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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