So disappointing to see US youngster Pulisic sit the pine for 80 minutes – in the 1-0 loss for Dortmund @ Benefica. I thought Dortmunds mistake was not putting in the American earlier – after blowing chance after chance in a game where they outshot the home team 6-1 it was Pulisic who added new life to Dortmund with his lightening quick runs. He had a few good runs that could have led to assists and 2 blistering shots from the top of the 18 on corners. His first deflected and would have scored if not for the lucky reaction save by the Benefica keeper. Ten minutes earlier on the sub and perhaps Pulisic finds an assist in the game – he was that good in his 14 minutes on the pitch. Maybe next game they will offer him the start? Great games this week – as Bayern Leverkusen and Mexican star Chichirito face Atletico Madrid Tues and Man City hosts Monaco. Let me know if anyone wants to meet to watch the games somewhere for a late lunch! The Indy 11 start preseason at Butler on Friday night at 5 pm.
Sat, Feb 18
9:30 am Fox Sport2 HerthaBSC (US John Brooks) vs Bayern Munich
10 am Fox Sport 1 Huddersfield vs Man City – FA Cup
12:30 pm FS1 Wolverhampton vs Chelseas – FA Cup
Sun, Feb 19
9 am Fox Sport 1 Fulham vs Tottenham FA Cup
9:30 am FS2 Borussia M’Gladbach (US Johnson) vs Red Bull Leipzig
11:30 FS1 Blackburn vs Man United FA Cup
Tues, Feb 21 – Champions League
2:45 pm Fox Sport 2 Bayer Levekusen vs Atletico Madrid
2:45 pm Fox Sport 1 Manchester City vs Monaco
Weds, Feb 22
2:45 pm Fox Sport 1 Sevilla vs Leicester City
2:45 pm Fox Sport 2 Porto vs Juventus
Weds, Mar 1 – She Believes Cup
4 pm ?? France vs England Women
7 pm Fox Sports 1 US Women vs Germany
Sat, Mar 4 – She Believes Cup
4 pm ?? France vs Germany Women
5 pm Fox US Women vs England
Indy 11 and MLS
MLS expansion city profile: Indianapolis
BRIAN STRAUS Friday February 10th, 2017
It may very well be the most underrated sports city in the country. Indianapolis has only two major league teams. That’s not a lot. But the public and political commitment made to the Colts and Pacers is notable, as is the region’s connection to the sports world beyond the “big four.”It begins, of course, with the iconic Indy 500, which consumes the city each Memorial Day weekend. It’s the planet’s largest one-day sporting event. There’s the Brickyard 400 as well. It’s not nearly as old as its open-wheel counterpart, but it remains a highlight of the NASCAR calendar and one of the circuit’s richest races. Back in the city, the Indianapolis Indians are minor league baseball’s second-oldest team—they first took the field in 1902—and last season they attracted the second-highest average attendance below MLB. The Indiana Fever have won a WNBA title and draw crowds that exceed the league average. And Wayne Gretzky began his pro career with the old Indianapolis Racers.Indianapolis is the site of the NCAA and the NFHS, which governs sports at the high school level. Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse is home to several well-known Cinderella basketball stories, from the Bulldogs’ two recent Final Four runs to Milan High’s stunning state title in 1954. The Hickory Huskers won their championship there as well—that one’s much easier to find on film.Super Bowl XLVI, seven men’s and three women’s Final Fours, the Big Ten football championship, the 1987 Pan Am Games, the 2002 FIBA world championship—they all were hosted in Indianapolis.Now the city that calls itself the “Crossroads of America” and its three-year-old NASL club, Indy Eleven, hope to attract MLS. And they’re using that impressive, if under-appreciated, sporting culture as a lure. “No city in the country has made sports a focal point quite like Indianapolis—and no city is better equipped to welcome Major League Soccer,” the Eleven’s bid summary reads.It calls Indianapolis, “A city that has fully embraced the role of sports as a both a driver of growth and the centerpiece of its civic identity across the last four decades.”
That civic identity and commitment will be central to Indy’s bid, since the market itself doesn’t particularly stand out from its MLS expansion competitors on raw numbers. Indianapolis anchors the 34th most populous metro area in the USA. That’s not too small for MLS—San Jose is 35th and Salt Lake City 48th—but it means Indy will have to excel in other areas. As a media market, it’s a more attractive 27th. That’s higher than several expansion rivals.Four Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in the area and multinationals like Honda, Salesforce and Rolls-Royce have significant presences. Forbes named Indianapolis as the country’s 10th best city for young professionals thanks to the area’s job growth and relative low cost of living. Indy Eleven president Jeff Belskus used to be president and CEO at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He knows Circle City sports, and he said top-tier soccer would be a perfect fit.“There is momentum for our stadium. We’ve got good local ownership. Indianapolis is a sports market,” he told SI.com. “[MLS] is so logical for us … [The response to the MLS bid] has been overwhelmingly positive. Folks look forward to having MLS here in Indianapolis and feel like it would be a great addition to this community.”
Indy Eleven and the MLS bid are led by Ersal Ozdemir, a native of southern Turkey who moved to Indiana to study civil engineering at Purdue. He made his millions as the founder of Keystone, a construction and real estate company now based in Indianapolis. Ozdemir launched the Eleven in 2013 and hired soccer start-up savant Peter Wilt to build the team and front office.Ozdemir is very well connected in Indianapolis. His board memberships include the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, the University of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. He also co-chaired a host committee ahead of Super Bowl XLVI.Joining Ozdemir in the MLS investor group are National Bank of Indianapolis and Indianapolis Business Journal chairman Mickey Maurer, Heritage Environmental Services president and CEO Jeff Laborsky, Elwood Staffing CEO Mark Elwood and Mohr Auto Group founder Andy Mohr.
The plan is to rely on Indy’s love for sports. The city, county and state’s support for athletics is hard to miss on a stroll through Indianapolis’s small but dense downtown. The massive Lucas Oil Stadium isn’t only the “House That Peyton Built.” The $720 million venue opened in 2008 thanks largely to the collection of tourism-related taxes (food, hotels, rental cars, etc.) in the city and surrounding counties. The Colts chipped in $100 million.The Pacers’ Bankers Life Fieldhouse opened its doors in 1999 and cost $183 million. It was paid for through similar means, and the Pacers have collected additional millions since then to cover operating and maintenance costs. Marion County’s Capital Improvement Board, which managed the funding of the two major league arenas, also funneled $20 million toward the Indians’ stadium and $53 million toward renovation of Indiana Farmers Coliseum, which hosts the ECHL’s Indiana Fuel and IUPUI basketball.The key to adding a soccer stadium to that portfolio, Belskus said, is the creation by the state legislature of what is called a Professional Sports Development Area (PSDA). Once the PSDA’s boundaries are defined, the city and county can pass bills providing for the collection of taxes within the footprint. Indy Eleven is asking for the creation of a PSDA that would enclose the stadium it hopes to build between the NFL venue and the White River. Belskus said the taxes would be raised through stadium usage—from tickets, concessions and parking to the salaries of those who work there.“If you don’t go to events at the stadium or you don’t work at the stadium, you don’t pay,” Belskus explained.The stadium would be owned by the city and leased back by the club, which also intends to contribute some $10 million toward construction, which Belskus estimates would cost around $120 million. Ozdemir and his partners will foot the entire MLS expansion fee.In 2015, the Eleven’s first attempt to secure stadium funding died in committee. The Indiana State House agreed to funnel user taxes toward a new venue. The senate preferred to spend money to upgrade Carroll Stadium, the Eleven’s current home on the campus of IUPUI. The government was willing to raise $20 million and spend the money, it just couldn’t figure out how to do it. Nevertheless, Belskus said those “yes” votes indicate a genuine interest in soccer. “That’s part of the reason for our confidence and optimism about getting this done. They’ve shown support in the past,” he said.MLS’s expansion standards require the new stadium, so that’s the goal. And the key will be explaining the project to the public.“We’ve been paying attention to social media and down at the State House in terms of the reaction, and reports have been positive and the coverage has been positive by and large,” Belskus said. “The only negative we seem to run into from time to time is, I’ll call it ‘stadium fatigue.’ People don’t necessarily understand the project and they’re afraid we’re asking for tax increases or that we’re trying to take money away from other projects, neither of which is the case. That’s the only negative we run into.”
Soccer and sports scene
Despite the robust sports scene, the Eleven have carved out their niche and been a noteworthy soccer success story over the past three years. They play in a convenient stadium (Carroll is within walking distance of downtown). They’ve got a cool logo featuring the Victory statue from Indy’s imposing Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument. And at the start, they had Wilt’s experience and savvy. Combined, that helped attract sell-out crowds eclipsing 10,400 at every NASL game in 2014. That figure included 7,000 season ticket holders. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck is a big soccer fan, lives near Carroll and has stopped by on occasion.Indy struggled on the field in ’14 and ’15 and attendance dropped to 8,362 per match last season. Still, over those three years, only Sacramento Republic has brought in more fans among clubs below MLS. The Eleven’s on-field fortunes turned last year, with the club finishing second in the regular season standings before losing the NASL final to the New York Cosmos on penalties.The semifinal victory over FC Edmonton, which drew 9,700, was the biggest soccer game played in Indianapolis in some time. The senior men’s national team has never played in Indiana, and the women visited Indianapolis twice in the late 1990s. In August 2013, nearly 42,000 showed up for a Chelsea-AC Milan friendly at Lucas Oil Stadium. And the city has hosted four neutral-site U.S. Open Cup finals, most recently in 1997.Bloomington, which is home to Indiana University’s juggernaut soccer program, is about 55 miles south of the city. The state boasts a strong youth soccer base, which includes approximately 65,000 registered players. Carmel United SC, which is now part of the Chicago Fire Juniors program, won U.S. Soccer Development Academy titles in 2008 (U-16) and ’09 (U-18).Beyond the soccer field, the Colts play to capacity crowds and the Pacers are averaging 16,704, which is some 1,200 seats below capacity.
Indy has a strong, established fan base and a good brand. Bringing a proven entity into MLS should be more comforting than starting something from scratch. And an MLS team might provide an obvious regional rival to either the Fire or the Columbus Crew, two clubs which still haven’t managed to stoke much long-term reciprocal hatred. The proposed stadium location is attractive and pretty much the MLS ideal. Indianapolis boasts a growing downtown, and there’s plenty of food, drink, entertainment and recreation available within a short walk of the site.
The Eleven are relying on politicians. That’s not a comfortable place to be, and the lack of certainty surrounding the project will turn off MLS if the league is ready to name teams No. 25 and 26 before the required votes are cast. That would lower Indy’s odds. MLS loves a public-private partnership, but sometimes those don’t work out. Soccer came close but ultimately failed two years ago, and it’s still a few hurdles away from the finish line now.In addition, Indianapolis doesn’t really represent a hole in the MLS map. The Midwest is crowded with existing teams and expansion hopefuls, and there are several other directions MLS could go. The Eleven have three years of traction. But Detroit has a bigger market and investors with NBA cache. St. Louis has those deep soccer roots, Cincinnati boasts bumper crowds and Nashville has a coolness quotient plus the Ingram family’s billions. Indy is a mid-size market that has work to do if it hopes to stand out from the crowd.
Deputy Commissioner’s Thoughts
SI.com reported that Indy planned to bid for a team on Jan. 30, the day before expansion applications were due. Ozdemir had not gone public with his intentions and as a result, MLS commissioner Don Garber and other officials hadn’t commented on the city’s prospects.MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott conducted a media conference call after applications were submitted and said, “The thing that I think is interesting is … the team there has been successful from its perspective, and they have begun work on a downtown stadium plan. Other than that, I don’t have a lot of specifics to comment on with respect to their plan, but those were two components that obviously we’re aware of.”
Armchair Analyst: Predicting Arena’s USMNT squad for World Cup qualifiers
February 6, 20179:22PM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer MLS.com
LISTEN: Don’t let the Super Bowl get you down. The ETR crew is here to help you forget (unless you’re a Revs fan), starting with USMNT January camp redux and the latest MLS news. Once that’s out of the way, FourFourTwo’s MLS ace Paul Tenorio calls in to explain why it’s possible Chicharito could arrive in MLS this summer — and just how much cash it would take to get the deal done. You won’t want to miss any shows leading up to opening day, so be sure to subscribe on iTunes!
Bruce Arena’s first camp in his return to the helm of the US national team is in the books. We laughed, we cried, we learned a lot and we scored a very little. These are all things that are to be expected as players shake the rust off every winter, and as I wrote elsewhere, I’m much more pleased about The Process™ than I am discouraged by the lack of goalscoring. Why’s that? Because when the games really matter, Arena will be able to call upon guys like Bobby Wood, Christian Pulisic and Fabian Johnson. Put those guys in a coherent system, and you’ll get results more often than not. With that in mind, here is the 23-man roster I’d expect to see Arena call for the must-win qualifiers against Honduras and at Panama at the end of March. I’m going to include some bonus call-ups as well, since Arena has hinted he’ll be calling more than 23 players in next month.
Guzan would have the No. 1 job sewn up if he was playing at all, but he’s not. He’s played 180 minutes since August, and unless Victor Valdes strains a muscle that number’s not likely to budge. So I have Rimando at No. 1, with Hamid (please get and stay healthy, Bill) edging out guys like Luis Robles, David Bingham and Ethan Horvath for the No. 3 job. If he’s not fit, one of the other guys – let’s say Bingham – gets the nod instead.
Bonus: If Tim Howard is close to healthy, he’ll get called into the squad.
- Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
- Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna… for now)
Johnson eventually became a very good defensive player, highlighted by his performance this past summer in the Copa America. Prior to that, when Jurgen Klinsmann was playing Johnson at RB or LB, he’d just cut our primary wing playmaker (Landon Donovan) and wasn’t calling in our creative central mids (Sacha Kljestan, Benny Feilhaber, Lee Nguyen). Our pool has now developed a few wide playmakers (Pulisic, Darlington Nagbe & Paul Arriola), and Arena has committed to getting a playmaking central midfielder on the field as well.That means Johnson is less crucial as a wide attacker, and in fact resource allocation suggests he’d be best used as a LB. Villafaña straight up won the job with a great performance at camp, though he could lose it if he doesn’t find a club that’ll put him on the field.
Bonus: DaMarcus Beasley forever!
- DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United)
- Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest)
Yedlin, who’s been called “the best fullback in the Championship,” is a lock to start if healthy. Lichaj, who’s been one of the most consistent fullbacks in the Championship this decade, has plenty of experience playing on either flank and 11 US caps to his name, so there’s no real worry that he’ll be overwhelmed in the moment or suffer from the same type of adjustment pains that have plagued other Euro-based players.
Plus he’s one of the few guys out there who’s equally adept at both right and left back, which is handy when making up gameday 18s. His ability to play either spot could make it very easy for Arena to drop down to three fullbacks, and then add a bit of extra depth elsewhere on the roster.
Let’s get back to Yedlin for a minute. He’s been awesome this year, particularly on the overlap:
We saw against both Serbia and Jamaica that the US can lack both width and penetration if the fullbacks don’t push forward, and Yedlin – with his 1.3 key passes per game – brings both. He also has the kind of electric recovery speed that is necessary when pushing the game, which the US will have to do.Bonus: Graham Zusi will be at this camp as a right back, but I don’t think he’ll appear.
If you’re wondering why Timmy Chandler, who’s starting for a top three team in the Bundesliga isn’t on this list: The US are 9-10-6 all-time when he starts, and 2-3-2 in official competitions. Enough.
Hat tip to the great Paul Carr for those numbers.
- John Brooks (Hertha Berlin)
- Geoff Cameron (Stoke City)
- Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca)
- Steve Birnbaum(D.C. United)
Brooks had the single worst performance I can ever remember from a US player in that 4-0 loss at Costa Rica, and was the man who lost Rafa Marquez on the Mexican game-winner in Columbus days earlier. I don’t, however, believe that’s the real John Brooks. I believe the real John Brooks is the guy we saw in last summer’s Copa, and the guy who goes 90 minutes every week for Hertha Berlin.There’s concern on that second part in Cameron’s case, as he’s been hurt for nearly four months now. But he’s supposedly on the verge of returning, and if he gets games over the next six weeks then there’s no reason for Arena to go in a different direction.Gonzalez, who is having another strong year in Liga MX, and Birnbaum round out my group of four.
Bonus: I expect at least one, and perhaps all three of Matt Besler, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman to be called in. And it wouldn’t shock me to see Arena officially carry five CBs instead of four, at the expense of one of the FBs.
Here’s the part where I start splitting hairs. In short: I think it’s important to carry two guys who are specifically, unambiguously defensive midfielders on the roster. Clearly that’s Bradley’s best spot and it’s his job to start, and at this point I think McCarty is the second-best option in the pool.
Bonus: You could talk me into Perry Kitchen or Danny Williams, for sure. But given the roster integration and chemistry issues at play here, I think it’s much more likely we see those guys during the Gold Cup in summer.
These guys are all technically “central midfielders,” but I have a suspicion each is more likely to be used out wide by Arena in what I think will be a 4-1-3-2. If Pulisic is on one side of that “3”, then the other can/should be balanced by a more conservative, more defensively robust player who’ll tuck inside to help in possession and in maintaining defensive shape. Jones is suspended for Honduras, but I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t start vs. Panama. To me it feels like the starting role vs. the Catrachos comes down to the veteran Bedoya, or the relative newcomer in Lletget.
These guys can and do all play the box-to-box role if Arena wants to change from a version of the 4-4-2 to a version of the 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3.
Bonus: I bet Kellyn Acosta will be in camp.
- Kljestan (RBNY)
- Feilhaber (Sporting KC)
In an alternate universe this has been the defining positional battle of the decade for the US. Oh well, at least they’re back now!I thought Feilhaber was the better player against Serbia and Jamaica, and it was his creativity that led to the only goal under Arena thus far:
That said, Kljestan was the better player in MLS last year, and he was very good when he got on the field for qualifiers late in the summer. Creating instant chemistry with Bradley and Pulisic – even against relative minnows – is not something to take lightly.Either way, both of these guys should be on the roster, and one of them should be on the field. It’s also important to note that both are about as honest as any No. 10 in the world when it comes to defensive tracking, which should allow Arena to comfortably trot out a 4-1-3-2/4-3-1-2 without worrying about defensive structure and integrity. Nguyen’s lack of the same is why I think he’s on the outside looking in.
Bonus: If Emerson Hyndman keeps getting on the scoreboard for Rangers, I’d be happy to see him called into this camp. But I do think it’s much more likely we see him in the summer.
- Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
- Nagbe (Portland Timbers)
Pulisic is the starter, and hopefully this generation’s version of Donovan – an inventive, lightning-quick attacker who can take good moments and turn them into decisive moments.Nagbe is different in that his productivity has only sporadically matched his potential, but he showed well against Serbia in stretching the field, and will get a chance to do so for Portland this year, too. There seems to be real hope that this is the year the switch is finally flipped and he becomes a dominant attacking player.Even if that doesn’t happen, though, Nagbe still brings so much stuff to the table. I could easily talk myself into starting him on one side of the midfield with Pulisic on the other, and tasking Nagbe with staying tight to the central midfielders in order to bolster possession and gum up opposing transition opportunities. He’s done that job for his club before, and it’s literally the first job he ever did for his country when he made his debut against Trinidad & Tobago in November of 2015.That might make one of the three guys listed as central midfielders above expendable, but I’m not even close to sure of that.Bonus: I hate myself for leaving Arriola off this roster, because he’s been so good for Tijuana this year. You could argue he’s been the best two-way wide player in Liga MX, and he’s certainly been productive in his US appearances thus far.
These guys are pretty clearly the top three in the current forward stable, and Morris does, of course, have a level of comfort playing wide if Arena wants to switch to a 4-2-3-1.Let’s all remember that the best part of 2016 was 1) the chemistry the first-choice center defense showed with Bradley at d-mid, and 2) the chemistry Altidore and Wood showed up top together when pretty much everything behind them was falling apart:
If they’re starting in front of a midfield that has a sensible structure, Pulisic on one of the wings, a true No. 10, and a pair of fullbacks who threaten on the overlap, then I’m pretty confident they’ll figure out a way to put the ball into the net more than once.
Bonus: Gyasi Zardes is pretty clearly in the mix here if he gets healthy. And I want Juan Agudelo to be because his hold-up play is arguably the best in the pool, but he needs to start banging in goals right out of the gate for New England. There’s also that Clint Dempsey fellow. ESPN’s Taylor Twellman reported last week that Arena swore Dempsey wouldn’t be involved in the March qualifiers, but Deuce has been cleared to play and has now actually taken the field for Seattle in preseason. It’s just 30 minutes and I’m sure it’s a long way back to full fitness, but if he’s kicking the ball in anger for the Sounders come March, I can’t imagine he wouldn’t have a role in a pair of do-or-die games for the US.
And here, for posterity, is my XI vs. Honduras:
I Am an American Coach- Bob Bradley
FEB 15 2017
HOTO BY HARRY TRUMP/GETTY IMAGES
BOB BRADLEY VARIOUS CLUBS / MANAGER
When I was introduced at Swansea City, I was asked what it meant to be the first American manager in the Premier League. My answer was simple and straightforward: I was proud. Very proud. But then I quickly switched gears because I didn’t think any of Swansea’s diehard supporters would care about that angle. A day or so later, a journalist wrote that I was defensive about being American. That was wrong. I just didn’t think it mattered.
Maybe I was wrong about that.The thought of being an American manager rarely crosses my mind. My ideas and philosophies have been shaped by the experiences I’ve had around the world, with players and coaches from all types of backgrounds. A great friend, former Seton Hall coach Manfred Schellscheidt who studied at the German Sport University Cologne, helped me to understand the differences between a pair of German coaching legends, the practical Hennes Weisweiler and the studious Dettmar Cramer. I coached Hristo Stoichkov, a Bulgarian, who had a lot to say about the influence of Johan Cruyff, a Dutchman, at Barcelona. The Frenchman Youri Djorkaeff told me a wonderful story about the time before the 1998 World Cup that Aimé Jacquet pulled both him and Zinedine Zidane aside and told them, “You two must be the sunshine for the French team.” I went to Egypt after the 2011 revolution to manage the national team. Just a few months after I arrived, 74 fans lost their lives in the tragedy in the stadium at Port Said. The next time the national team got together, I looked into the eyes of players who had held dying young men in their arms inside the dressing room. I challenged them to be a united example for their country.But for as much experience as I’ve had with the game all over the world, I am an American first and foremost. When I was a teenager I went to a basketball camp in northern New Jersey where Hubie Brown asked us, “What do you catch a pass with?” There was silence in the gym after somebody immediately said, “Your hands.” And then Coach Brown said, “No, my friend. You catch a pass with your eyes.” A decade later, when I was an assistant to Bruce Arena at Virginia, I became friends with the assistant coach of the women’s basketball team. His name was Geno Auriemma. The three of us would huddle quietly in the soccer office (conveniently located next to the visitors’ locker room in University Hall), where we would listen to greats like Dean Smith, Jim Valvano and Mike Krzyzewski address their teams.
I’ve learned a lot from observing Sacchi, Ferguson and Guardiola. I also learned just as much from watching Pete Carril — the former men’s basketball coach at Princeton, where I was the soccer coach from 1984 to ’95 — teach his players the importance of a good pass. I still learn from the intelligent way Gregg Popovich handles his team and the media.
When I took the UEFA Pro Licence course, which is required to coach in a top league in Europe, I explained to a few of my Norwegian friends that there are no basketball coaching licenses in the U.S. Coaching is a craft. You learn from playing, doing, experimenting, emulating, adjusting. You never stop learning. You learn from your players, from your experiences.
You learn from the game.
Before the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, I wanted our national team players to hear another voice besides my own. A voice of experience. Someone who understood winning. So I had Bill Russell join us for a few days. His wisdom on how to both compete and give to teammates fit perfectly with our work to be a team with a strong mentality. That was ready to fight until the last whistle. I think it helped us win our group, which we did when Landon Donovan scored a stoppage-time winner against Algeria.
When I was done coaching the U.S., I wanted new challenges. I wanted to get better. To prove myself. So I went to Egypt. The dream for all Egyptians was to go to the World Cup.
After the massacre in Port Said in February 2012 the Egyptian Premier League stopped play. Because of that, players went unpaid. There was great uncertainty. The national team was forced to play important home matches in empty stadiums. Nearly every day, I was asked by reporters and colleagues, “Why are you still here?” My answer was always the same: As a leader you have responsibility. You must be an example. You can’t be the first one out the door. O BY SCOTT NELSON/SI/GETTY IMAGES
The Egypt national team won seven of eight qualifiers but did not make it to the World Cup. It will always be one of my biggest disappointments. More than anything I wanted Mohammed Aboutrika to finish his career playing in the World Cup in Brazil. During my two years in Egypt he was my blood brother. It was an honor to coach him.A few months later, I had the chance to return to club football. This time in Europe. I took over Stabæk in Norway in January 2014.The club was struggling financially and operating on a very small budget. Most of my friends and contemporaries told me to stay away — that there was no way to survive in Norway’s top league and that relegation was a certainty. But this small club had a big heart. It had soul. The first year we battled to finish mid-table. In the second season we competed with Norwegian powerhouse Rosenborg until the final weeks before finishing third and earning a place in Europa League. My players and I were proud of what we accomplished. I felt ready to take on another challenge.
I went to France and took over Le Havre A.C., a member of Ligue 2, in November 2015 — the first time I had joined a team in the middle of a season. The team did well, but the last day of the 2016 season was a roller coaster. A mix of pride and disappointment. We won 5–0 that night, but it wasn’t enough. We finished tied with Metz for third place. The top three teams in Ligue 2 would be promoted to Ligue 1. We had the same points. The same goal differential. The next tiebreaker was goals scored. Every player pushed until the very end, but we fell one goal short.
The night ended with supporters embracing players on the field.
All those experiences led to my opportunity at Swansea. The 2016–17 season had already started at Le Havre, but I got word that Swansea might be interested in making a coaching change. I knew if I went there that I would be entering a tough — maybe impossible — situation. The team had started poorly and the takeover by American owners had angered the club’s supporters. But managing at the top level of English football was the ultimate challenge. I had worked hard to prepare for this opportunity. I had to go for it. O BY KEVORK DJANSEZIAN/GETTY IMAGES
As the first American manager in the Premier League, I fully understood how hard it was going to be to establish myself. Without the benefit of a preseason, the work to change the team would have to be done gradually. The key in the short run was to take enough points to satisfy critics and restore confidence with the players.When I first arrived I met with a group from the Swansea City Supporters’ Trust. I knew that they were disappointed that they hadn’t been consulted before I was hired. So I spoke candidly to them. I said, “I understand there’s some work to be done, and I understand what this club means to all of you. I’m here to do things in a way that makes the supporters proud of what they see on the field, and to make sure that the connection between the club and its most faithful supporters is strong.”
My first meeting with the players didn’t last long. We needed to get to work. So I gathered them together and said, “I’m looking forward to working with all of you. I don’t arrive with the answers. I have come to listen. To observe. To get to know you. For you to get to know me. To make you a better player and a better person. I have my ideas on how we should do things and what the team should be about, but this is about all of us.”
After 70 days with the club, I had dinner with the owners and the chairman. There was confidence and optimism that night following an important 3–0 win over Sunderland at the Liberty a few days earlier. We had won a respectable eight points from my eight matches in charge and, more importantly, had two wins and a draw in our last four games.
But in the week that followed we lost two away matches. The script was familiar. We’d start well, but concede the first goal. Playing from behind meant taking risks and opening up. Confidence dropped and we were not able to build on our positive results.OMy postgame interview after a 3–0 loss to Middlesbrough only made matters worse. I said that we needed to show more resilience “on the road” (the English prefer the word away), and referred to a penalty kick as a “PK.” People on social media screamed that American sports terms had no place in the Premier League.
By the time we returned home to the Liberty for our next match against West Ham, I knew the pressure was on. But I am battle tested and never doubted myself. As a coach you must understand that the one thing you cannot control is the result. You control the work. You control the message. I have always encouraged my players to play without fear, and the West Ham match was no different. Again we started well, but our failure to clear a free kick saw us go down 1–0. Changes at halftime didn’t change the result. We lost 4–1. By the end the frustration and anger from the supporters was clear. As always, I was the first one to the training ground the next morning. My routine stayed the same. In the morning, recovery for the starters and on-the-field work for the guys who hadn’t played. In the afternoon, video work and preparation for the next match against Bournemouth. When I arrived home that night I received a message from the chairman: “Would you meet me at the academy?”
When I got that message, I knew exactly what was happening.
As they say in the Premier League, I got the sack. I failed. Failed to put my stamp on the team at Swansea. To give it a real identity. A real personality. I never managed to find the right balance between attack and defense. I couldn’t find the answers for this group to play with the commitment and passion that so many of my other teams possessed. We never found consistency or confidence.
Paul Clement followed me as manager and has done an excellent job. Team shape has improved and the confidence has returned. Yes, Paul benefitted from the transfer window that I never had. But that’s football. It can be a tough business and it’s important to respect good work. Full credit to Paul.
One last word for the supporters. I loved my time at your club. I was committed to making it work. I’m sorry I couldn’t be your manager longer.For 85 days I put my heart and soul into Swansea City. I listened and observed. I watched games over and over. I constantly engaged the players and staff to figure out how we could become a good team. I pushed training and challenged the players to believe. To get better. To understand me and my ideas. I drew on all my experiences, and was never afraid to be myself or to take responsibility. With the players. With the staff. With the media. And with all the people I met in Swansea. It’s the only way I know.To get anywhere in life you must experience failure. I remain proud and strong. I am ready for the next challenge.And yes, I am an American coach.BOB BRADLEYCONTRIBUTOR
Aubameyang, Dortmund forget their finishing boots at Benfica
Wasteful Borussia Dortmund suffered a highly undeserved 1-0 loss at the Estadio da Luz on Tuesday night, after being the highly dominant team over 90 minutes.
There are very few teams that take the game to Benfica like Dortmund did on Tuesday night. After an atrocious performance in their 2-1 shock defeat away to bottom Darmstadt on the weekend, the Black and Yellows were in need of a good performance. Although the result didn’t show it, the BVB players in unison told reporters after the game, that they will progress to the next round with the same performance at the Westfalenstadion.
There is no way past looking at the spurned chances. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fluffed a hat trick of clear cut chances — including a weakly taken penalty. BVB have only themselves to blame for coming home empty-handed.
Manager rating out of 10
7 — Thomas Tuchel’s team were the dominant side and looked better prepared than the hosts but were just unable to finish off their chances.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Roman Burki, 6 — Not much to do for the goalkeeper, who was unlucky the ball bounced perfectly for Kostas Mitroglou.
DF Erik Durm, 5 — A solid showing by the right-back, who is often times doing the dirty work so his teammates can shine.
DF Lukasz Piszczek, 5 — Missed his marker when Dortmund conceded the goal in the 48th minute.
DF Sokratis Papastathopoulos, 7 — A resolute performance by the Greek centre-back, who had Benfica’s attackers in his pocket more often than not. With BVB putting pressure on the hosts upfront, Papastathopoulos could win many balls by moving out of his defence.
DF Marc Bartra, 8 — “Very good,” Sokratis said about his partner in defence after the match. There is little more to add to describe Bartra’s performance. As the game went on, the Spaniard moved further forward and conducted the play.
DF Marcel Schmelzer, 6 — Could have attempted a flat pass behind Benfica’s back line more often from his advanced position as left wing-back.
MF Julian Weigl, 8 — Weigl must like trips to Portugal as he is awarded a lot of space, especially compared to the Bundesliga where he is marked out of the game more often than not. Said after the match that he “didn’t mind” the space with a cheeky smile. He was a big reason why Dortmund could impose their dominance.
MF Raphael Guerreiro, 6 — Linked up well between Weigl and the attack, but lacked accuracy for a fully glorious performance.
MF Ousmane Dembele, 6 — The 19-year-old was BVB’s focal point in the first 20 minutes, as he wreaked havoc in Benfica’s half. With a little more calmness, he could have lobbed Ederson rather than putting the ball straight at the Benfica keeper. Went off the boil in the second half.
FW Marco Reus, 6 — The 27-year-old ran tirelessly for his team tonight, making important runs in Gegenpressing.
FW Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, 3 –– For all the clear-cut chances he missed — including one of the most unconvincing penalties ever to be taken by a Dortmund player. Arguably a harsh rating, but it was a truly dreadful night for the striker, who has lost his finishing touch since the turn of the year.
FW Andre Schurrle, 3 — With Tuchel getting frustrated with Aubameyang, Schurrle got a run-out in the 62nd minute. However, it wasn’t much of an improvement.
MF Christian Pulisic, NR — Introduced in the 82nd minute for Marco Reus, the youngster couldn’t pull off a mazing run through the Benfica backline. (Ok this sucks – Pulisic had 2 solid shots in 12 minutes of play – had a solid cross that Dortmund couldn’t get a head on and a mazing run through the backline that served a perfect ball across the goal that no one could get a foot on – 15 more minutes might just have lead to an assist for the American –man his deflected shot that he blasted in the 90th minute could have changed his life! – OBC)
MF Gonzalo Castro, NR — Replaced Raphael Guerreiro with eight minutes left on the clock. Won some balls deep in the opponent’s half, but didn’t find the right solution going forward in the hectic minutes.Stefan Buczko covers Borussia Dortmund for ESPN FC. Twitter: @StefanBuczko.Sponsored Headlines
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