too little and it is too late. Klinsmann took over this team in 2011 and the time for on the job training has passed. Gulati chased Klinsmann for years before he finally convinced the German legend to replace Bob Bradley, and as recently as Friday night Gulati continued to back his coach and technical director.But Klinsmann got one thing right in Costa Rica, this is responsibility and it is time for Gulati to hold him accountable. And if Gulati won’t, then U.S. Soccer has the responsibility to find someone who will.

  Jurgen Klinsmann says critics calling for his firing ‘don’t understand soccer’

United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann says critics calling for him to be fired in the wake of two World Cup qualifying defeats “don’t understand soccer or the team.”Klinsmann said he was not worried about losing his position in an interview with the The New York Times, who cited sources as saying U.S. Soccer could decide the coach’s future as soon as this week.  “I’m not afraid,” Klinsmann said. “What you need to do is stick to the facts. Soccer is emotional, and a lot of people make conclusions without knowing anything about the inside of the team or the sport. I still believe we will get the points we need to qualify, and I am even confident we could win the group.”The U.S. is at the bottom of the final stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying after losing the first two of 10 games, 2-1 at home to Mexico and 4-0 away to Costa Rica.But Klinsmann, who earlier on Sunday told Reuters he was “1,000 percent certain” the U.S. would still qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018, dismissed the criticism that has come following this month’s result. “The fact is, we lost two games,” Klinsmann told the Times. “There is a lot of talk from people who don’t understand soccer or the team.”Klinsmann denied that his players had given up on him despite the lopsided defeat at Costa Rica, where the U.S. has always struggled to perform.”There was nobody giving up at that time,” Klinsmann said. “That was a normal emotional situation when things go wrong. When they get the second goal there, it was like a knock in your neck.”I played those games many, many times. The whole stadium goes bananas. It’s totally human to put your head down for a second. And then they counter us for two more.”Those games will always happen. We just couldn’t stop it, but the players did not stop trying.”Klinsmann looked toward the larger picture and stressed that he and U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, with whom the Times reported the coach would meet in the coming days, had an understanding about long-term goals.”I always made it clear to Sunil, if you really want to move up to the top 15 in the world, you need to have consistency in what you’re doing,” Klinsmann said. “If you react emotionally, you will become a roller coaster.”

 WHAT NOW FOR THE USMNT?

NOVEMBER 16, 2016

By Jason Davis – WASHINGTON, DC (Nov 15, 2016) US Soccer Players – If you find yourself surprised by the USMNT’s performance in Costa Rica on Tuesday night, you haven’t been paying attention. This USMNT–the USMNT that fell behind to Mexico thanks to a disastrous opening half and saw it’s unbeaten run against El Tri in Columbus come to an end as a result and then laid a massive egg in San Jose against the Ticos in a truly depressing soccer showing–is the new normal. 4-0 is the new normal. This is Jurgen Klinsmann’s USMNT.Off of the disappointing loss to Mexico on Friday, the Americans headed to Costa Rica licking their wounds and with more than a few questions about the direction of the team. Klinsmann’s 3-5-2 gambit to open the Hex had gone so poorly that any chance at building confidence into the match against another CONCACAF power, on the road, was dead on arrival. Rafa Marquez’s late headed not only gave Mexico a win in Columbus, it drove home the reality that the US is spiraling into dysfunction.That dysfunction was on full display Tuesday night. After escaping the first-half unscathed by sheer luck and Costa Rican benevolence, the US collapsed into a fiery heap in the second-half. Players all over the field looked bereft of the necessary energy and confidence needed to even make a draw possible in San Jose, much less a win.It’s true that the United States has never won in Costa Rica. So on that front the loss shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. The Americans have gone to Central American full of confidence in the past, only to see their hopes of three points on the road dashed. Costa Rica’s unique brand of fast, physical play combined with a rabid home crowd is hard to handle. Steaming into San Jose on limited power made this game nearly a foregone conclusion.It’s not the loss that’s makes the game worth talking about. It’s the evidence, for all to see, that this team has quit on Klinsmann. The defensive showing was so atrocious it doesn’t seem real. Talented players, players who can boast of being regular starters in high quality, respected soccer leagues made egregious error after egregious error. Costa Rica has dangerous attackers who don’t need help from the opposing defense to put the ball the back of the net, but they’ll certainly take it.The Americans went to San Jose bearing gifts. If this was a diplomacy mission, then job well done.It wasn’t, of course. It was a soccer game, and one that will have the American soccer media asking difficult questions about Klinsmann’s job security for the next four-plus months. The USMNT won’t play another qualifier until March. That leaves plenty of time to ponder (again) whether Klinsmann is the right man to lead the United States forward.When asked after the game about whether he would consider a coaching change, Sunil Gulati did the usual. He suggested the organization would take some time to sit down and think about the result. That’s probably wise considering the humiliating nature of the scoreline and the dander that is up across American soccer. However, even a ponderous consideration of the USMNT situation doesn’t change the troubling fact that Klinsmann’s team isn’t just failing, it’s failing in embarrassing fashion.How the players are doing at club level resonates. They’re playing excellent soccer domestically. The player pool can’t be turned over any time soon, so at some point the excuses made on Klinsmann’s behalf stop carrying any weight. Other USMNT coaches have put out more competitive teams with half the talent the current boss has at his disposal. The argument that Klinsmann should stay on the job because there’s some notion it’s not his fault is defeatist at the very least. There’s no benefit to holding onto a losing coach. Especially when there’s at least some chance someone else, bringing a fresh set of eyes and a new voice, could improve upon the current state.The are reasons US Soccer might not want to let Klinsmann go. His contract buyout is likely significant, presenting a financial problem for a nonprofit organization that has other teams and programs it has to fund. By signing Klinsmann to a contract extension before the 2014 World Cup, US Soccer locked up the man they thought would transform their men’s program. Instead, they seem to have painted themselves into a corner now that the promised revolution is clearly not coming.Gulati also said when asked about Klinsmann that “facts matter.” The fact is that the United States was never in the game against Costa Rica, four days after they gave away their psychological edge at home against their biggest rival. The facts dictate that Klinsmann should be in serious jeopardy.As for the man himself, it’s hard to tell if he’s even sure anymore. When asked whether he’s still the right man to lead the USMNT forward towards Russia, Klinsmann replied “I think so.”  Jason Davis is the founder of MatchFitUSA.com and the host of The United States of Soccer on SiriusXM.

Pressure squarely on Klinsmann after Costa Rica thrashes USA in World Cup qualifier

QUICKLY Jurgen Klinsmann is facing the heat after Costa Rica destroyed the U.S. 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in

San Jose. GRANT WAHLWednesday November 16th, 2016

SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica — Costa Rica demolished the U.S. 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday, throwing the continued tenure of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann into question and raising concerns that the Americans may not have what it takes even to qualify for Russia 2018.The brutal loss was the second in a row to start the Hexagonal, the first time the U.S. has ever done that in six editions of the Hex. The remarkably forgiving format—four of the six CONCACAF teams will likely qualify for Russia—means the U.S. still has time to recover and reach World Cup 2018, but it won’t have a chance with continued performances like this one.The Costa Rica goals came from Johan Venegas, Christian Bolaños and two from Joel Campbell, with the last three coming in a 10-minute span in the second half, which blew the game wide open.

Here are three thoughts on the game:

 

Sunil Gulati has a decision to make

On Friday before the Mexico game, the U.S. Soccer president went out of his way to say that the U.S. hasn’t fired a coach during World Cup qualifying since 1989 and didn’t expect to this time around either. But the loss to Mexico, keyed largely by Klinsmann’s overly risky decision to change up the U.S.’s formation, and a truly abominable performance on Tuesday in Costa Rica have to make you wonder if Gulati is rethinking that statement.There’s plenty of time between now and the next World Cup qualifiers in March for a new coach to come in and get settled, and it just so happens that former U.S. coach Bruce Arena, the most likely coach to come in if a change was made, is out of contract with the LA Galaxy at this point. Will Gulati consider making a move? 

The U.S. misses Geoff Cameron

Cameron is more than just the U.S.’s best center back. He’s also the vocal leader when he’s on the field, organizing the back line and setting up everyone else to take their defensive cues off of him. Cameron doesn’t get enough credit for that, but maybe he will now that the U.S. has lost two straight World Cup qualifiers without him on the field due to injury.The U.S. was a step slow all over the back line on Costa Rica’s opener, from Omar Gonzalez’s lack of pressure on the cross to the space John Brooks gave Venegas on his header. There were other breakdowns on that play, including Jermaine Jones’s poor backpass to Brooks, but it wouldn’t have played out that way had Cameron been on the field.Things just got worse on the succeeding Costa Rica goals: Brooks had an awful night, and Timmy Chandler continued to underperform in a U.S. uniform. Cameron makes other U.S. players better—especially Brooks, who was terrific next to Cameron in Copa América but struggled mightily on Tuesday.

 The U.S. central midfield needs something to change 

Klinsmann stuck with Jones for a long time in this game—too long. Consider: Jones had played close to one full game in 13 weeks due to injury when Klinsmann went with him ahead of Sacha Kljestan against Mexico. At least Jones had plenty of energy against Mexico, but that was absent for much of Tuesday’s game, and he continued to have difficulties completing passes (even some that were unchallenged). Jones should have come off for Kljestan at halftime, but that didn’t happen either.Bradley hasn’t been perfect by any means, but a partnership with Kljestan would have worked better in these games. A lot needs to change between now and next March. Jones and Chandler will be suspended on yellow cards for the next qualifier against Honduras.Will Klinsmann still be around to choose their replacements?

 No positives for Klinsmann or players after U.S.’ shocking loss to Costa Rica

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — There’s a tendency among athletes and coaches, regardless of sport, to try to look on the bright side after a crushing loss. It’s just how they’re built. The highs can’t be too high, nor the lows too low.It’s an attitude that can rub fans who live and die with their teams the wrong way at times. There’s a memorable scene in Nick Hornby’s famous football tome “Fever Pitch” where Hornby, an Arsenal lifer, comes to the upsetting realization that he cares about the results far more than his heroes on the field do.Generally, though, it’s a healthy approach for any professional to take, which is why hearing U.S. players and manager Jurgen Klinsmann talk following the Americans’ 4-0 shellacking by Costa Rica on Tuesday was so jarring. There wasn’t the faintest attempt to accentuate the positive after this one. Basically, there were no silver linings to be found.”We just weren’t good enough,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said after the Yanks suffered their worst defeat yet in a place they’d dropped eight straight heading into the match, the last four by multiple goals, to start the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with back-to-back defeats.”On a night like this, there’s no point in trying to look at it any other way,” Bradley continued. “You have to be big enough and strong enough to just be able to say we weren’t good enough. In terms of understanding what the game was going to be about, knowing how we needed to play in a game that had so much on the line, we didn’t have a good enough night. The reality was we weren’t good enough, and a good team in an environment like this makes you pay.”Did the Ticos ever do that. Backed by more than 35,000 red-clad supporters at Estadio Nacional, the home team took the lead two minutes before halftime when Johan Venegas nodded Cristian Bolanos’ cross past Brad Guzan.Once Bolanos doubled Costa Rica’s advantage with just over 20 minutes to play, the contest was effectively over for an American squad apparently still reeling from Friday’s last-gasp loss to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio.”I think they really gave us a psychological knock with that goal right before halftime,” Klinsmann said. “But still, you cannot then give away three more in the second half.”Klinsmann was unusually contrite in his postmatch news conference, calling the rout “the defeat that hurts the most in my five years” at the U.S. helm. He even publicly blamed himself for his role in the outcome, something that he has almost never done no matter how much his curious tactical or personnel decisions impacted a particular result.”There’s always things that you think about and say you should have done differently, you should have maybe sent in different players or different formation,” Klinsmann said. “Absolutely you question a lot of things that you have done, and I take full responsibility.”Still, it’s not as though the manager’s rare mea culpa absolves his players of blame. While the Americans have never boasted an elite squad in the 26 years since the returning to the global stage by qualifying for the 1990 World Cup and the six events since, they’ve usually punched above their weight in large part because of a never-die resolve.That determination was nowhere to be found on Tuesday, and especially after the second goal went in.”First, you have to come out here and play for the shirt,” Jozy Altidore said. “You can say whatever you want about tactics or formations, but at the end of the day, if you don’t have the desire to compete and win matchups, the rest doesn’t matter.”Both Altidore and Bradley talked about the need to “look in the mirror” and “have honest conversations” before the U.S. convenes for March’s suddenly crucial contests at home against Honduras and away in Panama. Whether Klinsmann is still in charge then remains to be seen.U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati, who said last week that he expected the coach to remain the coach at least through the end of qualifying, stopped short of guaranteeing that Klinsmann would keep his job after Tuesday’s performance.”We won’t make any decisions right after games,” Gulati told reporters. “We’ll think about what happened today and talk with Jurgen and look at the situation.”Whoever is on the sideline, though, it will be up to the players and the players alone to climb out of the hole they’ve dug for themselves when qualifying resumes next year.”Nothing is lost yet, not even close, and anyone that thinks that is sorely mistaken,” Bradley said. “In moments like this, it does you no good to point fingers and to be looking around trying to figure out who you can throw under the bus.”After the darkest four days in recent national team history, that’s about as bright as it’s going to get.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

 Defensive lapses doom U.S. in Costa Rica as Klinsmann’s future left in doubt

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — The United States responded to last week’s loss to Mexico by imploding against Costa Rica in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Estadio Nacional, getting dismantled 4-0 by the Ticos on goals by Johan Venegas, Christian Bolanos and Joel Campbell’s second-half brace. Here are three quick thoughts on the match.

  1. Costa Rica thumps U.S. at home yet again

After Friday’s defeat to El Tri in Columbus, Ohio — Mexico’s first win in qualifying in the U.S. in more than four decades — much of the talk in the lead-up to this match was about the opportunity the Americans had to make some history of their own. The Yanks had never won in Costa Rica, going 0-8-1 all-time, including eight straight losses in the country’s capital city. Each of the past four matches between the teams resulted in a multiple-goal defeat for the visitors.But while the U.S. started better than it did during its last visit to the Costa Rican capital three years ago, when it was down 2-0 before the game was 10 minutes old, the final result this time around was significantly worse. It didn’t matter that coach Jurgen Klinsmann went with the same lineup and 4-4-2 formation that had the better of the play against Mexico in the second half in Columbus. The Ticos still dominated the match in every way. The Americans managed just one shot on target all night.More damning was the fact that they didn’t show the resolve that one would expect from a team with its back against the wall. Of all the losses in San Jose over the years, this one was far and away the worst.

  1. Defensive errors doom U.S.

Just when it looked like the Americans might get to halftime with the game still scoreless, Venegas headed the hosts in front two minutes before the break. The frustrating thing from a U.S. point of view was that the wound was largely self-inflicted.Jermaine Jones, a turnover machine all night, put center back John Brooks under pressure with a poor back-pass to begin the sequence. With Timmy Chandler caught upfield, Omar Gonzalez, Brooks’ partner, gave too much space to Ticos attacker Bolanos, who was able to turn and pick out the too-loosely marked Venegas, who easily beat Brad Guzan from point-blank range.That Venegas was Brooks’ man only added insult to injury. The German-American also lost Mexico’s Rafa Marquez in last week’s Hex-opening loss to El Tri, and he looked shaky from the opening whistle, giving the ball away needlessly time and again.The first goal was a psychological blow as much as anything, and it gave the Costa Ricans all the momentum heading into a second half in which they left no doubt about which team was the superior side. Bolanos ran by Chandler for the second. Another Brooks turnover gifted Campbell a breakaway that he coolly slotted past Guzan before the Sporting Lisbon star added a second moments later to complete the USA’s truly embarrassing performance.

  1. Was this Klinsmann’s last game in charge?

The morning of Friday’s loss to Mexico, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said he expected Klinsmann to remain in charge of the national team through at least the end of qualifying. But after the Americans started the Hex with two ugly losses for the first time in program history, Gulati will have to give serious consideration to letting the German coach go.Klinsmann’s lack of tactical acumen and odd lineup choices have confounded his players throughout his five-year tenure, but those players always seemed to bail their manager out by turning in a big performance when his back was against the wall. Not on this night.This was arguably the worst defeat the Americans suffered under Klinsmann, and it turns March’s home match against Honduras — a match that Chandler and Jones will be unavailable for because of the yellow cards they picked up in San Jose — into a must-win. Four months is a long time to dwell on a result like this one.If Klinsmann is the wrong guy, and the evidence now is overwhelming, the salary left on his contract that runs until the end of 2018 can’t be enough to save him. If Gulati is going to pull the trigger on the coach he spent five years luring before finally landing him in 2011, the time to do it is now.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazin 

John Brooks, Timmy Chandler found wanting in humiliating Costa Rica loss

The United States World Cup qualifying campaign for Russia 2018 is in a serious condition after an alarming 4-0 defeat to Costa Rica on Tuesday night.

The Americans were poor from back to front for the entire 90 minutes, as the Ticos avenged the 4-0 walloping the U.S. served them in the Copa America Centenario.

The U.S. now sit rock bottom of the Hexagonal after two games and will have a long time to chew on this defeat until qualifying resumes next March.

Positives

There were very few positives, but in the spirit of selecting one, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood showed some creativity in the rare instances that they touched the ball.

Negatives

Too many to count.

The U.S. midfield failed to generate positive play and were unable to maintain possession due to the constant Costa Rican pressure. How many times was the U.S. able to string together four or five passes?

The number of errors committed by the defense was astounding, with John Brooks in particular having arguably his worst match ever in a U.S. shirt.

Manager rating out of 10

3 — You can understand why Jurgen Klinsmann opted to go with the same 11 players who featured in the second half against Mexico, but by half-time it was abundantly clear that tweaks were needed.

With the U.S. starving for a Sacha Kljestan in midfield or a DeAndre Yedlin on the wing, Klinsmann stuck with his starting XI until it was too late. The manager has a history of rallying his team when the chips are down, but the complete opposite happened in San Jose.

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

GK Brad Guzan, 6 — Made a pair of huge early saves to deny Johan Venegas and Bryan Ruiz. Was faultless on the goals. Did not get much help from his defenders.

DF Timmy Chandler, 2 — Another struggle for Chandler in a U.S. uniform. A noticeable lack of communication with Omar Gonzalez on the right side of defense. Had a second half slip that nearly gifted a goal. Was beaten by Christian Bolanos for Costa Rica’s second. Sprayed his crosses everywhere. Dismal.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 4 — Got burned by Ruiz early on and had to be bailed out by Guzan. Looked indecisive. Was beaten on a number of headers and allowed Bolanos the time and space to serve up the assist on the Venegas goal.

DF John Brooks, 2 — The titanic defender who was the best player for the U.S. at the Copa America Centenario was missing in action on Tuesday night. This was the worst version of the player who performed so poorly at the 2015 Gold Cup. Got nutmegged early on by Venegas but was rescued by Guzan. Errors aplenty throughout and was at fault for the Venegas and Campbell goals. An abysmal display.

DF Matt Besler, 4 — The Sporting KC man was playing out of position and considering the situation, he performed as well as he could. Could only look on helplessly as Campbell got behind him and Brooks for Costa Rica’s fourth.

MF Fabian Johnson, 4 — Spoiled two free kick chances in the first half. For a team that likes to use the set piece as a weapon, Johnson elected to fire one into the wall and then ambitiously tried to beat Keylor Navas on the second. Failed to offer service to his forwards. Anonymous in the second half until his substitution.

MF Michael Bradley, 5 — Not enough positive balls. Seemed like Bradley was either playing balls back or was having to track back after a U.S. giveaway. Corner kicks did not threaten. Was a safety valve when the U.S. ran out of ideas when going forward, which was often.

MF Jermaine Jones, 4 — Gave away possession a lot and also lost a number of duels. Picked up a silly yellow in the first half. The U.S. needed more from the veteran.

MF Christian Pulisic, 6 — Quiet at start, Pulisic earned one of the free kicks wasted by Johnson. Also sent in the dangerous cross for Wood. Didn’t touch the ball much, but offered hope when he actually had it at his feet.

FW Jozy Altidore, 5 — Altidore was left frustrated by Costa Rica’s physicality. His pleading of teammates to push up higher at end of first half summed up his evening. Also doomed by heavy touches.

FW Bobby Wood, 6 — On his only real chance of the first half, was unable to get on the end of a Pulisic cross at the near post. At the end of the first half he made a great run and served up a cross himself that ran right in front of the goalmouth. With more help you wonder what he could have done.

Substitutes:

MF Lynden Gooch, 5 — Replaced Pulisic in the 70th minute. With the match lost, tried to summon a consolation goal from the left.

MF Sacha Kljestan, N/R — Came on for Jones in the 73rd minute but never had a chance to leave his mark.

MF Graham Zusi, N/R — Replaced Johnson in the 77th minute. Just a few touches.

Spain’s late push shows Southgate how far England have to go

LONDON — This is how it goes for England, a team seemingly locked in a loop of unending misery. High hopes, great promise, then a kick in the teeth just as the scent of success begins to fill the nostrils.As Isco raced away to celebrate his 95th-minute equaliser for Spain, five minutes after Iago Aspas had seemingly scored nothing more than a consolation goal for Julen Lopetegui’s team, the story of the England football team had been condensed into 90 minutes at Wembley.Gareth Southgate’s players had been bright, energetic and confident. They built a 2-0 lead through Adam Lallana’s ninth-minute penalty and Jamie Vardy’s diving header from Jordan Henderson’s cross early in the second half.Yes, they were forced to endure lengthy periods of Spain dominating possession, but rather than cave in, as England teams have done in the past against superior opposition, they were solid. They held on and displayed the threat going forward that comes with pace and purpose in attacking positions.Then came the sucker punch, with England letting their guard down, failing to display the nous and game management required to succeed at the highest level. Southgate’s glorious coronation as the national team’s new permanent manager was dealt a painful dose of reality.That is no bad thing, however.Southgate, perhaps as early as next week, will be confirmed as Sam Allardyce’s full-time successor after four games in interim charge, and it might work in the 46-year-old’s favour that England’s frailties have been exposed, just as misplaced optimism had begun to grow during an unbeaten run against the collective might of Malta, Slovenia and Scotland.England went to school against Spain and were ultimately taught the lesson that nothing comes easily at the international level.There was really nothing to get excited about against the mediocre opposition England had faced under Southgate prior to Tuesday night, but a game against the dominant force of world football over the past decade will have given Southgate reason for optimism as well as cause for concern.”We played one of the best teams in the world, and I can’t have asked for any more,” he said. “But maybe not winning will be better for us in the long run, knowing what we have to do at this level.”Southgate is a smart cookie — not one to fall for hype or the misplaced arrogance that has often contributed to England’s failings — so he will use Spain’s late fight back to his advantage.He came closer than most to helping England end their wait for silverware with Terry Venables’ team at Euro ’96, and he has admitted to learning key lessons from that experience, in terms of the mindset required to end England’s days as also-rans.Can Southgate inspire this generation of England players to the success that the likes of Sven-Goran Eriksson, Fabio Capello and Roy Hodgson all failed to deliver since the turn of the century?There is quality to work with; the emerging talents of John Stones, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford are as promising as any comparable youngsters in the world game. Adam Lallana’s development into a goal-scoring midfielder at international level is another plus.The freedom of movement and pace delivered against Spain, by the likes of Sterling, Jamie Vardy and Theo Walcott, were similar to that which contributed to the 3-2 March victory against Germany in Berlin, when Hodgson’s young team sparked the kind of optimism and excitement that prompted many to believe England could win Euro 2016.That proved to be a false hope, but the ingredients in that victory remain, and at any level, pace and movement are a problem for even the best teams; Lopetegui admitted after the game that England’s “pace and quality on the break” were a concern for his players.One significant absentee against Germany and Spain was Wayne Rooney. Southgate has already displayed the single-mindedness and strength of character to drop the England captain, against Slovenia last month, and he might now be ready to contemplate going without Rooney on a more permanent basis.The 31-year-old, who is neither a forward nor a midfielder, slows the team down and makes England far too predictable. His leadership qualities are valued by Southgate, but Rooney no longer merits a place in the team.Alli, absent through injury against Spain, is a better option in the No. 10 role, while Harry Kane, Rashford, Vardy and Daniel Sturridge are all ahead of Rooney in an attacking sense.Meanwhile, given Jordan Henderson and Dier once again impressed as a midfield pair at Wembley, Southgate is likely to find it harder to accommodate Rooney than leave him out.Results and performances are the ultimate acid test, and neither has been good with Rooney in the team in 2016, so to take England forward, Southgate has to make the big call when the squad next meets up in March.”There is a lot of potential,” Southgate said of his squad after Tuesday’s game. “But there is a long way to go before we can consider ourselves to be a top team.”The building blocks are there, however, and Southgate insists he has shown the credentials to take the job permanently. “I’ve proved that I can handle big occasions,” he said. “Until this run, under this spotlight and in matches like Friday’s against Scotland under intense pressure, you’re never sure how it is going to be. But I’m pleased, and I think the remit we were given has been fulfilled.”The job will only get more difficult, but if anybody was under any illusion as to the size of Southgate’s task, Spain at least did him the favour of bringing that reality into sharp focus.Mark is a Senior Football Writer for ESPN FC.

Neat Note from the Indy 11 owner – mighty classy!!  I thought his handling of the Spring Trophy – bringing it into the stands for the BYB members to touch was one of the coolest things I have ever seen an Owner of Pro Team do!!  Congrats to the 11 !!

Fellow Indy Eleven fans,

With the end of a successful season fresh in everyone’s minds, on behalf of everyone at Indy Eleven I wanted to give our sincerest thanks for your support both on Sunday night at The Championship Final and throughout a historic 2016 for Indiana’s Team.From the first game of the year, a revamped roster fed off your passion and looked to match your intensity, resulting in a remarkable 19 games without defeat at Carroll Stadium in all competitions, including claiming the Spring Season NASL title with a 4-1 victory over Carolina in June. Adding a victory in our first playoff game in club history in front of a sold out crowd made for a perfect ending to a season full of wonderful memories at home.Following that, competing in Indy Eleven’s first NASL Championship Final in New York cheered on by hundreds of fans who had made the trip from Indiana was a special moment for a club only in its third season. Coming within a penalty shootout of taking the NASL Championship to end the year only heightens our focus to build from this foundation and come back with even more desire to win the NASL Championship in 2017.

The special connection between you and our players have made “The Mike” the toughest place to play in the NASL. That’s a relationship we cherish and look forward to building on even more moving into next year.Along with the magic made on the field, there are strong measures of growth for Indy Eleven off the field to take away from 2016. This includes the formation of the Indy Eleven Soccer Foundation, providing support for community projects such as Indianapolis Public Schools’ soccer program, an improved training facility at Grand Park and the debut of the Indy Eleven NPSL development squad. 2016 truly has been a landmark year for Indy Eleven.As we acknowledge these accomplishments, know that your club is working every day to fulfil our mission to win championships with and for the community. Both Indy Eleven and you, our tremendous fans, have grown a lot in three short years, and with your continued support we know bigger and better things are ahead both on the field and in the stands. We hope you will be there to #CueTheSmoke with us every game at “The Mike” in 2017.

Indy Forever,

Ersal Ozdemir
Owner, Indy Eleven Professional Soccer

Earn your Degree While You Watch Your Kids Soccer Practice – ½ the time and cost of Traditional Schools

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

 

Proud Member of the Brick Yard Battalion – http://www.brickyardbattalion.com , Sam’s Army- http://www.sams-army.com , American Outlaws  http://www.facebook.com/IndyAOUnite

 

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11/14/16  US Loses to Mexico 2-1 plays Tues Night 9 pm beIN Sport, Indy 11 lose NASL title game in shootout

So wow what a disappointing start to the HEX in a huge loss to Mexico 2-1 in a place where the US had NEVER Loss before Columbus.  We were there and the crowd and atmosphere was the same as always for this game – loud and overwhelmingly US – American Outlaw Strong!  I waited a few days before penning this late Sunday night – as my initial anger at Klinsmann (the GERMAN) for causing this loss and costing the US our perfect record in Columbus was compromised. His attempt at playing a 3-5-2 line-up against a strong Mexico side was both perplexing and maddening?  My biggest question was why now at home in Columbus when the US had been playing so well out of the 4-4-2 for months.  Why now with one of your best defenders (Geoff Cameron out on injury).  Why now with only 3 maybe 4 days to train the new formation?  The 3-5-2 is not something you can train all-stars in half a week?  If this is something we had played in a friendly or 2, trained for 2 weeks before COPA or something – maybe.  But after 30 minutes of just being dominated all of the field (we should have been down 3-0, instead of just 1-0) we finally switch to a 4-4-2 and wah lah -Everything is back to normal.  In fact we dominate the 2nd half of play with chance after chance before finally giving up the winner on a stupid unmarked header (WITH NO ONE ON THE BACK POST???!!!!&&&&????)  Why oh why do teams insist on not having a back post player?? Why?  What the heck else is the extra player doing that you can’t put one on your blind post?  WHYYYYYY??

Anyway back to the game – I thought the US had some good moments and while we didn’t deserve the win after (the German’s) stupid formation change … I truly thought the US did deserve a tie.  I thought the young 18 year old Pulisic (7) was at times the best player for the US on the pitch – though he did miss a chance to equalize on a easy first timer at the end of the 1st half.  I thought he passed a couple of times when he should have shot.  Still you could tell by the way Mexico had 2 sometimes 3 players tracking him that they thought he was the most dangerous play maker on the field.  Bobby Woods (8) was a deserving Player of the Match and was the US most dangerous threat to score time and time again.  Man he’s just getting better and better.  Altidore (6) was ok  – I still think he is just too lazy to play for us – but he had some good combination play and a decent pass to free Woods for the goal.  (though his losing the mark on Marquez at the end essentially cost us the tie).  I thought Jones (5) was rough and tumble in the middle which the US needed to try to thwart the speedy Mexican midfield.  I was surprised he went 90 however.  Bradley (3) played perhaps his worse game in the US jersey and its beyond obvious at this point that pairing he and Jones as co #6s is not the answer.  I am not sure what to do here  – pull Bradley and insert Kljestan and employ Jones as a lone #6?   Pull Jones for Kljestan and let Bradley be the only #6?  Really not sure?  While I was excited to see him as a midfielder, I really thought Johnson (4) looked lost most of the night, left wing nothing much happened, moved to right back behind Yedlin – he made a game saving slide on Cheat-Chi-Rito but otherwise was non-descript.  Yedlin (4.5) is a right back – leave him there.  I thought Timmy Chandler (5) actually had an ok game – though I prefer Yedlin.  Beezler (4) was just ok at left back – listen he’s a central defender and simply is not offensive enough to play the left back spot unless you want to just bunker in.  I thought Brooks was ok – but not spectacular a (5), Gonzales was ok in the air but man he can’t complete a pass to save his life (3.5).  So what’s next for the USA?  Well a 4-4-2 obviously has to be the formation as we travel to Costa Rica Tuesday 9 pm on beIN Sport in an all important match.  Listen the US has never won at Costa Rica and has only tied once in 9 tries.  I think if they can pull of a tie and earn a point that would be an incredible result, but honestly this is a game we should lose on the road.  0-2 to start the hex won’t be great – but it’s a 10 game marathon and the US can still right the ship.  We lost 1 game we should have won or at least tied at home and while the perfect dos a cero record vs Mexico, and lifting the shield of invincibility in Columbus lies at the feet of the German, we still should advance thru the hex unless he pulls more idiotic moves.

Moving to the Indy 11 – it was a disappointing loss in a shootout to the NY Cosmos late Sunday night.  I thought the 11 played well enough to pull off the win in regulation of what was a fairly even game.  Huge shame that game was on CBS Sports Network late on a Sunday night instead of ESPN 2 or ESPNU or something.  The 2,000 seat unfilled stadium was a joke and the camera angles for the game on TV even funnier.  I have seen high school games covered locally with a better production.  If the NASL thinks they deserve to be a Top Flight Soccer league in the US – this was not how to do it.  Still what a fantastic season for our Indy 11, coaches Tim Hankinson and Tim Regan and all the players and the entire Indy 11 Organization. Congrats on a Great Season !!

Got some big games coming up this weekend with Man U hosting Arsenal Sat at 7 am on NBCSN, Dortmund and US youngster Christian Pulisic hosting Bayern Munich at 12:30 pm on Fox Sport 2, and the Madrid Derby with Atletico hosting Real Madrid at 2:45 pm on beIN Sport and Sunday AC Milan vs Inter at 2:45 on beIN Sport.

cfc_u15g_gold_fusion

Carmel FC’s U15 Girls – Gold and Blue took home Championship Trophies from the Fall Fusion Classic last weekend. Congrats ladies and Coaches!

cfc_u15girlsblue_fusion

USA

US Needs a Result vs Costa Rica – or Else – NBCSN

US hurt by Formation but there were Postives – ESPN FC – McIntyre

Big Questions for Klinnsman and Bradley –NBCSN

US Hits Low Ebbs in loss – Jason Davis ESPN FC

US Loss caused by Jurgen’s needless Tactical Changes-ESPNFC

Klinsmann throws midfield under bus after Mexico loss

Bradley Laments Gameplan vs Mexico

Player Ratings ESPN FC

Player ratings |

Player Ratings Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes- you rate the players

Pulisic Shows he is Worthy of Hype –Hirsey ESPNFC

Marquez late corner dooms US

No Troubles between US and Mexico Fans

US Ladies Pound Romania

Indy 11

Recap of 0-0 loss in Shootout to NY Cosmos

Indy 11 lose a close one – Indy Star-Kevin Johnson

GAMES ON TV

Tues, Nov 15

3 pm beIN Sports       Bolivia vs Paraguay

6:30 pm beIN Sports  Chile vs Uraguay

9 pm BeIN Sport   Costa Rica vs USA

Sat, Nov 19

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Arsenal

10 am NBCSN                Southhampton vs Liverpool

10 am CNBC?                 Crystal Palace vs Man City

12:30 pm                         NBCSN         Tottenham vs West Ham

Sun, Nov 20

11 am NBCSN                Middlesborough vs Chelsea

2:45 pm beIN Sport  AC Milan vs Inter

Tues, Nov 22

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1     CSKA vs Bayern Leverkusen

2:45 pm FS1                   Monaco vs Tottenham

2:45 pm FS2                   Sporting vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm ESPN3             Dortmund v Legia Warsazawa

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Leicester City vs Club Brugge

2:45 pm ESPN2 or 3? Sevilla vs Juventus

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals Montreal vs Toronto 1st Leg

10 pm FS 1                      MLS –    West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 1st Leg

Weds, Nov 23

Champions League

12 noon Fox Sport 1       Rostov vs Bayern Munich

2:45 pm Fox Sport1  Arsenal vs PSG

2:45 pm Fox sport2   Celtic vs Barcelona

2:45 pm ESPN3            Borussia Mgladbach vs Man City

Sun, Nov26

11 am NBCSN                Middlesborough vs Chelsea

2:45 pm beIN Sport  AC Milan vs Inter

4 pm ESPN                    MLS – West Con Finals Seattle vs Colorado 2nd Leg

Weds, Nov 30

7 pm ESPN                    MLS – East Con Finals Toronto  vs Montreal 2nd Leg

The scenarios are clear for USMNT: secure a result in Costa Rica or else

Leave a commentBy Kyle BonnNov 13, 2016, 11:30 AM EST

If there’s one thing the USMNT knows following a late 2-1 loss to Mexico in Columbus to start the Hex, it’s that only a win on Tuesday will ease up on the pressure.Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done.Winning in Costa Rica has been literally impossible for the United States – they have lost eight World Cup qualifiers in a row in Costa Rica, earning just a single point which came back in 1985. Add in that Los Ticos are on a five-match winning streak including a win over Columbia to finish their Copa America this summer and a friendly triumph over Russia, and the task is daunting.Now, the Stars & Stripes travel to the Central American nation needing victory in the worst way. All three matches in round one of the Hex finished with a winner, leaving the United States three points adrift of anyone else above them in the group. The most devastating result was Panama’s win over Honduras, and while Panama isn’t expected to be a favorite in any other match except the reverse of that fixture, the U.S. still has ground to make up.

According to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index, the loss to Mexico alone slammed the U.S. chances of qualifying for Russia 2018 by over 20%, dropping them from 86% favorites down to an uneasy 69%. A loss Tuesday would likely compound that into a full on free-fall, unless both other fixtures ended in a draw.Despite all this pressure, head coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t afraid. In fact, quite the opposite: he guaranteed the USMNT would come away from San Jose with points. “The message is very simple, we’ve got to go down there and get a result, which we will do.”They better. While making up a four or six-point deficit with eight matches to go is hardly unheard of, it’s most definitely a position the United States does not wish to see itself in by any stretch. While next international break serves up a relative respite with games against Honduras and Panama, nothing is for certain in the Hexagonal, and any unnecessary pressure during those matches would be counter-productive to otherwise straightforward games.But they’ve been here before. Just in the last Hexagonal, they suffered a significantly more damaging defeat to Honduras to begin the round. A home win over Costa Rica just days later – the famous snow game in Denver – righted the ship.With Mexico and Trinidad & Tobago both clear favorites in their matches against Honduras and Panama, the United States could fall significantly behind if they drop points in San Jose, and hand any points to the opponents in the process, as Los Ticos already sit on three after an impressive first-match victory over the Soca Warriors.Right now, the wound from a last-second loss to a bitter rival is surely fresh, but the actual danger is still relatively minimal. However, the bottom line for Tuesday is clear: a loss against Costa Rica – or even a draw – would add legitimate pressure to the already building uneasiness among fans. Only three points can appease the masses.

Klinsmann formation blunder hurt U.S. vs. Mexico, but there were positives

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Angry. Upset. Disappointed. Frustrated.Those were the adjectives used by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his team Friday after the Americans lost 2-1 to Mexico, and for good reason.The players had every right to be distressed by Klinsmann’s overthought and ultimately unsuccessful decision to employ a 3-5-2 formation — one they had rarely, if ever, used during his five-plus years at the helm.Meanwhile, one can also understand how the manager might be miffed after his defenders left Rafael Marquez alone to nod home the winner — from a corner kick, no less — in the dying seconds of a match they’d eventually grabbed by the scruff of the neck after mercifully switching back to their traditional 4-4-2 alignment.The defeat leaves the U.S. in real danger of starting the 10-game Hexagonal with two consecutive setbacks; the Yanks face a daunting test on Tuesday in Costa Rica, where they have a dismal record of zero wins, one draw and eight defeats in nine qualifiers.Yet however disheartening Friday’s result was for the hosts — it was the national team’s first home qualifying loss in 15 years (a span of 30 games) and its first to southern neighbor El Tri since 1972 — there’s also legitimate cause for optimism.”In the second half we went to something we were more familiar with, and we dominated the game,” said forward Jozy Altidore, who set up strike partner Bobby Wood’s goal just after the break, which cancelled out Miguel Layun’s 20th-minute opener. “We have a young team and a lot of talented guys that will learn from tonight and move forward.”Chief among the up-and-comers is 18-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Christian Pulisic, who repeatedly dazzled the capacity crowd of almost 25,000 with his silky skills and fleet feet.Pulisic began the game playing centrally behind front-runners Altidore and Wood, and then moved to the left wing — the spot he usually plays for Dortmund — when Klinsmann made the tactical switch. Wherever Pulisic was, he drew the attention of Mexican defenders, beating them off the dribble almost as often as not.”I thought Christian handled it very well,” Klinsmann said. “He’s trying to find his openings, find some areas where he can explode and take people on.”Wood also continued to show his quality, and not just on his well-taken finish. The 23-year-old enjoyed perhaps his best game for the U.S. and was a little unlucky not to score a second when, after a brilliant turn, his goal-bound shot was stopped by Mexico keeper Alfredo Talavera.Still, the Hamburg player’s touch, hold-up play and clever decision-making were plain to see — Wood was named the Americans’ man of the match — and he will only improve as he matures.Elsewhere, full-back Timmy Chandler settled down and had a solid match after a shaky start, which was mostly the result of Mexico flooding his right side with numbers, which pinned him in his own end early on.And Matt Besler turned in another credible shift at left-back after the formation switch, a spot he’d never really played before filling in for one match during June’s Copa America Centenario.If Besler can make the position his own — his next chance could come as soon as Tuesday in the Costa Rica capital of San Jose — it would enable Klinsmann to deploy the more attack-minded Fabian Johnson further up the field.On the whole, though, Friday’s contest served as a reminder to Klinsmann that his team performs its best when it knows exactly what to expect.”I would not say we were not comfortable with it,” Jermaine Jones said of his coach’s latest experiment, noting that it had worked well in training earlier in the week. “Sometimes you have to try something. But then in the second half I think you saw that we were on their toes and we almost scored the second.”Klinsmann admitted as much afterward himself: “It took us a while to get into the game. We switched back to 4-4-2 after a little bit to correct some things because in the beginning our midfielders didn’t get into the one-on-one battles that we expected them to get into.”Only time will tell if he will stop tinkering unnecessarily and stick with what’s proven to work, and that goes for Tuesday’s encounter at Estadio Nacional as well as the eight matches that will follow when the Hex resumes next March.If it does, that would be the biggest silver lining of all from the latest Columbus Clasico.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactics put U.S in a bind it can’t overcome vs. Mexico

COLUMBUS, Ohio — At the end of the Copa America Centenario, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann seemed to have answered his most vexing questions. The team played out of a 4-4-2, had identified its preferred back four and had determined the best roles for Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, with Bradley sitting deeper and Jones creating mayhem farther up field.At that time, it seemed as if it would be a shame for Klinsmann to blow it up. There was no reason to, especially with two of the most difficult World Cup qualifiers — home to Mexico and away to Costa Rica — looming on the horizon. Yet every so often, Klinsmann the fantasist overrules Klinsmann the pragmatist and decides to do something exotic tactically.That is precisely what he did in Friday’s 2-1 defeat against Mexico. In a tactical blunder, Klinsmann opted for a 3-5-2 or, as he semantically insisted, a 3-4-3. Whatever. The U.S. hadn’t played three in the back since a friendly against Chile nearly two years ago. When asked why he decided to go with the formation, Klinsmann said, “We trained that [formation] and it went really well in training.” Klinsmann added it had nothing to do with Mexico’s approach.Here comes the migraine.The results proved as devastating as they were predictable. For the first 25 minutes or so, the U.S. was overrun, especially on its right side. The defensive spacing was a mess, as clear a sign as any that the formation’s unfamiliarity was causing the side problems. Yes, Mexico is talented but all the more reason to not introduce such radical change with only a few days of preparation. El Tri was getting some fantastic looks, too, finally breaking through when Miguel Layun scored in the 20th minute. Mexico hit the woodwork on two other occasions.”Tactically they do some interesting things and they space themselves out in a really good way,” Bradley said. “So you have to have clear ideas about how you’re going to deal with that and how you’re going to close them down. Then it’s easy to get pulled around and it’s easy to have guys step out of one space to close something down and now that’s the exactly the space that they’re going to end up playing through.”When Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado went down injured in the 26th minute, it was like a boxer being saved by the bell. It allowed both Bradley and Jones to walk over to Klinsmann and plead with him to change the formation. Bradley barely hesitated when asked who suggested the formation change, Klinsmann or the players: “I think ultimately it was among us all. It was clear that it made sense to change.”Loosely translated, it was the players. Credit Klinsmann for going along with it, but he never should have put his team in such an awkward situation in the first place.Once the U.S. made the switch, it not only got the home side back in the game but allowed Bradley & Co. to dominate the second half. The U.S. pulled even through Bobby Wood’s cool finish and had chances to go ahead, only to run into some inspired goalkeeping from Alfredo Talavera. But then Rafa Marquez found space on a late corner, his flick-on header found the back of the net and the U.S. was forced to swallow a 2-1 defeat.That the U.S. recovered is what makes the loss so frustrating. Klinsmann treated the match more like a January friendly than it was a World Cup qualifier. You simply can’t gift an opponent like Mexico 25 minutes of the game and expect to get away with it. The U.S. didn’t.The result saw the end of some impressive streaks. It was the first home loss in a World Cup qualifier for the U.S. since 2001, when the Americans lost to Honduras. It was the first home loss to Mexico in a World Cup qualifier since 1972. There’s no guarantee, of course, that if Klinsmann kept his framework simple, the U.S. would have won. But chances are the U.S. would have started the match on more even footing.Instead, he left his side vulnerable and, rather predictably, Klinsmann blamed his players for the formation’s failure, specifically Bradley and Jones.”The key in that system is that your central midfielders need to get into these one-against-one battles,” Klinsmann said in his postgame news conference. “That’s something that was not happening the first 25-30 minutes. Not Michael Bradley nor Jermaine got into these battles and their players could roam and that really puts difficulties, so that gave them their chances. So we changed it then back because we train different systems, we have that always available.”It calmed down the situation then and I think the second half was really good. If you go back to set pieces, we had ours with Omar [Gonzalez]’s open header there and it could have easily been a goal. But they scored two minutes before the end of the game. That’s how it goes.”But it didn’t have to.Klinsmann didn’t rule out using the 3-4-3 again. But ahead of Tuesday’s match at Costa Rica — where the U.S. only ever achieved a draw, back in 1985 — he should rediscover the pragmatic approach that made the U.S. so successful earlier this year, using some variant of the 4-4-2. That way, come Tuesday, perhaps the U.S. can be the one to break an opponent’s winning streak instead.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Klinsmann reacts to Mexico loss, says midfielders hurt 3-4-3

4 CommentsBy Nicholas MendolaNov 11, 2016, 10:52 PM EST

Jurgen Klinsmann was angry after the United States fell to Mexico in the first match of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying on Friday.That mostly seemed to relate to the lost points, and not the performance, though Klinsmann refused to say the  3-4-3 was to blame for the early struggles.Well, perhaps it was to blame, he says, but not because of the formation… because of his midfield.  [ MORE: Match recap | Player ratings | Three things ]

Klinsmann thrice mentioned the efforts of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley in the first half as problematic, saying they weren’t compact enough to stop Mexico’s flair players.Klinsmann claimed he’d like to see the 3-4-3 again for the opportunities it gives new star Christian Pulisic.“We started the game in a 3-4-3 with Christian Pulisic having all the freedom to roam with the two strikers up front,” Klinsmann said. “The key in that system is the central midfielders need to get into those 1-on-1 battles. No for Michael Bradley, no Jermaine. Their players could roam an they had their chances. So we changed back, and it calmed down the situation. Second half was really, really good.”As for how Pulisic responded to a big start under the bright lights?

“He handled it very well,” Klinsmann said. “He’s trying to find his opening, find some areas where he can explode and take some people on. I think he did very well. In the 3-4-3, he can go either way left-right-middle. I’m sure you will see that every once in a while that system because it suits us. But our midfielders need to win that battle.”The Yanks dominated the game, mostly, after going to the 4-4-2., save for the all-important Rafa Marquez header of a late corner kick. That, Klinsmann says, goes on otherwise strong John Brooks.“We lost him there,” Klinsmann said. “Individual mistake. We had it all designed nicely on the whiteboard, but when a player misses his player being ahead of him, that’s when these goals happen.”So how does the U.S. regroup for Tuesday’s qualifier in Costa Rica against a Los Ticos that won 2-0 in Trinidad and Tobago?“The message is very simple,” Klinsmann said. “We’ve gotta go down there and get a result, which we will do.“It gets a sense of anger in us, urgency. You don’t want to be behind. Costa Rica won tonight so it’s right there. All the qualifying games are difficult. That’s what the players are prepared. If we play the way the second half, I’m not worried.”

Michael Bradley laments lack of “clear ideas” in USMNT gameplan

2 CommentsBy Nicholas MendolaNov 12, 2016, 7:34 AM EST

With Geoff Cameron out with an injury, United States men’s national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann opted to change formation rather than plug a different center back next to John Brooks.It didn’t work.The Yanks went down early against Mexico on the way to a 2-1 loss in Columbus, breaking the vaunted Dos a Cero Hex hex against their bitter rivals in an entertaining game on Friday.That’s largely due to what Klinsmann called a 3-4-3 formation for the first 30 minutes of the game, one that allowed Mexico to dance down the right side of the American defense and saw Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley looking rather off their games.Klinsmann didn’t mention Cameron’s absence in defending his use of the formation, and said they would try it again in the future. He though the 3-4-3 would free up Christian Pulisic, and would work if Bradley and Jones were aggressive in their 1v1 battles. That didn’t work out well, and Klinsmann thrice mentioned those players in his postgame press conference.Jones said the formation looked good in training, but that Mexico sorted it out quickly. Bradley seemed to say it was an error in direction.From the Sporting News:

“Tactically, They do some interesting things, and they space themselves out in a really good way,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said of Mexico. “So you have to have clear ideas about how you’re going to deal with that and how you’re going to close them down, because if you don’t, then it’s easy to get pulled around, and it’s easy to have guys who step out of one space trying to close something down, and that’s exactly the space they’re going to end up playing through.”

Regardless of who’s to blame — and it’s likely a bit of both — Bradley and Jones both had nights to forget. Jones was over aggressive and fortunate not to be sent off just before halftime, while Bradley struggled to carry over any semblance of his wonderful Toronto FC form to Mexico.Next up is a chance to make history: the Yanks have never won a World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica, where they play on Tuesday. Win, and feel good. Draw, and feel okay. Lose, and stare down four months with no points and a place in the Hex cellar. 

U.S. at a low ebb ahead of Costa Rica test; Mexico confidence soars

Following Mexico’s 2-1 win versus the United States in the opening game of the CONCACAF “Hexagonal,” we asked a writer from each side of the rivalry for thoughts on the state of their national team.

What is your reaction to the result?

Jason Davis: A loss to open the Hex, especially versus Mexico, is a bad way to start the campaign to reach an eighth consecutive World Cup. The psychological edge the U.S. once had on Mexico in qualifiers is gone. The team improved in the second half, but Mexico’s early domination falls at the feet of Jurgen Klinsmann. He’s got work to do, especially as postgame comments from the coach and his captain, Michael Bradley, revealed a fundamental disagreement about who was responsible for the failure of the formation used to start the match.Nayib Moran: Although the U.S. national team had a great second-half performance, Mexico was able to muster its first-ever win in Columbus. In the first half, Mexico showcased the type of football favored by Juan Carlos Osorio, which includes pace and passing precision. Carlos Vela and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona kept the U.S. defense busy, while Miguel Layun and Rafael Marquez were able to find spaces to release key passes. There were moments where it looked like Mexico was going to break apart, but it didn’t happen.

Where does this leave your country on the Road to Russia?

JD: The Americans have to avoid any sort of panic because there are nine games left to get the points needed to qualify. That said, with a trip to Costa Rica on Tuesday, there’s a very real possibility the U.S. will be bottom of the table after the second round of matches conclude. It’s not an issue of talent; the squad has more than enough quality to coast to a top-three spot by the time when all is said and done. But, as we saw in the 2014 cycle with Mexico, talent alone doesn’t guarantee anything.

NM: It will be difficult for other CONCACAF teams to get wins on U.S. soil, so this result puts Mexico in a good spot to make this Hex campaign more straightforward than the last. Friday’s first half should set an example for what’s to come; Mexico should play its home games with the same intensity. Scoring more early goals would also set the tone and avoid the issues of four years ago, when Mexico finished with three scoreless draws at Estadio Azteca, one of which was against the U.S.

What is your grade out of 10 for the present mood, and what happens next?

JD: Three. The mood can’t be good considering the way the U.S. played in the first half and the manner in which they conceded the winner. They have never won in Costa Rica and, if the team is lacking any belief in their coach, there’s very little chance of breaking that streak on Tuesday. The leaders within in the team itself — Michael Bradley, plus the likes of Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore — must pull things together in time for an even tougher challenge than the one they faced on Friday. Missing Tim Howard through injury certainly would not help.

NM: Nine. In Panama, Mexico will be without the injured Andres Guardado the suspended Carlos Salcedo, which means players like Nestor Araujo, Orbelin Pineda and Jonathan dos Santos could get some minutes. Raul Jimenez and Marco Fabian could also be involved. Panama won at Honduras to begin their campaign in style but El Tri will travel full of optimism. The pressure has also eased on Osorio, with fans pleased after a period in which the coach was doubted.

Though not decisive, Pulisic showed vs. Mexico that he is worthy of the hype

Christian Pulisic showed he belonged on the U.S. national team Friday night against Mexico in Columbus. He drove forward with Bundesliga bravura. He worked neat combinations with Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood in the final third. He refused to be physically intimidated, holding his ground against body slams, double marking and late tackles.And like every American player who has earned his stars and stripes, he proved he’s capable of a bad touch.It came toward the end of a first half in which the U.S. was outplayed, outthought and outcoached at a venue where the Americans had never previously been out-anything-ed. Pulisic made a run into the box as Michael Bradley’s free kick was headed by Altidore straight at the Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera who, for some reason, couldn’t hold it. The ball fell invitingly for Pulisic, 10 yards in front of goal. All he had to do was put his foot through it and the U.S. and Mexico would be even at 1-1.But the 18-year-old hesitated ever so slightly and, instead of shooting first time, he tried to control the bobbling ball, only for his first touch to take it away from him and into the grateful arms of Talavera. The Ballon d’Or might have to wait for another year.Aside from that one speed bump, though, the rest of Pulisic’s night was a relatively smooth passage for the teenager, on whose shoulders American soccer has seemingly hung everything but the solution to climate change. No pressure, Christian.We’ve been here before, of course — Hi Jozy, Freddy Adu, Julian Green, Gedion Zelalem, DeAndre Yedlin! — but never with a precocious talent who actually appears capable of delivering on those hyperbolic expectations, if given the time and surrounding cast to showcase his gifts.On second thought, maybe we have witnessed this phenomenon before. It is easy to forget the wonder and excitement that radiated throughout the American soccer community at the sight of 20-year-old Landon Donovan shredding defenders at the 2002 World Cup, en route to being named Best Young Player of the Tournament.Donovan had it all — the technical ability, the pace, the guile, the quick-thinking soccer brain, the calm in front of goal — except, perhaps, for the mental fortitude, at least as an adolescent, to make it in the crucible of high-grade European club soccer.It was this putative lack of resolve to push the boundaries of his comfort level, more than anything else, which ensured the best player this country has ever produced would not flourish under Jurgen Klinsman.It is also the essential difference between the way the U.S. coach regards Pulisic, a card-carrying member of Borussia Dortmund’s first team, and Donovan, who tore up Major League Soccer for more than a decade but washed out in the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.That Klinsmann risked tactical chaos for the first half hour against Mexico with his newfangled 3-5-2 formation is a measure of how much he values Pulisic’s burgeoning creative role. The system is designed to give him license to roam behind the two strikers, Altidore and Wood, and take advantage of the wonder teen’s ability to dictate a game’s tempo with his penetrative dribbling and precision passing.Even if the gambit proved misguided and Klinsmann was forced to revert to a more familiar 4-4-2 formation, Pulisic didn’t look out of place or over-matched in the furious intensity of central midfield, though it should be noted that he did his best work when switched to the left flank, where he could more frequently get behind the Mexican defense and utilize his dangerous crossing ability.After making his World Cup qualifying debut in the previous round, Mexico was always going to be something of a competitive litmus test for Pulisic. It is one thing to be the best player on the field against CONCACAF minnows such as St Vincent and the Grenadines, but quite another to impose yourself on an opponent that has long been the U.S’ fiercest rival in the region.Then again, if you’ve already managed to enter a Champions League game against Real Madrid in the 73rd minute and have the skill and composure to set up the tying goal, as Pulisic did in September for Dortmund, then you’re unlikely to be cowed by the likes of Rafael Marquez and Javier Hernandez.There were two telling moments, late in the game with both teams desperate to break the 1-1 deadlock, which bode well for Pulisic’s success on the big stage.The first came after he pick-pocketed the ball off a Mexican player in midfield and was surging toward the penalty area when rugged defender Carlos Salcedo launched himself at the American with the full weight of his brawny physique. Pulisic went down in a heap but sprang back to his feet, as if to say “I’ve taken worse hits than that in the Bundesliga.” Salcedo was booked for the foul and eventually sent off in the final minute for time-wasting.Two minutes later, Pulisic was involved in another tussle, this time with Hernandez. The two players converged on a 50-50 ball and it was Pulisic who dug it out after Hernandez had wrapped himself around the teenager in a futile attempt to keep him from breaking away. The crowd roared its appreciation of Pulisic’s grit but, if they hoped he might decide the match with a dazzling highlight-reel winner, they would ultimately be disappointed.Pulisic is not yet the finished article, not yet a refined game-changer at an elite level, but he is far ahead of any of the U.S.’ previously anointed soccer messiahs, with the exception of Donovan.He may also eclipse Landon one day but let’s try to resist American soccer’s knee-jerk tendency to expect too much, too soon. After all, Pulisic is barely 18 and only five months removed from his high school prom. He still relishes his time away from the field where he can indulge in two of his favorite pastimes: Play Station and listening to the musical stylings of Justin Bieber.In that last pursuit, he is not alone. After his authoritative, if not quite defining performance against Mexico, you can count me as a “Belieber” in Christian Pulisic.David Hirshey is an ESPN FC columnist. He has been covering soccer for more than 30 years and written about it for The New York Times and Deadspin.

Bobby Wood scores, PLAYER RATINGS

Mexico arrived in Columbus, Ohio, to open the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying intent on ending the “Dos a Cero” tradition. Thanks to a dominant first half and a late set-piece tally, El Tri did just that in a 2-1 victory over the United States on Friday.

Positives

It’s difficult to pull many positives from the match for the U.S., as the team saw a 15-year unbeaten run in home World Cup qualifiers come to an end against its biggest rival. Bobby Wood’s play was the highlight of the evening for the Stars and Stripes, and he combined well with Jozy Altidore in what coach Jurgen Klinsmann will hope is a sign of things to come. If we’re being generous, the United States’ response after the first 45 minutes was good, though playing so poorly in the first half counts among the negatives.

Negatives

The opening 25 minutes were an absolute disaster for the Americans. A new formation led to mass confusion, especially through the midfield and defense. Though a switch to a 4-4-2 brought some improvement, falling behind a goal at home put the U.S. in the difficult position of chasing the game. A better second half was undone by shoddy set-piece defending when Rafa Marquez slipped to the near post and flicked a late header past keeper Brad Guzan.

Manager rating out of 10

2 — Yes, the U.S. controlled most of the second half and found an equalizer through Wood. But Klinsmann’s tactical plan to start the game, a 3-5-2 that his personnel were not suited for, killed any chance the team had of taking the game to Mexico to open the match. Klinsmann might have played a role in getting his team up for a much better second half, but because his choices led to the atrocious first-half performance, he can’t be given credit there either.

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

GK Tim Howard, 4.5 — Forced off in the 40th minute due to injury. Made one excellent save early on, but was unable to get across to stop a deflected shot from Miguel Layun.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 4.5 — Dragged out of position on numerous occasions in the first half because of the unfamiliar three-man back line. Made a couple of solid interventions when required.

DF John Brooks, 5 — Had a decidedly uneven night. Baited into fouls by Mexico too often. Played an excellent pass that led to the American goal, but was beaten by Hirving Lozano late in the game.

DF Matt Besler, 5 — Fought hard throughout his 81 minutes of action and did not shy away from the physical side of the clash. Struggled through the first half, but looked more comfortable at left-back after a formation switch.

MF/DF Timmy Chandler, 5 — Looked lost at wing-back in the 3-5-2 the U.S. rolled out to start the game, but improved dramatically in the second half. Became a crossing threat late.

MF Jermaine Jones, 4 — Looked slow and unfit in the first half, but found the game in the second 45 minutes. Helped the U.S. match Mexico physically, but was very lucky not to see yellow on more than one occasion.

MF Michael Bradley, 4.5 — Clearly uncomfortable with the formation in the first 25 minutes. Misplaced passes throughout the first half before improving in the second.

MF/DF Fabian Johnson, 5 — Lacked sharpness in the first half. Contributed more to the attack in the second and provided a few key defensive moments.

MF Christian Pulisic, 5.5 — Grew into the game in his first big test as a starter. Drew multiple Mexican defenders with every touch.

FW Bobby Wood, 7 — Limited in his influence in the first half, largely because of the dysfunction of the U.S. midfield. Bossed the second 45 minutes alongside Altidore and scored the goal that drew the game level.

FW Jozy Altidore, 5 — Found an understanding with Wood that probably should have delivered more than one goal. Set up one tally with an excellent turn and pass. Looked to have been caught flat-footed on Rafa Marquez’s winning goal.

 Substitutes

GK Brad Guzan, 5 — Held down the fort after Howard’s injury and didn’t see much action. Was not at fault for Mexico’s goal.

MF DeAndre Yedlin, N/R — Brought energy as a substitute and tracked back well from midfield. Did not find the rhythm of the game quickly enough.

DF Michael Orozco, N/R — Did not feature prominently.

Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.

Player ratings from the USMNT’s 2-1 defeat to Mexico

6 CommentsBy Eric ScatamacchiaNov 11, 2016, 10:27 PM EST

The United States men’s national team started the Hex with a 2-1 against Mexico on Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.It was a tale of two halves as the U.S. looked out of sorts in a 5-3-2 (or 3-2-2-1-2) formation as Mexico dominated play. Once the U.S. went down a goal it switched to a more familiar 4-4-2 and looked far more comfortable in the second half. However, Rafa Marquez scored late on against the run of play to steal the three points for El Tri.Here’s how the players fared in this hotly-contested matchup.

 USMNT Starting XI

Tim Howard (Off 40′) — 6 — Made a fantastic save on Corona’s shot in the first half, tipping it off the post. Layun’s goal came off a deflection that directed the ball away from Howard. Suffered an injury off a goal kick.

Matt Besler (Off 81′) — 5 — Had a tough task being forced to play out of position and committed a number of fouls.

Omar Gonzalez — 5 — Not great distribution out of the back and missed a wide open header off a corner kick in the second half.

John Brooks — 5 — Had a few testy moments in the first half, including a silly yellow card within the first 15 minutes. Was badly beat on a run by Lozano in the second half.

Timmy Chandler (Off 74′) — 5 — Mexico successfully attacked down his right side throughout the first half, but he had some good attacking moments in the second half.

Fabian Johnson–6 — Looked more comfortable (like most others) when the U.S. switched formations. Had a goal-saving tackle on Chicharito in the second half.

Jermaine Jones — 5 — Had a few nice moments, but looked off the pace at times. That’s to be expected in his first start since the July 4.

Michael Bradley — 4 — An uncharacteristically poor performance from the captain. He wasn’t strong enough on a challenge that led to Mexico’s first goal and struggled throughout to put his influence on the game.

Christian Pulisic — 6 — Played through the middle early on and was his usual self once the team switched formations.

Jozy Altidore — 7 — Great run to set up Wood’s goal. Linked up well with Wood in the second half, winning seemingly every aerial ball he went for.

Bobby Wood — 8 — Didn’t do much in the first half, but came back strong in the second half scoring early on. Continued to wreak havoc on Mexico’s defense along with Altidore.

Substitutions

Brad Guzan (On 40′) — N/A — Could do nothing on Mexico’s second goal and faced little action besides that.

DeAndre Yedlin (On 74′) — N/A

Michael Orozco (On 81′) — N/A

Mexico Starting XI

Alfredo Talavera — 6 — Didn’t face many shots in the first half. Got a hand on Wood’s goal, but could not stop the shot.

Miguel Layun — 8 — Had multiple positive moments in attack, including scoring Mexico’s goal in the first half.

Diego Reyes (Off HT) — 6 — A short shift for Reyes. Picked up an early yellow card for taking down Altidore, but didn’t make any costly mistakes.

Hector Moreno — 6 — Missed a challenge on Wood’s goal.

Rafa Marquez — 7 — It was a quiet night for Mexico’s captain until the 88th minute as his flicked header proved to be the winner.

Hector Herrera — 5 — Not much from Herrera on the night. Tried to draw a foul on Gonzalez in the box, but got a card for simulation.

Andres Guardado (Off 28′) — N/A — Subbed off with an injury in the first half. Didn’t get much opportunity on the ball.

Gio dos Santos — 5 — Directed the attack for Mexico, but didn’t create any dangerous chances.

Jesus Corona — 7 — Nearly scored in the first half, but Howard tipped his shot onto the post.

Carlos Vela (Off 73′) — 6 — Almost doubled Mexico’s lead in the first half with a header off the crossbar.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez — 5 — Made decisive runs to cause trouble for the U.S. defense, but could not find the final touch.

USA vs. Mexico, 2018 World Cup qualifying: Final Player Ratings

The attackers get a little loveby Rob Usry@RobUsry

Nov 13, 2016, 8:30am PST

Well that didn’t go as any U.S. Soccer supporter would have hoped. The Dos a Cero curse has been broken by Mexico and the powers of Fort Columbus washed away in one fell swoop by none other than Rafa Marquez himself.One of the most hated El Tri representatives to American soccer fans for the last decade-plus, Marquez’s 89th minute header sent every Yank home bitter and Mexico to the next CONCACAF Hexagonal match day with three points and the USMNT still looking to get off the mark.As is customary, we put out our poll for the SSFC community to give your own player ratings. Predictably, most of them were pretty dire. However, there were a few bright spots. Here’s how the results turned out:

Man of the Match: Bobby Wood

The man who gave us hope in the 50th minute with his well-worked equalizer got the highest percentage of rating from the community. Bobby Wood’s 7.57 leads the pack, with the 18-year-old phenom, Christian Pulisic, coming behind with a 7.01. They were the only two USMNT players to get over a 7.  Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, the captain went down with his ship as Michael Bradley received the lowest rating of all 13 eligible players. His 3.94 rating was a full rating point below the next lowest player on the field. Oof…  Now, on to Costa Rica where the USMNT hasn’t won…ever. How fun.

Final Player Ratings

GK: Tim Howard – 5.82

RWB: Timmy Chandler – 5.50

CB: John Brooks – 5.83

CB: Omar Gonzalez – 5.00

CB: Matt Besler – 5.17

LWB: Fabian Johnson – 5.82

CM: Michael Bradley – 3.94

CM: Jermaine Jones – 5.37

CAM: Christian Pulisic – 7.01

ST: Bobby Wood – 7.57

ST: Jozy Altidore – 6.62

SUB: Brad Guzan – 5.28

SUB: DeAndre Yedlin – 4.94

SUB: Michael Orozco – NR

Rafael Marquez and Mexico get their revenge, beat the U.S. 2-1 in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mexico finally put an end to “Dos a Cero” on Friday night, defeating the U.S. men’s national team 2-1 to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.Miguel Layun opened the scoring for the visitors with a deflected effort in the 20th minute, but Bobby Wood equalized four minutes into the second half for the hosts. It was left to Rafa Marquez to grab the winner in the 89th minute to give El Tri a valuable victory on the road to Russia 2018. It also marked the first qualifying victory for Mexico in the U.S. since 1972.Here are three thoughts from a pulsating encounter. 

  1. Marquez,El Triget their revenge

For all the concerns that non-soccer overtones would bleed into the match, Friday’s game was not only free of incident but included numerous instances of fans mingling and enjoying the game together. The two teams even posed for a joint team photo before the match. Focus was soon placed on the match by all involved and it proved to be another memorable encounter.Once the game started, it was clear that this was a different Mexico team from the outset. Manager Juan Carlos Osorio had employed psychologist Imanol Ibarrondo to help his side banish its demons and it worked perfectly because Mexico looked a much more confident side than in recent road World Cup qualifiers against its longtime rival. Players like Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela oozed sharpness, and Marquez, who could usually be counted on to lose his head, looked composed even after he was forced to move into midfield when Andres Guardado was subbed out injured in the 28th minute.And yet given the extent to which El Tri dominated the first half, it almost looked as if it would leave two points on the table when Wood equalized. But then Marquez, who has often been the villain in these encounters, popped up to be the hero for Mexico. He evaded the attentions of Jozy Altidore and delivered a flick-on, near-post header that looped into the U.S. net. The visitors also had goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera to thank as he came up with several crucial saves to keep the game level before Marquez’s winner.The match will not only give Mexico a huge boost of confidence, but should also give Osorio some valuable breathing room in terms of his job security. He no doubt wanted this victory given that he once coached in the U.S. until he was fired by the New York Red Bulls in 2009, and he has been under some pressure since his side was humbled 7-0 by Chile in the quarterfinals of the Copa America Centenario.Given how dynamic Mexico looked in attack, this looks to be a team that is headed in the right direction again. Now Osorio and El Tri can bask in a memorable victory.

  1. Klinsmann’s blunder hamstrings U.S.

The huge surprise came before kickoff with the news that U.S manager Jurgen Klinsmann was opting for a 3-5-2 formation with Fabian Johnson and Timmy Chandler as wing-backs and a back three of Matt Besler, John Brooks and Omar Gonzalez. Mexico’s decision to counter with an attack-heavy 4-3-3 that included Gio Dos Santos, Carlos Vela, Jesus “Tecatito” Corona and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez made Klinsmann’s gambit seem like a risky proposition, especially given the last time the U.S. employed the alignment was in a friendly against Chile in January 2015.The choice proved an unmitigated disaster. The U.S. was second to every ball and seemed all over the place with its defensive spacing, particularly on the right-hand side, which was defended by Chandler. On top of that, the U.S. touches looked heavy, resulting in several turnovers. Mexico was soon looking dangerous on almost every attack. In the 10th minute, Corona shook free but his curling effort saw Tim Howard touch the shot off the post.The U.S. wasn’t so fortunate five minutes later. Layun pounced on a loose ball after Michael Bradley lost possession and his shot took a deflection — the carom was enough to fool Howard as it snuck in just inside his left post.Vela came close to doubling the advantage in the 25th minute when his header struck the bar. Once Guardado had to leave the game a few minutes later, Bradley walked over to Klinsmann and appeared to be pleading with him to change the formation. Change it he did to a 4-4-2 and the U.S. was on level terms in the 49th minute.Altidore did superbly to hold the ball up, fend off a Mexico defender, spin into space and then run at the defense. His pass found Wood near the top of the box and after breaking through a last-ditch tackle, the Hamburg SV attacker swept a left-footed shot beyond Talavera to level the score.Both teams had great opportunities to grab a winner but were repelled by superb goalkeeping and defending at either end. Wood nearly added a second in the 74th minute but his shot on the turn was superbly saved by Talavera. The Mexico keeper was on hand to tip an Altidore free kick over the bar and Johnson then saved the U.S. with a desperate intervention in the 79th minute.The late drama set the stage for old nemesis Marquez to spoil the party for the U.S., but for the Americans, Klinsmann was just as much of a villain.

  1. U.S. heads into Costa Rica match at a low ebb.

 It’s far too early to say that the U.S.’s qualifying effort is in trouble. After all, there are nine games left and it remains one of the giants of the region. But this defeat is a bitter blow and leaves the U.S. psychologically wounded heading into Tuesday’s match in Costa Rica.Complicating matters is the fact the U.S. goes into the match without goalkeeper Howard, who was forced to leave the match because of a suspected groin injury in the 40th minute. Fortunately, Brad Guzan is an able replacement, but the U.S. can’t afford to start Tuesday’s match as slowly as it did against El Tri on Friday night.Avoiding another slow start will be aided by starting the match in a 4-4-2, which remains the team’s best alignment. The formation might be considered out of date by some, but at minimum the U.S. should operate with four in the back and then build its attack from that foundation. The level of comfort the U.S. showed in the second half was evident, further proof that it ought to be used going forward.Of course, that also assumes Klinsmann avoids his occasional penchant for making odd tactical decisions. One can only hope he learned his lesson in Columbus.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

USA vs. Mexico atmosphere positive despite recent election tensions

A charged political environment everywhere else was noticeably and thankfully absent in Columbus

by Matt Lichtenstadter@MattsMusings1 

 Nov 13, 2016, 7:05am PST

The US/Mexico World Cup Qualifier in Columbus is a bucket list item for every US Soccer fan, no matter when the game is or what form the teams are in. But with the recent election results threatening to hang a low cloud over what should be a festival of the sport in this country, would the atmosphere of what otherwise is such a fun occasion be changed for the worst? There were rightfully concerns about what some fans might do in such a charged atmosphere, but thankfully, the story of the game was about just that: the game.There were plenty of Mexican fans that made the trip to Ohio’s chilly capital for the festivities, and they certainly made their presence known. Mariachi bands and Mexican music were ever-present all throughout the Ohio State Fairgrounds, and they all felt like a natural part of the spectacle. The only common chant from American fans to Mexican fans was, predictably, “Dos A Cero” and nothing more.Inside, fans wearing red, white and blue mingled with those wearing red, white and green as if the election hadn’t happened. Outside of the usual friendly banter, more people were focused on tactics, formations, and whose manager is more likely to be sacked first rather than the news cycle. It really felt like the old saying: “There’s soccer, and then there’s everything else”.How would the Supporter’s groups tackle the possibly thorny issue of chants? The American Outlaws made their stance known early on, and their chants were their usual fare, and even amidst rumors their tifo had to be changed due to the election results, for them it seemed like every other US home game. When the US was behind, Mexican fans celebrated and US fans stayed more shocked than anything else, and when Bobby Wood leveled the match, wild celebrations ensued without anything negative to spoil the moment.Maybe the worst of some would come out after Rafa Marquez’s winner after the initial shock and pain of the goal had worn off. Thankfully, and as a testament to most US fans, the worst never did come. My most striking moment came as I was walking out of the stadium. Two fans, one American and one Mexican were ahead of me and the Mexican fan said something to the effect of “Dos A Uno, gano en Columbus”, and the American fan responded by saying “I want to make fun of you, but you guys won so I can’t”. Most US fans were reflecting on the failings of Jurgen Klinsmann’s aborted 5-3-2 formation, or lack of discipline on a corner kick rather than anything negative or political.While it was hard for politics to not be in the spotlight during the build up to the game, by the time Friday had come, most had put their thoughts on the week that had come and gone on the backburner, and used the chance to focus on soccer to do just that, even considering the game and the stakes. While the US and Mexico have one of the most heated rivalries in international soccer, the rivalry has always been friendly, fun and even sometimes self-loathing and almost never vicious or politically charged. Despite what the world tried to throw at Columbus this weekend, soccer’s bubble wasn’t popped or even remotely pierced, to everyone’s credit.

View image on Twitter

 

It might not have been the result we wanted, but thanks to the fans for a great atmosphere and for respecting the rivalry. #USAvMEX

2:41 PM – 12 Nov 2016

The powerful message of the picture from above shows what makes this rivalry, and this sport so special, and the atmosphere at MAPFRE Stadium certainly helped add to that. Despite the legitimate fears, when the US and Mexico played soccer, everyone thankfully focused on soccer, and left the politics at home. And even after the game, politics remain miniscule compared to Jurgen Klinsmann’s tactical screw-up.

Indy Eleven fall in NASL championship match

Kevin Johnston, IndyStar correspondent11:29 p.m. EST November 13, 2016

It took 90 minutes plus another 30 in extra time and a penalty shootout to separate the  best teams in the North American Soccer League. For Giovanni Savarese’s New York Cosmos club, it was worth every second.The top-seeded and host Cosmos downed No. 2 Indy Eleven 0-0 (4-2) in penalties Sunday night to win the 2016 NASL title at Jamaica, N.Y.For Indy, the runner-up finish caps a hugely successful campaign – a stark turnaround from the team’s bleak first two seasons. Indy came out aggressively Sunday, racking up numerous fouls early. The Eleven got the better of the opening 20 minutes, then the Cosmos settled in and controlled  play.“We started finding more space and we were able to control the ball – to be able to find those areas that we weren’t finding in the first 20 minutes,” Savarese told CBS Sports Network. “Then we created a lot of chances to be able to score.”In the 11th minute, striker Eamon Zayed thought he put the visiting side up when he collected a pass from right midfielder Don Smart, turned and fired a left-footed laser at the Cosmos net. But goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer  saved the effort.Smart served  numerous crosses into the box while also tracking back on defense to make timely tackles and clearances. Twice his shots struck the crossbar. He eventually cramped up in the 88th minute and was subbed out for Duke Lacroix.In extra time, Indy regained some of the momentum it had in the first half, but couldn’t find the back of the net. After 120 minutes plus stoppage time, the match headed to a penalty shootout.Nicki Paterson buried the first penalty for the Eleven, but misses by Zayed and goalkeeper Jon Busch gave the Cosmos some breathing room after the home side drilled its first three attempts. Left back Nemanja Vukovic converted to keep Indy alive, but New York right back Ryan Richter calmly slotted his penalty home to seal it.Indy ended its remarkable season unbeaten at home across all competitions, finishing second in the NASL regular season (15 wins, seven losses, 10 draws, 55 points)  and second in the playoffs.While the future of the NASL appears opaque, the 2017 season is set to proceed as planned. Currently at 12 teams, the NASL will lose Minnesota United, the Ottawa Fury and Tampa Bay Rowdies this offseason, but will add the San Francisco Deltas

FINAL – NEW YORK 0 (4) : (2) 0 INDY ELEVEN

After 120 minutes of full effort, Indiana’s Team downed in Final in PK’s  Nov 13, 2016

 

Indy Eleven Falls in Penalties to New York Cosmos in The Championship Final

First Trip to NASL’s Final Falls Short After Scoreless 120 Minutes, 2-4 Loss in PK’s

QUEENS, New York (Sunday, November 13, 2016) – Indy Eleven saw its trademark fight and determination even out the New York Cosmos all evening, but Indiana’s Team would eventually fall short in penalty kicks, dropping its first appearance in The Championship Final tonight at Belson Stadium.After dueling the league’s highest-scoring attack to a scoreless stalemate through 90 minutes of regulation and 30 more of added extra time, New York would make each of its first four penalties in the determining round, giving the Cosmos their third title in four seasons of play in their NASL reboot.

PHOTOS: Click to download pictures from #TheChampionshipFinal from the NASL’s FTP site

HIGHLIGHTS: Watch the best moments from #TheChampionshipFinal

STATS: Get detailed Opta statistics from #TheChampionshipFinal via the NASL MatchCenter

Indy Eleven had the first dangerous shot on goal 11 minutes into the game. Midfielder Don Smart centered from the right flank to Eamon Zayed, who settled the ball and turned for a shot that was saved by Cosmos goalkeeper Jimmy Maurer. The Eleven were on the attack again three minutes later. Left-side defender Nemanja Vukovic hit a high diagonal ball that Smart smacked on the volley off the goalpost and out for a goal kick.New York answered back with its best chance in the 18th minute. Juan Arango, the winner of the league’s Golden Ball as most valuable player, found a streaking Yohandry Orozco at the top of the Indy penalty area. But he got under his left-footed shot, which sailed high and wide. In the 29th minute, Cosmos defender Ayoze dropped a long lead pass over the Indy defense that Arango was able to run on to for a shot that Indy goalkeeper Jon Busch jumped to swat away.In the 54th minute, a shot by New York midfielder Ruben Bover, with his second-favorite right foot, tested Busch from about 20 yards out. The Indy goalkeeper was up to the task, first knocking the ball down in front of him, then smothering it to prevent Jairo Arrieta from pouncing.Indy had a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 70th. Sinisa Ubiparipovic controlled the ball at the top of the Cosmos penalty area and touched a pass to Smart. Smart ran onto the ball and curved an open, left-footed shot that had Maurer beaten, but rebounded off the angle where the crossbar meets the goalpost.The Cosmos came close four minutes later. Ryan Richter sent a curving cross into the Indy penalty area that Arrieta met with his head, but his effort skittered wide of the near post for a goal kick. Looking for a spark up front, Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese inserted David Diosa as a replacement for Orozco.With a little less than 10 minutes left in regulation time, Richter on the right again sent a dangerous ball into the Indy penalty area. Four players, two from each team plus goalkeeper Busch, converged in a jumble as the ball bounced and skipped wide without being touched by anyone.At the start of second-half added time, an Ubiparipovic free kick from deep on the left flank found the head of Zayed. His effort was deflected over the end line for a corner. Two minutes later, Arrieta crossed from the left to Diosa in the center of the penalty area. His first touch escaped him, but Diosa stayed with the play, turned and hit a right-footed shot that just skipped wide of the near post.Indy went first in the shootout and Nicki Paterson, the Eleven’s final substitute in the game, beat Maurer with a shot inside the far post. Arrieta stepped up for the Cosmos and smacked his shot off the far post and in.Zayed was up next for Indy, but saw his shot hit the far post, skitter along the goal line and out. Adam Moffat took the second kick for the Cosmos and put it right down the middle as Busch dove the other way, giving New York a 2-1 advantage.In a departure from usual practices, Indy coach Tim Hankinson had Busch take the third kick, which he put high and wide. Ayoze gave the Cosmos a 3-1 lead, curing a patented left-footed shot past Busch.The Eleven were in danger as Vukovic kept Indy alive by planting a hard shot in the near, upper corner. Richter then had a chance to ice the game and the championship for New York. He did not fail, hitting a shot low and inside the far post to give the Cosmos the victory.Indy Eleven will return to Indianapolis on Monday afternoon, scheduled to arrive at the Indianapolis International Airport at 2:43 pm via Delta Airlines. Fans are encouraged to welcome back the “Boys in Blue,” while media looking to attend for interviews are asked to contact John Koluder at 317-919-0808 (mobile) to confirm details.

The Championship – NASL Final
(#1) New York Cosmos  0 : 0  Indy Eleven (#2)
New York wins 4-2 on penalty kicks
Sunday, November 13, 2016   Belson Stadium – Queens, NY

Penalty Kicks:
IND – Nicki Paterson (goal)
NYC – Jairo Arrieta (goal)
IND – Eamon Zayed (miss)
NYC – Adam Moffat (goal)
IND – Jon Busch (miss)
NYC – Ayoze (goal)
IND – Nemanja Vukovic (goal)
NYC – Ryan Richter (goal)

Discipline Summary:
IND – Brad Ring (caution) 72’
IND – Colin Falvey (caution) 83’
NYC – Jairo Arrieta (caution) 116’

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch; Nemanja Vuković, Greg Janicki, Colin Falvey (capt), Marco Franco; Dylan Mares (Gerardo Torrado 45’), Brad Ring, Sinisa Ubiparipovic (Nicki Paterson 101’), Don Smart (Duke Lacroix 90’); Eamon Zayed, Justin Braun  Indy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Lovel Palmer, Daniel Keller, Souleymane Youla

New York Cosmos (4-1-4-1): Jimmy Maurer; Ayoze, Carlos Mendes (capt), Roversio (David Ochieng 59’), Ryan Richter; Adam Moffat; Yohandry Orozco (David Diosa 77’), Ruben Bover, Juan Arango, Andres Flores (Danny Szetela 103’); Jairo Arrieta   Cosmos bench: Brain Holt (GK), Jimmy Ockford, Jimmy Mulligan, Eric Calvillo

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11/10/16 USA vs Mexico Friday Night 7:45 pm on Fox Sports 1, Tues @ Costa Rica 9 pm beIN Sports, Indy 11 @ NY Cosmos NASL Finals Sun 7 pm, World Qualifiers, Big 10 Finals Sun at Grand Park

So what you doing Friday night oh say about 7:30 pm??  WATCHING THE USA VS MEXICO ON FOX SPORTS 1 !!  So I have been fortunate enough to have been at 3 US vs Mexico Dos a Cero games in Columbus 2005, 2009, 2013 and at the what is still the greatest sporting event I have ever witnessed when the US defeated Mexico in the 80% Mexican filled Soldier Field in Chicago for the 2-1 Gold Cup Victory in 2007.  I have been to 3 College Football National Title Games, 3 Final 4s, a Superbowl, a World Cup (not US games) but nothing beats that 2007 game and Columbus is the Mecca for US soccer fans – and a game that we are very fortunate to have just 3 hours away from us. I will have pics next week – GO USA!! 

It’s a full international break this weekend so no league games but we have South American and European Qualfiers including Colombia vs Chile (James vs Vidal) TODAY at 3:30 pm on beIN Sport followed by Brazil hosting Argentina at 6:45 pm on beIN Sport.  Friday has England vs Scotland at 2:45 pm FS1, France vs Sweden on ESPN2 same time and a pair of CONCACAF games with Honduras vs Panama at 3:30 pm and T&T vs Costa Rica at 6 pm both on beIN Sport.  The US Ladies play a double vs Romania with games tonight on ESPN2 at 10 pm and Sunday on Fox Sports 1 at 9:30 pm.  Of Course the US Men travel to Costa Rica Tuesday 9 pm on beIN Sport. (see the full schedule below).

What a fantastic Saturday at the MIKE last weekend as our INDY 11 defeated Edmonton 1-0 to advance to the NASL Finals on Sunday @ the New York Cosmos.  The sellout crowd was fantastic – especially in the BYB.  The kickoff for the Finals vs the NEW YORK COSMOS is 7 pm Sunday with National Coverage on CBS Sports Network.

Grand Park will host the Big 10 Men’s Soccer Tournament this weekend Nov 11-13.  Friday the Semi-finals will be played at 12 noon and 2:30 pm, with the finals on Sunday at 2 pm.  A huge Boys Soccer Showcase will also be on tap for that weekend.  Carmel FC continues optional Winter Training– for the next month at Murray Stadium at CHS.

Carmel FC Optional Winter Training at Murray

ACADEMY -Tuesdays – Nov 8 & 15; Dec 6 & 13

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U11-U12  Wednesdays – Nov 9 & 16; Dec 7 & 14

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U13 & Older  Thursdays – Nov 10 & 17; Dec 8 & 15

Girls/Boys U13-14: 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm

Girls/Boys: U15 and above 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm

USA vs Mexico

US vs Mexico who has the Edge – Jason Davis- ESPNFC

Armchair Analyst – US vs Mexico – Mat Doyle – SI

Jurgen vs Osorio – who wins?  -ESPN FC

Bradley at the #6 is a Key

Pulisic has to Start for US – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

US Roster is Named

Impact Election will have on the Game – NBCSports

Young US Players get Taste of USA vs Mexico – Brian Straus SI

US Pulisic Absolutely Deserves to Start after starting for Dortmund in  UCL – ESPNFC

The Full Story on young Christian Pulisic by Grant Wahl SI

US Players Oral History of US vs Mexico – ESPN FC –Jeff Carlisle

Jozy Altidore Scoring Streak a Boost for Toronto and US – The Goalkeeper –

US Carter Vickers could be the next young Star

Hear the Words of Dos a Cero Legends Past – SI Grant Wahl

How did Columbus become the HOME of US Soccer?  SI

2001 The Start of Dos a Cero in Columbus-SI

Mexico’s Starting 11?

Ochoa Worried about Mexico’s form 

GAMES ON TV

Thur, Nov 10

3:30 pm beIN Sport                          Colombia vs Chile

6:45 pm beIN Sport                          Brazil vs Argentina   – Argentina on the road in a must win game with Messi back on the team

10 pm ESPN 2         USA Ladies vs Romania

Fri, Nov 11

2:45 pm FS1                   England vs Scotland

2:45 pm ESPN2            France vs Sweden

3:35 pm beIN Sport  Honduras vs Panama

6 pm beIN Sport         T&T vs Costa Rica

7:30 pm Fox Sports 1 USA vs Mexico in Columbus, OH

Sat, Nov 12

11:30 a.m., Fox Sports 2 and Fox Deportes: Croatia vs. Iceland
11:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus: Georgia vs. Moldova
11:50 a.m., ESPN3: Austria vs. Republic of Ireland, Turkey vs. Kosovo
2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2, Liechtenstein vs. Italy
2:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Deportes: Ukraine vs. Finland
2:30 p.m., ESPN Deportes: Spain vs. Macedonia
2:35 p.m., ESPN3: Albania vs. Israel, Wales vs. Serbia

Sun, Nov 13

11:45 a.m., Fox Soccer Plus Bulgaria vs. Belarus
11:45 a.m., ESPN Deportes: Luxembourg vs. Netherlands
11:50 a.m., ESPN3: Cyprus vs. Gibraltar, Hungary vs. Andorra, Switzerland vs. Faroe Islands
2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 2 Portugal vs. Latvia
2:30 p.m., ESPN Deportes: Belgium vs. Estonia
2:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Plus: Greece vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina

7 pm CBS Sports Network  INDY 11 @ NY Cosmos –NASL FINALS

9:30 pm Fox Sports 1 United States women vs. Romania, international friendly

Tues, Nov 15

3 pm beIN Sports       Bolivia vs Paraguay

6:30 pm beIN Sports  Chile vs Uraguay

9 pm BeIN Sport   Costa Rica vs USA

Sun, Nov 20

8 pm FS 1                         MLS – West Con Finals 1st Leg

Tues, Nov 22

8 pm ESPN                       MLS – East Con Finals 1st Leg 

Indy 11

What to Watch 4 in the Finals

3 Things From Playoff Win over Edmonton

 World Soccer

Argentina looks to Messi vs Brazil in Life of Death Qualifying Game tonight

Marcotti’s Musings

Toronto’s Giovinco left out of Italy Squad Again for playing in MLS

Liverpool goes top of league

Can Liverpool Win the League? Tony Evans EPSN FC

Hazard Dazzles as Chelsea go top of table

Buffon Joins Serie A 600 Games Club

MLS

Timmy Silences Critics with Huge saves in eliminating LA Galaxy

Who will Win Confernce Semi Finals Starting Next Weekend?

Toronto crushes NYCFC 5-0 at Yankee Stadium to Advance

Montreal outlasts NY Red Bulls to Advance to Semis

Colorado rides Howard to Win over Galaxy

New Coach Schmetzer leads Seattle’s run to Conference Final

Despite 2-1 Win Dallas can’t overcome Seattle’s lead

Seattle’s Morris hurt in Playoff Final – may not play vs Mexico

Scores and Playoff Schedule   Conference Finals Return Tues Nov 22 ESPN 8 pm and Sun Nov 27

Playoff Conference Finals

 

USA vs. Mexico tale of the tape: Who has the edge for the Columbus clash?

The United States takes on Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Friday — a renewal of the hostilities that have come to define the two countries’ fortunes in international soccer over the last 25 years.Not only have the Stars and Stripes never lost to Mexico in Columbus, they’ve defeated El Tri by identical 2-0 scorelines in four consecutive World Cup qualifiers in Ohio. Naturally, the Americans will take a win by any margin on Friday night, but the fans in attendance will be pulling for a fifth instance of the “dos a cero” result.It’s too early to know how Jurgen Klinsmann and Juan Carlos Osorio will set up their starting XIs at MAPFRE Stadium, but the tale of the tape by position (and a few other areas) might give an inkling as to who holds more advantages heading into the colossal clash in Columbus.

Goalkeeper

Since taking over as Mexico head coach, Osorio repeatedly has turned to Toluca man Alfredo Talavera in goal. Talavera is a fine goalkeeper, and only Guillermo Ochoa fans will find fault with Osorio’s choice, but the 34-year-old lacks the experience in these matches that his opposite number, Tim Howard, brings to the proceedings.Howard was named the starter for Friday’s match by Klinsmann earlier this week, putting to rest any question that the longtime U.S. No. 1 still holds the position over Brad Guzan.Edge: U.S.

Defenders

Call it a dodge, but picking between the two groups of defenders is made more difficult because of Geoff Cameron‘s injury and Osorio’s tinkering with formation. With a group of defenders made up of mostly of natural center-backs, evidence abounds that Mexico will go with a three-man back line to counter the U.S.’s two-man front line.Cameron’s absence looms large for the USA, but Klinsmann has options. The smart money is on Omar Gonzalez — an experienced international familiar with several of El Tri‘s Liga MX-based attackers — to step into the void alongside the excellent John Brooks. Perhaps a bigger problem for the U.S. is uncertainty at full-back, where Klinsmann is likely to line up two players of middling defensive ability against a side that presents significant danger from the wings.Edge: Even

Midfielders

Traditionally an area of strength for Mexico, El Tri holds a rather clear advantage over the Americans in midfield — allowing for some gray area in how players are labeled in Osorio’s system.Led by PSV man Andres Guardado, Mexico’s midfield has an excellent combination of savvy and skill. Players like Guardado and Jonathan dos Santos do the heavy lifting, leaving the dynamic attacking work to names like Giovani dos SantosMarco Fabian and Jurgen Damm. Osorio does not lack for options here.The American midfield is functional in most areas, but lacks the sheer number of high-quality players that Mexico brings to the table. That is not to suggest that the U.S. is far behind through the midfield, but rather that Klinsmann doesn’t have as much positional freedom with his group. Both sides have exciting young game-changers.Edge: Mexico

Forwards

Jozy Altidore is in scorching form and Bobby Wood is getting along fine in Germany’s top division, but the advantage at forward still goes to Mexico. Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Oribe Peralta bring experience and a knack for scoring important goals to the team, while younger players like Raul Jimenez and Jesus “Tecatito” Corona present imminent danger with their on-the-ball abilities and athleticism.Mexico also has brought Real Sociedad striker Carlos Vela back into the squad. Vela’s wing play and goal-scoring threat make his return a big boost to the squad and yet another excellent option for Osorio — either in the starting lineup or off the bench. Hirving Lozano, 21, is a rising star at Pachuca and has the ability to slice defenses apart with his dribbling and quickness.Edge: Mexico

Head coach

It feels odd to say it considering some of the travails Klinsmann has faced as U.S. head coach, but the German is the more stable, trusted boss coming into Friday’s game in Ohio. A semifinal appearance at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, a reasonably easy stroll into the Hexagonal and the introduction of a number of exciting new players have galvanized support behind Klinsmann as the final round of qualifying begins.This comes as Osorio is under the gun, leading a team notorious for firing head coaches at the slightest hint of trouble. That Osorio survived the humiliating 7-0 loss Mexico suffered against Chile in the Copa America is both a blessing and a curse; while he gets a chance to turn things around, he could also be one loss to the U.S. away from the axe. That hardly breeds confidence, especially considering his reputation as a habitual tinkerer.Edge: U.S.

Intangibles

If there’s one area in which the USA has a clear and unchallenged advantage, it’s in the intangibles. History leans heavily in the Americans’ favor in Hex games in Columbus, and the confidence within the team is relatively high. Mexico has a strong, talented team, but talented teams have arrived in Ohio assured of massive wins only to leave with defeat by the same scoreline every time. If Mexico is going to upend the history in this match, they’ll need to overcome a pro-U.S.crowd and put aside the questions swirling around their manager.Edge: U.S. 

Armchair Analyst: One big question for the USMNT on Friday

November 9, 20165:08PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Editor

The US will face Mexico on Friday afternoon in the opening game of the Hexagonal (7:45 pm ET; FS1 & Univision). It is a hyperbolic stretch to call this, the first in a 10-game qualifying sprint that will hopefully end up with a berth to Russia 2018, a “must-win.”But at the same time, it is dangerously optimistic to assume that this result doesn’t matter. Remember how close Mexico came to elimination last cycle? Remember how obvious the likes of Honduras and Panama have made it that, on any given day, they can compete with or beat the US (2015 Gold Cup, y’all)? I don’t even feel the need to mention Costa Rica — a team that made the quarterfinals of the most recent World Cup, and a team that the US have never beaten on their home turf.Even the group patsies, Trinidad & Tobago, will not be pushovers. They held the US to a scoreless draw in the opening game of the last qualifying round, and they actually topped Mexico’s group at last year’s Gold Cup, before a controversial quarterfinal loss to Panama on penalties.So the narrative is that CONCACAF presents an easy path to the World Cup, but like all narratives it deserves a good dose of scrutiny. Is it easier than, say, CONMEBOL? Yes, by orders of magnitude.But it’s not a given, and dropping points at home is how you end up needing a last-second miracle to preserve your path.With that, here is the big question to ask ahead of Friday:

Will it be a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-3-1?

The US have been better in a 4-4-2, both historically and recently. That should make this fairly straight-forward, right?

Wrong. Part of the US success in the 4-4-2 — especially during Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure — has been due to the hybrid attacking ability of Clint Dempsey, who naturally floats around the field looking to combine. He’s been part playmaker, part fulcrum, part hold-up man, and all goal-scorer. Nobody in the history of the US player pool could swap those roles on the fly the way Dempsey did.

That includes Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood, who are both center forwards of varying skillsets. Of the two, Altidore is much more likely to drop into midfield and make plays:

There is, however, a difference between that kind of dropping into the midfield, and the kind that Dempsey was so good at. The weakness of the 4-4-2 in the modern game is the propensity for it to get overrun in possession by teams with three-man central midfielders (which is what Mexico will certainly have). While possession in and of itself isn’t necessarily a path to victory — the US have proved that against Mexico plenty of times, right? — exercising control of the game’s tempo and rhythm in central midfield is.

And a hybrid like Deuce, who could step into midfield on both sides of the ball despite lining up as a forward, gave the US a level of flexibility in the 4-4-2 that most teams don’t have. Neither Wood nor Altidore can replicate it, and while Christian Pulisic might be able to adopt some part of it, he’s much more likely to be used on the wing.That leaves the other option. The 4-2-3-1 has its own host of questions, and here are a few of them:

  • Does Wood start on the wing, where he’s been mostly ineffective?
  • Can Jozy — who’s always been better in a two-forward set-up, handle being a lone forward vs. El Tri?
  • If it’s a double-pivot deep in central midfield,does that undo the progress the US have made since Michael Bradley became the lone d-mid?Click that Bradley link and read it. The argument the numbers make are compelling, and shouldn’t be ignored. Neither should the fact that the central midfield of Bradley and Jermaine Jones have never been equal to the sum of their parts when played together. The big benefit of the double pivot is supposed to be that when one guy pushes, the other covers the space left behind — something that takes repetition and chemistry.These guys have never had the latter, and “lack of chemistry in central midfield” has a long and storied history of leading to USMNT sadness against El Tri:

That’s from five years ago. Here’s one from 13 months ago. They tell largely the same story.And that’s what Klinsmann will have to figure out over the next 48 hours. The US have more talent than they’ve ever been able to boast of before, and every opportunity to keep up the string of Dos-a-Ceros in Columbus.But it’ll have to be earned. And if it’s not, well, nothing’s a given. Not even World Cup qualification out of CONCACAF.

Why Michael Bradley at the No. 6 has been key for the US national team

November 9, 201611:36AM ESTBenjamin BaerAssociate Editor

There has been a ton of debate over the years regarding what Michael Bradley’s best position is.US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann has done little to quiet that debate during his tenure, playing the captain as a box-to-box midfielder, an attacking midfielder and as a defensive midfielder at various times.The 29-year-old bounced around all three spots prior to the run-up to the 2014 World Cup. During that time, Klinsmann decided to play Bradley as an attacking midfielder in a 4-4-2 diamond formation. The results of this were somewhat mixed.The US escaped a tough group that included Ghana, a Portugal team that included one of the two best players in the world and Germany, who eventually lifted the trophy in Rio de Janeiro. They then went on to play Belgium into extra time, with the Europeans advancing 2-1 after goals from current Premier League stars Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.While the tournament was considered a success for Bradley and Co., some of the underlying numbers were a bit worrying. The US were out-shot 94-44 and out-possessed 57%-43% over the course of the four games, which is not a formula for long term success.Over the next year, through the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico in October 2015, those issues did not dissipate. In 16 games that Bradley was not played as a defensive midfielder, the US was out-shot 10.13-14.88 and slightly out-possessed.After the CONCACAF Cup, a shift happened. Klinsmann decided to play Bradley as a No. 6, or defensive midfielder, which he had been playing for Toronto FC since the start of the 2015 season. The numbers have seen a notable improvement, which you can see below.

Position Win % Avg. GD Avg. Shot differential Possession
Not No. 6 43.75% +.63 -4.75 49.51%
No. 6 71.43% +1.39 +2.77 55.01%

Bradley is one of the best players on the US national team and the way that he is utilized is important to the team’s overall success. It looks as though Klinsmann has figured out where his captain is best deployed, which could mean that US fans will be celebrating on Friday night.

Christian Pulisic doesn’t need to be the U.S. star vs. Mexico, but he must start

COLUMBUS, Ohio — As hype trains go, the one attached to U.S. midfielder Christian Pulisic has already gone through a few sets of brake pads.Everyone from Borussia Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel to U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann to Pulisic’s U.S. teammates have tried to temper expectations. Just last weekend, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard attempted to lower the volume surrounding the 18-year-old.”I think we have to as a whole — as a team, as U.S. Soccer — we need to protect [Pulisic],” he said. “He’s one of these prodigies that comes around every 10 years or so. It’s great. It’s great that he’s playing minutes, it’s great that he wants to shoulder that load, but we don’t need him to be the savior. We need him to play well for us and do good things, but we need to protect him.”The step-by-step approach of Tuchel and Klinsmann over the past year has been utterly sensible. Pulisic has been given increasing doses of playing time and responsibility, but at this point, the plea for caution isn’t working, especially ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against bitter rivals Mexico. In fact, it will be a massive shock if Pulisic doesn’t start the match in Columbus, Ohio, which would be his first against El Tri at any level.Ask Pulisic if he needs to be protected, and one can sense inner conflict.”The competitive side of me wants to just play whenever I get the chance,” he said Wednesday during a roundtable with reporters. “It’s not like I want to hold back, but I understand what people say. At a young age, it is a lot, and this past year has put a big mental strain on me.”I can understand what they mean, just taking it slower, whether it’s not being in every game or every tough situation like that, just to ease me into it. But a part of me thinks that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard because I just want to go out and play. I can see both sides.”At this stage, holding Pulisic back seems dumb indeed, as he has blasted through almost every obstacle in his path. There has been the occasional stumble, such as when he was subbed at halftime during a 2-0 loss to Bayer Leverkusen back on Oct. 1. But for the most part, Pulisic’s progression has been shockingly steep and linear.He’s starting matches in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League for a side stocked with high-profile players. He has broken several youngest-ever scoring records for both club and country. Pulisic has seemed to take it all in without showing a shred of self-doubt or anxiety about the expectations placed on him, which at a club such as Dortmund are considerable.Still, Pulisic is like everyone else. He both feels and has wrestled with the pressure.”After, say, I don’t play one game or I don’t have the best game or something like that, I panic. I’m like, ‘What am I doing here? I’m expected to be so much better this,'” he said. “I talk to [my parents], and they’re like, ‘Christian, you’re 18. You have so much to learn.’ It’s just simple stuff like that. Or even if it’s nothing to do with soccer. I’m just over there in Europe.”My dad’s been there with me, but it could be I’m just alone one day and I’m just not feeling good. I’m going to training, and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I want to be with my friends, home, going to school, having fun with them.’ Or something like that. It’s just talking to them and kind of understanding that it’s a process. There are definitely hard parts, but the good parts are just way too good.”One man who knows a thing or two about the hype that can be foisted upon a teenager is former U.S. international and Borussia Dortmund forward Jovan Kirovski. In 1992, he signed with Manchester United’s youth team as a 16-year-old and was part of the academy group that included David Beckham, Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes. He left only because he couldn’t acquire a work permit. He was then transferred to Borussia Dortmund in 1996, where he was part of the side that won the 1997 UEFA Champions League.The expectations for Kirovski were that he would become a star for both club and country, but he never reached those heights. Yet Kirovski’s experience hasn’t curbed his excitement about Pulisic, and he’s among those who think that for the U.S., it’s time to ditch the caution and stop limiting his minutes.”Pulisic is going to have to handle that kind of pressure anyway,” said Kirovski, who covers the Bundesliga for Fox Sports when he isn’t working as the LA Galaxy’s technical director. “Yeah, we can’t get carried away, we can’t be saying he’s the next Lionel Messi, but he’s already proving that he can make an impact. It doesn’t matter how young he is. He’s deserving of being out there on a top team in one of the biggest leagues in the world.”The hype? Yeah, there’s always going to be hype, but if he continues to make an impact, it doesn’t really matter how old he is or how young he is. He’s playing in front of 80,000 people on a world-class team against Real Madrid. He’s handling it pretty well.”Pulisic’s progression at both club and the international level is a welcome development for the U.S., who ever since the start of this World Cup cycle have been searching for the next wave of attacking players. Right now, with Landon Donovan retired from international soccer and Clint Dempsey sidelined by a heart ailment, there really isn’t anyone else in the U.S. pool with Pulisic’s combination of speed, creativity and aggression off the dribble.”They talk about being brave in the tackle or wanting to head the ball, but Pulisic is brave in that he wants the ball in tight spaces. He wants to attack players,” Kirovski said. “He’s very confident. That’s the thing that impresses me most. He gets the ball, and he goes. In our country, we haven’t had that. We don’t have players that are direct and take players on and commit players the way he does.”Pulisic’s ability to strike in transition could be vital against a Mexico team that is expected to have more of the ball, even if it is playing on the road. He’ll have plenty of help, of course. Howard is right: With players such as Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore both operating close to their peaks around him, Pulisic doesn’t need to be the savior. But Pulisic will take on that role if needed, especially given the stakes.”The game doesn’t really get any bigger than this one: U.S. vs. Mexico, Columbus, World Cup qualifying,” he said. “I understand that when I’m here. I can feel the energy in the city just training here. You see banners everywhere and just so much excitement. I’m pumped for the game.”If Pulisic is at his best, it will be Mexico that will need protecting.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Jozy Altidore’s hot scoring streak a boost for Toronto FC and U.S. national team

Updated: NOVEMBER 7, 2016 — 7:58 PM ESTby Jonathan Tannenwald, STAFF WRITER  @jtannenwald  The Twitter handle above is for my general news reporting. My soccer handle is @thegoalkeeper. Contact me there

NEW YORK – When a striker scores 15 goals in a 20-game stretch, the odds are pretty good that he’ll be accused of being in good form.When that player is at the top of the U.S. national team depth chart, and plays a big role in helping his club reach the Eastern Conference final for the first time ever, the odds are pretty good that he’ll be accused by many people.That player, as you’ve probably figured out by now, is Jozy Altidore. The aforementioned 20-game stretch dates back to July 31. It includes two goals in the Americans’ last World Cup qualifier, and a goal each in all three of Toronto FC’s playoff games this autumn.Altidore’s run has impressed a lot of people, as it should. But the Reds’ locker room hasn’t been all that moved, at least publicly.Even after Sunday’s bewildering 5-0 demolition of New York City FC on Sunday at Yankee Stadium – part of a 7-0 aggregate thumping over two games – the team was noticeably low-key.Perhaps that’s because within Toronto’s locker room, there’s a keen awareness of how much scrutiny Altidore has been under throughout his career. Not just in Toronto, a big city with a big-spending soccer team that took 10 years to win a playoff game. It’s been this way for Altidore at every other stop in his club career – to say nothing of the national team.Yes, it would be much more impressive if the 27-year-old was scoring goals in bunches for Sunderland, Hull City, Bursaspor or Villarreal. Heck, if Altidore was scoring goals for any European team he’d be praised to the heavens by those who preach the gospel of the Old Continent’s inherent moral superiority.

But this much is certain: Regardless of what you think of the level of opponent, Altidore has been putting the ball in the net on a consistent basis for the last three months. And a fair few of those goals have been consequential in the moment.For all the ups and downs Altidore has endured – including more than his fair share of untimely injuries – is it not at least fair to give him that?The hundreds of TFC fans who traveled to the Bronx Sunday certainly did, serenading the New Jersey native with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” during pregame warmups. Altidore celebrated the occasion with an assist on the night’s opener and this thunderbolt of a finish later:

Soon after the final whistle, Altidore left the stadium for some more traditional celebrating. It’s too bad he wasn’t around to reflect on his big night, but call it an excused absence.It was left others to speak on his behalf, starting with Reds head coach Greg Vanney.”He doesn’t really deserve scrutiny,” Vanney said. “He’s a player who had some issues in terms of injury [and] sometimes those aren’t the player’s fault. He’s worked incredibly hard to get healthy, to find his form, and you can see what he’s capable of doing – which is something we always knew he was going to be capable of doing.”Implicit in Vanney’s words was the understanding that Altidore hasn’t always done it. Indeed, the droughts have been so glaring at times that they’ve overshadowed the periods of success. And to make matters worse, the droughts have come on some of the biggest stages Altidore has played on.Go back to those four European clubs I mentioned above. Altidore played a total of 116 combined games for them, and scored a total of nine goals. His struggles were laid bare for the world to see, especially during his two stays in England.He has had similarly fallow stretches with the national team, such as a stretch from 2010 to 2012 when he scored just five times in 29 appearances.But when things go right, they go right in a big way. Such as Altidore’s two seasons at Dutch club AZ Alkmaar from 2011 to 2013, when he scored 51 goals in 93 games. That form translated to the national team, as he scored eight goals in 14 appearances in the 2013 calendar year.That stretch is one of the biggest reasons why Michael Bradley politely took exception to my asking him Sunday night how important Altidore’s current hot streak is.”I’m going to give you a little bit of a hard time and say that he’s scored a lot of big goals in a lot of big games going back a long time,” Bradley said. “When people try to act like Jozy became a good player in the last two months – and I’m not saying that’s what you were implying – but in general, the narrative is, in my opinion, not quite accurate.”At the peak of his success at AZ, Altidore got a second chance at the English Premier League with a $13 million move to Sunderland. He failed there, scoring just three goals in 52 appearances in a year and a half or so, came after that.Then came the move to Toronto, where Altidore has had a renaiss-… well, maybe that’s not the right word.Where Altidore rediscovered his fo-

… No, it’s not that either.

Where he took multiple steps down in quality to a league that will never be as good as the English Premier League, so of course it’s not surprising that he has scored 40 goals in 52 games.

Okay, look. I agree that MLS isn’t as good a league as the EPL. So do most of the media that cover the league, most of the fans that follow it, and heck, most of the people who work for it.Read that again. I’ll even print it in big type for you.

I am saying point blank that MLS isn’t as good a league as the EPL.

Are you happy now?I hope so, because here’s the point I really want to make:

It matters when a player is playing with confidence. It especially matters when a striker is playing with confidence. And it matters even more when that striker has Altidore’s natural physical gifts that complement his soccer skills.It matters most of all when all of those things have come together in the lead-up to the U.S. national team’s biggest game of every World Cup qualifying cycle: at home against Mexico in Columbus on Friday (8 p.m., Fox Sports 1 and Univision). Four days later, the Americans are at Costa Rica (9 p.m., beIN Sports and NBC Universo), the only major CONCACAF nation where they’ve never won.”Jozy going into the national team full of confidence, and – with Michael, who has also been spectacular in the last couple of games – I think the form speaks for itself,” said Vanney, who earned 37 national team caps of his own in a decade-long playing career. “To have each other, and the natural connection they’ve had playing together for years, and the way they’re able to find each other and work together – whenever you put a team together on short notice, you want guys who already have relationships on the field, because it makes putting things together quickly easy. And you want guys who are in form. That’s what they’re going to be in when they show up for Jurgen [Klinsmann].”When attention shifts back to the club scene, Toronto will face up to Montreal in what should be an epic Eastern Conference final series against the arch-rival Impact. The first leg will be at Olympic Stadium on Nov. 22, where a crowd of over 40,000 is likely to be on hand. The second leg will be at BMO Field, which will be jammed to the last inch of its 30,000 capacity.If ever there was a time for Altidore to be at his best, it’s right now. And by the way, Vanney was right about Bradley’s strong performances in the NYCFC series.”We’re very excited,” Bradley said. “You guys probably get sick and tired of hearing me say it, but this is what it’s all about: to play in big games, to play in games where everything’s on the line and where everybody’s watching… You play all year to get to this point, and we have a group of guys who have embraced the challenge in every way. I couldn’t be more proud.”Bradley carries his own burden of struggles in big games, most notably during the Copa América Centenario. The current spotlight gives him his own chance to bury a few of those old demons.Now it’s a matter of actually doing it.

The impact Trump’s election will have on USA vs. Mexico

1 CommentBy Joe Prince-WrightNov 9, 2016, 8:12 AM EST

Make no mistake about it, Friday’s huge 2018 World Cup qualifier between bitter rivals the U.S. and Mexico will be about much more than what happens on the field.Donald Trump being elected as the new president of the U.S. will have a big impact on proceedings.[ MORE: Latinos, immigrants worry 

In the stands and around MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, before, during and after the game, the ramifications of Trump being elected as the new President of the United States of America will be felt acutely and directly.Trump’s vilifying of Mexico and its people throughout his election campaign was one of his main campaign themes. As was his notion of wanting to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, but it was seen as a step too far by many. Add in that the value of the Peso plummeted following the announcement of Trump’s victory and Mexico is very involved in this presidential election.You can also bet your bottom dollar that chants of “build that wall!” will be sung by some U.S. fans in Ohio on Friday.Not everyone will agree with it, but more than likely most will sing it. The president elect has also seemingly described many Mexican immigrants in the USA as murderers, criminals and rapists early on in his campaign trail, something many among the USA’s large Mexican-American community haven’t forgot. Neither have the citizens of Mexico.Friday’s game has the potential to become an ugly occasion with political tensions incredibly high at this moment in time. Many Latinos and Hispanics believe Trump’s victory has essentially placed a target on their backs.It also has the potential to become an occasion where two nations come together and unite t worry about the game and forget about all of the other issues for 90 minutes.Could fans of the U.S. and Mexico unite in a moment of extreme uncertainty between the two nations?Mexico’s fans (a few hundred are expected to have tickets but many more will be in and around the stadium) and players were already due to enter a cauldron of hostility in Columbus, just as they always have done in the adopted home of the U.S. national team where chants of “Dos a Cero!” in previous victories from the USMNT haunt everyone connected with El Tri.[ MORE: Premier League, world stars react to election ]

Given the events early Wednesday, the vitriol will be cranked up more than a few notches as the USA and Mexico kick off their opening game of the Hexagonal, the final round of World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region.This game didn’t need any extra spice added to it. Now, thanks to Trump, it has it.Players and management from both teams will try and talk down the political situation and the potential links to their rivalry before the game, which will be helpful. I’ve already spoken to friends going to Columbus who predict that the chants and interactions in the parking lots surrounding MAPFRE Stadium and downtown Columbus will be very unsavory. This unfortunately, like many intense rivalries, happens at many USA vs. Mexico encounters but due to recent events comments about “building a wall” and promises to “make them pay for it” seem a little closer to the bone.The fact of the matter is: the two cultures of the U.S. and Mexico are closely intertwined. That’s what makes the feelings in Friday’s game so complicated.There will be Mexican-Americans in the stands who will not only be hurt by any potential unrest and chants, but also concerned about the future of relations between the USA and its neighbor to the south. What does Trump being in the White House mean for themselves and their families, long-term? Friday is about so much more than a game.Yes, Trump may have done slightly better with the Hispanic vote than expected (around 29 percent of their vote some studies suggest) but his blatant polarizing of Mexico and the USA will fuel the chants and thoughts of some fans in the stadium. Especially after a day full of drinking. There’s no getting away from that fact and TV footage of banners, chants or any unrest will be beamed around the globe.This match between the U.S. national team and Mexico will be seen as a major early indicator as to how Trump’s election has been accepted.Not all USMNT fans will agree with Trump’s election and his ideologies but it is likely many of the locals in Columbus will. In Ohio, the state which has selected the winning presidential candidate in every U.S. election since 1964, they went Republican. Yes, plenty of U.S. fans will travel from across the 50 states to watch this match but the vast majority will be locals from Columbus.That in itself creates an issue as Columbus has a sizable Hispanic community with over 22 percent of its residents classed as Hispanic and the majority of those are Mexicans. You only have to go to a Columbus Crew game to understand the rich Hispanic heritage running through the soccer community in Ohio’s largest city.Friday’s game will hold much greater significance than just three points in the Hex and a battle between bitter CONCACAF rivals.It will also be a measuring stick to see just how deep the divides between the USA and Mexico have become following Trump’s unsavory rhetoric and his unlikely ascension to becoming the most powerful man in the world.

Jurgen Klinsmann vs. Juan Carlos Osorio: USA, Mexico manager watch

Jurgen Klinsmann and the United States meet Juan Carlos Osorio and Mexico to kick off the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying on Friday at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. For both managers, the pressure is on. Who comes into the clash more in need of a result? We asked our experts Jeff Carlisle and Tom Marshall to assess the bosses head-to-head.

How they’re doing

Jeff Carlisle: Unlike earlier this year, Klinsmann is on solid footing as the final round Hexagonal begins. The U.S. reached its goal of making the semifinals at last summer’s Copa America Centenario, cruised through the remainder of the semifinal round of World Cup qualifying and, perhaps most importantly, answered some vexing personnel questions, like the composition of Klinsmann’s back line.

Tom Marshall: Osorio is under pressure. The Mexican media turned on him following the 7-0 loss against Chile in the Copa America Centenario and there have been few kind words about the manager since. Indeed, there have been rumors of replacements and former managers like Miguel Herrera and Hugo Sanchez haven’t exactly been gushing in their praise of the Colombian.

Match expectation

JC: History dictates that this is a match the U.S. is expecting to win. The last time the U.S. failed to beat Mexico in a World Cup qualifier on home soil was back in 1997. Yes, Mexico prevailed in the CONCACAF Cup last year, but Klinsmann has a lot to live up to here.

TM: Expectation and reality can be two different things in Mexico. The expectation is that Mexico will go to Columbus and win. Whenever and wherever El Tri meets the United States, it is expected to earn victory. The reality is that this is Mexico’s most difficult game in the Hexagonal stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. History has taught us that. And the United States is a strong side. Coming away with a point from MAPFRE Stadium would be an excellent start to what should be a tight qualifying campaign.

What’s at stake

JC: A win will allow the U.S. to get off to a tension-free start in the Hex. The U.S. has to play Costa Rica four days later, and if the Americans get only a point out of the match against Mexico, all of a sudden there will be immense pressure heaped upon Klinsmann and the team.

TM: It’s not a personal view, but the narrative around the game from the Mexican perspective is that Osorio’s legitimacy as Mexico manager is on the line. The manager has stressed recently that the players back his methods, his playing philosophy and therefore his right to continue to build something with El Tri.Should Mexico manage to get a result in Columbus it would be a huge boost for Osorio. It would silence some of the fierce critics, especially with Herrera having made no secret of the fact he’d like to return to the national team. A heavy loss, however, would deepen the questions surrounding whether Osorio is the right person to take the team forward. The Mexican federation has never been known for its patience with managers, and Osorio needs his team to send a clear message that another 7-0-style loss is not around the corner.

Quote from manager

JC: “Obviously the Mexico clash is a six-pointer to start the Hexagonal right away. We badly want to continue the tradition of beating them in Columbus.” –Klinsmann

TM: “We see it as a fantastic opportunity to go there and change the story and break that statistic. We’ll play [against] a strong team, with their fans, in a stadium that historically hasn’t been good for Mexico. But the opportunity is exactly that.” — Osorio

Biggest current issue

JC: The absence due to injury of Geoff Cameron is a big blow. While the U.S. has some depth at center-back, he and John Brooks had formed a solid partnership in the back. The rest of the starting XI looks pretty set.

TM: Hector Herrera. The Porto midfielder has been out of form of late and despite being one of the regulars over the last few years, the 26-year-old faces some stiff competition for the start against the United States. Osorio could opt for in-form Marco Fabian, Villarreal’s Jonathan dos Santos or make the bold move to start Chivas’ exciting 20-year-old midfielder Orbelin Pineda.

Aside from Herrera’s role, all eyes will be on Rafa Marquez. The 37-year-old has endured torrid experiences in Columbus, but he surely will be desperate to get a chance of revenge in what will be his last opportunity. Osorio will think long and hard about whether to play the Atlas captain.

Mood

JC: That depends on which segment of the fan base you’re talking about. Klinsmann still divides opinion on a massive scale. He also seems perpetually to be one bad result away from being on the hot seat.

Fan rating: 7/10

TM: Mexico fans and media have struggled to grasp what Osorio is attempting to do with El Tri and the wound of the 7-0 loss is still fresh.

Fan rating: 4/10

For rising U.S. talents like Pulisic, Gooch, Carter-Vickers, a first taste of Mexico

BRIAN STRAUSTuesday November 8th, 2016

The latest installment of the USA-Mexico rivalry takes place Friday night, when the CONCACAF foes open the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal against one another in Columbus. Stream the match live via FOX Sports GO or watch on Fox Sports 1 at 7:45 p.m. ET.

Jurgen Klinsmann never has been reluctant to rely on youth. He did so at the 2006 World Cup in his native Germany, where he managed a squad including a tournament-high eight players aged 22 or younger (for comparison’s sake, finalists Italy and France had one combined). And he stuck with that philosophy eight years later, when he trusted in the likes of DeAndre Yedlin, John Brooks and Julian Green at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Klinsmann prizes athleticism and fearlessness, and if he sees those qualities in a player, age is secondary. So while the U.S. squad that has gathered in Columbus to prepare for Friday’s World Cup qualifier against Mexico has its share of veterans, it also features nine players age 23 or younger (it would’ve been 10 had Jordan Morris not bowed out with a hamstring injury). The scene at Mapfre Stadium, site of four consecutive 2-0 wins, will be new to many as well. Only 11 men on Klinsmann’s squad have qualifying experience against El Tri.“There’s a lot of movement happening. Younger players, I think they start to become more confident and start to become more mature in what they’re doing,” Klinsmann said while unveiling his team. “There is a lot of competition now happening within our roster and that’s why we’re going to start [Monday] with training sessions that will be very intense and very demanding because everybody wants to be so badly on the field when you play Mexico.”The youngest of all will be under the brightest spotlight. Christian Pulisic’s rise continues unabated, and at this point there really is no reason not to start the Borussia Dortmund attacker on Friday. He’s established himself in the crucible of the Bundesliga and Champions League, possesses rare technique and soccer sense and now has nine caps to his name. He hasn’t experienced USA-Mexico, but nothing in his brief professional past suggests he won’t rise to the occasion.“This player’s potential is limitless,” Klinsmann told FIFA.com. “I’ve always said you need to write your own story and he’s doing it right now. I think it’s rare in America for a player to be so developed at such an early age. But in Europe if you’re good enough, you’re old enough. He’s taken things in his own hands. He’s the piece of the puzzle we were hoping for this year and he’s a great example to other young players about how to go for it—to play at the highest level and prove yourself.”Klinsmann elaborated on Pulisic’s potential impact on Sunday.“It changes the dynamic in our team,” the manager said. “Christian can play left, can play right, he can play in the middle—that’s what he’s doing for Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League, which is huge. So [left back] Fabian [Johnson] and Christian now, they develop a real good relationship and they develop a partnership there where they know where each other is running, they’ve got an understanding of creating attacking patterns, so this is big for us. This is real quality you want to see.”Less will be expected from the other younger/newer players, but Klinsmann said it’s important to have them aboard. Getting a taste of the rivalry, both on the day and in the preparation beforehand, creates comfort down the road.“That’s why we go into these 10 days with 26 players, even if we can only use 23 at the end of the day on the roster, because just this experience to go through these 10 days, through training sessions and then obviously the two games is huge,” Klinsmann said, also referring to the Nov. 15 qualifier in Costa Rica.

The newest of all is 18-year-old Tottenham Hotspur defender Cameron Carter-Vickers, who was raised in England but has an American father (a former professional basketball player). Carter-Vickers has played for U.S. youth teams but is uncapped at the senior level and still could switch allegiance. Cap-tying him this month may not be in the cards, but Carter-Vickers doesn’t sound like someone who’s not committed.“Jurgen called me to let me know that I was going to be in the squad. I was over the moon,” he told Tottenham’s website. “It’ll be great to be around the team and see what it’s like to be around a big game like that. Through the youth ranks, I’ve never played against Mexico, and since I’ve been with the USA it’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.”Sunderland midfielder Lynden Gooch, 20, isn’t cap-tied either and is eligibile to play for England and Ireland. The California native has started to get some minutes with the Black Cats, and when called in by Klinsmann for last month’s friendlies in Cuba and Washington, he made the sort of impact the manager wants to see.“The way he kind of came on against New Zealand [in D.C.] was very promising. He has no fear at all. He’s going at people, so this is great to see,” Klinsmann said.“I’m happy to be here,” Gooch told reporters in Columbus. “It’s only my second camp but I want to make sure I do enough because at the end of the day, I want to play. I want to be involved [against Mexico]. It’s a massive game … To play would be a great honor.”Green, 21, has never played in qualifier but has that World Cup goal on his resume and forced his way back into the U.S. picture by making Bayern Munich’s senior squad and scoring against Cuba and New Zealand last month. Midfielder Caleb Stanko, 23, earned his first senior cap in September against Trinidad & Tobago. With Kyle Beckerman out injured and Danny Williams and Perry Kitchen left behind, Stanko will get an opportunity to climb the defensive midfield depth chart. Morris, ironically, was replaced by a 35-year-old forward with even less international experience—LA Galaxy veteran Alan Gordon. Big games won’t be new to Gordon, but USA-Mexico will be.For each of the 15 men yet to face Mexico in a qualifier, from Gordon to Gooch, there will be reminders throughout the week of how important and intense this fixture can be. Defender Omar Gonzalez, who starred in the 2013 Columbus qualifier, said Klinsmann “set the tone [Monday] in his first speech, just saying that from the first training today it’s going to be intense.”Matt Besler admitted that he was “probably naive” when he made his qualifying debut in 2013 at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. “Now I know about the history. I know the rivalry and exactly what it takes,” he said.Besler and the other vets will have this week to share those experiences with the first-timers. With Klinsmann, you never know who might wind up on the field.“I would just say that every single play matters,” Besler said when asked what advice he’d impart. “Whether it’s a throw-in or a goal kick or a corner kick, every single play matters. You have to be tuned in at all times and you have to give everything you possibly have every second of the match.” 

Christian Pulisic surprised, deserving of rapid success with U.S., Dortmund

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Christian Pulisic says his meteoric rise with both Borussia Dortmund and the U.S. men’s national team is a bit of a surprise, but added he knows he deserves to be where he is.Pulisic is already the youngest non-German to score in the Bundesliga, and earlier this year became the youngest player to score for the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier. Speaking at a roundtable with reporters ahead of Friday’s World Cup qualifier with rivals Mexico, Pulisic admitted his progress has exceeded even his expectations.”If you asked me last November, where I thought I would be, I would not say, ‘Right I where I am now.’ Obviously I wasn’t expecting it to all go so fast, with things at Dortmund and then the national team,” Pulisic said. “It’s not like, ‘I can’t believe it.’ It’s my dream and it just came faster than I thought it would. But I know I completely deserve to be here.”Pulisic’s father, Mark, himself a former professional player, followed his son to Dortmund and has been a valuable sounding board when things get difficult. So have his coaches.”Mentally, it can be a lot,” said Pulisic about playing overseas. “I think for young players, it is tough at such a young age, dealing with the pressures and stuff like that. Luckily I’ve just had a lot of strong people around me who have helped me through it because I wouldn’t even be close to where I am if I didn’t have the support system that I do.”I wouldn’t be able to do it on my own. That’s the really important part about it.”Such has been Pulisic progression that he has almost made things look easy. But he is the first to admit they have been anything but. There have been difficult moments, and some have even come far away from first team matches.Pulisic admitted to feeling panic on occasion after being left out of a matchday squad or not performing on the pitch, which in turn leads to doubt creeping in alongside the pressure of expectation. That’s when he said he relies on those around him to remind him that he’s only 18 and is still learning.He added: “Or even if it’s nothing to do with soccer. I’m just over there in Europe. My dad’s been there with me, but it could be I’m just alone one day and I’m just not feeling good. I’m going to training and I’m thinking, ‘Man, I want to be with my friends, home, going to school, having fun with them.’ Or something like that.”It’s just talking to them, and kind of understanding that it’s a process. There’s definitely hard parts, but the good parts are just way too good.”Pulisic’s success has led many to wonder why other American players who have gone overseas haven’t had similar levels of success. There are plenty of factors of course. Coaches get fired, competition is fierce and adjusting to a new culture is difficult. It makes for a difficult jump.”I took a sacrifice which I think is what a lot of players are afraid of,” he said. “I took the step over to Europe to play at a big club at a young age. I think that’s what’s hard for a lot of people, moving over there. They just can’t see themselves completely moving to a different country and being away from your family all the time, and friends when you’re just in high school.”Obviously I wasn’t even 100 percent sure I wanted to do it, but I had people around me that said, ‘I know that you can make it.’ I wanted to do it, because it was always my dream to be a professional soccer player. I think it’s just taking that big step is what a lot of young players are afraid to do.”Against Mexico, Pulisic will be counted on to provide a heavy dose of creativity to the U.S attack. And he’ll bring the same level of confidence and fearlessness that he’s shown so far for both club and country.”I think it’s just the creative side of me,” he said. “I was always out playing sports in situations that didn’t matter with my friends. I’ve always just taken that, and my dad has always taught me that you never change your game based on a situation.”In a moment, or type of pressure, you just go out and I play like I always do. Because it’s a big moment I’m not going to shy away and not show my talents. I’ll show what I can do and show it every game.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

The Education of Christian Pulisic: Inside the Dortmund, USA rising star’s rapid growth

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  • What has gone into Christian Pulisic’s meteoric rise for club and country? The inside story on the growth and rapid maturation of the Dortmund and USA midfielder.

GRANT WAHLWednesday November 9th, 2016

DORTMUND, Germany – Michael Zorc,the sporting director for Germany’s Borussia Dortmund, is one of the most respected talent spotters in world soccer. He has to be, since his main competition, Bayern Munich, is blessed with enough wealth not just to buy superstars from around Europe but also to poach Dortmund’s best players, as Bayern has done with brutal repetition over the years.“We have a rival who makes €200 million more per year in revenues,” Zorc explains on a rainy fall day in Germany’s Ruhr Valley. “So we have to have a different approach to compete with them. We have to be quicker and earlier to find young talent.”Dortmund casts a global net in its pursuit of prospects. In January 2014, Zorc sent his scouts to a youth tournament in Turkey to take a close look at the U.S. Under-17 national team and its promising forward, Haji Wright. But a funny thing happened that week: While they were observing Wright, Dortmund’s scouts fell in love with another U.S. player, a slight 15-year-old midfielder named Christian Pulisic. A native of Hershey, Pa., Pulisic (pronounced puh-LISS-ick) possessed a combination of speed, vision and soccer IQ that Zorc had never seen in an American his age before.“We said, ‘Hey, [Wright] is a really good player, but there’s one fantastic, outstanding player [Pulisic],’” Zorc says, “and from this time we followed him and tried to realize the transfer.”Pulisic moved with his father, Mark, to Germany in the summer of 2014, and this year he has broken through with Dortmund and the U.S. national team to become the best American men’s soccer prospect since Landon Donovan. In April, Pulisic scored his second goal in the German Bundesliga, the youngest player ever to do so (at 17 years, 219 days). In September, he was the best player on the field in the U.S.’s 4-0 World Cup qualifying win against Trinidad and Tobago, his first national team start. A week later, Pulisic came on against Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale in a UEFA Champions League game and delivered the final pass on Dortmund’s equalizer in a 2-2 tie. Not bad for a kid who would celebrate his 18th birthday on Sept. 18 by attending a Justin Bieber concert in Cologne.Watching Pulisic in full flight on the ball is to witness the real thing. Modern soccer is about speed, skill and quickness of thought, and Pulisic is as relentless as time itself. From his position out wide in Dortmund’s attack, he can drive hard to the byline and deliver a pinpoint cross or cut inside and break down defenders who just can’t keep up. His first touch is a baby’s breath.“I like to think of myself as a creative player,” says Pulisic during an interview in Dortmund’s fan store, where supporters from ages 6 to 56 ask him to sign autographs. “I try to have an impact on every game, whether it’s by making runs or using quick moves to try to get by defenders or making a nice pass to help my team.”Whenever the competition level is raised, Pulisic meets it. In his confidence and even his appearance, he’s a post-millennial version of Tom Cruise’s Maverick taking out the MiGs in Top Gun.“He’s fearless,” says Dortmund teammate Nuri Sahin. “He has so much speed, but what I like the most is his first touch. When he gets the ball, his first touch opens him a huge space even if there is no space.”Adds Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel: “He’s the kind of guy who’s very self-confident and showed his talent on the pitch and doesn’t show any nerves under pressure. That’s a wonderful combination.”Now the world is noticing, too. Pulisic recently signed a lucrative deal through 2022 with Nike, which is aching to find the first U.S. men’s soccer superstar, and he was the subject of offers in last summer’s transfer window from Liverpool, Red Bull Leipzig and other clubs worth as much as $20 million—which would have made him among the most expensive 17-year-olds of all time.“There have been some offers for him in the summer window from England and from German clubs,” says Zorc, who turned them down, “but we would like to have him here and develop him here. We didn’t educate him to sell him. We have a long-running contract until 2019, but because of his development the club is ready to speak to him to prolong his contract at any time.”Every week brings a new reason for excitement if you’re Pulisic, but the three games in 10 days starting this Friday will take things to a fever pitch: The U.S.-Mexico World Cup 2018 qualifier in Columbus, Ohio; the Costa Rica-U.S. qualifier in San José on Nov. 15; and the Borussia Dortmund-Bayern Munich showdown on Nov. 20 before more than 80,000 yellow-and-black drenched Dortmund diehards who now give Pulisic his own Bieber treatment anytime he leaves his modest apartment in his modest Volkswagen.How pumped is Pulisic to have a role in all three games?

“It’s pretty crazy,” he says. “If you asked me that question a year ago, there was no way I would be thinking I would have a chance to play in all those games. It’s going to be an amazing few weeks coming up, and I’m just really excited for the challenges ahead. I’m ready for it.”In many ways, Pulisic’s life in Germany is nothing like that of typical 18-year-old Americans, most of whom are in their senior year of high school. But he still clings tightly to a few teenage joys. Every Sunday at 7 p.m. local time, Christian and his cousin Will, a goalkeeper for Dortmund’s Under-19 team, whoop and holler in front of a laptop watching NFL RedZone and keeping track of their fantasy football teams. (“I should take a win this week,” says Christian, who’s hypercompetitive, “so I’m 5-2.”) Last May, Pulisic found time to attend the high school prom back in Hershey. And like most teens, Christian is enjoying the freedom that comes with finally being able to drive a car in Germany upon turning 18.“Now he doesn’t have to have Dad pulling into the parking lot and dropping him off,” cracks Mark, “and having all of his teammates see Dad dropping him off.”The father still calls his son “Figo.” Always has. Mark Pulisic played and coached in the pro indoor soccer ranks, and from the time Christian was 3, Mark would kick the ball toward Christian’s left foot so that he could work on his weaker peg. Christian loved the sport—his mother, Kelley, and Mark were both forwards at George Mason—and the family would regularly watch Real Madrid’s Galácticos on television. Christian chose former Portuguese World Player of the Year Luís Figo as his favorite player, not least because of the way Figo would take on opponents out wide and dribble past them and be courageous with the ball (much as Pulisic plays today). Christian’s first pro jersey was Figo’s Real Madrid shirt.The highest levels of soccer are far easier to watch on U.S. TV these days than they were in the 20th century, and as a result young Americans can grow up much more easily with soccer in their blood. “As he was playing U-12, U-14 and U-16, you could tell he watched,” says Mark of his son’s soccer IQ. “He was trying things that he saw. He was tactically aware, and a lot of that came from seeing games.”• LOOK BACK: SI’s first story on Christian Pulisic

The pace of Christian’s soccer education was breathtaking. At age 7, he absorbed English football culture while living with his family near Oxford for a year when Kelley, a teacher, was on a Fulbright scholarship. At age 8, Christian attended training sessions of his father’s indoor team, the Detroit Ignition, where the Brazilian players would challenge the youngster to learn ball tricks (which he invariably returned the following week and performed).At age 10, through his father’s coaching contacts, Christian trained for a week at Barcelona’s famed La Masía youth academy. He was invited back for two more subsequent stints (though not in an official trial capacity). Meanwhile, he was developing all the time with Pennsylvania Classics, a respected youth club, and joined the U.S. Under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla., at age 14 in 2013.Small for his age, Pulisic couldn’t rely on sheer size to dominate the youth ranks, as is so common in U.S. soccer culture.“I had to use other ways,” he says, “and try to outthink opponents even more.”The high point of those formative years came in December 2013, when Pulisic’s U.S. U-17 team thumped Brazil 4-1 to win the Nike International Friendlies event. Internet highlights of that game show Pulisic, still small at age 15, clowning Brazilian defenders on his way to a goal and assist and tournament MVP honors.

How will Mexico line up against the United States?

exico kicks off its participation in the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying with a crunch clash against the United States in Columbus, Ohio. Juan Carlos Osorio has become infamous for his rotations despite picking a fairly predictable squad. Can we guess how his team will line up against the Stars and Stripes?

Our Mexico experts Tom Marshall, Nayib Moran and Cesar Hernandez predict their starting XIs below. Have your say in the comments section!

Tom Marshall’s XI (3-3-3-1): Alfredo Talavera; Carlos Salcedo, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno; Hector Herrera, Rafa Marquez, Andres Guardado; Giovani dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Raul Jimenez; Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.  Competition for starting spots in this Mexico team is fierce. Did anyone see Carlos Vela’s performance last weekend? In that sense, Osorio has what he wanted. But for those trying to predict what he will do, there are many complications, especially with the formation.

Osorio has, however, given us some clues. The likelihood that the United States will play with two strikers hints at Mexico fielding three central defenders to create numeric superiority in that sector of the pitch. And Osorio’s concerns about the U.S.’s aerial threat mean Mexico will likely field at least six players he considers to be good in the air, with Talavera almost certain to start in goal.

I’ve gone with a 3-3-3-1 formation similar to the one employed recently against New Zealand and versus Uruguay in the Copa America, which was Osorio’s best match in charge.
— (@mexicoworldcup)

Nayib Moran’s XI (3-3-3-1): Talavera; Salcedo, Nestor Araujo, Moreno; Miguel Layun, Marquez, Guardado; Jonathan dos Santos, Giovani dos Santos, Fabian; Chicharito.

Of the 25 players in Mexico’s roster, seven can be considered natural center backs, but it’s likely that Osorio will go with three center backs. Similarly, the likelihood that he opts to use a 3-3-3-1 formation (as he did against Uruguay in the Copa America Centenario) increases.Mexico’s center backs are not afraid to start the plays from the back and Osorio is well aware of this fact. Marquez will probably appear in the XI as the squad’s central figure in the midfield, but he could have support from Guardado, Layun and Jonathan dos Santos.

The inclusion of the dos Santos brothers in the XI could give Mexico a much-needed creative spark, but Jonathan’s presence in particular would allow El Tri to have more possession of the ball, freeing up space for “Gio,” Fabian and Chicharito to use their speed up front.
— (@nayibmoran)

Cesar Hernandez’s XI (3-3-3-1): Guillermo Ochoa; Salcedo, Araujo, Moreno; J. dos Santos, Guardado, Layun; Jesus “Tecatito” Corona, Fabian, Hirving Lozano; Chicharito

Whether you want to call it a 3-3-3-1 or a 3-4-3, Osorio will likely be using a three-man back line against the United States. Moreno, Salcedo and Araujo are all strong candidates who could hold off a determined U.S. attack. As for Marquez, he brings an immense amount of experience, though there are growing worries about his lack of pace in Mexico’s defense.

Guardado would be the key player in this setup, playing as the defensive midfielder for El Tri, while Chicharito, El Tri’s lone striker, should have no problems finding the back of the net with plenty of support behind him.
— (@cesarhfutbol) Keep up with the latest football

U.S.-Mexico oral history as told by the players who created it

Editor’s note: This was originally published in the run-up to the CONCACAF Cup clash in Oct. 2015. But the stories told here are timeless.

It’s been 13 months since the U.S. and Mexico last met, and even though Friday’s clash in Columbus, Ohio, is just one game on the road to the 2018 World Cup, it’s no exaggeration to say that all those involved will want the win for more than just the points. The rivalry may ebb and flow over time, but it has lost none of its fire. It never does when these two archrivals are involved.When these two rivals take the field, there is so much more at stake. It’s the chance for players to enter their names into a tapestry of epic moments and controversial incidents, stellar victories and agonizing defeats. It is this accumulation of memories on both sides that keeps the fire of rivalry burning.What follows is a collection of memories from both sides, a mural of what has become one of the classic rivalries in the world of soccer.

The turning of the tide

For years, Mexico so dominated the meetings with the U.S. that it could hardly be called a rivalry. In 26 attempts from 1937 to 1990, the U.S. prevailed one time against its southern neighbor.

When exactly did the tide begin to turn to make the rivalry more even? Opinions vary. Many point to the 1991 Gold Cup semifinal in which the U.S. prevailed 2-0 but for the players of that era, different games come to mind.

Cobi Jones, U.S., 1992-04: My memories go back to the 1992 Olympic team playing against Mexico. You really saw the rivalry heat up, and you started seeing on a consistent basis U.S. youth teams start to beat Mexico, especially during the qualifying process when we beat Mexico [twice], and their reaction was to lash out, as usual. That kind of started the first moments where you could see a switch of power in CONCACAF.

Claudio Suarez, Mexico, 1992-06: [The rivalry] grew from the ’90s. We knew that they didn’t have a league like the MLS [of today] and we can say that Mexico dominated, even though there were games that we lost against them. Little by little, it became more even.They created their league, and the confrontations became more complicated. They started to win.

I’m [in the U.S.], and I understand more and more why the United States is improving and is equal to Mexico. Even if Mexico continue with the idea that we are better, the cold numbers say otherwise.

Marcelo Balboa, U.S., 1988-00: We were always pretty scared of them because they were always the king, and then when we were able to beat them for the first time, I think we realized that we could play with them. Bora [Milutinovic, Mexico coach from 1983-86 and 95-97, U.S. coach from 1991-95] really didn’t do anything but give us confidence.

They were a team that he had coached before, and it was a team that put its pants on the same way we did. It was just a matter of defending better as a group but also being able to hold the ball. That was the biggest thing — that we gave it up so quick. If you look at that Gold Cup, we knocked it around, we were patient, and then Bora made it very clear to us that they were just another team. They do everything the same we do. It’s just a matter of who does it better on that day.

Luis Roberto Alves “Zague,” Mexico, 1988-02: The trigger was the first Gold Cup in 1991. [The U.S.] team was managed by Bora. We came into it without giving it the attention and seriousness, and after the [domestic season], there was tiredness and injuries. Mexico didn’t give it the necessary importance, which was the opposite of the United States.

And so when the famous game in the semifinal came around, in which the United States beat us 2-0, it was a big blow. Everyone thought Mexico would win the first Gold Cup walking, and it wasn’t like that. From there, the rivalry started to make itself heard. Then, in the next Gold Cup, we defeated the United States in the Estadio Azteca.

Kasey Keller, U.S., 1990-07: The U.S. Cup game in D.C. in ’95, when we won 4-0, that’s where it changed. That was where it definitely switched. We had never handed it to them before. That was the ‘Oh s—‘ moment for Mexico — no doubt about it. They can’t come in here anymore, have home-field advantage in the U.S. and cruise. That was a good team that Mexico had back then. To come in and just spank them, that changed things.

Martin Vasquez, the first player to switch from Mexico (1991-92) to the U.S. (96-97): In 1991, when the United States won the first Gold Cup, I thought that was the biggest turnaround for the U.S. Mexico took it as just one day, one bad game and the U.S. getting lucky. For a while, that mentality didn’t help.

Ramon Ramirez, Mexico, 1991-00: I think in the ’90s, a generation of soccer players came through in the United States that were motivated by having the World Cup in their country. I’m talking about Tony Meola, Marcelo Balboa, [Thomas] Dooley, [Eric] Wynalda, [Jeff] Agoos, Cobi Jones, [Alexi] Lalas, and I’ve missed some. They were a generation that understood soccer and that wanted to break the boundaries of their sport in their country, getting rid of the tag of what the traditional sports are and promoting the idea that this craziness called football could be accepted by Americans. I think it was a great generation, coached well by Bora Milutinovic, and combined with the motivation of the World Cup, they started to even out the rivalry with Mexico a lot.

Alexi Lalas, U.S., 1991-98: I think about the game in ’95 down in Copa America, when we beat them [in the quarterfinals] on penalties. At that point, we were all kind of feeling our oats, we had all started to play in Europe, and we were all much more experienced and mature. Yet we still had that sense that, “Hey, we’re playing Mexico, and we want to do something.” For me, it was the first time we had tasted success in a game that meant something in a tournament situation.

What’s it like playing in the U.S. with a pro-Mexico crowd?

Keller: I always felt that playing against Mexico in the L.A. Coliseum was far more intimidating than playing in Azteca — really bad, much worse across the board. At Azteca, it’s really difficult to have things thrown at you. You come in from a tunnel and it is what it is, it’s 100,000 people.  But a couple of Gold Cup finals in the Coliseum were nasty, really nasty. You come in from the tunnel, and you’re just getting tons of s— thrown at you, spit at, just really bad. What makes it even more memorable is you’re supposed to be the home team. I accept that if I’m at Estadio Saprissa [in Costa Rica] and I’m getting stuff thrown at me, that’s one thing. But when I’m in America being treated like that, then maybe it just sticks out more in your head.

Ramirez: It is fabulous because we all know how many compatriots are over here, and we all understand the reasons and needs that brought them here for an opportunity. We also understand the yearning that they still feel for their roots and that football brings joy to many of them and brings them closer to their people. As a player, the biggest satisfaction you can bring them is when you win a game and especially when you defeat the United States.

U.S. recollections of combustible incidents

There have been some memorable — some would say infamous — moments in the annals of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry. Some of those are recounted here.

Lalas on Ramon Ramirez kicking him in the groin; Jan. 19, 1997: That was just a perfect depiction of the animosity. In the moment, I think there is a hatred involved, and the recognition that you are going to get some sort of moment of satisfaction, even if it doesn’t come on the scoreboard.

You have to do it carefully, and if you watch the video, Ramirez waits for the crowd to gather round and then it’s just this stealth strike, like a viper to my manhood, and I was not expecting it, to say the least. Given who we were playing, I probably should have expected it more.

People ask me if I chased Ramirez to the ends of the earth to get retribution and if in a dark alley one night, I exacted my revenge. I saw him a few years ago, and because I was able to go and recover — I have two beautiful children — I’m a much kinder and gentler version of myself in my ripe old age.

“Ramirez waits for the crowd to gather round and then it’s just this stealth strike, like a viper to my manhood, and I was not expecting it to say the least. Given who we were playing, I probably should have expected it more.”

Jones on Rafael Marquez head-butting him July 17, 2002, at the 2002 World Cup: I just remember going up for the ball and feeling this stud into my thigh, and then Marquez’s head coming into my head. Fortunately, Marquez didn’t injure me too bad. I had to go out for a little bit, but I was going to make sure that I stepped back out on that pitch to let them know that they weren’t taking me out, especially in this game where we had the best of them.

People forget the great Cuauhtemoc Blanco tried to break my leg in the corner as he tried to stomp on my leg. He’s no angel, either. But when that happens, it shows you that they’ve lost it. They couldn’t figure it out. To this day, I think those players are going to be taking that to their grave.We are fair play [laughs]. We would never do anything like cheap shots. We always played hard, we played rough, but we always kept it within the bounds. That’s the big issue.

Frankie Hejduk (U.S., 1996-09) on Mexico assistant Paco Ramirez slapping him on Feb. 11, 2009: It was [a World Cup qualifier], right near the end of the game. Michael Bradley scored to make it 2-0, icing on the cake, and I was so pumped up.

I’m a right-back, so I ended up being right by the halfway line, right by their bench. I was enjoying that moment with the crowd, so I don’t know what the bench was feeling or what they were doing at that time. It was just spur of the moment, I was just saying “F— yeah! F— yeah! F— yeah!” Everyone was cheering. The game ended, and I’m one of the last guys off because it’s my home stadium and doing high-fives more than normal. I remember walking off, and then this guy steps in front of me, and he had a suit on, he was a small little dude. I didn’t know who he was. He held his credential up to my face for me to look at. When I looked at it, bam, he gives me this little slap in the face.  I was like, “What?” I literally didn’t know what happened. I just put my hands in the air and went, “Are you serious, dude? I’m not even wasting my time on this little guy.” That’s how it went. I had no idea who it was.  People were like, “Dude, he can’t do that!” I was like, “We won.” I laughed at it. I wasn’t letting anything kill my buzz at that time. That could have really killed a buzz. Someone slaps you, you want to slap him back. It gets weird, you’ve got referees, you’ve got fines. I laughed about it. All I know is 20 seconds after that moment, I was drinking champagne, and they weren’t.

The Mexico perspective on those incidents

Not surprisingly, El Tri‘s recollections are different, though there is at least an acknowledgement that there were moments when a line was crossed.

Ramirez on the Lalas incident: I remember that tempers flared, and in the heat of the moment, I kicked out without knowing exactly who it was, honestly. I ended up kicking Alexi Lalas in his “noble parts,” as we say in Mexico.With the passing of time, I realized what I did was stupid, silly. Fortunately, Alexi took it with a dose of humor, and I have always publicly apologized to him because cowardly actions don’t correspond to being a sportsperson. I regret it. It was a wrong, I’ll say it again, but maybe it did highlight the passion in those games.

Zague: They are intense games, and I was also a target for some very hard tackles, and I never complained or spoke out because it was the way it was played and nobody wanted to lose. The Ramon Ramirez one was in the U.S. Cup that we won. I remember it perfectly. It was in the heat of the game — not an aggression. He kicked out at Lalas, although he had given two [kicks] to Ramon Ramirez.

Suarez: We saw it as normal. With respect, I think the U.S. was still a little innocent. It is what experience of playing so many important games and tournaments teaches you. I’m not saying that we were dirty, but the battles are part of the game.We have also made mistakes. I came to understand that in MLS, the tackles are harder and physical, but they aren’t in bad faith — with the intention of hurting the opposition. Us Mexicans sometimes fell into the trap of feeling that they were attacking us, and we also wanted to hit and kick out.

Respect

Not every battle stepped over the line. As the years pass, hostilities can fade, and what emerges instead is a healthy admiration for those on the other side.

Keller: Pavel Pardo was just a great guy and obviously a great player, huge amount of respect for him. Jared Borgetti was another fantastic guy, great player. I think Ricardo Osorio was another great guy.It took some of the Mexican guys — and I played against Pardo and Osorio when they were at Stuttgart, and I was at Borussia Monchengladbach — to realize, “Wow, if Kasey is doing it in the Bundesliga, and Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride are in England, now we’re coming over here to Europe and understanding how difficult this is out of our own safety net of Mexico.” I think that was a continued level of respect.“We saw it as normal. The U.S. I think, with respect, was still a little innocent.”

Suarez: In the ’90s, Eric Wynalda. We had the most direct duels because he was a center-forward and I was a center-back, and so we were constantly battling. Also, [I battled] with Landon Donovan on various occasions and Cobi Jones. [They were] emblematic players for the United States, who helped the growth of the league.

The other one who I always used to fight with was Alexi Lalas. I didn’t used to know what he was saying in English, although I knew they were insults! I had to mark him at set pieces, and there were struggles and pushing, and that rivalry grew. I’m now good friends with Wynalda, Cobi Jones and Lalas. They are great guys, but at that time, we had a lot of fights.

Pavel Pardo, Mexico, 1996-09: I played against Kasey Keller in Germany. Apart from being a great professional, he is a very good person, and the career he had in Europe was excellent.

Carlos Bocanegra, U.S., 2001-12: I like Andres Guardado’s game. He’s a really hard worker. Every single player on the field can be a little bit nasty at times — both sides, Mexico and the U.S. You go into a challenge a little bit harder. You want to leave something on them a little bit. It’s not done to hurt them, but you want to get in there. It’s a huge game. Guardado was a super hard worker, and he did things with class as well.

Favorite memories

Every player has recollections that they use to keep warm when their careers are over. The U.S. certainly racked up a few against their bitter rivals.

Zague: The Gold Cup [final] in 1993 because I was fortunate to play in the first edition in 1991, and [the defeat against the U.S.] hurt a lot. For me, it was revenge I had to get. Soccer is kind and peculiar enough that two years later, it gave me the chance to play the final against the U.S. in the Estadio Azteca, and we convincingly won 4-0.

Balboa: Every time we played Mexico in the U.S., the fire alarm [in the team hotel] would go off at 3 a.m., and then it would go off at 6 a.m. It would get everybody up and out of our hotel. Those were hilarious moments. You knew something was coming. You just don’t know what time.

Herculez Gomez, U.S., 2007-13: [Playing in 2012] in the Azteca with 70,000 fans, and they all hate you. They’re wishing the worst things upon you in that moment. And it was one of the most fun times I’ve had playing a soccer game because I’m living out a mini-dream. It probably wouldn’t mean that much to a lot of people, but for me that was a really special, cool momennt.  Yeah, it was a friendly and maybe it didn’t mean much to people outside of that game, but to everybody that was there who knows the history, how hard it’s been for us to get any type of result there, that was huge.  I came back to my club team in Mexico, and those veterans that were there before, who were in the thick of things back in the day, they had long faces. They were quiet. They weren’t as chipper as they were before the match went down.

Bocanegra: I think savoring that win in Chicago after the 2007 Gold Cup. The whole team went out together. Frankie Hejduk actually brought the Gold Cup with us and filled it with beer. Shock that it was Frankie, you know?  The best thing about it is that there is so much buildup, so much hype around those games. You win, and it just brings the whole group closer together. You just feel proud. It’s a great moment. For a short time, you get to celebrate it and really enjoy it. And then it’s on to the next game. Any time you get a big victory against your big rival, it’s a little bit extra sweet and it brings the team together.

Hejduk: After we beat them at the 2002 World Cup — we won, you saw it — there was all kinds of bad blood. Marquez gets a red card.We get on the bus, we were celebrating, we were having so much fun. We had a couple of beers on the bus after that game. All of a sudden, our bus stopped at a red light. Another bus pulls up beside us as we’re leaving the stadium. And it’s their bus, and their team is on there. We’re both looking at each other like, “Oh my god, is this really going on?”All of a sudden, they start flipping us off. We start dancing, chanting. All of our team was on one window. All of their team was on one window. We were chanting “USA! USA!” It was such a crazy moment.Our buses were three feet apart. I remember faces. I can name names of who they were, although I won’t name them. There were middle fingers and two opposite emotions. Then the light turned green, and both buses drove off. We drove to the quarterfinals, and they drove home.“Frankie Hejduk actually brought the Gold Cup with us and filled it with beer. Shock that it was Frankie, you know?”

Jared Borgetti (Mexico, 1997-08) on the bus incident: I don’t remember. I’d be lying if I said yes or no. I don’t remember. I don’t know if that happened.

Vasquez: One of the nicest, more historic moments in my career was playing for the U.S. [in the 1997 0-0 tie in the Estadio Azteca]. I thought I was going to be booed and called all kinds of names on the field with the U.S. jersey.The fans applauded and cheered me, and that is something that I’ll never forget. I was expecting a hostile environment. I was expecting to be called every name in the book. When I talk about it, I still get the chills.

Toughest memory

Borgetti: In terms of feelings, anger and frustration, it was [the 2002 World Cup elimination] in Korea and Japan because we knew it wasn’t the most difficult or complicated opponent. We knew them, knew how to play them. [We knew] that they would wait for us, hand us the initiative and try to counter or score at set pieces.[They knew] that if they could score first, the frustration would set in and that it was something they could use to their advantage. Everything went to their plan, and everything went against us, and it had a lot of repercussions in Mexico.

Bocanegra: I’ve been on the other end in the 2011 Gold Cup final at the Rose Bowl. Ugh, I thought we were going to punk them that game… It’s hard because the buildup is so big, and it becomes such a big event and such an important piece in your soccer career in that timeline.

Balboa: Sitting on the bench in ’93 for the Gold Cup final when they beat us 4-0. I couldn’t play in that game, but I was on the bench, and they took it to us pretty good. That was very frustrating for me — not being able to play and still seeing how that went down.At that point, when we lost to Mexico, it wasn’t by more than a goal or two. But on that day, they lit us up. It was tough to watch sitting on the bench and also having the chance to win a final and losing. That was difficult.

The rivalry today

The ebb and flow of the U.S.-Mexico rivalry continues. After winning the 2011 Gold Cup, El Tri seemed poised for an era of dominance, only to be hauled back. Since then, the U.S. are unbeaten versus Mexico, having won three times and drawing three others.

Gomez: When I was at Santos [in 2012], Oswaldo Sanchez bet me $10,000 that Mexico would beat us in the Azteca. That was the game we ended up winning. It wasn’t something that I turned around and charged him for. In fact, I never broached the subject again. That’s why I tell you that it’s that generation that has that kind of bitter hatred toward the U.S. — and not the new generation.

Ramirez: I believe that on the field, yes. A lot of the time, the fans don’t understand. Players today have improved in terms of professionalism, of having respect and not over-heating things before games. The games heat themselves up, they’ll have that passion on the field. I’m sure the Mexican players know it. They know it is a game to kill or be killed.

Omar Gonzalez, U.S., 2010-present: I’m Mexican-American, and this game is always going to be important to me because both my parents were born in Mexico, and I was born and raised in the U.S. I used to spend a lot of time in Mexico as a kid and still have a lot of family that live there. These games are always super important to me.

Vasquez: Being a part of U.S. Soccer until last year, I think the passion and the intensity is still there. From watching it on the field and in the locker room and with the fans, I think the respect and competitive edge [are] still there. It gets bigger and bigger. That’s what I experienced.

Who is the favorite on Oct. 10?

Borgetti: Until now, Mexico has always been favorite against the United States. The history of Mexican football is much greater than that of the U.S. They have grown, but they haven’t been able to say that U.S. is greater than Mexico.

Gomez: The new generation is trying to figure out who and where they are. And if I’m being honest, I think that’s exactly where we are. It’s a crazy thing because if you ask everybody in the U.S. camp, it’s doom and gloom: “Oh my god, what are we going to do? Blah, blah, blah.”You go to the Mexico side, and it’s the exact same thing. “They’re going to mop the floor with us. What are we going to do?” It’s the same question being asked, just in different ways. It will be really interesting to see what happens in that game.

s one. Even though Mexico did well in the last game [against Argentina], they come into [the CONCACAF Cup] at a crucial time after what we saw in the Gold Cup, which was a very low standard for Mexican football. But the United States aren’t at their best. There are a lot of doubts, a generational change, and there aren’t the solid elements Jurgen Klinsmann wants from his team.

Pardo: Mexico is still favorite. Obviously, we get back to everything being possible in a clasico, with both Mexico and the U.S. looking for a ticket to a very important tournament like the Confederations Cup. I think Mexico has every chance; the United States hasn’t been playing their best football.

Benjamin Galindo, Mexico, 1983-97: You know beforehand that when Mexico plays anywhere in the United States, you feel motivated to be surrounded by your people. Combined with what is at stake, I think it will be fundamental and important.

The Dos A Cero foundation: Josh Wolff and the goal that kick-started it all

QUICKLY

  • Josh Wolff scored the first goal in the first Dos A Cero, setting the stage for everything that’s followed in subsequent World Cup qualifying campaigns.

BRIAN STRAUS Monday November 7th, 2016

This story initially appeared on SI.com in September 2013. It has been slightly edited to reflect events that have transpired since then.There certainly have been bigger wins in American soccer history, but few have had a greater long-term impact than the original “La Guerra Fria” back in February 2001, when the U.S. defeated Mexico in a World Cup qualifier at Crew Stadium.The game provided the U.S. with a priceless blueprint for a genuine home-field advantage, it cemented the national team as a regional power, and it went a long way toward validating the construction of soccer-specific stadiums. That victory continues to resonate today, as the U.S. will stage its home qualifier against Mexico in Columbus for the fifth consecutive time on Friday night (7:45 p.m. ET, FS1, Univision).If that 2001 game helped to shape American soccer, then American soccer has Josh Wolff to thank. The Georgia-born forward, who had just turned 24, started that frigid evening on the bench but ended it as a hero, scoring the opening goal and setting up the second as the U.S. celebrated “dos a cero” for the first time.Now an assistant coach in Columbus with Crew SC, Wolff spent a few minutes with SI.com prior to the most recent World Cup qualifying victory in the rivalry reminiscing about that unforgettable night in U.S. soccer history.

Pregame

The game-time temperature fell below freezing, which played directly into the host’s hands. The U.S. and coach Bruce Arena wanted Mexico to be uncomfortable, and it was–El Tri even opted to stay inside its locker room rather than take the field to warm up.

Wolff: “We were absolutely aware of the effort to try and swing those elements–the crowd, the weather–in our favor. I’m sure it was all built into the [venue selection] process. Having said that, you have to go out as a group and deliver. For me, it was my first time coming through qualifying. The older guys, the Earnie Stewarts and Brian McBrides, they may reflect on it differently. It was all new for me, but you still realized this was a change of pace. You play against these teams, even in America sometimes it was a not-so-friendly environment. But those fans [in Columbus] came in with energy. This was a real change of pace. Being a young guy, I heard from the coaches and the senior players and I just knew. You knew it and you felt it.”

Change of Plans

Rafa Márquez did the damage–not surprisingly–and McBride took a blow to the face–not surprisingly–and suddenly, Wolff the reserve was on the field for the biggest game of his life. The substitution came in just the 15th minute.

Wolff: “When you’re thrown in like that, you don’t have much time to think and sometimes that’s a good thing. That’s how opportunity arrives sometimes, whether it’s injury or sometimes just late in a game. You’ve got to get up to speed quickly. I’d played a handful of games with these guys [it was his fifth cap] and was familiar to some degree. You’re a young guy and you’re excited and energized by the moment. But it is good to be thrown in there without having a chance to think about it.”

The First Chance

In the 19th minute, Joe-Max Moore beat a trio of El Tri defenders on the right and hit a low cross that Wolff managed to reach at the near post. He didn’t get much on the shot, however, and the ball trickled wide.

Wolff: “It got me going and got the juices going. You knew you were in a real match right away.”

Welcome to the Hex

In the 36th, Márquez was at it again. He cleaned out Wolff with a high, lunging tackle in midfield. Three minutes later, Wolff took his frustration out on Mexico defender Salvador Carmona, chopping him down along the left sideline. Both plays resulted in yellow cards.

Wolff: “We have to set our own little tone and demeanor. Bruce was always adamant about that. You don’t just take it. You’ve got to deliver some blows, obviously in the right way. It was another little piece that lets you know what kind of match you’re in. When you’re a forward, there’s very few chances when you get to deliver one. Don’t be dirty about it, but you’re not there to just wear it for 90 minutes. There are opportunities to get guys and you leave a foot in there, and elbow in there, just to let them know it’s not going to be just a one-way game. That’s the nature of the business. You have to live up to that end as best you can, just showing your commitment and that you’re in it.”

The Goal

There was more injury trouble for the U.S. in the 43rd, when captain Claudio Reyna exited and was replaced by Clint Mathis–Wolff’s former teammate at the University of South Carolina. Their chemistry was evident almost immediately.Two minutes into the second half, Mathis hit a gorgeous pass over the top of the Mexican defense. Wolff beat goalkeeper Jorge Camps to the ball and slid it into the empty net. It was his second international goal. For all of McBride’s qualities, only the speedy Wolff would have finished off that play.

Wolff: “I still put Clint up there with the more special players I played with. I don’t think enough people got to see him for what he really was worth, both physically and his brain. That play, Clint and I played together for a number of years and know each other’s strengths. That was two guys being on the same page at the moment, two guys being aware of who they are and what the situation is.”

The Back-breaker

The U.S. held on to its slim lead for 40 minutes, helped by a point-blank, 69th-minute save by Brad Friedel on Francisco Palencia. In the 87th, Wolff worked more magic, executing a brilliant turn along the right touchline and dribbling toward the near post before laying a pass back for Stewart to finish. The Mexican defender whom Wolff destroyed on the play, Alberto Macías, never played for El Tri again.

Wolff: “It’s one of those plays where the ball gets dumped in the corner, I’m under pressure and I’m thinking there’s not much I can [do] besides try to get a throw-in or a corner kick. It’s just me trying to take a little bit of a chance, flip the ball behind myself and see if I can pull it off. … It was a nice way to cap off the night, down in front of our fans. It was pretty emotional after that.

The Aftermath

The U.S. would qualify for the 2002 World Cup with a 5-3-2 record and met Mexico again in the round-of-16 in Jeonju, South Korea. At that point, there was no doubt in the U.S. camp that it could defeat El Tri on neutral ground. Wolff started that day and assisted on McBride’s opener with a smart pass from the end line. The U.S. went on to win by the now-traditional score of 2-0.

Wolff: “[The win in Columbus] gave you a sense of belief and a sense of understanding of what these games are like, that we should be competing to win any game anywhere, home or away … Absolutely based on that result we felt very good about [the round-of-16 game] and doing the business that day. It’s hostile. It’s a big competition, but you deliver the blows that really matter and make the plays that swing the game in your favor. I think two years of preparing put us in a mentally stronger place and made us more prepared for that game than we would have been in the past.”

Epilogue

Wolff’s international career ended in 2008. He amassed 52 caps and nine goals. His club career concluded after 15 seasons with the Chicago Fire, Kansas City Wizards, Germany’s 1860 Munich and finally D.C. United. He won two CONCACAF Gold Cups, three U.S. Open Cups and one MLS Cup. But it is that night in Columbus that will linger longest in the minds of many U.S. fans.

Wolff: “It was our first soccer-specific stadium. It’s not an unbelievable stadium compared to today’s standard, but it was the first of its kind and it has a massive importance to our sport, to MLS as well as the U.S. national team. A lot of props go around for that result. … I’ll see the video from time to time. You see little clips on TV. My kids will see it–they’ve got it on YouTube, they’re own little hand-helds. I’ve certainly seen it enough to be able to recall it. My kids, they enjoy seeing dad in the old days as well. That’s good to see. I tell them that the footage is a little grainy, but you can still see some quality in there!”

Cameron Carter-Vickers could be next U.S. star after rising up Spurs’

Already making waves in the Bundesliga and Champions League, Christian Pulisic is the great hope for American soccer, but national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann’s latest squad includes another future star: Tottenham’s Cameron Carter-Vickers. The 18-year-old centre-back was named in the 26-man group for the U.S.’s World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica, continuing his rapid route to international football, and Klinsmann will consider giving him a senior cap to end interest from England.Carter-Vickers has been fast-tracked through the U.S. youth system — at 16, he represented the under-23s, and he was one of his country’s best players at last summer’s U20 World Cup — but he was born in Southend-on-Sea to an English mother, and until he plays for the U.S. senior side, he could yet be poached by England. Klinsmann, a legend at Tottenham who keeps a close eye on the club, will be aware that the Football Association has raised inquiries, and he has been considering Carter-Vickers since before his Spurs debut in the 5-0 mauling of Gillingham in September.”Cameron is absolutely in our picture. He is a very exciting player coming through the ranks,” Klinsmann said last month. “But he also needs to break into things slowly, get into the team and get some minutes.”Carter-Vickers made another appearance in a 2-1 defeat to Liverpool in the next round of the EFL Cup, and he wasn’t overwhelmed when facing Daniel Sturridge and Divock Origi — in fact, he looked more impressive than his centre-back partner, Kevin Wimmer.  An injury to Stoke’s Geoff Cameron has given Klinsmann the opportunity to call Carter-Vickers up and, though he is not expected to start, he could debut from the bench. If Klinsmann decides the teenager is one of the three players of the 26 not to make the match-day squads, the experience will be a step toward ensuring Carter-Vickers spends his career as a U.S. international. The 18-year-old is understood to be committed to playing for the U.S., though he has not commented publicly on the situation since 2014, when he was not yet on England’s radar.Like Klinsmann, Mauricio Pochettino trusts Carter-Vickers. Ahead of that match against Gillingham, the Spurs manager went as far as to say he could be one of the best centre-backs in the Premier League in the future and insisted he would be a better player than he was, which said a lot. Pochettino, who is not short of ego, was an Argentina international centre-back.Just as at the international level, Carter-Vickers has been fast-tracked through the youth setup at Spurs, and the manager hooked him from the U21s last season to deploy him full-time with the first team. He might have played sooner had a back injury not ruled him out back in March and this season he has regularly been on the bench ahead of Austria international Wimmer. If Pochettino adds the three-at-the-back formation, used at Arsenal on Sunday, to his permanent armoury, a league debut might not be far off for the teenager, though for now he is waiting patiently.Physically, he is already ready for senior football, and all his coaches report that he is intelligent and mature beyond his years.”Even though he’s the youngest player on the squad, he’s probably one of the most mature on the field in terms of the way he plays,” U.S. under-20 coach Tab Ramos said after the World Cup. His emotional maturity owes a lot to his father, Howard “Hi-C” Carter, who had a promising but short-lived career in the NBA, and whom Carter-Vickers has credited with keeping him “level-headed.”The teenager is fiercely committed to learning on and off the field, too. Hours before leaving a training camp in Australia for the U20 World Cup in New Zealand, he went to the British embassy in Sydney to sit an A-Level maths exam.Sources at Spurs report that Carter-Vickers genuinely reminds them of club legend Ledley King, not just for his strength and ability on the ball but because of his temperament. He has captained Spurs at every level except the senior team, and he is a fierce competitor on the pitch but placid and soft-spoken off it.If Carter-Vickers makes his U.S. senior debut this week, it is unlikely to make many headlines — particularly if Pulisic stars again — but the signs are that Klinsmann will have secured a very talented player who could be every bit as important as the Dortmund winger to their future ambitions.For England, he could be the one that got away.Dan is ESPN FC’s Tottenham correspondent. 

In a bind, Argentina looks to Messi again entering World Cup qualifier vs. Brazil

QUICKLY On the cusp of being in World Cup qualifying peril, Argentina turns its eyes once again to Lionel Messi to provide the antidote. JONATHAN WILSONWednesday November 9th, 2016

If there is any consolation for Argentina, it is to imagine how bad this would have been if Lionel Messi hadn’t reversed his decision to retire from international play. The 2014 World Cup finalist faces Brazil on Thursday sitting sixth in the CONMEBOL qualifying table for 2018, not even in the playoff spot. There are still eight games to go, and there are three teams all within a point of each other, but a defeat in Belo Horizonte–and Brazil has never lost a home qualifier–would start to place Argentina’s participation in Russia in real jeopardy.But at least Messi is back having missed the last two qualifiers–a draw in Peru and a home defeat to Paraguay–with a groin injury. And at least when manager Edgardo Bauza replaced Gerardo Martino at the beginning of August he was able to coax Messi out of international retirement. The figures are stark: in three qualifiers with Messi, Argentina has taken nine points; in seven without him it has earned seven.Yet it shouldn’t be like this. As brilliant as Messi is, if there is any country in the world that shouldn’t be reliant on one creative player it is Argentina. This is not some footballing backwater or nation with a tiny population that produces one great player every generation or two. This is a squad replete with high-class attacking midfielders and forwards: Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Angel Correa. Bauza has left out Javier Pastore, Erik Lamela and Paulo Dybala. And yet, in a sense, that is part of the problem.Given the raw materials, the temptation was to try to pack the side with attacking talent and, rather than thinking of balance, try to create a team for the ages, not merely a successful side but one that would be loved and remembered across the world for the beauty of its play. If there was any logic to Diego Maradona’s team selections before and during the 2010 World Cup–and there probably wasn’t–that was it.Sergio Batista, who succeeded Maradona, spoke of trying to make Argentina play like Barcelona, an always doomed ambition given both the uniqueness of the Barcelona method and how little time international sides have to practice together. The result was stodgy football that lacked fluency: each component may have been good, but the collective didn’t work.Alejandro Sabella was far more pragmatic and had the strength of character to omit Carlos Tevez and ignore his army of supporters. Perhaps, had Messi not been in what was, by his lofty standards, a desperate rut of form, Argentina would have won the World Cup. Perhaps if Manuel Neuer had been sent off, as he surely should have been, for his head-high foul on Higuain in the final, Argentina would have won it. But it did not, and Argentina’s reaction after the World Cup was of a mixture of pride at reaching the final coupled with a sense that it had never quite played to its maximum.  Perhaps it was then that the reliance on Messi began. The round-of-16 game against Switzerland, in particular, felt a case of everybody waiting for Messi, invariably surrounded by markers, to do something which he eventually did, laying on a goal for Di Maria with a pass of extraordinary precision. The issue was partly tactical, with Sabella choosing to set up with a solid base and playing through Messi, but it was also psychological.Little changed under Martino’s often shambolic reign. If Messi played well, as he did perhaps most notably in the 2015 Copa America semifinal against Paraguay, then Argentina played well. If he did not, Argentina did not. Was it him? Had he consciously built a political base? It would seem out of character, and yet there’s no doubt that the appointment of Martino, like Messi a native of Rosario, was made in part with him in mind. More likely, perhaps, is that genius intimidates. And there is a flip side to that. Messi’s brilliance becomes taken for granted. He becomes news only when he fails. He was criticized after the World Cup, criticized after the 2015 Copa America and then he missed the decisive penalty in the Copa America Centenario. It’s little wonder, then, that Messi, exhausted and despondent, decided to retire, at least for a short while.Bauza and a wave of popular sentiment brought him back, but, with the pressure ramped up again, questions remain about his psychological state. When he dyed his hair blond, he said it was because he wanted to mark a break from the past. What, then, should be read into his decision to black out the tattoo on his left leg? He had previously had a design featuring flowers, a sword, wings and a ball, but he arrived for training on Tuesday with that covered in ink, skin showing through only to depict the No. 10 and the name of his son, Thiago. What does this signify? A desire to return to basics, perhaps, to reboot and start again.Argentina certainly hopes so.

PREVIEW: #NYCVIND

Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
New York Cosmos vs Indy Eleven
Sunday, November 13, 2016 – 7:00 p.m. ET
Belson Stadium – Queens, NY  

Watch/Listen Live:

  • Local TV: None
  • National TV: CBS Sports Network
  • Streaming Video: None

Follow Live:

Indy Eleven:

  • Fall Season: 11W-4D-7L, 37 pts, 2nd place
  • Combined Season: 15W-10D-7L, 55 pts., 2nd place

New York Cosmos:

  • Fall Season: 14W-5D-3L, 47 pts, 1st place
  • Combined Season: 20W-5D-7L, 65 pts, 1st place

Last Time Out –  Indy Eleven 1 : 0 FC Edmonton

History was made on Saturday afternoon at Carroll Stadium when Indy Eleven knocked off FC Edmonton 1-0 to advance to the NASL Championship Final for the first time in club’s three year tenure.A familiar opponent, FC Edmonton traveled to Indianapolis on the back of a successful NASL campaign that saw them finish in 3rd place, and having gone 1-1-1 against Indiana’s Team in the regular season, there was a lot to play for on both sides. Early chances fell for both sides with the hosts getting things started just two minutes in. Central figure Sinisa Ubiparipovic played in midfielder Don Smart, and the latter launched an effort that forced Eddies’ ‘keeper Matt VanOekel into a good save. Minutes later, Ubiparipovic drew a foul on the edge of the 18-yard box, leaving midfielder Dylan Mares to take the free kick. Though Indy’s No.6 had plenty of experience with set piece chances in the regular season, he failed to hit the target. Both FC Edonton and Indy would have a few more chances fall their ways in the first half, but neither could capitalize and halftime brought a deserved 0-0.The “Boys in Blue” were on top of things from the minute the second half whistle blew, with opportunities for Mares and forward Justin Braun both sailing high and wide of VanOekel’s goal. However, in the 63rd minute, Sinisa Ubiparipovic produced an effort that could not be stopped to separate the two. After tidy interplay at the top of the box, an inch of space allowed the former Fury FC midfielder just enough to plant his right foot on the ball and send it into the top corner on the far side. The goal forced FC Edmonton to attack even more, but both the Indy backline and ‘keeper Jon Busch were prepared for the efforts.Indy’s Busch was called on to make the save of the game with just under five minutes left in regulation as FC Edmonton pressed desperately for an equalizer. Nicklaw struck a cross from the right flank that Ameobi rose above the defense to head down in front of Busch. He kept his body in front of the ball and pushed the shot wide shot to preserve Indy’s lead – and his fourth straight shutout.The victory in Indy Eleven’s playoff debut secured another first during the team’s historic 2016 season – a first appearance in The Championship Final in the squad’s third year of play.

Last Time Out – New York Cosmos 2 : 1 Rayo OKC

The New York Cosmos also had the opportunity to host their semifinal after capturing both the Fall and Combined Season title, and welcomed Rayo OKC to Shuart Stadium for the Saturday night fight.An exciting affair between two talented sides, it was OKC who came out fighting from the get-go and actually enjoyed the majority of the chances in the opening half. After seeing a few efforts wide of both goals, Rayo’s Michel helped break the deadlock in the 37th minute when his set-piece delivery connected with the head of defender Futty Danso, who nodded home past Cosmos’ ‘netminder Jimmy Maurer to make it 1-0. Going into the break, New York battled back with heavy pressure but could not capitalize leaving a 1-0 deficit heading into the second half.Just 45 minutes away from elimination, New York came out scraping for chances but OKC would stand firm. Midway through the second half, the Cosmos almost got their equalizer but an amazing save followed by a goalline clearance saw their efforts denied. However, in the 73rd minute, midfielder Juan Arango latched onto a ball from defender Ayoze and placed it just out of the reach of OKC ‘keeper Daniel Fernandes to tie things at one-all. Just as it looked like extra time would be a necessity, Arango was involved again to put the visitors away. After scoring his goal, he stood over the ball on a set-piece chance, where his delivery would meet the feet of winger Yohandri Orozco in front of net. Just a few feet away from goal, Orozco would not miss and the Cosmos won the match at the death.The win sent New York to the NASL Championship final, where they will look to make it three wins in four tries on Sunday night.

Final Bout

This is it. There’s nowhere left to hide for either side, though both have been in the limelight plenty in 2016. Spring Season champs vs. Fall Season champs, the #1 seed vs. the #2 seed, one of the biggest rivalries in the NASL – it all comes down to this.Indy landed the first punch in April when they battled back from 1-0 down to see an Eamon Zayed penalty equalize in the 90th minute, only for the forward to then double his tally in a dramatic 2-1 finish at “The Mike.” New York would get their revenge, though, in a midweek tie at the end of August, thrashing Indiana’s Team 3-0 with the Eleven down to ten men. After that match concluded, Indy head coach Tim Hankinson told his team that it was time to turn around and ascend back up their “mountain,” with the summit representing The Championship final. Picking up an impressive set of results at home, Indy welcomed the Cosmos back at the end of September and sent them reeling back to the “Big Apple” with their own 3-0 defeat on goals by Dylan Mares, Justin Braun, and Eamon Zayed.After both sides advanced to The Championship final in impressive fashion, they meet for one final time in 2016 with it all on the line.

Who to Watch, Indy Eleven edition: FW Eamon Zayed

“Big games require big game players.” That’s what Eamon Zayed had to say on Thursday when prompted with the question of how his team would rise to the occasion. Fearless in ambition, the Irishman’s 15 league goals in 2016 saw him finish second in the race for the Golden Boot, but broke multiple Indy Eleven records. Becoming the club’s all-time leading scorer, Zayed scored twice against New York in April and capped things off with one more in their September clash, and with just one “big game” left, he’s keen to be on the scoresheet again.That said, Zayed recognizes the task in front of him – he’s facing a formidable defense in the form of the Cosmos – and cited New York ‘keeper Jimmy Maurer as one of the best in the league. But his confidence is high, as is the team’s confidence, and they have no other plans but to leave Belson Stadium with a trophy in hand.
Who to Watch, New York Cosmos edition: MF Juan Arango

One of the most dangerous attackers in the league, Arango was heavily involved in the Cosmos’ success this season and in particular, in The Championship semifinal.Finishing the year with 15 regular season goals and seven assists, the midfielder created an impressive 44 chances in 29 appearances, and scored two of New York’s three goals in their August win. Though this is his first year in a Cosmos shirt, the Venezuelan international has plenty of big game experience having led his country to a fourth place finish in the 2011 Copa America and also leads his country all-time in both appearances and goals.Indy knows that marking #18 will be essential if they are to come away with the victory.
Match-up to Mark: DF Colin Falvey vs. FW Jairo Arrieta

There’s not much left to be said about captain Colin Falvey’s leadership and presence in this Indy Eleven side this year. After making the switch from Ottawa to Indy, the defender is now looking back on his past experience in The Championship final to try and secure something he did not last year – a trophy. Advancing to the final with Fury FC, Falvey (and Indy midfielders Sinisa Ubiparipovic and Nicki Paterson) fell at the feet of the Cosmos, and now he’s looking for a path back to the top. Bloodied and bandaged, the Irishman left last Saturday’s semifinal against FC Edmonton to receive stitches and change his kit (twice), but stepped forward to finish out the match which earned him much praise from both his head coach and teammates. With Sunday’s final the culmination of a satisfying run under his powerful defensive presence, he will again lead his team for the most important 90 minutes of the year. Forward Jairo Arrieta will be in Falvey’s way, however, and his seven goals and four assists in 26 appearances are not numbers to ignore. The Costa Rican is in his first season with the Cosmos after leaving D.C. United of the MLS, and has found much success around the Fall Season champions. Assisting on one of the goals in their August victory over Indy, Arrieta will now look to lead the line again in search of his first goal against the “Boys in Blue” at Belson Stadium. With one of the best conversion rates in the league among those who have scored at least seven goals (22.6%), Indy will have to be on their toes should a chance fall his way.

THREE THINGS: #INDVFCE

Three takeaways from The Championship Semifinal win over FC Edmonton

Nov 7, 2016

After every Indy Eleven game, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will give his three takeaways from the performance of the “Boys in Blue.” This week’s edition comes after Indiana’s Team secured a place in The Championship Final with a 1-0 win over FC Edmonton on Saturday afternoon …

1) CAPTAIN’S COMMITMENT

First thing first, what a match. Arguably the best game the NASL had seen all season, Indy Eleven battered their way to The Championship final against the New York Cosmos after earning a grueling result over FC Edmonton. A physical encounter from the first whistle, the Eddies were fantastic on the day and deserve all the credit for getting to where they did and giving the Boys in Blue all they could handle, and Eleven captain Colin Falvey made special mention of that in his post-match comments.”FC Edmonton was fantastic tonight,” he said. “They threw the kitchen sink at us at the end there with ball after ball in the mixer. But, we put in a solid performance and now we have one to go.”Falvey is right, FC Edmonton was fantastic, but special mention has to go to the captain himself for his performance in the 90-minute beater of a match. Bloodied and bruised after a challenge with Eddies defender Pape Diakite in ab attempt to clear his line in the 39th minute, Falvey had to change shirts twice and even receive stitches at halftime, sporting a red-splattered head bandage for the entirety of the second half. Playing through the pain, the captain was incredible in winning all three of his tackles, registering two interceptions, and completing 12 clearances – including several cringe-enducing headers – on the afternoon. When asked about his effort, Falvey deflected the praise instead insisting that he was simply doing his job.”We spoke in the dressing room before the game about what it means to these fans and this city, and what it should mean,” he said. “It was all about putting your body on the line tonight, and being the captain of the club it was extremely important to me to get the job done.”

2) FIRST GOAL WINS, INDEED

Heading into Saturday’s match, Indy knew exactly what FC Edmonton were about – a staunch defensive side with a knack for keeping opponents away from the net. Statistically the best defense in the league, the Eddies came in with the idea that if they could keep Indy off the scoreboard and potentially get the first goal, the match was theirs for the taking. Having pulled off ten 1-0 wins throughout the Spring and Fall Seasons, it was a conceivable plan. But Indy had other things in mind.Firing 12 shots with four on target while keeping the majority of possession, Indy would not allow Edmonton to hit on the break like the visitors would have wanted. Instead, the hosts stayed patient, probing each area of the pitch for the right shot. Even though it took an absolutely magical strike from Sinisa Ubiparipovic to separate the sides, the game slowly but surely looked as if it would turn Indy’s way if they stayed persistent, whch they did.Speaking after the match, head coach Tim Hankinson was glowing about his team’s ability to grind it out all the way to the final.”We’ve grown into being a confident team, especially late in the season with the work we’ve done on our game. If you look at the games we’ve played against the Eddies, each one has come down to one moment that favors one team and the result that night,” he said. “We knew coming into this game that even with our game plan and focus, the Eddies were going to be a tight team to face. To see Sini pick out that upper corner like a surgeon, it’s a great bit of redemption for him and it’s great for this club. You can’t say enough about this group of guys.”

3) ULTIMATE PEAK

This is it. Everything that the 2016 season brought Indy Eleven – a difficult preseason stretch, an improbable Spring Season championship, an impressive Fall Season run, an undefeated slate at “The Mike,” and a win in The Championship Semifinal – every game, every result, every point brings us to this Sunday.The New York Cosmos aren’t exactly unfamiliar opposition to Indy. After having drawn all six matches prior to the 2016 season, all three games this season saw a winner, with the home team holding serve each time. Indy landed the first punch in a massive April clash that saw two goals in five minutes from Eamon Zayed, including a 95th minute winner, give Indiana’s Team the 2-1 triumph. The Cosmos got a certain measure of revenge in late August, when Indy were sent back home at the end of a three-game road week with an unforunate 3-0 defeat. However, Indy would get the last laugh in the regular season when New York returned to “The Mike” and suffered a similar 3-0 defeat with goals from Dylan Mares, Justin Braun, and Eamon Zayed capping off the series.For three years Indy Eleven has been perhaps the biggest thorn in the side of a Cosmos squad that has mostly dominated the NASL. But for two of the last three seasons, New York has lifted the Soccer Bowl Trophy, so the Cosmos know what this stage is about while many of the “Boys in Blue” will be figuring out on the fly how to deal with the pressure that only a championship game can provide. That said, both sides are plenty aware of what is at stake, and you can bet that even though it’s new territory, just like on Saturday, Indiana’s Team will be prepared.

Legendary Goalie – Gigi Buffon Joins Serie A – 600 Games Club !!

The legendary Juventus goalie made his 600th appearance on Sunday, meaning only Totti, Zanetti, and Maldini have more apps in Serie A.

On Sunday, Gianluigi Buffon – a Serie A and Italy legend despite being an active player – reached a landmark, making his 600th appearance in the league. Although his goal was breached, a 2-1 victory was the cherry on top of his special cake.To put that into perspective, only three other players – all Italian – hold spots in Serie A’s 600 club. Those three – some of the league’s biggest names in history – are Francesco Totti, Javier Zanetti, and Paolo Maldini. How does the goalie compare to the other three? Here we take a look.

Buffon: 600 apps and counting

Totti: 607 apps and counting

Zanetti: 605 apps

Maldini: 647 apps

View image on Twitter

600 games
274 clean sheets
1 legend

Gianluigi Buffon

How many seasons did they spend in the Serie A?

Buffon: 21 seasons and counting

Totti: 25 seasons and counting

Zanetti: 19 seasons

Maldini: 25 seasons

Buffon debuted in the Italian top-flight the same season as Zanetti (1995-96). In the beginning of the 1994-95 campaign, Totti had only 10 appearances under his belt. The reason why Buffon trails the Roma and Inter legends has to do with the Calciopoli scandal.The Old Lady were infamously relegated to the Serie B due to the match-fixing controversy in 2006. The goalkeeper opted to stay in Turin, and as a result, made 37 appearances in the second-tier league.

Trophy cabinets – who has won more silverware?

Since we are merely talking about their involvement in the Serie A, any trophy won outside of Italy – the Champions League and Club World Cup, for example – won’t be considered. Supercoppa Italiana titles won through winning the league and not Coppa Italia will only be eligible.

Buffon: 7 Serie A titles; 5 Supercoppa Italiana crowns

Totti: 1 Serie A title; 1 Supercoppa Italiana crown

Zanetti: 5 Serie A titles; 3 Supercoppa Italiana crowns

Maldini: 7 Serie A titles; 5 Supercoppa Italiana crowns

Will Buffon surpass the others?

Yes, he will – given his career isn’t abruptly ended through injury or controversy. The custodian revealed after the Euro 2016 exit that he will keep on playing until the 2018 World Cup, with retirement expected then.The shot-stopper will likely surpass Totti, given that the Roma captain is no longer a starter, and Zanetti before this season ends. Furthermore, it won’t take long before he eclipses tally of appearances and titles, given Juventus’ dominance in Italy.

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11/4/16 Indy 11 host Playoff Game Sat, 11/5 3 pm, MLS Playoffs Continue Sun, US vs Mexico Fri, Nov 11

So after the most successful season in Indy 11 history – THE PLAYOFFs are coming to the Circle City as our 11 will host 3rd seed FC Edmonton at the Mike THIS Saturday Nov 5 at 3 p.m.  The 11 equaled the longest home unbeaten streak in NASL History with 18 straight home games without losing, including an undefeated mark this entire season after blasting Puerto Rico 3-0 in their last home game  before losing.

So the PLAYOFFs have started for MLS – yes it means the best team in the MLS doesn’t normally win but honestly we American’s love our playoffs and MLS promises to provide plenty of excitement over the next month .  Montreal and Drogba host the NY Red Bulls aand US mid Sasha Klisten at 3 pm on ESPN Sunday and the LA Galaxy with Landon Donovan, Dos Santos host Colorado and Goalie Tim Howard at 5 pm.  Toronto FC and US players Bradley & Altidore and MVP Giovinco travel to NYCFC Sunday 0n FS1 at 7:30 pm, followed by my team Seattle with new American forward Jordon Morris taking on former Carmel High star – FC Dallas Captain Matt Hodges  at 10 pm on FS1.

Finally – just 1 week now till the USA will host Mexico on Friday night at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1. It is always THE MOST IMPORTANT US GAME which is why its always played in Columbus, Ohio at the Crew Stadium, I consider myself Extremely lucky to have gotten tickets for this my 4th USA vs Mexico game via the American Outlaws – I am undefeated in my previous US/Mexico Caps all Dos a Cero of course – and I hope the trend continues.  I will be bringing both kids along with my niece (both skipping their college classes) for this monumental game!  Started the coverage below but will have much more next week.

Grand Park will host the Big 10 Men’s Soccer Tournament next weekend Nov 11-13.  Friday the Semi-finals will be played at 12 noon and 2:30 pm, with the finals on Sunday at 2 pm.  A huge Boys Soccer Showcase will also be on tapd for that weekend.  Carmel FC begins optional Winter Training next week – for the next month at Murray Stadium at CHS.

Carmel FC Optional Winter Training at Murray

ACADEMY -Tuesdays – Nov 8 & 15; Dec 6 & 13

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U11-U12  Wednesdays – Nov 9 & 16; Dec 7 & 14

Girls: 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm

U13 & Older  Thursdays – Nov 10 & 17; Dec 8 & 15

Girls: 5:30 pm – 6:45 pm

Boys: 7:00 pm – 8:15 pm

MUST SEE GAMES ON TV

Sat, Nov 5     

10:30 am Fox Sports 2: Bayern Munich vs. TSG Hoffenheim
10:30 am Fox Soccer+: Hamburg SV vs. Borussia Dortmund       – can US 17 year old Pulisic continue his torrid pace after successful Champ League game Tues?

1:30 pm NBC                 Chelsea vs Everton                                                                           – this game just isn’t as big without Tim Howard – sorry

3  pm My Indy 23       Indy 11 host FC Edmonton in the Semi’s @ the Mike

Sun, Nov 6

7:00 a.m., NBCSN       Arsenal vs. Tottenham Hotspur                       – North London Derby

10:00 a.m., CNBC       Swansea City vs. Manchester United             -Can US Manager Bob Bradley get 1st home win vs Man United?
11:30 a.m., NBCSN: Leicester City vs. West Bromwich Albion – – Leicester City needs a home win in league

2 pm  ESPN                     MLS Semi-Finals LA Galaxy vs Colorado

5 pm  ESPN                     MLS Semis Leg 2: Montreal Impact vs NY Red Bulls

7 pm FS1                           MLS Semi-Finals Leg 2: Toronto FC vs NYCFC

10 pm  FS1                      MLS Semi-Finals Leg 2: Seattle Sounders vs FC Dallas

Thur, Nov 10

10 pm ESPN 2         USA Ladies vs Romania

Fri, Nov 11

7:30 pm Fox Sports 1 USA vs Mexico in Columbus, OH

Sun, Nov 13

9:30 pm Fox Sports 1United States women vs. Romania, international friendly

Tues, Nov 15

9 pm BeIN Sport   Costa Rica vs USA

Sun, Nov 20

8 pm FS 1               MLS – West Con Finals 1st Leg

Tues, Nov 22

8 pm ESPN             MLS – East Con Finals 1st Leg

 

 

Indy 11

Pack the House Playoffs Style – Nov 5 3p m at the Mike Semifinal Round

Vote BYB Players of the Year and Awards

Zayed Hungry for Title

3 Things Indy 11 loss at OKC

3 things Indy 11 3-0 Win over Puerto Rico

Vote Indy 11 Coach of the Year – Tim Hankinson

Final NASL Table has Indy 11 Finishing 2nd

 

USA

US Defender Geoff Cameron to Miss Mexico Game!  

US vs Mexico in Columbus 11/11 is Sold Out

Facing US in Columbus – Excited says Mexico boss Os0rio

Mexico Must Attack says Forward

USA Midfielders in the Hex –Stars and Stripes

Depth Chart US Center backs – Stars and Stripes

State of the Union – US Goalies – Stars and Stripes

US Depth Chart Right Backs – Stars and Stripes

American’s overseas

USA in Drivers Seat for World Cup 2026

 

Champions League

Champions League – where do we Stand now – ESPNFC

Man City beats Barca

Spurs lose heartbreaker to Bayern L at Wembley

Spurs missing Kane

Vardy Struggles for Leicester

GK saves Leicester again

Real’s Draw serves as warning

Pulisic plays well for Dortmund in Win

 

WORLD

Argentina slips to 6th in Conmebol Qualifying after Disqualification of player

 

EPL

Bradley set for Relegation Battle with Swansea

Liverpool Can Challenge for EPL Title

 

 

THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE: BLUE COLLAR EFFORT WITH A SILVER SHINE

GK Jon Busch revels in 2016 campaign with Indy Eleven  – Nov 1, 2016

In the build-up to Indy Eleven’s first postseason appearance, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will chronicle some of the season’s biggest storylines and zero in on the winning pedigree contained within the squad in his series of “The Championship Chase” stories …

After over 18 years of professional soccer in cities that were not Indianapolis, Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch took his talents to the Circle City in search of something else. Here, he found more than just his next step, he found a home.“It’s been a special season for me. First and foremost, leaving Chicago with the way I was treated there, it left a very bad taste in my mouth. To come to a place where you’re accepted with open arms and treated very well has given me a love for the game and a love for goalkeeping again after a tough season last year,” said Busch, who has become a fan favorite with Indy Eleven supporters. “For me, that was extremely important. I got to go back to being a kid and enjoy goalkeeping, enjoy the team around me. We have a great group of guys here that made it easy.”In a season that has featured a lot of highs with very little lows, Busch has only furthered his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the business with an incredible defensive record that he credits the team in front of him for. From the get-go, with all of the experienced players brought in the fold, the New York native knew that Indy could be successful, it was just a matter of whether or not they could execute through the expectations laid out for them.“We talked about it as a group from the beginning when the older, more experienced guys were brought in by coaches Hank and Regan. There was an expectation of not only reaching the playoffs but having success in the playoffs,” he said. “So being in this group of senior players, we knew that it was always on our shoulders and it was always the expectation in our locker room. It didn’t matter what anyone else said outside, it was all about what we believed we could accomplish within the group.”hat they accomplished was more than impressive. A ten-game unbeaten run in the Spring Season saw them crowned champions, and they then rounded out the 2016 season with a second-place finish in both the Fall and Combined Season tables. All of this, of course, while going unbeaten for 16 straight at “The Mike,” a feat that had only been accomplished by two other clubs before them.However, the highs were easy, said Busch. It was the lows that brought out their true character.  Tragedy struck when Busch received word of the loss of his father, Robert Busch, in May. What would derail most people, let alone professional athletes, instead motivated the veteran, though he’ll be the first to say what followed would not have been possible without his teammates.“Losing my father in the middle of the year was obviously a huge hit. He’s a big part of my life and you know that as you get older these things are going to happen, but you can never plan for it or know how you’re going to be emotionally as it happens, so it was a tough time for me,” Busch said. “But, the boys were there for me. They had my back during that period of time and I thank them for that. It doesn’t matter that I’m 40 years old, when you lose your father it’s always going to be difficult emotionally.”Through the loss, Indy’s No.18 had an incredible support system – his teammates and wife Nicole guiding him through that difficult stretch – but in the end, he believes his father’s influence assisted him even after his passing.“I think now he’s looking down and he’s probably had a little touch on this season to make it as special as it has been. He knows how important the game is to me, but also how important the game is to him as well. So far it’s been a great run but we have more planned,” he said.“Like any team in any league, we had our slip ups. But, it’s such a long season, there’s so much that could go right or wrong in terms of injuries, results or whatever, but for the most part, our consistency was impressive. We had that stint of five games where we were off the pace, but that’s normal,” said the ‘netminder. “The important thing was getting out of it as quickly as we did and refocusing. It’s a tip of the cap to the players that got us back on track to help us move on and get back to Indy Eleven soccer.”With everything on the line this Saturday against FC Edmonton in The Championship semifinal, Busch now sees another opportunity to rely on his experience, this time to again use it as motivation for one more game – one more accomplishment – and he feels his team are ready.“I think the important thing is that even though it’s a playoff game, you have to treat it as just one more game. Emotions are going to be higher, there’s more at stake and on the line, but at the end of the day you don’t want your emotions to get out of check. Whether that be physical, mental, or whatever, you want to keep control,” he said. “The easiest way to do that is to simplify your game as a player and do the little things properly – don’t try to overplay or do too much on the field – and just treat it as another normal game.”Another normal game, he says, as if a fan base that has been holding its collective breath since qualifying for the postseason in June isn’t about to burst with exuberance. But that’s just how Jon Busch sees it. For a blue collar guy with a silver shine, it’s just another week at the office.“It doesn’t matter what I’ve done in the past, I will give you everything I have every day of the week and double on Saturday nights to find a way to win the game. I’m not flashy, I’m not eccentric or anything like that, I’m a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but I think they relate to that especially being in the Midwest,” he said. “The fans get me, they understand me, and so the only way we can repay them as a team is to first get a win this weekend, and then ultimately bring that trophy to them and be able to celebrate a championship with them and with the city of Indianapolis.”Though he owes no debt after a season like this one, Jon Busch is a man of his word. Now it’s time to deliver.

THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE: EL RATON WANTS HIS CHEESE

Indy Eleven forward Eamon Zayed stresses championship desire  Nov 2, 2016

In the build-up to Indy Eleven’s first postseason appearance, IndyEleven.com’s Scott Stewart will chronicle some of the season’s biggest storylines and zero in on the winning pedigree contained within the squad in his series of “The Championship Chase” stories …

El Raton, Spanish for “the rat,” a nickname given to Indy Eleven forward Eamon Zayed by head coach Tim Hankinson for one reason – he’s always chasing his cheese.Coach Hankinson elaborated that the nickname was bestowed upon the team’s leading goalscorer because of his relentless desire to find the ball in the six-yard box and bury it in the back of the net. Though originally unsure about the name, Zayed has somewhat taken a liking to the term and as The Championship semifinal edges closer his hunger for “the cheese” continues to grow.“It’s history. It’s legend in the making for all of us if we can take Indy Eleven to The Championship final and win it. I wish I could have asked anyone in the Brickyard Battalion at the beginning of the season if they believed we would achieve what we have, because it’s been a remarkable campaign so far and we’re here now,” said Zayed. “Their support has been an absolutely key part of getting us here and pushing us through numerous games this season to help us get one more goal. We’re going to need them again, they’re going to need to push us on, and I know they will. Imagine if we can win it. Like I said, this is history in the making for all of us.”The idea of playing in a postseason intrigues Indy’s No.9 as it is an unfamiliar concept. He has never really faced a situation like this due to the fact that in every league he’s played in, whoever finishes at the top of the table at the conclusion of the regular season is typically the league champion. However, he likens his experience in knockout games to being the closest comparison, and therefore knows what is at stake.“We’ve played three games against FC Edmonton this year and all three were tight. All three really could have gone either way – we won one, they won one, and we drew one – but any of those games could have gone to either side. We knew what they’re about. They’re an unbelievably defensive, but excellent defensive side,” said the forward. “If we get the first goal, they have no option but to attack because it’s a knockout game and I feel that could work massively in our favor. I know it’s cliché, but getting the first goal will be the most important factor on Saturday.”For Zayed, goal scoring has come as naturally this season it ever has – and it’s evident. Smashing through club records for most goals in a single game, most goals in one season, and more, he has guided the ball into the back of the net more times than anyone in Indy Eleven history. But is he happy with how things have panned out overall? On that, he’s a bit of a mixed bag.“I’ve almost accomplished everything this year. Almost. Look, I’m happy with the way the season has turned out but I’m only about 75% happy. Looking back, 15 league goals is respectable but I set targets for myself at the beginning of the year and came just a little bit short in not winning the Golden Boot,” he said. “But, that’s the past. At least now I have something to motivate me for next year – that’s the way I feel about it – not winning this year means I’ll go all out next year to get it. We’re in the postseason and that’s what it’s all about. I’ve probably hit a lot of my targets, but my biggest target was to win this whole thing. I’ll gladly exchange any Golden Boot, any individual award, for a championship title.”With individual honors off his mind, the 15-time goalscorer has only one focus – reaching and getting through The Championship final on the winning side. In fact, it’s not just a focus, but an expectation, one that has been there since the beginning of the 2016 season.“The expectations from within the camp at the beginning of the year were always quite high, and definitely from Coach Hankinson – who is an absolute winner – and he set high standards with the new players he brought in – also winners,” said Zayed. “These are guys who have come from winning teams, not guys who came here just to pick up a wage or ride out results and get by, they wanted to win. That’s how it’s been from day one. The expectations within the camp were all about winning. We wanted the Spring Championship and qualify for the playoffs to win the whole thing.”More members of Indiana’s Team believed than just Zayed, though. The Irishman underlined that the expectations were a collective one, not an individual one, and that they didn’t put too much stock on what those outside their camp had to saw.“From the outside, it’s possible that media or fans looking in didn’t give us too much of a chance because we were a new group of players and Indy Eleven had finished towards the bottom of the league in the previous two years. We probably defied expectations from their standpoint, but from our standpoint we knew we had a good group of players and were determined to win something this year.”They’ll get their chance starting this Saturday night against FC Edmonton.

THREE THINGS: #OKC 2 V IND 1

Trio of takeaways from the regular season finale loss in Yukon

Oct 30, 2016

LATE DRAMA FOLLOWS EVERYWHERE

We’ve seen it at “The Mike,” and we’ve seen it on the road at multiple venues. Now, add Miller Stadium to the list of places where late goals determine the winner of an Indy Eleven match, however unfortunate Indiana’s Team was to fall on the wrong side of this one.After a first half battle that saw the two sides level heading into the break, the second half broke out with almost immediate action as Duke Lacroix won a penalty for the “Boys in White” leading to Nicki Paterson’s goal in the 52nd minute. However, just over ten minutes later, Sebastian Velasquez equalized for Rayo and the game opened up once again. As chances went awry for the two sides in the middle of a heated atmosphere, it looked like the season finale would end in a one-all draw. However, five minutes before added time OKC found their second goal of the match – this time a header from defender Moises Hernandez on the end of a Pecka corner doing the job.While the loss is a disappointing one for head coach Tim Hankinson’s side, their hard work shouldn’t go unapplauded after a full 90-minute battle between two sides that have already secured postseason play. Not every game with a late goal can go their way, and this just happened to be one of those cases.TICKETS | The Championship Semifinal – Indy Eleven vs. FC Edmonton

LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

At the beginning of the 2016 regular season, had Indy been offered a Spring Season championship and second place finishes in the Fall and Combined Season standings, it would have been a bold decision to turn that down. Quite a successful set of campaigns, Indy has enjoyed its best run in the three-year history of the club by some margin, finishing the year with 55 points on 15 wins, 10 draws, and just 7 losses, which is tied for league-best with the New York Cosmos. In addition, perhaps most enjoyable is Indy’s success at Carroll Stadium, where its unbeaten run of 18 straight games spans two season, going all the way back to early October 2015. From a squad standpoint, one point worth making is the contributions of every player on the 23-man roster. For players like Neil Shaffer, Daniel Keller, Keith Cardona, and more – ones who did not see as much playing time as some of their teammates – the ability to step in and seamlessly contribute is what makes them such impressive professionals, and they deserve recognition for what they gave to the club in a taxing seven-month season. For others like Nemanja Vukovic, Eamon Zayed, Jon Busch, and more who put their bodies on the line nearly every week, the accomplishment of winning the Spring Season can only be trumped by one thing… winning it all, which they have the chance to do in the coming two weeks.STATS | How last night’s 2-1 loss looked by the numbers

IT’S NOT HOW YOU START…

… it’s how you finish, and while Indiana’s Team ended the 2016 regular season with a loss, they aren’t done yet.Now the real season begins – the potential two games to decide who lifts the Soccer Bowl Trophy as the NASL’s champion, the first being The Championship Semifinal this Saturday November 5 against FC Edmonton. An obvious note in Indy’s favor is the home venue (as shown above), where the Boys in Blue previously drew the Eddies 1-1 in May thanks to a goal from Greg Janicki and, more recently, knocked off the Canadian club 1-0 on July 23 thanks to a goal from, you guessed it, Greg Janicki.With injury concerns limited and a number of “Boys in Blue” well rested, what starts as a week of preparation culminates with the biggest match in Indy Eleven’s brief but growing history and the opportunity to head to a championship final where they would meet the winner of New York-Rayo OKC … assuming the first test is passed.

Huge blow for USMNT: Geoff Cameron set to miss USA vs. Mexico

1 CommentBy Joe Prince-WrightNov 4, 2016, 6:45 AM EDT

This a huge blow for the U.S. national team.Geoff Cameron has not recovered as expected from a knee injury and the Stoke City star is highly unlikely to feature for the U.S. next week against Mexico in their massive 2018 World Cup qualifier.ProSoccerTalk understands that Cameron will not even make the trip back to the U.S. for the international break as he focuses on getting fully fit.[ MORE: Latest USMNT news ]

Cameron injured his right knee after a late collision in the 2-0 win at Hull City on Oct. 29 and was initially diagnosed with a hyper-extension but there was also a strain in the MCL. He hasn’t played since.The former Houston Dynamo star had been a key figure in central midfield for Stoke in recent weeks, with the Potters going four games unbeaten and Cameron widely praise for his reading of the game and defensive solidity allowing the likes of Joe AllenXherdan Shaqiri and Marko Arnautovic to pour forward.On Friday Stoke’s manager Mark Hughes all but confirmed that Cameron will miss their game at West Ham United on Saturday (Watch live, 10 a.m. ET on NBCSports.com) and is not likely to travel back to the U.S. for the crunch Hexagonal qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica.

“The likelihood is that he [Cameron] won’t be involved and he won’t travel to join up with his country next week,” Hughes confirmed.

Cameron, 31, has been influential for the USMNT over the past 12 months, playing in every single minute of the run to the Copa America Centenario semifinals last summer and he’s been a rock in central defense. He also played in every single game in the last round of World Cup qualifying. Alongside John Brooks, the duo have built a formidable partnership and Jurgen Klinsmann now has a big headache as to who comes into the team.Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Steve Birnbaum and Michael Orozco will all look to get the nod in Cameron’s place but it will be a blow for Klinsmann to see the defensive unit of DeAndre Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks and Fabian Johnson, which performed so well last summer, broken up.Make no mistake about it, losing Cameron for the marquee match in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 11 against Mexico and for the trip to CONCACAF foes Costa Rica will put a huge dent in the USA’s chances of kicking off the final stage of World Cup qualifying with two positive results.

U.S. soccer sells out World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico in Columbus

Fans from every state and Washington, D.C. bought tickets for next week’s sold-out World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, the U.S. Soccer Federation said on Tuesday.U.S. Soccer offered seats for the match via a lottery. They received almost 17,000 requests for 56,270 tickets.MAPFRE Stadium, which has hosted every quadrennial home qualifier between the Americans and El Tri since 2001, has a listed capacity of 23,665 for the match.U.S. soccer will not issue actual paper tickets for the game, however.In an effort to prevent counterfeit ducats from being circulated on the resale market, the organization is distributing only mobile tickets for the first time.The U.S. has won all four previous meetings with Mexico at MAPFRE by identical 2-0 scorelines.The venue, which is home to Columbus Crew of MLS, was the only soccer-specific stadium in the country when it opened in 1999.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Mexico boss Osorio hails ‘fantastic’ opportunity against U.S. in Columbus

The countdown to the Mexico national team’s game against the United States in the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying in Columbus, Ohio is on and El Tri coach Juan Carlos Osorio is in a positive mood ahead of his squad announcement.Mexico has lost its past four contests against the Stars and Stripes at MAPFRE Stadium by scores of 2-0, but the under-pressure tactician will be telling his players that the Nov. 11 showdown represents a chance to set the record straight.”We see it as a fantastic opportunity to go there and change the story and break that statistic,” said Osorio in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC that will be published in its entirety on Friday. “We’ll play [against] a strong team, with their fans, in a stadium that historically hasn’t been good for Mexico. But the opportunity is exactly that.”A meticulous planner, Osorio and his coaching staff have been immersing themselves in games involving Jurgen Klinsmann’s likely U.S. call-ups.”We’ve been watching the MLS and watching the main players playing,” said Osorio.The former New York Red Bulls coach added that he respects the “very strong” North American league.”Also, [we’ve been] watching Borussia Dortmund for [Christian] Pulisic, Ingolstadt for [Alfredo] Morales, Borussia Monchengladbach for Fabian Johnson and so on and so forth — the Premier League for [Geoff] Cameron and others. I think that we are preparing the game well.”Osorio acknowledged that Klinsmann is a “top manager” who will have his players fired up for CONCACAF’s clasico and added that he believes Mexico will need at least six players who are good in the air to counter the United States’ aerial threat.The Mexico squad is scheduled to be announced this Thursday — although it could be delayed until Friday — and the team is taking the unusual step of traveling to Columbus on the Monday ahead of the Friday game. For Osorio, it’s a no-brainer; with a healthy number of players likely to be called up from European teams, Mexico wants them all to be as fresh as possible.”We want to [save] our players the extra four hours traveling from [Mexico City] and back,” said Osorio. “We’ve arranged it so we’ll go straight to Columbus and we’ll be there for four days.”

USMNT State of the Union, Hex Edition: Midfielders

An uncharacteristic dry season has given way to a more general showering of good form amongst the midfield. Will they be able to make the difference like they did in the last edition of the Hex?

by Adam Whittaker Snavely@Snaves  Nov 2, 2016, 7:10am PDT

The midfield. For the better part of three World Cup cycles, the U.S. midfield was seen as the strong suit of the team. There was constantly players knocking on the door and pushing other players to higher levels, which was great for the team, even if it led to selection choices more than a few times. But the fact that there were so many options in midfield seemed like a very, very good thing.For most of the last year and a half, however, the midfield has been a bit under fire. Michael Bradley never really looked to regain the form that made him invaluable at the 2010 World Cup and for most of the 2014 World Cup cycle after a lackluster summer in Brazil, and while he’s played well enough in the grand scheme of things, “well enough” just wasn’t the “great” that U.S. fans were expecting from the former Roma man. Jermaine Jones became more and more polarizing the more entrenched he became in the lineup. Alejandro Bedoya was a hard worker, but his offensive explosions came and went. Kyle Beckerman looked like he had aged a decade in the matter of a year.But with the infusion of a few new faces, and one very notable old one, the U.S. midfield looks to be relatively on track for the Hex, one poor friendly with New Zealand notwithstanding.

Christian Pulisic – B+

The kid has been playing a ton of minutes for Dortmund over the beginning of the season with Marco Reus and Andre Schurrle both out due to injury, and has done well with his time overall. He has two goals and three assists in 7 Bundesliga games and another couple assists in the Champions League. That doesn’t mean he’s ready to take over the starting reins in Dortmund for good, however: he’s still prone to being muscled out of games at times, as Schalke just proved over the weekend.

Michael Bradley – B+

Michael Bradley has been looking more and more like his old holding mid self with Toronto FC in the playoffs, making vital defensive contributions and springing Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco into counter attacks left and right. It’s especially important for a strong defensive midfield with the 3-5-2 Greg Vanney has rolled out, and Bradley has answered the call. It remains to be seen whether he can do that on a consistent basis for the USMNT anymore.

Sacha Kljestan – B+

Sacha was just rewarded for his performances on the season with as a MLS MVP finalist, and the assist king probably stands to get a good shot at it. His performances over the past two years for the Red Bulls have been consistently great. That didn’t stop Montreal from preventing him from creating a single chance in their playoff match, however, the first time that has happened all season.

Alejandro Bedoya – B-

Bedoya has brought his trademark grit and workrate to the center of the Philadelphia Union midfield, and helped propel them to their first playoff berth since their inaugural season. He managed to score a goal in their playoff match against Toronto, too. Unfortunately for him, that wasn’t enough to stop the Reds. Bedoya should be rested and ready to go for the Hex.

Jermaine Jones – C

The fact that Jermaine has anything above a D here is a good thing for him, seeing as he’s finally back to playing. He also managed to create the Rapids only real threat on the Galaxy goal last weekend, a 25-yard thunderbolt that Brian Rowe just managed to parry away. His fitness levels are still in question, but that right foot sure isn’t.

Perry Kitchen – C+

Captain America to Hearts fans, Kitchen looked initially shaky in a three-man midfield against New Zealand with Michael Bradley and Sacha Kljestan, but the three appeared to grow into the game at the tail end of the first half and beginning of the second, before both teams started making wholesale changes. Hearts have slipped a bit in Scotland as well: after a 3-3 draw with Inverness, in which none of the Hearts defense covered themselves in glory, they now sit in third behind Celtic and Rangers.

Danny Williams – B-

Williams’ stock appeared to be on the rise at October camp, making a game appearance before Perry Kitchen, and most likely appeals to Klinsmann for his propensity to play both ways on the field. This is also a measure of his importance for Reading. He’s one of the first names down on the team sheet for the Royals, and likes to roam from deeper positions to test opposing keepers.

Paul Arriola – C+

Arriola will be looking for a spot on this roster after a string of call-ups and appearances against Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba, scoring two goals in those three games. He’s still fighting for playing time in Tijuana, on the other hand, and has been mostly used as a late-game sub by Miguel Herrera as of late. The Xolos are in first place in Mexico, so trying to break into the lineup will probably continue to be difficult.

Lynden Gooch – C

Lynden Gooch’s positive start to both the Premier League season and his senior USMNT career both has led to a spell stranded on the bench at Sunderland. While Black Cats supporters admire the youngster’s work rate and intelligence in the midfield, he’s only collected a handful of substitute minutes over the last month, despite the fact that Sunderland are dead last in England and haven’t won a game all season. David Moyes looks to be the next coach to exit the Stadium of Light’s coaching carousel.

Josh Gatt – B+

Josh Gatt! We’re talking about him! Because he’s finally playing again for Molde, because he’s just scored a goal, and because it seems he’s retained most of the speed that made him such an intriguing U.S. prospect in the first place!He might be a longshot to make this roster, but it’s just good to see him out and running again.

Darlington Nagbe – **waves goodbye**

Nagbe didn’t have a great second half of the season for the Timbers, but the same could be said of the rest of the squad, and Nagbe himself was forced out of the position that put him in the USMNT (a deeper-lying box-to-box midfielder) and onto the wing or higher up in the midfield due to injuries and severe dips in form from other players. That didn’t stop him from looking very good in his limited USMNT minutes, but I think it’s safe to say that between league play and the mysterious snub of call-ups to the October friendlies, we most likely won’t be seeing Nagbe for a while.

USMNT Depth Chart 2016: Center backs

Who’s behind President Brooks? by Rob Usry and Brendan Joseph  Nov 1, 2016, 9:04am PDT

The United States men’s national team is preparing for the start of the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. About a year ago SSFC’s Depth Chart series explored the USMNT player pool. Now, a year later, the team has improved tremendously from a horrid 2015, but how has the outlook on the pool changed? So with that in mind, as the Americans gear up for the Hex, we attempt to create a depth chart for the team, position by position. Figuring out what Klinsmann is thinking is a fool’s errand, so this is what our depth chart would be and we’ll talk about how we landed here.

Center backs

1 John Brooks
2 Geoff Cameron
3 Matt Besler
4 Omar Gonzalez
5 Steve Birnbaum
6 Ventura Alvarado
7 Matt Miazga
8 Cameron Carter-Vickers
9 Michael Orozco

Rob: While the USMNT fullback pool is nothing to write home about, the center backs are looking surprisingly strong this year with actual competition for spots brewing. This summer proved that a healthy and hungry John Brooks is far and away the USA’s best defender. The question is who is fighting for No. 2?

Brendan: I’m going to tentatively say the spot goes to Geoff Cameron, but he could always end up as a fullback or a defensive midfielder. There’s always that weird element when making these lists that seems fairly exclusive to the U.S.: anyone can play multiple positions and usually does. For example, Cameron has been doing well at midfield for Stoke, and would prefer to stick to one position based on recent reports. However, much like Fabian Johnson and fullback, the U.S. might need him at center back because even out of position he’s better than the alternatives.We’re still two years out from the World Cup, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see Omar Gonzalez work his way back into a starting role. He’s been slowly regaining his spot after his banishment.

Rob: It seems Besler and Gonzalez have been stuck in the same cycle since that Belgium match they started together. Both are either working their way up the depth chart or completely out of the picture. I’m not sure either one is the apple of Klinsmann’s eye, just a means to an end until the younger guys prove themselves worthy of consideration.Guys like Cameron Carter-Vickers and Matt Miazga, who most think are the center back pairing of the future, are waiting in the wings. The only problem is their club situations and not getting the appropriate playing time to justify getting called up.

Brendan: Matt Miazga is at sixth on the list, but I think he could be in the top three by next year. He’s been playing with Vitesse, which is admittedly not the biggest club in the world. There’s been a general fear that he’ll become one of the “lost loan players of Chelsea” or whatever the colloquial name is. Klinsmann also clearly likes Birnbaum, but is still waiting for him to take that next step. Maybe that next step will be a rumored move abroad. But I agree, there’s a slight feeling of “It’s fine for now” with Klinsmann and Gonzalez. Besler has his uses as a utility player, so he’ll be included in most rosters for the next two years.Still, it’s a lot easier to find a center back pairing when you already have one established. Brooks is a godsend for the national team.

Rob: The overall depth for center backs is actually very good. Arguably the deepest of any position for the national team. We’ve listed nine players but could’ve easily had at least 12 with the likes of Tim Ream, Matt Hedges, and even the emerging Walker Zimmerman. Are there any other fringe players we could’ve added and what will it take for them to catch Jurgen’s eye?

Brendan: People love Tim Parker up in Vancouver. He’s a relatively young (23) second-year professional out of St. John’s. Parker was included on the roster for the match against New Zealand. It’s probably still a little too early to pencil him in for a spot in 2018, but he’ll definitely challenge for a reserve role in 2022.Eric Miller, another player who spent time with the U-23 national team, could also get a look in the future. He started 23 matches with the Colorado Rapids this season.Rob: So, the talent is there and appears it will be there for a while. Is it safe to say that center back is the position the USMNT is deepest at out of every spot on the field? Or am I being too optimistic?

Brendan: It used to be goalkeeper, but I think it’s fair to say the U.S. has quite a few options at center back. Klinsmann just needs to figure out who will pair with Brooks.

USMNT State of the Union, Hex Edition: Goalkeepers

Mexico and Costa Rica await. So how does the form of the U.S. goalkeepers look?

The goalkeeper pool, on form, looks like less of a depth chart and more of a blob. The veterans aren’t exactly continuing to prove utter dominance over the pool, but the younger keepers in the pool haven’t done enough to warrant a changing of the guard just yet. Sure, the U.S. might benefit in the long run by just making the swap at goalkeeper and entrusting the position to someone other than Tim Howard or Brad Guzan, but competitive matches against Mexico and Costa Rica isn’t that time.And so we’re left with a fairly predictable goalkeeping situation as far as a depth chart goes. Does it match the form of the pool? Not exactly, but that’s rarely the case anyway. As always, grades given are based on player form, and are not necessarily an indication of my ranking or any sort of depth chart prediction.

Tim Howard – B+

Howard is the most likely candidate to start against Mexico and Costa Rica, based on Jurgen Klinsmann’s reliance on Howard and Brad Guzan (and Guzan’s failure to touch the field as of late). Howard is coming off of a very solid game against the Galaxy, although a Gio Dos Santos header deflected into a looping shot over Howard’s head and into the back of the net. The header would’ve gone in the opposite corner without the deflection, but getting chipped by Dos Santos in LA surely doesn’t bring back any good memories.

Brad Guzan – D

Guzan’s move to Middlesborough over the offseason was met with optimisim initially by many U.S. fans, but Guzan has been mired on the bench ever since Victor Valdes returned from early-season injury. Guzan is still one of Klinsmann’s top keepers, but the complete lack of playing time is killing his chances at taking back the #1 (and #1.5) spot he’s enjoyed over the past two years with the U.S.

Ethan Horvath – B+

Horvath is still Molde’s top keeper and still making the saves he needs to make. In a game more exciting for Josh Gatt’s first goal in almost three years, Horvath made four saves and kept the clean sheet. The Tippeligaen isn’t exactly a powerhouse, but to lock down the starting spot so consistently at 21 years old is still impressive. Add that to a solid showing against Cuba, and Horvath should have a roster spot secured for the Hex.

David Bingham – C+

Couldn’t make up for San Jose’s impotent offense enough for the Quakes to make it into the playoffs. While San Jose only allowed 40 goals on the season, they scored a league-low 32. Bingham has been good to very good in MLS play, but in his big showcase against New Zealand, he didn’t look convincing between the sticks.

William Yarbrough – C+

Similarly to Bingham, Yarbrough is perfectly passable at Club Leon and is maintaining his starting position, but his penchant for punching crosses back into play instead of catching them was on full display against New Zealand, and it made for plenty of nervy moments.

Bill Hamid – C+

Mr. 6th or 7th on the depth chart, I believe, is superior to the next two keepers above him, but wasn’t able to show it against New Zealand or in the MLS playoffs. He played very well for a resurgent DC United at the end of the MLS season, doing his “single-handedly dragging DC to success” thing again. He couldn’t make up for the shambles that was DC’s back line against Montreal, however, to the tune of a 4-2 defeat. While Hamid was more of a victim than perpetrator on most, he might want Matteo Mancuso’s header back.

USA in driver’s seat for 2026 World Cup bid after Europe is prohibited by FIFA

North America’s chances skyrocketby Rob Usry@RobUsry  Oct 14, 2016, 11:12am PDT

Stop us if you’ve heard this before. The United States are in great position to host a World Cup in the next decade. The FIFA Council decided on Friday that European countries will be prohibited from making true bids host the 2026 World Cup so soon after Russia hosts in 2018.FIFA state that it’s rotational policy of making sure every federation has a fair chance to host makes Europe hosting unfair in their eyes. They will be limited to standby status in case any of the competing bids from around the world aren’t up to standard.”The feeling amongst the council is rather positive towards expansion,” said Fifa president Gianni Infantino.This decision could very well pave the way for the United States to win a bid to host the tournament in some fashion. There have been talks in the past of a possible joint bid between the USA and Mexico and even whispers that Canada could jump in as well to help North America’s chances.”That has changed the landscape [of the 2026 contest] a little bit,” said U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati, a FIFA Council member.There’s still a lot to be decided on what exactly the USA’s bid will look like, but you can be assured they’ll be among the favorites to win it. Many expected them to have a great chance of winning the 2022 bid, but they lost out to Qatar after some shady politics that eventually led to the widespread corruption investigation by U.S. authorities that lead to FIFA’s current reform efforts under Infantino.The new President is thinking of making major changes to the world’s most prestigious sporting event by expanding it to 40 or 48 teams.The bidding process for the 2026 World Cup isn’t expected to be resolved until 2020 after it was postponed due to the corruption investigation.

Champions League group stage permutations for round of 16

The top two teams qualify for the round of 16, with the third-place team dropping into the Europa League and the bottom club eliminated from Europe.

Qualified teams: Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Paris Saint-Germain
Eliminated: Club Brugge, Dinamo Zagreb, FC Basel, FC Rostov, Legia Warsaw, Ludogorets Razgrad, PSV Eindhoven

GROUP A

Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain have qualified, and the top spot in the group will be decided if there is a winner in the match between the two teams at the Emirates on Nov. 23. If that match is a draw, it could go down to goal difference, with the Gunners having an advantage of three.

The Europa League spot for third place has a very similar situation. A winner between Ludogorets and FC Basel will settle that. Otherwise, it will go to goal difference, with FC Basel holding an advantage of three.

GROUP B

Benfica: Will qualify with a win at Besiktas in the next round of games

Napoli: Can qualify with a win at Dynamo Kiev next time, if Benfica also beat Besiktas

Besiktas: Cannot go through on Matchday 5 and will likely need to pick up four points to have a chance to progress

Dynamo Kiev: Would need to win both of their remaining matches, including beating Napoli by two goals, and hope Napoli lose to Benfica and Besiktas do not beat Benfica

GROUP C

Barcelona: Must win at Celtic to guarantee their passage. They will also be through regardless of their result if Borussia Monchengladbach fail to beat Manchester City.

Manchester City: Require a point at Borussia Monchengladbach to seal a place in the round of 16.

Borussia Monchengladbach: Must beat Man City to stay alive, and even then, they would likely have to better City’s result on the final day to go through.

Celtic: Must beat both Manchester City and Barcelona, plus hope City do not beat Gladbach and that Gladbach pick up no more than three points from their two remaining matches.

GROUP D

Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich are through, with Atletico three points clear, having won the game between the two sides. Bayern will likely have to win at home to Atletico to stand a chance of finishing top.

Rostov and PSV Eindhoven will battle it out for a place in the Europa League, with the two teams meeting in the Netherlands on the final matchday. The first game between the teams finished 2-2.

GROUP E

AS Monaco: Need a point at home to Tottenham in their next game to qualify for the round of 16.

Bayer Leverkusen: Can qualify with a point at CSKA Moscow if Tottenham lose at Monaco. They will also be through with a win if Tottenham do no better than draw in France.

Tottenham: Will be guaranteed a place in the knockout rounds if they win both of their remaining fixtures.

CSKA Moscow: Could actually qualify with a win over Bayer Levekusen and a draw at Tottenham, if Monaco beat Leverkusen and avoid defeat against Spurs. But it is likely they will have to win both games to stand any chance.

GROUP F

Borussia Dortmund: Have qualified and will likely top the group if they avoid defeat at Real Madrid.

Real Madrid: Need a point at Sporting Lisbon to book their place on MatchDay 5.

Sporting Lisbon: Must win both of their remaining games to stand a chance and hope Real Madrid slip up at home to Dortmund.

Legia Warsaw: Eliminated, though they face Sporting on the final MatchDay and could qualify for the Europa League if they win that.

GROUP G

Leicester City: Need one point from their final two games to qualify for the round of 16.

FC Porto: Will be through if they win at FC Copenhagen next time out.

FC Copenhagen: Will be through if they win both of their remaining games.

Club Brugge: Have been eliminated and can only make the Europa League if they win both of their remaining games and FC Copenhagen pick up no more than a point.

GROUP H

Sevilla: Need a point from their remaining two matches to advance.

Juventus: Will be through if they win at Sevilla, or if Lyon do not win at Dinamo Zagreb, on MatchDay 5.

Lyon: Must win both of their games and hope that either Juventus pick up no more than one point or that Juventus beat Sevilla

Dinamo Zagreb: Eliminated, and must win both games, with Lyon failing to beat Sevilla, to make the Europa League. Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 17 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

Man City finally beat Barca as Guardiola’s new team becomes true Champions League contender

Leander Schaerlaeckens,FC Yahoo 22 hours ago

It isn’t often that you get to exorcise several demons on the same night.  In the first two seasons in which Manchester City reached the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League – after two straight failures to survive the group stage in the early years of the moneyed Abu Dhabi ownership’s reign at the club – it was summarily bounced in the round of 16 by an imperious Barcelona.  [ Champions League: Matchday 4 Live | Scores | Standings | News ]

Two weeks ago, City, playing the best soccer the club has ever enjoyed, traveled to Catalonia to take on its old tormentors again. It seemed like the time had come for the Citizens to compete with one of the game’s all-time great teams. But Lionel Messi, the sport’s best-ever player, ran riot and scored a hat trick as Barca sent City home smarting from a 4-0 whipping.  That game had been a homecoming for Pep Guardiola, who had built Barcelona’s world-beating and paradigm-shifting machinery, when he’d been promoted from iconic midfielder to legendary manager at his boyhood club. He was humiliated by the thrashing at the Camp Nou.  On Tuesday, Manchester City finally made amends for all those slights and insults and embarrassments, even though Guardiola believed it would take an almost perfect performance. At its impregnable Etihad Stadium, City overcame an early deficit to record a cathartic and well-deserved 3-1 victory. Ilkay Gundogan’s brace and Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick undid Messi’s go-ahead goal. ity hadn’t lost at home in a dozen games, dating back to March. But for the first half hour or so, it seemed like that streak would end and its run of futility against Barca continue. In a physical and breathless game, it was the visitors who played as if they were at home. Luis Enrique’s side, however, was lucky to be spared a penalty in the 11th minute, when Samuel Umtiti hooked his foot around Raheem Sterling’s in the box. It was a clear penalty, but referee Viktor Kassai incomprehensibly gave the English winger a yellow card for diving instead.Barcelona soon reaped the reward for its early dominance. In the 21st minute, Sergio Aguero had a shot blocked. Messi sent the ball forward to Neymar, who returned it to him as the Argentine ran away from several markers and stuck it away under goalkeeper Willy Caballero.Barca had a flurry of chances to get the second but converted none. And then City took control.  Sergi Roberto sent an errant pass deep in his own third in the 39th minute, and Aguero picked it up and zipped it to Sterling. He squared to Gundogan for a simple finish. Man City’s assault would keep up apace after the break. Right after the half, the Citizens were all over Barca. Another ball was won high – Guardiola’s plan to unsettle his old side was evidently to press its shaky back line with the soccer equivalent to a full-court press – and Aguero set up Sterling. But he took a heavy touch and couldn’t finish from the angle.  But in the 51st minute, the heretofore anonymous De Bruyne deposited a free kick behind a wrong-footed and culpable Marc-Andre Ter Stegen to give his side the lead.  City threatened again and again as Barca’s vaunted Messi-Neymar-Luis Suarez trident grew invisible. An Aleksandar Kolarov cross very nearly found De Bruyne for a tap-in. Quite against the grain, Andre Games then hammered a shot off City’s bar following a John Stones miscue in the back.  But that dizzying end-to-end phase, in which De Bruyne also kissed a shot off the post, would end in City’s security goal. In the 74th, De Bruyne sent Jesus Navas through with an inch-perfect ball. His cross to Aguero was tricky for the Argentina to chest in – with the ball, incidentally, caroming off his right forearm, held firmly to his chest. The rebound fell generously for Gundogan, who got his second.  Barcelona was beaten and knew it, never formulating a coherent response.  Guardiola, in the end, had vanquished the monster he had created. And in the process, he redeemed his new club’s battered honor. Aside from cheering his team’s third goal, he seemed to take no delight at all in it. He must know he has undermined his beloved Barca’s supremacy.  City, meanwhile, have become real Champions League contenders under Guardiola and now trail Group C leader Barca by only two points with two games to play. The larger takeaway, however, is its fresh ability to beat the likes of Barca. Because a win as comprehensive as this, against so laureled an opponent, signals Manchester City’s true arrival at the European summit. Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. 

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