12/12/17  Champs League Sweet 16 set, Toronto Wins MLS Cup, IU falls in Champ Game, Former CHS GK Eric Dick earns All American Honors

Wow what a weekend of Soccer – first the MLS Cup was everything a Championship is supposed to be.  Sold out crazy Toronto Crowd, best TV Ratings for an MLS Finals in years, tons of shots, exciting end to end soccer, great goalkeeping – and in the end – the better team won a deserved Championship as Toronto sealed the greatest season in MLS history (they won 3 cups).  Yes I am Seattle fan – have always loved me some Dempsey but honestly this was a game that Toronto had to win.  They simply outplayed Seattle in every phase except goalkeeping. (Seattle’s Stefan Frei was simply spectacular especially in the 1st half).  Toronto had 22 shots, 11 on goal and almost 65% possession – Bradley played his best game with 65 passes completed (92%) and he dominated the defensive midfield.  Good to see Altidore (the 1st goal scorer) and Bradley (MVP of game) and Giovinco finally win it all.

Then it was Derby day in England as #1 Man City faced #2 Man United at Old Trattford and wow City showed their class with a huge 2-1 win.  Again City outplayed Man U overall but the City keeper made a series of spectacular saves late or it ends in a tie.  End to end however and great soccer overall- I certainly hope they didn’t battle in the tunnel after like reports are saying – but no question this rivalry is as intense as ever.

Indiana University advanced to their record 19th College Cup winning on Friday night vs UNC and Carmel product Cameron Findley before bowing to 2-time defending Champions Stanford in a heartbreaking 1-0 loss in overtime on Sunday.  Still a great season for IU.  Also huge CONGRATS to Carmel High’s own Eric Dick – Butler Junior GK for being named both 2nd Team All American, Big East GK of the year and 1st Team Scholar Athlete this week!

Eric Dick Former CHS GK - All American
Former Carmel High Goalkeeper Eric Dick was named 2nd team All American, Big East GK of Year and 1st Team All American Scholar.

The Champions League draw has been made for the Knockout Stages (Sweet 16) and boy do we get some dooseys!  Just look at this line-up with Barcelona vs Chelsea and Real Madrid vs PSG.  That’s 4 potential Final 4 teams that are squaring off way too early.  Games to be played Feb. 13, 14, 20 and 21 and March 5, 6, 12, 13

Champs League Sweet 16

Juventus vs. Tottenham Hotspur
Basel vs. Manchester City
Porto vs. Liverpool
Sevilla vs. Manchester United
Real Madrid vs. Paris Saint-Germain
Shakhtar Donetsk vs. Roma
Chelsea vs. Barcelona
Bayern Munich vs. Besiktas


Big games this weekend include US Nat defender Deandre Yedlin and New Castle traveling to Arsenal at 10 am Sat on NBCSN, also Sat Man City puts its 15 game winning streak on the line while hosting Tottenham at 12:20 on NBCSN.  Also Real Madrid looks for its 5th trophy this year as they face Brazilian team Gremio in the FIFA World Club Final on Sat at 12 noon on Telemundo.  Next week midweek gives us English, German and Italian Cup games including US Star Pulisic’s Dortmund facing Bayern Munich on Wed at 2:45 on ESPN2 and Juventus vs Genoa at 2:45 on GolTV.

Finally – Carmel FC is introducing a cool new “STREET SOCCER” concept this winter at Off the Wall in Carmel for 10 weeks starting in Jan.  Rather than a league – we will have a very little supervision “street soccer” Environment where kids can feel free to take risks, try new things, develop creativity and learn to organize and communicate themselves with just one of the Director’s Jeurgen or Matt Coyer or another senior CFC coach on hand.  CFC players — To Sign up Click – CFC Winter STREET SOCCER at OFF THE WALL   – Winter Player’s League Schedule

  • Friday U8- U10 / Field 1 – 5:50pm, 6:40pm, 7:30pm
  • Friday:  U8- U10 / Field 2 – 6:15pm, 7:05pm, 7:55pm
  • Saturday: U11 – U12 / Field 1 – 12:00pm, 12:50pm
  • Saturday: U11- U12 / Field 2 – 12:25pm, 1:15pm
  • Sunday:U13 – U14 / Field 1 – 12:00pm, 12:50pm
  • Sunday: U13- U14 / Field 2 – 12:25pm, 1:15pm



IU Final Game – College Cup

IU loses in OT to Stanford in National Championship Game – Indy Star Teddy Bailey

Stanford wins 3rd title in double OT  – USA Today

IU beats UNC and Carmel’s Cam Lindley to Advance to Finals

IUs Stud Goalkeeper Trey Muse was born for this – Indy Star


Altidore + Bradley ease Heartbreak of US with MLS Historic Win

Michael Bradley Happy to Secure MLS Cup Obsession in Toronto

Is TFC the Best MLS Team Ever after MLS Treble and Cup Win?  Brian Straus SI

Toronto FC – Best MLS Team Ever – Yes – Boehm – MLS.com

Toronto Caps of Season with Dominant Win in MLS Cup – Brian Straus SI

Toronto coach Vanney Tactical Changes Won the Game

Toronto’s Bradley Repays the Faith in Him – Castillo – MLS.com

See Seattle’s GK Frei’s Saves in the 1st half

Seattle’s Frei’s Spectacular Saves had Toronto Coach on Edge

Seattle’s Chance to Seal Dynasty slips away in Cup Defeat

Toronto’s Path from Worse to First – Stejskal – MLS.com

Questions and Answers with MLS Commish – Don Garber – eSPNFC

MLS the Good the Bad and the Ugly – 2017 –Graham Parker – ESPNFC

Playoff Ratings Soar MLS Cup Rating up 75% !


Champions League – Sweet 16 – What to Expect – Jonathan Wilson – SI

All the Stories Champions League – ESPNFC

Chelsea vs Barcelona – This is What its All About – ESPNFC

PSG vs 2 Time Defending Champs – Real Madrid – ESPNFC

Dortmund Fires Peter Bosz hires Peter Stoger

US/Mexico/Canada World Cup could be most Profitable Ever


Stefan Frei’s Seattle GK put on a show with 7 spectacular saves in the 1st half and 9 overall

IUs Stud Goalkeeper Trey Muse was born for this – Indy Star


Tues, Dec 12

2:30 pm FS1                   Mainz vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3 pm NBCSN                   Huddersfield Town (Johnson) vs Chelsea

Wed, Dec 13

12 noon Telemundo                         Al Jazira vs Real Madrid  FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP          2:30 pm FS1                   Bayern Munich  vs Koln

2:45 pm NBCSN           Swansea vs Man City

3 pm Universal?          West Ham vs Arsenal

3 pm NBC Sports Gold Liverpool vs West Brom + 5 other games?

Sat, Dec 16

7:30 am NBCSN            Leicester City vs Crystal Palace

9:30 am FS1                   Bayern Munich  vs Stuttgart

10 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs New Castle United (Yedlin)

12 noon Telemundo    ???   vs Real Madrid  FIFA WORLD CLUB Final

12:20 pm NBCSN        Man City vs Tottenham  

Sun, Dec 17

9 am beIN Sport          Bologna vs Juventus

9:15am NBCSN             West Brom vs Man United

9:30 am FS1                    Hannover vs Bayer Leverkusen

11:30 am NBCSN         AFV Bournemouth vs Liverpool

2:45 pm beIN Sports     Barcelona vs Deportivo La Coruna

Tues, Dec 19

2:45 pm FS1                   Arsenal vs West Ham – League Cup

2:45 pm?                         Leicester vs Man City  – League Cup

Wed, Dec 20

12:30 pm ESPN Des   Borussia MGladbach (Johnson) vs Bayer Leverkusen – German Cup

2:45 pm ESPN2             Bayern Munich  vs Dortmund (Pulisic) – German Cup

2:45 pm Gol TV            Juventus vs Genoa Italian Cup

Fri, Dec 22

2:45 pm NBCSN           Arsenal vs Liverpool

Sat, Dec 23

7 am beIN Sport          Real Madrid vs Barcelona – El Classico

7:30 am NBCSN            Everton vs Chelsea

10 am NBCSN ?             Man City vs Bournemouth

12:30 pm NBCSN        Burnley vs Tottenham

2:45 pm ???                   Leicester City vs Man United

Tues, Dec 26

7:30 am NBCSN            Tottenham vs Southhampton

12:30 pm NBCSN?      Liverpool vs Swansea

Weds, Dec 27

2:45 pm NBCSN           New Castle (Yedlin) vs Man City

Thurs, Dec 28

3 pm NBCSN                   Crystal Palace vs Arsenal

Sat, Dec 30

10 am NBCSN                Chelsea vs Stoke City

10 am NBCSN ?             Liverpool vs Leicester City

12:30 pm NBCSN        Man united vs Southampton

Sun, Dec 31

7 am NBCSN                   Crystal Palace vs Man City

11;30 am NBCSN         West Brom vs Arsenal

Mon, Jan 1

10 am NBCSN                Burnley vs Liverpool

12:30 pm NBCSN        Everton vs Man United

Tues, Jan 2

2:45 pm NBCSN           Swansea vs Tottenham

Wed, Jan 3

2:45 pm NBCSN           Arsenal vs Chelsea

EPL 2017 Schedule  

IU men’s soccer’s defensive error gives Stanford national championship in overtime

Teddy Bailey, Special for IndyStarPublished 3:32 p.m. ET Dec. 10, 2017 | Updated 5:17 p.m. ET Dec. 10, 2017

CHESTER, Pa. — Indiana’s quest for a ninth national championship will continue.After 103 minutes of a scoreless draw, Stanford’s Sam Werner chipped the ball over the head of IU goalkeeper Trey Muse, as the Hoosiers fell 1-0 in double overtime of the 2017 College Cup Final. It was Stanford’s third consecutive national championship.Werner’s goal was created by a turnover from IU freshman forward Griffin Dorsey. After intercepting a Stanford pass, Dorsey lost possession by making a cut upfield. Werner took the ball and quickly placed a chip above the reach of Muse to hand Stanford its third consecutive NCAA title.“It’s a tough one,” IU head coach Todd Yeagley said. “Griff thought he had a little window to make the play. The kid finished it really well. It won’t be our focus certainly, but it’s one that we’ll learn from. The overtime is tough, it’s so sudden. We felt really good heading into that period.”Sunday’s crushing loss left the Hoosiers speechless. Indiana completed an undefeated regular season and compiled 18 shutouts in 25 games — breaking records and sitting atop national rankings for the majority of the year. Despite those achievements, the Hoosiers missed out on a pair of Big Ten championships (regular season and tournament) — as well as the elusive ninth national title.“Our guys had a special year,” Yeagley said. “We often say the best mark you can leave is putting the star on the jersey (in the team’s logo, one for each national title). We were really close today. But I do know that this team will be talked about for many years to come on what they did.”The Hoosiers played on their heels for the majority of regulation, although Indiana appeared to have newfound momentum after surviving 90 minutes against Stanford. Muse was only needed on five occasions for saves, including a crucial 65th minute save to prolong the match.Stanford forward Austin Langsdorf found a striding Corey Baird right in front of Muse’s line — instinctively, Muse was there to stop the shot with his body and give the Hoosiers life.Indiana also avoided an early deficit in the 11th minute, as Muse made a stellar save by diving to his right and stopping Bryce Marion’s shot with one hand.Stanford’s defensive press troubled IU’s attack. The Hoosiers were held without a shot on goal until the 70th minute — which resulted in a weak header from Dorsey.“They did a great job with their press,” IU’s Cory Thomas said. “It took us out of what we like to do. We had to adapt a little bit to play like they were. I think we were good at adapting, but today just wasn’t good enough. Congrats to Stanford, they played very well today.”The Hoosiers will graduate a trio of seniors from this College Cup team, including Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Grant Lillard and forward Rashad Hyacenth. Following the Stanford goal, Hyacenth was seen on one knee until the Hoosiers left the field.“This team did so many things but was a bit short,” Yeagley said. “It’s a goal to put a trophy in the case or a star on the jersey, but it doesn’t define it. I know they’re going to know that they carried on a special tradition at Indiana. It’s going to take a while to feel that, but I know they will.”

Altidore, Bradley ease their heartbreak by leading Toronto to historic MLS Cup

Dec 10, 2017Jeff CarlisleSoccer

TORONTO — Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley have been teammates on a number of nights. As both players navigated their way through various national teams, there have been emotional peaks and valleys. It was fitting then that in a year filled with both extremes, the two finished on a high in leading Toronto FC to its first MLS Cup triumph, a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders.Bradley was everywhere in leading Toronto to a dominating performance. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Bradley connected on 65 of 71 passes, while making 5 tackles, 6 clearances and 4 interceptions. He was part of a harassing midfield that never let Seattle breathe. “He stifled them,” said Altidore of Bradley. “Before they even looked he was there. I was telling guys on the bench his bald head was everywhere.”Altidore had to be a bit more patient. It seemed like everyone was getting chances but him, with Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez getting some good looks only to be denied by the brilliance of Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. But when Altidore was presented with one chance, he made the most of it, taking a pass from Giovinco and lifting the ball over Frei for the eventual game winner. In the process, it washed away the bitter taste of losing last year’s final to Seattle in the same venue.”To every single guy who has been a part of this road, this journey for the last year, it’s incredible,” Bradley said. “To cap it off [Saturday] in the way that we did, to play the way that did with everything on the line, with all the supposed pressure on our shoulders, I’m so f—ing proud.”The fact that Altidore and Bradley were able to share the moment made it even more special. The two first met in 2004 when Bradley was exiting the U.S. residency for the U17 national team in Bradenton, Florida. Altidore was just arriving on the scene as a 14-year-old. Altidore recalled that the two clicked right away over their shared passion for the game.”He’s exactly what he is now,” Altidore said of Bradley. “He had more hair, but he was just so serious, so professional, and he was [16] years old.””We saw in each other that we loved the game, we were into it, we were serious, we wanted to win,” Bradley said. “And since then we’ve had so many experiences together. He’s a brother to me.”It was just two months ago that the duo shared a different kind of experience, the U.S. men’s national team’s soul-crushing failure to qualify for next summer’s World Cup. Both players have been front and center for the invective that has been directed at the team. The role the two played in Saturday’s triumph will no doubt lead to plenty of “Where was that two months ago?” reactions.But sports, this one in particular, don’t work that way. A performance in a game can’t be called up on command. While the residual anger of U.S. fans is understandable, it’s still impressive that both players found a way to move on from the emotional blow and lead Toronto to the title.Moving between club and national team commitments requires intense compartmentalization. Bradley insisted that doing so isn’t a process but a switch that must be flipped.”There are moments when things are going well for your national team and not your club, things are going well for your club but not for your national team,” Bradley said. “Especially for me as captain, I have a huge responsibility that nothing carries over. I give everything I have in a given moment for the team that I’m playing on, and then when it’s time to switch gears, I switch gears like that.”When we got back from Trinidad, I said that it wouldn’t be fair to any person here — our teammates, our coaches, our fans, any people part of this club — if we brought the anger, frustration or heartbreak over, because this team this year has been like nothing that I’ve ever been a part of just in terms of a group of guys together with the coaches, the staff with everybody upstairs at the club who were just so single-minded.”Creating mental distance from what happened in Trinidad was helped by the physical distance from their home country. In fact, Canada might as well have been a world away. And the support the two have received from Toronto’s fans has helped both players move forward. Saturday was the chance to pay them back.”It’s not easy,” said Altidore of shedding the national team disappointment. “But these fans made it easy by the way they supported us. They did sympathize with what happened, and they’ve just been terrific. To give them a night like this, it means everything.”That is not to say that such memories will be erased. But now both players can celebrate a historic victory and share the first treble in MLS history.”You’re not guaranteed anything. I’ve lived that on many different occasions,” Bradley said. “But when push comes to shove, I want this guy next to me every single time.”

Boehm: Toronto FC “checked all the boxes” for best MLS team ever

December 10, 20177:49PM ESTCharles BoehmContributor

TORONTO – Winning a major trophy is an achievement. Winning three in one year is exceptional. Marching through your parity-ruled league with a mere five league losses out of 34 is special. And doing it all just five years after one of your own star players dubbed you, with good reason, “the worst team in the world?”That’s greatness.After a calendar’s worth of dominance in all competitions, Toronto FC dropped the mic at a feverish BMO Field on Saturday – doing not merely what was required to hoist the 2017 MLS Cup and complete their unprecedented treble, but producing a definitive encomium of what they’ve done and who they are.“On the biggest night, with everything on the line, to play the way that we did, to go after it the way we did, to dominate the way we did, I’m so proud of our team,” said captain Michael Bradley in a champagne-soaked TFC locker room post-game.“We set out this year to win. To win everything. To win every game, to win every trophy, and we came damn close to winning every game and we did win every trophy. And so I’m so proud of that and we’re going to enjoy this, we’re going to celebrate this, and when the dust settles in the next few days we’re going to get ready to do it again – with the addition of [CONCACAF] Champions League next year.”Playmaker Victor Vazquez, his exquisite technique and vision made even more influential than usual by TFC’s shift to a diamond midfield, was blunt about the extent of his team’s mastery against the defending champions from Seattle.“We put four players in the middle and they [Seattle] were lost. They didn’t know what to do,” said the Spaniard, revealing that his Sounders countryman Victor Rodriguez admitted as much as they walked into the locker rooms at intermission.“He was saying, ‘We don’t know what to do, because it was a surprise for us,’” said Vazquez. “This is what we wanted to do. We did it. We played 100 times better than them. They didn’t create almost any chance, and we were I think too good for them, and we showed it.”The months upon months and pages upon pages of speculation about where this incredible team ranks in MLS’ two-plus decades of history? The Reds brought down the curtain – brought down the house, in fact – on that conversation.“There are no questions about it,” said midfielder Marky Delgado. “We made history, we won three trophies this year. I mean, what else do you want? We’ve answered all these questions with our work on the field, and with the results on the field. There’s no more to be said.”Marky is right – and if anyone has a depth of perspective on the highs and lows of this league, it’s the man who suffered through some truly lean years as a teenage Homegrown Player with Chivas USA (RIP). But words are my job, just like completing passes, creating turnovers and generally blanketing the midfield is his and Bradley’s, so I’ll try to leave no stone unturned. 1990s D.C. United? That was a great team with exceptional personality, and they set the standard for an infant league. Yet they were not as deep nor as well-rounded as TFC, nor were they tested to the same degree.The Houston Dynamo team that went back to back in 2006 and 2007? A rugged and extremely close-knit group, but one with only a fraction of the attacking class and tactical fluidity of these Reds.The Galaxy sides of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, and Robbie Keane? LA set a new bar for MLS, with three MLS Cups in four years. They were overly dependent on their stars, however, and perennially mailed it in when it came to the US Open Cup.No, TFC deserve to be labeled as MLS’ GOAT, and with gusto. And as Bradley hinted, it’s quite possible that in the near future they will put some distance between themselves and the rest of the field.“I’m the first one to say that I think it’s the greatest team ever,” said head coach Greg Vanney, himself a member of some extremely good LA Galaxy sides in the league’s early years. “That will be probably a debate and there will be other people who will say other teams were. But nobody has accomplished what this team has accomplished historically: every championship along the way, set a points record, the quality and the way this group went about their business over the course of the season. And we’re not done yet.“We still have things in front of us that we want to continue to achieve. So we’re still writing that story. But for now, in terms of seasons, I think we had the greatest season in the history of the league. I don’t think that’s debatable.”This league’s lifetime has featured such enormous variety in style, quality, and circumstances that comparisons between eras can be a slippery, deeply subjective process. But on Saturday night, in front of their devoted, expectant home support, the Reds added one more set of hard numbers to their hefty library of data, while also passing anyone and everyone’s eye test for aesthetics.“Now there’s no question,” said goalkeeper Alex Bono, scarlet-colored champagne-protection goggles akimbo on his head. “Now there’s no question. We’re the first team to do the treble, most points in a regular season, and all those questions should be silenced at this point. There’s no doubt about it. We went out and proved it tonight, played them off the field from minute one to minute 90. We showed that we’re the best team this year and to me, we answered all the questions.“We checked all the boxes.”

Toronto FC’s MLS Cup Win Was a Year in the Making, Earned It a Championship Unlike Any Other

Toronto FC march to the 2017 MLS Cup was paved by its past failures—and that made Saturday all the better. By BRIAN STRAUS December 09, 2017 SI

TORONTO—Championships are binary—either you win or you don’t—but they come in assorted sizes, textures and orders of magnitude. The nature of the ending depends on the story. In its 22 seasons, MLS has crowned different kinds of champions, and none should have to apologize for their story or feel less like a titlist because they sneaked into the playoffs on the final day, got a lucky bounce or, in the case of last season’s conquerors, won the final without taking a shot on goal. Rules are rules, and champions are champions. But there has never been an MLS champion like 2017’s Toronto FC, which turned the tables on last year’s victor, the Seattle Sounders, with a resounding and cathartic 2-0 win in Saturday’s MLS Cup final. This title was about more than what transpired at TFC’s BMO Field. It was a culmination of an historic pursuit for glory and redemption that began with the agonizing memory of your choosing, whether it was the eight seasons of ineptitude that preceded the club’s first playoff berth in 2015, or the penalty-kick shootout loss to Seattle last year. And it capped off the most glittering campaign in league history, as the trophy that captain Michael Bradley lifted Saturday was TFC’s third of 2017. They are the first to win the Supporters’ Shield, their domestic cup and MLS Cup in a single season. Twelve predecessors managed two-thirds of that triple crown. None completed it. There’s a large red placard standing around six feet tall hanging just inside the entrance to TFC’s locker room. It lists the club’s goals for 2017 and includes more granular aims like the number of shutouts or road points that coach Greg Vanney wanted his team to achieve. Then at the bottom, there’s the foundation—the mission propping up the whole season: the treble. “I’m the first to say, I think this is the greatest team ever,” Vanney proclaimed in his postgame press conference. “Nobody has accomplished what this team has accomplished. … We still have things in front of us that we want to continue to achieve. We’re still writing this story. But in terms of seasons, I think we had the greatest season in the history of the league and I don’t think that’s debatable.” If TFC continues to conquer, it’s hard to imagine it doing so in more of a storybook fashion. Because, as stated, titles take on different meanings depending on the journey and context. The Reds will move forward as a juggernaut—a North American soccer Goliath with even more money to spend and designs on winning the CONCACAF Champions League. That contrasts with Saturday’s game, which they entered on a more personal, compelling kind of mission. The toll, intensity and meaning of that odyssey were evident in Bradley’s words as he spoke following Saturday’s win. He came to TFC in 2014, feeling like he’d been treated as surplus by AS Roma and hoping, after eight years in Europe and in the prime of his career, to put a club on his shoulders and change a culture. He found that opportunity in Toronto, was determined to make the most of it and was the best player on the field in last season’s MLS Cup final. Then he missed his penalty in the tiebreaker In an emotional Instagram post a couple days later, Bradley wrote, “Dreams shattered. Tears shed. But its not finished. It doesn’t end like this. … The pain and heartbreak of the last two days have made one thing very clear. I’ve never been more proud to call TFC my club and Toronto my home. Together our time will come.” He’s said several times this season that TFC’s mission began the following morning as they gathered at the club’s training facility just north of the city. They would commit to everyday excellence. They would dominate the competition, redeem themselves and pay back the fans who initially stood with a bad team, then stood behind a beaten one. “We had to lift this trophy. It has been an obsession for the last 364 days,” Bradley said Saturday night. “There’s no other word for it than ‘obsession’. It’s hard to describe to people on the outside what it’s been like to live that every day—to live that in the beginning of preseason when it feels like years away from a game, let alone a playoff game, let alone a final. … To cap it off tonight, in the way that we did, to play the way that we did with everything on the line—with all the supposed pressure on our shoulders—I’m so f***ing proud.” In last year’s final, Toronto was frustrated and unfortunate. On Saturday, they played the sort of soccer you draw on a pregame whiteboard. TFC was at its best in the biggest moment, overwhelming the Sounders with precision (controlling 57% of possession) and power (winning more than 70% of its duels). Seattle made the Reds work for the goal—particularly goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the 2016 MLS Cup MVP who was just as spectacular in the rematch. And maybe a more fragile team lets Frei worm his way into its collective head. But TFC had spent an entire season fixated, and wasn’t going to lose the plot at the very end. “After a year … like that, you just have to say, ‘Keep your foot on the gas and keep trying to create chances, and don’t be afraid you’re going to give something up in your endeavor to try and go win the game,” Vanney said, adding that one of the club’s preseason mantras was “Be Bold.” Vanney said, “Nobody wins anything by being afraid.” His 4-4-2, which evolved seamlessly into a 3-5-2 with Bradley as the withdrawn conductor when TFC had possession, moved the ball with ease and left Seattle chasing shadows across the BMO pitch. Bradley was the game’s architect—“His bald head was everywhere,” TFC’s Jozy Altidore said —and Altidore was named its MVP thanks to his well-taken winning goal in the 67th minute. The striker said that when he watches games, even for study purposes, he always takes notice of the celebrations. He looks into the crowd. And he admitted that he still recalls the faces of the TFC faithful after Seattle’s Román Torres buried the clinching penalty last year. On Saturday, Altidore said, what he saw was “just euphoria.” Players keep track of this kind of thing. Or at least they do in Toronto.

“These people, they suffered a long time. They came to watch games where their team was being dominated,” Altidore said. “Even in those years, they’re still averaging 20,000-22,000 fans per game. … This night was for them. They’ve been the driving force for all this, even before we came here.” Said Bradley, “The response of our fans and the response of this city last year after we lost was like nothing I’ve ever seen. They could’ve pointed fingers. They could’ve said, ‘You guys blew it. You had [the final] at home and you couldn’t take care of business.’ But the response in the days, and weeks and months after was so unique and so different than what you would typically expect. People were so proud. “To see the way they treated us and the way they wrapped their arms around us after last year— we wanted to win regardless, but we wanted it so much more after that,” he concluded. “To give them their night. Their moment.” There were tense times on Saturday, to be sure. You could hear it in certain subdued moments. But BMO Field erupted when Altidore scored. Bradley said he knew TFC had it at that point. And the packed stadium on the shores of Lake Ontario shook again when Spanish midfielder Víctor Vázquez—a massive, season-altering winter addition—doubled the lead during stoppage time. That was the sound of catharsis, and it made the story even sweeter. “Last year we said you made us believe. This year fulfill all of our dreams,” the pregame tifo hanging in the stadium’s south end read. Those dreams deferred made this particular championship feel a bit different than others. This TFC project began in earnest in 2014. GM Tim Bezbatchenko had joined the club the previous fall and together with former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, he helped bring Bradley to Toronto. Vanney took over in August 2014 and the following year, Altidore and future MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco signed on (he assisted on the game-winner). A championship core was in place, and then Bezbatchenko and Vanney rebuilt the back line in ’16 with the additions of Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour. It’s been a steady rise, from missing the playoffs (2014), to making them (’15), to losing a gutwrenching final (’16) and then winning it all on Saturday—and then some. This was a road to redemption paved with silver, the likes of which MLS hasn’t seen. “You could tell that was a motivated franchise, a motivated coach, a motivated team,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “Their success throughout the year, I believe was fueled by the loss last year.” Said Vanney, who also lost the MLS Cup final three times as a player, “Congratulations to [Seattle], and thanks. They served as motivation for our group.” Bradley has a preternatural ability to recall details. He remembers the route his driver took from the airport toward the stadium the day he arrived in Toronto after agreeing to join the club, in part because he never again used it on his own. On Friday, he said he called an Uber and didn’t offer any suggestions on how best to get from his house to the stadium. So the driver, naturally, took Highway 427 to the Gardiner Expressway—the same route Bradley took that first day in Toronto and not a single time since. “I’m not necessarily a huge believer in fate and things like that,” Bradley said, “[But] to have it come full circle, to kind of finish things off this year in this way. … It’s surreal. [Winning MLS Cup] is why I came. It’s why we came. It’s been the dream for the last four years. After the way things went last year, you can say for the last year it was an obsession.” And it’s done now, without doubt or any possible detraction. This championship narrative was a perfect union of the technical and intangible. And it may be just the beginning of a longer story.

Toronto FC, Altidore Conquer Their Past, Win MLS Cup to Cap Historic Season

QUICKLY Toronto FC nally solved the Stefan Frei puzzle to exact revenge on the Seattle Sounders and win MLS Cup–and in doing so can lay claim to the best season in MLS history. By BRIAN STRAUS December 09, 2017 TORONTO — If this season’s vintage of Toronto FC was going to stake its claim as the best team in Major League Soccer’s 22-year history, then it was going to have to fight to the very end to earn the designation. Saturday’s MLS Cup final was no coronation. It was a grind, a test, a climb to the summit of Mt. Frei that had been a year in the making. Winners of the 2017 MLS Supporters’ Shield and the Canadian Championship (Canada’s domestic Cup competition), TFC stood on the threshold of a historic treble and the club’s first league title. In the way, for the second straight season, were the Seattle Sounders and Frei, the masterful Swiss American goalkeeper who once wore TFC’s colors. He got the best of the Reds last time around. This year, if Toronto wanted to make history, it had to conquer its past. And the hosts did, at long last. Toronto FC won the MLS Cup title on Saturday, 2-0, before 30,0584 fans at sold-out BMO Field. The stadium on the shore of Lake Ontario shook when Jozy Altidore finally ended TFC’s agony and beat Frei on a 67th-minute breakaway. Frei had made save after save across the two championship games, but TFC finally broke through, taking that one last, elusive step to American/Canadian soccer’s pinnacle. It was a deserved, hard-earned triumph. Here are three thoughts on Saturday’s final:


Frei’s impossible, leaping save during overtime of last season’s final is regarded by many as the best in league history. It’s become a part of Seattle sports lore. Now, Altidore’s winning goal will have similar status in Toronto. His participation in Saturday’s final wasn’t even guaranteed. But the ankle injury that forced his removal from the Eastern Conference decider against Columbus proved to be the furthest thing from a bad omen. Altidore scored the series-winner shortly after getting hurt, and he promised during the MLS Cup build-up that nothing would keep him from playing this weekend. Altidore started against Seattle and was effective as part of a dynamic, dizzying TFC build-up that kept the visitors on their heels and created numerous gilt-edged scoring chances. But Frei stood firm. Finally, in the 67th, Altidore presented a different sort of target. Rather than playing as a hold-up man or connector, he was at the tip of the spear, racing onto a through ball from Sebastian Giovinco like a player with the freshest ankles on the field. He took a touch to his left to create distance from Seattle’s Joevin Jones, then lifted the ball over Frei as the goalie rushed forward. There was no way TFC’s nemesis was reaching that one. Altidore’s playoff could’ve been remembered far differently. He was suspended for the first leg of the conference finals after getting involved in a post-game fracas against the New York Red Bulls. And he sat on the sidelines for several minutes against the Crew after turning his ankle, contemplating an early exit. Since then, the story—and TFC’s history—has been different.


Credit to Toronto coach Greg Vanney for putting a tactical twist on the final that bedeviled the Sounders (17-10-12), who’d been enjoying a dominant postseason run of their own. Rather than their customary 3-5-2, the Reds took the field in a 4-4-2 that tore Seattle apart. The key: it allowed TFC’s outside backs, Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour, to get forward in the attacking half as if they were playing in a 3-5-2 because of Michael Bradley’s ability to withdraw and perform as something akin to a third center back. He was a center back, however, with the ability to pass, pick out teammates and organize the cycling of the ball better than any standard defender. Toronto (23-6-10) dominated the midfield with Victor Vazquez—who scored TFC’s stoppage-time insurance goal—and the hard-working Jonathan Osorio and Marco Delgado. They had outlets on the flank, Bradley behind them and Altidore and Giovinco as the first-half connector and danger man up front, respectively. Although Giovinco wasn’t sharp in front of goal, he was active, forcing Seattle to pay attention and limiting their options and organization when the ball turned over. Toronto outshot Seattle 22-7 (the Sounders managed two shots on target—two more than they took last year) and held 57% of the possession. TFC was far superior in every aspect, from the bench to the field, and is a deserving champion.


TFC finished the job. The Reds set a record for points this season and ranked second all-time in regular season goal differential and goals scored. The team they finished behind in those categories, the 1998 LA Galaxy, fell in the conference finals and played in a far more modest league. Those numbers, along with the roster quality and the aforementioned treble, leave TFC standing alone in the argument for best single-season MLS team. More will be asked of them, of course. Repeat. Make a run in the CONCACAF Champions League, which starts in February. But a standard has been set. It’s been set by a club that failed to make the playoffs during its first eight years in the league and that, rather than crumbling after last year’s heartbreaking defeat, raised its game.

Michael Bradley happy to secure MLS Cup ‘obsession’ with Toronto

Dec 9, 2017

Toronto FC captain Michael Bradley was thrilled to secure his “obsession” of winning the MLS title after the 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders in Saturday’s final.After nearly a decade in Europe, Bradley returned to MLS four years ago as one of the league’s highest-paid players and on Saturday obtained his goal of helping Toronto become the first Canadian club to lift the MLS Cup trophy.The triumph comes one year after Toronto came up short on penalties in the final against the same opponents, and Bradley praised his teammates’ resiliency. “This has been the dream for four years, since the day I got here, and for the last year the dream has become an obsession,” he told ESPN after the game.”For this group of guys to work every single day, and remember last year, to get back here, to play that game, in this atmosphere, with that on the line — it’s unbelievable.”Bradley, also the captain of the United States national team, was the target of jeers during the playoffs after the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup, but he didn’t have anything to say to his critics.”I don’t have to say anything,” he said. “I love to play, I love to compete. That’s it for me.”

BRADLEY Completed 92% of his passes in what was his Best Game of the Season — View image on Twitter

Toronto FC became the first MLS team to complete the domestic Treble — making it through the playoffs to win the MLS Cup, earning the Supporters’ Shield for the best regular-season record, and also winning the Canadian Championship cup competition.ictor Vazquez was with Barcelona when they won the Champions League in 2009 and 2011, but he said for the amount of trophies Toronto FC won this season, the Reds are the best team he’s played for.”For sure, I never win that many trophies. That explains everything,” he said. “That’s also why I came here. They put a lot confidence in me and I give it back so we are celebrating and we’re going to enjoy this night.”Vazquez capped the victory with a goal in stoppage time, but he credited Jozy Altidore’s opener for opening up the game in Toronto’s favor.”I can not explain this, that’s amazing,” he said. “Everything we did today is for these people around the pitch. Everything we have done all season, and today, we have done everything. I don’t have words, because that’s too much, I think.”The game was more open [after Altidore’s goal] and then we could create more chances, we could score more goals. They went to try to put some balls in the box but they didn’t do anything.”We won the balls on the pitch, we did everything and we have to be proud and happy, because to do this, that’s amazing.”

Castillo: Bradley finds home, hope, redemption with Toronto FC Cup win

December 10, 201711:11AM ESTArielle CastilloSenior Editor

TORONTO – On Saturday night in Toronto FC’s locker room – the floor covered in an inch-thick slurry of sprayed champagne, beer, confetti, and other detritus — the captain tried to find the closest thing to a quiet moment. About a half hour before, Michael Bradley, fresh off the team’s first-ever MLS Cup win – a 2-0 victory in a rematch over the Seattle Sounders — had gleefully joined his teammates in singing and champagne showers. But now, done with a press conference, he sipped soda rather than booze and leaned into his locker-room cubby, his back to lurking media, maybe tending to his phone, or maybe just taking it all in for a moment.Finally, when he had collected himself, Bradley turned to face the scrum – and immediately shot down the narrative that had been fomenting since Toronto FC first pulled ahead of the Sounders. Forget anything to do with his duty with the US men’s national team – if there was a “redemption” arc of sorts for Bradley regarding TFC’s Cup win, it had only to do with redemption for last year’s MLS Cup loss to the same team at home. “It’s not fair for anybody connected with this team to talk about anything else, because for this team, for the last year, it has been like nothing I’ve ever been a part of,” he said of TFC. “Unless you have lived the last year on the inside of this team,” he continued, “and know what it’s like to have to wake up the next morning after losing a final the way we did last year, to have to go through a preseason when you feel your chance at redemption feels 50 years away…. No disrespect – nobody on the outside can understand that.”Indeed, arguably no one more than Bradley has, as a transplant, quite devoted himself so devotedly to making both the club and his city his home, with the goal of lifting them both up. Earlier this week, at the team’s Kia Training Ground outside of the city, I sat down with Bradley for a chat about his relationship with Toronto. Growing up in New Jersey, looking up to idols like Mark Messier and Kobe Bryant, clearly left an imprint about the way a devoted local sports icon can bring a city together. “It doesn’t happen in one day” he said of a city embracing an athlete, his trademark, thoughtful cadence slow and measured, every word considered and no athlete-speak wasting air. “It happens in a lot of different ways. You have to win, you have to show your loyalty in both good and bad moments, you should show the commitment to embrace the club and the city.”His arrival in Toronto in 2014, he said, offered a perfect opportunity for him to plant roots as both a soccer player, and as a resident. “At this stage in my career. I wanted to I wanted to go somewhere where I had the opportunity to play a huge role in what was going on every single day, and I wanted to go somewhere where the potential to build something different and special and unique was was there,” he said. “And I think, on the flip side,” he continued, “that after some of the disappointing and frustrating years that they had here — I think I don’t want to speak for them but I think in some ways the fans were looking for for somebody to come here and kind of say, ‘This is where I want to be. This is my club I’m not going anywhere.’ And so and that was what I wanted to do.”In fact, once he starts talking about the city of Toronto, it seems, he could go on forever. “We all love it here,” he says of himself and his family. “It has the character of different places we’ve lived, and I think that’s part of the reason why from the beginning it’s felt so much like home. The people are incredible; they’re so warm and welcoming and go out of the way to make you feel part of things.”In fact, he said, the bond between team, fans, and city only grew after the pain of losing the MLS Cup final in 2016. “I’ve never seen anything like the response, and I’ve never seen anything like the way the city and fans embraced us,” he recalled. “My respect and appreciation and my admiration for our supporters grew more as a result of us losing than it could have in any other way. “Fans, in so many moments, are so – as we all are – wrapped up in the result. Did we win? Did we lose? But the ability of our supporters last year, even in the most heartbreaking, painful moment possible, to make sure we all knew how proud they were of us, and how much it had meant to all of them to be a part of something like that – it was incredible.”The feeling around town this week was that fans here loved him right back, with little concern (probably naturally) for any drama in international soccer. “Hero” was a word I heard several times in informal conversations. And when fans lined up, pre-match, near the corner where TFC players enter the tunnel from the locker room, Bradley drew the biggest cheers. “Hey Cap’!” Fans around me yelled. “Hey Cap’! Go on, Cap!’”All of that’s translated his teammates say, to his stewardship in both the locker room and on the field. “I think you could tell he took [last year’s MLS Cup loss] personally, and he felt a personal responsibility to the city, and he delivered that tonight. That says all you need to know about him,” said defender Jason Hernandez. “I played with Michael when he was 17 years old at the MetroStars, and to see the maturation and development of him to being the best captain I’ve ever played for is incredible.”But there’s probably nobody closer to Bradley on the team than forward Jozy Altidore. Besides playing together for both club and country, of course, they’ve also been friends since their teen years at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. And in the locker room, Altidore gave his longtime friend plenty of props for his leadership through sometimes-troubled waters. “It hasn’t always been easy – even with each other,” Altidore said. “But that’s how you know you’re in something real with people; youe able to have real conversations and get on with it. We’re like that, and we’ve been like that since we’ve known each other. To help him, lead this group of guys to do something this special says a lot about the club and what we’re doing going forward.”There’s a sense, among teammates and fans, that they’ve all been through plenty together, from the club’s recent nadirs, to last year’s MLS Cup heartbreak at home. And Bradley’s been proud to try to shoulder that burden for his club team, any other chatter be damned. A reporter in the locker room even pointed out his captain’s armband for the night – it bore Toronto’s city flag. “There were some dark years along the way, but the people who stuck with it, who continued to believe, who continued to identify with the club – nights like this are for them,” he said in the locker room. “We want to play and represent the in a way that makes them proud, that makes them leave here and feel like they were part of something different and special.” 

Seattle lets chance to cement dynasty status slip away in MLS Cup defeat

TORONTO — So much of Saturday evening’s MLS Cup rematch between the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC inspired déjà vu.The prematch buildup at BMO Field was just as raucous, if not even more so, than it was last December. The a cappella version of O Canada from the home crowd brought familiar goosebumps to the fore. Just as in the 2016 final, TFC controlled the game but struggled to turn that dominance into an actual breakthrough. For an hour, the reigning title-game MVP, Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei, was on track for a repeat award following a series of increasingly outlandish saves, and the energy inside the building was infused with a “here we go again” sense of dread.Then Jozy Altidore split the Sounders’ defense up the seam with a well-timed run to finish past a helpless Frei, and everything changed.The feeling within the away locker room of BMO could not have been more disparate than it was at this time last year. No protective covering in front of the lockers was necessary. Clumps of athletic tape and sod littered the floor, rather than discarded celebratory beer cans. Instead of a heaving, champagne-spraying, dancing mass, the players kept mostly to themselves in their respective stalls, shoulders slumped and eyes watery.”You feel like you let down a whole city,” third-year midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “You feel like you let down yourself, your teammates, your family. It’s very tough, emotional. But at the end of the day, you can’t do anything about it now. You have to look forward.”The vibe was very much reminiscent of a different defeated Seattle finalist from a few years back: the 2014 Seahawks. That group was even more shaken, given the traumatic way they lost, with quarterback Russell Wilson throwing an interception on the New England Patriots’ goal line with less than a minute remaining.Yet there was the same sense of a precious, fleeting opportunity missed. These Sounders, like those Seahawks, would have been back-to-back champions. No matter how strongly you feel about your current team or how unbroken its upward trajectory, those chances don’t come around all that often.No one is more painfully aware of just how much hard work and good luck go into reaching a championship game, let alone winning one, than the athletes themselves.Seattle forward Will Bruin qualified for MLS Cup in each of his first two seasons as a pro while with Houston. The Dynamo lost both of those finals to the LA Galaxy, the last MLS team to win consecutive titles, but to a youngster such as Bruin, the team’s eventual triumph felt like only a matter of time.It would be five years and would require a change of scenery for Bruin to earn another shot. He spoke earlier this week about no longer taking these moments for granted, and that realization made Saturday’s defeat that much tougher to swallow.”It sucks,” Bruin said. “It probably hurts more now because this is such a good team we have. … It’s not every year you get to go to MLS Cup. Hopefully we can keep this group together. If we keep the core of this team, we can learn from this experience. It sucks now, but if we bring back the nucleus and the core, it will make us stronger.”The Sounders have plenty of reasons to believe that they have the pieces in place to make another deep push sooner rather than later. Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro has a contract that runs into the 2019 season, and veteran forward Clint Dempsey recently reupped for another year. Roldan, though he struggled in this final, has become one of the best young players in the league. Jordan Morris, if he can stay healthy, will be a part of the foreseeable future as well.The defense that hadn’t allowed a goal since Oct. 1 prior to Saturday night is a solid foundation to build upon. Seattle mostly waltzed through the West, and the rest of the conference contenders have more glaring question marks.Still, don’t expect the club to sit pat. Within hours of last year’s championship, the Sounders declined the contracts of a host of influential veterans, and general manager Garth Lagerwey impressively remade the roster in order to make another run. Expect Lagerwey to keep tinkering in obsessive pursuit of getting back to exactly where his team stood earlier Saturday evening, 90 minutes from another title.That’s the thing about losing a championship game: You never really get the chance to make amends. Even if Seattle wins the next two MLS Cups, the next three, the next five, 2017 will forever be the one that got away, the missing piece of a would-be dynasty.There are no guarantees. The Seahawks, for each of those winning seasons since, haven’t made it back to another Super Bowl. Late Saturday night, in the bowels of a stadium in which they once triumphantly celebrated, the Sounders weren’t quite ready to ponder a similar fate.”Right now, it still feels like a failure,” Bruin said. “In a few days, sure, we’ll sit back and appreciate what we did. But with the Sounders, sometimes we take things for granted because we hold ourselves to such a high standard that we expect to get where we want to go. That’s winning MLS Cup, and we fell short, so right now, it feels like a failure.”

Frei’s fine form had Toronto coach Vanney ‘on edge’ throughout MLS Cup

Dec 9, 2017Matt PentzESPN FC

TORONTO — Even at 1-0 up, having controlled the 2017 MLS Cup final from start to finish and with the clock frozen at 90 minutes, Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney did not exhale until Victor Vazquez pounced on a rebound to double TFC’s lead.Only then, in the 94th minute and with BMO Field breaking into hysterics, did Vanney allow himself to believe that his team was really going to avenge last year’s title-game defeat to the Seattle Sounders, win the club’s first MLS Cup and become the first team in league history to win three major trophies in a single season. “That was the first time I took a deep breath and felt like we had done it,” Vanney said. “Before that, it was obviously a long game, where I felt like chances were coming but we weren’t putting them away. [Sounders goalkeeper] Stefan Frei was having another blinder of a game and making saves. Even with that first goal I was still, like everybody, feeling a little bit on edge.”That second goal was for me the first time that my emotions came out a little bit. I looked up at the sky because as most of you are aware I lost my mother, and she would have really proud. I’ve lost this game four times prior to tonight and she witnessed all of those, so I was really happy to do that with this group of guys who have been amazing all year.”Toronto dominated Saturday evening’s match, out-shooting the Sounders 22-7, including an 11-1 edge in shots on goal. And even though his team could have started wondering if it was going to be another one of those nights when they entered halftime at 0-0 — having similarly taken over last year’s game but not being able to break through — at intermission they were calm and composed.”[I] mostly just wanted them to stay positive, not get frustrated after a year like last year and a half like that,” Vanney said. “Keep your foot on the gas, keep trying to create chances and not be afraid that you’re going to give up something in the endeavor of trying to go win the game. That was one of our big statements this week. Be bold. Nobody wins anything by being afraid. Go out and be bold and the ball kept going.”The breakthrough finally came in the 67th minute. Jozy Altidore sprinted onto a threaded pass by Sebastian Giovinco and finishing in front of a noisy South End. Vanney stayed internally clenched for another half hour or so, before Vazquez struck again and the coach could finally begin to celebrate.”We’re so proud do to this in front of our city and our fans,” Vanney said. “It’s been a long time and a long journey to get here, heartache along the way as we saw last year, but to get here tonight and be able to lift a trophy with them and in front of them is an incredible journey and we’re so proud to be here in this moment.”

The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2017 Major League Soccer season

Dec 10, 2017Graham Parker

Toronto FC capped off a 2017 season in which it set an MLS record for most points in a single season, won the Canadian Championship and secured the Supporters’ Shield by lifting the MLS Cup on home soil Saturday night. With the campaign now in the rearview mirror, Graham Parker picks out the good, the bad and the ugly of the 2017 Major League Soccer season.

The Good

Saturday night’s 2-0 win over Seattle in the final was the kind of dominant display we’d been waiting for from Toronto during these playoffs, restoring that feel of inevitability about its rise. Tactically astute, technically superior and showing an overwhelming force of will, Toronto put a final emphatic spin on its claim as the best MLS team ever. Toronto’s 2017 was extraordinary. Even as the likes of the Chicago Fire pulled together a campaign that briefly flattered themselves as Shield contenders, Toronto was assembling a campaign that would gather remorseless momentum over the summer. And if it faded a little toward the end of the year, that was explicable in part by the fact that a record-breaking team was already so far out of reach in the standings that a dip in focus was understandable. Balanced, powerful, skillful and pushed over the top as an attacking force in 2017 by Victor Vazquez, Toronto set a new technical benchmark for the league.For nearly every other new benchmark, there was Atlanta United. Given every context to thrive by an organization that placed them in an excellent stadium, and a fan base that turned out in droves, Atlanta more than stood up on the field. Tata Martino’s lightning-fast team electrified the league in its debut season, and if it fell short in the playoffs thanks to a goalkeeper performance for the ages from Columbus’ Zack Steffen, the future looks bright in Georgia.

Speaking of the Crew, fans around the league rallied in support of their peers for the #SaveTheCrew campaign, and it showed the best aspects of supporter culture in the U.S. and Canada. The future remains uncertain, but on the field at least, they’ll always have the memory of Steffen and, of course, Harrison Afful’s mesmerizing dribble to put the New York City FC series beyond reach.NYCFC will have a tough offseason reflecting on the Alexander Callens red card that upended its playoff hopes, but the team continues to settle into the most challenging of markets and deserves to have its most ambitious community initiative marked. The first 10 of a planned 50 futsal courts for underserved New York communities were unveiled just before the playoffs started — a critical mass that demonstrates an admirable commitment to the team’s home.

The Bad

Going into the summer, FC Dallas appeared to be in familiar fashion in the West, as it sought to build on 2016’s U.S. Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield by adding an elusive MLS Cup in 2017. But by the run-in, Dallas fans were left counting down the weeks hoping that somehow the regular season would run out before their team fell out of the playoff picture. FCD were still technically in contention going into the final day, but a last-minute San Jose goal would push them out of playoff contention for good; and after a season of injuries, strange selections and the awkward integration of Cristian Colman into the team, Dallas could hardly claim it had been robbed. This was a bad year.The LA Galaxy, too, must enter 2018 with a sense of foreboding. The post-Bruce Arena era looked worryingly similar to the pre-Bruce Arena era. Big names were effective only in fits and starts, the StubHub Center’s reputation as a fortress was left in tatters by serial home losses, and ultimately Sigi Schmid was drafted in midway through the season to try to stabilize the season at “underwhelming” rather than “abject.” Romain Alessandrini was perhaps the lone bright spot. But with the spotlight shifting to LAFC, the Galaxy face a battle for local relevance in 2018, something that was unthinkable a couple of years ago.Other teams were left with similar challenges in looking for any consolation to take from 2017. For D.C. United, another season of uninspiring drift on the field ended with a loss to a second-string New York Red Bulls team in the final ever game at RFK Stadium. In fairness to Ben Olsen, the financial focus on the new stadium has left him with a really difficult task in trying to build competitive teams, and he deserves his chance to showcase the side in its new home, but D.C.’s ongoing irrelevance as a sustained competitive force has been tough to witness.

The Ugly

If the #SaveTheCrew campaign was heartening, the very need for it in the first place was not. Crew SC owner Anthony Precourt had long hinted that the organization needed a downtown stadium to be competitive and viable, but on the eve of the playoffs it emerged that that belief was now an ultimatum to the city, with a move to Austin, Texas, looking more like a fait accompli than just an option on the table. Precourt, et al, never got in front of the story, and it was hard to feel sympathy as the unfolding PR disaster engulfed them.And finally, there was the infamous tunnel spat at BMO Field that saw Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan sent off, and introduced the wider MLS viewership to Toronto’s red tunnel — which gave us the unfortunate impression of a fight taking place in a submarine. Kljestan had previously spoken of his team “going down swinging,” but this was not exactly what he had in mind. It could have ended up as the defining image of Toronto’s postseason; there was little exuberance about the way they battled through the 2017 playoffs compared to the momentum of 2016, but there was plenty of grit. In the end though, if Toronto was made to win ugly at times, it would not be denied.

Stejskal: Toronto FC journey from “worst team in the world” to best in MLS

December 10, 201712:24AM ESTSam StejskalContributor

TORONTO – A couple of hours after the final whistle blew on the finest night in Toronto FC’s 11-year history, after the mind-scrambling tension of another tight final against the Seattle Soundersspilled into a champagne-soaked celebration of the club’s first MLS Cup title, after his team became the first in league history to win three major trophies in one year, Tim Bezbatchenko stood in the TFC locker room and tried to explain what it all meant.The Toronto GM pointed to a sign hanging in the entryway, placed so every player and every coach see it every time they come and go. At the bottom of the sign, underneath a list of some of the club’s smaller, shorter-term objectives, are two words: The Treble.The Canadian Championship. The Supporters’ Shield. MLS Cup.After tonight, TFC have all three. After tonight, TFC have history.“It means we’re the best ever, that’s what it means,” said Bezbatchenko. “From Greg [Vanney] to Michael [Bradley] and all the way down, throughout the entire year they had their eyes set on this. We didn’t talk about it vocally until we started to pick up momentum, pick up the Canadian Championship, but look at this board right here, we made this at the beginning of the year. This was always the goal. The Treble. We made this, this has been here since Day One, and we did it. The Canadian Championship, the Supporters’ Shield – tonight was the last part of it.”For Bezbatchenko, Bradley and Vanney, MLS Cup was the culmination of a four-year journey to turn TFC from “the worst team in the world to the best team in the history of MLS.”The laughingstock of the entire league for their first seven seasons, Toronto began their current trajectory in 2014, when they shocked the North American soccer scene by convincing Bradley to ditch Italian giants Roma to sign for their last-place MLS club. Designated Players Jermain Defoeand Gilberto joined the US international in his first season in Toronto, but TFC’s Bloody Big Deal quickly became a Bloody Big Dud. Bradley, Defoe and Gilberto didn’t fit together, head coach Ryan Nelsen was fired midway through the year and the club limped to a weak finish under Vanney to miss the playoffs.Defoe and Gilberto left following the 2014 season, replaced by rock stars Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore. Together with Bradley, they took Toronto to new heights. Giovinco ran away with the MLS MVP, leading TFC to their first-ever playoff berth. There was a raucous celebration at BMO Field on the day they clinched, but the club’s moment of catharsis didn’t last. Toronto were bounced in the Knockout Round, dominated 3-0 by Didier Drogba and archrivals Montreal to immediately exit the playoffs.  They improved again in 2016, but with more success came more disappointment. Much more. Toronto finished the regular season third in the East, then beat PhiladelphiaNYCFC and Montreal to advance to MLS Cup against Seattle. Everything looked lined up for the Reds to take the title. The Sounders were banged up heading into the final, and Toronto dominated, not allowing a single shot on goal. But they were turned away time and time again by goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who bested them in the shootout to steal the championship from TFC.The defeat gnawed at Toronto all winter and changed the tenor of the locker room. Winning MLS Cup was no longer just a mission for Bradley, Giovinco, Altidore and the rest of the roster; it became an obsession. All the disappointment of the previous three years, the expectations that they failed to reach, the trophies they didn’t claim, they became fuel. 2017, they felt, would be their year.From the start, they dominated. Toronto were the best team in the league wire-to-wire, edging out Montreal for the Canadian Championship in June, running away with the Supporters’ Shield and setting the all-time regular-season record for most points in a single campaign. They were loaded at just about every position, had numerous dangerous options off the bench and, with Victor Vazquez joining the team in the winter and Justin Morrow emerging as a Best XI selection, had a better collection of stars than just about any team in MLS history.They had to battle their way through a pair of ugly series against the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew SC to advance to MLS Cup, but they got back to the title game. Waiting for them was their 2016 boogeyman. Seattle cruised through the West, beating Vancouver and Houston by a combined margin of 7-0. This week, they became something of a trendy pick. We said they were looser than tense Toronto, that they were more confident than slightly out-of-form TFC.On Saturday, Toronto flipped that narrative on its head. They controlled the entire match, rolling out a surprise 4-4-2 diamond formation and absolutely waxing the Sounders. They outshot Seattle 22-7, out-possessed the Sounders 57-43, won 58 of 82 total duels and didn’t let Clint DempseyNico Lodeiro and Co. get a single good look at goal. Bradley was masterful in the midfield, Vazquez put on a show in the attacking third and Altidore, hobbled ankle and all, made BMO Field erupt when he scored the game-winner in the 67th minute.

When Vazquez made it 2-0 in second-half stoppage-time, it was no longer a contest. It was a coronation. The sky above the south stands turned red as TFC’s supporters fired up flares. The smell of cordite wafted. The stadium shook. Bradley raised MLS Cup on the podium. Giovinco had his turn next, lifting a trophy that almost looked bigger than him. Toronto native and academy product Jonathan Osorio, who had an excellent game in the midfield, appeared emotional as he leaned into Altidore on the podium.After everyone had had their turn with the trophy, Morrow carried it over to the supporters’ section. There, in the beating heart of BMO, the team congregated for their celebratory Viking clap, a postgame playoff tradition begun last fall. Altidore boomed on the bass drum, the wall of humanity in front of him responding with their slow clap. Bradley, who’s known Altidore since the two were teenage teammates at US Soccer’s residency program in Bradenton, Florida, kneeled next to the drum, arms wrapped around his two young children.Bezbatchenko was in the throng, too, not far from assistant GM Corey Wray. A Toronto native, Wray has been with TFC since the beginning. The first intern in club history, he spent his first shift checking in players at the team’s inaugural open tryout in December 2006. He survived their infamous 0-9-0 start in 2012, and endured all of the coaching changes, front-office shakeups and miserable seasons that polluted the early years of the club. TFC is family to him, literally. He met his wife Jaime McMillan through the team, where she still works as director of administration and operations.For Wray, tonight was about more than a title or a treble. The championship was about validation, making all those years of professional pain, all the long seasons, all the turmoil worth it.  “When we scored the first goal, it was a huge, huge relief. It was unlike anything I ever felt in my life,” he said, fighting back tears. “Then the final whistle, it was kind of surreal until I saw my mom and dad, to be honest. I hate to be corny, but they’ve helped me throughout all these years and helped me in tough times when it was the worst team in the world. They’ve been there to pick me back up and push me and I have to give thanks to them and people like my wife, who works here and is a huge, huge supporter of me. It has been tough and there have been times that you want to give up, but this makes it all worthwhile. I hate to be cliché, but I really do feel that way.”It was a similar feeling for Bradley. Through all of his ups and downs with the national team, Bradley has always been a rock for TFC. He’s more responsible than any other individual for transforming the club from a perennial bottom feeder to a model for all of MLS. His bold decision to trade Rome for Toronto paved the way for Altidore and Giovinco’s arrival, and he and Vanney have molded the locker room in his image.Tonight, his move paid off in the biggest possible way. Tonight, he and Toronto made history.“It was surreal. It’s why I came. It’s why we came. It’s been the dream for the last four years. And after things went last year you can say that in the last year it’s been an obsession,” he said. “Things for me kind of came full circle yesterday. I was driving. I remember the first night I got to Toronto. I landed at the airport and the route the driver took from the airport to downtown, came down 427 and then came in on the Gardiner. And countless times I’ve been at this stadium these last four years I’ve never once taken that same route. And I got into an Uber yesterday morning and I let him take me any way he wanted and he took me down 427 and in on the Gardiner to the stadium.“I’m not necessarily a huge believer in fate and things like that. I think Greg said it a week ago and I like the way he said it – I believe in hard work and preparation and you make your own luck and you give everything you have to put things in your own hands. But there was a moment yesterday morning when I was in the car and it dawned on me that I’ve been here four years and I haven’t take that drive to the stadium once. To have it come full circle and to finish things off this year in this way, when Jozy scored I knew that was it.”

Champions League: What to Expect from a Mouthwatering Knockout Stage

A renewal of an intriguing rivalry and a couple of starstudded affairs are some of the storylines that make for an exciting Round of 16 in the Champions League. By JONATHAN WILSON SI December 11, 2017

Real Madrid, the 12-time European champion, will play Paris St-Germain, who broke the world transfer record in the summer, in the pick of the Champions League last-16 ties that were drawn on Monday in Nyon, Switzerland. There will also be a renewal of rivalries for Barcelona and Chelsea when the knockout stage begins in February. Here’s a breakdown of all eight ties.


Last season was dismal for Tottenham in Europe, but it has learned quickly. Whereas previously it seemed they could only win games by dominating the ball, this season they have developed and recorded three wins and a draw from four games against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund having less than 50% possession in each game. The squad, though, is slim, so much will depend on who is available come February. It never looks as solid at the back without Toby Alderweireld who is expected back early in the New Year following his hamstring injury. Their manager Mauricio Pochettino had said that after playing Madrid and Dortmund, the draw could not be tougher. Perhaps not, but it is probably equally tough. The first half of this season has felt like something of a struggle for Juve as it adapts to life after Leonardo Bonucci, but such matters are relative. Although last season’s losing finalists were held to a goalless draw at home by Inter on Saturday, its win away to Napoli suggested a side returning to form. At home, particularly, it remains formidable, having lost only two games in Turin since the beginning of the 2013-14 season.


The stand out as tie of the round: the old money against the nouveaux riches. PSG sets a new record for goals scored during the group stage, banging in 25 in six games, and it’s streets clear in Ligue Un. It responded to last season’s collapse against Barcelona in the last 16 by agreeing record-breaking deals to being in Neymar and Kylian Mbappe and the result has been a side capable of spectacular attacking football. The question, though, is over their defense which is so rarely tested that it’s very hard to assess. The way it leaked goals in losing its final group game 3-1 to Bayern – when a four-goal defeat would have seen it lose top spot – only added to the concerns. The defending champion, the first side to win the tournament in successive seasons since the change to the Champions League format, has begun the season slowly. Madrid was well-beaten by Tottenham at Wembley and has dozed through a number of games this season. But then it was the same last season and still won both league and Champions League. Whatever questions remain about Zinedine Zidane’s tactical acumen, it has such attacking quality – plus Luka Modric to knit everything together – that it can never be written off. The sides have only been drawn together once before, in the group stage in 2015-16 when they drew 0-0 in Paris before Nacho scored the only goal at the Bernabeu.


When Barcelona was beaten 5-1 on aggregate by Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup this looked like being a season of toil. It lost Neymar over the summer while the player it brought in to replace him, Ousmane Dembele, was soon ruled out with a serious hamstring problem. He should be back by the time the knockouts begin. Yet the crisis never materialized as Lionel Messi, seemingly fired by anger at the mess of a summer, inspired the Spanish giants to the top of la Liga. With Antonio Conte having effectively written off the Premier League following Saturday’s defeat away to West Ham, the Champions League probably becomes the focus as it’s a trophy Conte has never won but for all the doubts about how Juve performed in the competition under him, Chelsea produced its best performance of the season, perhaps even its best performance under the Italian. There is a reliance on Eden Hazard and, to a lesser extent, Alvaro Morata but, with everybody fit, Chelsea will be a threat. The sides have developed a strange long-distance rivalry over seven ties (and 15 games), most notably in Champions League semi-finals. In 2009, Andres Iniesta scored an injury-time equalizer in a controversial second leg at Stamford Bridge to take Barca through; three years later, Chelsea ground out a 1-0 at home before drawing 2-2 at the Camp Nou on its way to the trophy.


Manchester City began the season in extraordinary form, breaking goalscoring records over the first dozen league games of the season, partly because of the signings the club had made in the summer and partly because players who struggled at times with Pep Guardiola’s methods last season have adapted to his philosophy. Victory away to Manchester United on Sunday took it 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League; it can afford to rest players to prioritize the Champions League. Raheem Sterling has been in the form of his life, while Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva offer great variety and creativity. Defensive concerns, however, remain. The Swiss champion Basel is at this stage for the first time in three years. It has a habit of unsettling English sides, eliminating Manchester United from the Champions League in 2011-12 and beating Tottenham on penalties in the Europa League quarter-final a year later. Its coach Raphael Wicky has benefited from relative stability, with few outgoings and the only major arrival that of the Dutch striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel. He hasn’t played since the end of September, though, and the sense is that Basel has become a better-balanced side as a result, with the rightwinger Michael Lang emerging as a key presence.


No Premier League side has ever scored more in the group stage than the 23 Liverpool managed. Its front four of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohammed Salah gives the impression of being able to blow any side away with its pace and invention but Liverpool’s problem is that if sides can get through the press and can attack it is extremely vulnerable – as Everton demonstrated in pinching a draw on Sunday. When it concedes goals it tends to concede in batches: four times this season Liverpool has conceded three or more in a game. Porto leads the Portuguese league on goal difference from Sporting and in the end made it through the group relatively comfortably. Only Sevilla of the sides who made it to this stage conceded ADVERTISING 12/11/2017 Champions League: What to Expect From an Appetizing Round of 16 | SI.com https://www.si.com/soccer/2017/12/11/champions-league-real-madrid-psg-chelsea-barcelona-rivalry-tactics-draw 3/6 more goals, but Vincent Aboubakar, who scored the winner for Cameroon in the Cup of Nations final in February, has begun the season in such form that he can turn a game with a half-chance. The sides have been drawn together twice before, in the Uefa Cup in 2000-01 and in the Champions League in 2007-08. On both occasions , Liverpool won at Anfield and drew in Portugal.


Manchester United qualified comfortably enough for the last 16, the one game in which it dropped points, the away game in Basel, the result of sloppiness rather than anything else. As ever, Jose Mourinho has improved his side significantly in its second season. United has proved capable of playing with both a back three and a back four this season, it has the tallest side left in the competition meaning it can physically dominate sides and when Paul Pogba is on form, his link up with Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard offers a fluency that has been missing from United for some time. Sevilla is another example of what feels like a very modern trait in football. Going forward it can be devastating, but get beyond that and it’s extremely vulnerable defensively – no side who made the last 16 conceded more than the 12 it did. The club let in four against Valencia and five against both Spartak Moscow and Real Madrid. It also gave up a three-goal start to Liverpool at home before coming back to draw 3-3. Mourinho had said he is “never lucky in draws” but this could have been a lot worse.


When Roma was outplayed at home by Atletico Madrid in its opening group game, clinging on for a 0-0 draw, the suspicion was that it would take new coach Eusebio Di Francesco time to adapt to the Champions League. As it turned out, that process of adaptation didn’t take long at all. Although it lost in Madrid, Roma didn’t concede at all at home and took four points off Chelsea, coming from 2-0 down to draw 3-3 at Stamford Bridge and hammering the Premier League side 3-0 at home. Considering what Shakhtar has been through, having to relocate to Kharkiv because of the war in Donetsk, to reach this stage is a remarkable achievement. This side remains based around Brazilian imports, but that process has stalled with no new signings from Brazil in four years. The fear was that the departure of Mircea Lucescu last year would undermine it, but its enjoyed a new lease of life under Paulo Fonseca, who dressed up as Zorro to celebrate the team’s progress from the group stage.

BESIKTAS v BAYERN MUNICH After a difficult start to the season that saw Carlo Ancelotti sacked, Bayern has improved dramatically since Jupp Heynckes took over. The German team is well-clear at the top of the Bundesliga and, while nobody would suggest its playing in the way they did when they won the trophy in 2013, Heynckes has always reached at least the 12/11/2017 Champions League: What to Expect From an Appetizing Round of 16 | SI.com https://www.si.com/soccer/2017/12/11/champions-league-real-madrid-psg-chelsea-barcelona-rivalry-tactics-draw 5/6 final in three seasons with Bayern, and there is a sense that its slowly improving. Bayern misses its inspirational goalkeeper Manuel Neuer who is expected to be out till April with a broken bone in his foot but both Arjen Robben and Thiago Alcantara should be back in time for the first leg, The Turkish champion was arguably the revelations of the group stage, passing unbeaten through six games and winning all three away matches. Senol Gunes’s side are ideally set up to play on the break, with a well-balanced front three. Ricardo Quaresma stays wide on the right, Cenk Tosun is a mobile centre-forward who offers an aerial threat.

Derby dominance over Man United shows Pep Guardiola effect in full flow

5:31 AM ETDavid Mooney – ESPNFC

“Park the bus, park the bus, Man United,” the away end sang during Manchester City’s 2-1 victory at Old Trafford on Sunday. At the time, the score was 0-0 and it was the visitors who had been in control, without really testing David De Gea in the Manchester United goal.But still, this was a show of supreme confidence from the supporters. City had seen the majority of the ball, but it was still anyone’s game. To the fans, though, the victory was only a matter of time because of the early patterns of play — and they’d turn out to be right.Why shouldn’t supporters be confident? At kick off, their team had an eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League. By full time, they’d have opened up a gap of 11 points. If that’s not a time when they can feel confident their side will roll over anyone in front of them, when is?A record-breaking 14th consecutive top flight win was soon to follow. The irony was that City exploited two set pieces to get their goals. It was them who many thought susceptible to high balls rather than United, leaving Jose Mourinho ruing the “disgraceful” goals. Not that City fans cared how they went in.The show of confidence, bordering on arrogance, from the Old Trafford away section on Sunday was built on what Pep Guardiola has achieved at City since August 2016. At times last season it may have looked like the team were at breaking point, as defensive errors and missed chances led to humiliating defeats. It certainly tested the manager’s resolve but the more he was questioned, the more he dug his heels in to defend his beliefs.City are now reaping the rewards. They weren’t even close to their best in Sunday’s Manchester derby, yet they were still comfortably miles ahead of their rivals. The team looks able to deal with whatever is thrown at them, and that’s why supporters weren’t too nervy about tempting fate with their chants while the game was still in the balance.The evidence of the season so far is that City find a way to win however teams try to stop them. It’s not just the results that have given the fans belief, but the manner of them — regular last-minute winners, a complete commitment to the pass-and-move style that has run opponents ragged, and decision-making that sees most counter-attacks end with two players who could tap the ball home.

The Manchester derby showcased just how far City have developed under Guardiola. The manager didn’t change his approach to the game in the slightest, while his opposite number tied himself in knots trying to work out how to prevent the league leaders running riot. City’s identity was as clear as ever; United’s was a complete mystery beyond trying to turn the game into a gritty affair.It makes Mourinho’s postmatch comments about how City had been lucky all season about as laughable as Ander Herrera’s desperate attempts to cheat his way to an equaliser with a belly-flop in the penalty area in the second half. For all of the prematch hype around his comments about Guardiola’s men practising the dark arts, the travelling fans will be keen to note it was United who were forced to resort to that in a bid to get a point.Of course, an 11-point lead at the top of the table allows supporters to trust in the team. Big defeats and inept displays at Leicester and Everton last season may have tempted the fans to briefly consider that maybe the Premier League was a step too far for their new boss.But they can now see the Guardiola method in action. It’s producing football to a standard they’ve never witnessed before and it’s breaking records on a weekly basis.Even when Roberto Mancini’s team were blitzing their opponents at the beginning of 2011-12 or when Manuel Pellegrini’s side were scoring for fun in the winter months of 2013-14, the football was never as mouth-watering as it is now.City’s scoring has slowed down in recent weeks, but that’s not stopped them extending their dominance of the Premier League over that time. They haven’t changed how they attempt to score whether it’s the opening minute or closing seconds and the number of times it has worked is giving the fans real encouragement that this season could be like none other they’ve ever seen.It already has been extraordinary, but the prospect of it getting better still is supremely exciting.Fans could have watched their team lose at Old Trafford on Sunday and they’d have still poked fun at United’s style — or lack of it. But the win and the lead at the top of the Premier League means life couldn’t be better for City fans right now.Who can blame them for enjoying it?



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12/7/17 IU Hoosiers in College Cup Fri 8:30pm on ESPNU, MLS Cup Finals Toronto vs Seattle Sat 4 pm, ESPN Champions League Sweet 16 is Set, World Cup Brackets are Set, Manchester Derby Sun

IU Hoosiers in College Cup Fri 8:30pm on ESPNU, MLS Cup Finals Toronto vs Seattle Sat 4 pm, ESPN Champions League Sweet 16 is Set, World Cup Brackets are Set, Manchester Derby Sun

Ok Soccer Fans who don’t watch Major League Soccer  – because its not European teams, the US players aren’t featured or you just refuse to watch a US Soccer league (you know who you are) – well you have no excuse for not pulling up to the TV on Sat afternoon at 4 pm on ESPN and watch the MLS Cup.  It’s the 2 best teams – last year’s finalist Seattle – the defending champions with US stars Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris vs the team that finished 2nd year last season with the Best Record this season (Supporters Shield Winners) with US stars Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and the leagues’ best player Sebastian Giovincho.  This is superstars game with the 2 Best Teams in the MLS squaring off for a 2nd straight year for all the Marbles.  So if you are not an MLS Fan – give it a shot – tune in this Saturday and take in the best the MLS has to offer 4 PM on ESPN!

Who Says Champions League Group Stages aren’t Exciting?  I watched with baited breath as Juventus scored late to win and ensure their way into the Round of 16 behind Barcelona – sending Portugal’s young Sporting team back to the Europa league as a 3rd place finsher.  My Spanish favorites Athletico Madrid – the people’s team – tied Chelsea 1-1 sending them out as Roma won the group with Chelsea advancing second.  For Altheti – just 2 years removed from the UCL Final – it’s their earliest elimination in Champions League in years.  Atleti will fall to Europa league where Diego Simeon will try put things back together.  Congrats to Renaldo who both scored his leading 9th goal in the group stages and of course won the Player of the Year Trophy for the 5th year over Messi and Buffon.

Derby’s on hand this weekend as Juventus host Inter in Serie A on Sat at 2:45 pm on beIN Sport and then Sunday in the EPL Liverpool host Everton at 9:15 am on NBCSN followed by the legendary Manchester Derby –league Leading Man City vs 3rd place Man United at Old Trafford at 11:30 on NBCSN.

Finally good luck to the Indiana Hoosiers as they are at the College Soccer Cup this weekend in Philly for their record 19th time!!  They will play #3 Seed North Carolina (17-3-1) at 8:45 pm on ESPNU.   Win and they will face the winner of Stanford (17-2-2) vs Akron (18-3-2) on Sunday in the Championship Game.


IU Enjoying the Fun of the College Cup

IU Hosted the Play In Game


Fri Dec 8

8:45 pm ESPNU     #2 Indiana University vs #3 North Carolina (Men – Final 4 College Cup)

Sat, Dec 9

7:30 am NBCSN               West Ham vs Chelsea

10:15 am beIN sport   Real Madrid vs Sevilla

10 am NbCSN                    Tottenham vs Stoke City (Cameron)

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2                      B. M’gladbach (Johnson) vs Schalke (Mckinney)

12:30 pm NBCSN           New Castle United (yedlin) vs Leciester

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Juventus vs Inter

4 pm ESPN              MLS Cup – Toronto vs Seattle @ Toronto

Sun, Dec 10

7 am NBCSN                       Southhampton vs Arsenal

9:15 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Everton – Derby

11:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Man City – Manchester Darby

12:45 pm beIN Sport                       Villarreal vs Barcelona

1 pm ESPN2            Mens College Cup – Ind U/UNC winner vs Stanford/Akron winner

Tues, Dec 12

2:30 pm FS1                      Mainz vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

3 pm NBCSN                      Huddersfield Town (Johnson) vs Chelsea

Wed, Dec 13

12 noon Telemundo    Winner vs Real Madrid  FIFA WORLD CLUB CUP       ??

2:30 pm FS1                      Bayern Munich  vs Koln

3 pm NBCSN                      West Ham vs Arsenal

3 pm                                       Liverpool vs West Brom + 5 other games?

EPL 2017 Schedule  

Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com

 MLS CUP – Sun 4 pm ESPN

Bradley, Altidore Chance to make History as US Stars in MLS – Graham Parker ESPNFC

History Not on Toronto’s Side in Rematch with Champs Seattle

Is Toronto’s dominance a sign of Shift to the East for MLS?

US Stars have a Chance to Set Names in History at MLS Cup

Toronto Redemption Tour – finishes at Home – Armchair Analysist – Mat Doyle – MLS.com

Seattles Return MLS Cup legitimizes 2016 Title

Rematch Seattle vs Toronto a Legacy Builder

Toronto’s Culture Change


Gulati Had to Go – Will not Run for US Soccer Prez – Jeff Carlisle

Kathy Carter Runs for US Soccer President

Pulisic on list of US Soccer P o Y Nominees

US to Face France in World Cup Tune-up?


Renaldo Wins 5th Balloon Dor – Worlds Best Player – Avi Creditor SI

ESPNFC Ranks Top 100 Players

Top 10 Takeaways from the World Cup Draw – Grant Wahl SI

World Cup Rankings by Country

Arsenal, Man U D Issues, PSG Stunned – Marcotti ESPNFC

 Champions League

Man United Finish Top of Group

Cuadrado Strikes as Juventus Wins to Advance

 No. 2 Hoosiers Face No. 3 North Carolina in College Cup National Semifinals

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The No. 2-seeded Indiana University men’s soccer team will face the No. 3 North Carolina Tar Heels in the College Cup national semifinals on Friday, Dec. 8 at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia, Pa.

Kickoff for the match is set for approximately 8:45 p.m. ET which will air live nationally on ESPNU. A live-stream of the match is available through WatchESPN, with live stats for the match at IUHoosiers.com.

A radio broadcast of the College Cup match between the Hoosiers and Tar Heels will be available for free at IUHoosiers.com.

• The No. 2-seeded Hoosiers will face the No. 3-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels in the College Cup national semifinals on Friday night at Talen Energy Stadium in Philadelphia.
• IU enters the College Cup as the only undefeated team in the nation with an overall record of 17-0-6 on the season.
• Indiana earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the season undefeated with an overall record of 15-0-5.
• After not trailing at any point in the season, IU fell behind to the No. 7-seeded Michigan State Spartans last week in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals in the second minute of the match.
• IU stormed back to tie and then advance in PK’s in front of 5,450 fans at Armstrong Stadium.
• On the year, the Hoosiers have been tied or led for 2166:37 minutes of the team’s 2224:15 minutes played through 23 matches.
• The Hoosiers finished the regular season undefeated for the third time in program history, ending with a 13-0-4 mark. IU also finished regular season unblemished in 1976 (15-0-1) and 1997 (18-0).
• Freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse has been one of the best goalkeepers in the nation this season, posting a NCAA-best 17 shutouts and a goals-against average of 0.24.
• Fellow freshman Mason Toye leads the Hoosiers with 10 goals and 22 points on the season, while Cory Thomas has seven goals on the year for IU.
• Junior Trevor Swartz leads the team with seven assists on the season.

• IU was seeded No. 2 overall in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, marking the 13th time in the last 15 years since the current seeding format began in 2003 that IU has earned a top-16 seed.
• The berth for the Hoosiers was the team’s 31st-straight bid to the NCAA Tournament and the 42nd overall in the program’s history.
• Indiana has now participated in a NCAA-record 19 College Cups. This will be the second College Cup appearance for the Hoosiers under head coach Todd Yeagley. IU won the NCAA title in 2012 in Yeagley’s second season at the helm of the program.
• Senior D Grant Lillard was named one of 10 semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy Award.
• Lillard was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List for the second-straight season. Last year, Lillard earned Second-Team All-America honors from both College Soccer News and Top Drawer Soccer, as well as First-Team All-Big Ten and First-Team All-Region accolades.

• The No. 3-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels bring an overall record of 17-3-1 in to the team’s College Cup match-up against the Hoosiers on Friday.
• UNC earned the team’s sixth College Cup appearance in the last 10 years with a 2-1 win over Fordham last Saturday.
• North Carolina earned the No. 2 seed in the ACC Tournament this year, but fell to No. 7-seeded Notre Dame, 2-1, in the quarterfinals.
• In the NCAA Tournament this year, the Tar Heels have beaten UNCW (2-1), SMU (2-0) and Fordham (2-1) to earn their spot in the College Cup.
• The three losses on the season for UNC have come against UNCW, Wake Forest and Notre Dame, while the team’s draw came at Louisville.
• North Carolina also made the College Cup last season, only to see eventual champ Stanford advance, 10-9, in penalty kicks after 110 minutes of scoreless play.
• Six Tar Heels earned All-ACC honors, led by Cam Lindley, who was named ACC Midfielder of the Year and First-Team All-ACC. Forward Alan Winn was also named First-Team All-ACC.

• In the seven-match history between the two teams, North Carolina has a 4-3 lead in the overall series.
• The last five meetings between the two squads have come in the NCAA Tournament, with UNC holding a 3-2 record in those contests.
• The Hoosier beat the Tar Heels, 1-0, on Nov. 30, 2012 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament en route to the team’s eighth NCAA title.
• The only other College Cup match-up between the two programs came in the 2001 NCAA Championship, with UNC winning 2-0.

• After advancing past No. 7 Michigan State last Saturday in penalty kicks, the Hoosiers earned a berth to the program’s NCAA-record 19th College Cup.
• The College Cup is the second for the Hoosiers under head coach Todd Yeagley, who guided the team to the program’s eighth NCAA title in 2012.
• The last three times IU played in a College Cup – 2012, 2004, 2003 – the Hoosiers won the NCAA Championship.
• IU is 14-4 all-time in College Cup national semifinal matches.

• The berth for the Hoosiers is the team’s 31st-straight bid to the NCAA
Tournament and the 42nd overall in the program’s history.
• Indiana has an NCAA-best .728 (87-31-5) winning percentage in the
tournament, while the 87 victories are also tops in the NCAA.
• IU has appeared in 19 College Cups, which leads all Division I teams, and won its eighth national title in 2012.

• Indiana is the sixth team since 1990 to enter the College Cup undefeated and the 50th team to bring an unblemished record to the College Cup since 1959.
• There have been 13 undefeated champions in NCAA history, with the last coming in 1989 with Santa Clara.

• Through the first 23 matches of the season, Indiana has allowed just six goals – the second-fewest allowed in school history.
• The Hoosiers are the only team in the nation to not allow two goals in any match this season.
• IU allowed just two goals through the first 15 matches this season, which was a school record.
• The school record for fewest goals allowed in a season is 4 by the 1979 Hoosier team.

• Entering the weekend, IU is ranked in the top-15 in 13 categories in the NCAA statistical rankings.
• Indiana leads the nation in save percentage (0.909), shots on goal per game (7.91), shutout percentage (0.739), team goals against average (0.242) and win-loss-tied percentage (.870).
• Individually, freshman GK Trey Muse leads the nation in goals against average (0.242), save percentage (0.906), shutouts (17) and goalie minutes played (2227:15).
• Freshman Mason Toye, who leads the team with 10 scores, is ranked sixth in the nation with five game-winning goals.
• The Hoosiers are ranked second in corner kicks per game (7.52), second in shots per game (17.74), fifth in total goals (48), fifth in total points (47), sixth in total assists (47), 11th in points per game (6.22), 12th in scoring offense (2.09) and 14th in assists per game (2.04).
• IU leads the Big Ten in 14 categories – assists per game, corner kicks per game, fouls per game, points per game, save percentage, scoring offense, shots per game, shots on goal per game, shutout percentage, team goals against average, total assists, total goals, total points and win-loss-tied percentage.

• Indiana’s Grant Lillard was named one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy.
• The semifinalists were determined based on voting by NCAA DI soccer coaches.
• In the storied history of Indiana men’s soccer, an IU player has been named the national player of the year 11 times. Included on that list are both IU head coach Todd Yeagley and associate head coach Brian Maisonneuve.

 Cristiano Ronaldo Wins Record-Tying Fifth Ballon D’Or Award

Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Ballon d’Or for fifth time, tying Lionel Messi for the most in history. By AVI CREDITOR December 07, 2017

Cristiano Ronaldo has won the 2017 Ballon d’Or, taking home the award for the fourth time in the last five years and matching Lionel Messi’s record of winning the prestigious honor for a fifth time. The Ballon d’Or award, presented by France Football, is given to the world’s best soccer player, and either Messi or Ronaldo has won it every year dating back to 2007, when Kaka earned the honors. The 32-year-old Ronaldo has finished in first or second place in Ballon d’Or voting in each of the last seven years, and excluding 2010 has finished in the top two every year dating back to 2007. Even as he gets older, Ronaldo has continued to rack up the awards. In October, he was named FIFA’s Best Men’s Player. In August, he was named UEFA’s 2016-17 Best Player in Europe for a third time (the award was instituted in 2010-11). There’s still new ground for him to find, evidenced by his latest accomplishment on Wednesday, when he became the first player to score in each of the six group games in the UEFA Champions League. In 2016, Ronaldo was helped by exploits on both the club and country levels, leading Real Madrid to a Champions League title and helping Portugal to the Euro 2016 championship. In 2017, Ronaldo’s campaign was largely boost by his efforts with Real Madrid, as the club won La Liga’s title in May and then followed that up with a second straight Champions League title–and 11th overall. Ronaldo was a menace in the knockout stage of the competition, scoring 10 goals in four multi-goal games. He netted twice in the final triumph over Juventus and added hat tricks against Bayern Munich and Atletico Madrid in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. He also scored 25 goals in La Liga, helping Real Madrid to a record 33rd title, but its first since 2012. Ronaldo was still impactful for Portugal, helping the side qualify for the 2018 World Cup by scoring 15 goals in the qualifying round, second only to Poland and Bayern Munich star Robert Lewandowski, who scored 16.  Messi was 2nd, Buffon was third.





GROUP A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia

GROUP B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco

GROUP C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia

GROUP D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria

GROUP E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

GROUP F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

GROUP G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama

GROUP H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan

Warshaw: Why 2017 MLS Cup is a big deal for three USMNT greats

December 6, 20178:04PM ESTBobby Warshaw

Most professional athletes fight everyday to make it to tomorrow. They can never look past the next practice or the next game. Every second is a battle to stay relevant. The second they retire they become nothing more than a data point on a blogger’s spreadsheet.Some athletes, however, get to think bigger.It’s not a question of whether they will be remembered, but it’s how they will be remembered.Clint DempseyJozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley have reached such rarified air. They enter Saturday’s MLS Cup final (4 pm ET on ESPN, UniMas, TSN, TVAS) competing for more than a single trophy. They’re fighting for their place in history.

What have you done for me lately?

When you talk about cementing a spot in perpetuity, that discussion usually carries a hopeful tone. But it’s more complicated with these three American stars. They have complex data points that have them teetering on the edge of history’s jagged fence.All three made big profile moves back to MLS. All three make more money than entire rosters of other teams in the league. All three have worn the armband for their country. All three, however, have yet to lead their respective MLS clubs to a league title.Well, Clint Dempsey did claim a league winner’s medal 12 months ago when the Seattle Sounders won 2016 MLS Cup, but he was on the sidelines due to a heart condition when the Sounders went on their memorable run. And in the eyes of many at the time, that championship stood as much as an indictment of Dempsey as it did an accomplishment.It’s a bit harsh, but he’d surely be the first to admit this much: Elite athletes don’t want anything given; they want to claw their way through every obstacle and be on center stage. What does it mean if Seattle lose on Saturday with Dempsey on the field?Altidore and Bradley, meanwhile, have a few domestic tournament titles (Canadian Championships and a Dutch Cup for Altidore), but they still don’t have a championship ring. They came up short in last year’s final, playing for the team with the highest budget in their home stadium in front of a capacity crowd.And then there’s the context of the USMNT’s recent failing in World Cup Qualifying. All three players participated in the decisive Hex stage. I don’t need to remind you what happened.Recency bias is part of sports and it sure feels like their career achievements of Dempsey, Bradley and Altidore have been overshadowed of late. When we do think back on their careers, what are those moments and memories that we will carry with us? What did they do in the big spots? In the elimination games?It’s not to say their total body of work doesn’t warrant acclaim, but the most recent or the most memorable events attached to them will likely be the ones that wind up carrying the most weight. It’s in no way a fair part of life, but legacies are often measured by it.

In search of that defining moment

It’s a strange conversation to debate someone’s legacy. To even discuss a player’s legacy is a statement in itself. Nobody is talking about Bobby Warshaw’s legacy as a player.Dempsey (34), Bradley (30) and Altidore (28) also likely have a couple more years to play, which means they still have time to shape the narrative and they could yet have more opportunities to leave a lasting impression. Seattle and Toronto will certainly continue to be contenders over the next few years. And despite the current alarmism in US Soccer circles, Bradley and Altidore will also likely be a part of the next World Cup cycle.So the lasting legacies of all three are not necessarily on the line at 2017 MLS Cup. Those will still have time to take shape as our memories and recollection of emotions crystalize. We would be victims of the moment to suggest otherwise.But that’s not to minimize the moment awaiting them on Saturday. Rather than convincing us, 2017 MLS Cup is about convincing themselves.Few elite players think of themselves as having anything other than a winning mentality. Even if a player realistically doesn’t, thinking you do is half the battle. In fact it’s the most important battle for any professional athlete: How you perceive yourself and fight the demons and doubt in your own mind.Every player has two faces: the one they wear out in public, and the one they assume in the quiet moments of their own lives. For whatever you think of Dempsey, Bradley, and Altidore, they have their own accounts of their lives and careers. The stories they tell about themselves are much more powerful than any that the public weaves. When athletes lose, it surely stings to read negative comments. But it’s nothing compared to the doubts they cast on themselves.How could I let that happen? Why couldn’t I get it done? Who am I that I allowed that to happen?

You can’t hide from results forever. There’s a constant scorecard in a player’s brain. They take a mental note if they’ve won, whether it’s during practice or an official match. And naturally the biggest matches carry the most weight. If you think of yourself as a winner, how many times can you suffer a devastating defeat before you start to question yourself?A single game clearly doesn’t define a player’s career. There’s always tomorrow to make a new statement. But a single game can impact the next game and the each subsequent game after that.Dempsey, Altidore, and Bradley are three players with more heartbreaking losses of late than momentous wins. Nobody knows that more than them, which raises Saturday’s stakes that much higher.

Bradley, Altidore’s historic success at Toronto more than just a U.S. subplot

Graham Parker

If there’s a certain inevitability about the fact that Toronto’s 2017 will be popularly understood in the context of a tough 2017 for its U.S. national team stars Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, there’s no appetite for that storyline within Toronto itself.The organization’s single-minded pursuit of a title has taken on the quality of a forced march at moments during these playoffs; the novelty of the team’s first exuberant playoff campaign in front of its own fans a year ago has been very different this time around. At moments, expectation has weighed heavily, character has been tested and there has been an air of grim concentration and focus to see off the New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew that’s stood in contrast to the cavalier emotions that swept the team to the final last year.Yet despite being squarely on board with that mood of collective accountability, Bradley and Altidore have been unable to escape focus during this run as the USA’s World Cup failure continues to color the subsequent actions of everyone associated with it. From hurled beer in Atlanta on the last day of the regular season, to boos and abuse at Red Bull Arena, to Columbus fans taking a break from “Save The Crew” chants to single out Bradley every time he touched the ball, Bradley and Altidore have been the focus of U.S. fan resentment that ironically has been given focus by their success on the field.

Had Toronto already been eliminated from MLS Cup, the pair would be joining the likes of Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Darlington Nagbe, Matt Besler and Alejandro Bedoya in long offseasons with plenty of opportunity for private introspection. Instead, they are front and center for their team as it stands a game away from a treble, and forced to try to juggle the duties of a tough postseason, with an added layer of symbolism and scrutiny that’s been loaded onto their every touch.On the surface of things, that sense of burden has been a more natural fit for Bradley, whose role in the engine room of the team has almost given him the perfect opportunity to throw himself into his work. Altidore, by contrast, has found himself drawn into a couple of distracting soap-opera storylines, with his reaction in Atlanta and then most infamously with his red card against New York. That kept him out for the first leg in Columbus. And at one point in the second leg of the Eastern Conference final, it looked as if that extended hiatus — with an international break in between — might have fatally compromised his fitness, only for the striker to switch the narrative by scoring the decisive goal in the series, even as his coach weighed up whether he could continue in the game at all.Bradley, for his part, held down the midfield against Columbus, despite being in thankless isolation during the first half due to Crew SC’s formation switch. Though then again, anyone wanting to boo him for the national team situation might want to remember that “thankless isolation” has been a fairly apt description of the position he’s ended up being asked to cover for much of this joyless World Cup cycle.Small wonder that club soccer has seemed like a respite for both men under the circumstances. Toronto’s roster building has been rightly celebrated for its studied attempt to balance the team well beyond its designated players, with its blend of youth and MLS experience. But there’s no doubting that this is a team built to exploit the strengths of its key men and to enable them to do their job.

The one-two that put Altidore in on goal against Columbus was played off Victor Vazquez — a decisive creative foil for Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco this season. And when Columbus threatened to wrest control of the series in the second game, Greg Vanney was able to throw on the underrated Marky Delgado alongside Bradley to stabilize the team and give the captain the support he needed to lock down the game rather than react in firefighting mode.Bradley and Altidore, and Giovinco for that matter, are paid handsomely to play a role for their team and it’s inevitable that some of that role has a symbolic significance in terms of how their performances represent end exemplify the success of the Toronto FC project as a whole, in good times and bad. But Toronto has worked hard to share the load — and the credit — during the long, slow haul from perennial MLS also-rans to stacked powerhouse sweeping all before it in 2017.This is not Danny Koevermans’ infamous “worst team in the world” of 2012, the “Giovinco-plus-10” team of 2015 or even the “BMO Field playoff phenomenon” of 2016. It’s perhaps the best ever MLS team, on the verge of history. And it certainly deserves to be far more than a U.S. subplot.

Armchair Analyst: For Toronto FC, redemption tour finishes at home

December 7, 20173:27PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

It’s actually a stretch to call the 2017 season a “redemption tour” for Toronto FC, who came so damn close to winning MLS Cup last year and making good on the top-to-bottom promise of their roster. But the fact is that they failed to get the job done at home in the biggest game of the year, and while Saturday’s 2017 MLS Cup (4 pm ET | ESPN, UniMás; TSN, TVAS) isn’t strictly about redemption… I mean, at least a little bit of it is, right?That said: regardless of what happens in this MLS Cup rematch, this TFC team will and should be remembered for years to come. If they lose they’ll be in the mix with the 1998 Galaxy, the 2001 Miami Fusion, the 2005 and 2012 Quakes and 2014 Sounders as one of the greatest MLS teams of all-time, but one that failed at the final hurdle. It will still be a successful season, but – to paraphrase Reds GM Tim Bezbatchenko – it will no doubt feel incomplete.The good news for TFC fans? The window of contention is very much still open for the next couple of years. Nobody should be that surprised if I’m writing this column again 12 months from now.

How They Got Here

Over the last quarter of a season in 2016, Greg Vanney figured out his personnel would work best in the 3-5-2, and that formational switch was the catalyst for their late-season surge that propelled them all the way to the final game. And yes, they were utterly dominant in that final game before falling in PKs.So naturally they stayed with the 3-5-2 in 2017, but with one major adjustment: They put a pure playmaker, Spanish import Victor Vazquez, into the No. 10 role and had him pull the strings.TFC were very up front after last year’s MLS Cup, admitting they needed more pure creativity out of central midfield in order to break down bunkered-in defenses, and that’s what Vazquez has provided. He finished the year with 8 goals and 16 assists, and he makes it so that TFC don’t have to commit numbers forward in order to break teams down. They are completely content attacking with just three:When they need it to be, the 3-5-2 becomes a 5-3-2 because Vazquez, Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore can unlock most defenses on their own. That allows the Reds to keep numbers back in defense and keep off-the-ball penetration to a minimum, which is what we saw quite often against Columbus in the Eastern Conference Championship.That, however, was the exception. Mostly the Reds got here by being superb at every line, from goalkeeper all the way to the forwards. They scored the second-most goals per game in MLS history, had the second-best goal differential, became just the second team in league history to score twice as many as they conceded, were the first team since the 2005 Quakes to collect 2 points per game or better, tied the league record for wins… understand that I could keep going with this list.TFC were simply remarkable in 2017. They took the group that mostly blitzed the league in last year’s playoffs and added a Best XI-caliber playmaker. That’s good stuff.

Pressure’s On

Literally everyone. When you play like this team played from March through October, you invite an incredible amount of pressure because each win piles on new fan expectations, and each game invites forward a new opponent who’s going to give you his best shot and more, and each story comes at a potential (or potentially imaginary) problem from a new angle, and there is a collective sense of “nothing means anything until the big game.”Well, the big game is here. I’m a Supporters’ Shield truther – I think it’s the hardest and best trophy to win, but I am in the rank minority. Nearly everyone I speak with (players especially) see MLS Cup as the biggest prize, and it’s the one that’s eluded TFC thus far despite their league’s-biggest budget.I’m not saying they have to get it done. Like I said, this core group’s window of contention should stay open probably two or three more years.But if they win, they will have spiked the rest of MLS into the core of the earth for an entire calendar year, and will have put to rest the “who’s the best team in MLS history?” debate.If they lose, they’re halfway to being the Buffalo Bills.

One Thing To Be Concerned About

I mean, there’s more than one thing. TFC haven’t really played a good, complete game since the end of September, and Seattle have been damn near invincible when they have their first-choice defense, and Clint Dempsey‘s on a jag, and Altidore’s carrying a knock, and let’s not forget that Giovinco basically didn’t show up to last year’s final.But really, I think the biggest thing is “have we been scouted?” Vanney’s had to repeatedly move away from the 3-5-2 down the stretch and into the playoffs as teams have gotten more ruthless about trying to destroy the Reds’ ability to play – the best example being, of course, the way RBNY used Tyler Adams as an advanced destroyer tasked specifically with disrupting Michael Bradley‘s distribution.Bradley has been inarguably the best defensive midfielder in MLS this year, and it’s a crime that he was left off the Best XI. He’s one of the few guys in the league who plays as a true solo d-mid, which means he has more responsibility on both sides of the ball than anybody else in the league at that position. You see it in his usage rate, in the types of passes he hits, and in the fact that Zone 14 is an absolute dead spot against TFC. He has shut that area down for an entire year.Lately, however, teams have gone out of their way to limit his touches and to make him into more of a 1v1 defensive player rather than a pure organizer, and the Reds have struggled to cope with that. Their movements and distribution…

It’s been mechanical and predictable, and there really hasn’t been an obvious Plan B put into place (partially, at least, because Marky Delgado has been struggling).Brian Schmetzer’s not much of a tinkerer so it’s highly doubtful we see anything as unusual as the diamond midfield Jesse Marsch threw at TFC in the East semis, and Bradley was back to being his dominant self in the second leg against Columbus.But if Seattle want to turn the game on its ear, they could do this. Put Cristian Roldan in the Adams role, have Gustav Svensson at the back point of the diamond, and then put Nicolas Lodeiro on one side and Victor Rodriguez on the other, and you have a worthy facsimile of what the Red Bulls did in that 1-0 win at BMO last month.

World Cup qualifying failure meant Gulati had to go but his legacy is far-reaching

Jeff CarlisleSoccer  ESPNFC

It took a while, but Sunil Gulati finally arrived at the decision that many in the broader U.S. soccer community had hoped he would: He will not run for another term as U.S. Soccer Federation president.Gulati made the announcement on Monday and it’s the right move. Yes, he has overseen a period of unprecedented growth for the USSF in particular and the sport of soccer in general. He has also represented U.S. interests well in political circles due to his spot on the FIFA Council.But the Columbia economics teacher has been in charge of the USSF for nearly 12 years. That is a long time for anyone to run a single organization and, following the failure of the U.S. men’s national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the time has come for fresh ideas and a change in leadership.Gulati’s reasons for stepping aside and why it is a good idea aren’t exactly the same thing. For months, he has been sounding out the USSF’s voting membership to gauge his chances of winning re-election, while guarding his intentions.At the mid-year meeting of the U.S. Adult Soccer Association in October, Gulati refused to participate in a presidential candidates’ forum, opting instead to meet in small groups with various state associations. Some sources told ESPN FC that, if he declined to run, it was because he didn’t have the votes. Others believe he would have won if he had stood.Regardless, the reasons why Gulati is no longer the right man to lead the federation come down to several factors.

First, the challenges facing the USSF are different to when he took office in 2006. Back then, there was a need to increase the federation’s financial clout in terms of sponsorships, ticket sales and overall media profile. Gulati has done that and then some, with various reports putting the USSF’s financial surplus at around $130 million.

Now, with the pain of the World Cup qualifying debacle still fresh, the challenges are more specific to the sport itself; they include how to make the USSF’s coaching classes more accessible and affordable, as well as solving some of the thornier player development issues. Such issues don’t play to Gulati’s strengths, especially given that candidates more grounded in the playing side of the game are lining up to challenge for the presidency.There are also signs that Gulati’s leadership style — one in which many decisions were made by him with the Board of Directors acting as a rubber stamp — had begun to grate on the sport’s other stakeholders. Speaking to ESPN FC on condition of anonymity, one source connected to the USSF leadership structure bemoaned the fact that, in the case of national team coaching hires, Gulati would negotiate the deal himself and expect the board to go along with it.That approach has led to some hiring decisions — Jurgen Klinsmann on the men’s side and Tom Sermanni on the women’s — which later backfired; the time has come to get more soccer-savvy people involved in processes such as choosing who will lead national teams at the senior level.There have also been rumblings among rank and file members at the youth and adult soccer levels that the federation has forced issues down their throats, such as the implementation of the Development Academy. The question of what exactly the federation does for its members has become a talking point among various candidates, who would like to succeed Gulati.A backlash to his leadership style appears to be coming to a head and sources have told ESPN FC that one of the agenda items for a Dec. 10 meeting of the USSF Board of Directors will involve reining in the power of the presidency. The position would be more of a collaborative, chairman-of-the-board role, instead of one all-powerful individual driving the decision-making process.Above all else there is the issue of accountability. While it’s true that Gulati didn’t kick a ball during the disastrous qualifying effort for Russia 2018, his decisions in terms of coaching hires played a part in what happened and, as a result, made his position untenable.Without question, Gulati possesses valuable institutional knowledge; he has served in various soccer administration capacities for over three decades and that know-how should not be cast aside. He is well positioned to remain an asset and is chairman of the United Bid Committee that, along with Mexico and Canada, is looking to bring the 2026 World Cup to North America. Further, his spot on the FIFA Council remains secure.The issue of Gulati’s ultimate legacy remains complicated. The aforementioned growth he oversaw can’t be ignored. Neither can his close proximity to Chuck Blazer and the corruption that engulfed both CONCACAF and FIFA. And he will forever be associated with the recent World Cup qualifying failure. There is also the continuing lawsuit with the NASL and its uncertain future, and the ongoing tension with the women’s national team.Yet in terms of how Gulati will be remembered, there are additional chapters to be written. Losing out on hosting the 2022 World Cup to Qatar remains a significant blemish on his professional career and so the 2026 bid is an opportunity to ease the pain of past disappointment and once again help grow the sport in the United States.But that’s for the longer-term future. More immediately, the USSF has an opportunity to move forward and, come February, a new leader will be elected to oversee just that.

Christian Pulisic among U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year nominees

ESPN staff

  • FacebookJozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris and Christian Pulisic have been nominated for U.S. Soccer Male Player of the Year, the federation announced on Tuesday.

The winner will be announced on ESPN later this month.Pulisic, who was named the Young Male Player of the Year a year ago, led the finalists with six goals for the national team in 2017, while also starring for Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga and Champions League.Dempsey had five U.S. goals — three in a hat trick against Hondruas in March — and was recently named MLS’s Comeback Player of the Year after recovering from a heart ailment.Altidore, last year’s winner, and Morris both scored four times for the U.S., with Morris netting a late winner to win the Gold Cup final against Jamaica in July.But after picking up a hamstring injury in August, Morris was absent as the U.S. lost to Trinidad and Tobago and failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.Morris could return to start for Seattle in Saturday’s MLS Cup final, when he and Dempsey will face off against Altidore and Bradley on Toronto FC.Josh Sargent is a nominee for the Young Male Player of the Year alongside Tim Weah, Tyler Adams, Luca de la Torre, Jonathan Gonzalez and Erik Palmer-Brown.Sargent scored three goals at the Under-17 World Cup and four at the Under-20 World Cup, before earning a first call-up to the senior team camp last month.Weah also starred at the U17 event, while Adams, De la Torre and Palmer-Brown impressed at the U20. Gonzalez was nominated despite his international future remaining unclear, with Mexico continuing to pursue the teenager.Julie Ertz, Lindsey Horan, Samantha Mewis, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe were nominated as the top women’s player.Carli Lloyd was left off despite being one of three finalists for FIFA’s top player in the world.The nominees for Young Female Player of the Year are Savannah McCaskill, Sophia Smith, Tierna Davidson, Jaelin Howell and Kate Wiesner.The Disabled Player of the Year nominees are Sean Boyle, Drew Bremer and Kevin Hensley of the Paralympic National Team and Michael Archer of the Power Soccer National Team.

SUM’s Kathy Carter announces candidacy for U.S. Soccer president

ESPN staff

Soccer United Marketing president Kathy Carter has confirmed she has entered the race to become U.S. Soccer Federation president.Carter, who helps to run the marketing arm of Major League Soccer, had told ESPN FC on Sunday that she was exploring the possibility of running for the election in February, saying she would use her experience to help achieve “excellence at every level.”On Tuesday, she confirmed on Twitter that she had decided to enter the race, writing: “I’m excited to announce my candidacy for President of @ussoccer.” She has taken leave of her post at SUM.The news comes a day after Sunil Gulati, the longtime president of U.S. Soccer, told ESPN he would not seek another term. A source told ESPN FC on Sunday that Carter would run at the urging of Gulati and MLS commissioner Don Garber as their preferred choice, but Gulati declined to endorse any candidate.In an open letter published on her website, Carter wrote: “The most crucial times are when the most capable leaders need to step up. Our federation is at one of those moments right now, and I am excited to announce my candidacy for president of the United States Soccer Federation. Soccer can, and should, become the leading sport in America, and I intend to make that vision a reality.”The game of soccer has been a consistent thread through every aspect of my life. I have spent more than 40 years as a player, executive, and fan of the beautiful game. The United States Soccer Federation needs new leadership that understands both business operations and the game. Our growth and advancement as a sport require excellence at every level — from our youth and adult programs to our professional leagues to our national teams.”rter is a defender of gender equity in the sport, believing the men’s and the women’s teams should be treated equally. She told The Associated Press: “There should be no delineation between our teams or our programs, for that matter.”Carter is the only woman in a crowded candidate field that includes former U.S. internationals Paul Caligiuri, Kyle Martino and Eric Wynalda; USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro; attorneys Steve Gans and Mike Winograd; and entrepreneur Paul Lapointe. They will all need to have three nominations from current board members by Dec. 12.Carter has a long career on the business side of the game, having served as a vice president for Anschutz Entertainment Group, which owns the LA Galaxy. She has also worked in an executive capacity for Envision, as well as ISL United States, a subsidiary of the company that at one point did business with FIFA, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Association of Athletics Federations.ISL went bankrupt in 2001 amid hundreds of millions of dollars of debt, and was later found to have paid bribes to leading soccer figures, including former FIFA president Joao Havelange and then-FIFA Executive Committee member Ricardo Teixeira. Carter wasn’t implicated in any of the corrupt activity.Carter also worked on the organizing committee for the 1994 World Cup, and served as MLS’s vice president of corporate marketing, from the league’s inception until late 1999.

Carter also has experience on the playing side of the game, having played in college as a goalkeeper at William & Mary.”My 25 years of professional experience give me relationships and perspective from the corporate, media, and soccer industry, and I look forward to expanding this knowledge as I engage the many stakeholders that drive this game at the grassroots,” she wrote.”I am committed to embracing fresh perspectives on how to advance the game, and I will work tirelessly to deliver results for the federation’s members, players, and fans. It is also important to clearly articulate why I am running and what I think we can achieve together.”While Carter’s resume is extensive, she will run into resistance from some segments of the USSF’s voting membership that view her tenure at SUM as problematic. The failure of the U.S. men’s national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup has led many to call for a break from the leadership of Gulati, and Carter will be seen by some quarters as representing the status quo.The issue of the conflict of interest between MLS, SUM, and the USSF — which has a deep business relationship with SUM — will also draw fire from opponents. On Sunday, one source characterized her potential candidacy as a “Hail Mary” on the part of Gulati and Garber to have a preferred candidate in the field.

Top 10 Takeaways From the 2018 World Cup Draw

QUICKLY ■ The World Cup draw has given us plenty to stew on for the coming months, with storylines and marquee matchups galore in store this coming summer. Here are some of the biggest talking points following the fanfare in Moscow. By GRANT WAHL

December 01, 2017 The draw for World Cup 2018 took place on Friday, and there’s plenty to talk about. Here are my 10 thoughts on the event, starting with the shadow hanging over it all in these parts of the world, where it was yet another gut punch for USA fans given the painful reminder that their team won’t be participating. If the night of October 10 was the worst night for fans of the United States—that, after all, was the night the U.S. lost to Trinidad and Tobago and failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986—then Friday was the second-worst feeling. Seeing all 32 World Cup teams learn their group opponents reminded everyone that the U.S. somehow couldn’t advance from one of the world’s easiest qualifying regions and somehow couldn’t advance from a group that provided an enormous margin for error. It’s still a surreal feeling that the U.S. won’t be in Russia next year, but as Friday showed, it’s very much real, indeed. As for the nations that will be participating:


FIFA changed the rules for this World Cup draw and for the first time seeded all 32 teams (according to the FIFA rankings) instead of just the top eight. For the first time in recorded history, I find myself writing: Good idea, FIFA! Instead of using a format that produced wildly imbalanced groups over the years, this FIFA draw created much more balanced groups that are in the interest of sporting equality and good soccer. Yes, there are some difficult groups (like Group D with Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria), and there are some easier ones (like Group A with Russia, Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia), but nobody truly got screwed, and nobody got a truly gift draw. Except for …


You can start up the conspiracy theory machine for FIFA and the Russian hosts, who boast the lowest-ranked team in the entire 32-nation field. Of the 24 teams that Russia could have drawn for its opening-game opponent, it just so happened to get Saudi Arabia—the next-to-lowest-ranked team in the 32-nation field. If Russia can bag three points in its first game with the whole world watching, its chances of advancing will increase dramatically. Nor is it inconceivable that the Russians could follow that up with another couple of points against Group A opponents Uruguay and Egypt. World Cups are always more fun when the host country does well, and the chances of the host country to survive group play increased dramatically on Friday.


El Tri has gone out in its fourth game of the last six World Cups, and so its quest for El Quinto Partido has taken on a mythical significance. Friday’s draw didn’t help, however. I think Mexico will advance from a group that includes Germany, Sweden and South Korea—although Sweden could improve dramatically if Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes out of international retirement—but the problem for Mexico is who stands in its way. It will be awfully hard to take first place in its group ahead of defending champion Germany, and if Mexico finishes second it will likely have to face Brazil in the round of 16. If Mexico fulfills its quest for the Fifth Game, it will have to earn it.


Forget the stinker on the very first day between Russia and Saudi Arabia. The three days after that each have some mouth-watering matchups. Day Two features Portugal against Spain, which will pit Cristiano Ronaldo’s European champions against my pick to win the tournament. Let’s just say there will be plenty of familiarity between the Spanish club-based players in this game. Day Three SOCCER PLANET FUTBOL 12/7/2017 2018 World Cup: 10 takeaways from the draw in Russia | SI.com https://www.si.com/soccer/2017/12/01/2018-world-cup-draw-takeaways-russia-mexico-belgium-africa 2/4 brings us Argentina-Iceland, which will have Lionel Messi (going after his elusive World Cup triumph) coming up against the tournament’s most popular underdog. Day Four gives us Germany-Mexico, an opportunity for El Tri to measure itself up against the defending champs.


Back in the 1990s, everyone said it wouldn’t be long before an African team won the World Cup. We’re still waiting for it, and in fact African teams have greatly underperformed in recent World Cups (and have yet to put a team in the semifinals). That could change this time around. I have Egypt, Nigeria and Senegal emerging from their groups, and I would be stunned if one or more of them doesn’t make the quarterfinals. (Morocco, which didn’t give up a goal in six final-round qualifying games, could also make a run.) In fact, this tournament could see Egypt’s Mohamed Salah break out into becoming a legit global superstar. The Egyptians should be one of the happiest teams from Friday’s draw after being put in a group with Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia. Introducing


Based on talent alone, this glorious Belgium team is one of the top four nations in the tournament. But will it become one of the top four teams by making the semifinals? Belgium went out in the quarterfinals of both World Cup 2014 (to Argentina) and Euro 2016 (to Wales), and if it fails to make a deep run this time around, there will be plenty of questions about whether this amazing generation has run out of chances. Perhaps the biggest problem in the last two major tournaments was coach Marc Wilmots, who was hopelessly out of his depth. Roberto Martínez is an upgrade. Belgium drew a relatively easy group (England, Tunisia, Panama), and even the second round shouldn’t be a killer, but a potential quarterfinal game against Brazil would be a real measuring stick of whether Belgium can win the World Cup.


Consider Group H, with Poland, Colombia, Senegal and Japan. Nobody in the group will be seen as a real threat to win the tournament, but you could envision scenarios in which any of the four advance to the knockout rounds. It’s not a Group of Death, but rather a Group of Extreme Parity. That should make things fun for neutrals, who simply want to see as much entertaining soccer as possible. The same type of parity can be seen in Group D (Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria). The only team that most would think has a chance to win the World Cup is Argentina—and even that point is debatable—but all four are good teams. Why it took so long for FIFA to seed all 32 teams at the draw is beyond me, but I’m glad it finally



With more balanced groups, one hopes that the international game will begin to have a resurgence in comparison to the club game. One unfortunate development in recent times has been the suffering in quality of international soccer, which has fallen significantly below that of club soccer. The measuring stick for quality these days is the UEFA Champions League, not the World Cup, and that’s a shame. We could use a World Cup that excites the masses around the world with the style of its play, but there’s certainly no guarantee that will happen.


I don’t have a single team from Asia advancing from its group. The current editions of Australia, Japan and South Korea just aren’t as good as the predecessors from their countries, and Saudi Arabia’s goal should be simply not to be as awful as the 2002 Saudi World Cup team was. One potential ray of hope for Asia is Iran, which was dominant in World Cup qualifying and could 12/7/2017 2018 World Cup: 10 takeaways from the draw in Russia

World Cup Power Rankings: How the 2018 Field of 32 Nations Stacks Up

QUICKLY ■ Now that qualifying for the 2018 World Cup is over, it’s time to size up the eld. Here’s a rst look at how the contenders in Russia stack up ahead of the Dec. 1 draw in Moscow, when we’ll learn each team’s path to the trophy. By JONATHAN WILSON November 16, 2017 SI

With the field of the 32 nations who will compete at the World Cup in Russia next summer completed by Peru’s success in Lima Wednesday night, there’s little time to waste in ranking the sides headed to the showcase event by making an initial assessment of their form. Sure, there is plenty left to be decided. Which nations have managerial issues to resolve? Who knows what their starting lineup is likely to be? Who is praying for their key center forward to stay fit? Everything, of course, could change with the answers to those questions and the fallout from the group draw on Dec. 1, but, with all else being equal, who are the likely winners and who’s just glad to going to Russia? Here’s how we see the World Cup field stacking up:

  1. BRAZIL Six games into qualifying, Brazil had won only twice and looked in serious danger of failing to qualify. Going out of the Copa America Centenario in the group stage confirmed the moribund state of the Brazilian game. But then Tite replaced Dunga as manager, and the whole set-up changed. This Brazil plays modern, aggressive football, is far less reliant on Neymar and won 10 and drew two of its final 12 games to qualify, a full 10 points clear at the top of the CONMEBOL table. Best Finish: Champions (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
  2. SPAIN

Eliminated in the group stage in the last World Cup and then beaten by Italy in the last 16 of Euro 2016, the curtain seemed to have come down on the golden age of Spanish football. But after replacing Vicente Del Bosque, Julen Lopetegui has rejuvenated the side. Its 3-0 win over Italy in qualifying offered a clear warning that Spain is back. Best Finish: Champions (2010)


Germany disappointed at Euro 2016, never really hitting top form and being wellbeaten by France in the semifinal. Since then, though, it has qualified for the World Cup with a perfect 10-0-0 record and won the Confederations Cup with what was, in effect, a reserve side. Manager Jogi Low has used 36 players over the past two years, which for another manager might be a sign of chaos; for him it’s an indicator of strength. Best Finish: Champions (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)


This is a ridiculously gifted generation of French players who really should have won the Euros on home soil last summer. The sense, though, is that Didier Deschamps is not necessarily the man to get the best out if them, and the 4-4-2 he has adopted of late seems a weirdly blockish solution that leads to predictability. Best Finish: Champions (1998) 12/7/2017 World Cup Power Rankings:


Now that it has been relieved of the handicap of Marc Wilmots, can Belgium’s golden generation make good on its promise? Under Roberto Martinez, Belgium qualified with ease, dropping only two points. Kevin De Bruyne has thrived in a slightly deeper role, but the question, as ever with Martinez, is whether the side will be able to cope defensively against better opposition. De Bruyne has already questioned Martinez’s tactics. Best Finish: Fourth Place (1986)


Qualification was traumatic, but with the dust settled, Argentina remains in a strong position. For all the doubts about players coming through, this remains a strong squad, overloaded with gifted forwards and, by appointing Jorge Sampaoli, it did, at the third attempt, get the right manager. Lionel Messi’s (probable) final chance at a World Cup may be the one he takes. Best Finish: Champions (1978, 1986)


Portugal is the European champion and breezed through qualification by winning nine games in a row after losing the opener in Switzerland. Cristiano Ronaldo gives the goalscoring edge, but its real strength is in the solidity of the midfield. Best Finish: Third Place (1966)


The stereotype of Uruguay is of defensive resolve, stifling tactics and a pragmatism that can tip into cynicism. This side, though, had the second-best scoring record in South American World Cup qualifying and looks to take full advantage of the abilities of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Best Finish: Champions (1930, 1950)


A mood of persistent frustration hangs over England, so much so that the general reaction to its unbeaten qualification was a collective yawn about the way the Three Lions had trudged through a less-than-testing group. Harry Kane and a highly gifted emerging generation, though, offer some hope. Best Finish: Champions (1966)


If football were just about players, Croatia would never have needed a playoff to qualify. It may lack a defensive midfielder but has a great wealth of creators. But with hardcore fans at war with the federation, which belatedly replaced their manager Ante Cacic, Croatia was underachieving desperately until Zlatko Dalic took over. He secured the win Croatia needed against Ukraine in the final qualifier, and the side then cruised through its playoff against Greece, winning 4-1. Best Finish: Third Place (1998)

  1. COLOMBIA James Rodriguez was the breakout star of the last World Cup, and there is a sense that he has perhaps stagnated thanks to the glut of talent at Real Madrid. If he can rediscover his form at Bayern Munich, though, and with Radamel Falcao enjoying a late-career renaissance, Jose Pekerman’s side could be a threat. Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2014)

The Swiss qualified thanks to a very dodgy penalty in the playoff against Northern Ireland, and struggled to impose themselves in that series, but Vladimir Petkovic’s wellbalanced side won all of its first nine qualifiers and has, in Ricardo Rodriguez and Stephan Lichtsteiner, a pair of excellent attacking fullbacks. Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1934, 1938, 1954)


Poland is ranked sixth in the world, which is evidence of just how much impact the trick of not playing friendlies can be. This, after all, is a side that in September lost 4-0 to Denmark. But it is generally solid and has, in Robert Lewandowski, one of the best strikers in the world. Best Finish: Third Place (1974, 1982)

  1. RUSSIA Only one host nation has ever failed to make it through the group stage of a World Cup, but Russia could be the second. The gifted generation that reached the semifinal of Euro 2008 grew old together and Stanislav Cherchesov has struggled to rejuvenate a squad that is heavily reliant on Alan Dzagoev for creativity. Best Finish: Fourth Place (1966)

Juan Carlos Osorio is a controversial figure, with many feeling he rotates too often and question his hard-pressing. His players, though, seem generally enthused, and Mexico finished top of CONCACAF qualifying as well as getting out of their group at the Confederations Cup. After eliminations at the round of 16 in the last six World Cups, Osorio’s first target must be set on reaching the quarterfinals. Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1970, 1986)

  1. ICELAND After eliminating England to reach the quarterfinal of the Euros last summer, Iceland kicked on to become, by some distance, the smallest nation ever to qualify for a World Cup, finishing top of an awkward group that also included Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey. Gylfi Sigurdsson is the highest-profile player, but no side will have such a ferocious team spirit. Best Finish: N/A

Denmark may have required a playoff to qualify, but that was because of results early in qualifying. More recently, the Danes put four past Poland and Montenegro and five past Ireland. Their Norwegian coach, Age Hareide, favors a direct approach and has made them defensively solid, but they also have the technical quality to unpick sides. Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1998)

  1. IRAN Carlos Queiroz has been in charge of Iran for six years now. His side qualified unbeaten, letting in just two goals in 10 games in the final group, and can be relied upon to play in the characteristic Quieroz way, full of neat, technical, risk-averse football.

Inconsistency and underachievement have characterized Nigerian football over the past decade. The Super Eagles have failed to qualify for three of the last four Africa Cup of Nations tournaments but won the one they did get to. Under Gernot Rohr, though, there is a sense of renewal, and they ended up topping a brutally tough qualifying group with relative comfort. A 4-2 friendly victory over a (Messi-less) Argentina this week was hugely impressive. Best Finish: Round of 16 (1994, 1998, 2014)


The Swedes dug deep and held firm to beat Italy over two legs and seem to have improved as a team since the retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Memories of their dismal Euro 2016 lurk in the background, and there is a lack of obvious creativity, but this is a side that also beat France in qualifying. Best Finish: Runner-up (1958)


Herve Renard’s record as an international coach is remarkable. He’s the only man to win the Cup of Nations with two different sides (Zambia, Ivory Coast) and he’s now taken Morocco to its first World Cup since 1998, coming out on top of a group that included Ivory Coast–without conceding a goal. Best Finish: Round of 16 (1986)

  1. JAPAN

There is an awkward sense about Japanese football that it has plateaued. The Samurai Blue finished top of their qualifying group and have an experienced coach in Vahid Halilhodzic, but, having been knocked out of the 2015 Asian Cup in the quarterfinals, there’s no reason to believe they’ll improve on their habit of alternating between group stage and last 16 exits. Best Finish: Round of 16 (2002, 2010)


No side that finished top of its group in European qualifying collected fewer points than Serbia. This is a talented group, particularly in midfield, but the specter of past disintegrations at tournaments haunts them, and the chances of another potential collapse were only increased when Slavoljub Muslin was removed as coach after qualifying essentially because his football had been insufficiently exciting. Best Finish: Group Stage (2010)

  1. EGYPT

This is Egypt’s first World Cup since 1990, but it won a hat trick of Cups of Nations between 2006 and 2010. Having failed to make the following three Cups of Nations, the Pharaohs returned to the tournament this year and showed all the familiar defensive qualities, augmented by the pace of Mohamed Salah on the break, to reach the final. Best Finish: Group Stage (1934, 1990)


Senegal qualified unbeaten at the top of an awkward group that included Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and South Africa. The Lions of Teranga have pace and attacking flair on the flanks with Sadio Mane and Keita Balde and solidity in midfield with Idrissa Gueye. They disappointed at the Cup of Nations, though, eliminated in the quarterfinal by Cameroon. Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2002)


South Korea struggled to second in its qualifying group, behind Iran, losing three of its 10 games. The squad should be better than that, though, as it features the likes of Son Heung-min (Tottenham), Lee Chung-yong (Crystal Palace) and Ji Dong-won (Augsburg). Best Finish: Fourth Place (2002)

  1. PERU

Peru is ranked 10th in the world, which is another lesson about the benefit of not playing friendlies. Ricardo Gareca’s side is well-organized and has impressed in recent tournaments, reaching the semifinal of the Copa America in 2015 and losing on penalties in the quarterfinal of the Copa America Centenario a year later. If Paolo Guerrero’s doping ban is confirmed and extended through the summer, though, it will be desperately short of firepower. Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1970)


Reaching the last eight four years ago looks like being the summit for a generation. Costa Rica has regressed since then, as a number of key players have aged. The Ticos 12/7/2017 World Cup Power Rankings: How the field of 32 teams stacks up | SI.com https://www.si.com/soccer/2017/11/16/world-cup-power-rankings-russia-2018 10/13 finished second behind Mexico but managed just two wins away from home in the hexagonal. Best Finish: Quarterfinals (2014)

  1. TUNISIA A 2-1 win over DR Congo in September effectively sealed Tunisia’s place in Russia, but it will go there with limited ambition after a hugely disappointing Cup of Nations in which it was eliminated by Burkina Faso in the quarterfinal. That led–eventually–to the departure of manager Henryk Kasperczak and his replacement, Nabil Maaloul. Best Finish: Group Stage (1978, 1998, 2002, 2006)

Ange Postecoglu’s side eventually qualified via a playoff, beating Honduras 3-1 over two legs, but the big concern must be that the Socceroos haven’t won any of their last nine games outside of Australia. Best Finish: Round of 16 (2006)

  1. SAUDI ARABIA Saudi Arabia scraped to an automatic World Cup berth on goal difference ahead of Australia, but lost three of their five away games, beating only Thailand and Iraq on the road. The manager who guided the side through qualifying, Bert van Marwijk, failed to agree to a new contract and was replaced by former Argentina manager Edgardo Bauza. Best Finish: Round of 16 (1994)
  2. PANAMA Hernan Dario Gomez’s side qualified in third place in CONCACAF, but averaged less than a goal a game and won only one game away from home in the hexagonal. It’s a just reward for a veteran core.


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11/30/17 MLS Playoffs Tonite – Seattle vs Houston 10:30 ESPN, IU Hoosiers 1 Game from College Cup Fri Night 7 pm, World Cup Draw Fri 10 am, Champs League Tues/Wed  

 So the MLS Western Conference finals will wrap up tonight at US star Clint Dempsey looks to go to the finals for his first time.  Seattle will host Houston tonight on ESPN at 10:30 pm with a 2 goal lead coming in.  The winner will face Toronto who edged Columbus last night in a 1 – 0 thriller where Jozy Altidore scored a screamer in the 60th minute.  Honestly Columbus played their hearts out on the road and had every chance to win – they just couldn’t find the net – despite their keeper making spectacular saves including a PK – Toronto pulled it off.  The winners tonight will square off at Toronto next Saturday, Dec 9th at 4 pm on ESPN for the MLS Cup. Here’s hoping for a rematch of last year’s thriller !

The World Cup draw will be tomorrow live from Russia at 10 am on Fox Sports 1 – the 32 team field will be announced and the pods drawn as we get set to see who’s in the group of death this year.  Go Iceland!  Champions League will set the final teams for the Sweet 16 on Tues/Wed of this weekend.  Dortmund is out but all 4 English teams look to advance for the first time in a long time.  Speaking of Dortmund US 19 YO Superstar Pulisic is expected to return this weekend as they face Leverkusen at 9:30 am on FS2 Saturday morning.  Arsenal of course hosts Man United on NBC Sat at 12:30 pm as both hot teams battle for 2nd in the EPL, while US youngster Weston Mckinnie and Schalke host Koln in the German Bundesliga at 12:30 on FS2.  I do want to big a fond farewell to one of my favorite websites – as ESPNFC – is no more.  They have added a soccer tab to ESPN – but it is not the same and it appears many of the featured writers they had might well be gone.  Sad to see – as Soccer was really catching fire in the US – what effects the US not being in the world cup will bring.  If ESPNFC going away is an indication – boo hoo.  (so I have been swamped this week – but I will update the Champions League stories before kickoff on Tuesday check out and Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com

Champions League permutations: Who needs what to go through?

Monday 4 December 2017 by Paul Saffer

Barcelona, Bayern, Chelsea, Beşiktaş, Manchester City, Paris, Real Madrid and Tottenham are through. What do the 14 teams vying for the eight remaining places need to join them?

 Barcelona , Bayern München, Beşiktaş, Chelsea, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur are through to the UEFA Champions League round of 16 and 14 teams will compete for the eight remaining berths on 5 and 6 December. UEFA.com explains the permutations.

  • Through to round of 16: Barcelona*, Bayern München, Beşiktaş*, Chelsea, Manchester City*, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur* (*group winners)
  • Can qualify on matchday six: Atlético Madrid, Basel, CSKA Moskva, Juventus, Leipzig, Liverpool, Manchester United, Napoli, Porto, Roma, Sevilla, Shakhtar Donetsk, Spartak Moskva, Sporting CP
  • Cannot finish in top two: Anderlecht, APOEL, Borussia Dortmund, Celtic
  • Will finish fourth: Benfica, Feyenoord, Maribor, Monaco, Olympiacos, Qarabağ 
  • Full standings

All information in this article is subject to final confirmation from UEFA. These examples may not cover all potential situations.


Group A: Manchester United (12 points) v CSKA Moskva (9), Benfica (0) v Basel (9)

  • Manchester Unitedwould qualify in first place with a point (and can afford to lose by six goals and still go through). If they lose to CSKA and Basel do not win, United and CSKA will go through with first place determined by head-to-head results between the two; United won 4-1 in Russia and would have the superior overall goal difference if they lose 4-1. If CSKA and Basel win, the top two will be decided in a three-way head to head; United would be through in this situation unless they lost by seven goals, and would be top unless they lost by five goals).
  • Baselwill go through if they better CSKA’s result, or if both teams draw or lose due to their superior head-to-head. If CSKA and Basel win, the top two will be decided in a three-way head to head, and Basel would be through unless CSKA win by a margin of between three and six goals inclusive).
  • CSKAmust pick up more points than Basel to ensure second place (if both win, CSKA must win by a margin of three goals to go through in the three-way head-to-head and by a margin of five goals to finish top).
  • Benficawill finish bottom.

Group B: Bayern München (12) v Paris Saint-Germain (15), Celtic (3) v Anderlecht (0)

  • Paris and Bayernare both through, with top spot still to play for ahead of their matchday six meeting. Paris won the first game between the sides 3-0 and also lead on overall goal difference so Bayern must win by a four-goal margin to finish top.
  • Celticand Anderlecht can both still finish third. Anderlecht were beaten 3-0 at home by Celtic so the Belgian side must win by a three-goal margin in Glasgow to go into the UEFA Europa League (if they win 3-0, Anderlecht finish third on overall goal difference).

Group C: Roma (8) v Qarabağ (2), Chelsea (10) v Atlético Madrid (6)

  • Chelseaare through. They will secure first place with victory or if Roma fail to win.
  • Roma will go through with a win, or if Atlético fail to win. If Roma win and Chelsea do not, Roma win the group.
  • Atléticoneed to win and hope Roma do not to finish second (if they both finish on nine points, Atlético have the superior head-to-head).
  • Qarabağwill finish bottom.

Group D: Olympiacos (1) v Juventus (8), Barcelona (11) v Sporting CP (7)

  • Barcelona are through as group winners.
  • Juventus will be through with a win, or if Sporting fail to gain victory (if they finish level on points, Juve have the superior head-to-head).
  • Sportinghave to win, and will reach the last 16 if they win and Juventus do not.
  • Olympiacos will finish bottom.


Group E: Maribor (2) v Sevilla (8), Liverpool (9) v Spartak Moskva (6)

  • Liverpool will qualify with a draw, and will clinch first place with a win, or a draw if Sevilla fail to win. If Liverpool lose they are out unless Sevilla are also defeated (as Liverpool would be below Spartak in a two-way head-to-head or would be third in a three-way head-to-head on nine points).
  • Sevillawill qualify with a draw, or if Spartak fail to win. Sevilla clinch first place if they win and Liverpool do not.
  • Spartakwould be through with a win or third with any other result. If Spartak win they will finish top unless Sevilla also win.
  • Mariborwill finish fourth

Group F: Feyenoord (0) v Napoli (6), Shakhtar Donetsk (9) v Manchester City (15)

  • City are through as group winners.
  • Shakhtarwill be through if they avoid defeat or if Napoli do not win.
  • Napolimust win and hope Shakhtar lose; in that case Napoli would finish second on head-to-head.
  • Feyenoordwill finish fourth.

Group G: Porto (7) v Monaco (2), RB Leipzig (7) v Beşiktaş (11)

  • Beşiktaş are through as group winners.
  • Portoare through if they win, or as long as they are at least level on points with Leipzig due to their superior head-to-head (on goal difference).
  • Leipzigmust pick up more points than Porto to finish second.
  • Monacowill finish fourth.

Group H: Real Madrid (10) v Borussia Dortmund (2), Tottenham Hotspur (13) v APOEL (2)

  • Tottenham have qualified as group winners due to their superior head-to-head over Madrid.
  • Madrid have qualified as group runners-up.
  • Dortmund and APOELwill contest third place. In case both teams draw Dortmund will be qualified due to superior goal difference in all matches. In case both teams win or lose the final ranking will depend on the number of goals scored and conceded in the last two matches.

Standings are provisional until all matches have been played.

No. 2 Hoosiers Host No. 7 Michigan State on Friday in NCAA Tournament Tix $10

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The No. 2-seeded Indiana University men’s soccer team will host the No. 7 Michigan State Spartans in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on Friday, Dec. 1 at Jerry Yeagley Field at Bill Armstrong Stadium.
Kickoff for the match is set for 7:00 p.m. ET. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for youth (18 & under) and can be purchased at IUHoosiers.com.  Indiana University students will get in free as IU Athletics will purchase their tickets for each round of the NCAA Tournament that the Hoosiers host. Students must show student ID at the ticket window to redeem free ticket.  A free live-stream of the match is available on BTN2Go.com, with live stats for the match at IUHoosiers.com.

• The No. 2-seeded Hoosiers will host the Michigan State Spartans in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament on Friday at Jerry Yeagley Field at Bill Armstrong Stadium in Bloomington, Ind.
• Indiana earned the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the season undefeated with an overall record of 15-0-5.
• Indiana finished the regular season undefeated for the third time in program history, ending with a 13-0-4 mark. IU also finished regular season unblemished in 1976 (15-0-1) and 1997 (18-0).
• Freshman goalkeeper Trey Muse has played well this season, posting a NCAA-best 17 shutouts while allowing just five goals with 53 saves.
• Freshman Mason Toye leads the Hoosiers with a Big Ten-leading 10 goals and 22 points on the season, while Cory Thomas has seven goals on the year.
• Trevor Swartz leads the team with seven assists on the season.

IU legacy builds as they try to make the College Cup  Indy Star

#1 IU to Host #7 Mich State at IU on Friday Night to see who goes to College Cup

Chance is there for Unbeaten IU

Men’s Bracket –  Louisville and Indiana U still alive

WORLD CUP 2018 The GROUPS – Draw on Friday Morning

 GROUP A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia

GROUP B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco

GROUP C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia

GROUP D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria

GROUP E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia

GROUP F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

GROUP G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama

GROUP H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan


Thurs Nov 30

10:30 pm ESPN         Houston  vs Seattle Sounders  (2-0)  (West Conf Final Leg 2)

Fri, Dec 1

10 am   Fox Sport 1   World Cup Draw 2018 from Russia

2:45 pm beIn Sport Napoli vs Juventus

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Frieburg vs Hamburger (Woods)

5 pm ESPNU                   Stanford vs South Carolina (NCAA Final 4 Womens)

7 pm  Big 10 Stream                        Indiana U Men host Mich State at IU – live stream

7:30 pm ESPNU            UCLA vs Duke (NCAA Final 4 Womens)

Sat, Dec 2

7:30 am NBCSN            Chelsea vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

9:30 am FS 1                  Bayern Munich vs Hannover

9:30 am FS2                    Leverkusen vs Borussian Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Brighton vs Liverpool

10 am CNBC                    Tottenham vs Watford

12:30 pm NBC              Arsenal vs Man United  

12:30 pm FS2                Schalke (US 19 yr old Weston Mckennie) vs Koln

Sun, Dec 3

9:30 am FS 1                  Hertha vs Frankfurt

11 am NBCSN                Man City vs West Ham

Tues, Dec 5 – Champs League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2    Man United vs CSK Moscow

2:45 pm Fox Soccer     Chelsea vs Atletico Madrid

2:45 pm ESPN3 FS+      Barcelona vs Sporting CP

2:45 pm ESPN3               Olympiakos vs Juventus

Wed, Dec 6  Champs League

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2    Liverpool vs Spartak Moskva

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1    Real Madrid vs Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic)

2:45 pm Facebook Live Shahktar vs Man City

2:45 pm ESPN3, Fox local   Tottenham vs APOEL

Sat, Dec 9

7:30 am NBCSN               West Ham vs Chelsea

10 am NbCSN                    Tottenham vs Stoke City (Cameron)

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2      B. M’gladbach (Johnson) vs Schalke (Mckinney)

4 pm ESPN                       Toronto vs Seattle  MLS Cup –

Sun, Dec 10

7 am NBCSN                       Southhampton vs Arsenal

9:15 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Everton – Derby

11:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Man City – Manchester Darby

EPL 2017 Schedule  

Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com

 MLS Playoffs

Seattle looks to finish off Houston Tonite – MLS.com

Columbus did all it could vs MLS Stalwart Toronto

Altidore Overcomes Injury to score winner for Toronto – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

4 Cities Named for next 2 MLS Teams – here’s hoping for Cincy – since Columbus is gone! Dec 6th


No Groups of Death this World Cup?

What to Expect of the Draw – Gab Marcotti ESPN

Ranking the Top Club Teams –

Man Uniteds Best Successes at Arsenal


Projecting the Ladies US WC Roster

Things to watch for in 2018 for the US Men

Is Youth Training to Blame for US Failure to Qualify LA Times

Resigning Italy President Remarks – give path to US  

Indy 11 Happy ThanksGiving from Owner  

US Players Abroad- Washington Post

US U17s lose to England 

College Cup Opportunity Beckons Unbeaten Indiana

Pete DiPrimioIUHoosiers.com

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The College Cup is there for the taking.Indiana aims to take it.The No. 2-seedeed Hoosiers (17-0-5) are one soccer victory away from a Final Four berth in Philadelphia.
Standing in their way — No. 7 seed Michigan State (13-3-3) Friday night at Armstrong Stadium. The teams played to a 1-1 tie at the end of the regular season.
That was significant because it cost IU the Big Ten title. “We drew them 1-1 when we needed to win the Big Ten regular season title,” senior Grant Lillard said, “so having a little revenge game is kind of nice.”History suggests revenge will be sweet. Indiana is 14-0 in NCAA Elite Eight matches at home, although the last one came in 2004.
“It will be fun,” coach Todd Yeagley said. “We want the fans to pack this place.” Added Lillard: I’m sure the place will be pumping.” IU and Michigan State are the last remaining Big Ten teams still in contention. The Hoosiers are eager to knock that down to one. “It’s nice being the two last two Big Ten teams,” Lillard said. “It’s kind of like, who wants to dominate the Big Ten and be the best team in the Big Ten.” The Spartans are making their third Elite Eight appearance in the last five seasons. They’ve allowed 12 goals this season while scoring 27.
“The focus is to execute what we do well,” Lillard said. “They’re a good defensive team. They’re tough to break down. We have to make sure we’re connecting simple passes. Being dangerous in the final third will be important.”IU has played in 18 College Cups, the last one coming in 2012, when it won its eighth and last national championship. Yeagley played on two College Cups as a player, in 1991 and ’94. “There’s nothing quite like the Final Four,” Yeagley said. “We want them to have that.” These Hoosiers, a dominant blend of offense and defense, are built to break through, Yeagley added.
“We’ve been so close with this group the last couple of years. In this sport, there are so many small factors that come in, but I feel confident this team has the make-up to move on.
“Balance in this team is a strength. Balance in our staff is a strength.” As far as any danger of looking past Michigan State, Yeagley said, “This group hasn’t looked ahead all year. They’ve stayed in the moment, in the process.”They knew this could be a special year. They never got hung up in that. They did things consistently and in the right way.” IU dominates the national statistics. It leads the nation in goals allowed, with just four. It’s also first in save percentage (0.917), shutout percentage (0.773) and team goals against average (0.213). The Hoosiers rank second in the nation in shots per game (17.5) and shots on goal (7.86). They’re 10th in scoring at 2.14 goals. Honors have followed. The staff of Yeagley associate head coach Brian Maisonneuve, assistant coach Kevin Robson and volunteer assistant Zac Brown were named Midwest Region Staff of the year by the United Soccer Coaches. They are in the running for national staff of the year. Also, Lillard is one of 15 semifinalists for the MAC Herman Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best soccer player. “It’s nice to be recognized like that,” Lillard said. “It speaks a lot of the guys on this team who don’t get recognized. “Our team defending has been wonderful this year, and not just because of me. It’s because a lot of guys have been contributing to that all season long.” Still, Lillard set the tone.”Grant has had a fantastic year,” Yeagley said. “There’s no doubt that he’s hit another gear. “We’ve pushed him. He’s challenged himself. You want that little bit more in there. Grant looks the way a senior and All-American and player of the year candidate should look. “He reminds the younger players what’s necessary. He understands all the situations. He’s been through everything. It’s the confidence you have when Grant is back there. That winning mentality.” Yeagley understands that winning mentality as well as anyone. He grew up with it under his father, Jerry, a Hall of Fame coach with six national titles on his resume.
The younger Yeagley has that 2012 championship, and wants more. “It’s overwhelming to think about what’s come before,” he said, “the unbelievable success my father had. You always feel like you’re chasing something that might be unattainable. “But if we stay to the plan with the right mentality and preparation, it often takes care of itself.”


No Groups of Death; rankings rule — What to expect at the World Cup draw

  • Gabriele Marcotti

For many, qualifying for the 2018 World Cup has been a procession — going through the motions toward the inevitable. For others, there has been suffering and insecurity right down to the final whistle of the final playoff game. And for others still, whether because they’ve been absent for decades or because it’s their first time, it’s been a magical journey, a flight into possibility.Then there are those who took for granted that they’d be a part of the World Cup and stumbled along the way: We don’t need to talk about them, but we know who they are. ADVERTISEMENT

But now Friday’s World Cup draw is nearly upon us. This is when things become a little more real, when teams can start to really dream and begin to map out pathways to immortality. This is when they project ahead seven months and try to learn as much as you can about their opponents, some of whom might be age-old rivals, some of whom they might never have seen (or even thought about). When they start to fret and anticipate in equal parts. When Russia stops being a concept and becomes a spiritual home. And when the world — at least for the 32 chosen ones — becomes a common ecosystem.Draw ceremonies are always rather awkward exercises: Former icons paraded around, quips from officials in suits, some music, some eye candy, montages about faraway cities (some of which you might never have heard of) and balls being drawn out of pots. But here are some things to consider as the event unfolds.

  1. Say goodbye to the Group of Death?

For the first time, pots will be based on FIFA rankings, rather than geographical factors. The only exception is Russia, who will be a top seed as host, as well as the stipulation that there can’t be more than one team from the same confederation in each group (two in the case of UEFA). Before, after the top seeds, teams were allocated to pots based on confederation, which facilitated unbalanced groups.What does this all mean? Theoretically, more balanced groups. Consider the “Group of Death.” It’s a trite, ugly and ultimately nonsensical term, but the good news is we likely won’t get one — at least not to the degree we did in the past.It also means that watching the draw unfold will feel a little different. It will be more like a Champions League draw, in which teams can get only certain opponents. Brazil, for example, know they will face either Spain, Switzerland, England, Mexico or Croatia from Pot 2.

  1. FIFA rankings rule

The seeds are based on FIFA rankings, which we know are imperfect and, to the casual observer, might seem a little screwy. You can live with Russia being given an edge by enjoying the top seed (they’re actually the lowest-ranked team in the World Cup), but to a casual observer, seeing Poland in Pot 1 and the likes of Spain and England in Pot 2 will feel weird, particularly when Poland failed to qualify for the past three World Cups and exited Euro 2016 at the quarterfinal stage.Blame the fact that the rankings, to some degree, can be gamed. But mostly, blame the fact that comparing nations who very rarely play one another is extremely difficult. And a ranking based over four years — perhaps necessary to account for freak results — becomes less relevant over time.

  1. Who gets Spain? And will England get Germany?

One obvious theme is that nobody in Pot 1 will want to get Spain, who most bookmakers have as fourth favorites, in Pot 2, but all are in danger of facing them. The prospect of an England vs. Germany group game — a tie drenched in history, and not just sporting — is also a real possibility. Further down, you might have your own choices of teams to avoid. In Pot 3, Senegal combine high-end defensive muscle (Kalidou Koulibaly, Cheikh Kouyate, Idrissa Gueye) with attacking flair (Sadio Mane, Keita Balde), while in Pot 4, Serbia have likely been flying under the radar and have plenty of big names and experience. (If you insist on having a Group of D—-, then Brazil, Spain, Senegal and Serbia might just be it.)But remember this, too. For all the familiar names you might spot, it really matters very little come June next year. Factors like chemistry, form and coaching carry far more weight than pedigree. Four years ago, Costa Rica were thrown in a group with three previous World Cup winners: Italy (4), Uruguay (2) and England (1). Guess who won the group and went on the quarterfinals? That’s right, Los Ticos, a team whose second-biggest name was — no disrespect — Bryan Ruiz.History matters less and less. We saw this very clearly last time around. Spain, the defending world champion, exited in the group stage. Germany and Brazil were nearly bounced out in the round of 16 by Chile and Algeria respectively. Switzerland made Lionel Messi and Argentina sweat into extra time.We can project who we fear and who we’d rather face. But, as with a horror movie, the threat can increasingly come from anywhere. The flip side of that is that anyone can dream and be made to look like a fool.At least until next June.

Seattle Sounders vs. Houston Dynamo
Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs – Western Conference Championship  CenturyLink Field – Seattle, Wash.
10:30 pm ET – Nov. 30, 2017  WATCH: ESPN, ESPN Deportes (USA) | TSN1, TVAS 2 (CAN)

The Houston Dynamo entered the first leg of their Western Conference final perhaps sensing they had nothing to lose. They could hardly be blamed for approaching the second wondering what may already be lost.After going down a goal and a man early and eventually succumbing to a 2-0 home defeat against the Seattle Sounders last Tuesday, only the Dynamo’s best away performance of 2017 would be enough from keeping holders Seattle from returning to MLS Cup.It could’ve been even worse if not for Joe Willis‘ save of a penalty conceded by Jalil Anibaba. With Anibaba dismissed for his foul and Houston playing a man down, Will Bruin‘s goal later in the first half to add to Gustav Svensson‘s opener ensured that Seattle left BBVA Compass Stadium with a two-goal advantage and the Dynamo with a steep hill to climb.Anibaba and striker Alberth Elis (yellow card accumulation) will also be suspended for the return leg. The latter’s absence means coach Wilmer Cabrera will almost certainly need offensive contributions from forwards Mauro Manotas or Erick Torres.Seattle centerback Roman Torres must also sit after receiving his second yellow card of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, which will disrupt his effective partnership with Chad Marshall. And it’s unclear if No. 1 goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s hamstring will have healed enough for the second leg after he missed the first.But the Sounders have suffered only one home defeat this season, a 1-0 loss to Toronto on May 6. Including the playoffs, they’ve won last four at CenturyLink Field (including the playoffs) by a combined 12-0 margin.Still, the residue of Houston’s stunning 2-1 win at Portland in the second leg of the conference semifinals shows there’s always a chance. How much of one? We’ll find out on Thursday.

Armchair Analyst: Tactical preview of Seattle vs. Houston in West 2nd leg

November 30, 20179:15AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

Sorry Houstonians, but I’m with Landon on this:I think Seattle ended this series in the first leg by hanging a pair of goals on the Dynamo. I just don’t see how Houston figure out a 3-1 result or better in Thursday night’s Leg 2 (10:30 pm ET; ESPN & ESPN Deportes in the US | TN1 & TVAS2 in Canada).

But there’s a reason they play the game, right? Strange things can happen in this league.

Seattle’s tactical plan: Capitalize on turnovers

The Sounders are without Roman Torres (yellow card accumulation), and likely without Ozzie Alonso (injury), and… yeah they’re still going to be fine. They might have to shuffle some pieces around – Gustav Svensson at center back? Nicolas Lodeiro as the No. 8? – but they’ve shuffled before, and mostly come up aces.

And in this case, they can shuffle with the knowledge that Houston’s going to have to get on the ball and carry most of the play. The Dynamo have to go out and score at least two goals, which they’re not going to be able to do unless they push numbers forward. Pushing numbers forward, of course, comes with risks specifically around turning the ball over. Turning the ball over leads to counterattacks. Counterattacks lead to goals:

Don’t expect Seattle to dominate possession. Do expect them to generate chances like this one.

Houston’s tactical plan: Spread Seattle from touchline to touchline & go in isolation

The Dynamo can’t afford to get cute and can’t afford to be passive. They’ve got to go out from the first whistle and drive at the Sounders with numbers using the whole width of the field.

Here’s how that looks:

Key to this: Wilmer Cabrera has to drop his fascination with Alex as a winger and start three true attackers across the frontline. Maybe that means giving Vicente Sanchez the go-ahead from the first minute, or maybe it means Mauro Manotas as a sort of miscast winger with Cubo Torres as the center forward, or maybe it means Andrew Wenger?

Whatever the case, there’s no use playing conservative for Cabrera. Go out like Butch & Sundance, please.

X-Factor Part 1: I’m gonna say Eric Alexander again

He didn’t have a great game in Leg 1, but he’s good enough to control things and put those wingers into space like he did against Portland, especially if Seattle are playing without a true defensive midfielder.

It’s not just that, though. It’s the fact that if Alexander plays his best and Lodeiro is used as a No. 8, it will make Lodeiro a more defensive and less influential attacking player.

X-Factor Part 2: Chad Marshall‘s fitness

He’s 33, and he’s just crested 35,000 professional minutes, and he’s already had one minor knock this postseason. If he takes another, then suddenly the door’s open for Houston.

Match-up No. 1: Joevin Jones vs. whoever’s at right back for Houston

With A.J. DeLaGarza‘s injury and Jalil Anibaba‘s suspension, the Dynamo have to go all the way down to No. 3 on the right defensive depth chart. Good luck!

Match-up No. 2: Tomas Martinez vs. Cristian Roldan

If Alonso’s out and Svensson is used in central defense, that leaves Roldan as the No. 6. He can do the job, but is much more of a No. 8. It’s not that Martinez will be able to totally lose him, but rather Martinez should be able to trouble Roldan in terms of distribution and tempo-setting – two areas in which he struggles anyway, and two ares that could lead to exploitable turnovers.

What’s it all mean?

I just don’t think the Dynamo have a chance. Great season, lots to build on going forward, but put a fork in this series.

Columbus could not have done any more vs. MLS’ elite team in Toronto

Graham Parker

It’s hard to see what else Columbus Crew SC could have done.The moment after a playoff loss is often the moment when the picture of a team falls sharply into focus; playoff momentum and the stories that go with it have a way of hiding deficiencies that seem glaring when a team’s campaign comes definitively to a halt. But looking back at Columbus picking its way through a playoff field to go within inches of eliminating Toronto — and all with an existential angst of relocation hanging over its head — there are few moments or traits that jump out as fatal flaws. Gregg Berhalter kept his machine competitive to the end, but the bigger, better machine of Toronto was ultimately able to make the fine-tuning adjustments to end Crew SC’s campaign.It’s been a season of two halves for the Crew. In early August they looked set for a second successive season of anonymity after the heights of hosting MLS Cup in 2015. Federico Higuain was missing, Ethan Finlay had been traded and the team was struggling to hold off Orlando for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff place.But slowly and surely, the team began to come together. Pedro Santos was signed and proved to be a versatile, key component of the team’s revival as Berhalter tinkered with the side and eased Higuain back to full effectiveness. Ola Kamara continued to score goals and gradually, and with few neutral observers taking notice at first, Crew SC stopped dropping points and began an inexorable climb up the standings — building dangerous unbeaten momentum as they arrived in the playoffs.Once there, the Crew’s playoff campaign was managed by Berhalter in resolutely organized fashion. Despite the revelation that the team could be no more in Ohio after 2018, and the emotions and rhetoric of the subsequent #SaveTheCrew campaign, Columbus’ players always looked more likely to take advantage of an opponent’s emotions than to get swept up by their own.Atlanta was dispatched in a febrile atmosphere at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, with the help of some woodwork and a performance for the ages by Zack Steffen, then New York City FC fell apart after Alexander Callens’ red card in the first leg. Even offered the chance to bully a weakened Toronto at home in the first leg of the Eastern Conference final, Berhalter elected to play the percentages and set himself up for an away goal at BMO Field.And it nearly paid off. Crew SC going three at the back from the start of the second leg had Toronto scrambling throughout the first half, as Berhalter got the tactical jump on Greg Vanney, the newly crowned MLS coach of the year. Right to the end of the game, Berhalter stayed cool in his adjustments. Hector Jimenez initially looked like an odd replacement for the influential Santos, but his introduction gave more space for Kekuta Manneh to look for space out wide to stretch a tiring and compacted Toronto defense.It was all very … efficient. The Crew have been an efficient machine at their best this year, even if it’s hard to point to any single element of the team, other than Steffen’s penalty-saving ability, and call it the best in the league. Such stutters as there were in the final series included Justin Meram twice wasting great scoring chances that could have really put the pressure on Toronto, and the loss of Artur to suspension in leg two. But on the other hand, it was possible to write those events off within the margin of error for any playoff team.And yet it wasn’t enough. In the end, Crew SC’s normal time record in these playoffs included one emphatic home win over NYCFC, a thrilling goalless draw in Atlanta and two nail-biting losses on the road to NYCFC and now Toronto — a modest return. And ultimately, when the time finally came for them to chase a game, Columbus did not have a player, or combination of players, on the field capable of the mix of grit, vision and speed of thought to do what Sebastian Giovinco, Victor Vazquez and Jozy Altidore did on the decisive goal.So in the end, if there were a fatal flaw for Columbus, it’s that it played to the best of its abilities, but that the sum total of those abilities generally falls just short of those possessed by the elite team of the league. On the basis of Wednesday night’s performance, nobody could have complained had Kamara got a shoelace width closer to the ball in the dying moments of the game to advance the Crew. But by the same token, anybody could look at Columbus being eliminated at this stage of its campaign and conclude that this is about as fair a conclusion as the team deserved.

Jozy Altidore shrugs off ankle injury, delivers winning goal for Toronto FC

Jeff CarlisleSoccer

TORONTO — Jozy Altidore knew he had to come off the field.The ankle that he had injured at the beginning of the year had been hurt again when Columbus Crew defender Harrison Afful got tangled up with him. Altidore went down, got treatment, played and went to the sidelines for more treatment. He went back out to the field again hoping to just grind out a few more minutes.”I just needed to try to get some support on it so it didn’t move around too much,” he said after the game. “We taped it up, tried that out, but I just really couldn’t put any weight on it. So it kind of defeated the purpose of trying to stay on there. We’d be like a man down, so I just wanted to give the chance for whoever was coming on [for me] to get some runs in and be ready to help contribute.”I knew if there was a play, if I can get a chance to make a play, then I wanted to be on the field for it. It all worked out in the end.”That it did. As the game reached the hour mark, Altidore received a backheel from Sebastian Giovinco, worked a combination with Victor Vasquez and fired past Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen to hand Toronto a 1-0 aggregate triumph and a return trip to the MLS Cup final.The tension had been building in dribs and drabs at the start of the match, as the five-man back line trotted out by Crew manager Greg Berhalter flummoxed the TFC attack. The anxiety then increased 10-fold after Vasquez had his penalty saved by Steffen.Toronto’s attack had made little headway since. But the eruption of joy in BMO Field as Altidore’s shot settled into the net shook the press box — equal parts relief and primal scream. The striker then jumped into the joyous arms of his teammates, but he insisted there was no shot of adrenalin that made the pain go away.”I felt it. I felt it the whole time, actually, unfortunately,” he said of his ankle. “But these moments, this is what you live for.”These have not been the happiest two months for Altidore. As if he needed any reminders of the U.S. national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, he’s been booed and taunted on the road as a kind of penance. His goal will do little to change that, nor does it come close to erasing what happened, but Altidore insisted there has been no hangover for him, that he has compartmentalized the national team disappointment and not let that creep into his games for Toronto.”People keep thinking I’m some wounded animal,” he said. “[Not qualifying] didn’t only happen to me, it happened to a group of guys and a lot of fans. It is what it is. It’s disappointing, but you have to move on from it and learn from it and become stronger for it.”The national team program isn’t broken. It definitely needs to be patched up in places, and we need to do a better job as individuals, of identifying players, all that. But there’s still some good things there. What happens in Toronto has nothing to do with what happened to the national team.”As much as U.S. fans don’t want to hear it, what Altidore says is true. It’s a professional survival mechanism that demands that players engage in selective amnesia. It has no doubt helped that Altidore plays his club soccer across the U.S. border — Toronto’s fans have long embraced him, his form for the U.S. national team having no bearing on the level of support he receives from his club. That can help the recovery process, and Altidore was pleased to repay the fans who have cheered him on.”It’s a big goal. I’m happy for it because the city means a lot to me,” he added. “I came here, I didn’t know what to expect. I’m sure a lot of people didn’t know what to expect from me. We were feeling each other out. But it’s a beautiful love story because I fell in love with this city, and I think the fans have fallen in love with me. I hope it’s the last club I play for.”There has been love from teammates, too. Michael Bradley has been on the receiving end of jeers since that October night in Trinidad as well, but he has long been grateful to have Altidore by his side.”When you’re standing in the tunnel on nights likes this, and you look behind you, when you see Jozy, it’s a damn good feeling because you know what he’s going to be about,” Bradley said.”You know that he’s going to give you everything he has. And on a night when it didn’t necessarily come easily or simply, and in a moment when nobody would have thought twice if he had gone off, he found a way to keep going and make a big play for us. I’m so proud of him, so happy for him, and we’re going to need one or two more the next week.”Given the state of Altidore’s ankle, there are some doubts about his health for the MLS Cup final on Dec. 9 and what level he’ll be able to play at. He doesn’t have any, however.”I’m playing in the MLS Cup final,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how or what the ankle is. You’re not taking that game from me.”The chance to complete a Supporters’ Shield/MLS Cup double is now in sight.

Four finalist cities named for next two MLS expansion teams

November 29, 20179:18AM ESTSimon BorgEditor-in-Chief

Four cities will be competing for the next two MLS expansion slots that are scheduled to be announced before the end of the year.MLS announced on Wednesday that the following four expansion bids (listed in alphabetical order) will make formal presentations to MLS Commissioner Don Garber and the league’s Expansion Committee on Dec. 6 in New York:


  • Carl H. Lindner III – Co-CEO of American Financial Group and Owner, Chairman and CEO of FC Cincinnati
  • Scott Farmer – CEO of Cintas Corporation


  • Dan Gilbert – Owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Founder and Chairman of Quicken Loans, Inc.
  • Tom Gores – Owner of the Detroit Pistons and Founder, Chairman and CEO of Platinum Equity


  • John Ingram – Chairman of Ingram Industries Inc. and CEO Nashville Soccer Holdings
  • Wilf Family – owners of the Minnesota Vikings
  • Turner Family – Managing Partners of MarketStreet Enterprises


  • Kevin Nagle – Managing Partner of Sac Soccer & Entertainment Holdings and Minority Owner of the Sacramento Kings
  • Jed York – CEO of the San Francisco Forty-NinersMark Friedman – President of Fulcrum Property Group and Minority Owner of the Sacramento Kings, and other limited partners.
  • Following the presentations on Dec. 6, a meeting of MLS’s Board of Governors on Dec. 14 in New York City will have additional discussions on expansion with ownership representatives from every MLS club.”The leaders of the Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento MLS expansion ownership groups have bold visions and innovative plans for their clubs, stadiums and their involvement in their respective communities,” Commissioner Garber said in a league statement. “We are pleased these highly-respected business and sports leaders have been so determined to bring Major League Soccer to their cities. We have been greatly encouraged by the progress that all four of these groups have made and we are looking forward to their presentations.”The four ownership groups above were among 12 markets that submitted formal bids in Januaryfor a total of four expansion slots as part of the league’s expansion to 28 teams. Los Angeles Football Club, which kicks off in 2018, will be the league’s 23rd club, while expansion discussions continue in Miami.The league made it clear that while only Cincinnati, Detroit, Nashville and Sacramento are being considered for the next two expansion teams, all remaining markets are under consideration for the following two expansion clubs that will be announced at a later date. Those include Charlotte, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Raleigh/Durham, St. Louis, San Antonio, San Diego and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

Is youth soccer training to blame for American team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup?

The U.S. national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup raises questions about youth soccer training in the United States. (Eric Sondheimer)Eric SondheimerContact


ReporterVarsity Times Insider

The vision statement for US Club Soccer is pretty ambitious for an organization with some 500,000 youth participants and 70,000 registered coaches: “US Club Soccer will be the finest soccer organization in America and an integral part of U.S. National Team success.”Since the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in three decades after a stunning loss to Trinidad and Tobago last month, the knives are out, the second guessing is plentiful and the panic is evident in resignations and recriminations.evin Payne, the CEO of US Club Soccer, isn’t going anywhere. He’s planning to dig in and try to help solve the issues of why American soccer is facing some immense challenges and what can be done to soothe a collective psyche that is reeling.“What is needed is to stop thinking there’s a single thing we need to do like throwing a light switch,” he said. “There’s a number of reasons countries produce better players than us. I would argue what they are taught in training is more important than where they are training. We lost a soccer game. We need to get better. Those in the business know we need to get better.”US Club Soccer is a member of the U.S. Soccer Federation, and Payne believes there needs to be a “culture change” in how to develop youth players.“The best way to measure soccer experience isn’t by wins and losses,” he said. “Our country for 30 years has encouraged youth soccer coaches to win games. That’s their mission. If you go to Argentina, Brazil, France or Germany, that’s not what the coaches are working on. They want to win matches, but the idea is how do we develop individual players?“We have to reorientate our thinking away from winning youth soccer games and more to developing good players. We have to convince parents and then convince coaches to look at their jobs that way.”Payne was chairman of a technical committee that helped create the elite Academy leagues in 2007 that were supposed to bring together top teenage boys’ players to train under top coaches in high-quality competitions. The league has resulted in numerous players being prevented from playing high school soccer in Southern California, leading to ill feelings and debate. They’re forced to choose one or the other.Now more trouble is brewing. U.S. Soccer is trying to do for the girls what it did for the boys, creating the girls’ version of the Academy league. This will be its first season, and girls’ players are abandoning high school teams in droves. West Hills Chaminade has lost eight players this season to the Academy league. Granada Hills lost its top two players.“Are these kids guaranteed a better opportunity for a national team spot or a college scholarship?” Chaminade girls’ coach Mike Evans asked.Boys’ players thought that was the case, but many have started returning to their high school teams. Payne does not agree with the way the Academy league has evolved and the conflicts it’s creating.“I’ve said long before we lost a soccer match in Trinidad the Academy program needs to be much more connected to youth soccer than it is,” he said. “It needs to be much more of a positive influence on the rest of the soccer environment in the way kids are trained.”Marvin Mires, the boys’ soccer coach at Downey, offered this opinion: “Payne and club soccer need to address the development of a player at the initial stages he is introduced to soccer. We are doing it all wrong, even the basics. Our players don’t know what foot to receive a ball with and what body position to have when receiving it. This would be the equivalent to how to pass a football or shoot a basketball.”Payne does not agree that a pay-to-play mentality is part of youth soccer. That’s what many critics say exists. If you have money, doors open.“If a kid has any talent to play for a club, they end up playing for the club,” he said. “The club will scholarship him. I don’t think there are too many kids missing out on soccer because they can’t afford to pay the fees to the club.”He said there are initiatives trying to bring more first- and second-generation Americans into the soccer movement.

So where does American soccer go from here?

“At the same time our nation was failing to qualify for the World Cup, our under-17 team won a game in the knockout round over Paraguay,” he said of a U.S. squad that reached the quarterfinals of the Biennial International Championship. “We shouldn’t look at the national team failing to qualify and scream, ‘We have to blow everything up because it’s all wrong’ just like we shouldn’t look at the win over Paraguay as everything is going great.“We do have to be willing to be more clear-eyed and self critical about the relative qualities of the players we’re developing. If I watch the national team for the top teams in the world, their players look different than our players. They’re more comfortable on the ball. They’re more natural in the way they move. They’re more tactically aware. Everything looks easier.“We’ve improved in the quality of players, but we’ve traditionally been able to bridge the gap through effort, athleticism and determination. We need to get to the point we have have the same but the soccer part gets better.’’Mires said one lesson must be learned.“Until club soccer decides how to coach coaches and how to develop players at the initial stages, we will always be behind,” he said.

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11/16 US ties Portugal, World Cup Teams Set without Italy, MLS Champ Games Tues, Champs League Tues/Wed, IU Butler, ND in NCAAs   

 Ok soccer fans – what an amazing week of World Cup Playoffs for Qualifying for next summer’s World Cup as Italy, Nigeria, and Ireland all fall out. Yes I just said Italy – 4 time WC Winning Italy – made every World Cup since 1958 Italy.  Unbelievable how 1 bad manager (Ventura) can ruin a team that made the finals of the European Championships in 2016.  So along with the US – the Netherlands, and Chile – 2 more World Class teams are out of the World Cup.  The only good news out of this – is the US is trying to put together a Tourney involving these top rated teams in a pre-World Cup tourney in the US next summer.  That would be cool since my favorite 3 world teams – the US, Italy and the Dutch (the big orange machine) are not playing in the World Cup.

Speaking of Cool – the US youngsters looked ok vs #3 Ranked Portugal in a 1-1 tie at Portugal on Tues afternoon.  Honestly the US out played Portugal – who while Renaldo wasn’t there – had plenty of starters from their normal team on hand. The US struck early when 17 year old Schalke man (German team) Weston McKennie scored a beaut just 15 minutes in.   Of course who takes over at goalie came to head as 22 Year Old Ethan Horvan gave up a howler to allow Portugal’s only goal.  Ethan did make some fine saves after that but look for other players to get a shot like Bill Hamid 26 who played the 2nd half and played ok.  We’ll see how he does in Europe after his recent move from DC United.  Also I think some of the other youngsters Jesse Gonzales 22, of Dallas or even 20 year old Klinsmann from the U20 squad should get their chances.  Either way – I thought John Brooks, 22, and Matt Miazga, 22,  looked solid in the middle D – and John Carter-Vickers held up well in the 2nd half for Brooks as well.  The midfield actually had guys running as Mckennie and Kellyn Acosta were all over the field as double #8s with a solid Captain Danny Williams (    ) at #6 behind them running box to box.  Finally Tyler Adams was electric up front on the wing and even Juan Aguadelo looked fine on the other wing with CJ Sapong up top.  I enjoyed watching the future – what I didn’t enjoy was the nightmare that having Bruce Arena – the coach who didn’t get us in the World Cup in the studio.  That was both painful and idiotic. I have always supported Bruce – I think he is the best US National Team coach we have ever had.  But he blew this qualification – there was no excuse for not winning that last game or at least tying the game.  How could he leave Cameron on the bench?  How?  Lots of personell decisions were blown down the stretch and him being there on the Broadcast was just IDIOTIC by Fox.

This weekend – The Madrid Derby – Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid on beIN Sports Sat at 2:45 pm at the new Atletico stadium.  In the EPL – Arsenal hosts Tottenham at 7:30 am on NBCSN, while Leicester City host Man City at 10 am.  At 1 pm Man U will host Newcastle United and US defender Yedlin on NBC.  Sunday has 2 US youngsters McKennie for Shahlke and Woods for Hamburger facing off in the Bundesliga on FS1.  MLS Conference Championships are back on Tues Night with Columbus hosting Toronto (Bradley) at 7:30 pm on ESPN and Houston hosting defending champs Seattle at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1.  The return legs are the following Sunday evening.

Congrats to Louisville FC for their exciting USL Championship win Monday night in Louisville – I wonder if the Indy 11 might soon be matching up against local USL teams like Louisville and Cincinnati FC?

Good luck to local college men’s teams Butler, Indiana University and Notre Dame as they all won their first round tourney games in the NCAAs. On Sunday – Butler and former Carmel High GK Eric Dick will travel to VCU at 5 pm, while #2 Indiana University hosts Old Dominion at 1 pm on BTN plus and Notre Dame hosts Big 10 Tourney Champ Wisconsin. See the Bracket  PDF


Sat, Nov 18

7:30 am NBCSN               Arsenal vs Tottenham

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Bayern Munich vs Ausburg

10 am NBCSN                Leicester City vs Man City

1 pm NBC            Man U vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beiN Sport  Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Sun, Nov 19

9:30 am FS1                       Schalke (McKennie) vs Hamburger (Woods)

11 am NBCSN               Watford vs West Ham

1 pm BTN+                      Indiana U vs Old Dominion  NCAAs Men

Mon, Nov 20

3 pm NBCSN                      Brighton (Johnson) vs Stoke City (Cameron)

Tues, Nov 21  – Champs League

2:45 pm ESPN2?             Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Tottenham

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1    APOEL vs Real Madrid

2:45 pm Fox State&Soc                  Sevilla vs Liverpool

2:45 pm ??                         Man City vs Feyenoord

8 pm ESPN                          Columbus Crew vs Toronto  (MLS East Conf Final Leg 1)

10 pm Fox Sport 1        Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders (West Conf Final Leg 1)

Weds, Nov 22  – Champs League

12 noon Fox Sport 2    Qarabag vs Chelsea

2:45 pm ESPN2?             Juventus vs Barcelona

2:45 pm                                PSG vs Celtic

2:45 pm Fox Sport2     Basel vs Man United 

2:45 pm ??                         Atletico Madrid vs Roma

Thurs, Nov 23  – Europa League

1 pm Fox Sport 2           Koln vs Arsenal

3 pm Fox Sport 1           Everton vs Atalanta

3 pm Fox Sport 2           Milan vs Austria Wien

Sat, Nov 25

9:30 am                                Borussia Dortmund (Pulisic) vs Schalke (McKinnie)

10 am NBCSN                   Man United vs Brighton (Williams)

12:30 pm Fox Sport2  Borussia MGladbach (Johnson) vs Bayern Munich

12:30 pm NBCSN ?       Liverpool vs Chelsea

Sun Nov 26

7:30 pm ESPN                  Toronto vs Columbus Crew (MLS East Conf Final Leg 2)

10 pm Fox Sport 1        Houston Dynamo vs Seattle Sounders (West Conf Final Leg 2)

EPL 2017 Schedule  

Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com

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


US Youngsters Impress in Draw with Portugal – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Take Aways from US tie with Portugal – Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle – MLS.com

Player Ratings USA – ESPNFC

US Manager Sarachan Happy With Youngsters – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Youngsters Tie #3 Portugal ESPNFC

US Next Goalkeeper Battle at Hand ESPNFC

Uncertain Futures for these 3 Youngsters  ESPNFC

5 Take Aways from US Draw with Portugal – Goal.com

Pulisic – Says US must Develop Players from U16-U18 better – ESPNFC

Here’s Christian Pulisic’s Well Written – Write-up about the World Cup  – Players Tribune

US Eyes hosting Pre World Cup Tourney with Italy, Dutch, Chile, Nigeria maybe?  Jeff Carlisle

US Ladies Tie Canada – 3 Thoughts Goal.com


Italy’s Catestrophic playoff Failure  Marcotti – ESPNFC

Manager Ventura Missteps responsible for Italy’s ouster of WC – Mark Odgen ESPNFC

Eriksen hat trick sends Denmark past Ireland into WC

Dortmund plan to keep Pulisic Long Term ESPNFC

Sweden Players Crash TV Set – after their huge upset win

Week Discussions – Italy failings numerous – Marcotti – ESPNFC

Italy Should have picked Sebastian Giovinco from Toronto for team

What Mexico learned from Euro Friendlies

Player Ratings Mexico beat Poland 1-0

11 Superstar Players Missing from World Cup 2018


Toronto vs Columbus Preview

Eastern Conference Preview – Toronto FC vs Columbus Crew 11/22 + 11/26

3 Things Houston Needs to Do to oust Dynamo

Western Conference Preview –  Seattle vs Houston

ET Radio – does Toronto – or Dempsey need an MLS Cup to Justify Their Worth to League?

NE Revs name former US GK & Announcer Brad Friedel Manager

Cincy & Nashville make Moves in NLS Expansion Battle

MLS Hopeful North Carolina FC – leaves NASL for USL in 2018

Caleb Porter Departs as Coach of Portland Timbers

U.S. youngsters impress in 1-1 draw in Portugal, end 2017 on positive note

LEIRIA, Portugal — The U.S. men’s national team closed the book on a thoroughly disappointing 2017 with a credible 1-1 draw against reigning European champions Portugal.U.S. midfielder Weston McKennie, making his international debut, put the visitors on top in the 21st minute but a terrible error from goalkeeper Ethan Horvath allowed Portugal defender Antunes to equalize 11 minutes later.  Here are three thoughts from the Americans’ final game of the year.

  1. A glimmer of hope after disastrous 2017

Heading into Tuesday’s friendly, there were questions as to why the U.S. even opted to play this game given the bitterness at failing to qualify for the World Cup. But not only was it a chance to get a glimpse of some up and coming players, but the proceeds from the match will be donated to victims of wildfires in north and central Portugal earlier this year.As it turned out, the match was worth the Americans’ while. Caretaker manager Dave Sarachan had spoken all week about the group’s “youthful energy” and his lineup certainly trended in a youthful direction, with both McKennie and Tyler Adams being handed debuts while Matt Miazga earned just his fourth cap. That said, there was experience as well in the form of defender John Brooks and midfielder Danny Williams, both of whom performed well on the night.It’s worth noting that Portugal was fielding an under-strength side as well. The likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho were both left off the roster, though a smattering of regulars like Nelson Semedo and Pepe (the latter of whom was forced off early through injury) were included.The U.S. was on the front foot to start the match. A combination of aggressive pressing and sloppy Portuguese passing created a pair of chances inside two minutes, only for C.J. Sapong to fire straight at Portugal keeper Beto and Kellyn Acosta to then fire wide. The match soon settled a bit, but it was the U.S. that was creating the better opportunities.Sapong was causing all kinds of problems by drifting into wide positions and running at defenders. He put one pass on a platter for Adams in the 20th minute only for the New York Red Bull to fire straight at Beto. It proved to be a brief respite as Sapong soon found McKennie on the run and the Texas native darted around one defender before firing home to put the visitors on top.The U.S. looked solid in the back with Miazga and Brooks but Portugal equalized due to a horrible error from Horvath. Antunes’ volley from wide on the left had some venom in it but Horvath looked perfectly positioned to gather it in. Instead, as he moved low to collect the shot, the ball squirted through both hands and legs to trickle into the U.S. goal.The U.S. rebounded to start the second half as Beto denied Adams’ close-range header, Lichaj forced another smart save and McKennie saw his header hit the crossbar.The parade of substitutions that is typical of friendlies seemed to benefit Portugal as the home side began carry more of the game. Goncalo Paciencia struck the bar with an effort of his own in the 66th minute and Hamid later collected a shot that Paciencia shot straight into the air.All told, a draw was a perfectly satisfying result for the U.S. and proved to be a valuable exercise. Granted, it will be years before the disappointment at missing out on next summer’s festivities will wash away. But the process of putting some distance from that calamity has to begin at some point and given the promising performances of some of the young players, this was a match that served that purpose.Now the U.S. can head into 2018 with some more data points on who will form the core of the team going forward. 

  1. McKennie, Sapong, Miazga impress

There was plenty of anticipation surrounding the debut of McKennie given the minutes he’s logged with Bundesliga side Schalke already this season. He didn’t disappoint, either, effective at getting into the attack and timing his run to perfection in the run-up to his goal. He nearly added a second with his aforementioned header.Perhaps the biggest surprise on the night was Sapong. The Philadelphia Union forward was an absolute handful for the Portugal back-line. His holdup play was outstanding, as was his ability to link play with his teammates. In a lineup that was devoid of anyone who could be categorized as a playmaker, those traits were a boost to the U.S attack. Of course at age 28, there is the question of how much more time Sapong has at international level but he certainly did plenty to help his cause on this night.Miazga also delivered an impressive performance, partnering well with first Brooks (and later Cameron Carter-Vickers) and putting out plenty of fires. If he continues to progress at the club level, one would expect him to be part of the backbone of the side in the future.The night proved to be more of a mixed bag for Adams. His energy and defensive hustle aided the U.S. cause; so too did his running off the ball. But he needed to be better on the ball, especially in the first half when he connected just four of 15 passes, something he did improve in the second half. He’ll also rue his missed opportunities in front of goal.

  1. Hamid takes step ahead in goalkeeper battle

There was a certain logic to starting Horvath in goal. He’s logged fairly steady playing time over the course of 2017 while D.C. United’s Bill Hamid was benched for the last month of the MLS season and Jesse Gonzalez’s campaign ended a few weeks ago.

But Horvath was also benched recently by his club side, Club Brugge, and it was easy to see why. His basic error on Antunes’ goal was bad enough, but he nearly gifted the home side a second when his pass out from the back when straight to Danilo. Fortunately the Portugal midfielder could only hit his shot straight at him. Whatever hopes Horvath had of carrying some confidence back to his club were dashed.Hamid certainly did his prospects no harm, making the plays he needed to make, though one punch in particular looked a bit awkward before collecting. But club form will do plenty to dictate how the keeper battle shakes out going forward, and now it is up to him to make the most of his move to Danish side Midtjylland.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and t

Armchair Analyst: A few takeaways from USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Portugal

November 14, 20176:52PM ESTMatthewDoyleSenior Writer

It’s a friendly. More than that it was a “B” team friendly featuring few of either squad’s best players. So don’t go reading too much into the USMNT’s 1-1 draw at Portugal on Tuesday.

However, don’t make the mistake of reading nothing into it, either. One of the frustrating things about friendlies for the better part of this decade is that they have often been treated as meaningless, process-deprived mad scientist-style experimentation. They can occasionally be that, but there are better ways to make use of that time.With that in mind, here are a few takeaways:

Start Weston McKennie

Have you been watching him with Schalke 04 in the Bundesliga this year? He’s been something close to a full starter for the past two months, and he brought that form with him to his full national team debut (volume up for analysis):

McKennie, so far, looks like more of a No. 8 than a No. 6 (and despite the above clip he’s not a No. 10), though the whispers I’ve heard out of Gelsenkirchen are that they think he projects, long-term, as a defensive midfielder.Whatever, wherever, I don’t care at this point. What matters is that whoever is in charge has to get him as many reps with the full squad as is possible over the next 18 months. If he fits better as a No. 8 than as a No. 6, then so be it. If it’s vice versa, that’s fine as well. I just need to see him in Red, White & Blue every time he’s available.And for the record: He was hurt during the first two weeks of October, which is why he wasn’t called up for the final qualifiers. That said, I doubt Bruce Arena would’ve given him minutes.

Get Reps for the Center Backs

John Brooks was sold for over $20 million this summer, and Matt Miazga, at age 22, has already 1) been sold to Chelsea, 2) led Vitesse Arnhem to their first significant trophy in the club’s 125-year history, and 3) been linked with a move to Ajax, as well as upper-tier Bundesliga teams.McKennie is important. Getting Christian Pulisic healthy and in his best spot is important, and getting Jonathan Gonzalez in the mix sooner rather than later is important. So is finding the right role for Tyler Adams and for Kellyn Acosta, and so is identifying the best forward option, and obviously the goalkeeper situation needs to resolve itself (I still think Brad Guzan is the right call, though obviously that can change between now and when games start to matter again).Fundamentally, though, none of the above is as important as getting a central defensive pairing together, and then giving them reps. Given their ages, performances and pedigree, right now it’s Brooks and Miazga.

Learn the Lessons of Losses

Dave Sarachan will probably never manage another USMNT game, but give him credit here: He did not make the same mistake that Arena did vs. Trinidad & Tobago. The US were out-manned in central midfield a month ago, playing a 4-1-3-2 with chalk-on-their-boots wingers and basically going 1-v-4 in central midfield. It was a high-risk/high-reward proposition that failed spectacularly because of some bad luck, but also because the gambit allowed the Soca Warriors so much time and space on the ball. They got comfortable, pushed numbers forward, and took advantage of a sleep-walking US.Sarachan trotted this team out in a 4-1-4-1. Some of the pieces were mismatched – neither Juan Agudelo nor Adams is really a winger (though both played well), and Pulisic was missed – but the structure was sound and made it difficult for Portugal to play through the middle. With the exception of about a 10-minute stretch around the hour mark, the hosts weren’t able to exert concerted pressure. 

And that’s about it from this one. Again: It’s a friendly, so don’t go off celebrating or anything, but at the same time, don’t write it off entirely. The partnerships and structure that were ripped down over the past six years need to be rebuilt now, and every outing is a chance to do just that.McKennie, Miazga, Adams, Acosta, Agudelo, Brooks, C.J. Sapong et al just took this program’s first tiny step forward, and it’s time to begin a new cycle. Let’s hope we don’t make the same mistakes that doomed the previous one. he U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

 Weston McKennie man of the match as U.S. earn draw in Portugal

The long march back to the world stage for the United States after failing to make the 2018 World Cup began in Leiria, Portugal with a friendly featuring a host of fresh faces under interim head coach Dave Sarachan. With little to play for but the launch of a new generation of players, the Americans played to a 1-1 draw with a Portuguese “B” squad.


The youth. Even before the match commenced, the theme of the day was established through the American lineup. Young players who could be a major part of getting the U.S. to Qatar in 2022 littered the field, with Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams starting together in midfield. Matt Miazga started alongside John Brooks at the back, and 22-year-old goalkeeper Ethan Horvath started in goal.The young group pressed Portugal early and established a refreshing energy in the midfield that directly led to the Americans getting the opening goal in the 21st minute through McKinnie. In the second half, as the game slowed down and Portugal had more of the ball, the Americans still managed to create chances and give themselves a chance to win.


It’s hard to be overly critical considering the circumstances surrounding the game and the makeup of the U.S. lineup, at least from a team perspective. Without much preparation, the young and new American team held their own against Portugal’s rotated team. Defensive communication was occasionally poor and Horvath’s howler took the shine off what was otherwise a positive first half.

Manager rating out of 10

7 — On the job for likely this single game, Sarachan got the most basic part of the task right: he called up a young, hungry, and talented group of players and set them up to start the American rebuilding process. The choice to put out Kellyn Acosta, Weston McKinnie, and Tyler Adams showed there was no tendency towards conservatism. Sarachan got a second wave of youngsters on with Lynden Gooch and Cameron Carter-Vickers coming off the bench.

The Americans seemed tactically sound and generally understood their roles. That’s all it takes for Sarachan to get a passing grade.

Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)

GK Ethan Horvath, 2.5 — Spent a half hour with little to do, he then committed a terrible mistake to gift Portugal a goal and change the tone of the match. Looked nervous throughout his half on the field.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 6 — Caught up-field on Portuguese counters more than once, but benefited from his recovery speed and covering of teammates. Played an up-and-down game against his opposite number.

DF Matt Miazga, 8 — Played 90 minutes and was solid for most of this. Took a few risks that didn’t result in real danger. Stepped up into midfield too good effect.

DF John Brooks, 7 — Mostly solid on the defensive in during a half of play. Showed his intelligence and savvy with timely midfield interventions. Should have had a goal that was disallowed for a foul off the ball.

DF Eric Lichaj, 6 — Defended competently. Pushed into the attack well, especially in the second half and provided an extra option in the final third.

MF Danny Williams, 7 — Worked well in combination with Acosta and McKennie ahead of him. Passed well and created a dangerous chance with a cross in the second half.

MF Juan Agudelo, 5.5 — Guilty of a few sloppy moments while trying to create opportunities on the left side of the attack. Showed flashes of technical brilliance but never impacted the game.

MF Kellyn Acosta, 7.5 — Provided strong set-piece service and never looked out of place with the speed of the game. Tracked back to eliminate several opportunities for Portugal.

MF Weston McKennie, 8 — Scored the lone U.S. goal on his debut for the U.S. in a Man of the Match performance. Covered ground, passed smartly and won several recoveries.

MF Tyler Adams, 7.5 — Aided in the press that served the Americans so well in the first half. Cut inside with intelligence runs that opened up space. Had a header saved off the line.

FW C.J. Sapong, 7.5 — Much more effective in the first half when the U.S. was able to press high and find him with runs into wide areas. Held the ball up well and won several fouls in the attacking half.


GK Bill Hamid, 6 — Made one save that wasn’t as clean as he’d like. Otherwise, he was mostly untroubled in the second half.

DF Cameron Carter-Vickers, 6 — A step slow to start his appearance but settled into the game as the half progressed. Missed his chance to give the Americans the lead on the attacking end.

DF Jorge Villafana, 5 — Didn’t provide the attacking threat of Lichaj and largely played simple soccer, avoiding turnovers and mistakes.

MF Lynden Gooch, 7 — Used speed and power to provide a threat in wide areas after coming on. Showed the potential to be a crossing threat for the national team.

FW Dom Dwyer, NR — Had a limited impact in less than 15 minutes. Contributed three defensive actions with Portugal on the ball towards the end of the game.

MF Alejandro Bedoya, NR — Touched the ball just a handful of times as the clock approached full-time.

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

U.S. boss hails young Americans’ draw vs. Portugal after ‘difficult’ 2017

LEIRIA, Portugal — Acting U.S. manager Dave Sarachan said he was proud of the way his young side delivered in securing a 1-1 draw with reigning European champions Portugal after a “difficult” 2017.Both teams put out under-strength sides, with Portugal missing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho. But with the MLS Cup playoffs still going on and with some U.S. players dealing with injuries, it was the Americans that were more shorthanded, as Sarachan handed international debuts to Schalke youngster Weston McKennie and New York Red Bulls 19-year-old Tyler Adams.The reverberations from the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup are also still being felt, and will no doubt hang over any memories of 2017. But the youthful American team acquitted itself well in this match, with McKennie netting the U.S. goal.”It is a friendly, they had a mixed group and all the rest, but we still had to come here and play on their soil, with a group of players that have only been together for six days,” said Sarachan. “Some knew each other, some didn’t, and obviously we put a lineup out with a plan. But they were the ones that went out and executed.”And what I told them after the game was 2017 was a difficult year for U.S soccer, and there were a lot of people out there that weren’t sure what this was going to look like tonight. I said to the group that I couldn’t be more proud, and the future is bright, because there were a number of players on this field that [could] have a really, I think, good and long career with the national team.”It was a night in which the number of positive individual performances far outweighed any bad ones. But Sarachan lauded the play of McKennie, Adams, and Matt Miazga. McKennie even came inches away from delivering the game-winner, only to see his second half header hit the bar.”I thought all three were very good tonight, I really did,” said Sarachan of the aforementioned trio. “I thought as a starting point they played with a lot of confidence. There was no fear. The moments that came for each player that were difficult moments I thought they handled well.”Weston obviously getting the goal but not only that, his calmness on the ball and his ability to collect balls and play the next pass was very good tonight. Tyler, his engine is remarkable, and his energy was great throughout. And Matt was very solid in the back. I thought all three guys over the course of 90 minutes had really a solid performance.”If there was one player who didn’t deliver on the night it was goalkeeper Ethan Horvath. With the U.S. leading 1-0 after McKennie’s goal, Horvath appeared to be in perfect position to collect Vitorino Altunes’ drive from the left wing, and went low to scoop the ball into his chest. Instead, the ball trickled through both arms and legs and into the U.S. goal to make the score 1-1. Horvath then misplayed a pass right to the opposition, only to have the subsequent shot hit right at him. The U.S. keeper did recover to save well at the feet of Bruma just before half-time, but the damage was done. Still, Sarachan emphasized Horvath’s eventual recovery rather than his blunder.”Ethan if he had it to do over again I think he would have saved it,” he said. “But these things happen and the thing that I’m very pleased about, and I told him this after the game was the goal goes in, and obviously it’s a big blow for him personally. But the team backed him up, said let’s get on with it. And the plays he had to make after that were excellent.”That tells you a lot because I think for even a young goalkeeper you could be so rattled that maybe you’re not ready for the next play. These things happen, I thought our team handled it great, and in the career of a goalkeeper you’re going to have moments like that.”Sarachan also singled out forward C.J. Sapong and midfielder Danny Williams for praise, Both players put in hardworking shifts, with Sapong assisting on McKennie’s goal and Williams helping to clog the middle of the field in a holding midfield role.”C.J was huge for us tonight,” said Sarachan. “Playing as lone striker is a difficult task, and you do a lot of dirty running, and a lot of grafting. I thought the moments when we needed to have some holdup play, he did well. But being able to do the work, to put some pressure on their center backs over the course of time that he played was just very important for us.”I thought Danny Williams did a great job too, being a veteran presence, a little bit deeper in the midfield, in [back] of Kellyn Acosta and Weston. He picked his spots to help cover and help defend, even the moments of the calmness out of the back. I can’t find much fault with those guys.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.


Ives Galarcep

Teenagers Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams shined, while John Brooks took on a leadership role in an encouraging USMNT performance to end 2017

You couldn’t blame U.S. national team fans for wishing they had a time machine they could have jumped into Tuesday to go back and beg Bruce Arena to call up youngsters like Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams and Matt Miazga.

All three looked impressive in a 1-1 draw against Portugal. Their performances may have come in a meaningless match against a Portuguese B team that looked disinterested at times, but it was still a meeting against high-level competition. The U.S. played with real purpose and energy, looking nothing like the lethargic squad that sleepwalked through the October loss to Trinidad & Tobago that ultimately cost the team its place at the 2018 World Cup.Instead of looking back at what might have been, it is a much healthier exercise to look ahead at what could come from this young nucleus of talent in the year and a half between now and the next truly meaningful matches the U.S. will play. Plenty can change in that time. Some prospects could see their trajectories stall, while others could see theirs skyrocket. Some older players will be fighting against not only a new generation of talent, but also the natural decline that comes with aging.


The good news is Tuesday’s draw suggests there is serious talent in the pipeline to hopefully ensure that Christian Pulisic isn’t alone in his quest to revive the U.S. after the nightmare of missing out on a trip to Russia.

Here is a closer look at some key takeaways from Tuesday’s USA-Portugal draw:


You couldn’t have drawn up a better moment to excite U.S. fans than having McKennie dribble through Portugal’s defense for the match’s opening goal Tuesday, a moment that perfectly encapsulated the Schalke midfielder’s considerable promise. It was McKennie who made the sliding interception to start the goal sequence before he raced down the left channel, perfectly collected a C.J. Sapong pass and deftly maneuvered to strike a collected finish he made look much easier than it was.

The goal was the key highlight, but it was McKennie’s poise and engine in midfield that made his overall performance so encouraging. It shouldn’t have been a complete surprise considering McKennie has shown enough to break into Schalke’s starting lineup, but it was still exciting to watch in a U.S. uniform. It was also a chance for McKennie to show there is more to his game than being a ball-winning defensive midfielder.Adams also showed off the considerable versatility that makes him such an exciting prospect. The 18-year-old Red Bulls midfielder has already shown in MLS that he can thrive both in central midfield and as a right wing back, and Tuesday he impressed working on the right wing. He put himself in dangerous spots on multiple occasions, and came within a diving one-handed save of joining McKennie on the score sheet.For those who hadn’t seen much of Adams before, they were treated to the wide array of strengths in his game, from his speed and tenacity to his ability to deliver sharp passes and get into effective attacking positions, along with his ability to effectively defend. These are traits that could let him thrive as a right back, right wing back or potentially even as a right winger, though it’s still a good bet his club and international future lies in central midfield, where he has the characteristics to one day be a box-to-box dynamo.


Injuries kept John Brooks from taking part in any of the U.S. national team’s qualifiers in the fall, and his showing against Portugal served as a painful reminder of what the U.S. was missing against Costa Rica, Honduras and Trinidad & Tobago. Brooks played well against Portugal — and had an excellent headed goal nullified by a Miazga foul — but the most promising aspect of his 45-minute appearance was how much he embraced being the leader of the back line. He was vocal and demonstrative, directing his young teammates and communicating in a way we haven’t really seen from him before.It’s an excellent sign for a player who is still just 24, but who has now made the transition from youngster to veteran. With the older central defenders in the player pool looking very likely to be passed up by a strong generation of younger options, Brooks will be called on to be more of a leader than he has been before. The key for Brooks will be for him to continue to stay healthy, an issue that has dogged him throughout his career.


There may not have been a sadder sight than the image of Ethan Horvath sitting slumped on the U.S. bench with his head down as the final minutes of Tuesday’s friendly ticked away. It was clear he wasn’t about to forget the calamitous blunder he committed that gifted Portugal its goal, an error sure to live on in highlight reels for years to come.What won’t make highlight reels, but should be remembered, is how he responded after the blunder. He made several solid plays to keep Portugal from adding another goal, and while he did have one other extremely shaky moment with an ill-advised pass that led directly to a Portugal chance, Horvath was able to steady himself enough to finish out the first half.Horvath’s second U.S. appearance was a disaster, but perhaps that shouldn’t have come as a complete surprise considering his form has dipped at Club Brugge enough to lead him to be benched recently. The goalkeeper position is very much a confidence position, and it was clear that Horvath’s confidence is in the gutter. That being said, he is still just 22, and writing him of for a shaky showing at that age would be extremely premature.Along with reminding us that young goalkeepers can be an adventure to follow, Horvath’s blunder should also remind us that the U.S. starting goalkeeper position is wide open heading into the next World Cup cycle. Brad Guzan isn’t ready to hang up his gloves just yet, and at 33, he may still have a part to play when meaningful matches return in two years. But a promising group of young goalkeepers is emerging to join Horvath in the chase for that coveted starting job.Bill Hamid, Zack Steffen, Alex Bono and Jonathan Klinsmann are all in their early to mid-20s and they all still have time to develop into starting options for whichever coach is handed the keys to the next qualifying cycle. Horvath may not be ready to lead the race for the top spot, but he isn’t someone who should be written off because of one bad game.


Danny Williams has largely been in the U.S. national team wilderness for the past two years, having essentially been cast off by Jurgen Klinsmann after his decision to leave the Bundesliga for the English League Championship. He was then ignored by Bruce Arena. On Tuesday, he looked very much like a player with something to offer in a defensive midfield role. That shouldn’t surprise anyone given his exploits with Huddersfield Town in the Premier League. The 28-year-old embraced this new opportunity, impressing the U.S. coaching staff enough to earn the captain’s armband ahead of other players with more national team caps. Sapong also made the most of his chance, earning a start and then showing all the qualities as a target forward to make him a player capable of offering some much-needed depth in that role. For too long it has been Jozy Altidore or bust, with Bobby Wood used in the role when Altidore has been unavailable. But Sapong showed why he finished as the top American goal-scorer in MLS in 2017, with his improved hold-up play and passing, as well as his willingness to provide defensive pressure.

Both Williams and Sapong are 28, which puts them on the outer range of potential 2022 contributors, but they both showed enough Tuesday to suggest they should be considered as options in 2018.


If you were left shocked to see Arena on the Fox broadcast of the USA-Portugal match, you definitely were not alone. How anybody thought having the former U.S. coach serve as an analyst in the first USMNT match since he led the team to its fateful World Cup qualifying loss to Trinidad & Tobago is mind-boggling, and the result was a tone-deaf broadcast that served to sour an otherwise encouraging day for U.S. fans.Arena’s decision to actually accept the role was shocking in its lack of self awareness, but it didn’t take long to understand why he took it. Arena basically spent his time on air trying to put the team’s qualifying failure into a context that made it seem like less of a damning indictment of his handling of the job.It wound up having the opposite effect, though, with Arena dropping several head-scratching statements, such as his claim that he should have gone with essentially a full MLS-based squad in September’s qualifying loss to Costa Rica (count me among those who will give Arena the benefit of the doubt that he meant to count Pulisic as an exception). His flippant remark suggesting no players fall through the cracks in U.S. Soccer’s player development setup surely infuriated the viewers who hadn’t long since tuned out.Someone needed to save Arena from himself and tell him just ho bad an idea it was. The sad part is the appearance only did more damage to a reputation of a coach who deserves plenty of respect even with last month’s failure. Arena’s resume is unmatched among American coaches, but Tuesday’s broadcast only served to further tarnish the public’s view of him.Arena made several comments that just left you cringing, but the overarching sentiment generated by his Fox appearance was that it was an absolute disaster, not only because of what it wound up producing on air but because of the fact it served as a painful and unnecessary reminder of October’s World Cup qualifying nightmare.

 Christian Pulisic: U.S. must better develop top players from ages 16-18

In the wake of the United States’ failure to qualify for the World Cup, Christian Pulisic has called for top American teenage players to be given more opportunities to develop at an earlier age.At just 19, Pulisic was an instrumental part of the U.S.’s qualifying campaign, and he admitted he’s been “pretty depressed” since the Americans lost to Trinidad and Tobago last month. Since then, youth development in the U.S. has come under question, particularly from candidates for next year’s wide-open race for the U.S. Soccer Federation presidency.In a story for The Players’ Tribune, Pulisic suggested the best American players aged 16-18 need to be better tested during the most crucial years of their development.”For a soccer player … man, ask anyone and they’ll tell you — those age 16-18 years are everything,” Pulisic wrote. “From a developmental perspective, it’s almost like this sweet spot: It’s the age where a player’s growth and skill sort of intersect, in just the right way — and where, with the right direction, a player can make their biggest leap in development by far.”In the U.S. system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a ‘star’ — not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc. — at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot.”In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been ‘the best player,’ and everyone is fighting for a spot — truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day — both from a mental and physical perspective — just unlike anything that you can really experience in U.S. developmental soccer.”FIFA rules prohibit players from leaving their native countries for clubs in other countries before they turn 18. In 2014, FIFA gave Barcelona a transfer ban for a full year for breaching these regulations, with their Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid also subsequently punished.The only exceptions are if “the player’s parents have moved to another country for non-related reasons; the move takes place within the European Union if a player is aged between 16 and 18; [or] the player’s home is less than 50 kilometres from the national border being crossed.”Because his grandfather was born in Croatia, Pulisic was able to obtain dual citizenship and move to join Borussia Dortmund at age 16, and he said “there’s simply no way that I would be at anywhere close to the level that I am today” had he not made the switch at that time.But he questioned why FIFA allows European players to move countries, which he sees as an unfair advantage to some players.”Why is it that E.U. players are allowed to move country once they turn 16 … but non-Europeans can only do so at 18? Why aren’t we campaigning for a level playing field, where our best 16-year-olds — who may not have an E.U. passport like I had — are free to move when they turn 16, like the best young players in Europe can?”nd for those Americans who can’t go early to Europe, Pulisic urged Major League Soccer teams to give top players in their academies more opportunities to play at the top level, though he also said the league has made “great strides” in improving “soccer culture” in the U.S.”Are we doing everything in our power to make sure the level of play in U.S. soccer is high enough so that they can continue to develop up to their maximum potential?” he asked. “So that they can continue to develop until they are allowed to play at the top level their talent dictates — wherever that is in the world?”I also understand, of course, that — even with the option to leave — leaving the States might not be for everyone. Staying is fine, and I totally respect it.”But at the same time, I’ve gotta say: It really does frustrate me, when I watch MLS, and I see our best U-17 players — who, again, are so talented and so capable — being rostered … but then not being put on the field much to actually play. I watch that, and I just think about how I was given a chance … a real chance … and it changed my life. Why then are we seemingly hesitant to allow these other talents to blossom?”Pulisic also insisted that his emergence on the world stage at such a young age is not a fluke, and that more players would be able to follow in his footsteps if giving the same opportunities.”I’m not a prodigy — or a ‘wonderboy,’ as some have put it. I was always, you know, a decent player growing up. And yes, I was born with a certain amount of so-called ‘natural ability.’ But I also worked and sacrificed a lot to try to maximize what I was born with — which I think is important to point out. I think it’s important to make clear, you know, that the problem with American soccer … it isn’t talent.”He added: “The path to the U.S. winning a World Cup — it doesn’t start with having ‘more talent.’ It starts with developing the talent that we already have, in the right way.”


In my heart, I knew it was over when we walked off the field.I think we all did. There were all of these complicated mathematical scenarios, but we knew the biggest one: We had to at least tie. Had to have that last goal. And we were grinding for it like crazy, right up until the very end. But we didn’t get it. And once we didn’t get it, and we were walking off that field — well, that’s when I pretty much knew.I knew it was over.But I still had to know.I asked one of our assistants, “What were the other scores?”You ever have a question that you really need to ask someone, but you’re almost too embarrassed to say it out loud — so you just sort of rephrase it? That was me, I think, right there in that moment, asking our assistant about the other matches.

What were the other scores?

That was my way of avoiding the question that I really needed the answer to, but couldn’t bring myself to ask.

Are we going?

And I’ll just never forget the look on his face, or the sound of his voice, or the feeling of utter devastation in my body — when he turned to me and said, “We’re not going. We didn’t make it.“We’re not going to the World Cup.”

There have been many opinions voiced over the past few weeks about our failure to reach the World Cup — and I hope people can understand why one of them hasn’t been mine. Playing for the U.S. in the World Cup has been my dream ever since I can remember. World Cup Final … minute to go … ball on Pulisic’s foot … and he scoooores! — that’s what I would dream about. For me, that’s always been the pinnacle of what I could accomplish in this sport.I remember watching the 2014 tournament in my cousin’s basement in Virginia. We threw this big party for the first U.S. match against Ghana — and before I could even sit down with my food, I’ll never forget it: Clint made that sweet cut to the right, put the ball on his left foot, and went post-and-in.29 seconds in, 1-0, USA.We went crazy.I couldn’t believe the electricity in the air after that goal. It was like the entire country was with us in that basement, running around with our hands in the air, screaming out, “Gooooooooaaaaaaaaaaal! Gooooooooaaaaaaaaal!” Just going insane. It was this amazing realization of, like, “Wow — American soccer can do that. We can do … that.”So to have come this far, in these four years since that goal was scored — to have made the team, and to have been a goal away from qualifying … and then to have fallen short? It hurt more than I can really put into words.

Which is why I decided to wait a few weeks and write something like this on my own time. I do have a lot of thoughts on American soccer — and I have definitely wanted to get them out. But I also wanted to make sure that I had enough time, first, to pause and reflect. And that when I did write something, it wouldn’t be to look backward.It would be to look forward.

The first thing I want to say here, obvously, is that I’m not an expert. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who know a lot more about national soccer programs than I do — and I hope those are the people we’ll have in charge of American soccer over the next World Cup cycle. Me, I’m just a 19 year old, in my first full year with the national team. So any insight that I can offer is only based on what I’ve experienced and observed in my career so far.The second thing I want to say here is that I’m not a prodigy — or a “wonderboy,” as some have put it. I was always, you know, a decent player growing up. And yes, I was born with a certain amount of so-called “natural ability.” But I also worked and sacrificed a lot to try to maximize what I was born with — which I think is important to point out. I think it’s important to make clear, you know, that the problem with American soccer … it isn’t talent. In fact, I’m sure there are kids who are going to be reading this article who are more talented at their age than I ever was.And then the third thing I want to say here is that I love American soccer. Which maybe sounds obvious — but I think a lot of people have this weird idea of USMNT players who have come up in Europe. They’ll talk about how we’re somehow less passionate about U.S. Soccer, or less American about it. That we’re these ringers or something — these outsiders brought in as, like, a cheat code to beat European sides. And it couldn’t be further from the truth.It really frustrates me when people say, “Oh, he’s barely American,” or, “He grew up in the Dortmund academy,” or anything like that. First of all, it’s not true: Until I was 16, I came up through the U.S. youth system. I did all of the camps, the academies, the residency programs, the travel teams, and everything else it had to offer. I’ll always be a part of that system, and I’ll always be indebted to it. Second of all, I think that’s just a dangerous attitude in general: Having a closed-minded view of what does or doesn’t constitute being an American. And I hope it’s an attitude that we can keep out of this conversation in the years to come.

When people ask me what has been the biggest game-changer of my career — when they ask me, you know, “What’s the one thing that has had the biggest impact on your game so far” — that isn’t the easiest question to answer. I’ve had a lot of good fortune over the years: from supportive parents, to amazing youth academies, to incredible teammates, and on down the line.But one thing that I’m not sure people realize, when they talk about my game, is just how lucky I’ve been to have a Croatian passport — and just how much of a difference it’s made for me.wAs a result of my dual citizenship, I’ve been able to play in Europe, training at the Dortmund academy, since I was 16. Without it? I would have had to wait until I was 18. And for a soccer player … man, ask anyone and they’ll tell you — those age 16–18 years are everything. From a developmental perspective, it’s almost like this sweet spot: It’s the age where a player’s growth and skill sort of intersect, in just the right way — and where, with the right direction, a player can make their biggest leap in development by far.

In the U.S. system, too often the best player on an under-17 team will be treated like a “star” — not having to work for the ball, being the focus of the offense at all times, etc. — at a time when they should be having to fight tooth and nail for their spot. In Europe, on the other hand, the average level of ability around you is just so much higher. It’s a pool of players where everyone has been “the best player,” and everyone is fighting for a spot — truly week in and week out. Which makes the intensity and humility that you need to bring to the field every day — both from a mental and physical perspective — just unlike anything that you can really experience in U.S. developmental soccer.

Without those experiences, there’s simply no way that I would be at anywhere close to the level that I am today.

And so I really just wonder, you know: Why is it that E.U. players are allowed to move country once they turn 16 … but non-Europeans can only do so at 18? Why aren’t we campaigning for a level playing field, where our best 16 year olds — who may not have an E.U. passport like I had — are free to move when they turn 16, like the best young players in Europe can? And in the meanwhile, as long as some of our best young players aren’t getting the opportunity like I had to go to Europe when they’re 16 … are we doing everything in our power to make sure the level of play in U.S. soccer is high enough so that they can continue to develop up to their maximum potential? So that they can continue to develop until they are allowed to play at the top level their talent dictates — wherever that is in the world?

I also understand, of course, that — even with the option to leave — leaving the States might not be for everyone. Staying is fine, and I totally respect it. But at the same time, I’ve gotta say: It really does frustrate me, when I watch MLS, and I see our best U-17 players — who, again, are so talented and so capable — being rostered … but then not being put on the field much to actually play. I watch that, and I just think about how I was given a chance … a real chance … and it changed my life. Why then are we seemingly hesitant to allow these other talents to blossom?

Anyway, I’m not sure what the answers to all of these questions are … but I still think they’re worth asking. And I am sure of this: The path to the U.S. winning a World Cup — it doesn’t start with having “more talent.” It starts with developing the talent that we already have, in the right way.

Another thing that I’ve really found myself thinking over is the idea of American soccer as culture.

Soccer … it’s just this way of life in other countries. It’s part of the fabric of who they are, and of what they do. There’s this sense of identity that I think is baked into global soccer — that touches everyone, and connects everyone together. If your city’s club team is having success, or if your national team is having success, there’s just this amazing sense of personal pride that comes with it. I saw a spark of that with Clint’s goal in 2014 — it almost felt like that one moment changed the mood of the entire country. And it’s hard to put into words how powerful that is.

Which is why I feel so crushed that we won’t be giving people that feeling this summer.

Something that I think is important to point out, though, is that — even with us coming off of this terrible loss, and even with everyone wanting to talk about what’s wrong with American soccer — our soccer culture in the U.S. is getting better all the time. MLS has made great strides as a league, over the last few years, and there are so many incredible American soccer markets that have emerged. You look at what they’ve built in cities like Portland and Seattle, and what they’re building in places like Atlanta and Cincinnati, and what’s happening with the movement to try to save soccer in Columbus — and it’s inspiring. And I mean, the atmosphere that we had going on that field in Orlando, in that stadium, for our qualifier against Panama … it was unlike anything that I’d ever experienced in the U.S. before. Those fans were unreal — and I was so proud to be a part of that match. It really felt like we were all working together that night to make something special happen.

And it’s not just American fans of American soccer now — what’s just as inspiring, to me, is how many people I’ll see from the U.S. who are invested in soccer in other places. Like, catching a kid at the airport in a PULISIC USA jersey is one thing. And that’s obviously such a thrill. But to catch an American kid in a PULISIC Dortmund jersey? This … club team in Europe? That’s, like, another thing entirely. Once I started seeing those around — man, that’s when it really hit me: that this is a country where people are starting to take their soccer seriously, at a global level.

And to me, the global level — that’s the next big step for our country. Because that’s when soccer stops being this “cool new thing,” this novelty item that is part of our lives once every four years … and becomes something so much better than that.

It becomes part of our culture.

Growing up, my dad and I, we used to play H-O-R-S-E in our driveway pretty much every night. I’d come home from training, and we’d take out that basketball, and we’d just play game … after game … after game. And it’s funny, because — the idea was, it was supposed to be very low-key, you know? After a day of taking soccer so seriously, we’d get to come home, and just shoot a ball around for the fun of it. But man, for the life of me … I could never do it. I could never do it just for fun.

had to win.

I’m telling you, it was like, this thing — no matter how many times in a row my dad beat me at H-O-R-S-E on a given night. I’d have to keep playing, and keep playing, until I finally won one. Some nights, honestly, it’s like I would even take it more seriously than soccer training. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than as an obsession. I would be obsessed with winning at H-O-R-S-E.

And the more I think about it, you know, I’ve really been like that my whole life. Obsessed with winning. No matter what I’d be doing — whether it was a game of H-O-R-S-E with my dad, or capture the flag as a little kid, or FIFA with my friends, or a match with Dortmund … the idea of needing to win … it would just eat at me. Which isn’t to say that I’d even win all the time. Like — I’m not even that good at FIFA. But I’ll just get so angry about it, so consumed by it. If I’m doing a thing, then I want to be the best at it. I’m not sure what that means … but it’s just who I am.

It’s who I’ve always been.

And I won’t lie — I’ve been feeling pretty depressed this past month. The thought of having to wait four more years, just to get the taste of losing our last qualifier out of my mouth … just to find out if we’re going to the next World Cup? Man, that’s tough. Four years, yu know? It feels like a lifetime. I mean, in soccer, four weekscan feel like a lifetime! Look at my last four: failed to qualify for the World Cup … first defeat in the league … lost to Bayern at home … and now facing a very hard task to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League. For a guy obsessed with winning, lately I’ve been doing a lot of losing.

But I just want you to know — I’m still obsessed, all the same.

I just want every USA soccer fan reading this to understand, that no matter what decisions are made over these next couple of years … no matter what changes are implemented … no matter who the coach is, or what the roster looks like: I’m going to be obsessed with winning. And I’m going to be obsessed with doing my part to help U.S. Soccer get over the hump.

Because yeah, O.K. … we’re not going to the World Cup.

But there’s going to be a World Cup after that. And a World Cup after that. And a World Cup after that. And I think — I hope — that we’re going to be able to build something, here, with U.S. Soccer, where it’s not just going to be about one lost match, or one lost cycle, or one lost team. It’s going to be about an entire country, rallying around an entire sport, in a way that lasts.  So let’s plan on it, then — 2022.  Get your basements ready, and mark it down.  We’ll be there.CHRISTIAN PULISIC / CONTRIBUTOR


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

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11/8/17 Butler Host Xavier Tonight 7 pm at Butler Bowl, IU in Big 10 Men’s Soccer Tourney at Grand Park 11/10-12, WC Playoff Qualifiers Weekend, US faces Portugal 11/14 3 pm,  MLS Conf Finals Set

Locally Fans will have a chance to see Big East Championship soccer tonight as Top Seeded Butler hosts Xavier at the Butler Bowl at 7 pm.  Tix are just $7/$4.  Former Carmel High and Carmel Dad’s player Eric Dick was named Big East Goalkeeper of the Year while Butler coach Paul Snape was named Coach of the Year.  Dick tied for the BIG EAST lead with eight shutouts during the 2017 regular season. The Butler captain is among the BIG EAST leaders in goals against average (0.85, third), save percentage (.833, second), and saves per game (4.38, first). Dick has been named the conference’s goalkeeper of the week four times in 2017. Previously, Dick was voted to the 2015 All-BIG EAST Second Team. Dick was the 2016 BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Defensive Player.

This Weekend Big 10 Championship Collegiate soccer will be at Grand Park in Westfield on Field 1. The Men’s Championships include top 5 ranked IU and Michigan.  I am planning to head over for the IU game on Friday afternoon at least.  The games will also be on the Big 10 Network.  Also I forgot to mention a huge Congrats to Coach Jonathan McClure and Guerin Catholic High School on reaching the Women’s Finals before losing to 3A Power Penn High School.

BIG 10 MEN’S Championships
Friday, November 10:
12 pm Michigan vs Wisconsin  Field 1 – Big 10 Network
2:30pm Indiana U vs Ohio State  Field 1  Big 10 Network
Sunday, November 12: 12 pm FINALS  – Big 10 Network
Tickets: $12 for adults, $7 for students

World Cup Qualifying and friendlies headline the Games to Watch this weekend as the International Break is upon us meaning no league games.  Of course the US has announced a very young squad made up mainly of European players along with some of the U20s to face Portugal on Tuesday afternoon at 3 pm on Fox Sports 1.  The US Ladies have a pair of match-ups vs Canada Thurs night at 10 pm on ESPN2 and Sunday night at 9 pm on FS1.

Meanwhile huge games involving teams from around the world start playoff games trying to grab those last spots in this summer’s World Cup in Russia.  Italy faces Sweden Fri/Mon 2:45 pm on FS1, Northern Ireland vs Switzerland Thurs/Sun 2:45 pm on ESPN2, Ireland vs Denmark Sat/Tues on Fox Sports and Honduras (not the US) vs Australia Fri/Wed beIN Sport.

MLS playoffs are in full swing and have had some great battles as the Conference Finals are set with defending East Conference Champs Toronto facing the Columbus Crew in a 2 game showdown starting Nov 21 on Fox Sports 1, and Defending MLS Champs Seattle traveling to Houston for the first leg of the Western Conference Finals on Nov 21.  Sad news on the Federal Court of Appeals turning down NASL’s injunction vs US Soccer on D2 Status – I think NASL will head back to the courts again – no idea what this means for our Indy 11.  Oh and good luck to Louisville FC – hosting the USL Championship Final Monday night.


Congrats coaches Doug Latham and Jeremy Slivinski and the U13 Gold Boys for Winning the Fall Fusion Tourney with 23 goals scored and only 2 conceded.


(WCQ-World Cup Qualifying)

Thurs, Nov 9

2:45 pm ESPN2             Northern Ireland vs Switzerland WCQ

2:45 pm ESPN 3?        Croatia vs Greece WCQ

10 pm ESPN2             Canada vs USA Ladies

Fri, Nov 10

2:45 pm Fox Sp 1        Sweden vs Italy  WCQ

2:45 pm FS2                   England vs Germany

5 pm beIN sport?        Honduras vs Australia WCQ

10:15 pm beIN Sport  New Zealand vs Peru WCQ

Sat, Nov 11

8 am ESPN3?                  Russia vs Argentina

2:45 pm Fox Sp 1        Denmark vs Ireland WCQ

3:30 pm ESPN3?          Spain vs Costa Rica  freindly

Sun, Nov 12

2:45 pm ESPN3??        Switzerland vs Northern Ireland WCQ

2:45 pm                            Greece vs Croatia WCQ

9 pm Fox Sport 1           USA Ladies vs Canada

Mon, Nov 13

2:45 pm Fox Sp 1        Italy vs Sweden WCQ

Tues, Nov 14

11:30 am beIN Sport   Argentina vs Nigeria Friendly

2:45 pm Fox Sp 2       Ireland vs Denmark  WCQ

2:45 pm ESPN 2           Germany vs France – Friendly

3 pm ESPN3                    England vs Brazil

3:45 pm Fox Sport 1            USA men vs Portugal

Wed, Nov 15

4 am beIN Sport          Australia vs Honduras

Sat, Nov 18

7:30 am NBCSN               Arsenal vs Tottenham

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Bayern Munich vs Ausburg

10 am NBCSN                Leicester City vs Man City

1 pm NBC                     Man U vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beiN Sport  Atletico Madrid vs Real Madrid

Sun, Nov 19

9:30 am FS1                       Shahlke vs Hamburger (Woods)

11 am NBCSN               Watford vs West Ham

EPL 2017 Schedule  

Read All the stories online – at www.theoleballcoach.com


USA Ladies vs Canada – Gameday – Stars and Stripes

US Ladies Relish Return to Vancouver vs Canada Thurs Eve – Graham Hays ESPNFC

US Coach Sarachan talks Portugal Friendly – MLS.com

US Names Young Squad vs Portugal – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Questions Answered on young US Roster – Armchair Analyst – Matt Doyle MLS.com

Yanks overseas – Stars and Stripes

 Cordeiro, Martino enter Presidential Race – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Development Academies Hurt Local Indiana High School Soccer – Indy Star last week


Who Needs to do What to Win in WC Playoffs – ESPNFC

Italy and Sweden both Lack Stars as they Battle for WC Spot

Italy Looking for 15th Straight World Cup Appearance must beat Sweden

How can New Zealand upset Peru over 2 legs – ESPNFC

Greece looking to Qualify

Can Modric save Croatia like he does Madrid?

All you need to know – WCQ Finals – Last Steps to Russia – SI

World Rankings of Club Teams


MLS Final 4 Set – Columbus vs Toronto, Seattle vs Houston – Jeff Carlisle

MLS Conference Brackets – Finals Set to Start Nov 21

Toronto FC – ½ time – Altidore Red Card being Appealed

Toronto Barely Survives NYRB to Advance to Con Finals

Clint Dempsey Set to Return to Seattle in 2018

Kaka/Pirlo tenures reveal risk of leaning on Legacy Players in MLS

NYCFC Andrea Pirlo Announces Retirement with Heartfelt Letter – see some of his best assists!

Pirlo Among Last of Dying Breed in MLS – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Brad Friedel leads New England Coaching Wish List

Club by Club – Review of 2017 – Greg Doyle

Top 10 MLS Moments This year

Extra Time Radio – MLS – Playoff Edition

 Indy 11

Court Denies NASL Injunction for 2nd Division Status

NASL Hopes for Different Interpretation

Louisville FC to host USL Finals Mon – Soctakes.com

Sarachan talks US roster for friendly vs. Portugal: “We have to look ahead”

November 7, 201712:22PM ESTCharles

The cold shadow of the failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup still hangs heavy over the US national team, but this month’s friendly at Portugal can help turn the page.That’s the message from caretaker coach Dave Sarachan as he announced the youth-inflected 21-player roster that will face the defending European champions in Leiria on Nov. 14 (3:45 p.m. ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN).“The one word that I would use in reference to all of this is opportunity,” Sarachan told ussoccer.com in a Q&A released alongside the roster. “It’s an opportunity for many players who haven’t been in the picture that we feel have a bright future with the national team to get to measure themselves in a game against a quality opponent. It’s an opportunity for our national team to finish out 2017 in a positive way. It’s also just an opportunity to move on.“As much as we’re still gutted from how things turned out with qualifying, we have to look ahead and finish out the year the right way.”Sarachan, who is leading the program on an interim basis while the federation conducts a thorough search for former boss Bruce Arena’s long-term successor, called on eight MLS standouts, but elected to leave out anyone still involved with the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.“It was a combination of things in terms of availability, timing, and having an opportunity to look at players that have been on our radar and in some cases haven’t had a chance to get a look,” he said. “Obviously the European-based players are available with this international break, and the idea was to bring in those players to balance that out with a few Major League Soccer players that are available. We are steering clear of those that are still involved with the playoffs.”Sarachan’s squad features many young faces, as well as solid 2017 performers with little USMNT experience like Philadelphia Union striker CJ Sapong. So he’s relying on a select few experienced players like Sapong’s Union teammate Alejandro Bedoya and former Seattle Sounders fullback DeAndre Yedlin to provide leadership and guidance for the newcomers.He’s also urging all involved to make the most of a rare chance to play a world-class opponent, even if Portuguese megastar Cristiano Ronaldo isn’t taking part.“We’ve also tried to bring in a few veteran players who can lend leadership – guys that have been involved with the national team and have played in what I would call higher-profile games,” said Sarachan.“For a lot of the younger players coming in this is the start of a new era in our program and so it’s important to set the right tone and make sure they all really get a grasp of what this means and the honor that comes with playing for your national team. It’s not something to be taken for granted. It’s not a right, it’s a privilege. That understanding will be important for all the players that come into camp.”

Read the full Q&A here.

 U.S. seize opportunity to name young, inexperienced squad to face Portugal

Dave Sarachan may only be a caretaker manager for the U.S. men’s national team, but he has struck the right balance in naming his roster for the Nov. 14 friendly against Portugal.In the wake of the U.S. team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, there was certainly a “throw the bums out” mentality permeating the U.S. soccer community. The anger and frustration is understandable but if the U.S. is to really turn the page from the debacle that was the 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago last month, there will need to be a hand-off of sorts from more experienced performers to younger ones. To do otherwise is to risk a shellacking that will damage confidence.”The one word that I would use in reference to all of this is opportunity,” said Sarachan. “It’s an opportunity for many players who haven’t been in the picture that we feel have a bright future with the national team to get to measure themselves in a game against a quality opponent. It’s an opportunity for our national team to finish out 2017 in a positive way.”It’s also just an opportunity to move on. As much as we’re still gutted from how things turned out with qualifying, we have to look ahead and finish out the year the right way.”

So there is still value to having an Alejandro Bedoya around to pass along his knowledge to the likes of Schalke’s Weston McKennie and New York Red Bulls’ Tyler Adams. Yes, they both are talented and have loads of potential but they still have plenty to learn, even for a player like McKennie who is at a major Bundesliga club.

To be clear, Sarachan has rightly leaned on youth to comprise most of the roster. With 12 of the 21 players age 24 and younger, Sarachan is clearly looking to the future even if his involvement with the national team is set to perhaps last just this one game.”It was a combination of things in terms of availability, timing and having an opportunity to look at players that have been on our radar and in some cases haven’t had a chance to get a look,” said Sarachan about the construction of this roster. “Obviously the European-based players are available with this international break and the idea was to bring in those players to balance that out with a few MLS players that are available.

“We are steering clear of those that are still involved with the [MLS] playoffs. Beyond that, we’ve also tried to bring in a few veteran players who can lend leadership — guys that have been involved with the national team and have played in what I would call higher profile games to give us a little leadership in this camp and for this particular game.”

In goal, the process of finding a replacement for Tim Howard has been delayed for too long, and now FC Dallas’ Jesse Gonzalez, new FC Midtjylland signing Bill Hamid and Club Brugge keeper Ethan Horvath will get the competition going.

Most of the U.S. roster’s experience is in the back, where you have performers such as John Brooks, Tim Ream, Jorge Villafana and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks, Villafana and Yedlin in particular figure to part of the solution going forward, so there is every reason to include them in the current roster. Center-backs Matt Miazga (on loan at Vitesse) and Cameron Carter-Vickers (on loan at Sheffield United) figure to get long looks when the 2022 World Cup cycle begins in earnest.

In midfield, there is a great deal of focus on the presumed debut of McKennie. The FC Dallas academy product has done plenty to impress with Schalke, starting seven of his team’s 11 matches. That kind of breakthrough is rare indeed for an American teenager, even if the exploits of Christian Pulisic (who is being rested during this international window) have made it seem more common than it actually is.

Lynden Gooch is another intriguing prospect who has been called in. Danny Williams provides a bit of experience though at the age of 28, it remains to be seen just how much of a future he has with the U.S. squad. As for Kellyn Acosta, this is a chance for him to finish an up and down year on a bit of an upswing.

Most of the forward options are either occupied by the MLS Cup playoffs or nursing injuries. Included in that list is Bobby Wood, while Pulisic is being rested. “Christian has really pushed the limits mentally and physically,” said Sarachan. “With those things in mind, we felt this was an opportunity for Christian to get a break and recharge for the rest of an important campaign with Dortmund.

“Bobby was excited about the opportunity to come into this camp and was on board to be a part of it, but he has had a lingering knee issue that has gotten to the point where it needed to be addressed. He was excited to be a part of this last game of 2017 but like with Christian, we felt it was better for Bobby to get a little extra time to rest and recover.”

As a consequence, the U.S. forward line looks a little thin. Juan Agudelo is the most experienced call-up with 26 caps, while Philadelphia’s C.J. Sapong wins this roster’s Man Who Came in From the Cold Award, having last appeared for the U.S. back on Jan. 25, 2012. That said, Sapong is coming off an outstanding season that saw him score a team-high 16 goals. Dom Dwyer gets another look after having some bright moments at last summer’s Gold Cup.

Josh Sargent, who becomes the first player in U.S. history to appear in a U-17 World Cup, an U-20 World Cup and a senior men’s national team camp in the same calendar year, is another player to keep an eye on.

If there is one minor disappointment, it is the absence of Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez. The 18-year-old has been an ever-present force this season for Los Rayados, starting 13 of 16 games so far. It would have been interesting to see how he would have fared in a U.S. national team camp. Mexico has reportedly been dangling a one-time switch in front of Gonzalez, a dual citizen who represented the U.S. at U-20 level. Yet the Santa Rosa, Calif. native has remained steadfast and with the Liga MX playoffs fast approaching, the decision was made for Gonzalez to remain with his club.That said, there are plenty of other players on the roster who U.S. fans have wanted to see at senior level. That opportunity should present itself in Portugal.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Armchair Analyst: Your questions answered on young USMNT roster

November 7, 201711:59AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

The 4-7-8 breathing exercise is simple and easy. Keep your back straight, put your tongue against the roof of your mouth and purse your lips just a little bit.Now… BIG, whooshing exhale through your mouth. Then close your mouth and take a slow, quiet inhale through your nose to a four count. Hold your breath to a count of seven. Then exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of eight. Now close your mouth again and take a slow, quiet inhale through your nose to a four count. Hold your breath to a count of seven. Then exhale slowly through your mouth to a count of eight.Repeat until you calm down.Ok, we all good? The US national team roster for Portugal is out and it’s always a stressful day, so I thought some pre-column breathing exercises would be helpful. I know the vast majority of the fanbase gets pretty worked up on roster day, but I have your continued good health in mind, dear readers.Here’s a thing to remember: It’s 600 (or so) days until the next official USMNT games. We’ve already hit the low point, and now begins the process of climbing off the bottom of the pit, step by step. It’s not going to happen all at once, and quality players who aren’t on this roster will surely get at least a look for future rosters, and it’ll be under a coach other than Dave Sarachan, the current acting head coach.Let’s take a look at what the US have for Portugal next week…

Youth is served

There are four teenagers on the roster (Cameron Carter-Vickers; Weston McKennie; Tyler Adams; Josh Sargent), which is a lot. There’d have been a fifth if the US had pushed and demanded that Borussia Dortmund release Christian Pulisic, and maybe a sixth if Djordje Mihailovic hadn’t ruptured his ACL in the Knockout Round. Then there’d be a seventh if the US had stupidly wanted to force Monterrey’s hand on Jonathan Gonzalez (more on that in a minute).So yes, this roster could conceivably have been younger. But we’re still getting a look at four guys under the age of 20 who most have pegged as long-time centerpieces of the program. Maybe they will be, maybe they won’t be. Either way I’m glad the discovery process starts now.

Why no Jonathan Gonzalez?

MLS isn’t the only league that occasionally plays through an international date. Monterrey are currently top of Liga MX with a game in hand, and that game in hand comes this Thursday. Gonzalez, an 18-year-old d-mid who chews up ground in the center of the park and is a simple and efficient passer, is their Ozzie Alonso. He is essential to their hopes.Calling him in and forcing him to miss such an important game – Rayados would be obligated to release him, as per FIFA regs – would have been counterproductive. It would for sure have alienated the team, and would also have risked alienating the kid. The first is bad, but the second is worse since Gonzalez is a dual-national who still has the option to represent Mexico.There are, so far, no indications he’s going to use that option. Gonzalez signed with Monterrey over Chivas three years ago specifically because he’s committed to the US program, and recent indications are that commitment is solid (reports in the Mexican press say so, as does a friend of mine who’s very involved with the US team and just spent a week consulting for the Monterrey academy).Even if it wasn’t solid, though, calling him up for this game does… nothing. Gonzalez can’t be cap-tied until the 2019 Gold Cup, so just keep doing your breathing exercises, folks.(For what it’s worth, that game on Thursday is against Santos Laguna, and the US did in fact call Santos left back Jorge Villafaña for this roster. Villafaña is a sometimes-starter for los Laguneros, but this game means next to nothing for for them – they’re not in danger of relegation, and they have no chance at making the liguilla.)

Cristian Roldan could do that midfield job, too!

Perhaps, and so too, perhaps, could Marky Delgado or Wil Trapp or Michael Bradley. All those guys are busy with the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, though, and it’s good of U.S. Soccer not to force them to fly across an ocean for a friendly. It’s the right move.We’ll see plenty of those four guys in the camps to come.

 Josh Sargent!

I know, right? I’m kind of excited about that, too, even though I don’t rate Sargent quite as high as many other folks do. And I generally hate calling in non-professionals, no matter how talented. The last US player to get that honor, of course, was Jordan Morris.But I get it with regard to Sargent. He’s a high-level prospect, and it’s very unlikely the US will get to see him in January camp, and there’s kind of a risk he could end up disappearing until 2019 or even 2020, since he’s signing with a team that’s in a relegation scrap. Werder Bremen are objectively terrible (five points through 11 games) and are probably going to be playing in the 2.Bundesliga next season, which means Sargent’s going to a team that will first be A) clawing to stay up, and then likely B) clawing to get back up.Young players, even in Germany, tend not to get a lot of run in situations like that. Managers in relegation battles are notorious for turning to old hands.That doesn’t mean Sargent can’t get called in the future, of course. Even if he’s going to be spending more time than I’d like from him in the reserves, he’s still a talent. But my guess is that his next 18 months consist of a lot of time with those reserves and a lot of goals with the US U-20s, and not too many full USMNT camps and caps.Hopefully I’m wrong. Dude understands how to make runs and has looked like the best pure finisher in US youth set-ups since Steve Snow:Truth be told, the US could’ve called in all three guys on that above goal and I’d have been mostly ok with it.

 Why the olds, then?

Only two (Alejandro Bedoya and Tim Ream) of the 21 players on this roster are over 30. Have you ever started a new job and learned a few tricks of the trade from guys who’ve been at said job for a while?Nobody’s saying that Bedoya and Ream are going to be around til 2022. But both have experience on two continents in good leagues, and neither’s particularly busy at the moment. Any coach in the world will tell you it’s good to have a few guys like that in the locker room just to help set a tone.

That defense looks niiiiice… wait, no Justen Glad????

I don’t get it and am a little bit heated, but here’s the thing: Any time I talk about Glad to someone in U.S. Soccer they talk about how he needs to get stronger (and I don’t disagree). It’s universal.Now, it’s not going to be Sarachan making these picks in the future. But Glad should spend a lot of time this winter eating protein and then going to the gym, and then eating more protein and then going to the gym again. He’s got a good frame that should fill out, but the sooner the better.

Well, at least we can begin the Ethan Horvath era!

Calm your jets, hoss. Horvath just lost his starting job with Club Brugge. My guess is that it’s a wide open competition for the USMNT No. 1 kit over the next two years, with the three guys in this camp as well as veteran Brad Guzan and fellow youngsters Zack Steffen and Alex Bono.

Who else should be here?

I’d have called in both Fire fullbacks, Matt Polster and Brandon Vincent. I’d definitely have taken Christian Ramirez as well, over one of either Dom Dwyer or Juan Agudelo. And – not kidding here – I think I’d have figured out how to get a young, creative attacker like Jonathan Lewis or Andrew Carleton (hey, if Sargent can make it, why not Carleton?) onto this roster as well.The US, in the years to come, are stocked at center back and central midfield, and seem to be in a better place with regard to both fullback slots than they’ve been previously. It’s not clear, however, if there are any elite attackers out there besides Pulisic. I want to see some creativity pushed through the ranks.We saw guys like Benny FeilhaberSacha Kljestan and Lee Nguyen marginalized for a decade. We didn’t get to see Kelyn Rowe (who I’m happy is on this roster) til he was 25, and didn’t get to see Sebastian Lletget until he was 24. Culturally speaking, we have a nasty habit of not trusting our own attacking talent at the club level, and that means they don’t get to show out for the national team until years after they should.A big chunk of the next two years should go toward fixing that.

 Who’s who in the race to be the next U.S. Soccer Federation president

This is an updated version of a feature that was originally published on Oct. 25. 

For the first time in more than a decade, the election for the presidency of the U.S. Soccer Federation will be contested.

The reason why is simple math. In the past, Sunil Gulati had votes from the Pro Council, Athletes Council, life members and board members locked up, getting close to the threshold needed to win. It never required much more support to push him into an unassailable lead; not so anymore.

In the wake of the failure by the men’s national team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Gulati’s base of support has eroded within the USSF National Council, the group that will actually vote in the election. Just how much remains to be seen, but it has created an opening whereby candidates have stepped forward to challenge him.

The current list of candidates seems to fall into two categories: Those with high-level playing backgrounds but little business experience and those with more modest playing careers but greater involvement in business and administration.

Here’s the latest on a fluid field.


The incumbent: Sunil Gulati

In the wake of the failure by the U.S. men to qualify for the World Cup in Russia and manager Bruce Arena’s subsequent resignation, Gulati has become public enemy No. 1. Given the reported USSF surplus of $130 million, the financial side looks to be in good shape, but it is Gulati’s judgment on the playing side — in particular his hiring of coaches — that has been called into question.

Gulati still has yet to declare his intentions, though he has been politicking in the background, meeting with various constituencies and working to secure the three required declarations of support.

The entry of USSF vice president Carlos Cordeiro into the race complicates matters for Gulati, since they would presumably be going after many of the same voters. But Gulati is the incumbent and has the advantages that title brings. Assuming he runs, he knows how to win elections and has an entrenched base, especially on the Pro Council, as well as elements of the USSF Board.

Chances of winning: 25 percent (unchanged)


The heir apparent: Carlos Cordeiro

Cordeiro’s candidacy offers advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, he’s not Gulati, but his close association as a member of the hierarchy means he’ll have to explain how he would do things differently. Cordeiro has been heavily involved on the business side of the USSF, serving as the organization’s treasurer since 2008 and on the budget committee. He joined as an independent director the year before that.

He has also won USSF elections and, like Gulati, will be well versed in the politics needed to secure votes. But he has no known experience of dealing with the playing side of the house and, given its emphasis in this election, that will be a difficult gap in his resume to overcome. Cordeiro has vowed to take less of a hands-on role, be more inclusive and transparent and will allow a technical director to decide the next manager of the men’s national team.

The crowded field could  see the protest vote against the establishment splinter, aiding his candidacy. At some point, however, either he or Gulati will need to become the standard bearer for the establishment wing.

Chances of winning: 25 percent (unchanged)

The firebrand: Eric Wynalda

Wynalda has long been the U.S. soccer community’s resident gadfly, willing to say just about anything, regardless of the subject matter. That persona has tended to obscure some of his ideas about the game and without question, he is taking a populist approach to his campaign.

He is a staunch advocate of promotion/relegation, though by his own admission, he admits it doesn’t fit within the current system. He will “tear up” the recently agreed CBA between the USSF and the union representing the women’s national team in a bid to give them equal pay. His proposed changes for MLS involve moving to a fall/spring calendar in line with that of Europe, as well as a media-rights deal for all divisions similar to what MP & Silva proposed in September.

Such views make Wynalda a polarizing figure. His lack of business experience is also something he’ll need to address, which in part explains his praise for current USSF CEO Dan Flynn. Name recognition alone gets Wynalda in the running, but he’ll need to sell his ideas — and temperament — to constituents, who might be concerned by what he’ll do to the system.

Chances of winning: 18 percent (down from 20 percent)

The all-rounder: Steve Gans

Gans will likely be viewed as a safe candidate and boasts a strong business background, having been a COO as well as a lawyer, who has advised youth and Premier League clubs on various aspects of their business. He engaged in what he calls a “listening tour” of people associated with the youth and amateur game and said he has found great dissatisfaction. His biggest challenge is convincing people he’s also a “soccer guy,” so he’s been bringing up his long affinity for the game as well as the fact he played professionally in the MISL.

Among his ideas is to use the USSF surplus to address the pay-to-play issue in youth soccer. He has also said he will work to make the youth soccer landscape “less fractured” and, as a parent of two Development Academy players, he has seen it up close. Gans has also vowed to improve the working conditions of the U.S. women’s national team, who even after agreeing to a new CBA, have been subjected to playing games on artificial turf.

On the business side, Gans said he wouldn’t change much, noting that he things there are a lot of good people working for the USSF already.

Chances of winning: 15 percent (unchanged)

The idealist: Kyle Martino

Martino insists his entry into the race is not “a person for a person” and that nobody alone will save U.S. Soccer. He made that comment as it relates to Gulati, but his presence seems to make him the anti-Wynalda. Martino may not have had such an illustrious playing career, but his knowledge is not in question but what he offers is a candidate with many of the same qualifications as Wynalda, but one who is less controversial. That might appeal to voters less inclined to big changes.

Martino’s platform consists of three planks. The first involves making the USSF more transparent, while making the president a paid position. He is also emphasizing equality, which includes making the game more accessible for kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as better treatment of the women’s national team. The third is loosely titled “Progress” and includes setting up training centers around the country that would be free of charge to players, as well as creating an advisory board to aid with the selection of national team coaches and technical directors.

Martino has some catching up to do in terms of establishing relationships with voters and he’ll need to find a way to expand his base beyond the anti-establishment crowd.

Chances of winning: 8 percent (new entry)

The wild card: Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan is arguably the U.S.’ greatest player. But does he have a future in soccer administration?

At this stage, it’s not even clear if Donovan will run; he said recently that he was still mulling his options. But with each passing day, and as the field gets more crowded, it seems less likely that he’ll take the plunge.

Donovan certainly won’t lack for name recognition; he’s easily the most famous name on the list of presumptive candidates. From the outside, it looks as though Donovan’s presence could siphon away support from Wynalda, given his playing background, as well as the fact that he would carry far less baggage into the race.

But Martino’s entry seems to give Donovan less reason to run, and Donovan’s lack of business experience represents a gap in his resume.

Chances of winning: 5 percent (down from 10 percent). 

The outsider: Mike Winograd

A corporate attorney, who played professionally in Israel and coached at the youth and collegiate levels, Winograd has a skillset that allows him to bridge the business and playing sides. He has touted his experience in legal negotiations as proof of his ability to build consensus but it looks like he has too much ground to make up to win the election.

Winograd is not of the opinion that everything in the system needs to be burned to the ground and his platform contains three major planks: Transparency by which critical decisions are made, addressing the inequities that the women’s national team faces, and tackling the costs affecting coaching education and youth soccer.

He “would love to see” promotion / relegation but stopped short of saying he would implement it full bore; instead he is interested in a more incremental approach. He is a big supporter of training compensation / solidarity payments and feels that is a piece to the puzzle of funding youth development. He would also leverage his experience in the corporate world to create more avenues of funding, as well as make use of the USSF’s reported surplus.

Chances of winning: 2 percent (unchanged)

The legend: Paul Caligiuri

The 53-year-old, best known for scoring the goal that clinched a place for the 1990 World Cup, is banking on his lengthy playing career to set him apart from other candidates; given the presence of old teammate Wynalda and Martino, that could prove difficult. That said, he could weaken support for his other ex-players.

Since his 15-year professional career ended, his time has been spent coaching collegiately at Cal Poly-Pomona and with Orange County FC in the NPSL. He has also served on the USSF Athletes Council and on the USSF Board of Directors. His “Goal 2019 & 2022” plan aims for the women’s national team to defend its World Cup title in 2019 and the men to win the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Caligiuri’s plan so far is light on details, but he is in favor of promotion / relegation and said two other areas of emphasis would be culture and values. In terms of the business side, he emphasized that he’s there to chair the committees, not be a day-in, day-out person to run the business. Instead, a “qualified CEO” would be in charge of that.

Chances of winning: 1 percent (unchanged)

The lifer: Paul Lapointe

Lapointe has a long history of playing in various indoor and outdoor leagues, then working in the game at youth and amateur levels. He is currently the Northeast Conference manager of the amateur UPSL. In his professional life, he has worked in the automotive industry, owning car dealerships and tire stores after working for Goodyear.

Easily the biggest plank in his platform is his idea for instituting promotion / relegation at every level except MLS and then, after a period of time evaluating how well it works, for the full conversion to happen naturally.

In terms of youth soccer, Lapointe would like a more clearly-defined path to the national team and believes the Development Academy doesn’t reach enough kids. In terms of the women’s game, he believes that having a women’s version of the U.S. Open Cup would be a way to further market that side of the sport.

Chances of winning: 1 percent (unchanged)

Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.


World Cup Qualifying Finales: A Guide to the Playoffs, Last Steps on Road to Russia

By Avi Creditor SI – November 06, 2017

Congratulations, everyone! We’re almost there. 

The end of the multi-year quest that is World Cup qualifying is upon us, with the final nine berths set to be claimed over the next nine days. UEFA’s playoff round, a pair of intercontinental playoffs and the outcome of three African groups will determine the remainder of the field, give us draw permutation fodder for the two weeks leading into the Dec. 1 event in Moscow and set us on course for a 32-team showcase in Russia this coming summer.

Here is a day-by-day guide at what to expect and watch for as the road to Russia finally reaches its conclusion (all times Eastern).


UEFA playoff (first leg)

Croatia vs. Greece, 2:45 p.m.

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland, 2:45 p.m.

Greece has qualified for the last two World Cups via the playoff round, but with all due respect to Romania and Ukraine, neither posed a challenge like star-laden Croatia will, with Mario Mandzukic leading the line and Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic and Ivan Rakitic manning the midfield. They surprisingly haven’t played one another in six years and have only met six times in their footballing history, with Greece holding a slight edge in their all-time meetings (2-1-3).

Northern Ireland was stingy at Euro 2016 in reaching the knockout stage and was stingy again in qualifying, conceding just six times in the 10 group games. Will Grigg may no longer be on fire, but Michael O’Neill’s side is disciplined and organized enough to make life difficult for the opposition. It meets a Switzerland team cruelly dumped into the playoff round despite winning its first nine qualifiers, only to stumble at the last hurdle vs. Portugal and miss out on goal differential.


Intercontinental playoff (first leg)

CONCACAF 4th place (Honduras) vs. AFC 5th place (Australia), 5 p.m.

OFC 1st place (New Zealand) vs. CONMEBOL 5th place (Peru), 10:15 p.m.

Neither of these series are logistically ideal, but all four nations will have to deal with the absurd level of travel involved. Given the adjustment required after the first leg, that could favor the opening hosts. That’s good news for Honduras, which is hoping to carve out a lead at home against a Socceroos side that is expected to be missing Tim Cahill, and New Zealand, which faces a Peru opponent that will be without captain and star forward Paolo Guerrero, who is banned for failing a doping test.

UEFA playoff (first leg)

Sweden vs. Italy, 2:45 p.m.

Italy stumbled toward the finish line in World Cup qualifying. You would expect the Azzurri to figure it out, not miss a World Cup for the first time since 1958 (when the competition was ironically held in Sweden) and extend its string of taking part in 14 straight World Cups to 15. The first leg in Sweden, against a side itching to return to the World Cup stage for the first time since 2006, will dictate plenty. Italy holds a 10-6-6 advantage all-time, including a 1-0 win over Sweden at Euro 2016. Sweden hasn’t beaten Italy since 1998.


South Africa vs. Senegal, 12 p.m.

Algeria vs. Nigeria, 2:30 p.m.

South Africa-Senegal is the one to watch, as the two must replay their qualifier from November 2016 after the referee at the center of it was found to be guilty for match-fixing and awarded a dubious–and game-changing–penalty South Africa’s way. Senegal clinches first place in the group and a World Cup berth with a win but would leave the door open for three other sides with a loss.


UEFA playoff (first leg)

Denmark vs. Ireland, 2:45 p.m.

Ireland stormed its way into the playoff round thanks to a win over Gareth Bale-less Wales on the last day of group play, and it’ll look to make good on that new life vs. the Danes, who are led by Tottenham standout Christian Eriksen. These two hardly play one another, with Ireland holding a 5-3-5 advantage in the all-time meetings. It won the last two by a combined 7-0 scoreline, but the games came in 2002 and 2007–hardly an indicator of present fortunes. Ireland’s last appearance in the World Cup qualifying playoff round resulted in Thierry Henry’s “non-handball” and heartbreaking elimination at the hands of France in 2009.


Zambia vs. Cameroon, 8 a.m.

Gabon vs. Mali, 9:30 a.m.

Tunisia vs. Libya, 12:30 p.m.

DR Congo vs. Guinea, 12:30 p.m.

Ivory Coast vs. Morocco, 12:30 p.m.

All the focus should be on Tunisia-Libya and Ivory Coast-Morocco. Tunisia clinches its World Cup berth with a win or draw, though a loss would open the door for DR Congo to steal first (Tunisia leads DR Congo by three points and has a goal-differential edge of +2). Morocco nurses a one-point lead over Ivory Coast and would win its group with a win or draw, but Les Elephants would return to the World Cup stage with a home victory.


UEFA playoff (second leg)

Switzerland vs. Northern Ireland, 12 p.m.

Greece vs. Croatia, 2:45 p.m.

Everything depends on the opening legs, with Switzerland and Greece hoping to have away goals under their belt to provide an advantage and margin for error as they return home. The Swiss, who have qualified for the last three World Cups, are in line for a place in Pot 2 in the World Cup draw, should they advance.


Congo vs. Uganda, 9:30 a.m.

Ghana vs. Egypt, 10:30 a.m.

Nothing to see here, carry on. Though for Egypt, playing at Ghana is a fine tune-up for its return to the World Cup stage.


UEFA playoff (second leg)

Italy vs. Sweden, 2:45 p.m.

Sweden scored the most goals in qualifying out of any of the teams who made the playoff round, with only Portugal, Poland, Germany and Belgium scoring more during the group stage. Sure, that included drubbings of Luxembourg and Belarus, but that should put the Azzurri on notice that the Zlatan-less Swedes are to be reckoned with. Marcus Berg led the way with eight tallies. Trying to stop Berg and his teammates will be Gianluigi Buffon, who could be playing the final match of his international career, should Italy fail to qualify.


UEFA playoff (second leg)

Ireland vs. Denmark, 2:45 p.m.

Nobody throws a world football party quite like the Irish, and the scenes in Dublin are sure to be memorable for this return leg, which will secure UEFA’s 14th and final place in the competition.


Senegal vs. South Africa, 2:30 p.m.

Burkina Faso vs. Cape Verde Islands, 2:30 p.m.

All four teams in this group could remain alive on the final day, depending on what happens in the first Senegal-South Africa clash. Of course, if Senegal wins it, this day loses all of its potential drama and features a pair of dead rubbers.


Intercontinental playoff (second leg)

AFC 5th place (Australia) vs. CONCACAF 4th place (Honduras), 4 a.m.

CONMEBOL 5th place (Peru) vs. OFC 1st place (New Zealand), 9:15 p.m.

The last two tickets two Russia will be punched in places halfway around the globe from one another. Peru could end its lengthy drought and clinch its first berth since 1982 on home soil.

Major League Soccer’s final four: Columbus, Toronto, Houston, Seattle

After a weekend that had a little bit of everything, Major League Soccer’s final four is set. As is so often the case in the MLS Cup playoffs, the postseason has seen its share of upsets, with the Houston Dynamo’s victory over the Portland Timbers, the top seed in the Western Conference, the most notable.The Dynamo’s win sets up a date with the Seattle Sounders, who booked their place in the conference final by overcoming the Vancouver Whitecaps. There was drama and bad blood as well in the East, with Toronto outlasting the New York Red Bulls, while Columbus continued its run (despite plenty of off-field distractions) by hanging on to get past New York City FC.Here are the storylines to follow in the conference finals.

  1. How will the international break affect the teams that are left?

The four remaining teams must now wait more than two weeks before they play again thanks to the international break. For sides such as the Sounders and Dynamo that are banged up, the respite isn’t the worst thing to happen, as it will give some preferred starters the chance to heal and get closer to their best. That said, the Dynamo’s Honduran contingent (Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto and Boniek Garcia) will be contesting a World Cup qualifying playoff against Australia, so the concern there is that Houston won’t be as rested as Seattle will.Toronto won’t mind the break either; the time will be needed to get its collective head — one that it lost to a degree against the Red Bulls — back together.About the only team that might rue the time off is the Crew. Columbus saw its 12-game unbeaten streak across all competitions snapped in Sunday’s 2-0 defeat to NYCFC, but overall, the Crew has been in arguably the best form of any of the remaining sides. At the very least, the break will give Gregg Berhalter ample time to come up with a tactical plan to thwart TFC.

  1. Crew’s date with destiny still on

The Crew’s run so far has borne an uncanny resemblance to the movie “Major League.” As a consequence, #SaveTheCrew isn’t just what goalkeeper Zack Steffen has been doing during the playoffs, but it has become a galvanizing force of fans backing the team, this despite owner Anthony Precourt’s public flirtation with moving the franchise to Austin, Texas.But give Berhalter and his players credit. They’ve managed to tune out the noise surrounding the team’s future and have been playing for the present. The concerns about the team’s defense, and in particular central defender Jonathan Mensah, will persist, but Berhalter has enough pieces playing well that a trip to its second MLS Cup final in three years is well within reach for the Crew. 

  1. Toronto’s depth to be tested again

TFC’s deep roster has been lauded throughout the season, and with good reason. It seemed like no combination of injuries and international absence was enough to knock the Reds off their stride. But now manager Greg Vanney will have to look to his bench again when the stakes are highest. Starting forwards Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco will be suspended for the opening leg against Columbus on Nov. 21 — Altidore for his rather foolish exchange with the Red Bulls Sacha Kljestan, and Giovinco for the silly pair of yellow cards he received over two legs.It seems likely that Tosaint Ricketts will be asked to deputize for Altidore, while Victor Vasquez will slide into the Giovinco role, leaving one of Jonathan Osorio or Armando Cooper to move into Vasquez’s normal role deeper in midfield.The situation certainly isn’t unfamiliar for Vanney. Toronto’s record when both Altidore and Giovinco weren’t on the field this season is 2-2-0, but the playoffs are a different beast, and how TFC copes on the road in front of what will no doubt be an intense Columbus crowd will largely determine if the Reds will be hosting MLS Cup for the second year in a row.

  1. Is it Dempsey time?

The MLS Cup playoffs haven’t always been kind to Seattle forward Clint Dempsey over the years. Prior to the second leg against Vancouver, Dempsey had managed just four goals and three assists in 19 postseason appearances. His strike rate with the Sounders was a bit better, but still a rather pedestrian three goals in 10 matches. But after bagging both goals in the second leg, Dempsey’s numbers are now a quite respectable five in 11.Given that Jordan Morris, Victor Rodriguez, Ozzie Alonso and Gustav Svensson have been nursing injuries, Dempsey’s performance came at an opportune time. The aforementioned break figures to help the Sounders heal up. But this seems like the playoff year where Dempsey will really shine, and a repeat performance will almost certainly catapult Seattle into its second consecutive MLS Cup final.

  1. Will Houston crash the MLS Cup final party?

Not many expected the Dynamo to prevail against top-seeded Portland on the road, but Wilmer Cabrera’s side did exactly that. This is a side that on the one hand seems like a mishmash of spare parts, but it’s also one that has grown over the course of the season, and in the process it has revealed that there is more to its game than just the simple defend-and-counter. It also has shown it can get results on the road when it needs them.The two teams split the season series at one win apiece, though it’s worth noting that they haven’t played each other since early June. Defensively, Houston has been stellar over the past month, conceding just three goals in its past seven matches across all competitions. Offensively the team has done just enough.Given its outstanding home form this season — it went 12-1-4 — as well as the recent history of lower seeds prevailing over higher seeds, another Dynamo ambush could be in the offing.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

 Kaka, Pirlo’s MLS tenures reveal risk in leaning on legends made elsewhere

A few minutes before the end of New York City FC’s Eastern Conference semifinal second leg against Columbus Crew SC, with the team needing a goal to complete an unprecedented comeback, coach Patrick Vieira subbed on Andrea Pirlo.Time was, a tiring team like Columbus might have reacted with panic at that development; a close-fought series was coming down to the wire and now its opponent was sending in a World Cup winner with a sublime touch on the ball, to probably tilt the game decisively.But this was not that Pirlo. This was a peripheral player being sent on for what would be his last few minutes as a professional, in the hope rather than expectation that he could supply a telling pass to win the game.To put into perspective the disconnect between reputation and effectiveness, as decisive substitutions went, Gregg Berhalter’s introduction of Lalas Abubakar as a third defender for Crew SC had a much more impactful effect than Pirlo’s cameo. And the likelihood of another Crew SC substitute, Kekuta Manneh, stripping the Italian veteran before streaking away for an away goal to end the contest looked much more on the cards than NYCFC’s not-so-secret weapon finding his range.But can’t we just remember Pirlo as the player he was, rather than dwelling on the leggy anomaly he became in NYCFC’s retooled 2017 midfield? In time we will. Pirlo’s deftness on the ball at its peak, and his vision and economy of touch, will be what determines his legacy — along with his trophies, of course. His MLS period will be a tiny footnote on a great career.

The trouble is, the paradigm of Pirlo — or for that matter, Kaka, who left Orlando City SC at the end of this season and whose career may be at its end — persists in MLS, even when these types of players retire. Both those players leave 2015 expansion teams who will spend this offseason reflecting a little more ruefully than before that “you never get a second chance to make a first impression,” but will other teams learn the lesson?

Both Orlando and NYCFC started their existence playing without a permanent home. Orlando has since acquired a great downtown stadium to house whatever incarnation of the team comes next, while NYCFC continues to couch-surf at Yankee Stadium, MLB playoffs permitting. Both teams determined that the best way to make an initial splash in their respective markets was to attract marquee names, perhaps hoping to make up for the fact that neither owned their marquee.]

For Orlando, that meant targeting Florida’s substantial Brazilian population, as well as those just curious about seeing a former World Footballer of the Year. For City Football Group it meant trying to bludgeon its way into a cramped New York sports market, with a clutch of brand names: David Villa, Frank Lampard and Pirlo.We know how that turned out: in its first season, NYCFC endured rather than enjoyed the effects of signing big-name talent. Villa, younger than the other two and with more of his lasting legacy at stake, was the sole success, and is woven into the foundational mythology of the team. Lampard had his effective moments when he eventually got here, but was never here long enough to matter, and Pirlo never racked up enough dead-ball highlight-reel moments to make up for what the team lost in mobility with him on the field.The Orlando and NYCFC front offices might argue that this is besides the point when considering all the factors that go into marketing an expansion team from a standing start — and yes, Orlando already existed as a successful USL side, but there’s still a leap in the demands and imagination needed to make a successful MLS team. NYCFC would say that it couldn’t, for example, take the route its neighbors did, not only for not having a long-running academy like the Red Bulls, but in needing the oxygen of attention in the most competitive media market in the world. Orlando had to make an instant splash in an often moribund Florida sporting market.But, Atlanta. Unless you count Kenwyne Jones as a marquee name, Atlanta United had perhaps the most successful launch in MLS history by putting its name-brand faith in its coach rather than putting a big name on the field and asking the moving parts around that name to compensate for qualities it no longer reliably possessed. In fact, for what it’s worth, Jones has been a peripheral figure under the speed-first philosophy of Tata Martino, while the younger profile of designated players at Atlanta has shown a viable alternative for the mechanism that, already, a few short years on, has made the approach of NYCFC and Orlando look tired.Big names will continue to come to MLS to see out their careers; a tier or two down, big-name U.S. players may continue to benefit from a market skewed in their favor (though their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup probably represents a moment where that market massively corrects); shirt sales will still be monitored as a metric of success. But if soccer in the U.S. wants to use the fallout from World Cup failure to critically examine itself, one factor for its club owners to consider is the exact nature of the value they are adding when they tell their stories by borrowing from legends made elsewhere.Graham Parker writes for ESPN FC, FourFourTwo and Howler. He covers MLS and the U.S. national teams. Follow him on Twitter @grahamparkerfc.


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

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

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

11/3/17   Juergen Sommer Joins Carmel FC, MLS Playoffs Sunday, EPL Huge Games Sun, Big 10 Soccer Tourneys at Grand Park 11/3-5, 11/10-12,  

Huge news for Carmel FC  – with the addition of former Indy 11 Manager, US National Team and former Indiana University star Goalkeeper Juergen Sommer as Director of Soccer Operations to work along with DOC Matt Coyer.  Sommer, who was the first American goalkeeper to play in the English Premier League and was named GK of the year back in 1993, will be responsible for all Carmel FC programming and will also play a major role consulting in CDC recreation soccer programs. (More to come on this).  CFC and CDC families don’t forget this is Dick’s Sporting Goods Weekend 20% off – check your email and good luck to those CFC teams playing Fusion Fall Festival this weekend!

MLS playoffs are in full swing and have had some great games so far.  If you have never watched MLS soccer – tune in for a playoff game this weekend it’s a different atmosphere.  Leg 2 games to decide who advances to the Conference Finals are all Sunday.  Toronto vs NY Red Bulls 3 pm on ESPN, NYCFC vs Columbus Crew 5 pm on ESPN, Portland vs Houston 7:30 pm on FS1.  Sunday also features 2 huge games in the EPL with Man U facing Chelsea at  on NBCSN and Arsenal hosting Man City at  on NBCSN.

Congrats to the England U17 boys as they win the World Cup – at least the US was knocked out in the Quarterfinals by the team that ended up dominated the Tourney.  Good sign of things to come with the U20s and the U17s making the Quarterfinals this past year. The Indy 11 finished the season in exciting fashion with a tie vs North Carolina at the MIKE last Saturday.  Sure hope we have a team next season – we’ll wait to see if its in the NASL or USL or what?

Locally Fans will have a chance to see big 10 Championship Collegiate soccer this weekend and next at Grand Park in Westfield. The Men’s Championships are next weekend and should include top 5 ranked IU, while the ladies championships are this weekend:

Friday, November 3:
1:30pm Ohio State vs Penn State
3:30pm Northwestern vs Wisconsin
Sunday, November 52:00pm Championship.
Tickets: $12 for adults, $7 for students
Groups of 15 or more: $10 for adults, $5 for students

Men’s and Women’s Big 10 Tourney’s Will be Held at Grand Park Nov 3-5 Women, Nov 10-12 Men Tickets $12/$7



Congrats to the U11 Boys Gold and coach Mark Flanders (right) for Championship at Nightmare at the Rock last Weekend.


Congrats to Coach Dustin Palmer and his U13 Girls Blue for this Championship at Socctoberfest


Congrats to Bill Spencer’s U14Girls Gold for reaching the Finals at Soctoberfest.


Dempsey Delivers Seattle into Conference Finals

MLS Playoff Schedule

Dependable Duece Comes thru for Seattle Again –MLS.con

Playoff Bracket


US U17s+U20s Reach Quarterfinals of WC in Same Year first time since 2003.

Mexico Trying to Snag US U18 Gonzales

Men’s and Women’s Big 10 Tourney’s Will be Held at Grand Park Nov 3-5 Women, Nov 10-12 Men Tickets $12/$7


4 Teams thru to Who’s Next –Champions League

Power Rankings Top Teams in World

What to Watch 4 EPL  – 2 Huge games on Sunday

Arsenal will not hide vs City on Sunday

Arsenal/City teams headed in different directions

Indy 11

Indy 11 Tie – What does the Future Hold?  Indy Star Kevin Johnson

Indy 11 Sign off with thrilling draw vs NC FC

Indy 11 defender Franco and Zayed named to NASL Team of Month

Clint Dempsey comes up huge to lead Seattle into the conference finals

SEATTLE — Three thoughts on the Seattle Sounders’ 2-0 Western Conference semifinal win against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the MLS Cup Playoffs.

 Dempsey turns in one for the ages

There had been speculation prior to kickoff as to whether this could be Clint Dempsey’s final match at CenturyLink Field. It is the Sounders’ call whether or not to pick up the 34-year-old’s team option for 2018 — and after earning close to $3.89 million this season, that decision is going to be agonized over in the front office.

Dempsey’s arrival in the summer of 2013 was a watershed moment in the modern history of the club, a personification of its long-term ambitions. It would be unfair to label him a bust, or anything close to it. The Texan has netted nearly 50 goals in more than four seasons in Seattle, and he helped deliver the memorable Open Cup/Supporters’ Shield double back in 2014.

There is a bit of a sense, however, that he hasn’t completely lived up to the outsized hype that heralded his arrival. Through no fault of his own, Dempsey missed out on last year’s dramatic MLS Cup run with an irregular heartbeat, and he had yet to deliver the type of transcendent moment that so defines legacies.He went a long way toward changing that on Thursday night with a classy double that came at a time his team was struggling to find a goal.Vancouver’s stubborn rearguard frustrated Seattle for more than 145 minutes stretched over the two legs of the series, and it was beginning to look as though the Sounders would never find their way through. The 39,587 rain-soaked fans girded themselves for the possibility of extra time, and penalty kicks beyond it.Then in the 56th minute, Dempsey found himself in a little pocket of space atop Vancouver’s box. He shimmied himself free, swung his left leg back and splashed a perfectly placed strike into the corner of the Whitecaps net. Then 32 minutes later, when a ‘Caps goal still could have knocked Seattle out, Dempsey added the insurance tally from close range.He wheeled away in triumph, kicked the ball toward the heavens and broke into a wide grin, a snapshot that will live long in these parts.


  1. Carl Robinson’s negative tactics backfire

The Whitecaps played for a scoreless draw last Sunday at BC Place, turning that first leg into a 90-minute slog in front of their own underwhelmed fans. The team mostly packed numbers behind the ball on Thursday, too, only pushing men forward once they went behind.In some ways, that’s just how Vancouver plays. It defends with discipline and burns you on the break. Especially in the first leg, with Seattle depleted due to injury, it could have stood to be a bit more ambitious.Robinson put all his chips on the idea that Vancouver could steal an away goal, and with it, the series. Had it worked out, he would’ve had some justification in gesturing toward the scoreboard. The ends justify the means, all’s fair in love and soccer, etc. In defeat, he and his charges were left with little to fall back upon.They turned what would have been a thrilling series between local rivals into a war of attrition, and now they’ll have a long offseason to consider what might have been if they’d only been a bit more aggressive.


  1. Portland-Seattle conference final beckons

Get ready for the real possibility of multiple weeks of Seattle-Portland hype.The Timbers have to hold up their end of the bargain, of course, on Sunday against the Houston Dynamo at Providence Park. But if Portland does advance, and with the international break looming on the other side of the weekend, prepare for the MLS hype machine to shift into overdrive.The league’s most passionate local rivalry would decide the Western Conference, with the two most recent MLS Cup champions going toe-to-toe to produce another finalist.Houston still might have something to say about that, but soccer fans will be excused if the prospect of a Portland-Seattle conference final topped their playoff wish list.Matt Pentz is a Seatt

When the clock strikes Deuce: The dependably dangerous Clint Dempsey

November 3, 20173:55AM EDTCharles BoehmContributor

You’ve heard the old saw about Clint Dempsey a thousand times by now, the one handed down to us by the grizzled Bruce Arena, a testament to the ingenuity and bravery of the stone-faced striker from Texas: “He tries sh*t.” As far as three-word descriptors go, it’s a moving compliment, and an apt phrase for a one-of-a-kind player in the annals of American soccer.

But it actually obscures an important truth about Dempsey: The famously unpredictable attacker is actually pretty reliable, especially when it comes to big moments.Thursday night, Dempsey’s brace led Seattle to an Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs Western Conference Semifinal victory against Vancouver. He raised his career postseason tallies to 6 goals and 3 assists in 7 career MLS playoff campaigns, alongside his already-sterling 71 and 41 in 172 career regular-season games. Few players in the league have earned more of a right to be trusted when a goal absolutely, positively has to be dug out, as was the case for the Sounders in Leg 2 of that continuously cagey series.

Dempsey is 34 now, and he remains the most dependable performer in the clutch for both club and country, despite months – maybe years – of talk about his advancing years and aging legs and the awkward questions facing him and the Sounders as that historic Designated Playercontract of his winds towards its end.

The litany is even familiar to us: His future is uncertain. He might have to accept a supersub role. This is really Nico Lodeiro’s team now. His club finally won the big one last year – without him, thanks to that heart condition that raised the specter of forced retirement, however briefly. His US national team failed to qualify for Russia 2018 in the most humiliating fashion imaginable. And of course, he’s not getting any younger.

ESPNFC’s headline blared out the encapsulated version this week: “Time is running out for Clint Dempsey to make his mark in MLS Cup playoffs.”This isn’t actually a new phenomenon for the kid who honed his cheeky, swaggering style of play on the hardscrabble, sun-baked fields and trailer-park driveways of East Texas. He’s spoken vividly over the years of the race against time, the urgency of being the one at the periphery, a clock over his shoulder as he hustles to get noticed, hustles to prove that he’s worth the spot, hustles to stay king of the hill in the face of relentless competition and advancing age.

From Nacogdoches to Furman to New England to Fulham to Tottenham to Puget Sound, with memorable diversions to Germany and South Africa and Brazil. Roaming the right flank in midfield, leading the line, drifting in the hole, in and out of his preferred position, in and out of the starting XI.Somehow he’s gotten his hands on nearly everything his childhood self could’ve dreamed of and more, and still retains that restless, furtive, slightly angry aura – still the outsider, even as a million-dollar man. Even with a championship ring sitting on the desktop at home.“He didn’t get to be a part of the run to the MLS Cup last year, one that you can tell just hurt him, and one that he didn’t really feel was his,” said former USMNT colleague Stu Holden during the final moments of Thursday’s FS1 broadcast. “So he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder, wanting to make sure he leads this team to back-to-back championships.”

Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer boiled it down a bit further.“He’s been through a lot. And he’s hungry. He’s hungry.”Packed with talent, but somehow still lacking in killer instinct, Seattle let the Whitecaps hang around in this series far longer than they deserved to. Showing precious little ambition or attacking cohesion, Vancouver rarely seemed threatening to the defending champs, but they remained unbowed as the minutes ticked away in Leg 2, dustily defiant like a bloodied bull trotting around the ring.

Seattle needed a closer, a matador. And no one else in the building can do the job like Deuce.

As our own Sam Stejskal reported earlier this season, the Sounders have an option year on Dempsey in 2018. They may check that box enthusiastically, or perhaps might try to talk him down to a smaller, more budget-friendly salary number. Some have even raised the possibility of him calling time on his career altogether – though that prospect seemed distant, even faintly ludicrous under the rainy Seattle skies on Thursday, as he yet again did what he does best.“While they’ve been in negotiations, we were told yesterday by Seattle that they have ‘a warm, fuzzy feeling’ about him coming back next year,” noted Holden, “which makes it seem – and we know they’ve been in advanced discussions – but that Clint Dempsey will be back here next season. At what number, we do not know, but that is good news and he’s certainly proving his worth, yet again, to this franchise.“When you need him, he has turned up.”There’s hardly anyone like Deuce – in MLS, in a Sounders uniform, in US soccer history. And it hardly seems like he’s done making noise.Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

 MLS Playoff Schedule

It’s playoff time. Following the conclusion of the 2017 MLS regular season, the postseason is set to begin ahead of MLS Cup, which is set for Dec. 9 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN and WatchESPN) and will be hosted by the surviving team with the best regular-season record.

Conference Semifinals

All kickoffs are Eastern time zone

Sunday, Nov. 5:
East series 1, leg 2: Toronto FC vs. New York Red Bulls – 3 p.m., ESPN,
East series 2, leg 2: New York City FC vs. Columbus Crew SC – 5 p.m., ESPN,

West series 2, leg 2: Portland Timbers vs. Houston Dynamo – 7:30 p.m., FS1

Conference Championships

Tuesday, Nov. 21:
East, leg 1 – 8 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes, WatchESPN
West, leg 1 – 10 p.m., FS1

Tuesday, Nov. 28 or Wednesday, Nov. 29:
West, leg 2 – Time TBD, FS1

Thursday, Nov. 30: 
East, leg 2 – 10 p.m., ESPN, WatchESPN

2017 MLS Cup

Saturday, Dec. 9:  4 p.m., ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas

Will Mourinho let Man United attack Chelsea? Can Arsenal stop Man City?

ohn Brewin previews the weekend’s Premier League action and highlights five key storylines in this edition of W2W4.

Mourinho’s revenge mission at the Bridge

Will Manchester United pounce on Chelsea’s vulnerabilities and pull off the victory their manager craves perhaps most of all? The champions, hapless when losing 3-0 at Roma on Tuesday, look to be there for the taking. It could lead to Jose Mourinho throwing off the ultra-conservatism he employs in big away matches and go for all three points.

Being sacked by Chelsea in December 2015 as the defending champions languished 16th in the table, after nine defeats in 16 matches, was the lowest ebb of his career. He was removed after what sporting director Michael Emenalo labelled “palpable discord with the players,” many of whom remain at Stamford Bridge.

In the 23 months since that sacking, there has been criticism cast by both sides, with Eden Hazard remarking in February that Antonio Conte’s tactical preparation was superior while Mourinho has made repeated digs about Chelsea’s style of play. “They played defensive football and counter-attack football,” he said in September, but Mourinho might now fancy United can get at an increasingly leaky defence.

Chelsea hope N’Golo Kante can return after he ruled himself out in Rome, for they’ve missed him badly since he injured a hamstring on international duty last month. Tiemoue Bakayoko, himself struggling because of a knee injury, so far unable to provide the same protection for the back three and command of midfield. If Bakayoko struggles this weekend as he did at the Stadio Olimpico, the wisdom of letting Nemanja Matic defect from Chelsea to United will be brought into sharp focus.

Mourinho will still be without Paul Pogba and Marouane Fellaini, two key midfielders of very different facets, but Matic provides the ballast United needed. Another former Chelsea player, Romelu Lukaku, came so close to rejoining in the summer but offers another thread between two clubs that have recently become interwoven.

A United victory would open serious daylight, a gap of seven points, on the defending champions. Is the prospect of that enough to make Mourinho consider letting his team play?

November rains for Arsenal

For Arsenal, November is the cruellest month as they average just 1.56 Premier League points per game. So where better to begin it than Manchester City, whose 4-2 midweek destruction of Serie A leaders Napoli lifted them towards the top of the betting for the Champions League?

City appear unstoppable and no worse off having failed to lure Alexis Sanchez from Arsenal in the summer. With Leroy Sane in stunning form and Raheem Sterling rampant ahead of playmakers Kevin De Bruyne and David Silva, and Sergio Aguero now the club’s all-time leading scorer after notching his 178th goal in Naples, it has become difficult to see where Pep Guardiola might fit the Chile international. Perhaps we will find out in January should City make a renewed bid, but Arsene Wenger will need him at his best if Arsenal are to continue their recently respectable record against City this year. After all, their 2-2 home draw on April 2 and 2-1 Wembley win in the FA Cup semifinal were victories that helped keep Wenger at the Emirates.The City of this season, though, seem a rather different prospect.

 Spurs must stop Zaha

Wednesday night saw a true glory game for Tottenham Hotspur. Double Champions League winners Real Madrid were soundly beaten 3-1, and a sulking Cristiano Ronaldo headed straight to the tunnel at full-time. Now it’s back to Wembley and to reality on Sunday where Spurs must try to make up the ground lost after last week’s disappointing defeat to Manchester United.

Crystal Palace are the opposition, buoyed by a 2-2 draw with West Ham that felt like victory after Wilfried Zaha’s 97th-minute equaliser. Zaha was a player Mauricio Pochettino fancied adding to his team last summer, only for the winger to sign a new deal that kept him close to his South London roots. With goals against Chelsea in last month’s 2-1 win and that West Ham equaliser responsible for Palace’s four points so far, Zaha is definitely the man to stop if Spurs are to stay on the coattails of City and United.

 Everton continue in limbo

David Unsworth’s extended audition to be permanent boss at Everton continued Thursday with a 3-0 defeat in Lyon that sunk a dreadful Europa League campaign, while Sunday’s home match with Watford surely completes an ill-starred experiment with the club’s Under-23 coach. There are whispers about Sam Allardyce, and Sean Dyche has not ruled himself out, while Nuno Espirito Santo has stated his desire to remain flying high in the Championship with Wolves.

Those names each add to the confusion at Goodison Park as Everton were clearly unprepared for Ronald Koeman’s sacking, even if it became a fait accompli as his team slid into the relegation zone. Former player Unsworth had the fans’ sympathy on his side, but they cannot suffer much more punishment. Should Watford, led by Marco Silva, just the kind of progressive coach a club like Everton is looking for, win on Sunday, then a barracking for the board must be expected.

Overlooked Sturridge has point to prove

Liverpool’s trip to West Ham is the highlight of Saturday’s fixtures. If there’s a repeat of last season’s 4-0 away win, the pressure once again returns to Hammers boss Slaven Bilic but then again, he’s well used to that by now.

The opening goal scorer back in May was Daniel Sturridge, who was at the time linked with a potential move to West Ham. Having scored in his past two Liverpool appearances, the first time he has achieved that since January, he found himself omitted from Gareth Southgate’s England squad on Thursday along with Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.Only more goals and appearances can get Sturridge back in the reckoning. West Ham’s obliging defence seems a good place to start proving Southgate wrong.John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.


U-20 MNT U-17 MNT Oct 17, 2017

hat trick from Tim Weah and comprehensive 5-0 win by the USA in Monday’s Round of 16 match against Paraguay at the U-17 World Cup in India perhaps overshadowed a significant achievement for the USA’s Youth National Team program.The win pushed head coach John Hackworth’s U-17 side into the tournament Quarterfinals, matching the finish that head coach Tab Ramos’ U-20 team achieved at their World Cup in Korea Republic earlier this year.The USA joins England, who the U-17s will face in Saturday’s Quarterfinal, as the only two nations to accomplish the feat in 2017. The U.S. U-20 MNT took Venezuela to extra time where they eventually fell 2-1 in their Quarterfinal defeat in June, while England advanced to the Final, where they eventually downed La Vinotinto 1-0 to win their first youth World Cup. Notably, U-17 MNT captain Josh Sargent (below) also took part in the USA’s run at the U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic.

The U.S. and England are far from the first two teams to reach the Quarterfinals of both tournaments in the same year. Since 1985 it’s happened 45 times, with the U.S. previously doing it in both 1993 and 2003.That number decreases significantly when counted from 2007, the year in which the FIFA U-17 World Cup expanded to 24 teams and added an earlier knockout match before the Quarterfinals.Prior to this year’s instances, it’s taken place just nine times and on eight occasions, at least one of the nation’s representative teams moved on to the Semifinals.

Indy Eleven earn draw in season finale, await NASL’s uncertain future

Kevin Johnston, IndyStar correspondentPublished 8:26 p.m. ET Oct. 29, 2017 | Updated 9:54 p.m. ET Oct. 29, 2017

The Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC met Sunday at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium under vastly different circumstances.Win or draw, North Carolina would avoid having to play at Miami FC in the first round of the North American Soccer League playoffs. A loss would entail a trip to Ricardo Silva Stadium to face perhaps the best team in all lower-division soccer.The Eleven, contrastingly, had nothing to play for, having been eliminated from playoff contention a couple of weeks ago.The teams played to a 2-2 draw.The highly motivated visitors struck early when Billy Schuler buried a pass from Daniel Barrow in the fourth minute. Barrow played a short ball straight up the seam into space, connecting with Schuler’s diagonal run. The 27-year-old striker took one touch past Indy defender Cory Miller before finding the side netting inside the far post.But despite playing for pride, Indy responded with a vengeance.“I’m very happy to see the team play the way they did,” said Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “If we had played this way consistently through the season we’d probably be looking at playoffs next week.”A goal in the 20th minute by forward Eamon Zayed and another in the 65th by Miller propelled the home side to a 2-1 edge. Midfielder Ben Speas provided the helper on the first one, left back Nemanja Vukovic on the second.Daniel Keller was originally announced as a starter among the back four, but injured his hamstring during warmups. Miller replaced him in the starting lineup.“I ended up kind of tweaking my hamstring,” Keller explained. “(The coaches) got together and didn’t think it was worth it in case I further injured it in the first 10 minutes, so we would’ve had to use a sub early in the game.”Feeling a sense of urgency, the visitors cranked up the intensity in search of an equalizer. They eventually found it in the 89th minute, again through Schuler, this time on a pass from Marcel Kandziora.The teams settled for a draw, but it probably felt like a win for North Carolina FC. They’ll still face a stern road challenge next Sunday against the San Francisco Deltas, but will avoid a semifinal matchup against Miami FC. Miami won both the NASL spring and fall titles, and proved a dominant force in doing so.For two veteran Eleven midfielders, it was the last time they’ll play: Gerardo Torrado and Sinisa Ubiparipovic. Both players announced they’d retire at season’s end.Hankinson, who confirmed his contract expires at the end of November, faces an uncertain future — much like both the NASL and club. The league claimed it won’t be able to survive a demotion from Division II during a September conference call. Its divisional fate for 2018 likely will be determined at an Oct. 31 hearing regarding its federal antitrust lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation.“I’m at the end of a contract, so we have to see (what direction) ownership and our team president (go),” Hankinson said. “Obviously, they’re waiting for the court ruling Tuesday to decide the direction of the league. So those things have to happen first before they start making clubs decisions.”

RECAP | Indy Eleven Signs Off Season with Thrilling Draw against North Carolina FC

Goals from Zayed, Miller help “Indiana’s Team” earn point at home to close the season

Published Oct 29, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (October 29, 2017) – Indy Eleven ended the 2017 season at Carroll Stadium with a draw against North Carolina FC, 2-2.

Quick on the draw, the visitors opened the scoring inside the first five minutes through forward Billy Schuler. Making his debut for NCFC, midfielder Danny Barrow weaved through a pair of Indy Eleven players before feeding a ball in for Schuler to latch onto. Taking a touch away from goal, Schuler then rolled one past Indy ‘keeper Jon Busch at the far post.

Determined to go out on a high, Indy would press the NCFC backline and found the majority of their success from wide positions. In the 20th minute, midfielder Ben Speas continued his heavy impact on the match when he created a near tap-in for teammate Eamon Zayed to pull one back. Taking his man near the byline, Speas picked out Zayed dead center of the six-yard box where the forward beat ‘keeper Brian Sylvestre to go level.

A second half of relatively few chances between the pair, Indy would end up in front in the 65th minute thanks to a goal from defender Cory Miller. Earning a free kick just outside the box, defender Nemanja Vukovic – known for his ability to fire on goal from a set-piece chance – opted to instead lift a cross to the back post where Miller stood waiting. The late August re-addition side-footed the curling cross to the far post past substitute ‘netminder Macklin Robinson to give his side the lead.

Late on, a flurry of chances for NCFC were all blocked or beaten away as the visitors turned desperate for an equalizer. In the 89thminute, though, Carolina found an equalizer – another goal from Schuler – after substitute playmaker Lance Laing found the forward from close range.

With today’s match being the last in NASL regular season action, Indy Eleven ends the Fall Season in 8th place with a record of three wins, four draws, and nine losses (13 points) but locks in 6th place in the Combined Season table with seven wins, 12 draws, and 13 losses (33 points).
NASL Fall Season
Indy Eleven 2 : 2 North Carolina FC
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:
NCFC – Billy Schuler (Danny Barrow 4’)
IND – Eamon Zayed (Ben Speas 20’)
IND – Cory Miller (Nemanja Vukovic 65’)
NCFC – Billy Schuler (Lance Laing 89’)
Discipline Summary:
NCFC – Danny Barrow 19’
IND – David Goldsmith 88’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-1-3-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch (GK); Nemanja Vukovic, Cory Miller, Colin Falvey, Marco Franco; Gerardo Torrado © , Ben Speas (Sinisa Ubiparipovic 58’), Tanner Thompson (Paulo Junior 75’), Don Smart; Eamon Zayed, David Goldsmith

IND bench: Keith Cardona (GK); Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Cory Miller, Christian Lomeli, Adrian Ables

North Carolina FC lineup (4-5-1, L->R): Brian Sylvestre (GK) (Macklin Robinson 32’); Paul Black, Connor Tobin, James Marcelin, Kareem Moses; Austin Da Luz (Lance Laing 79’), Tiyi Shipalane, Bolu Akinyode, Daniel Barrow (Nazmi Albadawi 64’), Marcel Kandziora; Billy Schuler

NCFC bench: Saeed Robinson, Jonathan Glenn, Brad Ruhaak, D.J. Taylor


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

Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com

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



10/20/17  US U17s vs England Sat 10:30 am FS2, US Women Sun 3 pm ESPN, Indy 11 host PR on Sat 3 pm special game.

The Indy 11 will host Puerto Rico this Saturday at 3 pm at the Mike – in a game to benefit the victims of the hurricane tickets are just $5 order here!

The US U17 Men will face England Saturday at 10:30 at with a spot in the Final 4 on the line on Fox Sports 2.  The U 17s demolished Paraguay 5-0.  Winner will meet the Brazil vs Germany winner on Wed.  Meanwhile the US Ladies fresh off a 3-1 win last night – will face Korea again on Sunday at 2 pm on ESPN.

The MLS Season wraps up this Sunday with decision day on Oct 22  featuring multiple games with the playoff implications across Fox and ESPN networks. The playoffs will begin the following Wed/Thurs.  ESPN will start coverage at 4 pm and bounce around from game to game until 6:30 pm following all the playoff action!!   This Atlanta United and US National Team Goalie Brad Guzan is currently sitting on a shutout streak of 482 minutes. If he and Atlanta United hold Toronto FC scoreless, he could have the third-longest individual shutout streak in MLS history – in front of what Is expected to be the biggest ever MLS crowd of over 75,000 expected in Mercedes Benz Stadium!

Big World games this weekend include Everton vs Arsenal Sun at 7:30 am on NBCSN, and Tottenham vs Liverpool at 11 am.


Crew could be leaving Columbus?  Jeff Carlisle -ESPNFC

Atlanta Sets to Break MLS Single Game Attendance Record with 75K + vs Toronto

Playoff Scenarios – on final Decision Day Sunday – MLS.com

Records that May Fall on Decision Day Sunday in MLS

Who will Win on Final Day of Season

DC United Hope to Close RFK Stadium in Style vs NYRB  – MLS.com

Kaka Not returning to Orlando City in 2018


Landon Donovan Considers Run for US Soccer President

US Set to Choose Interim Coach this weekend to Coach Nov Friendly

Claudia Reyna Says US Soccer Way to Arrogant

Fox Changes Plans with US Eliminated- more Mexico, Stars

US Ladies down South Korea 3-1

US Ladies 3 -1 Highlights


US U17s Advance to Quarterfinals vs England on Sat 10:30 am

US U17s WC – Preview of Quarter Final vs England Sat 10:30 am on FS2

5 things to Know About US U17 Run to WC


Champions League ½ Way Point

Messi scores 100th Champ League Goal & Complete Wrap-Up

World Power Rankings – Barca, PSG, Man City, Man U, Tottenham

Indy 11

Indy 11 add Puerto Rico Home game on Sat Oct 21 at 3 pm

Indy 11 out of Playoff hunt with loss to Miami


Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am NBCSN               Chelsea vs Watford

7:30 am Fox Sport 2       U17 WC Mali vs Ghana

9:30 am Fox Sport 1      Frankfurt vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC?                 Stoke City vs Bournemouth

10:30 am FS2               USA U17 WC vs England – Quarters

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2   Hamburger (Bobby Wood) vs Bayern Munich

3 pm myindy Tv        Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico

Sun, Oct 22

7:30 am NBCSN         Everton vs Arsenal

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Spain vs Iran – Quarters

7:30 am Fox soccer      U17 WC Germany vs Brazil – Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1     Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN               Tottenham vs Liverpool

2 pm ESPN                   USA Ladies vs Korea Republic

4 pm ESPN                  MLS Decision Day

Weds, Oct 25

7:30 am FS 2                  Semi Final U17 WC (Rd of 4)

10:30 am FS 2               Semi Final U17 WC (Rd of 4)

2:45 pm ESPN3            Chelsea vs Everton (League Cup)

Fri, Oct 27

2:45 pm beIN Sport    PSG vs Nice

Sat, Oct 28

7:30 am NBCSN          Man U vs Tottenham

7:30 am FS2                   U17 World Cup 3rd place

9:30 am Fox Soccer   Hanover vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Liverpool vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC??              Arsenal vs Swansea City

10:30 am FS2             U17 World Cup Final

12 pm beIN Sport?    Milan vs Juventus

12:30 pm NBCSN?      West Brom vs Man City

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2  Bayern Munich vs RB Leipzig

Sun, Oct 29

7:30 am NBCSN         Brighton vs Southampton

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN          Leicester City vs Everton

4 pm + 7 pm            MLS Playoffs? 

5 pm MyindyTV    Indy 11 vs North Carolina

Full MLS Schedule

Indy Eleven vs Puerto Rico FC -Saturday, October 21 at 3:00 PM!

Indy Eleven is hosting Puerto Rico FC this Saturday, October 21 at 3:00 PM.  Your “Boys in Blue” were originally scheduled to play this match in Puerto Rico.  However, the devastating damage caused by Hurricane Maria requires the match to be played at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium. And here’s the best news of all…For this match only, Indy Eleven is offering the best prices ever on single-game tickets, starting at only $5. This ticket offer is available through the ticket link at the bottom of this email.  As we did back on October 4, we will again be offering you the opportunity to support Puerto Rico hurricane relief efforts by contributing to Carmelo Anthony’s fundraising link at bit.ly/Unite4PR. See you this Saturday!  If you have any questions or want to learn more, please send us a note at tickets@indyeleven.com or call us at 317-685-1100 today or Friday during regular business hours!     Order $5 tickets Here.

To Soothe The U.S. World Cup Failure, Watch The Under-17s Play

OCTOBER 20, 2017 By Brian Willett

If you need a break from the lamentations over lack of coaching, poor talent, and general malaise of the U.S. Men’s National Team, perhaps the U-17s, where international soccer teams with players younger than 17 compete, can offer some respite. The United States faces England in the U-17 World Cup quarterfinals on Saturday (10:30 a.m. EDT/FS2). A win would see the U.S. U-17s advance farther in the World Cup than they have in nearly two decades.

Put simply: They’re a fun team to watch and promise a potentially bright future for the senior national team. In the group stages, they beat host India 3-0 and eternal foe Ghana 1-0 before losing to Colombia 3-1. They ended the group stage tied with Ghana and Colombia on points, but dropped to third place because of that loss to Colombia (they advanced as one of the best third-place finishers). The “Baby Nats” put on a clinic against their first knock-out opponent Paraguay, scoring five goals that you most definitely should watch. Three wins in four while playing the style of soccer that many American fans wish the senior team could, including three minutes of possession to close out the Paraguay game. It’s enough to give hope to even the most cynical fans.

Youth Development Is Paying Off

This side also enjoys a more professional set of players, showing the sort of youth development this country needs for future national team success. A handful ply their trade outside this country, with one each at Monterrey (Mexico), Ajax (Netherlands), Benfica (Portugal), and Paris Saint-Germain. About half come from Major League Soccer clubs, with a few having made at least one club appearance (remember, they’re barely old enough to drive).

The U-17 World Cup does not guarantee success at the senior level, neither for players nor nations. American soccer’s biggest “what-if,” Freddy Adu, regularly performed well in youth tournaments. The most successful American squad took fourth place in 1999, and only five of those played any significant role in the full men’s national team. Nigeria has won three of the last five tournaments since 2007, with Switzerland and Mexico taking one each during that time. Those countries have all been competitive in recent international tournaments, but none have made a significant impact.But that 1999 squad featured Landon Donovan, Damarcus Beasley, Oguchi Onwewu, Bobby Convey, and Kyle Beckerman, all of whom appeared in at least one World Cup. Donovan and Beasley contributed significantly to the USA’s quarter-final run in the 2002 World Cup. And the last four in recent U-17 World Cups includes countries whose success and talents the United States can only envy: Spain, Germany, Argentina, Belgium.Most importantly, it gives potential men’s national team players experience in playing and winning in an international tournament. That could make a big difference in 2022 or 2026, especially since the national team looks likely to skew much younger for at least the next two years.

The U-17s will face an England side that scored 11 goals in the group stage and has only conceded two goals in four games. But the United States will be boosted by the absence of England’s Jadon Sancho. The Borussia Dortmund prospect scored three goals in the group stage, but was recalled by his club before the knockout stages.

Three Players to Watch

Andrew Carleton—The Powder Springs, Ga. native has two goals and three assists in this tournament. He made his professional debut at 16 with second-division Charleston Battery. The midfielder is Atlanta United’s first Homegrown Player and one of the most promising young Americans.

 Tim Weah—Weah has good pedigree as the son of former FIFA World Player of the Year and aspiring Liberian presidential candidate George Weah. He became the fifth American to net a hat trick in a World Cup after scoring three against Paraguay. He’s the first to do it since Adu a decade ago. Weah joined Paris Saint-Germain’s youth academy in 2014 and signed a professional contract this summer.

Josh Sargent—The occasionally goofy-haired forward already played in one youth tournament this year, scoring four goals in the U-20 World Cup this summer. The O’Fallon, Mo. native parlayed that performance into a contract with German club Werder Bremen, following training stints with Dutch club PSV and Schalke in Germany.


GOA, India (Oct. 19, 2017) — The U.S. Under-17 Men’s National Team continues its incredible run in the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup when it takes on England in the quarterfinals on Saturday, Oct. 21, at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa, India. The match will be broadcast live beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET on FS2 and Telemundo. Fans can also follow the match on Twitter at @ussoccer_ynt.The United States is coming off Monday’s Round of 16 encounter with Paraguay, where the USA utilized a stunning hat trick from Tim Weah and single strikes from Andrew Carleton and Josh Sargent to earn a comprehensive 5-0 victory in New Delhi.The result was the USA’s second win all-time in the U-17 World Cup Knockout Stage and first since 1999. John Hackworth’s side also becomes the first U.S. team to advance to the tournament’s Quarterfinals since the 2005 squad, which coincidentally was the first team he led at the U-17 World Cup.Following Monday’s victory, the U.S. turned its attention to Tuesday’s clash between England and Japan. Both teams traded chances during the steamy match in Kalkota, but a 0-0 draw after 90 minutes led to England running out 5-3 winners on penalty kicks, setting up Saturday’s meeting with the USA in Goa.

U.S. U-17 MNT Roster by Position (Club; Hometown)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Budnik (Sockers FC; Arlington Heights, Ill.), Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (Benfica; Philadelphia, Penn.), Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC; Miami, Fla.)
DEFENDERS (6): Sergiño Dest (Ajax; Almere-stad, Netherlands), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls; Montclair, N.J.), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City; Charlotte, N.C.), James Sands (New York City FC; Rye, N.Y.), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC; Greenwich, Conn.), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers, Fort Wayne, Ind.)
MIDFIELDERS (6): George Acosta (North Carolina FC; Hollywood, Fla.), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake; Eden, Utah), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United; Glen Allen, Va.), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club; Southlake, Texas), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC; Locust Grove, Ga.), Indiana Vassilev (Unattached; Savannah, Ga.)
FORWARDS (6): Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC; Brampton Ont.), Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC; Powder Springs, Ga.), Jacobo Reyes (C.F. Monterrey; Houston, Texas), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas; Little Elm, Texas), Joshua Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallon, Mo.), Tim Weah (Paris Saint-Germain F.C., Rosedale, N.Y.)

Chief among the highlights of the USA’s memorable 5-0 shutout of Paraguay in the Round of 16 was the hat trick scored by Tim Weah. The Paris Saint-Germain forward gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute, made it a brace with a stunning strike in the 53rd and capped his hat trick with a tap-in in the 75th.

READ MORE: Five Things to Know About Tim Weah

The performance made Weah the sixth U.S. male player at any level to score a hat trick in the at a World Cup and the first to do it in the Knockout Stage. Learn more about Weah’s historic night by clicking here.

While the two nations have met twice at the Men’s World Cup (1950 and 2010), Saturday’s encounter between the U.S. and England will be the first at the U-17 tournament. And while it’s the first World Cup meeting at this level, the current iterations of the squads have familiarity with each other going back to their U-15 days.

On August 16 and 19 2015, a John Hackworth-led U.S. U-15 Boys National Team squad visited England for a set of games, which ended in fitting 2-2 and 3-3 draws. As part of the friendlies, the teams agreed to take penalty kicks to decide a winner, with England coming away victorious in the first match and the USA doing so in the second.Just a few months later, much of the same U.S. squad and coach Hackworth faced England in the very first match of the current U-17 cycle, opening the 2015 Nike International Friendlies with a 3-2 defeat to the Three Lions. A high contingent of both World Cup rosters were part of that match, with 12 from the U.S. and 13 from England in their respective squads for the Nike International Friendlies.The teams last met on March 24, 2016, when the USA bounced back from a two-goal deficit, using a pair of goals from George Acosta to earn a 2-2 draw on the way to winning the Mondial Football de Montaigu Tournament in Le Poire Sur Vie, France.

Adding to the occasion of Saturday’s meeting is the fact that the United States and England are the only two countries that have reached the Quarterfinals of both the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup and 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, which was held in May and June in Korea Republic.Led by the goal scoring exploits of current U-17 MNT captain Josh Sargent, the USA took Venezuela to extra time before falling 2-1 in their Quarterfinal clash. Venezuela would advance to the Final where it fell 1-0 to England, who in turn earned their first World Cup championship at youth level.The USA and England’s achievement marks the 10th and 11th times in which a nation has reached the Quarterfinals of both youth World Cups in the same year since the U-17 event expanded to 24 teams in 2007.
It is the third time the U.S. has achieved the feat, having previously done so in 1993 and 2003.

Hackworth’s U-17 World Cup squad has been largely bolstered by players that have cut their teeth in U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy. Eighteen of the 21-player roster have played in the DA at some point, with nine currently involved, six having signed M.L.S. Homegrown contracts and three holding past DA affiliations.

Current Development Academy Affiliations: George Acosta (North Carolina FC), Taylor Booth (Real Salt Lake), Alex Budnik (Sockers FC), Blaine Ferri (Solar Soccer Club) Justin Garces (Atlanta United FC), Christopher Gloster (New York Red Bulls), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri), Tyler Shaver (New York City FC), Akil Watts (Portland Timbers)

M.L.S. Homegrown Signings Promoted to First Team: Andrew Carleton (Atlanta United FC), Christopher Durkin (D.C. United), Chris Goslin (Atlanta United FC), Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting Kansas City), Bryan Reynolds (FC Dallas), James Sands (New York City FC)

Past Development Academy Affiliation: Carlos Joaquim Dos Santos (Former: Philadelphia Union, Now: SL Benfica/POR), Indiana Vassilev (Former: IMG Academy; Now; Unattached), Tim Weah (New York Red Bulls/ Now: Paris Saint-Germain/FRA)

Having already scored four goals for the USA at this past summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic, Sargent joined Freddy Adu as the only American male player to compete at both youth World Cups in the same year when he took the field in the tournament opener against India. Thirty minutes into that match, Sargent bested Adu by becoming the only U.S. player to score in both tournaments held in the same year. He also joined the small club of U.S. players that have found the back of the net at both tournaments, namely, Adu, Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson.

READ MORE: Five Things to Know About Josh Sargent

Here’s the breakdown of the USA’s all-time youth World Cup scoring leaders:

Overall FIFA U-17 World Cup FIFA U-20 World Cup
Player Goals GP Goals GP Goals GP
Freddy Adu 7 17 4 4 3 13
Josh Sargent 6 9 2 4 4 5
Taylor Twellman 6 7 2 3 4 4
Eddie Johnson 5 8 1 3 4 5

Sargent shined for the USA during the U-20 World Cup, earning the competition’s Silver Boot with four goals and an assist. His two-goal performance in the team’s opening group game against Ecuador went into the record books as he eclipsed Jozy Altidore as the youngest U.S. player to score at the FIFA U-20 World Cup at 17 years, 91 days. After scoring his fourth goal of the tournament in the Round of 16 against New Zealand, Sargent tied Taylor Twellman (1999), Eddie Johnson (2003), and Jozy Altidore (2007) for most goals scored by a U.S. player at a FIFA U-20 World Cup.

In the midst of his third U-17 World Cup as U.S. head coach, John Hackworth (2005, 2007 and 2017) recorded his sixth career win at the tournament in Monday’s 5-0 victory against Paraguay, tying him with Roy Rees (1987, 1989, 1991, 1993) for the most all-time wins by an American coach at the tournament.After serving as an assistant for John Ellinger at the 2003 tournament, Hackworth led the 2005 team, which included current U.S. MNT stars Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez, to a top of the group finish, going undefeated against Korea DPR (3-2), Italy (3-1) and Ivory Coast (1-1). In their quarterfinal matchup against Netherlands, the USA fell 2-0 in a hard-fought game that saw five cautions and two players sent off.Two years later, Hackworth brought his 2007 U-17 side back to the World Cup, leading the team to a second-place finish in its group. In the Round of 16, the USA was matched up against a tough Germany squad that sent the USA home with 2-1 defeat.

The U.S. will take in its fourth different venue of the tournament on Saturday, playing at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on India’s west coast. While it will bethe team’s first time there during this competition, Hackworth’s side has plenty of familiarity with the area thanks to its participation in the 2016 AIFF Youth Cup, which was held there last May. Playing five matches during the tournament, the U.S. advanced all the way to the Final where it fell 2-1 in extra time to Korea Republic.

The USA finished second at the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Panama City, Panama, last April, scoring 20 goals while allowing six. The USA opened the tournament with a 5-0 win vs. Jamaica, led by a brace from Ayo Akinola and goals from Chris Durkin, Tim Weah, and Josh Sargent.

The USA followed that result with four more wins, defeating Mexico (4-3) and El Salvador (1-0) to win the group. Victories against Honduras (3-0) and Cuba (6-2) in the classification stage earned a berth to the World Cup. In the final, a rematch against Mexico, the USA held a 1-0 advantage into stoppage time before seeing the game forced into penalty kicks on a 92nd-minute equalizer. Despite the USA converting four of its five attempts, Mexico converted on all five to take home the regional title.

Nine different players scored for the USA during the qualifying tournament. Golden Glove honoree Justin Garces, Jaylin Lindsey, James Sands, Chris Durkin, and Josh Sargent earned selections to the tournament’s Best XI. Sargent’s five goals and Akinola’s four placed the pair in third and fourth, respectively, in the Golden Boot standings. Carleton and Weah each added a pair of goals, while Blaine Ferri, Bryan Reynolds Jr. and Indiana Vassilev also scored a goal apiece. Midfielder George Acosta led the team with three assists.

The USA had its best tournament showing in 1999 when future U.S. MNT stars DaMarcus Beasley and Landon Donovan led the team to a fourth-place finish after falling to Ghana in the Third-Place match. The game was played in front of a roaring crowd of nearly 16,000 at North Harbour Stadium in Auckland, New Zealand.

READFive Things to Know About the USA’s History at the U-17 World Cup

The USA has participated in 12 of the previous 13 U-17 World Cups, missing 2013’s tournament in the United Arab Emirates. Including the team’s run in 1999, the USA has made it out of the group stage eight times, reaching the Quarterfinals five times (1991, 1993, 1999, 2003, 2005).  Over 46 matches in its 12 runs at the U-17 World Cup, the USA has posted a 16-23-7 record with the most success coming against Italy, defeating the Azzurri twice (1991, 2005).

England U-17 MNT Roster by Position (Club, Club Country)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Curtis Anderson (Manchester City), Josef Bursik (Stoke City), William Crellin (Fleetwood Town)
DEFENDERS (6): Timothy Eyoma (Tottenham Hotspur), Lewis Gibson (Everton), Marc Guéhi (Chelsea), Jonathan Panzo (Chelsea), Joel Latibeaudiere (Manchester City), Steven Sessegnon (Fulham)
MIDFIELDERS (10): George McEachran (Chelsea), Phil Foden (Manchester City), Tashan Oakley-Boothe (Tottenham Hotspur), Angel Gomes (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund/GER)*, Nya Kirby (Crystal Palace), Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Emile Smith-Rowe (Arsenal), Morgan Gibbs-White (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Conor Gallagher (Chelsea)
FORWARDS (2): Rhian Brewster (Liverpool), Danny Loader (Reading)   * Jadon Sancho recalled to Borussia Dortmund following Group Stage

England qualified for the World Cup by finishing as runners up at the 2017 UEFA European Under-17 Championship in May. The Three Lions finished on top of their group with a perfect record, downing Norway (3-1), Ukraine (4-0) and the Netherlands (3-0). England then bested Republic of Ireland 1-0 in the Quarterfinal and Turkey 2-1 in the Semifinal. In the Final, England played to a 2-2 draw with Spain before falling 4-1 on penalty kicks.

England continued its qualifying form at the World Cup, going a perfect 3-0-0 in wins against Chile (4-0), Mexico (3-2) and Iraq (4-0). Meeting Japan in Tuesday’s Round of 16 match, England played to a spirited 0-0 draw before advancing 5-3 on penalty kicks.

Playoff Scenarios: How teams can clinch on Decision Day presented by AT&T

October 19, 20174:45PM EDTIt all comes down to Decision Day presented by AT&T.

There’s still plenty on the line come this Sunday, when all 22 MLS clubs will kick off at 4:00 PM ET/1:00 PM PT. Here’s what they’re fighting for:RELATED: Live updating playoff seeding and bracket

Atlanta United FC

Atlanta United will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Atlanta United win vs. Toronto FC on Sunday and …
  • New York City FC tie or lose vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday and …
  • Chicago Fire tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday

Chicago Fire

Chicago Fire will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Chicago Fire win vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday and …
  • New York City FC tie or lose vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday

Columbus Crew SC

Columbus Crew SC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Columbus Crew SC win vs. New York City FC on Sunday and …
  • Chicago Fire tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday and …
  • Atlanta United tie or lose vs. Toronto FC on Sunday

FC Dallas

FC Dallas will clinch a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs if:

  • FC Dallas win vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes tie or lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • FC Dallas tie vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • Real Salt Lake tie or lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday

New York City FC

New York City FC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • New York City FC win vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • New York City FC tie vs. Columbus Crew SC on Sunday and …
  • Chicago Fire tie or lose vs. Houston Dynamo on Sunday and …
  • Atlanta United tie or lose vs. Toronto FC on Sunday

Portland Timbers

Portland Timbers will clinch No. 1 seed in Western Conference if:

  • Portland Timbers win vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday

Portland Timbers will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Portland Timbers tie vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday and …
  • Seattle Sounders FC tie or lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday and …
  • Sporting Kansas City tie or lose vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • Seattle Sounders FC lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday and …
  • Sporting Kansas City tie or lose vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake will clinch a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs if:

  • Real Salt Lake win vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes tie or lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • FC Dallas tie or lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • Real Salt Lake tie vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday and …
  • San Jose Earthquakes lose vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • FC Dallas lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday

 San Jose

San Jose Earthquakes will clinch a berth in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs if:

  • San Jose Earthquakes win vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • San Jose Earthquakes tie vs. Minnesota United FC on Sunday and …
  • FC Dallas tie or lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • Real Salt Lake tie or lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • FC Dallas lose vs. LA Galaxy on Sunday and …
  • Real Salt Lake lose vs. Sporting Kansas City on Sunday

 Seattle Sounders FC

Seattle Sounders FC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Seattle Sounders FC win vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday
  • – OR –
  • Seattle Sounders FC tie vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday and …
  • Portland Timbers lose vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday and …
  • Sporting Kansas City tie or lose vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday

 Sporting Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Sporting Kansas City win vs. Real Salt Lake on Sunday and …
  • Portland Timbers tie or lose vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Sunday and …
  • Seattle Sounders FC tie or lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday

 Vancouver Whitecaps FC

Vancouver Whitecaps FC will clinch No. 1 seed in Western Conference if:

  • Vancouver Whitecaps FC win or tie vs. Portland Timbers on Sunday

Vancouver Whitecaps FC will clinch a Knockout Round bye if:

  • Seattle Sounders FC tie or lose vs. Colorado Rapids on Sunday
  • Atlanta United FCwill break a couple of records when they host Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in their regular season finale on Sunday.The expansion club will set the all-time MLS records for highest attendance in a single game and single season on Sunday.Atlanta set the all-time single-game MLS attendance record on Sept. 16, when 70,245 fans attended their 3-3 draw against Orlando City. They surpassed that number of tickets sold for the TFC match two weeks ago.Though the final number of tickets sold isn’t yet available, Sunday’s contest will push Atlanta well above the all-time MLS single-season attendance record of 752,199 set by the Seattle Sounders in 2015. The Five Stripes have sold 747,530 tickets through their first 16 home games, and should end the regular season with a total near 850,000.Atlanta are currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They can still climb to second and avoid the Knockout Round with a win against Toronto on Sunday coupled with draws or losses by NYCFC and Chicago.

MLS Decision Day predictions: Who will pick up wins on the league’s last day?

The final week of the MLS regular season is nigh, with a playoff spot up for grabs and postseason seeding still to be decided. ESPN FC’s team of MLS writers take a crack at predicting the outcomes of five of the weekend’s key matches.

Atlanta United vs. Toronto FC: Even with both teams already qualified for the playoffs and TFC locked in as the top seed in the East, there is a lot of intrigue about this one. From Atlanta’s perspective, it’s crucial to finish in the top four in the conference, as it would guarantee a home playoff match. Gerardo Martino’s team has flexed their muscles in their new digs, and currently in fourth, they could even finish as high as second and earn a bye in the knockout round. To boot, playmaker Miguel Almiron is expected to be back in the fold.

TFC will present a different challenge altogether. Far and away the best team in MLS during the regular season, Sunday’s clash will give the Toronto players a chance to sample Atlanta’s attacking style in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Arch Bell: Toronto FC
Jeff Carlisle: Draw
Matt Pentz: Atlanta United
Graham Parker: Atlanta United


FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy: This is it for FC Dallas. Currently on the outside looking in, it has to beat the LA Galaxy in order to give itself a shot at the postseason. While technically a draw and a San Jose loss to Minnesota could also do it, Oscar Pareja’s team need to be thinking three points here.

The fact that it has come down to this for FC Dallas is astounding, and it’s not like the Galaxy will be a cakewalk. Granted, Sigi Schmid’s team sit rock bottom in the west, but there are still the Dos Santos brothers to contend with and the Galaxy have actually played fairly well in their past three outings, including last week’s 3-0 win against Minnesota.

Arch Bell: FC Dallas
Jeff Carlisle: FC Dallas
Matt Pentz: Draw
Graham Parker: FC Dallas


Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting Kansas City: Also in the mix for a playoff spot in the West is Real Salt Lake. A point behind Dallas and San Jose, RSL would require some good fortune to sneak into the postseason, but first and foremost there is the task at hand of defeating the best defensive team in the league.

Jefferson Savarino is still listed as questionable with an ankle injury, and after throwing up a goose egg last week in Colorado, coach Mike Petke might have to swallow his pride and give Yura Movsisyan a start to get the attack going. As for Sporting KC, things have been rocky of late, with two draws and two losses. Not exactly the strongest way to go into the playoffs.

Arch Bell: Draw
Jeff Carlisle: Real Salt Lake
Matt Pentz: Draw
Graham Parker: Draw


Portland Timbers vs. Vancouver Whitecaps:Top seed in the West will be up for grabs in Portland when these two meet. In 2017 this slice of Cascadia has belonged to the Timbers, who defeated the Whitecaps in their previous two meetings, each time by a 2-1 scoreline. While Diego Valeri is earning all the headlines for the Timbers, and rightly so with his 11 goals in the past 11 games, Darren Mattocks has also been troublesome for opposing defenses and Vancouver’s sturdy back line led by Tim Parker and Kendall Waston will have their hands full.

On the flip side, this will be Portland’s first real look at Yordy Reyna. The Peruvian came off the bench and played the final half hour in the last meeting in July, but since then Reyna has been in scorching form, with four goals and three assists in his past six starts.

Arch Bell: Draw
Jeff Carlisle: Portland Timbers
Matt Pentz: Portland Timbers
Graham Parker: Portland Timbers


San Jose Earthquakes vs. Minnesota United:Just when you are ready to count out San Jose, it’ll go on a three-match unbeaten run to poke its nose back in the playoff race. Just last month the Earthquakes were walloped 4-0 by D.C. United and then 4-1 to Chicago Fire, yet here they are needing just a win at home against 10th-place Minnesota on the final day to reach the postseason, thanks in part to Dallas’ fall from grace and a gutsy point in Vancouver last weekend.

Quakes fans should not expect an easy ride on Sunday, though. Adrian Heath’s Minnesota will fight and scrap the whole way, especially on the heels of last week’s poor display in Los Angeles.

Arch Bell: Draw
Jeff Carlisle: San Jose Earthquakes
Matt Pentz: Minnesota United
Graham Parker: San Jose Earthquakes

Arch Bell covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .


10/11/17 US loses to T&T out of World Cup 2018, IU vs Butler Oct 18 @ Butler, Champ League Tues/Wed & full TV Game Schedule

Wow soccer fans – I can’t believe I am writing this but the United States will not be playing in the World Cup in 2018.  I have to admit I just never dreamed the USA would lose and miss the World Cup – after our win on Friday night vs Panama.  We had to lose and Honduras had to beat top seeded Mexico (3-2) and Panama beat 2nd seeded Costa Rica (2-1) for us not to advance (did you see this bogus goal by Panama).  I just never, ever dreamed all of that would happen.  A 2-1 catastrophic loss to Trinidad and Tobago sealed the fate of this US team that only won 3 games out of 10 in the final round of qualifying losing or tying the likes of soccer powerhouses Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Honduras, and Costa Rica (twice).


Let’s start with what went wrong Tues night.  Arena rolled out the same starters as he did in the last game vs Panama. While this might have seemed logical – and Cobi Jones (he’s a horrible analyst by the way) was ok with it. I thought from the start this game was going to need some changes.  First and foremost was to add defender Geoff Cameron (1 of only 2 American players starting for their team in the EPL)  back to the starting defense either for Gonzales or as part of a 3/5 man back line.  T&T had speed at forward and wing something Gonzales does not deal well with.  His first goal deflection (didn’t close fast enough for the challenge & should have given up a PK 5 min later).  Seriously how do you not play Cameron – one of your best and most experienced players?  I just don’t understand??

I also thought the muddy conditions required Guzan to be in goal tonight.  Listen I respect Tim Howard, he is truly one of the best goalkeepers to ever play for the US, but he is a shell of the GK he was 4 years ago in Brazil.  His leg injury from last year costing him bounce and leaping ability   This was Brad Guzan’s game – I guarantee you he saves 1 of the 2 goals scored.  I also thought either McCarty or Acosta should have replaced Paul Arriola to help give more defensive help to Bradley in the middle.  (I think that wide open wonder goal shot would have been challenged with another D mid on the field).  Finally I thought this was a game for a mudder – which means you had to have Dempsey in the ballgame much earlier- I would have started him.  Beyond the tactics though seriously this US team just doesn’t have players with that never say die, won’t be denied attitude. They don’t play with a chip on their shoulder.  Left back continues to haunt us as both goals came where Villafana was supposed to be?  Bradley while he hustles his but off all over the field – just doesn’t have that bite.  That Jermaine Jones – I am going to crack your a$$ in half if needed to win.  This team just didn’t play with enough intensity to win this game?  They slept walked thru the first 30 to 40 minutes of this game.  And even later – down 2-1 – just not enough urgency, not enough want to.  Here I will give Arena credit – he subbed Dempsey at the half, Feilhaber later and pulled a defender for a d mid in Acosta.  Man I thought Dempsey’s shot was going in – just off the post. Another shot just missed.  Benny had a chance on a header late. It just wasn’t to be.  Man I really feel sorry for our 19 year old sensation Christian Pulisic – he played his but off and carried this team down the stretch run of games (he’s our Messi) but its going to be 4 more years before main stream America knows who he is because of this.

Listen lets not mince words – this comes from the top down.  The US is doing some things, heck, many things fundamentally wrong.  MLS – sure.  While I think MLS is finally starting to develop players thru their academy’s that can make a difference – the truth is our best player was trained in Germany at Dortmund.  I think thru about U15 the US is strong – heck lets see how our U17s do at the U17 World Cup.  But from U16-U20 is where we don’t develop players the way other countries do.  Unfortunately high school and college are not where professional soccer players are developed – worldwide.  Perhaps its time to re-think it here in the US.

Pay to play – lets be realistic it costs between $1000 to $2000 to $5000 per year to have a kid play travel soccer in the United States.  So unlike the rest of the world – where its often the working class kids who use soccer to escape (much like football and hoops here in the US) in the US if you aren’t the kid of a middle to upper middle class family – chances are you may not be able to afford to become a superstar soccer player.  Yes things are better and “scholarships” to travel clubs and DA programs are available – but lets be real – 90% of the players families still have to Pay to Play.  (by the way – that’s why we started Carmel FC – using all licensed but parent coaches so the cost to parents is not nearly as much as most other travel programs in the state).

One MLS impact and one I hear a lot is with our best players – or at least our US Nat team stars/starters now coming home to play in MLS – our best players no longer train at the highest level, against the best players in the world.  Honestly this US team had just 3 players on the field who play in Europe – arguably the best 3 in Yedlin, Woods and Pulisic of course.  The other 8 all have comfortable jobs making big money in the MLS – no worry of losing their jobs in practice to better players.

With regards to MLS and its impact on US Soccer – a thing that I think is loss is the improvement of players in other countries in CONCACAF who make a living playing in MLS.  The winning scores in both the Honduras and Panama games tonight were scored by MLS players.  So while some younger US Players are being developed in our professional league – a ton these smaller countries are having their best players play in MLS.  I think overall MLS has helped improve the overall professional talent in these smaller CONCACAF Countries who in the past would have been stuck playing in their own not high quality domestic leagues.

Lots more to come on what needs to be done to Fix US Soccer.  I think at this point obviously Bruce Arena will resign and we’ll see how many heads roll across the system.  More on this later.  For now I am just sad and tired and frustrated. 


The MLS Season wraps up next Sunday with decision day on Oct 22  featuring multiple games with the playoff implications across Fox and ESPN networks. The playoffs will begin the following Wed/Thurs.  This Sunday Fox Sports 1 features 2 games with huge Playoff implications as the New York Redbulls host Atlanta United at 4 pm currently 3rd in the East Standings.  Defending Champ’s Seattle will host FC Dallas at 7:30 pm on FS1 as both teams fight for the final playoff spot in the West.  Champions League is back next Tues/Wed – see full schedule below.   Big World games this weekend include Liverpool vs Man United Sat at 7:30 am on NBCSN, and Atletico Madrid hosting Barcelona at 2:45 pm on beIN Sport.

Lost in the World Cup Qualifying Weekend – was the great story of a young US soccer fan donating his Pulisic signed Jersey to earn money for Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief.  Pulisic’s response was fanastic !!

Locally – #1 Indiana University (10-0-2)  will play #15 Butler (7-3) Wednesday night, Oct 18th at the Butler Bowl.  Senior GK Eric Dick, a former Carmel High GK, is fresh off winning Big East Goalie of the Week for the 3rd time this season.  Tickets start at just $4 for kids and $7 for adults.  The Carmel High School girls lost a heartbreaker 1-0 in a shootout loss to Guerin High in sectionals last weekend.  Congrats on a great season and good luck to Guerin.  Also the Guerin High boys with 7 Carmel FC’ers on the roster lost 2-0 to North Central in the sectional finals.


ESPNs Taylor Twellman Says Blow This Up Video

Jeff Carlisle What Needs to Happen to US Soccer – ESPNFC

Worse loss in US Sports History?  USA Today

Worse Night Ever in US Soccer History – SI – Grant Wahl

US misses World Cup after Doomsday Scenario – SI – Grant Wahl

US out of Excuses after defeat leaves US out of World Cup – Jeff Carlisle EPSNFC

US World Cup Hopes End in Shambolic Loss to T & T – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Fails to Qualify for World Cup 2018 – USA Today

No one to Blame But ourselves – Bradley ESPNFC

Arena – Nothing Needs to Change – we are Close – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNFC

Gulati – Disappointing Result ESPN

Player Ratings – Greg Seltzer

Landon Donovan – WC Ouster is Disheartening and Unacceptable – SI

Slow Walking Death – How the US Failed out of WC – Charles Boehm MLS.com

Minute by Minute – how the Night Fell Apart

Historic Failure – Facts and Figures

Final Hex Standings


Phantom Panama Goal at Costa Rica– Cost US World Cup

Who Has Qualified World Wide

Messi Hat Trick Punches Argentina’s WC Ticket

Renaldo’s Star Quality is Russian Bound as Portugal Qualify

The World’s Best Players who Will Miss the World Cup

What’s Trending


Week 31 Update

Playoff Race where does your team Stand

Atlanta’s Carlos Bocanegra – Extended as Technical Director

Handicapping the Golden Boot Race – with 2 games left

Kaka to Leave Orlando City and MLS at end of Year

Indy 11

Indy 11 host Hispanic Heritage Night vs Miami Oct 14 7:30 pm

Indy 11 add Puerto Rico Home game on Sat Oct 21 at 3 pm



Thurs, Oct 12                    

7:30 am FS 2                  Turkey U17 vs Paraguay U17 WC

10:30 am FS 2      US U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

10:30 am Fox sports Ghana U17 vs India U17 WC

Sat, OCt 14

7:30 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Man United 

10 am NBCSN                   Man  City vs Stoke City (Cameron)

9:30 am FS2                       Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

10:15 am beIN Sport Getafe vs Real Madrid

12:30 NBC                          Watford vs Arsenal

12:30 pm FS2                   Ausburg vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Atletico vs Barcelona

7:30 pm myindy Tv   Indy 11 vs Miami

Sun Oct 15

7:30 am NBCSN               Brighton vs Everton

9:30 am Fox Sport 1    Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg

11 am NBCSN                   Southampton vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Inter vs AC Milan

Mon, Oct 16

7:30 am FS 2                  2A vs 2 C  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1B vs 3 ACD  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

Tues, Oct 17

7:30 am FS 2                  1C vs 3 ABF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1F vs 2 E  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Real Madrid vs Tottenham (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Man City vs Napoli (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Maribor vs Liverpool

Weds, Oct 18

7:30 am FS 2                  1A vs 3 CDE  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1d vs 3 BEF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Barcelona vs Olympiakos (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Chelsea vs Roma (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Bayern Munich vs Celtic

7 pm                           Butler vs Indiana University at Butler Bowl !!

Thurs, Oct 19

1 pm Fox Sport 2        Crvena vs Arsenal (Europa League)

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1   USA vs Korea Republic

Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am NBCSN               Chelsea vs Watford

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1     Frankfurt vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC?                 Stoke City vs Bournemouth

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2   Hamburger (Bobby Wood) vs Bayern Munich

3 pm myindy Tv           Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico

Sun, Oct 22

7:30 am NBCSN               Everton vs Arsenal

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

7:30 am Fox soccer   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1     Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Liverpool

Wed Oct 18 -7 pm  – Butler Men Host Indiana University

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USMNT’s failure to make the World Cup is the biggest embarrassment in U.S. sports history

By: Andrew Joseph | October 10, 2017 11:07 pm  USA Today

It’s been 31 years since May 31, 1986 — the last World Cup that didn’t feature the United States. That’s 11,456 days of progress for a sport that’s come so far in a country that still hasn’t fully embraced it.  All of that gone.

With U.S. soccer’s dreadful 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago on the final day of CONCACAF’s qualifying hexagonal for the 2018 World Cup, next summer’s tournament will not feature the USMNT. No Christian Pulisic. No Tim Howard. No Michael Bradley. With that loss, the USMNT gave a nation the lowest point in its sporting history, and it’s not really close. CONCACAF is a grind, but compared to the other qualifying regions, the 3.5 World Cup spots out of six teams mean that the United States should be a lock to qualify. When it beat Panama, 4-0, on Friday, the U.S. put itself in position to escape a lackluster qualifying round with a spot in the tournament. All it really needed to do was take care of business at lowly Trinidad and Tobago. They couldn’t even do that. With no sense of urgency, USMNT players and coaches had to watch as their CONCACAF counterparts did them no favors. Four years after the USMNT saved Mexico’s World Cup dreams, El Tri instead blew a lead to Honduras and helped seal the USMNT’s fate. Costa Rica also blew a lead to Panama on a goal that shouldn’t have counted and gave up a late winner as the U.S. decided to score-watch rather than take matters into its own hands. A mostly empty stadium in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, felt even emptier on this night.  It’s really difficult to quantify how bad this loss was for U.S. Soccer. Sunil Gulati and Bruce Arena should both be gone. Tim Howard, whose last World Cup appearance was a legendary performance, will likely leave U.S. Soccer with the lasting image of his worst performance with the national team. As bad as things got for the USMNT, the possibility of missing the World Cup didn’t actually seem real. It’s that arrogance that likely brought the team to where it is right now — out of the World Cup. When U.S. soccer legend Alexi Lalas called out the USMNT, its biggest star, Pulisic, laughed off the attempted gut-check rant.  But when it comes down to it, though, the sport of soccer in the U.S. is going to feel the lasting effects the most. Every World Cup is an opportunity to grow the sport on the biggest stage.  Even the growth from 2010, to 2014, to now has been tremendous. A nation went crazy when Landon Donovan sent the USMNT into the Round of 16 with his late winner in 2010 (a loss would have meant an early trip home). A nation went crazy when John Brooks put the U.S. ahead against Ghana in 2014, as he ran around not fully processing what he had done.  Those moments forge memories and make lifelong fans of the sport. It creates momentum that makes it possible for an MLS team to draw 71,000 fans for a regular season match. Those moments inspire a young fan to kick around a soccer ball rather than throw a football. Those moments make it possible for a 19-year-old wonderkid to break through into the next level of international stardom. That’s not happening anymore. It’s five years — at best — of the USMNT out of the forefront of American sports. All because U.S. soccer let 95 minutes of arrogance erase 31 years of progress. And that is truly a shame.

U.S. out of excuses after defeat in Trinidad leaves it out of World Cup

COUVA, Trinidad — Bruce Arena called it “disappointing.” Michael Bradley referred to it as “a perfect storm.” Omar Gonzalez said: “It’s the worst day of my career.”No doubt, everyone associated with the U.S. national team is hurting in their own way, but Gonzalez’s comment seemed to crystallize the pain that was a byproduct of the 2-1 defeat to Trinidad & Tobago — a result that, when combined with scores from elsewhere, resulted in the U.S. being eliminated from World Cup qualifying for the first time since the 1986 cycle.”I just want to say sorry to the fans, all the U.S. fans that were pulling for us, that wanted to go to Russia, that believed in us,” Gonzalez said. “We let down an entire nation today.”It’s a result that is difficult to process on many levels. But let’s be clear: It’s the most embarrassing defeat in U.S. soccer history and one that will be impossible for this group of players and coaches to live down.CONCACAF is a massively forgiving region from which to qualify. And the Americans were in control of their destiny going up against a team that had nothing to play for. The U.S. roster and starting lineup had loads of experience compared to their T&T counterparts and the team had a manager, in Arena, who had led the U.S. to the World Cup on two previous occasions.So what happened? The U.S. essentially sleepwalked through the first 45 minutes of the match, and was second best in too many phases. The half ended with T&T deservedly two goals up. The first came from a Gonzalez own goal in the 17th minute, in which T&T forward Shahdon Winchester got a faint touch to a cross, which deflected off Gonzalez’s shin and looped over Tim Howard in the U.S. goal.”It’s one of the most unlucky goals ever I think for myself,” Gonzalez said. “It’s one that will haunt me forever.”Alvin Jones then unleashed a 30-yard dart that cleanly beat Howard, and the U.S. was in huge trouble. A Christian Pulisic goal two minutes into the second half pulled them back within one, but the players couldn’t find an equalizer as Clint Dempsey hit the post.At which point, the rest of the improbable dominoes began to fall. As the minutes ticked by, Honduras was already beating Mexico 3-2, proving the long-held sentiment that El Tri wouldn’t return the favor from four years ago when the U.S. essentially saved Mexico from elimination by denying Panama.As it turned out, Panama got its revenge thanks to a ghost goal equalizer and a late winner by Roman Torres, and when news of his effort wafted through the Ato Boldon Stadium, the U.S. was sunk. Players walked off the field in a daze, save for Matt Besler, who simply sat down on the pitch in disbelief.And so the rampant inconsistency that plagued the U.S. throughout this World Cup qualifying cycle proved fatal. But it elicited a mystifying question: How is it that the U.S. team that took apart Panama on Friday night could play so poorly with a spot at the World Cup on the line?”Nerves play into it, they had a good game plan, 1,000 different things,” Howard said. Bradley added: “Different games.”That is certainly true, as T&T wisely sat in and soaked up pressure and then tried to exploit the spaces available on the counter. But there were also moments when the Soca Warriors pinged the ball around with ease, with the Americans unable to get near them.So what was stopping the U.S. from doing the same? What was stopping them from converting more of their chances? What was stopping them from making the defensive plays that needed to be made, and putting their opponents under pressure? lack of ruthlessness at both ends of the field for one. Had Jozy Altidore converted early when given time to turn and shoot, who knows what would have happened. He didn’t though, and T&T duly took advantage.That was by no means the only time that teamwide frailty cropped up this cycle either. How else do you explain the inability of the U.S. to follow up dominating performances with impressive displays on the road? The away 1-1 draw in Panama is one example. And while dropping the first two games of the Hex put the U.S. in a hole, it was one they climbed out of relatively quickly, only for their inability to close the deal to return.Perhaps the biggest problem of all was that the U.S. struggled to break down teams that were content to sit back and soak up pressure. It happened against Costa Rica and it happened for much of the game against T&T. To be fair, this is something that the U.S. has grappled with for decades. Yet previous U.S. teams always managed to do enough. Many of those teams had Landon Donovan, or a younger version of Clint Dempsey, players who could pull off a special play.This team didn’t have that creative magic, or at least enough of it to get through qualifying. This generation has been touted as the most talented team in U.S. history. Certainly it possesses a once-in-a-generation player in Pulisic, but this side proved to be entirely too dependent on the Borussia Dortmund attacker. The teenager played a part in 12 of the last 17 goals the U.S. scored. Against Panama he had plenty of help from his supporting cast, but on too many other days he didn’t.Something else was missing as well. The best teams — or at least ones that qualify for World Cups — are those that can fuse the individual pieces into a collective that was greater. That has long been a trademark of the U.S., but one that was lost during this cycle no matter who the manager was. This was felt acutely on the defensive side. “We weren’t hard enough to play against on too many nights,” Altidore said.Without question, this night will haunt these players for years to come, and result in some introspection as well.”If you don’t look at yourself after this individually, then you’re f—ed up in the head,” Altidore said.That is not to say Arena doesn’t bear responsibility either: In the past two fixture periods, several of his decisions backfired.For Tuesday’s match his decision to not go with Geoff Cameron looms large. Yes, Cameron was just coming off an injury, but he had made it through a league game with Stoke City just prior to joining up with the U.S., and he remains one of the most talented players on the team. Fabian Johnson’s exclusion, especially on a night when T&T repeatedly attacked Jorge Villafana, also can be questioned.Arena and the team also seemed prone to making excuses, often speaking of adverse playing conditions or a lack of home support. On this day, the U.S. ran out of them. Now they will spend next summer watching the World Cup from home.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

USA’s Haunting World Cup Qualifying Failure Emits Blame, Shock and Calls for Change

QUICKLY  -USMNT flirted with disaster throughout its floundering World Cup qualifying campaign, and it paid the price: A first missed World Cup since 1986 and a boatload of soul-searching to follow in U.S. Soccer.

By Grant Wahl October 11, 2017 SI

COUVA, Trinidad and Tobago — Let’s be perfectly clear: The most embarrassing failure in U.S. Soccer history was consummated on Tuesday night in a near-empty stadium in the Caribbean tropics, culminating in a soul-crushing 2-1 defeat to a last-place opponent in which the U.S. men’s national team had only needed a win or a tie to qualify for World Cup 2018.But this miasma of futility—causing the U.S. to miss the World Cup for the first time since 1986—was only the endpoint of a long series of felonies and misdemeanors over the last 12 months in Columbus, Ohio, and in San Jose, Costa Rica; in Harrison, N.J., and in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The dateline for the autopsy of this U.S. team may read Couva, a tiny town that no U.S. soccer fan will ever forget, but the seeds for this dark day were planted in several locations.When it comes down to it, CONCACAF is a frighteningly forgiving region for World Cup qualifying. Mexico qualified for Brazil 2014 after winning just two of 10 Hexagonal games. The U.S. was eliminated from Russia 2018 after just three victories in 10 qualifiers. The Americans started with a giant margin for error and then proceeded to whittle it down, in chunks large and small, from two opening defeats to last month’s home loss to Costa Rica to the finishing blow on Tuesday—a catastrophic capitulation to a team that had lost six straight Hexagonal games.Afterward, players fought back tears. One of them was defender Omar Gonzalez, who saw the hosts’ first goal bounce off his shin and into the U.S. net for an own goal.“It’s one that will haunt me forever,” he said. “I never thought I would see this day. It’s the worst day of my career … What was supposed to be a celebration is now … I don’t even know what to say. It’s terrible. I just want to say sorry to all the fans that were pulling for us, that wanted to go to Russia, that believed in us. We let down an entire nation today.”Another player who was disconsolate was forward Jozy Altidore, who made little impact on the game.“If you don’t look at yourself after this individually,” he said, “I think you’re f—ed up in the head.” U.S. captain Michael Bradley had 90 minutes by himself in doping control after the game to digest the doomsday scenario that had just played out; a U.S. loss combined with Panama and Honduras wins was the only way the Americans could be eliminated.“It was a perfect storm kind of night,” he said after emerging. “Everything that could have possibly gone wrong did, in this stadium and in two other stadiums across the region. To give away the first goal like that [on an own goal] is a killer. It comes from nothing and it ultimately gives them life, gives them energy. It means that all of the sudden they believe, that there’s something there for them. The second goal, the guy [Alvin Jones] hits a great shot that flies into the far corner … We got back to 2-1 and at that point couldn’t make a play to unlock them, couldn’t get the final pass, the final shot, the final action. You can go around in circles a million times over again. But the reality is it was all there for us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.”He’s right. The U.S. deserved to drop all the points it did during this miserable qualifying campaign. There were no horrible referee calls that changed results, no bad bounces that somehow rolled into the goal. Trinidad and Tobago, like Costa Rica before it, realized that this U.S. team could be beaten if you sat back, soaked up pressure and picked the right spots to move forward and threaten the goal. The U.S. proved time and again that it didn’t have the ability to break down a team defending that way. You can’t ask 19-year-old Christian Pulisic—who scored the U.S. goal on Tuesday—to do everything.“Teams certainly have shown they’re going to sit back and frustrate us,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. “So you’re probably going to need to break some teams down. Until we do that, teams won’t come out of their shell.”Under Arena, the U.S. had appeared to recover much of its old identity—namely, being hard to play against as a unit—between March and June. But that identity mysteriously disappeared again in three of the last four qualifying games over the past month.“Collectively one through 11, we weren’t able to defend well enough,” said Altidore. “You can’t go and score four or five goals every game. We have to be able to be hard to play against. We weren’t hard enough to play against too many times.”Most of the U.S. players appeared shellshocked. When the Netherlands was eliminated from the World Cup on Tuesday, the Dutch players knew it was coming, since they had to win by an unrealistic seven goals over Sweden. But the Americans fully expected to qualify for Russia on Tuesday, and at the very least they thought they’d be heading to the intercontinental playoff against Australia. Full elimination wasn’t in the picture, and their dazed looks suggested they were having trouble processing it.A full reckoning will now have to take place by U.S. Soccer. Arena’s days are numbered, for one thing. He took responsibility for the failure after the game, as he should have: The home loss to Costa Rica and Tuesday’s fiasco were inexcusable.“I’m clearly very disappointed,” he said. “We had everything there for us today … We should not be staying home from this World Cup.”ut Arena wouldn’t go so far to say that major changes should take place in U.S. Soccer.“There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” he argued. “Certainly, I think if our league continues to grow it benefits the national team program. We have some good players coming up. Nothing has to change. To make any kind of crazy changes I think would be foolish. We’re building a consistent professional league. We have players playing abroad of a certain quality. There’s enough there. There’s no excuses for us to not qualify for the World Cup.”

As Arena spoke, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati sat nearby with a blank look on his face, as if he didn’t know what had hit him.“Extremely disappointed,” he said. “We certainly expected to qualify throughout the process and especially after Friday night [a 4-0 win over Panama]. So it’s a huge disappointment for everybody: The players, the staff, the coaches, for the federation. It’s not good enough, obviously.”But when Gulati was pressed on whether wholesale changes were necessary after this debacle, he shook his head.“So wholesale changes aren’t needed if the ball that hits off the post [from Clint Dempsey] goes in?” he said. “You don’t make wholesale changes based on the ball being two inches wide or two inches in. We’ll look at everything, obviously, and all our programs, both the national team and all the development stuff. But we’ve got a lot of pieces in place that we think are very good and have been coming along. Tonight obviously wasn’t what we hoped for.”Yet this American failure wasn’t due to one shot hitting the post. It was due to repeated fatal flaws that were exposed time and again over the last 12 months. If you can’t qualify from one of the easiest and most forgiving regional competitions on Earth, how are you going to compete at a World Cup? It remains to be seen now whether Gulati will run for reelection in February—and whether he’ll have a chance to win if he does. The drumbeat for change, real change, will ring loudly now.At the same time, be wary of those who promise easy answers for complex problems. Too many people in the U.S. soccer community think there are lightning-bolt answers—Promotion and relegation! Send all the youngsters to Europe!—that will solve everything. They won’t. There should be an honest discussion, though, of the factors that led to this day that will live in infamy. It will take some time.On Tuesday night, though, everyone was still processing the shock and what had led to it.“We dropped too many points on too many days,” Bradley said. “We put ourselves at a disadvantage from the very beginning when we lost the first two games. When you lose the first two games and drop points on too many days, your margin for error goes. So you know you’re at the mercy of a night like this where everything possible goes against you, both here and in the two other games.“That’s just reality. That’s on us.”And then Bradley walke away, by himself, into the darkness and an uncertain future for U.S. Soccer.

USA Misses World Cup as Doomsday Scenario Plays Out Across CONCACAF

By Grant Wahl October 10, 2017

COUVA, Trinidad and Tobago — On the most surreal and embarrassing night in U.S. soccer history, the U.S. men’s national team lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago (the worst team in the CONCACAF Hexagonal) and was eliminated from contention for World Cup 2018.The doomsday scenario happened.All the U.S. needed to do to qualify for the World Cup was to win or tie. And they lost, a deserving defeat that ended a miserable qualifying campaign—three wins in 10 Hexagonal games—and will raise enormous questions about the overall direction of the U.S. Soccer Federation, the players and coach Bruce Arena. The U.S. loss opened the door to Panama and Honduras, which both needed to win to ensure the U.S. elimination, which was exactly what happened. Honduras rallied from two deficits to beat Mexico in San Pedro Sula, while Panama rode a controversial Blas Perez opener and a Roman Torres late winner to beat Costa Rica in Panama City.Here are three thoughts on the USA’s ouster:


On a night when Arena’s team had control of its own destiny, the Americans had one of the most infamous belly-flops in U.S. soccer history, losing to the already-eliminated Trinis with everything on the line for the United States.In a pitiful first-half performance, the U.S. lacked urgency and went through the motions while the hosts looked like the ones who had a chance to qualify for the World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago took a 2-0 halftime lead on an own-goal by Omar Gonzalez and a golazo from distance by Alvin Jones, and the U.S. response was tepid at best. This was a team with players acting like they thought they had already qualified for the World Cup, and it showed.


Christian Pulisic pulled one back for the Americans early in the second half with a laser from outside the box. Pulisic was largely bottled up otherwise, but at least he had one dazzling moment. His teammates could hardly say the same. Forwards Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood were nonexistent. Wings Darlington Nagbe and Paul Arriola were invisible. Goalkeeper Tim Howard could have been in better position on both goals. And Gonzalez showed with his own-goal and what should have been called a penalty soon thereafter that he was a poor choice by Arena to be on the field, especially with Premier League starter Geoff Cameron on the bench.


The far-reaching impacts of this colossal failure will be felt for a long time, not just by the figures on the field on Tuesday but also by the millions and millions of dollars lost by any number of stakeholders in the sport in the United States. The men’s World Cup only comes around once every four years, and the missed opportunity to create millions of new soccer fans in the U.S. is a crushing blow. Missing the World Cup won’t cripple the sport in the U.S., but it will be a huge step back for a sport that had been on the rise for a long time.

U.S.’s Michael Bradley: ‘Nobody to blame but ourselves’ for missing out

United States captain Michael Bradley said no single result led to the national team’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, while believing he and his teammates “have nobody to blame but ourselves.”Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to Trinidad and Tobago left the Americans outside of the qualifying positions in the final CONCACAF Hexagonal round by a single point after 10 games.”You can go around in circles a million times over again but the reality is it was all there for us, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves,” Bradley said.The U.S. fired Jurgen Klinsmann last November after the national team lost its first two games in the Hex — at home against Mexico and away to Costa Rica.But Bruce Arena only managed a draw in Panama in his second game in charge in March, and ultimately managed a record of three wins, three draws and two defeats in the rest of the qualifiers.And Bradley could not place the blame U.S.’s failure to qualify on any particular result over in the Hex.”It’s not the easiest time to make bigger-picture analysis,” he said. “Obviously we put ourselves right behind the eight-ball with our start, losing the first two games.”We came back in a strong way in March, even through — I mean, look, you never complain about points on the road, but there was probably more there for us in Panama.”June, all things considered you say great, you take your four points, and then obviously given the way we started there’s not much margin for error and when you lose to Costa Rica at home then the margin is virtually gone. And it was.”We responded in a strong way in Hondruas [a 1-1 draw], we responded in Orlando against Panama in a big win and came into the last matchday with everything in our own hands. That was all we could ask for.”ESPN FC’s Sam Borden spoke briefly to Klinsmann by phone after Tuesday’s results, but the former U.S. coach declined to comment.”Yes, I watched, but I don’t want to give any comments right now. It wouldn’t be right,” Klinsmann said.Before Tuesday’s games, the U.S. appeared likely to secure at least a spot in the intercontinental playoff against Australia with a draw. But the stunning loss, combined with wins from Panama and Honduras on the final matchday, combined to leave Arena’s team on the outside looking in.An Omar Gonzalez own goal and a spectacular strike from Alvin Jones had T&T leading 2-0 at halftime, but Christian Pulisic clawed one back for the U.S. early in the second half to give his team hope of securing at least a point from a draw. But the equalizing goal never came.One goal proved to be the difference, as even a draw would have been enough for the U.S. to automatically qualify. And Gonzalez said his own goal, which put the U.S. behind on the night, would stay with him for the rest of his life.”The player hit an early cross and I went to clear it. He touched it first and it hit off my shin and it happened to go right over [U.S. goalkeeper] Tim Howard,” Gonzalez said. “One of the most unlucky goals ever, I think, for myself, and it’s one that will haunt me forever.The massive slip-up by the U.S. means the team will miss out on its first World Cup since not qualifying for the 1986 edition in Mexico.”I never thought that I’d see this day,” Gonzalez said. “Like I said in Spanish, it’s the worst day of my career. I’m extremely sad right now; I don’t even know how to put it into words what I’m feeling. What was supposed to be a celebration is now … I don’t even know what to say. It’s terrible.”When I look over at the bench and everyone was sitting down, I could just see from the looks on their faces that it wasn’t good. I just want to say sorry to the fans, all the U.S. fans that were pulling for us, that wanted to go to Russia and believed in us. We let down an entire nation today.”

Arena accepts blame in passionate defense of U.S. Soccer setup

COUVA, Trinidad — United States manager Bruce Arena took responsibility for the shock 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago that eliminated the Americans from the World Cup, but he also said nothing needs to change with the approach of U.S. Soccer.The U.S. started the night in third place in the final round of World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF, but its loss, combined with Honduras’ 3-2 win over Mexico, and Panama’s 2-1 victory over Costa Rica dropped them to fifth place in the Hex, allowing the Canaleros to claim third place on goal difference, and the Catrachos to contest a playoff against Australia.”I think it’s disappointing. It’s a blemish for us,” said Arena. “We should be not be staying home for this World Cup. I take responsibility for that.”Arena’s contract expires next July, while U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati will face opposition if he decides to stand for re-election in a vote set for February.But asked how U.S. Soccer should respond to the defeat, Arena answered in a manner that is likely to infuriate American fans everywhere.”There’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing,” he said. “Certainly as our league grows, it advances the national team program. We have some good young players come up.”Nothing has to change. To make any kind of crazy changes I think would be foolish. We’re building a good system in our professional league. We have players playing abroad of some quality.”There’s enough there. There’s no excuses for us not qualifying for the World Cup.”The U.S. played with none of the verve and aggression that it showed in Friday’s 4-0 hammering of Panama. Instead it looked tentative, allowing the home side to take the initiative. An own goal from U.S. defender Omar Gonzalez put the Soca Warriors on top in the 17th minute.”I think we foolishly brought Trinidad into the game with the own goal,” said Arena. “At that point we started to get into the game and it was going to be OK.”That was a big goal for Trinidad psychologically. It got them motivated and they closed out the half in good form. That was a big play in the game.”Alvin Jones then compounded the Americans’ difficulty with 30-yard blast eight minutes before halftime.”I thought maybe the first 5-10 minutes we were okay,” said Arena. “But I think their energy, and dropping off [defensively], they got in good spots. Our center-backs were not confident enough with the ball, and really we often in the first half we were playing eight against 10 because they really needed to carry the ball and bring a player to the ball and move it a bit quicker.”Our forwards were not able to hold the ball, we did a poor job there. We didn’t get [Christian] Pulisic into the game, we played poorly. The first goal was unfortunate. Those things happen. The second goal was an incredible shot. What can you say?”Borussia Dortmund star Pulisic pulled a goal back minutes into the second half, but the U.S. couldn’t find the breakthrough it needed to keep its qualification hopes alive, with substitute Clint Dempsey’s shot bouncing off the post in the 77th minute.”Give our opponent credit,” said Arena. “They played well, they played hard, on the day they won a lot of individual battles against us, and they deserve all the credit for their win.”Arena added that he didn’t inform his team of what the scores were in the other games, as a draw would have put them through regardless of results elsewhere.”It never mattered to us the score of the other games at any time today,” he said.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

 USMNT Player Ratings: Excruciating World Cup elimination leaves no victors

Greg SeltzerContributor

he US national team put on a depressing display in Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday night, breaking hearts nationwide with a galling 2-1 loss that left them without a World Cup finals berthfor the first time since 1986.

The visitors looked like soccer zombies in the opening frame, operating with a maddening lack of intensity and no discernible organization. Two gut-punch goal leaks later, and the USMNT were in a do-or-die position that has so often seen them rise to the rally occasion over the past few decades. There would be no such excitement on this dreary, utterly shocking night.

Starting XI

Tim Howard (2)
Though the Colorado Rapids netminder made a couple of second-half stops to keep the US in it for the needed result, in the end, there was no coming back from how poorly he played in the first half. Incredibly clumsy footwork kept Howard from stopping the own goal, and there is absolutely no reason to be left flailing so wildly at a 40-yard shot. If that wasn’t enough, he also committed a couple of bad spills that nearly cost the team.

DeAndre Yedlin (4.5)
The Newcastle right back had several decent moments supporting the attack, but he was caught up by his own mistakes too often, and also oddly troubled by counterattack runners.

Omar Gonzalez (2)
A sloppy clearance attempt ended up in the back of the net to put the US behind early, and Gonzalez was then fortunate not to give up a spot kick moments later. He also repeatedly misfired on passes near midfield.

Matt Besler (6)
The Sporting KC defender is one of the few US players who should come out of this game unscathed. Besler largely did his duty at the back and bravely pushed up to support possession while the team was chasing a goal in the second half.

Jorge Villafana (3.5)
Whle the Santos Laguna left back made no great mistakes in his own end, he was a major letdown on the ball. Villafana was far less useful in the build than usual and his crosses floated awry on the few occasions he did gain a good position on the overlap.

Michael Bradley (4)
There is plenty to be said about leaving the captain to cover too much ground, but it’s still quite telling that he failed to manage even a single defensive stop in the middle of the field. Following a sub-standard first half, Bradley’s passing was more effective after the break.

Paul Arriola (2.5)
The D.C. United right-sider had little to no effect on the game during his 45 minutes of work. Arriola constantly left Bradley without both defensive support and a passing outlet.

Darlington Nagbe (4)
During the opening frame, the Portland midfielder strangely committed four cheap giveaways in the US end and coughed up another while attempting to lead a promising attack rush. Perhaps it’s just as well he left Bradley stranded on the ball so often. Nagbe improved considerably after intermission, and even picked up a cheap assist.

Christian Pulisic (6.5)
While his fine strike just past the break gave the visitors hope of a rally and a late cross nearly helped complete it, this was a hot-and-cold outing for the youngster. Pulisic was quite invisible for large swaths of the first half and was caught dribbling far too often on the night.

Bobby Wood (3.5)
One could certainly be forgiven for failing to notice Wood was on the field until his header from the Pulisic serve mentioned above was cruelly pawed away.

Jozy Altidore (4)
The Toronto FC striker suffered through an abysmal first half with his hold-up game. Like several of his teammates, Altidore was better after halftime – without being good enough to make the needed difference.


Bruce Arena (0)
Last week Arena stated that he had not given any thought to this Trinidad & Tobago match prior to Friday’s home clash vs. Panama. Tuesday’s game plan and the resulting US performance compels one to wonder if there was any thought put into it after the Panama win, either.  Sticking with a winning lineup is much more applicable to club ball than it is to the World Cup qualifying game, where the team generally has only a few days between matches and then several weeks, or even months, apart. Simply throwing out what worked in Panama was oddly lackadaisical, and that’s exactly how the team played in a game that was meant to secure their place at Russia 2018.  It pains me to say it, but that was inexcusable. And if that wasn’t annoying enough, Arena then stunted any potential comeback (again, in a situation where their very World Cup hopes were dying on the fire) by making a highly curious second sub and waiting far too long for the third. The coach has had many great days on the bench. This was his worst, at the worst possible time.


Clint Dempsey (6.5)
On a night when the USMNT seemed to collectively lack a belly fire, there was no such issue with Dempsey. The Sounders stalwart came off the bench ready to lift the team on his back, and twice came painfully close to finding the goal needed to keep their World Cup hopes alive.

Kellyn Acosta (5)
The FC Dallas man offered some helpful hustle, but not much else as a makeshift left back.

Benny Feilhaber (-)
It might have been nice to see what the SKC playmaker could accomplish given more pitch time.

Facts and figures on U.S.’s historic failure to qualify for 2018 World Cup

The United States will not be playing at the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

The Americans’ 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday night ended a run of qualifying for seven straight World Cups — the longest streak in CONCACAF.

The only way the U.S. could have been eliminated Tuesday night was with a loss and wins by both Panama and Honduras, who were facing opponents that had already clinched World Cup berths.

ESPN’s Soccer Power Index projected only a 3 percent chance that all three events would happen tonight and thus eliminate the U.S. from the World Cup.

Here are some other statistics surrounding the outcome:

— The U.S. lost five games in this qualifying cycle, its most losses in a single campaign in team history, and four in the final Hexagonal round, also a team high.

— Before this cycle, the U.S. had two home losses in its previous 53 home qualifiers since 1980. This time they lost to both Mexico and Costa Rica.

— The 12 points earned from the 10 games in the Hex are five fewer than in any other cycle since the current format began in 1998.

— From Hex games 6-8, the U.S. went winless in three straight World Cup qualifiers for the first time since 2001.

— The 2018 cycle is the first time since 2002 that the U.S. has not finished first in the Hex. The U.S. was second in 1998 and third in 2002 and is now fifth in 2018.

— The U.S.’ streak of seven straight World Cups before this cycle was the seventh-longest in the world after only Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Spain and South Korea.

The last time the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1986:

— Goalkeeper Tim Howard was the only one of Tuesday’s U.S. starters who had been born.

— Only two teams from CONCACAF qualified (Mexico as hosts and Canada). The World Cup also featured the Soviet Union and West Germany.

— The only professional outdoor soccer league in the U.S. was the Western Soccer Alliance. Major League Soccer was 10 years from starting.

Here’s where your team stands in the playoff picture heading into Week 32

October 9, 20178:00PM EDTMLSsoccer staff

We’re in the home stretch of the 2017 MLS regular season and the playoff picture is beginning to take shape. Here’s where your team stands in the race for the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs:RELATED: Seedings & Playoff Bracket if the playoffs started today …

Eastern Conference

1. Toronto FC
19W-5L-8D  |  65 points  |  +36
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. MTL, Oct 22 at ATL
The Reds’ 4-2 win over RBNY on Sept. 30 clinched the 2017 Supporters’ Shield, the first in club history and the first for a Canadian MLS side. It also assured them of the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs bracket and home-field advantage throughout the postseason, including MLS Cup, should they reach that stage for a second straight season.


2. New York City FC
16W-8L-8D  |  56 points  |  +14 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at NE, Oct 22 vs. CLB
NYCFC earned a hard-fought draw in Bridgeview in Week 30, and with Atlanta losing 3-2 to Minnesota last Tuesday, the Cityzens are guaranteed to enter Week 32 at No. 2. And with the Supporters’ Shield now securely in Toronto, Patrick Vieira’s team are simply looking to hold on to that No. 2 position which would afford them a Knockout Round bye.


3. Atlanta United
15W-9L-8D  |  53 points  |  +30 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at NY, Oct 22 vs. TOR
The Five Stripes had the look of a team that could battle NYCFC for the No. 2 seed and a Knockout Round bye. However, a Week 30 draw against New England, coupled with last Tuesday’s stunning home loss to Minnesota, their first at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, blew their big chance to vault past NYCFC. They still have a shot, but their final two matches against playoff-chasing RBNY and record-hungry Toronto FC won’t be easy.


4. Chicago Fire
15W-10L-7D  |  52 points  |  +16 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. PHI, Oct 22 at HOU
A win in Week 30 could have placed Chicago just one point behind NYCFC for second place in the East. Instead, with a draw, they are now four points behind their East counterpoints. Their main objective at this point is likely to secure a home Knockout Round match by staying ahead of surging Columbus Crew SC.


5. Columbus Crew SC
15W-12L-5D  |  50 points  |  +3 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at ORL, Oct 22 at NYC
With their 2-0 defeat of D.C. United in Week 30, Crew SC officially booked their spot in the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs. It marks the third time in four seasons under Gregg Berhalter and the seventh time in the last 10 years. Now in fifth place, two points behind Chicago and with two games remaining, Crew SC still have a chance to improve their seeding position, but they will need other results to go their way down the stretch.


6. New York Red Bulls
13W-12L-7D  |  46 points  |  +5 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. ATL, Oct 22 at DC
The Red Bulls took care of business in Week 31 against a weakened Vancouver Whitecaps side to clinch the sixth and final playoff berth in the East. With six points separating them from the Chicago Fire in 4th place, the Red Bulls are looking at hitting the road for an Eastern Conference Knockout Round match.


7. Montreal Impact
11W-15L-6D  |  39 points  |  -4 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at TOR, Oct 22 vs. NE
The Impact’s playoff chase was all but over after Week 30’s gut-punch 2-1 loss at Colorado, and the New York Red Bulls’ 3-0 win over Vancouver on Oct. 7 officially ended their pursuit.


8. New England Revolution
11W-15L-6D  |  39 points  |  -10 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. NYC, Oct 22 at MTL
Like Montreal, the Revs were hoping for some help from Vancouver after dropping two more points at home with a Week 30 scoreless draw against Atlanta. Their hopes were dashed, however, when the Red Bulls stampeded past the ‘Caps on Oct. 7.


9. Philadelphia Union
10W-13L-9D  |  39 points  |  -1 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at CHI, Oct 22 vs. ORL
Philadelphia kept their slim playoff hopes alive with a 2-0 win against the Sounders in Week 30, but the help they needed from Vancouver was nowhere to be found as the Red Bulls sealed Philly’s fate with a win on Saturday.


10. Orlando City SC
10W-13L-9D  |  39 points  |  -13 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. CLB, Oct 22 at PHI
Orlando‘s hopes, already slim heading into Week 30, took a huge blow after their home draw vs. Dallas. And they were also mathematically eliminated when the Red Bulls clinched the final available Eastern Conference playoff spot on Oct. 7.


11. D.C. United
9W-18L-5D  |  32 points  |  -24 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at POR, Oct 22 vs. NY
D.C. United were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Sept. 27 and will be looking to use the rest of the season to build some momentum towards a big 2018 during which they’ll open their new Audi Field home.

Western Conference

1. Vancouver Whitecaps
15W-11L-6D  |  51 points  |  +2 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. SJ, Oct 22 at POR
Whitecaps FC became the first West side to book their place in the postseason, thanks to their Week 30 road win over Sporting KC. It’ll be their third trip to the playoffs in the past four seasons. However, they were unable to extend their lead at the top of the West when a shorthanded lineup fell in a resounding 3-0 loss against the New York Red Bulls. The result means they missed a chance at a Knockout Round bye, though a win next week at home against San Jose would still be enough to guarantee a top-two finish in the West.


2. Sporting Kansas City
12W-7L-12D  |  48 points  |  +13 GD
Remaining Matches (3): Oct 11 at HOU, Oct 15 vs. HOU, Oct 22 at RSL
SKC missed out on another chance to clinch a playoff berth when they settled for a 1-1 draw in Week 31 at Minnesota. Though still favorites to eventually claim a spot (and now in the No. 2 position in the West thanks to the Minnesota result), a tricky stretch run and the potential absence of star ‘keeper Tim Melia mean SKC can’t get complacent.


3. Portland Timbers
13W-11L-8D  |  47 points  |  +5 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. DC, Oct 22 vs. VAN
The Timbers missed a chance to clinch their playoff spot in Week 30 by losing 2-1 to the Quakes, and they now find themselves back in a Knockout Round spot after Sporting picked up a point in Minnesota on Oct. 7. Unfortunately for PTFC’s chances at a bye, Sporting KC still have a game in hand on the Timbers, who finish their schedule with home games against D.C. United and Vancouver.


4. Seattle Sounders
12W-9L-11D  |  47 points  |  +6 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. DAL, Oct 22 vs. COL
Seattle failed to clinch a playoff spot in Week 30, losing to the Union 2-0 in Chester. However, with two home games remaining on the schedule, a Knockout Round bye is still within reach.


5. Houston Dynamo
11W-10L-10D  |  43 points  |  +8 GD
Remaining Matches (3): Oct 11 vs. SKC, Oct 15 at SKC, Oct 22 vs. CHI
After dropping valuable points in their two most recent home outings against West bottom-dwellers Colorado and LA, the Dynamo reversed the trend in Week 30 with a hard-fought 2-1 home win against Minnesota. The three points give them some breathing room before two difficult matches coming up against Sporting Kansas City. The job is far from done, though, as FC Dallas are now tied with them on points with Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes just one point behind.


6. FC Dallas
10W-9L-13D  |  43 points  |  0 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at SEA, Oct 22 vs. LA
FC Dallas missed a big opportunity to jump in the Western Conference standings when they went to the already-eliminated Colorado Rapids in Week 31 and came away with only a draw. They now sit in the 6th and final playoff spot, tied on points with the Houston Dynamo. But with Real Salt Lake and the San Jose Earthquakes just one point behind, Dallas are in a precarious position.


7. Real Salt Lake
12W-14L-6D  |  42 points  |  -6 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at COL, Oct 22 vs. SKC
Kyle Beckerman‘s dramatic 95th-minute equalizer earned 10-man RSL a 1-1 road draw at the LA Galaxy in Week 30, a result which reverberated across the tight Western Conference playoff race. The point for RSL kept them a nose ahead of San Jose, but FC Dallas used their game in hand during the international break to jump one point ahead and into sixth place, the final playoff spot. Given how tight the grouping around the playoff line is in the West, a rivalry match win in Colorado is likely a must-have on Oct. 15.


8. San Jose Earthquakes
12W-14L-6D  |  42 points  |  -22 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at VAN, Oct 22 vs. MIN
The Earthquakes picked up a vital 2-1 home win over Portland in Week 30 to keep pace with FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake, who are fighting for the sixth and final playoff spot. A spot as high as fifth place, currently occupied by the Houston Dynamo, is also still within reach. San Jose hope they can survive a Week 32 trip to Vancouver and get some other favorable results in order to enter that final home match against Minnesota with something to play for on Decision Day.


9. Minnesota United
10W-16L-6D  |  36 points  |  -19 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 at LA, Oct 22 at SJ
The Loons’ season is done as of Oct. 7, when a home draw to Sporting Kansas City combined with an FC Dallas draw mathematically doomed Minnesota’s playoff chances. They’ve gone 4W-2L-2D in their last eight games but it just wasn’t enough to make up the deficit in the standings.


10. Colorado Rapids
8W-18L-6D  |  30 points  |  -18 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. RSL, Oct 22 at SEA
A Sept. 27 loss in Dallas officially ruled the Rapids out of playoff contention. But they can now revel in their role of playoff spoilers, playing FC Dallas to a draw in Week 31 and next welcoming rivals and playoff chasers Real Salt Lake for a visit to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.


11. LA Galaxy
7W-17L-8D  |  29 points  |  -21 GD
Remaining Matches (2): Oct 15 vs. MIN, Oct 22 at DAL
The Galaxy were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention on Sept. 27 and are now hoping to avoid finishing with the worst record in the league, a development few saw coming in 2017.

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10/10/17 US must win or tie vs T&T tonight 8 pm beIN Sport, Pulisic was magical, Argentina must win to go to WC

So the game is on beIN Sport tonight – and I know a lot of folks don’t get that channel – anyone up for gathering someplace to watch?  RE: and let me know if so.  Perhaps Stacked Pickle on Old Meridian or downtown Carmel?

The US had their backs to the wall on Friday night vs Panama and boy did they come thru !  Bruce put out an offensive attack with Altidore and Bobby Wood up front with Pulisic underneath them in the middle as attacking mid.  Then Nagbe and Arriola on the wings and Bradley handling the #6 by himself in the middle.  They came out possessing and attacking – gave Pulisic room to run and man did he come thru.  The first run up the middle off a neat flick from Wood to Altidore who would flick it to Pulisic on his sprint was brilliant – especially by Pulisic.  His control unbelievable, his finish sublime.  He followed this a few minutes later with a fake to the right, a cut to the left, and a fantastic feed across goal to Altidore for the tap in and the rout was on.  This Pulisic kid is truly fantastic!

I also thought DeAndre Yedlin reminded us what we have been missing at right back with him injured. Man he was world class – and showed he has really learned to play defense in the EPL.  Was surprised to see Cameron left off for Gonzales in the middle of defense.  My guess is Gonzo and Besler have this communication having played together so long that Bruce felt this was a key.  Overall the defense bent some but honestly the shutout was deserved.  Finally – I thought Bradley did a workman job in the middle.  He was really strung out in an up and down game – but I thought he held his own until fellow #6 McCarty came in to help in the middle after the US went up 3-0.   Not sure what the US should do tonight. Obviously in muddy conditions I think you play a little more conservatively tonight. Perhaps a back 3/5 with Cameron inserted in the middle of defense.  That and I think McCarty gets the start in the midfield with Bradley to help protect.  Also I think Dempsey maybe gets the start tonight in the mud –he’s a classic mudder and I can think of no better way for Dempsey to break the US Scoring record he shares with Landon Donovan than by scoring a goal tonight to put the US thru to World Cup 2018!

Here’s how the USA can qualify for Russia, win, lose or draw in its finale:

Win: It’s simple. Win, and the USA is in. The USA has qualified in Trinidad before–starting its streak of World Cup qualification in 1989 with Paul Caligiuri’s famous goal. T&T is out of the tourney and has little to play for other than to ruin the US chances.

Draw: If the U.S. draws, it’ll go to 13 points. A Panama win would bring Los Canaleros level on points, but the goal differential tiebreaker means it’d take a huge win over Costa Rica to pass the Americans. Honduras is in a similar boat, but in an even worse position than Panama. It would need to make up a 12-goal gap while beating Mexico and hoping the USA loses handily. It’s quite unlikely, and in short, a draw should definitely send the USA through in third place.

Loss: A loss would be fairly catastrophic, but it would not necessarily eliminate the Americans from contention–it would leave them looking for help from Costa Rica and Mexico. Panama would need to beat Costa Rica Tuesday in order to bump the USA out of third. Honduras could bump the USA out of third as well with a win over Mexico. One of them winning and the USA losing would force the Americans into a playoff against either Australia or Syria. The death scenario: If the USA loses and Panama and Honduras both win, then the USA is out altogether. It’s unlikely, but it’s in play.


Tactical Approach to Tonights Game – ArmChair Analyst – Matt Doyle

Going to Be a Nightmare Field Situation Tonight – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Check out the Field at Trinidad and Tobago

US Have 1 foot in Russia – Ian Durke – ESPNFC

US Ability to perform under Pressure both a Blessing &  A Curse – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Still has Work to Do –

US – Arena pushed All the Right Buttons – Matt Doyle – mls.com

Bruce Arena’s Line-up Gamble Pays off with huge win – Charles Boehm MLS.com

US Wins big over Panama – SI – Grant Wahl

Pulisic Finally Gets some Help in Win over Panama – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

Player Ratings – Pulisic a 10 – Jason Davis ESPNFC

Players Ratings – MLS.com Greg Seltzer

Preparation was Key for US vs Panama – SI – Grant Wahl

US 4- Panama 0 –US Soccer Players

Pulisic Sends Game Jersey to young Fan Raising money for Puerto Rico –

What’s Pulisic’s Best Position – SI  Brian Straus – Oct 5.

US Defender John Brooks – Close to Returning from injury at Wolfsburg

US U17s win 2nd Advance to WC Round of 16

US u17s Win first Game 3-0 vs hosts India


Around the World of Qualifying – Argentina Struggles, England Formation Switch Gab Marcotti ESPNF  

Argentina and Chile battle for last spot – if Brazil loses to Chile – that could knock out Argentina

Iceland Makes It In to World Cup

Wales left Heartbroken in loss to Ireland – out of WC

Mexico looks to Shut out Honduras from World Cup Tonight

World Cup Draw Seeding Implications for Qualifying Finals- for US –


Tues, Oct 10                     World Cup Qualifying

5 am ESPN3                     Australia 1-0 vs Syria (US might play the winner here?)

7:30 am FS 2                  Spain U17 vs Nigeria U17 WC

10:30 am FS2                 Brazil U17 vs Korea U17 WC

2:45 pm  FS 1                Portugal vs Switzerland

2;45 pm FS 2                 France vs Belarus

8 pm  beIN Sports      Panama vs USA 

Thurs, Oct 12                    

7:30 am FS 2                  Turkey U17 vs Paraguay U17 WC

10:30 am FS 2      US U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

10:30 am Fox sports Ghana U17 vs India U17 WC

Sat, OCt 14

7:30 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Man United 

10 am NBCSN                   Man  City vs Stoke City (Cameron)

9:30 am FS2                       Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

10:15 am beIN Sport Getafe vs Real Madrid

12:30 NBC                          Watford vs Arsenal

12:30 pm FS2                   Ausburg vs Dortmund (Pulisic) vs RB Leipzig

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Atletico vs Barcelona

7:30 pm myindy Tv   Indy 11 vs NY Cosmos

Sun Oct 15

7:30 am NBCSN               Brighton vs Everton

9:30 am Fox Sport 1    Bayer Leverkusen vs Wolfsburg

11 am NBCSN                   Southampton vs Newcastle (Yedlin)

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Inter vs AC Milan

Mon, Oct 16

7:30 am FS 2                  2A vs 2 C  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1B vs 3 ACD  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

Tues, Oct 17

7:30 am FS 2                  1C vs 3 ABF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1F vs 2 E  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 1                         Real Madrid vs Tottenham (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Man City vs Napoli (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Maribor vs Liverpool

Weds, Oct 18

7:30 am FS 2                  1A vs 3 CDE  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

10:30 am FS 2               1d vs 3 BEF  U17 WC (Rd of 16)

2:45 pm Fox Sport 2                         Barcelona vs Olympiakos (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox MW        Chelsea vs Roma (Champ League)

2:45 pm Fox Soccer  Bayern Munich vs Celtic

7 pm                                    Butler vs Indiana University at Butler Bowl !!

Thurs, Oct 19

1 pm Fox Sport 2        Crvena vs Arsenal (Europa League)

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1                         USA vs Korea Republic

Sat, Oct 21

7:30 am NBCSN               Chelsea vs Watford

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Frankfurt vs Dortmund (Pulisic)

10 am NBCSN                Man United vs Huddersfiled Town (Johnson)

10 am CNBC?                 Stoke City vs Bournemouth

12:30 pm Fox Sport 2                      Hamburger (Bobby Wood) vs Bayern Munich

Sun, Oct 22

7:30 am NBCSN               Everton vs Arsenal

7:30 am FS2                   U17 WC Quarters

7:30 am Fox soccer   U17 WC Quarters

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Freiburg vs Hertha

11 am NBCSN                Tottenham vs Liverpool

Wed Oct 18 -7 pm  – Butler Men Host Indiana University

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11 TV Schedule

EPL 2017 Schedule


Armchair Analyst: Tactical preview of USMNT at T&T World Cup qualifier

October 9, 20171:21PM EDTMatthew Doyle  MLS.com – Senior Writer

Consider, first, the pitch conditions at the Ato Bolden Stadium:

View image on Twitter

Nothing about Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier (8 pm ET; BeIN Sports, NBC Universo) looks like it’s going to be pleasant. There will be puddles, and there will be highlight-reel-for-all-the-wrong-reasons slide tackles, and I simply doubt that there will be much in the way of build-up play from either side.Lucky bounces will be important, and set pieces will be especially important. It’s one of those “just find a way to get a result” games, and if the Yanks manage that, they’ll have officially punched their ticket to Russia.

What Trinidad & Tobago Will Do

  • Sit deep and counter

The Soca Warriors had 32 percent of the ball in Friday’s 3-1 loss at Mexico. They completed a decent-enough 69 percent of them, but that number cratered to below 30 percent in the attacking third, and zero percent on crosses. More than 25 percent of their passes were long-balls.This is just pure, Route 1 goodness:

There’s an obvious difference between playing at Mexico and playing at home, of course. T&T will be a little more aggressive in getting on the ball and trying to do actual soccer things, and Kevin Molino and(*) Joevin Jones will probably start, so the US can expect to see at least a few dangerous, inverted runs coming in off the wings of the likely 4-1-4-1 the Soca Warriors will trot out.(*) Molino’s out via yellow card accumulation. Thanks Phil!

But the basic gameplan will be the same on Tuesday as it was on Friday. Sit, be compact, then go long and direct as hell. And maybe in the process, ruin the USMNT’s chances of going to the World Cup.

What the US Should Do

  • Dominate in the air and on second balls

No Kenwyne Jones means no big, strong, dominant target forward for T&T, which should make knockdowns of those long-balls a little bit less dangerous (the above goal notwithstanding). Still, the Trinidadian forward contingent here aren’t tiny, and they are not afraid to contest literally anything hoofed out of the back. And there will be tons of balls hoofed from the back.The US need to win those first headers, and in guys like Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, they have the ability to do so. More important, though, is that they have to win those second balls at midfield once the header is either knocked down, or cleared back up into the scrum. Thus far that has simply not been a strong point for the US under Bruce Arena.Part of the reason for that is Arena’s habitually gambled upon leaving central midfield relatively barren in exchange for a more attack-oriented approach. We saw this in its glory on Friday, that 4-0 win over Panama fired by the US overwhelming the opposing defense with five attackers.We could very well see the same thing at T&T. What I’d prefer, though, is this:






It’s a 3-5-2/5-3-2. I chose Dax McCarty ahead of either Kellyn Acosta or Alejandro Bedoya as Michael Bradley‘s deep central midfield partner strictly because Dax is the best of the bunch at winning those second balls. I also chose Clint Dempsey over Jozy Altidore because Dempsey’s a mudder – if there’s anybody destined to score a record-breaking goal in a swamp, it’s Deuce.I also just want to get three center backs on the field. First, it helps when dealing with the inevitable fusillade of T&T punts. Second… set pieces. The US haven’t been great (or even “good”, really) defending them for half-a-decade now. Adding a third center back makes sense, given the stakes.It also makes it much less likely that the US will be able to send numbers forward and just overwhelm the hell out of T&T like they did to Panama, but the field conditions would make that a risky strategy anyway. For this one, I’m content with the idea of a Dempsey – Bobby Wood – Christian Pulisic triumvirate with occasional up-the-flanks help from Jorge Villafaña or DeAndre Yedlin. That really should be enough.

A few more variables we’ll tackle bullet-point style:

  • Arena has been a big believer in squad rotation, so don’t be surprised if we see the likes of Tim Ream and DaMarcus Beasley out on the field. YMMV on how much you approve or disapprove of this.
  • People freaked out of Cameron not making an appearance on Friday, but I’m convinced it was because they didn’t want to overwork his balky hamstring. He’d missed most of September for Stoke, only coming back last weekend – during which he played 90 minutes at the center of a back three. The turnaround from Saturday-to-Friday was probably a little bit too tight. Now he’s got an extra four days rest, and I’ll bet you an arm he’s in the XI.
  • A win and the US are officially in. A draw would certainly do it as well, given current goal differential (the US are +5, Panama are -2 and Honduras are -7). A loss… a loss and the US could end anywhere from third to fifth place, depending upon other results.It’s all still there to play for.

Stejskal: Who should the US start against Trinidad & Tobago?

October 9, 20173:49PM EDT  Sam Stejskal Contributor – MLS.com

Last week, I took a crack at putting together my preferred starting lineup for the US national team’s do-or-die World Cup qualifier against Panama.I called for a 3-5-2 formation, which was way, way different than the 4-4-2 diamond that Bruce Arena rolled out in Orlando. That setup worked out just fine, of course, with the US romping their way to a dominant 4-0 win against Los Canaleros.

The victory put the US in full control of their World Cup qualification hopes heading into Tuesday’s match at Trinidad & Tobago (8 pm ET; beIN SPORTS, Universo). A win against the Soca Warriors, and the Americans are in. A draw would more than likely do the trick, too. A loss would make things tricky – let’s hope we don’t have to worry about any of those permutations.

While the US were rampant on Friday against Panama, I don’t expect Arena to be as aggressive with his lineup on Tuesday. The field will likely be a mess, the US are on the road and they only need a draw. Those circumstances lend themselves to a more conservative approach than what we saw on Friday, and they played a pretty big role in determining how I’d line things up.

The biggest change I’d make would be in the formation. I’d be excited to see the US use the diamond again, but it’d be more prudent to shift to a 4-2-3-1. That means switches in the midfield and up top, including bringing in the responsible, smart and experienced Alejandro Bedoya to play alongside defensive midfielder Michael Bradley. I’d also make a switch in net, starting Brad Guzanover Tim Howard to keep that goalkeeping competition kicking as the US edge closer to a probable trip to Russia next summer.

Here’s how I’d lineup the full team:

4-2-3-1, left to right

GK: Brad Guzan – Jorge Villafaña, Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron, DeAndre Yedlin – Michael BradleyAlejandro Bedoya – Darlington Nagbe, Christian Pulisic, Paul Arriola – Jozy Altidore

Pitch will be far from perfect as United States aims to lock up World Cup spot

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — World Cup qualifying in CONCACAF never ceases to amaze. There is drama, crazy incidents and even crazier weather conditions. is that last aspect that has taken center stage ahead of Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier between the United States and Trinidad and Tobago. When the U.S. arrived for its usual prematch practice at the game venue — in this case, Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva — it witnessed a partially flooded playing surface, a surrounding running track that was almost completely submerged and a solitary water pump gamely trying to move the water into a nearby drain.This of course led to a bit of back and forth between the U.S. Soccer Federation and the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association on social media and elsewhere. Turns out that the TTFA didn’t take kindly to a few tweets from the USSF’s Twitter account highlighting the state of the field. The TTFA was thoughtful enough to include a picture of the “Snow Classico” with the press release insisting that the track “was the only area affected at the Ato Boldon Stadium,” even though that wasn’t the case.U.S. keeper Tim Howard admitted that he has seen worse in England.”Those games get canceled, though,” he quipped.There have been some differing explanations as to exactly why Ato Boldon Stadium was chosen as a venue. The official line is that problems with the lighting system at Hasely Crawford Stadium, the usual venue for Trinidad and Tobago national team matches, necessitated the change. Another T&T official said back in June that it was done to cut security costs (Crawford Stadium’s capacity is 27,000, while Boldon Stadium’s is 10,000).Regardless, as of now, the game is going ahead as planned, though that could all change if there is additional precipitation. The current forecast calls for a 50 percent chance of rain around midday Tuesday, with skies expected to clear late in the afternoon.”There’s always something,” said U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley about playing on the road in CONCACAF. “It doesn’t faze us. It’s the reality of qualifying for a World Cup for us. You take it for what it is, you get a good laugh about it, and ultimately you make sure that in no way it throws off what we’re trying to do and what we’re all about.” And for all of the head-shaking and tut-tutting over the condition of the field, it doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. still has a World Cup qualifying berth to secure. A win on Tuesday guarantees a trip to Russia. Only an otherworldly set of circumstances will deny the U.S. should it tie the match. But a loss opens the door for one or both of Panama and Honduras to jump over the U.S. and either condemn the Americans to fourth place and a playoff against Australia or Syria or knock them out of qualifying entirely.The varying scenarios create a bit of an awkward situation for the Americans. Friday’s 4-0 win over Panama was as close to a must-win as you can get. That, obviously, won’t be the case on Tuesday, and that can create a mental trap for the players.”Obviously, that’s a slippery slope,” Howard said. “A tie in the end will be great, if that happens, but it’s not something that we’re planning on doing. We’re going to try and be aggressive, get our goals and play well enough to win.”There also is the added wrinkle of playing a T&T side that already has been eliminated, with manager Dennis Lawrence opting to field younger players. Kenwyne Jones wasn’t called in, and midfielder Kevin Molino is suspended, due to accumulation of yellow cards. Given that the field will be littered with players trying to prove themselves, T&T could be a dangerous opponent — and it looked the part in a 3-1 loss to Mexico on Friday.Those circumstances, along with the playing conditions, require many things from the U.S. They need to be confident in their approach but adaptable, as well.”It’s having an idea before the game of what we think the game is going to be like and how we think it’s going to play out,” said Bradley, during a roundtable with reporters. “But you also have to have guys who then, that when the game gets going, can read things and understand what’s going on, because things change, things change quickly, especially in these games where there is so much on the line.”The biggest concern for the U.S. heading into the match surrounds the health of Christian Pulisic, who sustained a calf injury against Panama. Pulisic indicated the calf has improved but stopped short of saying he would play. Manager Bruce Arena sounded a bit more optimistic that Pulisic would recover but stressed that a final decision would be made Tuesday morning.If Pulisic does play, Arena will engage in his usual ritual of determining where to play the 19-year-old. Pulisic dazzled in a central role against Panama, but on the road, Arena has tended to play him out wide in a bid to provide a bit more defensive stability alongside Bradley in the center of midfield. That could mean that one of Dax McCarty or Alejandro Bedoya will get the nod in the center of midfield and Pulisic will move ostensibly wide but with plenty of license to drift into central positions. If Pulisic can’t go, then the supporting cast that performed so well against Panama will need to provide the kind of collective effort that can compensate for the midfielder’s absence, conditions be damned.”I certainly wouldn’t expect it to be a night where there’s tons of perfect football, that’s for sure,” Bradley said.Given the stakes and the odyssey that this team has endured in qualifying, there doesn’t need to be perfection. If the U.S. can get the job done, it can leave crazy behind and let the celebrations begin.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

United States have one foot in Russia after a fraught qualifying campaign

Ronald Reagan was president and the movie “Top Gun” was breaking box office records the last time the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1986.Back then, outside a tiny minority of soccer diehards, nobody in America even cared; the tournament might have been held on Mars, for all most people knew. After all, the list of failures to qualify dated back to 1950, the year of a fabled 1-0 win over England in Belo Horizonte.How times change: The U.S. has been at every World Cup since 1990 and a growing army of fans not only care, but expect to see their team on the big stage. Moreover, a generation has grown up watching live action from the top European Leagues, while Major League Soccer has gained increasing traction.In 2014, TV ratings went through the roof and, as we covered the team in Brazil, stories reached us of business people in Wall Street timing their lunch break to watch the Americans play and new converts were not disappointed.Jurgen Klinsmann’s team won hearts and minds in advancing from a mighty tough group that also featured comprising Germany, Portugal and Ghana. The U.S. even found themselves adopted as lovable underdogs by neutrals until their campaign ended in an extra-time defeat to Belgium in the Round of 16, despite the heroics of goalkeeper Tim Howard.It was a run that did much to spread word that the U.S. were not some kind of joke team and, to emphasise that point, Klinsmann also engineered away friendly wins at Italy, Germany and Netherlands during his tenure.But attempts to qualify for Russia next year have been beset by problems.Klinsmann lost his job after defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica in the first two games of the “Hex” — the final, six-team round that decides the three automatic qualifiers from the CONCACAF region. Back came Bruce Arena, the grizzled MLS coach who took the U.S. to the quarterfinals in 2002.He repaired the damage until a costly 2-0 home defeat in September to the clever Costa Ricans, who took their chances and ruthlessly squeezed America’s teenage talent Christian Pulisic out of the game.Suddenly the U.S. were outside the prized top-three places and staring at an unthinkable failure to make the World Cup. Such a failure would cost millions of dollars, as well as the loss of kudos and the damage done to the image of the sport across the nation.But with the pressure on and amid tangible tension, Pulisic ripped a hitherto miserly Panama defence to shreds during a 4-0 win in Orlando on Friday.The 19-year-old Dortmund attacker from the chocolate bar town of Hershey, Pa., insists upon his name being pronounced the American way: “Poo-liss-ick.” Mature beyond his years, he wears the No. 10 shirt of former poster boy Landon Donovan and has emerged as the team’s headline act.Now one more victory, away to bottom-of-the-table Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday, will take Arena’s team to Russia at the end of this white-knuckle ride. Indeed, even a draw should be enough, such is the U.S.’ goal-difference advantage over Panama and Honduras. But might there be a sting in the tail?The American defence, which has had 19 changes in the Hex so far, does not inspire confidence and the T&T team can play with freedom with nothing but pride on the line. What’s more, they created several good chances against the U.S. earlier in the campaign, despite a 2-0 loss.Away games in CONCACAF are tough for everyone given the usual heat, imperfect surfaces and raucous intimidating crowds. So even against what is likely to be an experimental line-up, this is no formality for the Americans, who have taken just three points from four previous road qualifiers.Yet having grasped a lifeline in Orlando and with the attacking trio of Pulisic , Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood in top form, it will be a shock if the U.S. fail to clinch a spot at an eighth successive World Cup.Perhaps if those three fail to get the job done, 34-year-old Clint Dempsey can come off the bench to get the goal that would put him out on his own as the country’s all-time record scorer. After that, he can go about trying join Pele, as well as Germans Uwe Seeler and Miroslav Klose, as the only players to score at four World Cups.Ian Darke, who called games for the network during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, is ESPN’s lead soccer voice in the U.S. Reach him on Twitter @IanDarke.

United States’ ability to perform under pressure both a blessing and a curse

ORLANDO, Fla. — The United States has been flirting with danger for much of this World Cup qualifying cycle. But on Friday, with everything on the line, the Americans took a massive step toward securing qualification, as they obliterated Panama 4-0.This backs-to-the-wall response is nothing new, of course. After dropping the first two games of the final-round Hexagonal, the U.S. hammered Honduras 6-0. In the semifinal round, a loss at Guatemala also imperiled the Americans’ qualifying hopes, but the U.S. responded with a 4-0 victory in the return encounter a few days later. The U.S. then cruised from there with victories over St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago.On the one hand, it’s an impressive trait to be able to respond with a dominating performance when the pressure is highest. But looked at another way, why does it take such circumstances to bring the best out of the U.S.?Granted, summoning a performance like Friday’s isn’t like ordering a pizza, where you dial it up and get exactly what you want in the allotted number of minutes. It takes equal parts preparation and execution. The quality and form of the opponent, along with the varying conditions between home and road games, obviously play a part as well.But the performance against Panama, as good as it was, does highlight just how inconsistent the U.S. has been this cycle. There have been times when the team has been dominant and others when it seemed to lack urgency, which explains why that word came up so often during the team’s stay in Orlando. Certainly there has been a lack of continuity from game to game in terms of lineup choices, which no doubt also has had an impact.Manager Bruce Arena isn’t looking at it that way, of course.”We’ve had a great year despite what some of you people think,” he said at his postgame news conference. “We’ve come a long way. We’re well positioned to hopefully qualify for [the 2018 World Cup in] Russia.”He later added, “We’re doing well. I know everyone thought we were going to qualify in six games in 2017. It doesn’t happen that way. I think we’re moving along well, we’ve advanced from sixth to third, we’re positioned well with goal differential, and now we have to finish it off on Tuesday in Trinidad.”Arena has some numbers to back him up, the biggest being that the U.S. has lost but one game since he took over late last year. His overall record is 10-1-6. That record includes the Americans’ run to the title at a watered-down Gold Cup, but in World Cup qualifying, Arena’s record is 3-1-3. There has also been a 10-goal swing for the U.S. since the start of the year — from minus-5 to plus-5 — in terms of goal differential.Other figures aren’t as kind. Some predate Arena’s arrival, but others don’t. The home form, with losses to both Mexico and Costa Rica, has been spotty, to say the least. The Americans’ road form has been subpar as well compared to previous cycles. If the U.S. fails to secure victory against T&T on Tuesday, it will mark the first time since the 1986 cycle that it failed to produce at least one victory outside the U.S. in its final round of qualifying. And even if the U.S. wins against T&T on Tuesday, the six road points in the Hex will be the fewest since the 2002 cycle, when the Americans secured just five points, and one victory.That inconsistency is the biggest concern heading into Tuesday’s match. The pressure on the Americans has been relieved to a degree, not only by the win against Panama but also by Costa Rica’s dramatic tie against Honduras on Saturday. The results leave both Panama and Honduras on 10 points, two behind the U.S., and now a win on Tuesday will clinch third place outright.Given the immense advantage the U.S. has in goal differential over its rivals — it has a seven-goal cushion over Panama and a whopping 12-goal advantage over Honduras — even a tie against the Soca Warriors ought to be enough.So will the U.S. relax, or bear down even more in a bid to finish the job? Outwardly, the U.S. players seemed determined to not let any complacency creep into their collective transom. After Friday’s match, there was universal recognition among the players — from Michael Bradley to Christian Pulisic to Jozy Altidore — that the job is not done. That isn’t to say the U.S. shouldn’t draw inspiration from Friday night. Clearly it should.”We’ve got to enjoy this, use it for confidence and spirit, and make sure that come Tuesday, we’re ready to finish the job,” said Bradley, the U.S. captain.It’s been a habit of the U.S. during the Hex that whenever it seemed ready to put some distance between itself and its rivals, it has been dragged back into the mire with a lackluster performance. Clearly the U.S. team’s psyche is in as good a place as it’s been all year. Keeping lineup changes to a minimum — health permitting — should enable Arena to keep it that way. Then it’s down to the players to get it done on the field.The U.S. has a firm grip on qualification after Friday’s impressive performance. Now it’s time for them to make it secure, leave nothing to chance, and get a victory in Trinidad.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle. 

Warshaw: US national team fans beware – Arena’s team still has work to do

October 9, 201710:58AM EDT Bobby WarshawI’m about to say something, and not support it, because I’m pretty sure you know it’s true: The subconscious is stronger than the conscious. This girl is right for me; this girl is definitely not the one. My mom keeps driving me crazy; I should call my mom. It’s okay for me to leave only a 12 percent tip for this guy; I’m a bad person.We can work really hard to want something or to make the logical decision, but it never compares to the subconscious desire within us. We are always kinda at the mercy of the little seed planted deep in our minds.It’s the same for the players you see out on the field. Players can say the right things – “It’s gonna be a battle out there and we’re gonna have to fight for every inch” – and do the right things like showing up early to training or staying late to do extra work in the weight room. But they can’t change the little thought in the back of their brains.

US still has work to do

The country celebrated Friday evening when the USMNT trounced Panama 4-0, but it may have all been a bit premature.The US still is not mathematically set for Russia. In fact, it’s not even totally logically locked.

Bruce Arena and Co. currently lead both Panama and Honduras by two points. It’s a super slim margin given 1) Panama and Honduras both play at home and 2) both Panama’s and Honduras’ opponents, Mexico and Costa Rica, have already qualified and do not have anything to play for and 3) it’s CONCACAF.

As such, it’s very possible that both Panama and Honduras could win on Tuesday night, forcing the US to need at least a point on the road in Trinidad and Tobago.As US fans, we tend to take matches like T&T for granted. But I remind you once again, it’s CONCACAF; and an everything-on-the-line game. Put both of those in a pot and find out what comes in an hour-and-a-half. It definitely won’t be whatever they had on the box.The USMNT needs to plan to get a point on Tuesday to qualify for the World Cup. And yet, those words are more easily logically understood than subconsciously registered. Like, we can all mathematically say we know the US needs a point, but Friday was so amazing! And are Panama and Honduras really going to win? Panama was so bad last game. And even if we don’t play our best, we can still beat Trinidad, right? I mean, it’s Trinidad. And they don’t even have Stern John anymore.See what I did there? It’s really easy to convince yourself that the game isn’t important, that you don’t need to bring the I-will-kill-you-for-this-seemingly-and-probably-worthless-loose-ball-in-the-middle-of-the-field mentality.Human brains are lazy. Players are no different. If you give a player an inch, he will take a mile. National team players are a little different, of course – it’s how they got to make the national team. But they are still human. They still have sub-conscious tendencies; they’d still prefer to coast at 4-0 than fight to the death at the end. If the brain gets a sliver of a sense that it can relax, it will.

Complacency: It happens

It’s happened to every player. You look at the schedule and you see what should be an easy game coming up. It’s kind of nice to see; it’s nice to get a break from the never-ending grind. You’re just so tired. You tell yourself, though, not to get stuck in the trap.

You promise to double your efforts in the week to stay sharp. You do your reps and your preparation. You show up to the stadium a few minutes early to make a mental statement. You go through the usual pre-game routine, maybe doing a couple extra knees-to-chest to make sure the body know what’s coming.

Then the game starts and you are a second slow on everything. Your brain isn’t clicking at the same speed and your muscles aren’t firing with the same intensity. The dude who has no business running by you is running by you. You hate yourself for letting it happen.You did everything you could, but your brain never got past the “easy game” thought. The subconscious won.

If there’s one line I will use over and over and not apologize for it: The margins at the top level are slim and every percentage point makes a huge difference. If a player drops his intensity or focus by one percent, he loses his margin of advantage.

Think about all the players who have moved down a level and struggled; their ability hasn’t diminished, they just haven’t been able to get their brain to same level of desire. If your subconscious brain thinks it’s going to be easy and drops your focus by that one percent, you’re not going to be the same player. And it’s really hard for the logical part of your brain to convince your subconscious to change.

Can they avoid the trap?

What can a player do to protect against the complacency? I wish I had a better answer, but I don’t know. Tell me how to manipulate the subconscious and we’ll go make a billion dollars together.Some players naturally have a high level of intensity. When you hear players mention each other’s professionalism, this is largely what they mean: how much desire does he bring every day to the job? Does he provide the same work rate in everything he does? It generally aligns with what you’d guess from watching on TV.A coach plays a huge rule, as well. The staff can show clips of the opponent’s best moments, creating a sense that the team is better than previously perceived. Some coaches also just have that sense of “if you drop your intensity for one second I will kill you with my bare hands” vibe. Or sometimes a manager can rotate players, and start a group who will be excited to be on the field at all.Training environment, too, has a huge effect. If a player or team trains at a certain level all the time, it doesn’t have it in its muscle memory to drop its performance. Again, though, it’s tough to get humans to that level every single day. Coaches who try don’t tend to last very long.Complacency is one of the top problems all teams and players face. It’s always lurking around the corner. You even know it’s there. But it’s only when you stop looking for it that it pops out.The USMNT might not need a result on Tuesday. But call your moms, y’all. 

Armchair Analyst: Arena whispering in Caesar’s tomb

October 7, 201710:29AM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior

Most of my takes are in the video above or in the special edition of ExtraTime Radio linked below, but I’ll give you the short version here: Bruce Arena’s made a career out of taking calculated risks. In general most of those risks – the 5-4-1 at Mexico in June, or the 3-5-2 vs. Mexico in the 2002 World Cup, or the seen-them-too-often-at-the-time-but-in-hindsight-I-sorta-get-it double d-mid formations of the 2002 and 2006 qualifying cycles – were defensive in nature.On Friday night, in a must-win game against Panama, he went in the other direction. Our man Charlie Boehm covered it in detail in his column, and here’s the telling quote from the manager: “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.”Wait no, that quote’s from something else. Here’s the real one: “We wanted to push five players forward into the attack as aggressively as we could.”They did exactly that, again and again and again, until the scoreline read 4-0 and Hernan Dario Gomez read the Panamanian press the riot act. They played a wide diamond, which I’d not have done and which displeased me when I saw it; they played Christian Pulisic as a burst-through-the-lines No. 10, which I most certainly would have done and pleased me greatly; they used the fullbacks to support rather than overlap, which gave a solidity and structure to the back four that has, at times, been lacking.  And also this:View image on Twitter

Bradley is not a perfect player, and a lack of consistency in formation and squad selection has led to some subpar passing numbers relative to what he’s done in the past, and what he does on the weekly with Toronto FC. But you don’t take this chance – you don’t go full Mark Antony – if you have just any old defensive midfielder covering that spot. Your risk calculations probably push you in the other direction, toward a grit-and-grind one-goal result.The US have had a lot of those over the decades, and Arena was particularly masterful at pulling them off during his first tenure as manager. His teams did so with such frequency that it was a point of unquestioned belief amongst the fanbase that he was a conservative, defensive manager first and foremost.This win over Panama, and the 6-0 over Honduras to start his eight-game run-in as resuscitator of the program Jurgen Klinsmann nearly smothered to death, gives the lie to that belief. Arena’s not an ultra-defensive manager; he’s an ultra-pragmatic manager. And sometimes pragmatism demands that you’re Antony in Caesar’s tomb, vowing total war via all-out attack.Not against Mexico, mind you, and not against Costa Rica either. Panama was a different sort of challenge and so it was a different sort of calculus for the manager and the players. But the idea of “let’s make Bradley’s job a lot harder so that the attack’s job is a bit easier” was a worthy trade-off. What comes next will be interesting to see. Even after a 4-0 I still think we’ll get a more defensive set-up at Trinidad & Tobago on Tuesday for the final qualifier of this cycle, because it just feels like the right call for a road game where all that’s needed is a draw. That could mean a 4-2-3-1 or a 3-5-2 or even a 5-4-1 (that last one feels a step too far).After that, assuming the US does indeed qualify for Russia, it becomes a more open question of what the US can become over the next eight months rather than the question of what the US mustbecome that dominated 2017.Arena’s pragmatism in answering that second question has revealed him to be something of an idealist. That’s not the risk I thought he’d take. I’m glad I was wrong, and I’m very much looking forward to finding out what it might mean next summer, with the whole world watching.

Boehm: Bruce Arena racks up latest big-game win as lineup gamble pays off

October 7, 201712:38AM EDTCharles BoehmContributo

ORLANDO, Fla. – This is just a hasty, back-of-the-napkin calculation, so don’t take it as statistical gospel.But by my approximate count, going all the way back to his University of Virginia days and including his long career in MLS and the US national team, Friday’s World Cup qualifier vs. Panama was the 1,020th high-level soccer game that Bruce Arena has head-coached.People often toss around phrases like “I’ve done this a thousand times,” but in Arena’s case, he really has seen just about everything in his three-plus decades on the sidelines. So as the USMNT gathered in central Florida this week, their World Cup hopes hanging in the balance as fans and the media fretted and probed, the players could look to their grizzled, wisecracking leader and know that he’s been there, done that.“He prepares his teams well for whatever situation that we’re in,” defender Matt Besler said of Arena postgame. “He did a great job of motivating us and preparing us the right way. Then at the end of the day it’s in our hands. He gives this team confidence and he has an experience about him, the way that he goes about things, because he’s been in these positions before. And that carries over to his teams.”And when the opening whistle blew at Orlando City Stadium, all the careful planning and intense preparation clicked, unleashing a vicious storm of attacking soccer that left Panama bruised, breathless and humiliated, to the tune of a 4-0 rout.“In all my years with the national team, this is probably the most prepared I think the team has been, in terms of the work that the coaching staff put in,” said Jozy Altidore, who scored two goals and set up a third. “It’s a huge, huge A+ to them.“From Sunday, since the guys landed, they were showing video, pulling guys aside, making sure we were prepared for this game. They made us understand how important the game was to them. Kudos to Bruce and his team for preparing everybody.”Details matter at this level. And though Arena makes a good show of dismissing the game’s complexities with his wry smile and smart-aleck demeanor, he’s shown time and again that he can master them, and deploy them to help his teams win.On paper, the USMNT started in a 4-4-2 (or 4-1-3-2 if you’re being pedantic) that many – this correspondent included – were quick to depict as more of the same for a squad whose recent performances seemed to suggest they needed something much more dramatic. There was even a whiff of recklessness, perhaps overconfidence, in a setup that piled a great deal of responsibility on Michael Bradley, the sole defensive midfielder behind five attack-minded colleagues.“I think we’ve played some of our best games like that,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard. “Michael is as honest and hard-working as they come. The guys who played in alongside of him were asked to do two jobs: spring the attack, get in off the shoulder, and then also protect the fullbacks. So tough job for Darlington [Nagbe] and Paul [Arriola], but they did it well tonight.”As it turned out, the home side weren’t leaving their backsides exposed so much as baring their teeth – and their guests were quickly devoured, falling behind 2-0 before 20 minutes had elapsed.“They smelled blood from the beginning,” Howard said of Altidore, his strike partner Bobby Wood and Christian Pulisic, deployed underneath them as a classic No. 10. “Any time they picked up the ball it was either a yellow-card foul or some sort of breakaway. They clearly recognized that from the beginning. We spoke about being aggressive, not just ‘being up against them and kicking them’ aggressive, but getting the ball, playing forward, putting them on their heels. We stuck to the game plan – it was good.”The USMNT had spoken repeatedly of the importance of scoring first in the lead-up to this game, which is easy to say. But Arena set up a starting XI that made that easy for his players to achieve, too. When Panama got up off the canvas and began to mount a response, Arena had a plan for that, too.“Yes, it was,” he said postgame when asked if he considered his team’s tactics and shape a gamble. “We wanted to push five players forward into the attack as aggressively as we could. The way Panama plays, we could afford to do that.“They made a change when they took [Edgar Yoel] Barcenas out [in the first half] and they went to some version of a 4-2-1-3, maybe, and put a little bit more pressure on Michael, had three players in the central part of the midfield. That’s why we brought Dax [McCarty] in, to play next to Michael, give him a little bit more help.”While their fans were fretting, the US were building the tools for victory, secure in the knowledge that their boss had a solid plan for success in a big moment, in front of an appreciative, partisan crowd.Turns out, he did.“Everybody was relaxed,” Altidore said. “We knew we were coming to a place where we were going to have heavy support, as we did here tonight, and we knew we just had to make sure we were the protagonist tonight, and put them under pressure from the first minute, and we did that.”

Christian Pulisic finally gets some help as U.S. teammates step up vs. Panama

ORLANDO, Fla. — The debate has raged for much of this calendar year. Where do you play Christian Pulisic?The 19-year-old usually plays out wide for his club, Borussia Dortmund, though the particular wing he plays on changes every so often. U.S. manager Bruce Arena has alternated Pulisic between wide and more central positions, but the discussion has tended to obscure an even larger truth about this U.S. team: If the players around Pulisic don’t play well, it doesn’t really matter where he lines up. He’ll be smothered, kicked and largely shut down.So on a night when Pulisic was reinserted into a central role in the U.S. attack and excelled, it was the collective contribution from players not named Christian Pulisic that proved to be a huge difference in the 4-0 victory over Panama on Friday night.”We played in a way from the get-go that left no doubt as to who was going to win the game,” U.S. captain Michael Bradley said. “Across the board we had guys ready for a big game, and come through in a huge way.” Without question, Pulisic reveled in his newfound (or was it regained?) freedom, drifting up field in a bid to provide closer support to forwards Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood. It allowed him to find pockets of space and when the U.S. lost the ball, he was intent on attacking as quickly as possible before Panama could get sufficient numbers back.Pulisic pushed forward even when the U.S. didn’t have the ball, relying on Darlington Nagbe, Paul Arriola and even Altidore at times to put in more of the defensive dirty work. It’s what allowed Pulisic to score one goal, assist for another and run at the Panama defense countless other times that led to plenty of near-misses.”I think with Christian playing in the hole like that, he’s able to just sniff stuff out, and I thought he was the difference, between playing him in the middle and on the wing,” Altidore said. “He was able to disrupt them in so many ways, and you saw the difference he can make in the middle of the park, being able to go each way and just being so dynamic. I thought that was a big plus for us.”But instead of waiting for Pulisic to carry the load in the “save us Christian” offense, his teammates were right there with him, taking the initiative. Wood and Altidore were dynamic in their movement and precise with their touches. Or at least precise enough, as evidenced by Altidore’s layoff to Pulisic for the Americans’ opener, one in which Pulisic had to reach back and touch the ball into open space and before rounding Panama keeper Jaime Penedo and scoring into an empty net.”We needed a lot of movement against a physical Panama team that was going to sit in and not make it easy for us,” Pulisic said. “Our movement was good today. I was able to play off [Wood and Altidore]. They had some great layoffs to me and think the spacing was pretty good for most of the night.”Wood and Altidore got on the scoresheet as well, with Altidore scoring twice before half-time — including a deft, Panenka-style penalty — and Wood scoring the Americans’ lone goal in the second half. It amounted to a complete performance from both players.That was by no means the extent of the attacking help supplied to Pulisic. Nagbe and Arriola excelled on the wings, albeit in different ways: Nagbe served as the crafty playmaker, while Arriola used his speed to offer a more classic wing presence. It seemed that whenever the U.S. engaged the hyper-drive in its transition game, Arriola was joining the attack to provide another passing option for Pulisic, or whomever else was manning the controls on a particular counter-attack. And it was Nagbe who at times provided the pressure-breaking pass, like the ball he played into space for Pulisic in the run-up to Altidore’s 19th minute goal.”We were dynamic; we could play on either side tonight, and I think that makes it tough on defenses,” Altidore said.That mobility was an aspect with which the Canaleros simply couldn’t cope, leaving Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez playing tactical catch-up. He subbed out Edgar Barcenas after 26 minutes and changed his formation to put more pressure on Bradley. While Panama did threaten a few more times thereafter, it proved unable to do anything to slow down the U.S. offense, which continued to find opportunities on the break.The irony is that this was a night when the U.S. didn’t finish all that well.”We could have scored a lot more goals,” Arena noted.Wood and Arriola in particular had opportunities to pad the U.S. lead but such was the dominance displayed, both individually and collectively, that it didn’t matter. Even though the Americans had some shaky moments early on in defense, it recovered to deliver a better second half.Credit is due to Arena as well. He took some deserved heat for his decisions during the September fixture period. But on this night, he sensed a weakness in Panama’s defense and set his team out with a tactical plan that used their speed advantage.”In all my years with the national team, I don’t think I’ve ever been this prepared,” Altidore said. “Since the guys landed on Sunday, the coaching staff were showing video, pulling guys aside, making sure we were prepared for this game. They made us aware how important this game was to everybody. At the end of the day, the players have to go out and do it but I thought we were very well prepared today.So Arena will be keeping Pulisic central for the foreseeable future, right? If only it were that simpl.Arena may very well keep the same formation against Trinidad & Tobago. But against more potent teams — like the kind the U.S. will encounter at the World Cup, assuming they qualify — the single holding midfielder setup will likely come under more pressure.This is not intended as a knock on Bradley, rather an acknowledgement that one less defensive domino needs to fall in order for teams to get a chance at goal. Even a team like Trinidad & Tobago, who the U.S. will face on Tuesday, stretched the U.S. defense to the breaking point in their World Cup qualifier last June. Right now that appears to be a tradeoff Arena is willing to make.”Yes, it was [a gamble]. We wanted to push five players forward in the attack as aggressively as we could,” Arena said. “The way Panama plays we could afford to do that.”That won’t always be the case, but that is a concern for another day. The U.S. team’s World Cup qualifying campaign is back on track, the swagger has returned and while Pulisic’s play remains a source of confidence, this time so were the performances of everyone else on the field.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Pulisic makes his case for a central role as U.S. crushes Panama 4-0

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. men’s national team got its World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 4-0 victory over Panama on Friday night. The Americans did most of their damage in the first half as Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore scored inside the first 20 minutes, and Altidore converted a penalty in the 43rd minute. Bobby Wood closed out the scoring with a 63rd-minute tally.Here are three thoughts from the match:

  1. U.S. transition play instrumental in crushing Panama

There was tension in the U.S. camp heading into this match. Altidore admitted as much. But tension isn’t always a bad thing. It can create a reservoir of focus, determination and resolve. That proved to be the case.The U.S. clearly learned its lesson from its last home match, a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying. In that game, the U.S. — for all of its possession — rarely threatened the Ticos’ back line. Panama was expected to do much the same, but the U.S. was determined not to fall into the trap of constantly having to break down a set defense. The plan was simple: break as quickly as possible with every opportunity, and if Panama did get set, play quickly through clever touches and off-the-ball running.Panama had no answer for this approach, as the Americans connected twice in the first 20 minutes. A long ball in the eighth minute from U.S. keeper Tim Howard was flicked on by Wood to Altidore, whose quick pass was touched into space by Pulisic. In alone on goal, Pulisic rounded Panama keeper Jaime Penedo and slotted the ball in from a tight angle to put the U.S. up 1-0.The explosion of joy both on the field and in the stands was understandable. The U.S. spent much of the past two games trailing, and going a goal up in this match meant it could now dictate the game tactically, with Panama forced to come out of its shell a bit.It wasn’t long before the U.S. was up 2-0. A clever ball over the top by Darlington Nagbe put Pulisic in the clear. He beat Michael Murillo and made a low centering feed that found Altidore for an easy tap-in. Altidore helped himself on the play as Felipe Baloy bit hard on the U.S. forward’s near-post feint, allowing Altidore to move toward the back post and convert.Panama threatened a few times, with Alberto Quintero going on one mazy run that was thwarted only when his shot was blocked by DeAndre Yedlin. But the U.S. capped its dominant half when Panama substitute Armando Cooper hauled down Wood in the box, and Altidore converted the ensuing penalty kick with a “Panenka” that sailed just under the bar as Penedo dove hard to his left.The U.S. was largely untroubled in the second half as it continued to threaten on the counter, even after Pulisic was subbed out in the 57th minute. Wood fired home a shot on the turn in the 63rd minute to complete the rout.

  1. Pulisic states his case for a central role

One of the big talking points surrounding the U.S. side has been where to deploy Pulisic. Coach Bruce Arena has tended to position the 19-year-old in a central role at home, and in a wider position on the road. On this night, Pulisic certainly drove home his point in terms of how effective he can be in the middle. He was free to drift wherever he liked, and he played well off Wood and Altidore. Pulisic, an attacker for Borussia Dortmund, linked up especially well with Altidore.But this was also a night when Pulisic’s teammates stepped up in a big way. A case can also be made that Pulisic benefited from the speed in the U.S. lineup. Paul Arriola was constantly providing an outlet in transition moments, giving the Panama defense no easy answers as to who to defend. The Americans’ off-the-ball movement was also much sharper, as Altidore didn’t hesitate to go wide to drag defenders with him. Of course, Pulisic was dynamic too, darting into spaces to spark the U.S. attack.The U.S. needs a win against Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday to all but guarantee third place in the Hexagonal — and a spot in the World Cup — and the case for keeping Pulisic in the middle is strong indeed.

  1. U.S. can exhale, but job is only half-done

While Pulisic’s central role seems cemented, some other areas of the Americans’ game still need some sharpening. The weakness created by Pulisic playing in the middle is that it leaves Michael Bradley with an immense amount of defensive work to do in the center of midfield. On this night, Arriola and Nagbe did their bit to tuck and provide some help.But there were also some moments when Panama was able to break pressure, including one instance in the 30th minute when several defensive dominoes fell, allowing Gabriel Torres a clear look at goal, but Howard was able to parry the shot. Center-backs Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez had to engage in some emergency defending at times, and each had some difficult moments, but it seemed that when one was beaten, another defender was there to scramble the ball away. The return — and speed — of Yedlin also put the U.S. in a better position to recover.Arena seems to understand the defensive limits of the diamond midfield and the amount of punishment that Pulisic should have to take. He was the recipient of some heavy hits again, both on and off the ball. So with the game in hand, Arena substituted Dax McCarty for Pulisic to give the boy wonder a rest and to add some defensive stability.Arena can look to hone those issues in the coming days. But this was precisely the kind of performance the U.S. needed, enabling the side to exhale a bit after enduring a month of doubt and anxiety about its World Cup qualification bid. The U.S. now sits in third place, two points ahead of Panama and three points ahead of Honduras, pending the Honduras-Costa Rica match on Saturday.The U.S. job is only half-done, however. The team hasn’t won consecutive games in this round, yet will need to if it is to hang on to third place — which still wouldn’t be guaranteed if Honduras overturns a minus-12 goal differential to the U.S. Trinidad and Tobago is in last place, but that can be a tricky proposition. Unlike the U.S., Trinidad and Tobago will have nothing to lose and no pressure Tuesday. But based on Friday’s performance, it appears the U.S. has regained its form just in time.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Christian Pulisic just short of perfect 10 leading U.S. to massive win

Facing the possibility of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the United States men’s national team responded with a resounding 4-0 win over Panama at Orlando City Stadium on Friday night in Orlando, Florida. Christian Pulisic starred, but the win was a team effort for a beleaguered group in desperate need of a strong performance.


With an ultra-attacking mentality that brought as much risk as it did possible reward, the Americans made their chances count to take a 3-0 halftime lead. Pulisic stole the show, illustrating that it’s not necessary to get the teenager a wealth of touches for him to impact the game. The attacking group as a whole — Pulisic, Jozy Altidore, and Bobby Wood — worked well in combination, especially on the counter.


The flipside of the attacking posture the Americans took was acres of space left in front of their backline. Michael Bradley did what he could floating across the field as a lone shield, but a reactive posture from the center-back pairing exacerbated problems at the back. A lack of defensive work from the flanks of the “diamond” contributed as well. Luckily for the U.S., Panama wasn’t good enough to take advantage.


Manager rating out of 10:

8.5 — Bruce Arena took a chance and it worked. Whatever tactical naivety Panama manager Hernan Dario Gomez showed with his choices, the U.S. boss deserves credit for trusting his team to score goals and mitigate the defensive vulnerabilitiesinherent in the formation. If there are any bones to pick with Arena, it’s regarding his choice to leave Pulisic on th field as long as he did with the youngster facing physical play from Panama.

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

GK Tim Howard, 6.5 — Not asked to do much, with just two simple saves on the evening.

DF DeAndre Yedlin, 8.5 — Showed why he’s the first-choice right-back whenever healthy. Used his speed to help cover for a shaky central defense on more than one occasion.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 5.5 — Shaky and reactive for much of the night. Made a few important clearances in the air. Seemed unsure of his partnership with Matt Besler.

DF Matt Besler, 5.5 — Dropped too quickly and allowed space for Panama players at the top of the box, especially in the first half. Improved in the second half.

DF Jorge Villafana, 6 — Competent, professional display on a night when he was not overly tested or asked to involve himself in the attack on a consistent basis.

MF Paul Arriola, 6.5 — Just a touch or two off an excellent performance. Went missing at times but added more midfield defensive work in the second half with the U.S. leading.

MF Michael Bradley, 7 — Left isolated in front of the back line until Dax McCarty’s introduction, did what he could to slow down Panama. Pushed the Americans forward to establish tone in the first half.

MF Darlington Nagbe, 6 — Started brightly, driving the ball out of midfield to set up American dominance. Played a perfect pass on the second goal to spring the break, but was lost on defensive side of the ball much of the night.

MF Christian Pulisic, 9.5 — A near perfect performance from the teenager. Provided danger on every touch of the ball, and set the game up for the Americans with the opening goal. His star rises higher.

FW Bobby Wood, 8 — Rewarded with a goal a half hour from full time after a full night of providing energy and danger. Won a penalty that led to a goal and was key to more than one counter-attack.

FW Jozy Altidore, 8.5 — Did everything asked of him, including scoring a goal. The tap-in finish was simple, but his work dropping in and flicking on balls for advancing midfielders was crucial to the excellent first half and his cheeky Panenka penalty was well taken.



MF Dax McCarty, 7.5 — Did exactly as asked when inserted to change the U.S. midfield and get Pulisic out of harm’s way. Passed the ball with precision and intelligence.

FW Clint Dempsey, NR — Had limited touches and never really impacted the game.

MF Alejandro Bedoya, NR — Helped see out the match in a late cameo.

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


SMNT Player Ratings: Attacking trio shines in blowout victory

October 6, 201710:46PM EDT

Greg SeltzerContributorThanks to the stylish efforts of their attack hydra, the US national team easily got their backs away from the World Cup qualifying wall with a convincing 4-0 rout of Panama in Orlando on Friday night.

Jozy Altidore, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood got the home side off to a racing start and would eventually provide all the goals needed to lift the Nats into prime position for another World Cup ticket.

Tim Howard (6.5): The US netminder was rarely tested, but he comfortably made an important first-half save. Howard also completed a handful of long boots, including one that led to the opener.

DeAndre Yedlin (7): The Newcastle right back made the biggest defensive play of the night when he raced over to wipe out an Alberto Quintero penalty area chance near the half-hour mark. Yedlin didn’t threaten much on the overlap, but he ably supported possession when called upon.

Omar Gonzalez (6.5): Gonzo was turned early, but was solid defensively the rest of the way. The defender also played some smart passes to ignite the break.

Matt Besler (6.5): Though sent scrambling by pace in space on a couple of occasions, Besler effectively shut down Panama’s crossing game. Like his partner, the Sporting Kansas City man offered some incisive passes into attack.

Jorge Villafana (6.5): The Santos Laguna left back played conservatively on the ball, but smothered most of the Panama attackers that ventured into his corner.

Michael Bradley (6): Guilty of a couple of cheap giveaways in the opening frame, the skipper kept it safer after intermission. Bradley covered a lot of ground defensively until the subs gave him some late help.

Paul Arriola (7): The D.C. United winger was ever eager to provide pressure valve work and turn these moves into counterattacks. He eventually picked up a smart assist to go with his eight total defensive stops.

Darlington Nagbe (5.5): It was a somewhat vanilla outing for Nagbe, even if he completed 22 straight passes after committing a weak early turnover in central midfield. The Portland Timbersmidfielder definitely could have offered more defensive resistance.

Christian Pulisic (8.5): The Borussia Dortmund phenom’s fancy feet were in full effect. Pulisic’s technical skills were key on both his icebreaker and the set-up for Altidore’s first. He also beat five defenders on the dribble in the opening 25 minutes, setting the tone for this important romp.

Bobby Wood (8): The Hamburg ace’s movement on and off the ball thoroughly unsettled Panama’s defensive set-up. Wood’s insistent dribbling earned the US a spot kick, and after a couple of missed chances he chalked up a deserved goal with a splendid turn-and-finish in the box.

Jozy Altidore (8.5): The team’s cobra head was in a strike pose from the onset. Altidore repeatedly plowed the road forward with his link touches, most notably on Pulisic’s quick opener. The Toronto FC star then got to the end of some moves to bag a double.


Coach Bruce Arena (7.5): The boss took a tactical gamble and it paid off big time. While the US were worryingly stretched at the back a few times, they never broke and the team’s aggressive game plan lit up the scoreboard early and often.


Dax McCarty (7): The 57th minute sub put in one of his most assured US performances. McCarty moved the ball shrewdly and offered Bradley some needed help guarding the gate.

Clint Dempsey (5.5): The Seattle Sounders goal monster was never in a position to strike for the USMNT scoring record, but typically kept the ball moving.

Alejandro Bedoya (–): Just a few touches in a late cameo.


Unstoppable Pulisic, Altidore Set USA Back on Course for World Cup Berth

  • Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore were dominant early, while DeAndre Yedlin’s return made a difference and the USA took a big step toward qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.Grant WahlOctober 06, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. responded to the threat of missing World Cup 2018 by unleashing one of its best performances in recent memory on Friday night, thrashing Panama 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier the Americans were desperate to win.Emerging U.S. star Christian Pulisic had a game to remember, scoring a brilliantly poised goal in the eighth minute and assisting on Jozy Altidore’s strike 11 minutes later to give the Americans a cushion they would not relinquish. Altidore added another goal from the penalty spot, followed by a Bobby Wood insurance goal in the second half.The victory vaulted the U.S. (12 points) past Panama (10) into third place in the World Cup qualifying Hexagonal with one game left. The top three teams will qualify automatically for Russia, while the fourth-place team will face Australia or Syria in a two-game playoff in November for a World Cup berth.The four-goal margin of victory was also helpful for the U.S.—it left the Americans with a plus-5 goal difference and Panama at minus-two. That means the U.S. would almost certainly have the tie-breaker over Panama as long as the U.S. can tie at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday.

Here are three thoughts on the game:


The 19-year-old has played in important games in front of 80,000 fans for his club, Borussia Dortmund, against opponents like Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but Friday was a defining moment for Pulisic in a U.S. jersey.His eighth-minute goal was a masterclass of skill, athleticism and speed of thought. He followed his first touch—a mind-bending reach-back to corral Altidore’s pass—by torching Román Torres, cutting wide to evade goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and finishing at a perilously acute angle at dizzying speed. How many attackers anywhere would have had the poise to pull that off? Just 11 minutes later, Pulisic skinned Michael Murillo on a textbook cutback out wide before delivering a pinpoint cross to Altidore for the goal. Pulisic had a ton of pressure on his shoulders Friday, and he delivered. He has now been directly involved in eight of the U.S.’s 15 goals in the nine games of the Hexagonal so far.


The right back position got a big upgrade with the return of DeAndre Yedlin, who hadn’t played in any qualifiers since June due to injury. Yedlin’s speed allowed him to push up in the U.S. attack, and his work with Rafa Benítez at Newcastle United has turned him into a much more astute defender with more tactical awareness. The 24-year-old Yedlin made a series of good defensive plays and reminded everyone that he can make a difference.

As for Paul Arriola, his motor ran non-stop on Friday, creating space and chances for the U.S. and putting the Panamanians on their back foot. Arriola can still add some nuance to his game, but his energy is infectious. He’ll deserve to get more starts moving forward.


All week long we heard stories asking what it would mean if the U.S. missed its first World Cup since 1986. And while that talk would return if the U.S. lost on Tuesday at Trinidad and Tobago, the talking points changed dramatically on Friday night.How good can Pulisic end up being? How impressive was the understanding between Pulisic and Altidore—who scored twice and showed remarkable poise on his Panenka penalty? And wasn’t it refreshing to see the U.S. score early and then continue to drop the hammer instead of letting the opponent back in the game?On Tuesday the Americans will have a chance to string together their first consecutive wins in this entire angst-ridden Hexagonal. It would be the perfect time to do it—and seal a berth in World Cup 2018 on a high note.

USA Stars Point to Planning, Aggressive Approach in Curing World Cup Qualifying Woes

  • “In all my years with the national team, I don’t think I’ve ever been this prepared.” It showed for Jozy Altidore and the USA, who moved within reach of a World Cup berth after routing Panama on a memorable night in Florida.

Grant Wahl October 07, 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. — In the days before the U.S.’s tension-soothing 4-0 World Cup qualifying blowout of Panama on Friday, the players went through what Jozy Altidore called some of the most detailed preparations he had ever encountered in his national team career to ready a gameplan that would attack Panama mercilessly from the opening whistle.The key, captain Michael Bradley said, would be found in movement, especially among the three lead men—Altidore, Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood—in a bold five-man attack.“I thought we were smart in how we went about it,” Bradley said on Friday night. “We talked a lot about making sure that Jozy and Bobby and Christian were mobile and not making things so clear and easy for [Panama], not giving them reference points. I thought the three of them did a really good job.”Added Pulisic: “We needed a lot of movement against a physical Panama team that’s going to sit in and not make it easy for us. Our movement was good today. I was able to play off those guys, and they had some great layoffs to me. I think the spacing was pretty good for most of the night. Still some things we can do better, but I think the gameplan was pretty much executed.”

The Panamanians had conceded only five goals in the first eight games of the Hexagonal, but the U.S. attack tore them apart on Friday, scoring two goals in the first 19 minutes and four overall in a victory that put the U.S. on firmer footing in its quest to reach World Cup 2018. After a week in which many wondered what would happen if the U.S. failed to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1986, the discussion changed on Friday. A win at last-place Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday will clinch a spot in Russia, while a tie will likely do so as well.What stood out the most for the U.S. was the renewed brilliance of Pulisic, the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund star who’s already the U.S.’s best player, and his often telepathic understanding with Altidore in both directions. It was Altidore’s early lay-off passes that created chances for Pulisic, including his expertly taken eighth-minute goal. And it was Pulisic’s ankle-breaking drive that created space down the left wing before his cross hit Altidore for a ruthlessly efficient finish and a 2-0 lead.“They smelled blood from the beginning,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “Anytime they picked up the ball, it was either a yellow-card foul or some sort of breakaway. They clearly recognized that from the beginning. We spoke about being aggressive and not just being up-against-them and kicking-them aggressive, but getting the ball forward and putting them on their heels. We stuck to the gameplan.”As Altidore said, “In all my years with the national team, I don’t think I’ve ever been this prepared. The coaching staff from Sunday since the guys landed was showing video, pulling guys aside, making sure we were prepared for this game … At the end of the day, the players have to go out and do it … This game is an easy game when you play with good players, and [Pulisic] is a quality player. Such a young kid, and he gets it. Every time I play with him, you can see he keeps improving every game.”Wood did well too, earning the penalty that Altidore converted before Wood himself scored the fourth goal later on. Wood is at his best when he’s stretching defenses, as he did often on Friday, with Altidore more focused on holding up balls underneath and laying them off for Pulisic.“That’s one of Jozy’s best qualities,” said Pulisic, who has now been directly involved in eight of the U.S.’s 15 goals in the Hexagonal. “He scores goals, but he’s a great passer. He knows where I am. He knows where everyone is. He’s a great guy to play with.”Pulisic was walking with a noticeable limp after the game, the result of the disgraceful repeated physical targeting by the Panamanians (who did the same thing in the teams’ 1-1 tie in Panama back in March). U.S. coach Bruce Arena pulled Pulisic out of the game in the 57th minute with the U.S. up by three goals.“He was kicked a few times,” Arena said. “He’s been getting beat up in these games in CONCACAF. That’s the way it is. It doesn’t look like anything is going to change. He took a few shots, and we thought it was smart to get him off the field.”For his part, Pulisic said he would be fine for Tuesday’s game. The environment will be significantly different in Trinidad, with all the usual challenges of playing on the road in CONCACAF except perhaps for the menacing crowds. (The Soca Warriors, who led at Mexico late before succumbing 3-1 on Friday, are already eliminated.) But the stakes are just as high. A World Cup berth is still up for grabs. If the U.S. is as aggressive as it was on Friday, the objective will be achieved.“On a night when so much was on the line—maybe everything—we played in a way from the get-go that we gave no doubt as to who was going to win the game,” Bradley said. “Across the board, we had guys ready for a big game and come through in a huge way. So we feel good about that. But now we’ve got to understand that the job isn’t done yet.”On Tuesday, they hope, it will be.


Why Argentina are struggling, France’s clutch win, England’s formation switch

So it all comes down to Tuesday night in Quito, at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. Argentina need to beat Ecuador, otherwise they won’t be going to the 2018 World Cup. (A draw might suffice too, but that would require three other results to go their way, and it’s not something you want to count on.)You can blame 101 different factors for why they’re in this situation. They’ve had three different coaches and used 38 different players, suggesting a lack of clear thinking. They’ve been without Lionel Messi for eight games during which they collected just seven points, as opposed to 18 in the nine matches he played. South American qualifying is a legitimately tough affair — with six nations in the top 16 of the FIFA rankings — and margins are slim. Plus, in their past two matches, they ran into two goalkeepers (teenage sensation Wuilker Farinez of Venezuela and Peru’s Pedro Gallese) who stood on their heads and pulled off a gaggle of stunning saves.For all their woes, they could just as easily have beaten Peru and Venezuela, and if they had, they’d be second right now, behind only Brazil, and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.It’s important not to lose sight of this fact, especially when considering Jorge Sampaoli, the man who was called over from Sevilla this summer to steer them to Russia. Sampaoli was never given a real shot in his native country, emigrated to various lower-profile South American countries (Peru, Ecuador and Chile) to pursue his dream and eventually made history at Universidad de Chile and with the Chilean national team, winning the Copa America. He came back to Argentina with a point to prove and quickly found himself embroiled in the national psychodrama.Sampaoli’s brand of football (pressing all over the field, interchangeable positions) requires work — hours of it — on the training pitch. He’s the opposite of a quick-fix type of guy. His football needs to be learned, metabolized and understood. Knowing he’d have no time to do this, he set up Argentina far more conventionally, hoping there would be enough there for the team to respond. They did, to some degree, in terms of performances. They did not in terms of results.Should the unthinkable happen and they come up short in Ecuador, the worst thing Argentina could do is make yet another change. Folks will want a scapegoat, fine. But it’s not him. After all, they haven’t seen the real Sampaoli. On the flip side, if they do make it, he will have time to show what he can do, including a three-week pre-World Cup training camp. Then, and only then, will we see the genuine article. Then, and only then, can we judge him as a manager.


Credit Deschamps for France’s vital win

It could have gotten hairy for Didier Deschamps. Really hairy.Since World War II, France had played eight times away to Bulgaria, losing seven and drawing once. Bulgaria had taken 12 of 12 possible points in the group. Oh, and then there was the small matter of this, when David Ginola failed to keep the ball in the dying moments of a qualifier, Emil Kostadinov scored at the other end, and France were condemned to watching USA 1994 on television.These past performances shouldn’t really weigh on the present, but inevitably they do. And when your psyche has already been rattled by things like that Twilight Zone home draw against Luxembourg, you’re bound to be vulnerable.Credit Deschamps here. He opted for a 4-3-3 formation, dropped Olivier Giroud for Alexandre Lacazette and gave Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe licence to roam rather than forcing them to operate as traditional wingers. Blaise Matuidi bagged the only goal and while Les Bleus are not out of the woods yet — they need to beat Belarus at home to be mathematically sure of first place — it’s a giant step towards “mission accomplished.”


Why are England experimenting now?

With England comfortably qualified, Gareth Southgate sought to change things around in his final group game Sunday, and that was to be expected. The likes of Kieran Trippier, Aaron Cresswell, Harry Winks and Harry Maguire started, and it’s a full competitive cap under their belts, which matters. What was curious was Southgate’s decision to switch to a 3-4-3 after playing most of qualifying in a 4-2-3-1 and his belief that the former is a better option against better teams at the tournament level. I’m all for trying out different things, and sure, a number of big Premier League sides have gone with a back three of late, from Chelsea to Arsenal to Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on occasion.”It gives us more stability in transition, and the passing angles [are better],” Southgate said.Maybe so, but there’s also a question of personnel. A back three requires depth at center-back. Even if you count Eric Dier as a central defender, are there really enough high-quality options there that you want to shoe-horn another guy into the mix? Dier and John Stones? Sure. But Gary Cahill may not be a regular for Chelsea come the end of the season. The same goes for Chris Smalling at Man United, while Phil Jones has a horrendous injury record. That leaves Maguire, Michael Keane and, going forward, maybe Ben Gibson.Not to mention the fact that while many English sides play a back three, only Cahill’s team plays one every week. And that’s before we get into the wing-back issue.


Sympathy for Dick Advocaat

Sometimes it must really feel as if fate is conspiring against you.Take Dick Advocaat: before Saturday, his Dutch team were chasing France and Sweden in Group A and despite a roller-coaster qualifying campaign, he still felt moderately bullish for a playoff place. After all, Sweden traveled to Amsterdam for the final group game, and with the Dutch three points back, they would control their destiny.If both countries won their games Saturday — Advocaat’s men away to Belarus and the Swedes at home to Luxembourg — it would be merely a question of goal difference. And ahead of the Saturday games Sweden had a six-goal edge in that department — nothing that a 3-0 Dutch win on Tuesday couldn’t cure.That’s when Advocaat was asked in the prematch press conference about the possibility of a big Swedish win over Luxembourg (say, 8-0) and how it might affect the group.”They won’t win 8-0; what a stupid question that is,” he said.


“They won’t win 8-0, what a stupid question that is. 8-0? Well, no, I don’t believe that.” – Dick Advocaat. pic.twitter.com/9JWHWoDQ9M

— 🇸🇪 (@SwedeStats) October 7, 2017


Famous last words, eh? Sweden did win 8-0 while the Dutch won their game 3-1. That meant Sweden’s goal difference was now a massive 12 goals greater than the Oranje and that the Dutch will need to not just win, but win by at least seven goals.It’s hard not have a teeny, tiny bit of sympathy for Advocaat.

Egypt’s heartwarming World Cup return

By the time it rolls around, it will have been 28 years, which is longer than most of these players have been alive. That’s how long it has been since Egypt last qualified for a World Cup, and that’s why we witnessed this reaction to Mohamed Salah’s penalty deep in injury time.What made the whole wait more emotional — and unusual — is that Egypt have been a continental powerhouse in that time period, winning the Africa Cup of Nations on four different occasions, yet somehow coming up short in World Qualifying, often falling at the last hurdle, often in dramatic circumstances. It’s one thing for a minnow to live a fairy-tale dream and make it to the big show; it’s quite another when you’ve endured nearly three decades of underachievement.This time, it was different and somehow fitting that it was Hector Cuper who led them to the promised land. Sixteen years ago, he was one of the hottest managerial commodities in the game, capable of leading Valencia to consecutive Champions League finals. He made the big leap to Inter Milan, a side with the likes of Christian Vieri and Ronaldo, Clarence Seedorf and Javier Zanetti, and from there, his career took a downward spiral.Now, at 61, he gets another shot at the big stage late in life — much like his goalkeeper, Essam El Hadary, who turns 45 in January and should comfortably become the oldest player ever to appear in a World Cup game next summer.abriele Marcotti is a Senior Writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.



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10/5 US Must Win to Qualify for WC, US vs Panama Fri 7:45 pm ESPN2, Argentina, Chile, Dutch on WC bubble, Indy 11 win, CHS Girls onto semi’s tonight

So we have reached the end of World Cup Qualification for most teams across the world – including for the US.  Bottom line the US Men’s National team needs a win in Orlando vs currently 3rd place in the HEX Panama to guarantee they go to World Cup 2018 in Russia as an automatic qualifier.  Now they can tie or maybe even lose and still find a way to back door slide in as the 4th place playoff team assuming Honduras loses to Mexico and Costa this week.  But then they would need to win a 1 game playoff with the Australia/Syria winner.  But honestly the US have their destiny in their own hands – win Friday night at 7:45 pm on ESPN 2 vs Panama and we are going to the World Cup.

Lots of traditionally strong countries do find themselves in an uncomfortable situation heading into today’s final 2 games of qualification, most notably Argentina must win at home today vs Peru (who are in the WC if they win) if they want to slide in as the playoff qualifier.  Chile and Paraguay play a winner basically advances game today (follow South American games on beIN sport).  Still work to do for teams like England, Germany, Portugal and Italy (all on Fox Sports) the latter two both might have to win playoffs to advance.  See the stories below and full games on TV schedule below to follow all the action Thurs thru Tues.

Congrats to the Indy 11 – with a big win last night at home vs Puerto Rico 2-1. The 11 return home next Sat night at the MIKE vs the NY Cosmos 7:30 pm.  Also locally – the #3 Carmel High girls soccer team advance to the sectional Semi vs #2 and defending champs Brebeuf at Guerin High school TONIGHT at 5 pm.  #5 Guerin will face Westfield at 7 pm with the title game Sat at 7 pm.   On the boys side the Carmel Boys lost a heartbreaker 1-0 on Tuesday.  7th ranked Guerin Catholic (13-2-1) knocked off 4th ranked Zionsville 2-1 and Westfield in PKs as Carmel FC U18 Goalie Will Oberndorfer made 3 saves on the PKs.  Guerin with lots of Carmel FC players will play at 5 pm vs North Central at Carmel High School Murray Stadium Saturday night.  Good luck!


Congrats to the Carmel FC 05 Gold team and coach Michael Upton as they made it to the Championship Game in the Platinum Division (top division out of 5 divisions in the age group) at the Cincinnati TFA Fall Ball Tournament this past weekend.  They ultimately lost to North Toronto FC in the final.


Whats Wrong with the US Team – Jeff Carlisle ESPNFC

US Needs Orlando to Deliver the Home Field Advantage

Why Losing and Missing the World Cup in 2018 Would be a Huge Blow to Soccer in the US – SI

US Picks Contraversial Group for US final Qualifiers – Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle

Arena Focused on Job at Hand in Must Win Qualifiers

What US Must Do to Qualify –

CONCACAF Who Needs What to Qualify for WC

Match-Day 9 – Preview

How did the US Get in this Predicament

Christian (Pul-is-sick) Story on 60 Minutes video

Pulisic How the now 19 year old compares to Say Messi and Renaldo at 19?  ESPNFC

3 Things we Learned about Pulisic from 60 minutes Segment – Stars and Stripes

World Cup Qualifying

World Cup Qualifying – What you need to know

How Chile and Argentina Can Qualify

A World Cup without Messi and Argentina is Possible?

England Expects Kane to Deliver them the 2 pts Needed to Qualify



Thurs, Oct 5                      World Cup Qualifying FINAL ROUNDS

12 noon Fox Sport2     Azerbaijan vs Czech Republic

2:45 pm FS1                      England vs Slovenia                         

2:45 pm Fox soccer     Northern Ireland vs Germany

4 pm beIN Sport            Bolivia vs Brazil

7:30 pm beIN Sport     Colombia vs Paraguay

Fri, Oct 6                             World Cup Qualifying

7:30 am FS2                      Columbia U17 vs Ghana U17 WC

10:30 am Fox Sport 2 India U 17 vs USA U17 World Cup

12 noon FS 2                    Azerbaijan vs Czech Republic

12 noon Fox soccer     Georgia vs Wales

2:45 pm FS2                      Italy vs Macedonia

2:45 pm Fox soccer     Turkey vs Iceland

2:45 pm ESPN3                Ireland vs Moldova

7:45 pm ESPN 2 USA vs Panama 

9:30 pm Fox Sport1     Mexico vs T & T

10 pm beIN Sport          Costa Rica vs Honduras

Sat, Oct 7                            World Cup Qualifying

7;30 am FS1                    Brazil U17 vs Spain U17 WC

7:30 am FS2                   Germany U17 vs Costa Rica U17

2:45 pm Fox Sport2  Bulgaria vs France

2:45 pm Fox Soccer                          Switzerland vs Hungary

Sun, Oct 8                          World Cup Qualifying

7:30 am FS1                    Chile U17 vs England U17 WC

12 noon FS1                   Lithuania vs England

12 noon FS2                   Slovenia vs Scotland

2:45 pm ESPN                Norway vs Northern Ireland

2:45 pm FS1                   Germany vs Azerbiajan

2:45 pm FS 2                 Czech Republic vs San Marino

Mon, Oct 9                        World Cup Qualifying

7:30 am FS 2         USA U17 vs Ghana U17 WC

10:30 am Fox Soccer                        India U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

2:45 pm FS 2                  Wales vs Ireland Republic

2:45 pm ESPN3/Desp                       Isreal vs Spain

Tues, Oct 10                     World Cup Qualifying

5 am ESPN3                     Australia vs Syria (US might play the winner here?)

7:30 am FS 2                  Spain U17 vs Nigeria U17 WC

10:30 am FS2                 Brazil U17 vs Korea U17 WC

2:45 pm  FS 1                Portugal vs Switzerland

2;45 pm FS 2                 France vs Belarus

8 pm  beIN Sports      Panama vs USA 

Thurs, Oct 12                    

7:30 am FS 2                  Turkey U17 vs Paraguay U17 WC

10:30 am FS 2      US U17 vs Colombia U17 WC

10:30 am Fox sports Ghana U17 vs India U17 WC

Sat, OCt 14

7:30 am NBCSN               Liverpool vs Man United 

10 am NBCSN                   Man  City vs Stoke City (Cameron)

9:30 am FS2                       Bayern Munich vs Freiburg

10:15 am beIN Sport Getafe vs Real Madrid

12:30 NBC                          Watford vs Arsenal

12:30 pm FS2                   Ausburg vs Dortmund (Pulisic) vs RB Leipzig

2:45 pm beIN Sport     Atletico vs Barcelona

7:30 pm myindy Tv   Indy 11 vs NY Cosmos

 US U17 World Cup Games on TV Fox Sports 2

Oct 6 Fri 10:30 am  FS2         US U17 vs India

Oct 9 Mon 7:30 am  FS2        US U17 vs Ghana

Oct 12 Thurs 10:30 am  FS2  US U17 vs Columbia

Wed Oct 18 -7 pm  – Butler Men Host Indiana University

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11 TV Schedule

EPL 2017 Schedule


Dallas GK Jesse Gonzales (who looks like GK coach Christian Lomeli 🙂 with Super Saves

Wow Look At these Reaction 4 Saves in 4 seconds

MLS Save of the Week

Top Saves of Week 7 EPL

Septembers Best Bloopers EPL


Barca Wins Game in Front of Empty Camp Nuo

Misery on Merseyside as Liverpool and Everton Struggle

Arsenals Turn Around Remarkable

Indy 11

Indy 11 vs New York Cosmos Sat, Oct 14 at 7:30

Indy 11 beat PR 2-1

What the US Must Do to Qualify for The World Cup 2018 In Russia

 The Stars and Stripes sit outside the automatic qualification spots, and are tied on points with fifth-placed Honduras, with only two qualifiers remaining.

USMNT are in a sticky scenario in the World Cup qualifiers. The Stars and Stripes’ hopes of booking a ticket to Russia for next year’s tournament hang by a thread, as Bruce Arena’s side sit in fourth in the standings.With only the top three teams sealing automatic qualification, only two straight tickets to World Cup 2018 remain – Mexico have already qualified as group leaders. United States sit in the playoff spot, but are tied with Honduras on points.Here are the permutations for USNMT to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Finishing in third

Only two qualifiers remain, meaning it’s do or die for USMNT. They take on Panama on October 6 and then Trinidad & Tobago four days later. The easiest way for Bruce Arena’s side to grab an automatic qualification is by winning both games.  The Stars and Stripes have a superior goal difference of seven over Honduras, which will be hard to make up. A win against Panama would also see USMNT leapfrog Los Canaleros into third.

Other ways USA can finish third

  • Beat Panama and draw with Trinidad and Tobago: USMNT will still need Panama to not win their final game vs Costa Rica and Honduras to gain four or fewer points without making up for the goal difference.
  • Draw with Panama, beat Trinidad and Tobago: USMNT will still need Panama to not win their final game vs Costa Rica and Honduras to gain four or fewer points without making up for the goal difference.
  • Beat Panama, lose to Trinidad and Tobago: USMNT will still need Panama to not win their final game vs Costa Rica and Honduras to gain no more than three points without making up for the goal difference.

 Finishing in fourth

A win for Panama in their final qualifier on top of a superior goal difference than USA would see the Star and Stripes miss out on the automatic qualification.

What happens if USA lose to Panama?

USMNT will kiss an automatic qualification goodbye, as the last two spots will go to Costa Rica and Panana. USA will have to hope Honduras slip up in order to maintain their grip on the final play-off spot.

Assessing the U.S.: What’s wrong? Pulisic-dependent? Arena succeeding?

Since 1998, qualifying for the World Cup has been relatively straightforward for the United States. Sure, there has been the occasional bad result and matches have typically been tense, but, as the U.S. approached the end of the Hexagonal round, there was usually a fair amount of breathing room.That hasn’t been the case in the current cycle, though. After going unbeaten at home for three cycles in a row, starting in 2006 World Cup qualifying, the U.S. has dropped two matches on home soil. The road hasn’t been much kinder, with just three points collected.And so, as the fourth-place U.S. heads into the last two qualifiers, against Panama (Friday, 7 p.m. ET; ESPN/WatchESPN) and Trinidad & Tobago, it finds itself in the position of probably having to win both games to make it to Russia next year.To get a sense of how the U.S. got to this point and what it will need to qualify, ESPN FC asked a quartet of former U.S. internationals — Marcelo Balboa plus ESPN analysts Kasey Keller, Taylor Twellman and Herculez Gomez — for their perspective.

What has been missing from the U.S. during the Hex?

 Balboa: I think it is leadership. I think they’re missing that guy who can put the team on his back, the two or three veteran guys to get the result. I get that John Brooks has been hurt; that’s been key for them, and I think it showed the last two games, when they’ve been missing that strong center back. I don’t think anybody in CONCACAF is scared of the U.S. anymore because of MLS. There are so many players from [the region] that are playing in our league, playing against those guys, playing with those guys, that intimidation and fear factor isn’t there anymore.

 Twellman: I think defensively, they haven’t been as clean. You look at the Costa Rica game at home; Costa Rica had maybe two or three chances, and those two were really bad mistakes. Then you look at the Mexico game at home, a set piece; so I do think the lack of killer instinct at both ends of the field has really hurt them. I don’t think they’ve been nearly as dangerous as they should be. The ability to finish games and grind out results, that just hasn’t been there, where in years past they haven’t played great but got the results through their experience and other ways.

 Keller: There was nothing that upset me more than in the Costa Rica game. You can lose a game. That’s part of sports. But when you lose a game by being outworked, that’s the hardest thing for me. You can go and you can fight and you can scrap and mistakes are going to happen and you’re going to give up a bad goal, you’re going to pass the ball out of the back wrong. But when collectively you got outhustled, you got outfought, so in the end outplaying somebody — “Oh, we had 65 percent possession” — who cares? We’ve got to get it back to the point where we’re saying: “You know what we did? We outfought, we outworked, and guess what, if we have more talent, that will shine even more.”

 Has this team become too dependent on Christian Pulisic?

 Balboa: He’s a special player. You can see the talent he has, and the upside is huge. But he has to be a piece that helps the team win, not the key factor in whether the team wins or loses; if he doesn’t play well, the U.S. doesn’t win. It can’t be that way. Jozy Altidore has to play well. We don’t have a [Lionel] Messi or a [Cristiano] Ronaldo. In order for us to win, all 11 players have to do their job and do it well. There’s not one guy that can say: “If we give the ball to Christian, he’s going to win the game for us.” We’ve always been a team that has to play as a unit, has to play together, and everybody has to be on the same page to get a result.

 Gomez: Simple numbers would tell you yes. I think his numbers (Pulisic has had a hand in nine of the 12 U.S. goals in the Hex) speak for themselves, but he has that type of impact on the game not just at the CONCACAF level but at Dortmund. He’s been nominated for the Golden Boy Award. He has that talent about him. But at the age of 19, to have one nation’s hopes and dreams on his shoulders, it’s a little much at this point. I think you need other players around him being able to affect the game in the same way that he can affect it at this level in CONCACAF.

Where should Pulisic line up, centrally or out wide? Does it even matter?

 Balboa: I don’t think it matters. I think every coach has their thoughts of where they want him to play. We’ve seen Jurgen Klinsmann move him around to quite a few different spots; we’ve seen Bruce Arena do the same. My opinion: I like him playing as the second forward. I like him free; I like him being able to go find the ball and not have too much defensive responsibility; I like him to go find the game and get it.

 Gomez: I think it’s a game-by-game approach. Obviously the majority of teams in CONCACAF have now scouted and measured the U.S. and they know that shutting down Pulisic is a good way of making sure the U.S. doesn’t tick. They’ve been very physical with him. You saw against Costa Rica they really zeroed in on Pulisic and wanted to disrupt his rhythm. By disrupting his rhythm, they disrupted how effective the U.S. could be going forward. It goes game by game.

 Twellman: To say: “Why doesn’t the U.S. play him wide left and get the same production that he does with Dortmund?” is apples to oranges. You can’t compare these two. But if you’re going to play a CONCACAF team that’s going to sit in with 10 players behind the ball, I’m not sure playing him in the middle does him any justice, either. The reality is if Bobby Wood, Jozy Altidore, Darlington Nagbe, Clint Dempsey, whoever is in there, it shouldn’t matter where Pulisic is playing. Christian has had a rude awakening. You can’t compare Dortmund and playing in Champions League to CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, either. It’s a different animal, and even after the Costa Rica match, you can tell he learned some things. He was taking too many touches, taking on four or five defenders. That’s not going to work in CONCACAF because the game is a little bit different.

 Are the players good enough, or is the U.S. just caught in a down cycle?

 Gomez: I think anyone who tells you it’s a down cycle isn’t being honest with themselves. There is more talent now in the player pool than there ever was. That doesn’t mean they’re a better team. But if you’re telling me the players aren’t better now than one through 60 in years past, I don’t buy it. You can say whatever you want about the 2002 team. That was a better team. But look at where those players were during that World Cup. To look at the body of work at that exact moment and compare the body of work that these players have now, it’s a much more talented team. But you’re not seeing the best out of these players, and that’s a real problem. That’s a scary thing to see. The mental aspect of this game affects a lot of players — you saw Mexico last cycle — and when you look for help, and you can’t find it, you just feel like you’re sinking. Sometimes the mental part of the game is a lot more impactful than the physical.

 Keller: It happens to every country. You get little down cycles; you get little groups that don’t perform when you need them to perform. You get little situations, and I would say, over the years, we’ve found ways to overachieve more than we’ve probably merited. So I think where that is coming from is these players are supposedly better than the players before them. What was it that the players before them had that allowed them to get past this point? Some of it was a little chip on the shoulder; some of it was the determination to prove themselves every time they go out with the national team because maybe they weren’t getting the respect with their club teams, whatever it was that they were trying to do. Somehow Bruce Arena has to find the right combination of players that understand that fight.

Twellman: Some ex-players will tell me this is the most talented group we’ve ever had. I’m not sure I agree with that. I think a couple of positions are not as strong as years past. Left back is still an issue, and it’s been an issue for a long time. Bob Bradley used Carlos Bocanegra at left back. If not for DaMarcus Beasley’s conversion, Klinsmann doesn’t have a left back. To answer the question, do I think it’s a down cycle? No. But do I think it’s a down cycle in a couple of positions? I do.

 What needs to change for the U.S. to get the results it needs?

 Keller: I think we were more pragmatic in the past: understanding who we were, what we needed to do. And I think Jurgen got criticized for coming in and saying we wanted to be more proactive and the way we play. But then in the end, you have to say at times: “We are what we are. That’s great and that’s fantastic.” We now have this Fantasyland that we’re going to play like Germany or play like Spain. We have one player in the Champions League. If we had seven players playing in the Champions League for marquee teams, then yeah, maybe you’ve got a chance. I think we have to alter our expectations as a team, and then as media and fans and say: “Let’s get back to the good old-fashioned, fight your way to get victories.” You’re not just going to show up and play your way off, because we never won games like that.

 Twellman: For me, no matter what, the U.S has to be way more dangerous. How many chances are they creating from the run of play? They’re not, whoever that falls on. They’ve just got to be more dynamic. There’s got to be a level of urgency of putting a team away from the opening whistle, and for me it’s a collective, because I haven’t seen this urgency within the team over the last four or five games. I’m not including the Gold Cup because that doesn’t matter. But in the big games, the must-win games, there’s this propensity to say: “We’re going to knock it around, we’re going to play beautiful soccer, we’re going to play possession.” Listen, at some point you’ve got to be a threat, and at some point, you’ve got to put pressure on the opposition.

Has Arena done a good job since taking over?

 Balboa: That’s almost an unfair question because he’s been thrown into the fire. He didn’t have much time to prepare this team or get it together. They get together five days before they play a game. Did he get the results right off the bat that we expected? Yeah, he got some wins, he got us into the race. Was there a huge hiccup against Costa Rica, oh yeah, 100 percent. And then against Honduras I think there were a few questionable changes in the heat and humidity. We all makes mistakes; we all go and move forward. But he’s been thrown into the fire and he’s had to fight and scratch and do the best he can with three days in between games.

 Twellman: I’m undecided on that. People say he won the Gold Cup, but to me the Gold Cup meant absolutely nothing. I would have preferred, that, with just 18 months to do a job, I would have had zero issue if Arena would have called in Weston McKennie, Haji Wright, all these young players we don’t know anything about in Europe. And if they had lost in the quarterfinals, I wouldn’t have cared. I would have rather had answers on younger players. Obviously if the U.S. qualifies [for the World Cup], then in terms of his task, yes, but I’m undecided on whether it’s been a great World Cup qualifying for Arena. I think there have been some decisions that have left me a little surprised. I thought tactically the Costa Rica home game was set up in a way that didn’t suit a game against Costa Rica’s first team that would see 10 guys behind the ball. That’s the negative. On the positive side, he has got results when the team hasn’t played well, and that’s Bruce’s strength.

 HAs Arena been guilty of making too many changes to his lineup of late?

 Keller: If you look at most teams around the world, when they’re playing well, one of the key factors to a team playing well is a consistency of lineup. The notion that our guys aren’t fit enough to play four days apart, I don’t understand that, and how do you not know at this stage that this is my best lineup? Of course, you have situations where you’re saying: “This guy is injured and I think this guy is in my best lineup so I’m going to play him in this position. OK, maybe this guy isn’t playing well and this guy is looking good. I’m going to make those one or two changes.” But how do you make seven changes and think you’re going to play well, when, statistically throughout the world, the teams that are playing well are the teams that don’t have to make changes?

 Twellman: It’s interesting, I think Bruce has such a focus on being 180 degrees different than Klinsmann on certain things. He traditionally has not been a coach to use 22 of 23 guys. So the T&T/Mexico thing is difficult to assess because you lose a full day of recovery. I understand that. I think, with Costa Rica/Honduras, I think it’s a fair criticism, I really do. The center-back pairing has been interesting to me. Everyone’s trying to tell me that it’s the deepest position we have, but how do we not have a center-back partnership? Now, you could say Brooks’ injury is a big part of that. But everyone wants to tell me Geoff Cameron is a center back, but is he? I would argue that he’s playing so many roles at Stoke City that I’m not sure he is. I still think Cameron may be better off playing a different position. He may be really good next to Michael Bradley.

But I do think it’s fair to criticize some of the personnel decisions.

 Gomez: There hasn’t been a consistent center-back tandem as well with Brooks. Cameron has had his fair share of injuries. You still have not found a consistent partner for Bradley, and that’s been one of the biggest issues for the U.S. So there are a lot of underlying factors, some of them out of his control. You find a guy like Sebastian Lletget and then he gets hurt for the rest of the year. But they happen to every national team; no national team is immune to these problems.

Aside from a player like Pulisic, who needs to step up for the U.S. over these next two games?

 Gomez: There’s a few. I’d like to see whoever is playing alongside Bradley stake their claim and cement themselves and say: “This is my spot for the World Cup. This is my position.” That would be one. Then whoever is in goal. There isn’t a goalkeeper controversy, but there still hasn’t been one player to raise his hand and say: “This is my position.” This is something to keep an eye on.Balboa: Everybody. I don’t think one or two players can show and think they can get the job done. There’s always going to be the clear-cut leaders, so you go from Howard to Cameron to Bradley and Altidore. Those guys have to show up and have to be on top of their game. So does Christian, so does the other center back, whoever that is. Jorge Villafana if he plays. I don’t think there can be a guy out there who isn’t a leader on the day, and that’s not yelling and screaming and not helping them getting a result. I don’t think the U.S. is in a place where two or three guys have to lead this team.

 This U.S. team has been accused of being soft. Is it?

Keller: I don’t think the team is soft. They didn’t match the fight against Costa Rica. But if they were soft, they would have just rolled over and let Honduras win. Now, if you can play that poorly for 75 minutes, find a way to keep it at 1-0, and then steal a point on the road, it’s hard to claim that you’re soft because it’s not a great place to play. The weather is horrible, the conditions are horrible, the pitch was slow. And they fought through it and found a way to not make it a complete disaster. So that’s hard for me to say, that it’s completely soft. But is there an element that needs to be harder? Yeah, because in the Costa Rica game there was maybe one foul in the first half, maybe two, against a good team. No, you have to understand the way the game is played. You can’t just walk around the field and hope to beat somebody. There’s a time when you’ve got to be physical. I’m not saying you’ve got to go around booting people, but it’s part of the game. It’s a physical game, and we weren’t physical. You got outmuscled, you got outworked, and that’s part of where that is coming from.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle. 

U.S. counting on Orlando to deliver much-needed home-field advantage vs. Panama

ORLANDO – With the U.S. national team set to play a mammoth World Cup qualifier on Friday against Panama, the issue of home field advantage is still very much on the collective mind of the U.S. team.Last month, the U.S. played Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena, and in the run-up there was concern that playing the game in the New York metropolitan area would allow plenty of Tico fans to attend, and blunt whatever home field advantage the U.S. had. The U.S. team’s worst fears were realized. It ended up losing 2-0, with the Ticos’ fans in full voice at the final whistle.In many respects this was nothing new. The game in the U.S. has come a long way, and it can now expect majority support for its home matches. But given the diversity in the U.S., it’s still not unusual for opposing fans to make up a sizable contingent of those in attendance. What was different in this case was that the U.S. lost, imperiling the team’s World Cup qualification hopes. And the match left it in something of a mental quandary. The Americans didn’t want to use the venue as an excuse for the defeat. Prior to the 1-1 tie with Honduras, Arena said during a roundtable with reporters, “I don’t think it made any difference in the game.”But he also said, “”I don’t think we should play in a venue that’s comfortable for the visiting team,” indicating that the U.S. didn’t maximize the home field advantage it could have had. Arena added that the USSF needed to be “shrewd” in terms of its venue selection.

“It probably makes a difference for Costa Rica,” he said. “Imagine if we were playing this game [against Honduras] in Dallas or San Diego. It would be nicer for us, even though it’s not a good analogy because we’re playing in our country. We don’t get any luxuries in going on the road and [where] everything is nice and comfortable, we get a good fan base coming out for the game and all of that.”It’s a sensitive subject in USSF circles, in that no one else in the organization wants to take shots at those who selected the venue. To be fair, there are a lot of moving parts in deciding where the U.S. plays, and the decisions are made far in advance, so far in fact that the decision to play at Red Bull Arena was made before Arena was hired last November.According to the USSF the factors in venue selection include “availability of the venue, what other events the venue may or will have going on (you want the field condition to be as good as possible), the type of surface, size of the field, seating capacity, number of locker rooms, infrastructure available for broadcaster partners and working media, demographics in the metro area, cost of the venue, expected demand for tickets sales, level of U.S. support, time of game – which includes working with broadcasters -competing events in the market, how many times we’ve played in the city or region recently, the climate that time of year, the ease of travel in and out of the venue, and more.”In terms of ticket sales, the USSF tries to make sure most of the tickets end up in the hands of supporters, but of course, there is nothing to stop those from being resold on the secondary market and ending up in the hands of visiting supporters.

So ahead of Friday’s match at Orlando City Stadium — one that is essentially a must-win — and with the Costa Rica result in mind, Arena made a request to local fans that sounded borderline desperate.”I’m going to make a plea to the people in Orlando: We need you out supporting the U.S. team,” Arena told the Orlando Sentinel. “I think the last time out in New York, we didn’t have the kind of venue that we need to have in these games. That’s important. Hopefully we have a crowd that is very supportive of the U.S. team and they can maybe drown out the supporters of the visiting team if that’s the case.”Fortunately for the U.S., Orlando City supporters have a reputation as being among the most passionate in MLS. The standing supporters section known as “The Wall” is particularly vociferous. The question of course is whether that can be replicated for a national team game.”I think the support we are going to receive on Friday will be fantastic,” said U.S. midfielder Dax McCarty, a native of nearby Winter Park. “Soccer fans in the south, specifically Orlando City and Atlanta United fans, have proven this year to be some of the most passionate fans in the United States. We know that everyone is well aware of how big this game is, and we are expecting tremendous support from the first whistle until the last.”

Sean Levy, the president of the Orlando chapter of the American Outlaws, stopped short of saying the atmosphere would be identical to an Orlando City match given the diverse backgrounds and international loyalties that comprise the club’s fan base. But he also sounded optimistic that Orlando will deliver the atmosphere the U.S. team craves.

“I believe it’s going to be a good crowd just because of how important this game is,” he said via telephone. “I think we can try our best to match the atmosphere that you see at an Orlando City game. Everyone knows it’s a must-win game and will bring their voice and definitely push the U.S. on to a win.

“I’ve been to a lot of stadiums traveling with the American Outlaws and for Orlando City games. With The Wall, I just don’t think there’s any other stadium like ours out there. Being in The Wall is amazing.”Of course, one somewhat overlooked aspect of the Costa Rica match is that the U.S. team didn’t give its fans much to cheer about on the night. The Ticos took the lead in the 30th minute and maintained their grip on the game for the rest of the night. So does the crowd drive success on the field, or is it the responsibility of the team to give the fans something to celebrate? McCarty said they go hand-in-hand.”The onus is definitely on a team to give the crowd a reason to scream, stand, and clap, but in tough moments during the game, the crowd is the X factor most of the time,” he said via email. “When you’re tired and trying to close a game out, nothing is better than hearing the fans get loud and push you to either make a big defensive stand or score a last-minute game winner.” Given the stakes involved, that is a scenario the U.S. will gladly take.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Armchair Analyst: Zardes, Johnson & controversy on the USMNT roster

October 2, 20172:11AM EDTMatthew Doyle MLS.com Senior Writer

he first thing to understand here is this: You’re getting all heated about the 24th man on a 26-man roster. I understand why – everybody likes to feel outraged from time to time, since it’s vivifying in its way – but let’s just process the above and hold onto it and make it the foundation of any discussion going forward.The second thing to understand: Gyasi Zardes isn’t going to be playing a minute in the next two games, anyway. He limped off the field after 33 minutes of the Galaxy’s 1-1 draw against RSL on Saturday night, and did not look very much like a man who would be able to play a soccer game any time in the next 10 days. I bet he’ll be replaced tomorrow (fingers crossed for Matt Polster).The third thing is this: For all the flack Zardes takes from the fanbase (some of which I participate in from time to time), he has been a reliably productive two-way wide player for the USMNT over the past two years. Do you remember the Gold Cup?Do you remember the Copa America? Against Paraguay, and then against Ecuador? You can bag on Zardes for his first touch and his club form, but he has a history of production in big moments for the USMNT. I’m not saying that should put him in the team, but the conversation about this roster can not ignore that he’s got six goals and seven assists, many in big moments.The fourth thing is this: Zardes’s inclusion is going to be tethered to the surprise absence of Fabian Johnson. This is probably a fair framing, since they fill the same gap in Bruce Arena’s regime – two-way wide attackers, be it in a 4-4-2 or a 4-5-1 or a 5-4-1.There is a strain of discussion out there suggesting Johnson has been mostly poor and disinterested for the US since the 2014 World Cup, but I’m going to push back on that, as he was excellent in last summer’s Copa America. That, however, has been the exception more than the rule, and Johnson was mostly a non-factor in the recent September qualifiers. He failed to even contest a midfield 50/50 that led to Marco Ureña‘s game-winning goal in the Costa Rica game, and when he did get on the ball he was happy to drift away from physical confrontations and toward the touchline.Johnson was not close to being a difference-maker to the good despite being played in a position that he swears is his best. Worse, he didn’t look up for the fight, and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying is nothing if not a fight. Especially against Panama. Against Honduras, he didn’t get off the bench.Given that and his poor club form – he’s played just 180 minutes for Borussia Mönchengladbach this year, though 90 of those were pretty good ones this weekend in a 2-1 win over Hannover – I’m not finding reasons to be upset about Johnson’s absence.There are also this summer’s comments to consider. “I still really enjoy playing for my country, but there is an agreement with head coach Bruce Arena that I will only play in the more important matches,” Johnson told Bild. From the outside looking in, that appears to be less than full buy-in from a guy who should be a team leader. Let’s recall that Jurgen Klinsmann had doubts about Johnson to that effect as well. There is precedent.There is also zero question that Paul Arriola has been a more effective wide player for the US over the past 12 months. It was him, Geoff Cameron and Bobby Wood who changed the game (along with a timely switch to a 3-5-2) against Honduras.

A few other notes:

  • I thought Matt Miazga would get a call, but Arena went with Michael Orozco instead. Orozco isn’t as talented as Miazga, but Orozco knows how to function in CONCACAF, and he’s well-versed at playing in a three- or five-back system. I have a suspicion, given how good the US were for the final 20 minutes against Honduras, that we could see a 3-5-2 or a 5-4-1 in one or both of these upcoming, must-win games.
  • Sporting KC playmaker Benny Feilhaberis jacked to be called in.“I think my exact words were, ‘If you need me to be a cheerleader, I’ll be a cheerleader,’” Feilhaber said to Sam McDowell of the KC Star. “Hopefully I get more of a role than that, but it’s just exciting to be part of that group. Literally whatever they need me to do, I’m ready to do.”Feilhaber is a string-pulling midfield playmaker who’s got a history of performing in big moments, for both club and country. One of the issues the US had in the most recent set of qualifiers was that too much of the creative burden fell to Christian Pulisic. Putting Feilhaber on the field would mean that there’s another guy out there who can hit the final pass, or punish an unbalanced defense. He’s done it against some pretty damn good teams, remember:
  • New England’s all-around-attacker-who-should-just-be-a-center-forward, Juan Agudelo, is the other surprise call-in. Agudelo hasn’t scored since July, but that’s largely because he’s not been played as a forward since July. The Revs are, for some reason, married to him as a pseudo No. 10 or a possession-based winger.Agudelo has been good, especially in possession, in both roles. He’s also been a committed defender. Given his talent I don’t mind seeing him here.
  • Bobby Wood saved the US in San Pedro Sula, but on the club level he’s running out for a team that has no idea where the goal is. Hamburg haven’t scored a goal since August 25, and are 0-4-1 since then in the Bundesliga. Wood missed one of those games with a knee knock, but he’s 100% fit now.Wood still looks good – Hamburg’s issue stems from a couple of injuries on their playmaking line, so it’s not like he’s out there blowing chances. He’s just not getting any.Regardless, he, I’m sure, play a huge role in these games.
  • Jozy Altidore, Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin are all fully fit after recovering from hamstring issues in September. Altidore went 90 and had a hand in three goals in TFC’s win on Saturday, including drawing the Supporters’ Shield-clinching penalty and adding an icing-on-the-cake assist a few minutes later. Cameron put in 90 as the middle defender in Stoke’s 3-6-1/5-4-1 from their 2-1 win over Sunderland, and Yedlin had a mostly quiet but reliable 90 as an overlapping fullback in Newcastle’s 1-1 home draw against Liverpool, including some nice defensive plays down the stretch.Let’s hope both Yedlin and Cameron are fit to get 180 minutes. With all due respect to Graham Zusi, the gap between him and Yedlin is significant.
  • Matt Besleris something of a question, however. He didn’t play in Sporting’s 1-0 loss to Vancouver on Saturday:

He should be fine by Friday, though. Omar Gonzalez seems to have rediscovered his form, with 180 good minutes for Pachuca this week, and Tim Ream keeps going 90 minutes every week for a Fulham team starting to push its way up the standings in the Championship (3-1-1 in their last five). I understand that fans will have bad memories of Ream, Cameron and Gonzalez from last month. Try instead to remember how excellent all three were in the 1-1 draw at Mexico. This is another data point that leads me to think we’ll see a three- or five-man backline.

  • If that defense plays well and Pulisic, Altidore, Wood and Clint Dempseyplay like they should, the US will qualify for the World Cup. Three years into this miserable cycle, it’s disappointingly clear that remains a big “if.”

USMNT Roster (Oct. ’17 World Cup Qualifiers)

Goalkeepers (3): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders (9): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

Midfielders (10): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Benny Feilhaber (Sporting Kansas City), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy)

Forwards (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)

U.S. boss Bruce Arena focused on the job at hand ahead of crunch qualifiers

Leave it to Bruce Arena to insert a wrinkle or two into what is the most critical roster of this World Cup cycle.

The objective for the U.S. is clear. Despite a dysfunctional World Cup qualifying campaign, the Americans are still in control of their own destiny, tied for fourth place heading into the last two matches of qualifying. Two wins will get the job done and secure the third and final automatic qualification spot.

As such, the usual faces are on the roster, from Tim Howard in goal to Michael Bradley in midfield to Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey up top. It is these players upon whom Arena will rely, and he’s comfortable in doing so.

“The players always give the commitment, that’s never an issue,” Arena said. “The issue is whether or not we get the results we need, and I think we’re positioned to do that. When I took the job last November, if you said to me, ‘You’d be in position in Game 9 to play a game at home that you had to win, would you take that?’ I would say, ‘Yes.'”

But scanning the 26-player list, one name jumps out: that of Sporting Kansas City midfielder Benny Feilhaber. Practically from the moment Feilhaber first appeared on the national team scene, he has been an enigma.

He has clearly possessed first XI talent in terms of his vision and technical ability. There was a time when it seemed he might even be the kind of creative force that the U.S. would build itself around. Yet even at the apex of his national team involvement during the 2010 World Cup cycle, he couldn’t rise above a super-sub role. Since then, Feilhaber hasn’t even been an afterthought.Yet such is Feilhaber’s ability — and effectiveness during this time with Sporting Kansas City — that the U.S. hasn’t been able to completely give up on the midfielder. And with the U.S. team’s World Cup qualifying hopes hanging in the balance, Arena has once again decided to give Feilhaber a chance to contribute, naming him to his 26-man roster for the crunch World Cup qualifiers against Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

There is the chance, of course, that Arena won’t need Feilhaber, and the U.S. will take care of the Canaleros and the Soca Warriors without too much fuss. But that would mean breaking the habit that the U.S. has set for itself this cycle of making the qualifying journey as tension-filled as possible. And should the U.S. need a player to pick the lock of a packed defense, Feilhaber is certainly one who can do so.Feilhaber’s inclusion, along with that of New England Revolution attacker Juan Agudelo, is also an acknowledgement that the U.S. needs a spark of some kind — any kind — to get its offense going. As much as the U.S. might not like to admit it, it has become entirely too dependent on Christian Pulisic to kick-start the offense. Of the 12 goals the U.S. has scored in the final round of World Cup qualifying, Pulisic has been involved in nine of them.

This is not to say that the U.S. shouldn’t be leaning on Pulisic. Clearly he is the kind of attacking talent that the Americans need to utilize. But the frequency with which Pulisic has been getting fouled — seven times in the past two games alone — reveals that the rest of CONCACAF has come to the conclusion that if you stop Pulisic, you stop the U.S. attack. That, more than anything, is what needs to change for the U.S. during these next two games. For the Americans, balance needs to return to the attacking force.So if Feilhaber’s inclusion counts as a surprise, so does the exclusion of Fabian Johnson, especially when you consider the roster’s inflated numbers. To be clear, Johnson has underwhelmed during the last two fixture periods, in particular his anonymous performance against Costa Rica. He has also logged just 181 minutes with club side Borussia Monchengladbach this season, which is why he won’t be joining up with the U.S. in Orlando, Florida.

But leaving him off the roster appears to give Arena one less option at outside back, where the U.S. looked especially vulnerable against Honduras. Without question, the return to health of DeAndre Yedlin as well as that of center-back Geoff Cameron will ease Arena’s defensive worries to an extent, but Johnson would have provided some cover on the left. Now that responsibility will be left to Jorge Villafana and DaMarcus Beasley, both of whom have experienced their share of ups and downs.Regardless, this is a side — from the goalkeeper, to the center-backs, right through the midfield to the forward line — that will need to raise its collective game, and obtain the results it needs to claim the third and final automatic qualifying spot. Doing so will not be easy, especially against a Panama side that has tied the U.S. the last four times the two teams have met.

“It’s like any team in CONCACAF and the Hex,” Arena said of Panama. “The games on the road are difficult. They’re a fairly defensive, physical team. You need the right day in terms of playing well, getting the right officiating, having the right surface to play on. I think all of those factors come into play. The bottom line is that we need to go out on the field and play well, be aggressive to start and get the first goal.”And find a way to win.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying – how United States can make Russia 2018

The final rounds of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup take place on Oct. 6 and 10, with only one of the 3.5 available places currently confirmed after Mexico secured safe passage in September.

 Already qualified: Mexico
Places to be decided: 2 automatic, 1 intercontinental playoff

Here, we take a look at which nations can still make it to Russia, and how they can get there.

The top three teams qualify directly, with the nation that finishes in fourth facing a two-legged playoff against either Australia or Syria for a place at the finals.Mexico are through, Costa Rica are all-but through and means it realistically comes down to a fight between Panama, United States and Honduras for the last automatic place and the playoff berth.


  1. Mexico, 18 points (h-Trinidad & Tobago, a-Honduras)
    Mexico qualified with plenty in hand, but they could have a major say in who joins them when they go to Honduras on the final day.


  1. Costa Rica, 15 (h-Honduras, a-Panama) 
    With a six-point advantage over United States and Honduras, Costa Rica’s place is all but assured. They will be through without kicking a ball if USA and Panama draw in Orlando in the first match to kickoff on Oct. 6, otherwise a point at home to Honduras will see the job done that day.

 3) Panama, 10 (a-United States, h-Costa Rica) 

  1. Panama may going into the final games in an automatic place, but they have two very difficult games to navigate through. They are probably going to have to take at least a point away to USA to retain realistic hopes of finishing third, before facing what should be an already-qualified Costa Rica in their final match. But they do know that two wins definitely send them to Russia.


  1. United States, 9 (h-Panama, a-Trinidad & Tobago) 
    It’s been a stuttering campaign for United States, but they go into the final rounds knowing they do not have to play one of the region’s so-called heavyweights. With Honduras’ goal difference being so inferior, they know that two wins will take them directly to Russia, and it might be that four points is enough if they can beat Panama.


  1. Honduras, 9 (a-Costa Rica, h-Mexico)
    Honduras are eight goals worse off than United States in the head to head differential, and that means they are going to have to better United States’ results to get above them. With Costa Rica and Mexico yet to play, that looks a tall order — on paper at least. Edging in front of Panama for the playoffs could be more realistic, but again goal difference means they are going to have to outperform their rivals, but by two points.


  1. Trinidad & Tobago, 3 (a-Mexico, h-United States)
    A place in the playoffs is the best Trinidad & Tobago can cling on to, but that requires United States and Honduras losing both their games and huge goal difference swing of 12 with the United States. Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

World Cup qualifying hopes of Argentina, U.S., others are on the line

Europe (UEFA) — Full Permutations

At least three of Europe’s traditional big hitters are in for an uncomfortable week. Italy are all but resigned to a playoff spot, sitting three points behind Spain in Group G but with a vastly inferior goal difference, while Netherlands are in severe danger of missing out on the World Cup altogether.

The Dutch lie third in an intriguing Group A, three points behind Sweden, whom they host on the final matchday next Tuesday. A win in Belarus on Friday will keep Dutch playoff hopes alive until the end. France lead the group by a point from Sweden but will be vulnerable if they drop points in Bulgaria, who are not out of the equation themselves.

Portugal’s campaign looks certain to boil down to a first-place decider with Group B leaders Switzerland in Lisbon. Cristiano Ronaldo & Co. are three points behind the Swiss but boast superior goal difference; assuming they win in Andorra and Switzerland defeat Hungary, next Tuesday’s tie is set up perfectly.

Germany and England are on the verge of securing automatic qualification, while Belgium are already through. Meanwhile, one more win for Serbia will see them qualify, leaving Republic of Ireland and a Gareth Bale-less Wales to fight it out for second in Group D.

There are few surprise packages although Northern Ireland, guaranteed at least second in Germany’s group, should make the playoffs and Montenegro currently occupy the runners-up berth in a tight Group E. The most nip-and-tuck section is Group I, which could be won by Croatia, Iceland, Turkey or Ukraine. — Nick Ames

 South America (CONMEBOL) – Full permutations

When just seven points separate second position from eighth, it is easy to find the right place to look in South America: everywhere!

Brazil’s visit to Bolivia on Thursday has no relevance — Brazil are long home and dry, while Bolivia have no chance — but much is riding on everything else. Venezuela can’t qualify, but they host second-placed Uruguay, who go on to complete their fixtures at home to Bolivia; their weakness on the road means that Luis Suarez & Co. should have a place in Russia in the bag.

Which leaves everyone else scrapping for the remaining two-and-a-half slots. Most eyes on Thursday will be on Buenos Aires, where under-pressure and fifth-placed Argentina take on Peru. Failure to win would leave the hosts in desperate trouble and, to add spice to the occasion, history resonates: In 1969, a 2-2 draw vs. Peru in the same Bombonera stadium cost Argentina a place in Mexico the following year; it remains the only World Cup for which they have failed to qualify.

And the stakes are high elsewhere. To keep their slender hopes alive, Paraguay probably need all three points away to third-placed Colombia, while Chile against Ecuador is a must-win game for two sides that sit outside the automatic places ahead of what is sure to be a tension-filled week. — Tim Vickery

 North, Central America and Caribbean (CONCACAF) – Full permutations

For all practical purposes, the focus will be on the race for the third and final automatic qualification spot, as well as fourth place, which will send a team to a playoff against a side from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Leaders Mexico have already clinched, while second-placed Costa Rica have secured at least fourth and are widely expected to seal their passage to Russia 2018 when they host Honduras on Friday. Therefore, most eyes will be focusing on the logjam underneath, with particular attention paid on Friday to Orlando, Florida, where the U.S. host third-placed Panama.

The U.S. is crrently fourth, level on points with Honduras — but ahead on goal difference — and just a point behind the Canaleros. Bruce Arena’s men are favorites but little has gone according to plan during this final round of qualifying, in which the they have already lost twice at home. Even if Panama are beaten, the U.S. must win in Trinidad and Tobago next Tuesday to guarantee third.

Panama finish qualifying at home vs. a Costa Rica side that probably will have secured qualification. Honduras have the toughest road given their poor goal difference, as well as the fact that they will face the Ticos on Friday before hosting Mexico four days later. — Jeff Carlisle

 Africa (CAF) – Full permutations

Unlike elsewhere, this is not the final week of games in Africa but, by the end of play on Matchday 5, two of the region’s representatives could be known. But rather than giants facing off against giants, it is upstarts who are going head-to-head against the big boys, several of whom face a battle to avoid the fate of already-eliminated Cameroon.

For example, Congo DR, who last appeared at the World Cup in 1974 as Zaire, are pushing Tunisia to the limit in Group A. Meanwhile, Group B has seen Zambia emerge as challengers after beating Algeria home and away and, if they can upset leaders Nigeria on Saturday, could pip them to the post on the final day.

Burkina Faso lead a tight Group D on goal difference against Cape Verde who, like Zambia, got themselves into contention with back-to-back wins over giants, in this case South Africa. The situation is complicated somewhat by the annulment of South Africa’s 2-1 win over Senegal on Matchday 2, a decision the Burkinabes have appealed. In Group E, Uganda are just two points behind Egypt and will keep the pressure on if they beat rejuvenated Ghana, who are without the dropped Ayew brothers.

But that is where the simplicity ends. While Ivory Coast, who visit Mali on Friday, lead Group C on seven points, Morocco, Gabon and Mali are still in with a shout; that might explain the return of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the Gabon squad as they prepare for a trip to Morocco. — Colin Udoh

 Asia (AFC)

With the final round-robin stage complete, Syria and Australia, who finished third in Groups A and B respectively, will meet in a two-leg playoff on Thursday and Tuesday. The winner goes on to meet the fourth-placed CONCACAF nation in a two-leg, inter-confederation playoff between Nov. 6 and 14 to qualify for the World Cup. — ESPN staff

 Oceania (OFC)

Just like in Asia, regional qualifying has been completed. Winners New Zealand will face the fifth-placed CONMEBOL country in a two-leg, inter-confederation playoff between Nov. 6 and 14; the winners will qualify for the World Cup. — ESPN staffFollow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

Five Aside: The best U.S. player right now, Christian Pulisic, turns 19

Christian Pulisic is widely considered the best American male soccer player right now. He’s been the most important U.S. player during this World Cup qualifying cycle and also starts for one of the world’s top club teams in the world’s top club competitions. And he turns 19 years old this Monday.So how good have things been for the U.S. phenom over the past 365 days?

How good is Pulisic? How good is Borussia Dortmund?

– Pulisic is a regular starter on the wing for Borussia Dortmund. He’s started five of six games in all competitions this season for Dortmund, which leads the Bundesliga and has already won the German Super Cup, in which Pulisic became the first American to score in that preseason showpiece.

– Dortmund is considered the second-best team in the Bundesliga (behind Bayern Munich) and one of the 10-15 best clubs in the world. Dortmund is seventh in FiveThirtyEight’s global soccer rankings, while Forbes this year valued Dortmund at $808 million, the world’s 12th-most valuable club. Last season, Dortmund reached the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League, the world’s top club competition.

– Pulisic’s final game before turning 19 was Sunday’s 5-0 win against Cologne, in which he came on as a second-half substitute. He then has two more league games before resuming Champions League play against two-time defending champion Real Madrid.

– In 44 career Bundesliga games (14th-most by a U.S. international), Pulisic has six goals (tied for sixth-most). If he plays every game the rest of the season, he’d crack the top 10 on the U.S. list and could also become the fourth American with 10 career Bundesliga goals.

– Pulisic is the youngest non-German and fourth-youngest player to score in the Bundesliga (April 17, 2016 vs Hamburg), and is the youngest player with two career Bundesliga goals (April 23, 2016).

What else has he done before turning 19?

– Pulisic has already done more as a teenager than any other American man. Earlier this year, Sports Illustrated ranked him 13th in the world among players under the age of 20. Comparing Pulisic to two other top American attackers at the same age: Neither Landon Donovan nor Clint Dempsey played a first-team professional game before turning 19. Donovan debuted in MLS a month after turning 19, and Dempsey was a Furman University freshman at that age.

– No one is saying Pulisic is near the level of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, but his club and country numbers before turning 19 do compare favorably with both.

– Including Wednesday, Pulisic has already played 11 UEFA Champions League games, fourth-most by any American international and nearly halfway to the U.S. record held by Jermaine Jones (23). He made his UCL debut at 17, making him the youngest American to play in UEFA Champions League.

– His round-of-16 goal against Benfica in March made him one of three U.S. internationals to score in the UEFA Champions League knockout stage (Jones, DaMarcus Beasley), and he became the first American with a goal and an assist in a UCL knockout game. From there, he became the fourth American to play in the UCL quarterfinals.

Pulisic has already hit several big milestones before turning 19 this Monday. How far can he go?

How important is Pulisic to the United States?

– Pulisic has played in 11 of the United States’ 14 World Cup qualifiers during this cycle. His five open-play goals are tied for the team lead, and he leads the team with five assists and 22 shots. He also brings a dynamic that few other on the team offer: a willingness to take on opponents. His 68 one-on-ones are 40 more than anyone else on the team.

– Opponents are starting to key on him defensively. In the final round of qualifying, he’s been fouled 17 times, six more than any other American.

– The U.S. continues World Cup qualifying on Oct. 6 in a virtual must-win at home against Panama and concludes at Trinidad & Tobago on Oct. 10. Right now, the U.S. is fourth in the Hex, holding what would be a playoff berth against Australia or Syria. Winning the final two games virtually guarantees the U.S. an automatic World Cup spot.

– Pulisic has done all this as the youngest player on the team. He’s the youngest American ever to play in a World Cup qualifier and the youngest American man to score an international goal (both at age 17 in 2016).Follow ESPN Stats & Information on Twitter @ESPNStatsInfo 



The penultimate day of CONCACAF’s Final Round of qualifying for the 2018 FIFA World Cup could see the region’s two remaining automatic spots locked in, or more likely, heat up the drama for the final matchday on Oct. 10.Here’s a preview of the three Hex matches set for Friday, Oct. 6:

USA vs. Panama, Presented by Volpi Foods
Orlando City Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
7 p.m. ET; ESPN2, Univision & UDN
USA Roster | Panama Roster 

All-Time Record: USA leads 12-1-6
All-Time WCQ Record: USA leads 5-0-2
Last WCQ Meeting: 1-1 draw on March 28, 2017 in Panama City

The most consequential encounter of the night comes first in USA-Panama, presented by Volpi Foods. Just a point separates third-place Panama from the MNT, making a win for either side as good as gold. A U.S. victory would put Bruce Arena’s side two points clear of Los Canaleros heading into Matchday 10 and a visit to sixth-place Trinidad & Tobago. But if Panama is able to flip the coin with an upset victory, they would actually punch their ticket to Russia and the country’s first World Cup berth.The U.S. holds a sizable all-time advantage against the Central American nation, going 11-1-6 all-time and 5-0-2 in World Cup Qualifying. One of those five wins came on the last day of the Hex in 2013, when Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson tallied two stoppage time strikes to hand the already-qualified U.S. team a 3-2 victory and eliminate Panama from World Cup contention in the process. Ever since that meeting the two sides have been even keel, playing to four 1-1 draws – three in Gold Cup play and one qualifier earlier this year in Panama City.A typically physical side, Arena indicated he expects defensive, counter-attacking tactics from his opposite number Hernan Dario Gomez when the teams meet in Orlando.READ MORE: Arena Discusses October World Cup Qualifying Roster  “I think they’ll be very aggressive coming at us – fouling, looking to get out on the break and trying to create some chances off restarts,” he said. “They’ll be tough to play against. We have to have a good mentality in that game, be very aggressive going forward, try to get a goal and make Panama chase the game.”For his part, Gomez is experienced in the rigors of World Cup Qualifying. Having led his home nation to France ’98 and Ecuador to Korea/Japan four years later, the Colombian savant is on the cusp of joining a very small club of international managers to qualify three different countries to the World Cup. Clearly proud of what his team has been able to achieve this cycle, the man nicknamed “El Bolillo” (“The Baton”) is experienced enough to know that nothing has yet been accomplished. Speaking to reporters following the team’s 3-0 away win at Trinidad & Tobago on Sept. 5, Gomez said, “…if we don’t get the results in our next matchdays it’s as if we did nothing today.”

The Lowdown: A U.S. win puts the MNT in the driver’s seat as it finishes the Hex in Trinidad & Tobago, while a Panama victory sees Los Canaleros through to its first World Cup. A draw in USA-Panama would mean all three games on Matchday 10 will have massive implications for third and fourth place.

USA – none
PAN – none

USA – Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola, DaMarcus Beasley, Alejandro Bedoya, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin
PAN – Abdiel Arroyo, Edgar Barcenas, Harold Cummings, Erick Davis, Ismael Diaz, Anibal Godoy, Gabriel Gomez, Michael Murillo, Luis Ovalle, Valentin Pimentel, Alberto Quintero

Mexico vs. Trinidad & Tobago
Estadio Alfonso Lastras; San Luis, Mexico
9:30 p.m. ET; FS1, Univision & UDN
Mexico Roster | Trinidad & Tobago Roster 

All-Time Record: Mexico leads 13-3-5
All-Time WCQ Record: Mexico leads 7-3-2
Last WCQ Meeting: 1-0 Mexico win on March 28, 2017 in Port of Spain 

With Mexico already qualified and Trinidad & Tobago only holding a slim shot at finishing fourth, this match is the least consequential of the trio of games. Perhaps with that in mind, the Mexican Federation has elected to host the match at the 25,000-seat Estadio Alfonso Lastras in San Luis, rather than the much larger capacity Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The match marks the first time since 2012 that El Trí will play a qualifier away from the country’s de facto national stadium.READ MORETrinidad & Tobago names young roster for last two qualifiers

Though Mexico is already qualified, head coach Juan Carlos Osorio has still summoned a strong roster as El Trí looks to win its first Hex since the 1998 cycle. With plenty of players still competing for a place on next year’s World Cup roster, Mexico will be heavy favorites against a Trinidad & Tobago side that has won only once in its eight Hex matches. Things also may come easier for Mexico as Soca Warriors coach Dennis Lawrence elected to call up a more experimental team after his side was all but eliminated from qualifying last month.

The Lowdown: A Mexico win would all but clinch the Hex for El Trí, while a Trinidad victory would rank among their biggest in qualifying and serve as a nice consolation for a lost campaign.

MEX – none
TRI – Sheldon Bateau

MEX – Oswaldo Alanis, Javier Aquino, Juergen Damm, Jesús Dueñas, Jesús Gallardo, Hector Herrera, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Luis Reyes, Carlos Salcedo, Jorge Torres, Carlos Vela
TRI – Radanfah Abubakr, Kenwyne Jones, Joevin Jones,  Carlyle Mitchell, Kevin Molino, Leston Paul, Willis Plaza, Jan Michael Williams, Jomal Williams, Mekeil Williams

Costa Rica vs. Honduras
Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica
10 p.m. ET; beIN Sports, UNIVERSO
Costa Rica Roster | Honduras Roster 

All-Time Record: Costa Rica leads 21-18-20
All-Time WCQ Record: Honduras leads 10-5-7
Last WCQ Meeting: 1-1 draw on March 28, 2017 in San Pedro Sula 

Though Mexico were already qualified, they kept things quite interesting for the teams still duking it out for spots by playing to a 1-1 draw at Costa Rica on Matchday 8. That result left Los Ticos still needing one more point in order to clinch qualification as they welcome fifth-place Honduras to Estadio Nacional on Oct. 6.

While all but certain of making it to the World Cup, Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez has also called a strong team to see out Los Ticos’ qualifying campaign and in turn, confront a Honduras side that will need to claw for every point it can get. SCENARIOS: What needs to happen for the USA to qualify for Russia

Of the three teams still vying for the third automatic qualifying place, Honduras has the toughest road because of their placement and highly negative goal differential, and also because of their schedule. Los Catrachos will need to aim to win at Costa Rica and home to Mexico on Matchday 10, and even if they do they’ll still need help along the in order to figure into either third or fourth place.

Making things more difficult for the visitors is the fact they’ll be without suspended defensive stalwarts Jorge Claros and Henry Figueroa. While the deck may be stacked against Honduras, they’ve historically been able to get results in tough moments, and with the game’s late kickoff they’ll have the benefit of knowing what transpired in the USA-Panama clash earlier in the night.

The Lowdown: A Costa Rica win or draw puts them in Russia, while a Honduras win would push them at least to fourth place.


CRC – Francisco Calvo
HON – Jorge Claros, Henry Figueroa

CRC – Christian Bolaños, Joel Campbell, Crisitan Gamboa, David Guzman, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Bryan Ruiz, Jose Salvatierra, Michael Umaña, Marcos Ureña,  Kendall Waston
HON – Wilmer Crisanto, Carlos Discua, Alberth Elis, Maynor Figueroa, Luis Garrido, Eddie Hernandez, Emilio Izaguirre, Alfredo Mejia, Oliver Morazan, Johnny Palacios

Three things we learned from Christian Pulisic’s 60 Minutes segment

American soccer’s golden boy appeared on CBS’s 60 Minutes. What did we find out that we didn’t already know?by Rob Usry  Oct 3, 2017, 7:05am PDT

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a more than great chance you know who Christian Pulisic is. Whether it’s the post-a-week we do about him or the countless other headlines the 19-year-old receives, he’s a very well-known commodity in the soccer community. Sunday night, a wider audience got their first sweet taste of the boy from Hershey. Pulisic had his own segment on CBS’s 60 Minutes, a weekly news program that’s aired for 50 years.It’s rare for soccer — especially American soccer — to be put under a major mainstream microscope like this. The last time I can remember a soccer profile like this on 60 Minutes was them talking about Lionel Messi a couple of years ago. That’s how big this is on the general landscape of covering soccer in this country.Most of us know Christian’s story like he’s one of our distant relatives. But, after viewing the 13-minute segment, there was some knowledge to be gained for even the most diehard of Pulisic worshipers. Here are three interesting things we saw or found out in the full segment, that you can watch here.

The kid is making bank

At just 19 years old, Christian Pulisic is already making north of $8 million a year according to the 60 Minutes report. He signed a contract extension this past January, but I can’t recall ever seeing the financial details of the deal. That’s a nice chunk of change for a young adult to be making. He’s apparently just recently escaped the allowance system with his parents too.For reference, Kaka is the highest paid player in MLS at $7.1 million a year. At his young age, Pulisic would be receiving the biggest yearly salary in his home country’s domestic league by about $1 million. This is only his second-ever professional contract too. If he continues on his current career trajectory, he’ll be making a ridiculous amount of scratch by the time his current deal expires in 2020.

U.S. Soccer needs a Footbonaut

About 10 minutes into the segment they highlight a very cool machine called the Footbonaut. A training device developed by Borussia Dortmund that they use to help improve a player’s technical skills. It flings balls out at up to 60 MPH at an angle to help a player with his first touch.If a club like Dortmund entrust this machine to help develop technical ability, it must be pretty good. Their track record for player development speaks for itself. Christian needs to pull some strings and get one sent to U.S. Soccer or something. Do it for your country, Christian!

He and Ethan Horvath have an amazing secret handshake

It seems there’s a bromance brewing between two of the USMNT’s youngsters. In a 60 Minutes Overtime segment, we get to see Pulisic and Ethan Horvath unveil their over-elaborate ‘secret handshake’. Everyone had their super cool handshakes with their friends in school. It’s cool to see what these young guys on the national team come up with. Horvath has appeared in the comments section of Pulisic’s Facebook Q&A’s cracking jokes about rooming together on the road with the national team. Maybe we’ll see both playing together for the U.S. one of these days…

South American World Cup qualifying – how each nation can still make Russia

The final rounds of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup take place on Oct. 5 and 10, with only one of the 4.5 available places currently confirmed after Brazil secured safe passage and top spot in the group. 

Already qualified: Brazil
Places to be decided: 3 automatic, 1 intercontinental playoff

Here, we take a look at which nations can still make it to Russia, and how they can get there. Brazil are through, and Uruguay all-but qualified. However, the rest of the places are wide open with several nations to play each other.The top four teams qualify directly, with the nation that finishes in fifth facing a two-legged playoff against New Zealand for a place in the finals.

 Brazil, 37 points (a-Bolivia, h-Chile)

  1. Brazil qualified as runaway leaders some six months ago, but they could have a major say who joins them when they entertain Chile on the final day. 
  1. Uruguay, 27 (h-Venezuela, a-Bolivia) 
    With a healthy three-point advantage over Argentina in fifth, other teams playing each other, and fixtures against the bottom two teams in the group, it would take some collapse for Uruguay to fail to make the finals. They need one win to be absolutely sure of going through. 
  1. Colombia, 26 (h-Paraguay, a-Peru) 
    Victory at home to Paraguay will take them to the finals if there is no winner between Argentina and Peru, or if Chile fail to beat Ecuador. Three points in that first fixture is looking imperative, as if they fail to win and then lose to Peru on the final day then they could very well miss out. 
  1. Peru, 24 (a-Argentina, h-Colombia) 
    After starting the campaign in disastrous fashion, Peru are the in-form team and will be in with the top seeds for the finals drawif they win their remaining two qualifiers. But they start with the small matter of a trip to Argentina in what looks like a pivotal match in the group. Peru can’t qualify on the first matchday, but a win will make them hot favourites. They may target a draw in Buenos Aires and hope than a win over Colombia in Lima will be enough to see them through without a playoff. 
  1. Argentina, 24 (h-Peru, a-Ecuador)
    Argentina’s stuttering campaign continued in September when they drew both games against Uruguay and Venezuela. Defeat at home to Peru could mean they make the playoffs at best, but it remains in their own hands and they know that two wins will take them directly to Russia. The only problem is they are three games without a win and have only managed back-to-back wins once in qualifying, and that was 18 months ago. 
  1. Chile, 23 (h-Ecuador, a-Brazil)
    Double Copa America winners Chile are in very real danger of failing to make the finals, though they know they will be guaranteed at least a playoff place if they win both their matches. They have lost three of their last four qualifiers to drop out of the top five, and with a trip to Brazil on the final day they are going to have their work cut out to make it to Russia. 
  1. Paraguay, 21 (a-Colombia, h-Venezuela)
    The best Paraguay can probably hope for is to sneak into the playoffs, and their negative goal difference means they need two victories with other results going their way.

 8) Ecuador, 20 (a-Chile, h-Argentina)

  1. Like Paraguay, Ecuador’s hopes are most definitely slim. They must win both games and hope for a miracle to make fifth place.

Both Bolivia and Venezuela have already been eliminated.  Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.

RECAP | Indy Eleven Back to Winning Ways With 2-1 Victory Over Puerto Rico FC

“Indiana’s Team” earns three points for second consecutive win at Carroll Stadium

Published Oct 4, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (October 4, 2017) – In only their second home game in three weeks, Indy Eleven once again rocked “The Mike” with a 2-1 win over Puerto Rico FC despite late match drama that saw PRFC pull one back on a penalty.Head coach Tim Hankinson opted for a set of personnel that featured together for the first time, with Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Gerardo Torrado, Don Smart, Eamon Zayed, and Daniel Keller all returning to the starting line-up. Scrapping for chances in the opening half-hour, neither team was able to break the deadlock despite a pair falling for both sides. However, in the 37th minute, Zayed was able to put his team in front on the first time asking. Midfielder Ben Speas broke into the box but saw a deflected effort fall into the path of Zayed, he slotted first time past Spangenberg.Going into the halftime break with a 1-0 lead, Indy Eleven would double their tally, again from Eamon Zayed, who celebrated his birthday with a brace. Taking a ball down from Marco Franco, Zayed again pushed his way through a crowd to get on the scoresheet. However, “La Naranja” would not go quietly, and a penalty in the 92nd minute pulled one back to make it 2-1.“Indiana’s Team” would hold onto their lead through the fulltime whistle and collect an important three points as their push for the playoffs continues.Indy Eleven returns home to IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium to host the New York Cosmos on Saturday, October 7 at 7:30 P.M. Et. Tickets for the game – and all remaining 2+ NASL matches at “The Mike” in 2017 – can be purchased for as little as $11 online at www.IndyEleven.com or by phone at 317-685-1100.
NASL Fall Season
Indy Eleven 2 : 1 Puerto Rico FC
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Carroll Stadium – Indianapolis, IN

Scoring Summary:
IND – Eamon Zayed 37’
IND – Eamon Zayed (Marco Franco) 62’
PRFC – Giuseppe Gentile 90+2’
Discipline Summary:
IND – Gerardo Torrado 55’
PRFC – Giuseppe Gentile 67’
IND – Cory Miller 86’
IND – David Goldsmith 90+2’
IND – Kwame Watson-Siriboe 90+3’

Indy Eleven lineup (4-2-3-1, L–>R):  Jon Busch (GK); Daniel Keller (Cory Miller 58), Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Colin Falvey ©, Marco Franco (Craig Henderson 75’); Gerardo Torrado, Brad Ring; Nemanja Vukovic, Ben Speas (David Goldsmith 83’), Don Smart; Eamon Zayed
IND bench: Keith Cardona (GK); Sinisa Ubiparipovic, Tanner Thompson, Paulo Junior

Puerto Rico FC lineup (4-3-3, L->R): Trevor Spangenberg (GK); Seth Moses, Phanuel Kavita, Ramon Soria, Kyle Culbertson; Michael Kafari (Mario Rubio 56’), Jordi Quintilla, Connor Doyle; Jairo Puerto (Jackie Marrero 41’, Michael Ramos 76’), Giuseppe Gentile, Sydney RiveraPRFC bench: Austin Pack (GK); Cristiano Dias, Rudy Dawson, Jake Stovall, Michael Ramos

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