3/30 – Indy 11 Home Opener Sat 3 pm, USA Ties at Panama, World Leagues Return to Play, Full TV-game schedule

Well the US got the 4 points they needed in World Cup Qualifying this weekend with a 1-1 tie at Panama last night, following their 6-0 win on Thurs.  They now stand in 4th overall – and are in good shape heading into the June qualifiers in Denver and at Azteca.  Panama was too good a team to give up multiple goals at home – and the 1-1 tie was honestly a good result as Timmy Howard was called upon at least 3 times to make fantastic saves to preserve the tie.  The game showed the US depth along the back line as 2nd stringers Gonzales, and Tim Ream held down the middle for the slightly injured Brooks and Cameron.  While Zuzi survived the night at right back.  I thought Villafana was fine again at left back and might have a least for now nailed down his position moving forward at left back.  Zusi was fried a # of times especially in the 1st half with Pulisic not tracking back to help him.  Overall the defense was ok – but looked really week on set pieces as no one took charge and won the header a # of times in the box.  I think we can look forward to a Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Villafana back line as the June Qualifiers roll around assuming they are all healthy.  I thought the forward line looked ok – obviously Pulisic was special again – and his connection with Dempsey is obvious.  I am going to say I like Pulisic underneath as a #10 beneath the forwards however not as a winger.  The force feed of Jones into the line-up last night – to me shows that Jones and Bradley simply can’t be the tandum in the midfield.  Bradley was fantastic Thurs night at home with Pulisic in the 10, Nagbe controlling play on the left and Leggett/Bedoya on the right.  Jones simply doesn’t play the right side – and I think at his age – he should now be considered for a 70th minute sub role rather than a starter if Bradley is going to be the #6 – which is where he belongs.   Assuming FW Woods, MF Johnson and Right Back Yedlin return to the fold in June – the Bruce will have some decisions to make regarding personel as he moves forward.  A good problem to have however the US depth will continue to help us in qualifying and the Gold Cup this summer should hopefully allow Bruce to give the younger guys a good look.

We are down to the Final 8 – Quarterfinals in Champions League –  with 2 games each on Apr 11/12  & 18/19 with Barcelona vs Juve and Bayern vs Real Madrid looking like the best match-ups on Fox Sports 1 & 2.  Also at the Quarters is Europa League on 4/13 as Man United face Anderlect.   Big weekend on TV – as Liverpool faces Everton Sat 7:30 NBCSB, Sun has Man City hosting Arsenal 11 am NBCSN and I hope to be at the Real Madrid vs Alves game in Spain 10:15 am on beIN Sports.

Good luck to our Indy 11 as they kick-off their regular season on the road vs the expansion side San Francisco Deltas on Saturday at 3 pm live at the MIKE vs Puerto Rico FC.

Champions League

Tues Apr 11 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Juventus vs Barcelona  

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Dortmund vs Monaco

Weds  –Apr 12 Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Atletico vs Leicester City

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid

Quarter Final – Elite 8 Match-ups – Who’s going Thru?  ESPNFC

Elite 8 #s 

Indy 11

Indy 11 Signs Major Corporate Sponsor Turkish Airlines

Indy 11 put 3 on Team of the Week in NASL

3 Things Indy 11 vs San Fran

Recap – Indy 11 1-1 Draw at San Fran

Indy 11 – Curious Lineup for Season Opener – Aaron Gunyonwww.soctakes.com

The Boys from Soc Takes – Break Down the Opener –

Indy 11 Season Tickets

Indy 11 Flex Pack – 8 game Flex Package

Indy 11 on TV locally

Local Broadcast of Indy 11 Games

Indy 11 Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club – June 19-22  9-12 pm

 USA

Pulisic Wows again, Dempsey scores as US Claim the tie at Panama – Grant Wahl SI

US Jones and Bradley Can’t play Together – SB Nation

Time for Jones to Step Down – Armchair Analyst – Mathew Doyle MLS.com

Player Ratings – MLS.com

US Player Ratings ESPNFC Jason Davis

Who is GOAT – for US National Team – Donovan or Dempsey  Boehm MLS.com

Matt Miazga off US Team Radar while on Loan from Chelsea in Europe

WORLD

Legendary Goalie Gigi Buffon passes 1000 games between the posts

A Better Way to Do International Breaks and WC Qualifiers – Gab Marcotti – ESPNFC

ICC Cup League Tickets Are On Sale  for the big Games in the US this summer

MLS

MLS Needs to Stop Play during International Breaks like the Rest of the World

MLS winners and Losers from International Weekend

GAMES ON TV  

Fri,  Mar 31

730 pm Fox Sport 1                          Toronto vs Sporting KC

10 pm  fox sport 1     Seattle vs Atlanta United

Sat  Apr 1

7:30 am NBCSN            Liverpool vs Everton – Derby

10 am NBCSN??           Leiscester City vs Stoke City

3 pm MyIndy TV23 Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico (ESPN3)

7:30 pm beIN Sport  NY Cosmos vs Miami

Sun  Apr 2

10:15 am beIN sport                        Real Madrid vs Alves – (hopefully I will be there!)

11 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs Man City

9 pm ESPN2                    Portland vs NE

Sat,  Apr 8

10 am NBCSN                Stoke City vs Liverpool

10:15 am beIN sport Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid – Madrid Derby

12:30 pm Fox Sport1                       Bayern Munich vs Dortmund

7:30 pm beIN Sport                Puerto Rico vs Indy 11

Sun  Apr 9

11 am NBCSN                 Everton vs Leicester City

4 pm ESPN                       Orlando City vs NY Redbulls

7 pm Fox Sport 1        Sporting KC vs Colorado Rapids (Tim Howard)

Tues Apr 11 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Juventus vs Barcelona  

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Dortmund vs Monaco

Weds  –Apr 12 Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Atletico vs Leicester City

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Bayern Munich vs Real Madrid

Thur, Apr 13 – Europa League

3 pm Fox Sport1         Anderlect vs Man United

3 pm FS2                      Ajax vs Schalke 04

Tues  –Apr 18 Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Leicester City vs Atletico

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Real Madrid  vs Bayern Munich

Weds Apr 19 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Barcelona  vs Barcelona

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Monaco vs Dortmund

Thur, Apr 20 – Europa League

3 pm Fox Sport1         Man United vs Anderlect

3 pm FS2                      Schalke 04 vs Ajax

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11 TV Schedule

THREE THINGS: Ind 11 vs #SFDVIND

The first edition of Three Things for the 2017 season  Mar 27, 2017

A POINT ON THE ROAD…

Mixed results away from home were a thorn in Indy Eleven’s collective side last year, so earning an all-important point in the first match of the 2017 season may prove an important initial step towards repeating as Spring Season champions. Perhaps more important, though, is the fight that Indiana’s Team showed to claw their way back into the match and nearly secure all three points after going down first.

It was an occasion catered to San Francisco. In the club’s first-ever match in front of an eager crowd at Kezar Stadium, the hosts went in front just after 30 minutes of play thanks to midfielder Kyle Bekker’s one-time knock following a through ball from forward Danny Cruz. But, instead of letting the compounded pressure negatively affect their drive, Indy pushed past the pressure and nearly ended up equalizing before the break.Starting the second half with a high press that forced the Deltas into making multiple mistakes, Indy found their goal in the form of a Tanner Thompson header just before the hour mark. Continuing to pester San Fran, Indy nearly found a winner on a couple of separate occasions, but Deltas ‘keeper Romuald Peiser was able to keep the ball out of the back of the net to earn a draw.There are plenty of positives to take from the match, including an impressive set of debuts by the likes of Tanner Thompson and Ben Speas amongst others. While the “Boys in Blue” would have liked to depart the Golden State with all three points, they come “Back Home Again” to Indiana with all momentum driving them ahead against Puerto Rico FC in the home opener.

YOU GET A DEBUT, AND YOU GET A DEBUT, AND YOU GET A DEBUT!

Despite returning 13 players from the 2016 team that reached The Championship Final, Indy Eleven deployed four new players – three starters – during the season opener at Kezar Stadium.Starting and playing the full 90 minutes, defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe helped command the backline alongside returnee Daniel Keller and looked competent and comfortable against the Deltas attacking trio of Jackson, Heinemann, and Cruz. In the midfield, Ben Speas also played an impressive full 90 minutes and tallied his first assist as a “Boy in Blue” on Tanner Thompson’s 58th-minute finish (see below). And, speaking of Thompson, after putting pen to paper just a few days before embarking to face the expansion side, the goalscorer featured for 77 minutes before being replaced by fellow midfielder and debutant Craig Henderson with just under 15 minutes to play. In addition, new signing and defender Anthony Manning made the bench as an unused substitute, and new forward David Goldsmith would have been available pending earlier receipt of his P1-A visa. All six of the aforementioned will likely be available for selection on Saturday, meaning Indy will have almost a full squad to choose from for the home opener.

USING YOUR HEAD

Indy Eleven midfielder Tanner Thompson made his professional debut in Saturday night’s 1-1 draw, leveling the match in the 58th with a deft header that only a few in his position could produce. There’s no better feeling than scoring on your debut, said Thompson, before revealing the little-known fact that it was the Indiana University product’s first-ever headed goal in his entire playing career.Working the ball out wide, fellow debutant Ben Speas – who made the switch from Minnesota United FC in the offseason – swung in a drifting ball towards the center of the area. Sprinting into the box, the 5’7″ midfielder Thompson found just enough space in behind the Deltas defense to leap and connect on a looping header over Peiser and in.Showing that size isn’t everything, Thompson impressed through 77 minutes before being replaced by midfielder Craig Henderson. If the Loomis, CA native continues to show his ability to produce, it’s difficult to see his name falling off the teamsheet.

RECAP: INDY ELEVEN EARNS HARD-FOUGHT POINT IN 2017 SEASON OPENER AT SAN FRANCISCO

Duo of Debutants Ben Speas and Tanner Thompson Combine for Equalizer in 1-1 Draw at Kezar StadiumMar 26, 201782

SAN FRANCISCO (Saturday, March 25, 2017) – Indy Eleven earned an important point in the 2017 season opener as they come away from San Francisco following a 1-1 draw.
Lining up without 2016 leading goalscorer Eamon Zayed in the starting XI, the “Boys in Blue” deployed the pair of Ben Speas and Justin Braun up top, with a midfield four of Brad Ring, Gerardo Torrado, Don Smart, and Tanner Thompson packing in the center. At the back, it fell on defenders Nemanja Vukovic, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Daniel Keller, and Marco Franco to protect ‘keeper Jon Busch against a fresh Deltas side.San Francisco was the more eager of the two sides to begin the match, and their first chance of the evening fell just six minutes into the contest. The delivery from midfielder Cristian Portilla, a curling corner fell into a jumble of defenders and attackers alike but ultimately fell out of play at the back post for a goal kick to end the initial threat. As the Deltas settled into the match, chances piled up in the opening 15 minutes. San Francisco would come close once again in the 16th minute when forward Tom Heinemann sought the run of midfielder Jackson into the 18-yard box, but Indy ‘keeper Jon Busch was off his line in time to punch out for a throw.he best chance of the half for Indy would come ten minutes later, this time for forward Justin Braun. Using his incredible pace to sneak behind San Francisco’s back four, Braun found himself on a 1v1 with Deltas ‘keeper Romuald Peiser. Finessing a right-footed roller, Braun would beat the ‘netminder but fail to find the back of the net.As momentum swung from side-to-side, the hosts would open the scoring just after 30 minutes of play thanks to midfielder Kyle Bekker. Taking a pass from forward Danny Cruz, Bekker swept in a one-time effort past Jon Busch with his right foot as San Francisco scored their first ever goal in league play.The seconds ticked down in the opening 45 minutes, but Indy would come close once more as Justin Braun linked up momentarily with midfielder Ben Speas only for the Deltas defense to collapse the move and absorb the pressure.With no changes for either side to start the second half, Indy jumped out ahead and nearly connected within two minutes of the restart. Again the combo of Speas and Braun was fruitful, but as Braun stretched to meet the low, driven ball from Speas he would come just inches away from making a solid connection.However, Indy’s high press to start the second half would eventually pay off in the 58th minute. Ben Speas knocked in a beautiful, left-footed cross for debutant Tanner Thompson, and Indy’s newest signing produced a skillful, looping header that arced over the head of Peiser and into the back of the net to tie things at one-all. For Thompson, it was the first shot and goal of his NASL career. For Speas, it was also his first assist as a member of Indiana’s Team.”It feels really good on the debut. You can only wish to be able to contribute on the stat sheet, and Ben put in a great ball at the right time and I was able to head it home,” said Thompson.

“I would have never put any money on scoring like that. It was actually my first headed goal ever – even from youth soccer and into college. I was just able to get my body position right and throw off their jump. It fell nicely and I was thrilled to be on the end of it.Not done yet, Indy continued to up the pressure and Justin Braun again proved a catalyst. Working in behind Deltas defender Nana Attakora, Braun wiggled into a second 1v1 against Peiser, but the ‘netminder stood tall and denied the forward from point-blank range to keep things level.After a back-and-forth next twenty minutes, another quality chance fell to Indy near the death. Substitute Eamon Zayed replaced midfielder Ben Speas with 15 minutes to play and found himself on the end of an excellent delivery from Don Smart. However, after Smart did well to lift the ball to the Irishman, the forward could not direct his effort on frame and the chance went missing.Into six minutes of stoppage, two final opportunities would come Indy’s way – the first in the form of a Nemanja Vukovic free kick. Standing over the ball in the 93rd minute, “Vuko” cracked a cross-cum-shot towards the Deltas goal that saw the San Fran ‘keeper react in the nick of time to prevent a sure winner from crossing the line. Seconds later, Kwame Watson-Siriboe was able to get a head on a corner kick from the left-back Vukovic, but the ball skimmed off the top of his head and out for a goal kick.As the final whistle blew at Kezar Stadium, both teams earned a hard-fought point in a match that could have yielded much more in attacking output.
Indy Eleven will return home to IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Stadium for the first time next Saturday, April 1, when the “Boys in Blue” will host Puerto Rico FC for a 3:00 p.m. ET kickoff. Tickets for the April 1 home opener – and all 16 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.
2017 NASL Season
San Francisco Deltas 1 : 1  Indy Eleven
Saturday, March 25, 2017
Kezar Stadium – San Francisco, CA

Scoring Summary:
SFD – Kyle Bekker 31′
IND – Tanner Thompson 58′

Discipline Summary:
IND – Nemanja Vukovic 55′
IND – Kwame Watson-Siriboe 60′
SFD – Nana Attakora 60′
SFD – Pablo Dyego 67′

Indy Eleven line-up (4-4-2, L–>R):  Jon Busch (GK); Nemanja Vukovic, Daniel Keller, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Marco Franco; Brad Ring (C), Gerardo Torrado, Tanner Thompson (Craig Henderson 77′), Don Smart; Ben Speas (Eamon Zayed 77′), Justin Braun

Indy Eleven bench: Keith Cardona (GK), Anthony Manning, Sinisa Ubiparipovic

San Francisco Deltas line-up (4-3-3, L–>R):  Romuald Peiser (GK); Karl Ouimette, Nana Attakora (C), Reiner Ferreira, Kenny Teijsse; Michael Stephens, Cristian Portilla, Kyle Bekker; Jackson (Pablo Dyego 67′), Tommy Heinemann (Devon Sandoval 90+5′), Danny Cruz (Tyler Gibson 81′)

Pulisic wows again as USA continues World Cup qualifying rebuild with point in Panama

Grant Wahl,Sports Illustrated 9 hours ago

PANAMA CITY, Panama – The U.S. tied Panama 1-1 in a World Cup qualifier here on Tuesday, fulfilling coach Bruce Arena’s objective of getting at least four points from the two March qualifiers, though the U.S. will be disappointed that it wasn’t more after a defensive breakdown allowed Panama to score the equalizing goal at the end of the first half.The tie left the U.S. in fourth place (1-1-2, five points) in the Hexagonal, two places higher than it was to start the week. The top three teams in the six-team, 10-game tournament will automatically qualify for the World Cup, with the fourth-place team going to an intercontinental playoff against Asia’s fifth-placed team.Two goals came in a flurry at the end of the first half. Clint Dempsey put the U.S. ahead in the 39th minute after Christian Pulisic hoodwinked two Panamanian defenders in the box and delivered a pinpoint assist. It was Dempsey’s 56th career international goal, putting him just one behind the all-time U.S. men’s record held by Landon Donovan.But while Arena wanted his team to run out the first-half clock, Panama struck back quickly. Off a throw-in in the U.S. end, defender Tim Ream misplayed the ball by turning his back to it, and Gabriel Gómez pounced on the loose ball in the box to equalize.Here my three thoughts on the game:

Pulisic has got the gift

Kicked relentlessly by the Panamanians, who picked him out from the start, Pulisic nevertheless showed once again that he has the rarest of talents in soccer: The ability to create a goal out of nothing even in hostile environments. Receiving a mostly innocuous pass on the right side, the 18-year-old figuratively pulled down the pants of veteran Felipe Baloy in the box, then stopped on a dime on the edge of the six with scary poise before beating Román Torres and feeding the ball to Dempsey for the first U.S. goal.Pulisic can do remarkable things on perfect fields in the Champions League, but it’s another step in his development to connive rivals on the road in CONCACAF without getting CONCACAF’d.

The U.S isn’t that deep everywhere

The preferred starting center backs, Geoff Cameron and John Brooks, weren’t able to play due to various physical maladies. In their place, Arena started Omar Gonzalez and Ream, who are O.K. but a bit of a drop-off. Panama’s goal wasn’t entirely Ream’s fault, but it was largely on the Fulham player, who had a bad miscue against Panama before in the 2011 Gold Cup that led to a U.S. defeat. Ream did come back in the second half to save a goal on a Panama break, but he’s still going to look back on this game with some regrets.You also can’t deny that it hurts to miss Cameron, who was also absent during the brutal two-loss stretch in November.

Four points a solid haul as qualifying campaign steadies

The 6-0 win against Honduras gave people reason to think the U.S. had a chance to win here and take six points from the week, but all things considered, four points has to be viewed as a promising restoration of the U.S.’s World Cup hopes after that miserable November.The U.S. will have every expectation to win its next qualifier in June, at home against Trinidad and Tobago, before visiting archrival Mexico and hoping to avenge November’s home loss.Four games of a 10-game tournament are done, and Arena has brought some stability back to a World Cup qualifying process that will continue to be a challenge.

It’s time for the USMNT to stop playing Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones together

It didn’t work against Panama, and it hasn’t worked in a long time.

by Conor Dowley@c_dowley  Mar 29, 2017, 8:15am EDT

The United States has a problem in midfield. That problem has two names: Michael Bradleyand Jermaine Jones. Simply put, after their struggles against Panama on Tuesday night, the USMNT can no longer afford to play them as a partnership in midfield, and it may be time to drop Jones from the national team entirely.This isn’t being said to be cruel or vindictive. It’s said out of a need for honest conversation about a long-problematic part of the United States national team squad. For several years now, Bradley and Jones have been a regular source of stress and worry for the U.S. that occasionally gets papered over by a fantastic goal from one or the other of the pair.But when they’re not scoring goals, they struggle to be a useful part of the team, and that’s left the USMNT struggling for any kind of midfield coherence every time Bradley and Jones are together in the starting lineup.Essentially what happens is this: Jones doesn’t have the legs he once did and never had spectacular positioning. He pushes too far up the pitch to support the attack, and he can no longer get back to help defend the resulting counterattack when the Americans turn the ball over. In the right midfield with the right partner, that can be covered up and dealt with. But unfortunately, Michael Bradley isn’t that partner.That’s because Bradley has his own positioning woes these days. He tends to do too much floating around watching play develop instead of reacting to it in a useful way. He gets too busy trying to fill the space Jones leaves behind him and forgets to worry about his own responsibilities, leading to an opposing player sauntering right through the hole he left. That puts the USMNT defense under pressure, and he does the same thing to the men behind him multiple times per match.It’s a problem.The problem gets lessened significantly when Bradley is in a midfield without Jones — he was much better after Kellyn Acosta entered the match in Jones’ place against Panama. It’s getting harder and harder to see what Jones brings to the national team besides experience. Experience does not outweigh the kind of performance he put in on Tuesday, and it might just be time to consider his role on the team moving forward.When it comes to Bradley, Bruce Arena needs to make it clear that there’s only so much mediocrity he can take before his spot in the lineup needs to be considered. There’s a lot of good that Bradley brings to the team — he’s a good captain, a solid leader with a lot of experience, and when he plays well, he’s one of the most talented players on the team. His best passes from deep are better than any other American can produce. But it’s been years since he’s matched his club for his country on a consistent basis.At their best, Jones and Bradley were two of the top players on the USMNT. Both have given the team a lot during their careers. But those days are long gone, and either player on his own is only marginally useful of late. Together they’re an outright liability, and the USMNT can no longer afford to carry them.

Armchair Analyst: The case for a USMNT midfield without Jermaine Jones

March 29, 20176:00PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior WriterI don’t think there’s much doubt that Jermaine Jones is still one of the most individually talented players in the USMNT player pool. His athleticism has always been his calling card, and it’s still mostly there. He is a blur, a snarling and nasty and committed two-way expression of pure id, a shin-seeking destroyer who plays the game with his engine running in the red. Jones, at a full gallop, can shrink the entire field – his ability to just chew up ground feels like it gives his opponents about 25 percent less room to play with. When he’s locked in he forces every opponent to meet his intensity level, and if they can’t, they’re going to be holding on for dear life.Go rewatch the first 25 minutes of Colorado’s second-leg playoff loss to Seattle last year, a period of time in which Jones ran through and past and around and over the Sounders pretty much all by himself. I’ve watched Ozzie Alonso play soccer for a decade and that’s the only time I’ve ever seen him look overwhelmed.Jones could occasionally bring this to bear on the international level as well. Watch minutes 45-through-75 of the 2-1 World Cup qualifying loss to Mexico. He was breathtaking. That athleticism has often overshadowed his individual skill, which is not insignificant. You remember the goal vs. Portugal, of course. You can also probably conjure up images of big, diagonal switches or the occasional, well-weighted ball up the line and into a winger’s run, a la Tuesday night at Panama. Jones has some stuff in his bag.And those two things – his athleticism and his skill – have continually overshadowed the fact that the US tend to play better when Jones, who is now 35, is a spectator. Or, at the very least, is forced into a support/tertiary role.I spoke about Jones the individualist above because he plays soccer with a Galt-ian sense of self. His bursts of energy against Seattle and Mexico were as unsustainable as they were breathtaking, and once he’d maxed out his reserves, his teammates were forced to compensate for his no-less-unpredictable forays away from positional responsibility and his no less risky attempts at spreading the field with the ball. Instead of focusing on their own shape or gameplan, or adjusting to the attacks of the opposition, the constant calculation of his own teammates has been “How do we adjust to Jermaine?” Instead of working together, they were working for him.The Jones of earlier days could run himself out of position then usually run himself back into the play, but even so it’s been a bad, game-tilting trade for the US for most of this decade. Exchanging tactical framework for hero-ball isn’t a good blueprint.And at Panama on Tuesday, it started to become apparent that Jones isn’t about to quit playing hero ball even as his athleticism ticks downward and his skill slowly deserts him.If it was just one bad game, one “off” performance from the veteran, fair enough. But it’s not, and nobody should ignore the knock-on effect that his presence has on the rest of the US team.That’s what I’ve been seeing for the last seven years. Because Jones is such an individualist in his movement the US is forced into the binary of playing to him or away from him whenever he’s out on the field, which bogs down the attack and limits useful possession. Doing otherwise, trying to build slowly and patiently through central midfield, is a non-starter because 1) Jones is rarely in the spots you’d expect a central midfielder to operate in, 2) he doesn’t hit many passes designed to keep possession, and 3) trying to play that way when one central midfielder is out of position defensively is suicide by counterattack.There’s a strong case to be made for a reduced role for Jones under Bruce Arena. I think, in the process, we’ll see the US move away from the flat 4-4-2 they tried against Panama and toward a 4-3-1-2 with Christian Pulisic as the “1” and Michael Bradley – for now – in the middle of the “3” line as the defensive midfielder.Who are the shuttlers, the wide midfielders on the “3” line? Darlington Nagbe for one, and Alejandro Bedoya for another. Kellyn Acosta can certainly play that role, and I thought it was symbolic when he replaced Jones with 15 minutes left against Los Canaleros. A healthy Sebastian Lletget has a spot there as well, as should Danny Williams even though he’s really more of a No. 6. Fabian Johnson is more of a true wide player who’d bring a different look to the spot. Alfredo Morales plays a similar role in the Bundesliga, and Cristian Roldan is a guy that Arena’s mentioned as a possible Gold Cup call-up. Lynden Gooch might end up playing as more of a No. 8.It’s too early for the Tyler Adams hype train, even though he was born for this role. But if he plays well at the U-20 World Cup in May you’ll definitely hear his name mentioned, and it won’t be inappropriate.Regardless, in years past the argument could’ve been made that the US were at a point, talent-wise, where Jones was essential. I’ll make the argument that he’s become detrimental, and the time has come for a change.

US Player Ratings: Howard, Ream, Pulisic lead on nervy night in Panama

March 29, 20172:08AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributorIn a game where the result slightly outshined the performance, the US national team battled CONCACAF hexagonal hosts Panama to a 1-1 draw on Tuesday night.In a stark departure from Friday’s schooling of Honduras, the visitors spent most of the match in awkward shapes, especially when in possession. However, Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey combined for another highlight-reel goal to earn the US an important away point.

Tim Howard (7) – The Colorado Rapids netminder did well to snuff a good Luis Tejada chance near the hour in making the best of his three saves on the night. Some observers may bark that Howard was glued to his line too long on the Panama goal, but it says here that there’s really not much he can do when the defense flakes in that manner.

Graham Zusi (5) – The newly-converted right back definitely had some troubles with Alberto Quintero, but did handle matters more solidly as the game progressed. Surprisingly, Zusi only completed a single positive pass in the attack end over 90 minutes.

Omar Gonzalez (6) – It was a decent but unspectacular outing for the Pachuca man, who had less to do than his back line mates. Gonzalez was found hoofing the ball away a bit too often, but did manage to connect a handful of long passes into the Panama half.

Tim Ream (7) – Were it not for his costly flub dealing with Adolfo Machado’s long throw on the home side’s goal, Ream would be the clear man of the match for the US. With that one glaring exception, he was excellent. Pressed in to duty on short notice, the Fulham defender registered 15 clearances and a big shot block.

Jorge Villafaña (5) – As with Ream, Villafaña’s worst episode happened on the Panama tally. He fell asleep just long enough for Gabriel Gomez to squirt free and pounce on the loose ball. Other than that error, he was fine.

Michael Bradley (5.5) – The captain didn’t make many mistakes on the night, but he also didn’t exert much influence over the proceedings. His passing game and defensive work improved after a bland first half, but it was still too easy for Panama to travel through the middle.

Jermaine Jones (5.5) – Of course, part of the reason Panama had lanes to drive down central was that Jones also likes to travel. He was also typically strong defensively in one-v-one battles, sticking his foot in to halt some rushes. The LA Galaxy veteran was only sparingly useful on the ball, but it was his clever pass that released Pulisic on the US goal play.

Christian Pulisic (6.5) – The Borussia Dortmund wunderkind was repeatedly frustrated by Panama’s physical play. Still, attackers only need that one big play to make the grade, and Pulisic’s was a doozy. He got loose to hypnotize two defenders on his way to teeing up Dempsey for an easy equalizer.

Darlington Nagbe (6) – The Portland ace was an effective pressure valve, albeit one that tended to hold the ball too long after wiggling into the Panama end. Unlike in their previous games together, Nagbe didn’t connect so well with Villafaña up the flank.

Clint Dempsey (6.5) – The man they call Deuce had one terrific lead pass to spring Pulisic, but other than that failed to get much going until he bagged the US goal. In a tight CONCACAF away tussle,  though, one play is enough to make a difference.

Jozy Altidore (5.5) – Due to the team’s disorganized play on the ball, Altidore was effectively turned into an innocent bystander. He didn’t get a touch in the final third until shortly before he departed on 83 minutes, and had just five in the Panama end all game long.

Coach Bruce Arena (6) – Considering the boss kept losing starters right up to game time, it’s hard to be too judgmental. That said, the team’s shape was a mess for much of the game and the great alteration never came. Were it not for Pulisic’s moment of magic, this could easily have been an annoying defeat. On the other hand, the team could have grabbed a huge win if the set piece defense didn’t bungle Machado’s long throw.  We’ll call this one even.

Subs:

Alejandro Bedoya (6) – The Philly Union attacker worked both wings in his 21 minutes, and as often is the case, the team ran smoother when he was on the field.

Kellyn Acosta (6) – The FC Dallas midfielder looked lively off the bench.

Paul Arriola (6) – The late sub entered ready to ask questions of the Panama defense.

Tim Howard, Omar Gonzalez hold firm as U.S. battle to 1-1 draw in Panama

CONCACAF qualifiers in Central America might never be easier for the U.S. than this. Just four days after having their way with Honduras on home soil, the Americans walked into a street fight in Panama City and were lucky to get out with a point via a 1-1 draw.

Positives

A few of the newer faces in the USMNT setup shined again in the very different conditions of Estadio Rommel Fernandez. The left side of the field was good for the bulk of the game, with Darlington Nagbe and Jorge Villafana playing a relatively clean match. Christian Pulisic again stepped up when the team needed him, and perhaps just as important, he received a lesson in the difficulties of playing on the road in CONCACAF. The U.S. can take the education and the point back home with some satisfaction.

Negatives

For much of the match, the Americans looked sluggish and unable to match the hosts’ intensity. The bumpy field had something to do with the lack of passing quality, but there was also a frantic nature to the U.S. when on the ball. A failure to connect play in midfield left space for the Panamanians to come at the U.S. back line with numbers on more than one occasion. Dempsey scored, but Altidore was a nonfactor, and in general, the attack lacked sharpness. Panama’s goal came from a simple inability of three American players to clear a long throw.

Manager rating:

5.5 — Arena had his hands tied because of the rash of injuries that hit the team, but there were a few decisions that deserve scrutiny. The choice to start Tim Ream over Matt Besler had some scratching their heads, especially because of the lack of a relationship between Ream and his defensive partner, Omar Gonzalez. Jermaine Jones was not effective, either because of his positional indiscipline or because of his fitness. Tactically, the midfield was a mess.That said, the goal was to get a point on the road, and Arena accomplished that task.

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

GK Tim Howard, 8 — Howard made a pair of massive saves to give his team a chance to take something from the game.

DF Graham Zusi, 5.5 — Zusi was a positive for most of the night, though he was thoroughly turned around by Panama’s wingers on a few occasions. The word for his work is “passable.”

DF Omar Gonzalez, 8 — He did an excellent job reading the game and stepping up when required. Gonzalez provided good emergency defending when Panama broke through the U.S. defensive line.

DF Tim Ream, 6 — A little good, a lot of questionable. The game seemed too physical for him, though he did manage to arrive at the right moment to quell a few dangerous chances.

DF Jorge Villafana, 6 — Villafana played his position effectively. He was limited in the attack except for a few moments, however, and was implicit on the Panama goal in some measure.

MF Michael Bradley, 5.5 — He was left alone to link the back line and the forwards but was still too sloppy with his passing. His set piece service was also lacking. (Indeed)

MF Jermaine Jones, 4.5 — Jones was a mess positionally and provided almost no cover defensively. He failed to find any connection with Bradley, which created big gaps for Panama to exploit. (WAS HORRIBLE)

MF Christian Pulisic, 7 — He created the U.S.’s only goal with a little bit of skill and a lot of will. Pulisic received a battering all night from his markers but managed to keep his head in the match through 90 minutes.

MF Darlington Nagbe, 7 — Maybe the best player on the field across the entirety of the first half, Nagbe was good on the ball and pushed the pace when space appeared.

FW Clint Dempsey, 6 — He scored the lone U.S. goal, which makes the night a success on the whole. Dempsey starved a bit for service and wasn’t able to get on the ball consistently.

FW Jozy Altidore, 4 — He was effectively marked out of the game by Roman Torres. Frustrated by the physical tone of the game, Altidore simply did not impact the game in any meaningful way.

 

Substitutes

MF Alejandro Bedoya, 6.5 — Bedoya helped lock things down when the game seemed to be slipping from the Americans’ grasp. He was smart on the ball and popped up in the attacking third more than once.

MF Kellyn Acosta, NR — He committed a few rough touches but was otherwise calm and composed in his limited time.

FW Paul Arriola, NR — He pushed forward and threatened in the attacking end with the clock winding down but was unable to play an accurate ball into the box.Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.

Clint Dempsey is Mr. Clutch and USMNT’s greatest-ever player

AN JOSE, Calif. — A strong argument for Clint Dempsey as the best American player ever could have been made long before Friday night, when his 54-minute hat trick in a 6-0 drubbing of Honduras put the U.S. back on course to qualify for next summer’s World Cup in Russia.It was a signature performance and all the more remarkable considering that it came in the 34-year-old’s first international following an eight-month layoff because of a heart scare that threatened to end his career. It also cemented Dempsey’s legacy as “Mr. Clutch” once and for all.Dempsey’s scoring rate of 0.42 goals per game now towers over Landon Donovan’s 0.36. His three strikes against Honduras made him the all-time leader in World Cup qualifying games for the Americans, surpassing Jozy Altidore. They also left him just two goals shy of Donovan’s career mark of 57 despite having played 26 fewer games. It’s also worth noting that 15 of Donovan’s strikes came from the penalty spot, compared to just six for Dempsey.”Clint’s record speaks for itself,” captain Michael Bradley said.That is no slight on Donovan, a brilliant player in his own right who will always be underappreciated by some both at home and overseas because he had the audacity to spend the bulk of his career in MLS and not in one of Europe’s elite leagues.Anyway, there’s little 18-year-old Christian Pulisic — who scored a goal and set up two of Dempsey’s against Los Catrachos — on pace to eclipse both players in the future. As a key attacker for Champions League quarterfinalists Borussia Dortmund, Pulisic has already accomplished things at club level that Dempsey or Donovan never did.But for now, though, Dempsey deserves the “best-ever” distinction. It’s a testament to his longevity, competitiveness and his flat-out refusal to stop producing at the sport’s highest level.”You know me, I’m a fighter,” he said after Friday’s match. “I looked for the opportunity to try to get out there and show that I should be around still.”He did that and more.Dempsey wasn’t even supposed to be included on the roster for Friday’s game and the qualifier at Panama on Tuesday night. But his strong play in Seattle’s first three games of the MLS season convinced Bruce Arena to call him up. Even then, Dempsey only became a lock in the lineup after Bobby Wood was forced to withdraw from the squad with a back injury.”We didn’t have anyone else — it made it easy for me,” Arena said, only half-kidding. “We had a full team when we planned the roster weeks ago, and one would think that Altidore and Wood would start the game. But watching Clint from Game 1 to Game 2 to Game 3 with Seattle, it was impressive the way he kept improving,” Arena continued. “Checking with his fitness coaches there, we knew he could play.”He’s like: ‘How many minutes do you think you can give me?'” Dempsey said of his conversation with the Arena. “I said ‘I’ll give you all the minutes I can.'”That’s Dempsey in a nutshell.”In the back of his head he’s going for that scoring record, but he won’t admit it,” midfielder Alejandro Bedoya joked.”If it comes it comes, if it don’t it don’t,” said Dempsey, in his Texas drawl, of surpassing Donovan’s mark, one that not long ago seemed untouchable. “I’ll keep pushing.”It would be fitting if the record-breaker — and it does seem like a matter of when, not if — comes in June in Mexico City. Dempsey has never scored against El Tri, the one blemish on his otherwise-sterling résumé.A trip to a fourth World Cup — he has scored in each of three he’s already played in, the only American to do so — now seems likely too, provided the Americans qualify. And after Friday’s performance, it’s not a reach to think that he could even be in contention to start in Russia at the age of 35. Not that Dempsey is about to take anything for granted, especially after being confronted with the possibility of retirement late last year.”That would be great if I could be around for that,” he said.In the meantime, it will be fascinating to watch Pulisic and Dempsey work together as the torch passes inevitably from the latter to the former. Friday marked the pair’s first time in a U.S. lineup. It won’t be their last.Pulisic gushed afterward that Dempsey is “easy” to play with.”He’s strong, he’s technical, he makes good runs and he always gives good support. That’s exactly what you need from a forward, and he’s clinical,” Pulisic said.For now at least, Dempsey is the American player against whom all others ought to be judged.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Gianluigi Buffon is far from finished after 1,000 games between the posts

As Juventus flew to Portugal last month for the first leg of their round-of-16 tie with Porto, a club official approached Gigi Buffon and congratulated him. The Juventus captain was about to make his 100th appearance in the Champions League. “I’ll be honest with you. I was a little upset about it,” he joked. “I thought I had played a lot more of them. Let’s just say it was a terrible blow to my ego.”It could have been more too. As his agent, (and former Genoa, Torino and Lazio keeper) Silvano Martina, revealed this week, Buffon had an agreement to join Barcelona in 2002. But that summer, he left Parma for Juventus instead, for what remains a world-record transfer fee for a goalkeeper. “Gigi” has been there ever since.Had Buffon abandoned ship, like his former teammates Fabio Cannavaro, Lilian Thuram, Gianluca Zambrotta, Emerson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, when Juventus were relegated in the 2006 Calciopoli scandal, he would have passed this landmark a long time ago. He might have even been part of the Milan side that won the competition in Athens the following season. But that just isn’t Buffon.One of the reasons he’s considered one of football’s truly great leaders is that everybody knows they can count on him to be there no matter what. The easy way out isn’t for him. He stayed true to Juventus in their hour of need, going down to the second division at a time when he was the game’s undisputed No. 1, just a few short weeks after lifting the World Cup and narrowly missing out on becoming the first goalkeeper since Lev Yashin to be awarded the Ballon d’Or. People should never forget that.Because of his decision to stick by Juventus, on Sunday in Genova, he broke yet another record. During a gritty 1-0 win over a resurgent Sampdoria, the minutes Buffon has played for Juventus in Serie A finally ticked past those of Giampiero Boniperti, the Old Lady’s legendary former striker and president who coined the club motto: “Winning isn’t important. It’s the only thing that counts.””It’s a great accomplishment,” Buffon said. “It’s down to a lot of things — not just talent. I don’t think talent is enough to have the kind of continuity I’ve had in my career. It’s not an end point. I think — or rather hope — to be able to extend this record further and that I still have many important minutes left in my legs, my head, my heart and my hands.”From Genova, Buffon travelled back to Carrara, his hometown, for a Father’s Day dinner with family. A toast was made to his achievement. Buffon’s brother-in-law then ordered another bottle of bubbly. “What else are we celebrating?” Buffon asked. It wasn’t anybody’s birthday.”We told him that his next appearance would be the 1,000th of his career,” Guendalina, his eldest sister and a former European champion volleyball player, told La Gazzetta dello Sport. Fright night’s World Cup qualifier against Gianni de Biasi’s Albania in Palermo will be Buffon’s millennial.Already the most capped Italy international, Buffon joins an exclusive club of just 17 players to play 1,000 games. The list includes Paolo Maldini (whom he will surely surpass as Serie A’s all-time appearance leader), Javier Zanetti, Ryan Giggs and Raúl. But it mostly features players in his position. The top three are goalkeepers: Peter Shilton, Rogerio Ceni and Ray Clemence.”To be on the brink of this achievement gives me the feeling that I have been both fortunate and a professional,” Buffon said.He has been lucky in that he has generally avoided serious illness and injury. However, Buffon will be the first to tell you that it hasn’t always been easy. He suffered a depressive episode from December 2003 to June 2004. Reflecting on that time in an interview with Kicker this week, he explained how important it was for him to resist the temptation to go on a course of medication to treat it.”I remained master of my own destiny,” he said, dependent on only himself to get through it.Then in 2010, there were the back problems that forced him to miss the defence of Italy’s World Cup and go under the knife.Some wondered if he’d ever be the same, and for a time, his form did wobble. But it wasn’t for long, and frankly, the past two seasons have been some of the best of Buffon’s career; witness the run to the Champions League final in 2015 and the Serie A record he set for minutes without conceding (973) in 2016.Of course, experience helps. Buffon acknowledges that he is a different goalkeeper than the one who burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old, with that jaw-dropping debut against the Milan of George Weah and Roberto Baggio. He has had to.The game has changed. Goalkeepers are expected to play with their feet and start building the play from the back. As other members of his generation have declined, struggling to adapt with the evolution of the goalkeeper as an extra outfield player, Buffon has taken it all in stride.Buffon intends to become the first player to represent his country at six World Cups. Gianluigi Donnarumma and Alex Meret are going to have to wait their turns, though the competition they provide keeps him young and spurs him on.But the World Cup in Russia isn’t the only dot on the horizon obscuring Buffon’s plans for retirement. The other is the Champions League and ending his pursuit for a winners’ medal.Twice a runner-up, Buffon has been candid enough to admit that he might have already hung up his gloves if he’d been on the winning side in 2003 or 2015.”I’ve been asking myself for years what drives me to keep playing,” he said. “This inner conflict brings out strong motivations in me. If I had already won the Champions League, I would be drained. The fact that I am still yet to win it pushes me on.”Could this finally be the year? Juventus are the only unbeaten team in the Champions League. They haven’t lost at home in the competition in almost four years and have won all of their games on the road this season. Barca, Real and Bayern remain the favourites, but they aren’t what they once were.But even if Juventus were to win for the first time since 1996 this year or next, it doesn’t necessarily follow that Buffon would call it a day and take up a role upstairs, either with Juventus or as team manager of the national team, like his beloved Gigi Riva did for many years.Buffon says he will carry on as long as his body will allow him to.”I still do not feel like an old guy at the age of 38,” Buffon said last year.”Who knows? I might retire at the age of 65.”James covers the Italian Serie A and European football for ESPN FC Follow him on Twitter @JamesHorncastle.

 

Boehm: Who is the US national team’s greatest of all time?

March 29, 20171:24AM EDTCharles BoehmContributorClint Dempsey is being showered with plaudits in the wake of his World Cup qualifying hat-trick heroics against Honduras – which he followed up with a clutch strike vs. Panama – and rightly so.After “Deuce” bagged his 53rd, 54th and 55th career US national team goals (and he’s now up to 56) in emphatic fashion on Friday, ESPNFC’s Doug McIntyre laid out the case for the Seattle Sounders star being the greatest player in USMNT history, pushing him ahead of Landon Donovan and anyone else remotely worthy of the honorific.“For now at least,” writes McIntyre, “Dempsey is the American player against whom all others ought to be judged.”

But is it really so?

Both Dempsey and Donovan have racked up exceedingly gaudy statistics for both club and country. Both have played in multiple World Cups, and scored multiple goals while there. Both lifted their teams – especially the ones they shared – to heights that would’ve been unimaginable without them, by virtue of both what they did and who they are.  We haven’t even mentioned other leading candidates for the GOAT label, of which there are several, like Claudio Reyna or Brad Friedel. Or the dark horses, like Brian McBride or Kasey Keller or Tab Ramos. Many of those suffer from the effects of recency bias, too, with the game’s explosive growth in this country taking us across so many new boundaries and drawing so many new fans.This is quite easily the deepest, longest and most contentious wormhole of a discussion any group of hardcore US soccer fans could ever hope to stumble down. I myself spent most of an afternoon comparing stats, weighing milestones and harking back to as many big USMNT moments of this century as I can remember, desperately hunting for a definitive nugget to prove or disprove Doug’s contention.As someone old enough to remember Reyna’s unflappable ability to set the rhythm for the Yanks’ midfield year after year – to “bring peace to the game,” as his longtime teammate Earnie Stewart said – I’m sorely tempted to handicap the North Jersey metronome up to the top of the heap.Bear in mind here what a strong club career he built in major European leagues, and how limited many of his US teams were compared to more talented contemporary editions. Reyna remains one of only two US players, and the only one in the modern era, to earn a spot on a FIFA World Cup All-Star Team (now known as the Dream Team) thanks to his exploits at Korea/Japan 2002.  Yet Dempsey and Donovan’s gifts and resumes are just the slightest bit gaudier, their career highlights unfolding on slightly bigger stages. Reyna had the desperately poor luck to miss out on one World Cup (1994) due to an ill-timed injury, while his legacy was inevitably dinged by a subpar swan song in the 2006 Mundial.

So which one is tops, then: LD or Deuce?

I’m sorry. This is impossible.It’s just not how this sport works – at least, not during this particular window in the history of American soccer. If you’ve ever taken part in a “Leo Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo” debate, or the seemingly eternal “Pele vs. Maradona” argument, you should sooner or later recognize the similar metaphysical limitations at work here.Without Donovan, there is no Dempsey. A rising star in US Soccer’s firmament practically since puberty, LD burst onto the scene with performances at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Cup (and not long after, the 2002 World Cup) that hammered widely-held global stereotypes about the haplessness of Yanks in the beautiful game.When he decided to call time on his European adventure at Bayer Leverkusen and play in MLS, Donovan willingly acceded to becoming the face of the league, its golden child, accepting all the burdens that came with it. In doing so he helped safeguard MLS’s future, carving out a space for those who followed after.There was a cost, of course. Given that he possessed the skillset to make his name in one of the world’s most renowned leagues, some – including many wowed by the latest such prodigy, Christian Pulisic – will never understand or accept why LD didn’t make that his mission in life.Conversely, Dempsey’s rise eased Donovan’s task. Deuce had to fight his way into the spotlight from the obscurity of East Texas, climbing a lengthy ladder from the Dallas youth scene to Furman University and on to the New England Revolution and Fulham FC.Hustling with the frantic intensity of someone who hears a clock constantly ticking over his head, Dempsey never took a sabbatical and never second-guessed his own desire or focus. While LD wore his self-awareness on his sleeve, Deuce drew across a curtain, mostly keeping his innermost self out of the spotlight.It’s more than a happenstance of position or tactics that Donovan finished his international career with more assists than goals, or that Dempsey is on pace to shatter the latter mark but remains miles short of the former. They’re just different animals, who tap into different segments of our collective American soccer psyche. So by all means – pour yourself and a few friends some refreshments and bat this one around for a while. Vote in our poll below. But don’t forget that your answer to this debate probably says more about who you are than where Donovan and Dempsey really stack up.

Clint Dempsey   Landon Donovan
132 USMNT CAPS 156
56 GOALS 57
17 ASSISTS 58
38 WCQ GAMES 40
18 WCQ GOALS 12
0 WCQ ASSISTS 21
10 WORLD CUP GAMES 12
4 WORLD CUP GOALS 5

OBC – Wow Landon has him killed on Assists 58 to 17.  Wow – Dempsey will break the record for goals and is our top big time scorer – but perhaps its still Landon overall.

Atletico, Monaco, Bayern Munich, Juventus expected to advance in UCL

With the draw for the Champions League quarterfinals made, here’s a look at how the matches could go. Apologies, Leicester fans, but the dream may end here.

Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City

Of all the clubs Leicester could have met in the quarterfinals, they were drawn against the only one they had faced before. Admittedly, much has changed since Martin O’Neill’s Foxes lost 4-1 on aggregate to Atletico in a UEFA Cup first-round tie in 1997, with Ian Marshall earning a place in the history books by scoring at Vicente Calderon. Atletico also beat Leicester 3-1 over two legs in the 1961-62 Cup Winners’ Cup and, up until this season, had been their opponents in half of the European fixtures they had ever played.In the here and now, Leicester can have mixed feelings about this draw — that is, if they were minded to feel at all choosy. On the one hand, Atletico do not quite have the individual stardust many of the other contenders possess, and they have not been consistently at their uncompromising best this season. On the other, Diego Simeone’s team know better than anybody how to win a game at this level through sheer guts and, like Leicester, are happy to cede possession in order to do so.It may be that Craig Shakespeare’s side have met their match — an opponent that can do the dirty, unfussy work that brought them success against Sevilla but have that extra bit of quality where it matters. Atletico have done this all before; they can win a tie in many different ways and Leicester will have their work cut out. Only a fool would rule the Foxes out now, though.

Prediction: Atletico will go toe-to-toe with Leicester in the physical battle and have too much in the opposition box. Simeone’s side reach the semis.

Borussia Dortmund vs. Monaco

In some ways, this clash of the great entertainers looks like the tie of the round. Both of them swashbuckled their way into the last eight, and there is little chance of their letting up now. Dortmund’s style is a little sleeker than Monaco’s high-octane, lightning-fast approach, but the emphasis on attack is similar; neither Thomas Tuchel nor Leonardo Jardim will be naïve enough to neglect their defences with so much at stake, but this should still be a shoot-out between Europe’s two brightest young teams.You would certainly pay to watch a race between Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe, both of whom have been elevated to “potential matchwinner” status on a higher level than they might have expected at this stage of their careers. Monaco will be hit by the absence of suspended midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko — who scored the winner against Manchester City shortly after picking up the booking that ruled him out — for the first leg, but their biggest threat comes down the flanks. And if attacking full-backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy are given space in the first leg, they may score a healthy number of away goals.  Dortmund will need to force them back and hope that Marco Reus, due back in early April after a hamstring injury, is fit to return by then. If not, there is always the thrilling promise of U.S. starlet Christian Pulisic, who deputised for him in the round-of-16 second leg against Benfica and duly scored. In a tie set up for the next generation to make their marks on the present, you wouldn’t bet against him repeating the feat.

Prediction: Monaco are on a roll and will sneak a predictably see-sawing battle.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid

It was a tie that seemed written in the stars. Three years ago, with a realistic chance of reaching the final after losing 1-0 at the Bernabeu in their semifinal first leg, Bayern Munich were destroyed 4-0 on their home turf by a Carlo Ancelotti-managed Real in a one-sided encounter that few saw coming. Ancelotti went on to lead his team to La Decima; now he finds himself on the other side, and the 23rd and 24th meetings between these teams will surely be closer. Confidence will certainly not be lacking after they scored 16 goals between them in the round of 16.Both teams lead their domestic leagues, Bayern by a familiar-looking 10-point margin after RB Leipzig’s early challenge faded. They have won 16 of their last 18 games in all competitions, drawing the other two, and have regained some of the fluency that was lacking in the early stages of Ancelotti’s time in Bavaria. Real’s form has not been much worse, and perhaps this tie will be decided by clever management of resources. Both teams will enter the first leg on the back of big domestic games against Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, respectively. Whoever is fresher at the Allianz Arena a few days later may be able to wrest an advantage that they don’t give up.Prediction: Ancelotti’s knowledge of the Real squad to give him the edge; Bayern win.

Juventus vs. Barcelona

Juventus came through the round of 16 virtually unnoticed, profiting from early Porto red cards in both legs to progress with a minimum of drama. For Barcelona, it was the opposite and, in this rerun of the 2015 final, the first leg, in Turin, will be instructive in discovering just how much they have learned from the tie against Paris Saint-Germain.In Paris, and to a lesser extent in the group stage defeat at Manchester City, they were blown away and looked every inch a team in terminal decline. The comeback three weeks later was all the more shocking for that but, remarkable though it was, owed more to a concentrated burst of unusual events than sustained excellence from Luis Enrique’s side. Massimiliano Allegri will have taken note, and if they can produce a high-octane performance at Juventus Stadium, the Serie A leaders may fancy their chances.The flip side is that Juve are yet to face a top-quality test in Europe this season. Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb, Sevilla and Porto have not been the most inspiring opposition, while Manchester City and PSG have been genuine tests for Barcelona that have threatened to throw them off course. If Neymar, Lionel Messi and company felt that, after all that, nothing could stop them, then it would be difficult to argue. Prediction: Unlike PSG, Juventus have the experience and backbone to expose Barcelona’s frailties definitively. The Italians to go through.Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter:

Spain dominance, Leicester fairytale: UCL quarterfinalists in numbers

A number of familiar clubs, plus one notable English newcomer, will take part in the quarterfinal round of the UEFA Champions League beginning with first-leg matches on April 10.Bayern Munich have made the most quarterfinal appearances in Champions League history, followed closely by Barcelona and Real Madrid, and all three have advanced to that stage of the competition again this season. Those three clubs have combined for 46 quarterfinal appearances, while the other five have combined for 26:

UCL Quarterfinal Appearances
Bayern Munich 16
Barcelona 15
Real Madrid 15
Juventus 10
Borussia Dortmund 6
Atletico Madrid 5
Monaco 4
Leicester City 1
>> Includes this season

With Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid qualifying, Spain has three teams in the UCL quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season — the longest such run in the competition’s history. Spanish clubs have won the last three Champions League titles:

UCL Quarterfinalists By Country
Spain 3
Germany 2
England 1
France 1
Italy 1

Barcelona advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals for the 10th consecutive year, which is the longest such run in the competition’s history:

Most Consecutive UCL Quarterfinals
Barcelona 10 2008-Present
Real Madrid 7 1998-2004
Manchester United 7 1997-2003
Real Madrid 7 2011-Present

Barcelona advanced following a four-goal comeback against PSG, winning 6-1 in the second leg. Barcelona became the first team to overcome a four-goal first-leg deficit to advance in Champions League history:

Largest First-Leg Deficits Overcome
4 goals 1 team
3 goals 1 team
2 goals 8 teams
1 goals 28 teams

Bayern Munich advanced to the quarterfinals for the 16th time with a 10-2 aggregate win over Arsenal.With an eight-goal difference, it is the second-largest aggregate goal difference in Champions League history:

Largest Margin of Victory in Knockout-Round Matchup
Stage Winner Loser Diff.
2008-09 Round of 16 Bayern Munich Sporting 11
2016-17 Round of 16 Bayern Munich Arsenal 8
2004-05 Round of 16 Lyon Werder Bremen 8
2011-12 Round of 16 Barcelona Bayer Leverkusen 8

With Monaco and Manchester City combining for 12 goals — including a record eight goals in the first leg — as well as Bayern Munich and Arsenal combining for 12 goals and Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain combining for 11, more goals were scored in the round of 16 than in any such previous stage in Champions League history:

Most Goals in UCL Round of 16
2016-17 62
2011-12 56
2013-14 51

Leicester City qualified for their first Champions League campaign and have advanced to the quarterfinals. However, Leicester is England’s only representative in the quarterfinals, which has been the trend lately:

UCL Quarterfinalists By Country, Last Five Seasons
Spain 15
Germany 9
France 6
England 4
Italy 3
Portugal 2
Turkey 1
>> Spain has won last 3 titles

The draw for the quarterfinals will take place on Friday. Unlike the round of 16, there are no restrictions on which teams can meet. In the round of 16, teams from the same group or same country would not be allowed to play against each other.

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

 

Advertisements

3/26 – US Nabs Huge 6-0 Win faces Panama Tues 10 pm on beIN Sports, World Qualifiers Sun/Mon/Tues, Indy 11 Sat Home Opener at MIKE 3 pm on MyIndy TV

3/26  – US Nabs Huge 6-0 Win faces Panama Tues 10 pm on beIN Sports, Indy 11 Sat Home Opener at MIKE 3 pm on MyIndy TV  

So I guess Coaching does make a difference.  Wow – just 4 months after taking over for the German (Juergan Klinsmann) – Bruce Arena – who some would say is the Best American coach ever – showed what a difference a coach can make.  With an attacking mindset – players in the CORRECT places with confidence galore and a clear understanding of what the plan is – the US scored the most goals they have scored in years.  The 6-0 (yes 6 goal explosion included a hat-trick from the Best US Player ever Clint Dempsey.  But make no mistake – this game was a coming out party for 18 YO US sensation Christian Pulisic who had a role in 5 of the 6 goals.  He wore the #10 to perfection providing  2 assists, 1 goal and the first goal off his shot that was deflected by the keeper.  Missing players all over the field like F Bobby Wood, MF Fabian Johnson, MF Jermaine Jones and left back Deandre Yedlin did not matter as Bruce relied on a mix of veterans like Gonzales and Cameron and Dempsey of course along with the mixing of Nagbe who played great on the left side, LB Villafana who was so good the ball rarely came down the left side and Leggitt who scored the first goal before going out hurt.  Brooks and Bradley looked more comfortable in their roles in the middle of the pitch.  Oh and Timmy Howard was well same ole Timmy – 4 huge saves on the night helping to keep the clean sheet.  I thought the defense played with more of a bite- blocking plenty of the shots taken.  There was a little doughnut in the middle at times as Pulisic was a little too high and removed from Bradley in the back.  But boy when #10 got that ball – he took off and his creativy in the middle is something the US has honestly never had.

It will be interesting to see what changes Bruce makes Tuesday at Panama – where a win could move the US from bottom of the group last week to 2nd or 3rd at worse. 6 Goals – wow and it honestly it could have been 2 or 3 more.  Has Dempsey proven enough to claim the start again – I think so – hattrick?  Does Jones slide in on the right side mid instead of Bedoya? Do you start the same back line or slide Cameron inside and give someone a run on the right side?

Either way honestly its nice to understand what we are doing – to have a coach who seems to be making moves that make sense.  Bruce obviously has his players believing and playing much, much better soccer.  Lets see if it holds up on the road vs a good Panama team – currently 3rd just above the US in the group.

Oh and I am not going to let the horrible US Red Portugal look-a-like Nike Jersey thing alone.  Honestly I watched CR7 play Sat and they are the EXACT SAME JERSEY except for the socks.  Same for the Nike England Jerseys.  Now that we have an American coaching the team again don’t we deserve a Unique US Jersey look.  Come on NIKE – you are a US  Company for heaven sakes – design a unique and special jersey for the USA don’t just copy the jersey you made for Portugal and England already.

3_Jerseys_all the SameGAMES ON TV  

 

 

Sun,  Mar 26

11:30 am Fox Sport2  England vs Lithuania WCQ

11:50 am ESPN 2        Azerbajan vs Germany  WCQ

2:30 p.m., Fox Sport2: Montenegro vs. Poland  WCQ

Tues Mar 28 –WCQ

11:50 am Fox Sport2   Russia vs. Belgium
2:35 p.m., beIN Sport Netherlands vs. Italy
2:45 p.m., ESPN3:        Austria vs. Finland
2:55 p.m., ESPN2         France vs. Spain

7 pm beIN sport           Mexico vs T&T

10 pm beIN Sport Panama vs USA WCQ

Fri,  Mar 31

730 pm Fox Sport 1                          Toronto vs Sporting KC

10 pm  fox sport 1     Seattle vs Atlanta United

Sat  Apr 1

7:30 am NBCSN            Liverpool vs Everton – Derby

10 am NBCSN??           Leiscester City vs Stoke City

3 pm ??                   Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico

7:30 pm beIN Sport  NY Cosmos vs Miami

Sun  Apr 2

10:15 am beIN sport                        Real Madrid vs Alves – (hopefully I will be there!)

11 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs Man City

9 pm ESPN2                    Portland vs NE

Sun  Apr 9

7 pm Fox Sport 1        Sporting KC vs Colorado Rapids (Tim Howard)

Full MLS Schedule

USA

US Can’t Let up at Panama  – Jason Davis ESPNFC

Bruce’s Simplified Approach is Just What the US Needed David Hersey ESPNFC

Clint Dempey is Mr Clutch and USMNT Greatest Ever Player – Doug Mcintyre ESPNFC

Demsey and Pulisic Combine – Grant Wahl SI

Arena not surprised Dempsey and Pulisic Meshed – ESPN FC

US Routs Honduras – Wahl SI

US Player Ratings ESPN FC

Player ratings from USMNT’s win over Honduras 

Making Sense of Huge US Win – NBC

US Can Breath Easier Now – Jeff Carlisle – ESPNC

Donovan Jumps off Taco Truck at American Outlaws Rally

Joint Bid coming for US/Canada/Mexico World Cup for 2026? COPA in 2020? – Grant Wahl SI

WORLD

What’s Left For Buffon?  After 1000 Games

Mexico Stays on top of Group with 2 – 0 win Goals from Chicharito

 Bruce Arena ‘not surprised’ Christian Pulisic and Clint Dempsey clicked

SAN JOSE, Calif. – U.S. men’s national team manager Bruce Arena was full of praise for his side after the Americans thrashed Honduras 6-0 in a World Cup qualifier.But he singled out hat trick hero Clint Dempsey, who made his return to the national team after missing the end of 2016 with an irregular heartbeat, calling his performance, “exceptional, damn good.”The U.S. was in control from the start, and broke on top through Sebastian Lletget in the fifth minute. The Americans extended their lead to 3-0 before half-time thanks to goals from Michael Bradley and Dempsey. The U.S. then turned the game into a complete runaway in the second half, with Christian Pulisic scoring just 13 seconds in. Dempsey then completed the rout with two superbly taken goals.”We had a good night,” said Arena at his postgame press conference. “Our finishing was exceptional, and some of our attacking play in the first half was great. The start of our second half was fantastic, and after that I thought we were a bit sloppy but I’m not complaining about a six-goal win in World Cup qualifying.”Arena admitted that when he first put the U.S. roster together, he expected that Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood would be his two starting forwards, but Wood was forced off the roster due to a back injury. Jordan Morris suffered an ankle injury as well. It was on Monday that Arena decided that Dempsey would start.”Why? We didn’t have anyone else,” he quipped. “It made it easy for me.”But Arena then stated that he had been watching Dempsey closely over the first few weeks of the MLS regular season, and liked what saw.”It was impressive the way he kept improving,” said Arena about Dempsey. “Checking with his fitness coaches there [in Seattle], we knew he could play. Then he plays late Sunday afternoon in Seattle, he comes in late Sunday night here, Monday he does a little bit of training, and he feels good. It was remarkable, and I say, ‘He’s got to play.'”Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Pulisic linked up well all night, despite Dempsey and Pulisic having never started a national team game together before. Arena said he expected the trio to perform well.”We’ve seen Clint do this before,” he said. “That’s not a surprise, and then there’s Jozy’s quality and Christian I’ve kind of seen a little bit of this in the last couple of months. I’m not surprised that they played well together.”Clint and Jozy know each other pretty well. Christian is just a natural. The game is easy for him. He’s got exceptional skill, vision, he’s pretty smooth. It was a nice combination of players.”Arena added that it was his intention for the U.S. to be aggressive right from the start, and his lineup, one that included talented, but relatively inexperienced players like Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, and Jorge Villafaña, was a reflection of that.”Our attitude was we were going to press and get at them as best we can,” he said. “Clearly a goal in the opening minutes of the game was big. I thought Honduras came at us a little bit after we scored, and I thought Michael’s goal was huge and Clint’s was tremendous and likely positioned us for the three points.”I’m amazed at how we came out in the second half to be honest with you. We told them at half-time that Honduras was going to come out and be all over us, and we wanted to play the opening kickoff at their end of the field. Little did I know it was going to result in a goal.”The only downside to the night was the early exits of Lletget, who was forced to depart with a foot injury in the 18th minute, and John Brooks, who Arena said had been battling a sinus infection. Arena said Lletget’s status was unknown at the moment, but he expected Brooks to recover.”[Brooks] is traveling,” said Arena. “Whether he likes it or not, he’s traveling.”Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle. 

In with the old and the new: Dempsey, Pulisic display prolific combination for USA

The wily veteran and bright-eyed star-in-the-making showed an uncanny connection in a much-needed result that helped recalibrate the USA’s World Cup qualifying campaign.GRANT WAHLSaturday March 25th, 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. — One man is 34. The other is 18. One man is near the end of his historic national team career. The other is just at the start of a journey that has no limits of what it could become.But on the night the U.S. got its groove back, the connection between Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic transcended age and experience and boiled down to the most elemental part of this beautiful game. Here were two American jazz men—one from Nacogdoches, Tex.; the other from Hershey, Pa.—riffing with each other all night long, connecting in ways that suggested this wasn’t the first time they had started a game together, even though it was.This was sexy football, American style.The scoreboard would end up reading USA 6, Honduras 0 in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Avaya Stadium, a result that brought the U.S. from sixth place to fourth place in the Hexagonal standings, just like that. But the moments that set your pulse racing came when Pulisic set up Dempsey on two exquisite goals, part of Dempsey’s hat trick on the night.On the first, with the U.S. up 2-0 in the first half, Pulisic hit a delicate lob that hit Dempsey’s right shoulder, whereupon Dempsey bulled his way into the Honduras box with defensive contact happening the entire time. It didn’t matter. Dempsey slammed it into the upper right corner.On the second, with the U.S. leading 4-0 in the second half, Pulisic paused on the ball in the Honduran end. Dempsey made a darting run toward the goal, and you could see the gap between the defenders that Pulisic saw and instantly exploited. The pass was something magical, a perfectly weighted ball on the ground that met Dempsey in stride and made his finish seem like an extension of one intuitive movement from both men.U.S. coach Bruce Arena, hoping to make an emphatic statement in his first World Cup qualifier since 2005, decided to start Dempsey earlier this week after it became clear that Jordan Morris wasn’t healthy enough to go. Dempsey had been out for six months–and nine from the national team–due to an irregular heartbeat that could have ended his playing career, but Arena said Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders fitness coaches had done the work to show he could play 90 minutes on Friday if needed.“Against this particular opponent, we were going to play two strikers and someone underneath them,” Arena said afterward. “We had to win this game and have an aggressive attacking concept to break down a team that defends very well and gets good numbers behind the ball in good spots on the field.”“So we had to have a number of players in advanced positions. Christian’s been playing in that spot a lot for Dortmund. I hate using these terms, but they kind of play with two No. 10s underneath a No. 9, and he’s been playing there [at No. 10] recently. And I think he’s been exceptional the last couple months with his club team. It’s clearly a position he’s played a lot, and I felt it was the right decision to make.”

Hearing Dempsey and Pulisic talk about connecting with each other was revealing too. When you write about players, you can’t help but jot “the 34-year-old Dempsey” and “the 18-year-old Pulisic.” But the fact is these guys aren’t thinking about ages when they’re on the field together. They’re just two inventive players finding a connection.“Man, he’s a great player,” Dempsey said of Pulisic after the game. “He can beat people one-on-one on the dribble and creates mismatches because of that. Someone else has to try to push to him, and if you’re able to make good runs he’ll find you. It’s great to have players like that who can win that 1-v-1 battle and kind of break teams open.”Pulisic was just as effusive about Dempsey.“Clint’s an easy guy to play with,” Pulisic said. “He’s strong, he’s technical, he makes good runs and he always gives good support. That’s exactly what you need from a forward, and he’s clinical.”It’s impossible to know how many times Pulisic and Dempsey will get to play with each other on the national team. For a guy who said he thought his career might have been over recently, Dempsey was talking on Friday night about hoping to play in another World Cup and hoping to get the chance to score three more goals and set a new all-time U.S. record (he trails Landon Donovan’s mark of 57 by two after Friday’s trio).  At the rate he’s going, Pulisic will be wearing the U.S. No. 10 jersey for a very long time. But instead of wondering how many times we’ll get to see Pulisic and Dempsey play together, perhaps the best thing to do is savor it while we can and look forwar d to more opportunities to witness something special, something that, like Friday’s performance, won’t leave our memory banks anytime soon.  Maybe the next one will come against Panama on Tuesday.

USMNT routs Honduras to emphatically get back on track in World Cup qualifying

Clint Dempsey had a hat trick, Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore were dynamic, and Bruce Arena’s USMNT routed Honduras 6-0 in a must-have game.SHAREGRANT WAHLSaturday March 25th, 2017

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Facing as close to a must-win situation as it had in many years for a World Cup qualifier, the U.S. poured in three goals in the first 32 minutes and rode a Clint Dempsey hat trick to a 6-0 beatdown of Honduras in coach Bruce Arena’s first qualifier since 2005.The U.S. marketing slogan for this game was #Get3—as in the three points that were crucial after losing the first two Hexagonal games in November—but few would have imagined that the U.S. would get three goals in the first half. In the end, the raft of goals came from Sebastian Lletget (who had to leave the game early with an injury), Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey (three) and Christian Pulisic.Entering the night in last place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal standings and with a -5 goal differential, the win–and vast margin–shoots the U.S. up to fourth place after three games.Here are three thoughts on the game:

Arena had the U.S. ready to play

After several players looked like they quit in the 4-0 November loss at Costa Rica that sealed Jurgen Klinsmann’s fate as the coach, the Americans were locked in from the start on Friday. Local boy Lletget, who was making his first qualifying start and probably wouldn’t have been in camp under Klinsmann, pounced on the rebound from Pulisic’s shot just five minutes in after Jozy Altidore had sent a gorgeous ball to Pulisic. It was the earliest U.S. qualifying goal since Brian McBride against Trinidad and Tobago in 2005, and it set the tone for the game. Every U.S. player had a fire—not just to win but to demolish the opponent. It was only one game, of course, but this was some sexy football, too.

Pulisic had his breakout U.S. game

The 18-year-old is the U.S.’s best player, period, but on Friday he really showed it in a game that mattered. What’s more, his understanding with Dempsey was almost telepathic. A delicate Pulisic lob found Dempsey for his first goal, when he bulled defenders off him and finished with aplomb. And a dagger of a pass on the floor from Pulisic to a streaking Dempsey created Dempsey’s second goal.

Arena surprised some people by opting to start Pulisic in the central attacking midfield instead of out wide, but it was a move that paid off in spades. Pulisic doesn’t have a ceiling, and that’s awfully exciting for U.S. fans.

Dempsey is still a gunslinger

It was only a few months ago that Dempsey’s playing career was in jeopardy due to an irregular heartbeat. In January, Arena said he wouldn’t call in Dempsey for these games, that it was too soon after his return to playing for Seattle, but then he reconsidered when the U.S. ran into a spate of injuries (including forwards Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris).Not only did Dempsey start on Friday, but he had a hat trick of beautiful goals that displayed the wide breadth of the Texan’s talents. The first goal showed off his strength (when many forwards would have hit the ground on the contact). The second, his run-making intelligence and connection with a terrific passer (Pulisic). The third? Well, that was all Dempsey, bending a free kick in from distance.Dempsey entered the game with 52 all-time U.S. goals, No. 2 in men’s national team history behind Landon Donovan’s 57. Now Dempsey is at 55 and within striking distance, perhaps as early as Tuesday night in Panama.Meanwhile, his U.S. team seems like another one entirely from that team we saw in November.

Making sense out of USMNT’s emphatic win over Honduras

Leave a commentBy Matt ReedMar 25, 2017, 8:01 AM EDT

In the lead up to Friday night’s clash at Avaya Stadium, the U.S. Men’s National Team was faced with a must-win scenario. What came next though was a bit more shocking than most U.S. Soccer supporters could have possibly imagined.An emphatic 6-0 scoreline was how it finished in San Jose, California as the USMNT took down Honduras to lift itself out of the cellar of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but it’s how Bruce Arena’s side picked up the result that was so impressive.After an extended layoff that began in the final months of the 2016 Major League Soccer season, Clint Dempsey has returned to both club and country with a vengeance following Friday’s performance. The artist formerly known as “Deuce” recorded a hat-trick in a span of 22 minutes to solidify an already convincing American lead, leaving Dempsey just two goals shy of Landon Donovan’s all-time USMNT scoring record (57).Dempsey wasn’t the only bright spot though, as Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, Jozy Altidore and most notably, Christian Pulisic, turned in stellar performances that really left Honduras with no chance to find its rhythm in the match.The 18-year-old Pulisic continues to be the talk of the town when it comes to the USMNT, and rightfully so given his club situation. There’s never been a U.S. talent succeeding at a club as big as Borussia Dortmund at such a young age, and Pulisic’s effort against Los Catrachos proved further that the young attacker could be the playmaker the Yanks have been looking for since Donovan’s retirement.Meanwhile, another player that turned in a great performance was Jozy Altidore, and probably not for the reasons you’d normally think. The Toronto FC striker didn’t get on the scoresheet, however, it was Altidore’s hold-up play and vision that helped the U.S. dominate Honduras.Altidore has long been a staple of the American attack, and an important one at that with his 37 international goals, which ranks third all-time for the U.S.. If the 27-year-old is able to replicate more performances like Friday night though, that makes the Stars and Stripes significantly more dangerous because of Altidore’s duel-threat ability.The lone area the U.S. will look to clean up heading into Tuesday’s important qualifying match against Panama will be some of the team’s defensive letdowns. Jorge Villafana turned in a strong performance in his WCQ debut at left back, while veteran Omar Gonzalez had several moments of weakness in the heart of the American backline.The Pachuca defender was caught out of position on several occasions and gave the ball away at times as well, but fortunately for the U.S., Honduras was unable to capitalize on those errors.Overall though, the U.S. did exactly what it needed… and then some. The three points was all Arena’s group could have hoped for from the start after lackluster performances against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November, but adding six goals could certainly help down the road as well if goal differential becomes a key factor in the Hexagonal.It’s difficult to say the U.S. is back because that’s a relative phrase that can be interpreted in numerous ways. The USMNT put in a stellar performance, albeit without key players like Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin defensively, while Bobby Wood and Jermaine Jones are two others that didn’t feature.

[ MORE: Three takeaways from USMNT’s emphatic win on Friday night ]

Only time will tell when it comes to how this team gels over an extended period of time, but it was certainly a dream start for the Americans as Arena Part Deux continues.Up next, Panama.

Pulisic enjoys international coming-out party in U.S. thrashing of Honduras

Bruce Arena’s competitive return to the U.S. national team proved to be a night of triumph for the coach and for a host of American players as the quest for the 2018 World Cup rocketed into gear on the back of a dominating 6-0 qualifying victory over Honduras.

Positives

The attacking trio of Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Christian Pulisic was simply irresistible for most of the night. From the outset, the group found an understanding between one another that paid off in goals. Pulisic’s night in particular will rightly get a host of headlines. The 18-year-old, given a central creative role despite his age, was directly involved in four of the six American goals. Dempsey deserves heaps of praise for the hat trick — on a night when many thought him unready to step back into the international fray.

Negatives

It seems petty to pick out too many negatives in a 6-0 thrashing, so we’ll keep it limited to a note about a sometimes discombobulated back line and strange tendency toward a vacant midfield that played no role in the overwhelming American victory. Injuries also bear mentioning, with Sebastian Lletget, Geoff Cameron and John Brooks all forced off early.

Manager rating out of 10

9 — The Hondurans certainly made it easy, but there’s no assessment to be made of Arena’s decisions other than that every one was perfect. Questions about the strength of the midfield and the lack of defensive support on the wings (where Honduras is most dangerous) proved unfounded. Deploying Pulisic in a free role under Altidore and Dempsey proved inspired. Every player was set out in a position they understand and were comfortable with, though the formation can best be described as “fluid.” Arena’s substitutions were all dictated by injuries.

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

GK Tim Howard, 8 — Made a handful of saves, none of them requiring anything spectacular.

DF Geoff Cameron, 7 — Effective in a right-back position before coming off with the game already decided. Far from perfect but more than good enough.

DF Omar Gonzalez, 7 — Questionable when on the ball, and made on egregious error that led to Honduras’s best chance of the night. Solid overall, though.

DF John Brooks, 7 — Provided a few key interventions but also allowed himself to be turned more than once. Read the game reasonably well.

DF Jorge Villafana, 7 — The nature of the American approach left him on an island more than once. The scoreline made that fact irrelevant, and his night was solid otherwise.

MF Michael Bradley, 7 — Sat deep, played his position. Made a few characteristic turnovers and was too slow on occasion. Connected passes with acres of space in front of him to good effect.

MF Sebastian Lletget, NR — No rating for the LA Galaxy midfielder, who scored the opening goal for the United States, due to an early injury.

MF Christian Pulisic, 9.5 — A coming-out party of epic proportions, reinforcing the obvious fact that he’s the U.S.’s best attacking player at the age of 18. Revelatory vision.

MF Darlington Nagbe, 8 — Quiet excellence maintaining possession up the left flank. Able to push high and contribute to the overloads the Americans used on the left side.

FW Clint Dempsey, 9 — A near-perfect return for the U.S. legend. The hat trick speaks for itself, but he was involved and dangerous all night long.

FW Jozy Altidore, 8.5 — No goals, but that’s just about the only negative thing that can be said about his performance. Provided perfect passes to set up more than one of the goals.

Substitutes

MF Alejandro Bedoya, 7 — Entered the game cold and stabilized the right side of midfielder immediately. Strong passing all night and did his usual work tracking back.

DF Graham Zusi, 6.5 — Competent coming on for Cameron, without any requirement to get forward. Made an important intervention late in the match.

DF Tim Ream, 6.5 — Forced on for Brooks when he likely didn’t expect to play. Did not stand out in any particularly negative way through the final 20 minutes.Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn. 

Player ratings from USMNT’s pounding of Honduras

Leave a commentBy Nicholas MendolaMar 25, 2017, 12:44 AM EDT

Battered. Throttled. Eviscerated.Pick your verb of dominance, the United States likely fit it well in a 6-0 destruction of Honduras at Avaya Stadium in San Jose.[ MORE: Recap + video | Three things ]The win boosts the U.S. in World Cup qualifying after their 0-2 start, but how did the individuals fare? Obviously well.

Starting XI

Tim Howard — 7 — The team just feels in a safer place with the veteran back there. If the U.S. goes to the 2018 World Cup, Howard remains their No. 1 (and there probably never should have been a question. Sorry Brad).

Jorge Villafana — 7 — Tidy passing and a low-risk game from the Santos Laguna man.

John Brooks (Off 70′) — 7 — An early error before recovering to be his usual free-clearing, athletic self. Scary injury took him out late, as he looked dazed. Fox’s Jenny Taft said he was dehydrated, which is a relief.

Omar Gonzalez — 5  — He wasn’t bad, but Gonzalez is still a positional question mark. Bailed out a couple times by Brooks.

Geoff Cameron (Off 59′) — 6 — Out of position and a bit hobbled, he wasn’t at his best.

Michael Bradley — 7 — One of his better USMNT games in a long time.

Sebastian Lletget (Off 17′) — 8 — Scored, then got hurt on a roasting run down the right.

Darlington Nagbe — 6 — One or two electric moments in the first half, but overall a quiet enough night for the Timbers man.

Christian Pulisic — 9 — Hard to not to hand the kid a 10. He’s quite frankly the most exciting American talent in the history of the program.

Clint Dempsey — 10 — Along with Howard, the sort of player you knew would make sure this game ended with three points. The fact that he nabbed three goals, too, is just a bonus.

Jozy Altidore — 7  — Pretty darn good night holding up the ball, and passed as well as ever, but did he drop a bit too deep too often? The answer is probably, “Who cares? They won 6-0, dude.”

Subs

Alejandro Bedoya (On 18′)  — 6 — Typical high energy, space eating job in the middle of the park from the Union man.

Graham Zusi (On 58′)  — 6 — Good late clearance preserved the shutout.

Tim Ream (On 70′)  — 6 — Interesting to note that Arena went to him over Walker Zimmerman or Matt Besler.

U.S. can breathe easy after impressive World Cup qualifying win vs. Honduras

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The U.S. men’s national team got its World Cup qualifying campaign back on track with a 6-0 shellacking of Honduras on Friday night. Clint Dempsey led the way with a hat trick, while the U.S. also received goals from Sebastian Lletget, Michael Bradley and Christian Pulisic.Here are three thoughts on a massive performance from the U.S.:

  1. U.S. gets some relief after big win

This was a night when just about everything went right for Bruce Arena’s side. The U.S. scored early through Lletget in the fifth minute, and padded its lead with two more first-half goals from Bradley and Dempsey that were scored just five minutes apart. In the back, there were some shaky moments, but the shots that made their way to goalkeeper Tim Howard were usually right at him.The U.S. poured it on in the second half as Pulisic scored after just 13 seconds, Dempsey slotted home another in the 49th minute and then completed his hat trick with a gorgeous free kick five minutes later.As a result, all of the negativity surrounding the team was washed away, and the team’s World Cup prospects, which invited doubt after the first two games of the Hexagonal, now look much more encouraging. The win, even with Trinidad & Tobago’s victory over Panama, means the U.S. has caught up with the pack, level with Honduras and T&T, and ahead of both teams on goal difference. More importantly, the U.S. now finds itself just a point behind third-place Panama, which it plays Tuesday in Panama City.So what was the difference? A change in manager, at least in the short term, oftentimes provides an emotional boost, and that appeared to be the case here. Without question, the U.S. looked to be a more confident and cohesive side. Having Dempsey’s predatory instincts back in the lineup for the first time since last summer’s Copa America was certainly a help as well. The maturation of Pulisic, who in addition to his goal added two assists, was evident for all to see as well.Perhaps most importantly, this is still a proud group, one that had to stew over a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Costa Rica for four months. All of that pent-up frustration was taken out on the Catrachos.

  1. Dempsey still has it

Think of it this way: Three months ago it wasn’t even clear if Dempsey would be able to continue his career after an irregular heartbeat forced him to be shut down for the last four months of the 2016 MLS campaign. A week ago, after starting the first two games of the 2017 MLS season, Dempsey was expected to be nothing more than a substitute in these matches. Even when Bobby Wood was removed from the roster due to a back injury, there were plenty observers who thought Jordan Morris was the more natural fit to take Wood’s place. An ankle injury eventually forced Morris out of Friday’s match, but Dempsey’s inclusion in the lineup made complete sense. He had the experience, a longstanding partnership with Jozy Altidore and plenty of confidence from Arena.Even then, no one could have expected a performance like he delivered at Avaya Stadium. His only one previous hat trick in a U.S. uniform was on July 18, 2015, against lowly Cuba. The goals showed off his entire repertoire as well. The first was an authoritative finish with Honduran defender Henry Figueroa draped all over him, the second a clear breakaway in which he rounded the keeper to slot home and the last was a free kick hit with perfection.Now, Dempsey is clearly indispensable again, and his 55 career U.S. goals now leave him just two behind Landon Donovan’s record of 57. Of course, when Wood heals up, Arena will have something of a selection headache on his hands, but considering all of the injuries he’s had to deal with, that’s a problem he’ll be happy to have.

  1. 3. Arena’s attack-heavy lineup pays off

Say this for Arena: He has guts. Given that the U.S. entered the match rock bottom of the Hexagonal, the U.S. manager would have been forgiven for showing a more conservative lineup. But instead, Arena, mindful that Honduran counterpart Jorge Luis Pinto would play five at the back, opted to put as many attacking pieces on the field as possible. There was room in the side for both Lletget and Darlington Nagbe, as well as 18-year-old wunderkind Pulisic. It was perhaps telling as well that there was no place for the more defensive-minded Alejandro Bedoya. Arena even opted to put Jorge Villafana, making just his second international appearance for the U.S., in at left-back over the more experienced DaMarcus Beasley.All told, the moves worked a treat. Lletget cleaned up a rebound from Pulisic’s shot in the fifth minute. Bradley’s worm-burner put the U.S. up 2-0 in the 27th minute. But Dempsey, making his first start since last summer’s Copa America Centenario, scored the pick of the first-half bunch. Pulisic’s lofted ball found Dempsey in stride, and the Seattle Sounders forward held off a defender to lash his shot into the top corner.Even another injury wasn’t enough to throw the U.S. off its stride. Lletget was hauled down by Ever Alvarado in the 15th minute, a foul that saw the Honduran defender earn a yellow card. Lletget tried to carry on with a left ankle injury but was forced to make way in the 18th minute for Bedoya. Yet the U.S. continued with its attacking ways, and Bedoya put in a hardworking shift while assisting on Bradley’s goal as well.Honduras did respond, continually attacking Geoff Cameron’s side, and should have pulled a goal back just before halftime when substitute Erick Andino had a glorious chance, only for John Brooks to get the slightest of deflections.To the Americans’ credit, they kept up their attacking instincts in the second half. Pulisic scored from a terrific through ball from Altidore, who was involved and impressive all night. Dempsey then scored twice more to complete his hat trick.If there was one downside to the night, it was the injuries to Lletget and Brooks. But this was a night when the depth in the U.S. team came to the fore, and Arena and his charges will be confident they can do the same on Tuesday.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.

Three things to take away from USMNT 6-0 Honduras

Leave a commentBy Nicholas MendolaMar 25, 2017, 12:43 AM EDT

The United States men’s national team pulled a Leicester City.

[ MORE: Recap & video Player ratings ]

That’s a joke with truth wrapped around it, because the Yanks have had plenty of time and even a pair of friendlies to respond from the firing of Jurgen Klinsmann.But in their first serious match without their old coach, the U.S. looked a team renewed and unleashed. Now the Americans may find themselves back in an automatic World Cup qualifying spot with a win on Tuesday in Panama.Things change.

Vindicated

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati and all of the USMNT players waited months and months to get the chance to answer their critics following a pair of embarrassing losses to open the final round of World Cup qualifying.Sure, having Clint DempseyGeoff Cameron, and Tim Howard back helped a whole lot, and the seasoning Christian Pulisic is getting at Borussia Dortmund is unquestionably good for an 18-year-old.

But there’s little doubt Michael Bradley and Co. were fired up to silence their critics. Whether they admit it or not, this is a bunch that was stung by those who said they failed their old coach.Most expected the U.S. to get a point or better against Honduras, but to do it the way they did is an unexpected bonus. A win in Panama on Tuesday would boost them into the Top Three.

Pulisic won’t be credited with an assist for his shot which rebounded to Sebastian Lletget for the opener, but he will walk away with his fourth international goal and two proper assists.One was an absurd scoop to Clint Dempsey’s chest, and the other was a long avenue that shouldn’t have existed. Still, Pulisic found that street and provided an absolutely dynamic force all over the park.There have been U.S. teens at big European clubs, and U.S. teens who’ve made impacts on the national team, but never both at the same time and never both at this level. Pulisic is for real, and finding his ceiling is an adventure we’re all undertaking with great enjoyment.

…But the legends sure helped

Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard will go down as two of the most important players in United States men’s national team history.Actually, they may be duking it out for Nos. 1 and 2 when it’s all said and done.Dempsey’s hat trick was his career in a nutshell. The first saw him body off a defender while collecting a Pulisic pass off his chest, then lashing a shot with power despite said defender dragging him down.The second was a burst of speed to run onto Pulisic’s through ball and classic calm in the face of an onrushing keeper, holding onto the ball before sliding it home from an acute angle.The third was this free kick. A bit aided by goalkeeper Donis Escober, but such is life.

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

3/22/17 US Faces Honduras in Must Win Fri Eve 10:30 pm on FS1, Indy 11Kickoff Season Sat Night at San Fran 10 pm on Twitter, Games of the Week

3/22/17  US Faces Honduras in Must Win Fri Eve 10:30 pm on FS1, Indy 11Kickoff Season Sat Night at San Fran 10 pm on Twitter,

The US Men face a must win weekend of World Cup qualifiers as they host Honduras Friday night at 10:30 pm on FS1 followed by a Tuesday night battle at Panama on beIN Sport at 10 pm.  The are must win games for new coach Bruce Arena with a bunch of potential starters and difference makers like Fabian Johnson, Bobby Wood missing and the continuing issues at right and left back.  This will be an interesting weekend of games. Also this weekend are WCQ games in Europe and South America – check the TV Listings for Times.

The Indy 11 kick-off their regular season on the road vs the expansion side San Francisco Deltas on Saturday night at 10 pm broadcast live on Twitter.  The return for the home opener at the MIKE on April 1 at 3 pm vs Puerto Rico FC.

Moving to MLS it was nice to see the Raising of the Banner for my favorite Seattle Sounders over the weekend as they put up a 3-1 victory that included goals from both Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris.  Keeping it close –how about the Chicago Fire – first they start the season with a Draw and a Win at home over Real Salt Lake and now they have signed former World Champion Germany Captain Bastian Schweinsteiger from Man United.  Might have to eyeball that home schedule as Seattle comes May 13, FC Dallas May 25,  Orlando City & Kaka June 24, Toronto Aug 19, and NYCFC on Sept 30.  Bout time Chicago!

GAMES ON TV  

Fri, Mar 24

12:45 pm Fox Sport 2 Turkey vs Finland WCQ

3:45 pm Fox Sport2  Italy vs Albania  WCQ

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1  Mexico vs Costa Rica WCQ

10:30 pm fox Sport 1 USA vs Honduras  WCQ

Sat,  Mar 25

12:45 pm FS2                Sweden vs Belarus  WCQ

3:30 pm  FS2                 Portugal vs Hungary WCQ

3:30 pm Fox Soccer  Belgium vs Greece WCQ

10 pm  on Twitter   San Fran Deltas vs Indy 11

Sun,  Mar 26

11:30 am Fox Sport2                        England vs Lithuania WCQ

11:50 am ESPN 2        Azerbajan vs Germany  WCQ

2:30 p.m., Fox Sport2: Montenegro vs. Poland  WCQ

Tues Mar 28 –WCQ

11:50 am Fox Sport2   Russia vs. Belgium
2:35 p.m., beIN Sport Netherlands vs. Italy
2:45 p.m., ESPN3:        Austria vs. Finland
2:55 p.m., ESPN2         France vs. Spain

7 pm beIN sport           Mexico vs T&T

10 pm beIN Sport Panama vs USA WCQ

Fri,  Mar 31

730 pm Fox Sport 1                          Toronto vs Sporting KC

10 pm  fox sport 1     Seattle vs Atlanta United

Sat  Apr 1

7:30 am NBCSN            Liverpool vs Everton – Derby

10 am NBCSN??           Leiscester City vs Stoke City

3 pm ??                   Indy 11 vs Puerto Rico

7:30 pm beIN Sport  NY Cosmos vs Miami

Sun  Apr 2

10:15 am beIN sport                        Real Madrid vs Alves – (hopefully I will be there!)

11 am NBCSN                Arsenal vs Man City

9 pm ESPN2                    Portland vs NE

Sun  Apr 9

7 pm Fox Sport 1        Sporting KC vs Colorado Rapids (Tim Howard)

Full MLS Schedule

Indy 11

Turkish Airline and Honda to Be Indy 11 Kit Sponsors

Indy 11 Sign local pair – David Goldsmith and Tanner Thompson

Indy 11 Season Tickets

Indy 11 Flex Pack – 8 game Flex Package

Indy draws 1-1 with Louisville City FC in Final Preseason Game

Indy 11 First Game to Be Broadcast on Twitter?  – Soctakes.com

Indy 11 on TV locally

Local Broadcast of Indy 11 Games

USA

Is this How Bruce Rolls them out?  Armchair Analyst

Injuries Dictate Dempsey Starting up top?  EPSNFC – Jeff Carlisle

With Woods, Johnson,  Out – Should we now Panic?  – Armchair Analyst Doyle – MLS.com

The Case for Pulisic in Central Mid = Grant Wahl – SI

Mailbag – Injruies Deplete US Team Grant Wahl SI

Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson both out-  Hurt – Kljestan, Besler Called in – ESPNFC

Cameron Eager for US Team Return after Injuries – NBC

John Brooks Injured but will be at Qualifiers – ESPNFC

Zusi replaces injured Fabian Johnson

Dempsey looks to talk to Arena about his role

Dortmund’s Pulisic has No Limits – Andreas Herzog says

US Ends Residency Program in Florida – ESPNFC

Champions League Quarter Final Predictions – Final 8

Bayern vs Real Madrid SI Planet Futbol (April 12/18)

Juventus vs. Barcelona (April 11/19)

Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City (April 12/18)

Borussia Dortmund vs. Monaco (April 11/19)

Apply for Champions League Final Tickets – June 3 in Cardiff Wales

MLS

Chicago Fire Sign former German Superstar Bastian Schweinsteiger

US Players have a good week in MLS

What You Need to Do Week 3 results

Week 3 Recap

Seattle Unviels Banner in 3-1 win over RB

Chicago Fire – Home Schedule

MLS Save of the Week

Europe/EPL

El Classico Game day Set 4/23 @ Real Madrid

US Players in Europe

INDY ELEVEN INKS LOCAL PRODUCTS Butler’s DAVID GOLDSMITH AND Hoosier TANNER THOMPSON

Roster Stands at 20 Players Ahead of 2017 NASL Season OpenerMar 21, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (Tuesday, March 21, 2017) – Indy Eleven travels to the San Francisco Deltas for this weekend’s 2017 NASL season opener with its roster shaped out after the additions of forward David Goldsmith and midfielder Tanner Thompson. Per club policy, terms of the contracts will not be disclosed.Goldsmith comes to Indy Eleven after a successful collegiate career at Butler University in Indianapolis, where he earned Big East Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2016. Being honored as a unanimous selection to the All-Big East First Team, the native of Bristol, England was the leading scorer for the 2016 Big East champions Butler and earned the Big East Tournament Most Outstanding Offensive Player en route to capturing the league title. Also named the Big East Co-Offensive Player of the Year, Goldsmith finished the 2016 campaign with 12 goals and 28 points, ranking him in the top 20 nationally in scoring, In addition, he was a semifinalist for the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy, the sport’s most prestigious collegiate award. Goldsmith is the lone former Bulldog on the 2017 roster and will sport the No.20 shirt for the “Boys in Blue” this year, pending receipt of his P1-A.   “An adjustment to the philosophy of building our 2017 roster led us to see that we had a senior group and needed an injection of young, ambitious players. David showed in his trial that he may be the most technically-gifted player in and around the goal in the squad,” said Indy Eleven head coach Tim Hankinson. “He’s an intelligent player who doesn’t waste runs. From a tactical standpoint, he checks a lot of the boxes for what we were looking for.”Thompson signs with Indy Eleven after four years at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he helped the Hoosiers to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances and a Conference Tournament Championship in 2013. As a senior, the native of Loomis, CA was named an NSCAA First-Team All-American and the Big Ten Midfielder of the Year along with First-Team All-Big Ten honors. Increasing his return, Thompson chipped in three goals and nine assists as a junior before adding eight goals and three assists to his resume in 2016.  “Looking at this injection of young talent, Tanner clearly fits that category. We’re fortunate to have him join us. He’s a very good attacking midfielder who can also play as a second forward, With his talent, he can play anywhere in the midfield. We’ll look to utilize him very quickly in our line-up,” said Hankinson.“Tanner came at just the right time. We needed options in goal creation and those who can go get a goal. He has the 1v1 ability to run at a defender and beat him and the quality to find the back of the net. He’s going to have a great season.” Thompson joins Indy Eleven midfielder Brad Ring and goalkeeper Christian Lomeli as a trio of former Hoosiers on Indiana’s Team and will wear the No.14 kit in 2017.Visit IndyEleven.com for more information on the team’s roster, which now includes 20 players, ahead of their fourth season of NASL play in 2017.  Indy Eleven will begin the 2017 NASL season on the road on Saturday, March 25, before opening its 16-game regular season home schedule at IUPUI’s Carroll Stadium on Saturday, April 1. Season Ticket packages featuring up to 48% off single-game prices are currently available; for details, visit www.CueTheSmoke.com.

Armchair Analyst: Cameron’s position, Morris’s health & the US XI

March 22, 20174:42PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior WriterAccording to whispers in and around the US men’s national team, we should all expect Geoff Cameron to suit up at right back in Friday’s qualifier against Honduras at San Jose’s Avaya Stadium. I don’t think this is the choice I’d make, largely because I always think the smartest thing to do is to put the spine of the team first.”The spine,” by my definition, is central defense, defensive midfield and center forward. If you have those areas locked down, then you can tinker around a little bit with the rest of positions, accounting for injuries, suspensions and match-up needs. And with all due respect to Omar Gonzalez (who’s been excellent for Pachuca) and Walker Zimmerman (who’s been excellent for FC Dallas), I still have more faith in the Cameron/John Brooks pairing than any other permutation in central defense.So if Cameron and Brooks are healthy, I’d start them together with Michael Bradley at d-mid in front of them. That’s the spine, and the look the US used during last summer’s Copa America that produced the best extended run of defensive form under former manager Jurgen Klinsmann.Thus is weighed one side of the scale. The other side is that due to the biblical rash of injuries at right back, Cameron is probably the best individual choice at that spot by a clearer margin than he is at center back. In terms of getting more of the team’s best talent out onto the field, Cameron at RB and Gonzalez at CB alongside Brooks makes more sense than the Cameron/Brooks pairing with either Michael Orozco or Graham Zusi at RB.That really is my main concern going into Friday. I think there are other questions as well – will it be DaMarcus Beasley or Jorge Villafaña at left back (Villafaña vs. Honduras, DMB next Tuesday at Panama is my guess), and has Kellyn Acosta done enough to stake a claim on a central midfield role next to/in front of Bradley (I hope so!), and has Darlington Nagbe won a job on one flank or the other (please!) all get their own entries as well.

Those are questions, though. This is a concern:

Jordan Morris gutted out 90 minutes, the last 60 or so on a bum ankle, against RBNY this past Sunday in a 3-1 Sounders win. He scored the game-winner, then was in San Jose 12 hours later.According to reports he hasn’t trained with the team on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t be a big deal since Morris is, at this point, Bobby Wood’s back-up as a channel-running, field-stretching No. 9. But Wood’s not here either as he picked up a back injury this weekend for Hamburg in the Bundesliga. Gyasi Zardes, who’s probably fourth on the “true No. 9” depth chart is also hurt, and Juan Agudelo – fifth, right? – has been playing as a No. 10 for New England.And now the US seem perilously thin at center forward. Jozy Altidore – noted CONCACAF killer – will assuredly start at center forward, and he’s been in good enough form for TFC with two goals and an assist in his last two games. But behind him in the current No. 9 corps it’s just Morris and then two veterans, in Clint Dempsey and Chris Wondolowski, who’ve always been better used and more effective as second forwards rather than guys who lead the line. Neither is really a No. 9. Is it a crisis? No, I don’t think so, and whispers out of camp are that Morris is going to be fine for Friday. He probably won’t start, but he wouldn’t have started anyway since Dempsey is fit and functional and scoring goals, and is doing stuff like this:Healthy Clint Dempsey starts. That should’ve been obvious even before Morris picked up a knock, right? Healthy Jozy Altidore starts as well, and then it’s four midfielders and four defenders behind them. Morris will be fine to give 30 minutes as a change-of-pace attacking sub if that’s required.And the thing to remember is that this is Bruce Arena calling the shots. He’s masterful at keeping things un-complicated:

Altidore/Dempsey

Nagbe, Bedoya, Pulisic

Bradley

Villafana /Brooks/Gonzales/Cameron

There will be gripes about the lineup no matter the XI Arena trots out. At the top of this column you can see mine.But this group should be more than good enough to get the job done over the next 180 minutes. So embrace your concerns, but also embrace the fact that even with those concerns, and the injuries, and the awful start to qualifying, the US are favorites to get the job done.

Does Bruce Arena have no choice but to start Clint Dempsey up front?

When Clint Dempsey was named to the U.S. national team roster last week for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama, attention immediately centered on his best role.Given that he only recently returned to action after missing the last four months of 2016 due to an irregular heartbeat, the most likely scenario had him being used off the bench. But the fact that he started the first three games of the 2017 MLS season for Seattle Sounders FC — scoring two goals in the process — meant that a starting role couldn’t be ruled out.Now, manager Bruce Arena might not have any choice. Bobby Wood, perhaps the most in-form striker in the U.S. pool, has been ruled out of both matches due to a back injury, while Dempsey’s club teammate, Jordan Morris, sustained an ankle injury in Sunday’s 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls and was a notable absentee from Monday’s training session in San Jose. Arena tried to downplay that, stating that Morris was doing a regeneration session back at the team hotel, and also noted how Dempsey and the Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan didn’t exert themselves too much either.But the announcement on Monday evening that San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski had been added to the roster speaks to the extent that the corps of American forwards has been depleted. As such, it may be that Arena’s best option is to have Dempsey in the starting XI. But assuming for the moment that Morris is healthy enough to start, the question of Dempsey’s best role still stands, even with Wood out of the picture. At first glance, a substitute position seems perfect. Even though he’s played all but one minute of Seattle’s three matches, the sense is that his long layoff — his appearance in the opener against Houston was his first outing since last August — would still preclude him from playing the full match.His experience also seems suited to a late appearance off the bench if the U.S. is in need of a goal, while Morris’ speed would stretch the Honduran defense and his presence would allow Arena’s side to be more effective with its defensive pressing.However, there is also a belief that Dempsey would be less than thrilled at being left on the bench.”Clint’s not the type of guy who wants to be a sub,” said ESPN FC TV analyst Steve Nicol, who managed Dempsey at the New England Revolution “Clint wants to play, and Clint will be making sure that he’s showing Bruce, No. 1 that he wants to play, and No. 2 that he’s fit enough. When I say he won’t be happy I’m not saying he’ll be a pain; he’ll just be disappointed he’s not playing because that’s the way he is.”However, ESPN TV analyst Taylor Twellman thinks that his former teammate’s health issues may have changed his perspective. “If his heart issue had never happened, I’m not sure Clint would have found it easy to accept a substitute role,” said Twellman. “Now in saying that, I think just hearing him talk, and catching up with him at MLS Cup, he’s always had a passion and a love for the game, and I think going through all of that has made him realize how much he wants to go out on the right note. If Clint is willing to play a substitute role, then he could play himself onto that World Cup roster in Russia.”Dempsey, for his part, seems to understand his current limitations, telling the Associated Press last week that he wasn’t quite at the level needed to play an entire World Cup qualifier and that he would adopt whatever role was asked of him.”I’m not at 100 percent I would say but I’m getting close,” said Dempsey. “Every 90 minutes I get under my belt here I’m feeling more comfortable.”There are also practical reasons for having Dempsey on from the start. For all the talk of Morris’ ability to stretch defenses, it seems likely that Honduras will adopt a defend-and-counter strategy, the better to utilize the athleticism of attackers like Romell Quioto and Alberth Elis.That means there will be less space for the U.S. to exploit, thus requiring a bit more guile for the home side to find a breakthrough. And that is precisely the skill set Dempsey has: If he can only last 60-70 minutes, at least his time on the field will be maximized.A reduced role for Morris would also give his ankle more time to heal, leaving Arena free to unleash him four days later against a Panama side less inclined to bunker in.There is also the longstanding relationship Dempsey has with Jozy Altidore. The two were the U.S. team’s go-to strike partnership during the last World Cup cycle and it seems likely that time hasn’t dulled the pair’s understanding.”If I’m the coach, and Wood isn’t fit, then I’m playing Clint,” said Nicol. “He’s clearly fit, you’re talking experience, someone who has been there, done that, seen it. If you give him an opportunity, he’s going to score. I can’t really see how if you’re going to play with two up front, how you don’t play Clint alongside Altidore.”Altidore could be deployed as a lone striker, especially with the glut of midfielders at Arena’s disposal. But that is a formation in which the U.S. has historically struggled to create chances; a two-forward alignment maximizes the Americans’ attacking heft.With the U.S. desperate for World Cup qualifying points, who better than Dempsey, whose record of scoring in big games is arguably unparalleled in national team history, to be given the chance to add another vital goal to his resume?Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.

The case for USMNT playing Christian Pulisic as a central playmaker

GRANT WAHLThursday March 23rd, 2017

This story appears in the March 27 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATEDTo subscribe, click here.

This week, the best U.S. men’s soccer player of 2017, 18-year-old Christian Pulisic, parachutes into North America for two pressure-packed U.S. games: against Honduras on Friday in San Jose, and at Panama next Tuesday. Qualifying for an eighth straight World Cup is in jeopardy after losses to Mexico and Costa Rica in November, defeats that caused a change in coaches from Jurgen Klinsmann to Bruce Arena. After two games the U.S. is in last place in CONCACAF’s six-team, 10-match final-round tournament, from which the top three (and perhaps four) teams will advance to Russia 2018. A win at home on Friday is paramount, and much of the U.S.’s attacking verve is expected to come from Pulisic. In light of this urgency, Arena should play Pulisic in a central attacking role from the start.Over the last 18 months Pulisic has undergone a breathtaking rise. He broke into the first team of Germany’s Borussia Dortmund in early 2016 and scored his first U.S. goal last May (the night after hiring a private plane to take him back home to his prom in Hershey, Pa.). He has only kept climbing since. Pulisic has five goals and eight assists in 31 matches this season for Dortmund, and on March 8 he produced the decisive goal that sent his team to the Champions League quarterfinals—arguably the biggest goal ever scored by an American on the Continent..S. fans are reflexively skeptical about emerging soccer talents in the men’s game—Freddy Adu did TV ads with Pelé at age 14 but never went on to play in a World Cup, much less become the nation’s first male soccer superstar. So far, at least, Pulisic shows every sign of being the real thing, a dynamic attacker with speed and vision who has the finishing instinct of an assassin. Merely becoming a regular for one of the world’s top 10 clubs and providing a game-changing Champions League assist against Real Madrid already puts Pulisic in a group of one among American players all-time.The looming question for the U.S., though, is where Pulisic will play. He has started wide for much of the season with Dortmund, but in recent weeks he has moved to a more central role that diminishes his defensive assignments. Pulisic himself prefers to play in a central No. 10 role—he wears 10 for the U.S., his Twitter handle is @cpulisic_10—and most observers think that eventually he’ll be a fixture in that part of the American formation.Pulisic centrally against Mexico in November, but the Mexicans sliced through the U.S.’s three-man back line so frequently that Klinsmann scrapped the idea in the first half. That wasn’t Pulisic’s fault—the blame goes to the poorly organized and executed defense—which is why Arena should unleash the 18-year-old centrally now, preferably playing ahead of Michael Bradley in a 4-1-3-2 formation.Reached in his L.A. office last week, Arena was asked if Pulisic was better out wide or in the middle. “I actually think it’s both,” Arena said. “We’re going to see his comfort level when he gets into camp and talk to him a little bit. … He’s demonstrated at a young age that he’s capable of getting the job done in a lot of positions. With our team, at the moment I’m on a computer doing that with the options of him playing at both spots and organizing our team accordingly.”The image of the 65-year-old Arena tinkering with lineups on his computer just like the rest of us soccer geeks is a fun one. But when the whistle blows on Friday night in San Jose, there will be little margin for error.

Mail BaG _ GRANT WAHLWednesday March 22nd, 2017

EN ROUTE TO SAN JOSE — It’s funny: Even though there haven’t been any soccer games on TV from Monday to Wednesday—and how often can you say that these days?—it seems like there are a million things still going on in American soccer this week.A bunch of top European soccer figures were in New York City for the announcement of this summer’s International Champions Cup and the Leaders in Sport event. And then there are all the World Cup qualifiers that will be on the tube starting Thursday, including the U.S.’s pressure-packed game against Honduras in San Jose on Friday (FS1, pregame at 9:30 p.m. ET, kickoff at 10:50 pm ET).

Plus, the Chicago Fire signed Bastian Schweinsteiger. Which brings us to the new Mailbag. Let’s dive in!

When will Bruce Arena call up Dom Dwyer? @MariaMentado

Is there really, really, really no better option than Wondo? Really??!! @CarmenBPhillips

With so much young U.S. talent, why is the USMNT starting to look like an old folks home? @sepler

Maybe it’s the angst of being in last place in the Hex, but lots of sass in the ‘Bag from national team fans this week. You should have seen the responses to my tweet announcing that Chris Wondolowski had been added to the U.S. roster earlier this week. The only real cure for the angst is a win on Friday. But let me answer your questions. I thought new U.S. citizen Dwyer or Juan Agudelo might get added instead of Wondo as a potential late-game sub for an injury-depleted front line (Bobby Wood is out, and Jordan Morris is battling an ankle knock). But Wondo is familiar to the group in a way that Dwyer isn’t yet, and Wondo is … local in San Jose? Is that a reason? I honestly don’t know.

Armchair Analyst: Bobby Wood rled out of qualifiers – is it time to panic?

March 19, 20173:24PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

No.Losing Bobby Wood, who was the breakout player for the USMNT in 2016, and has scored big goals for club and country, and has been very good in the Bundesliga and is drawing interest from EPL teams and is the most relentless field-stretching forward in the pool, is not good. He was a sure-thing starter for the upcoming games against Honduras on Friday (a must-win) and Panama a few days after that (a must-result). Coupled with a biblical rash of injuries at right back, it feels like a legitimate crisis. DeAndre Yedlin, the first choice? He’s out until at least April. Eric Lichaj is, I think, the second choice, and he’s out too. Is Timmy Chandler the third choice? I think so, but he’s suspended for the Honduras game, has recently lost his starting job – he’s shifted from wingback to central defense to right midfield, playing RB just once in the last six league games as Eintracht Frankfurt have gone 0-5-1 – after a disastrous run of form and never plays well in heat (which means he’d be a liability in Panama), so Bruce Arena didn’t call him. Justifiably. I think Fabian Johnson would’ve been the starter at right back. He got hurt this weekend. That means we’re down to our fifth choice at that spot, which is not optimal. But our fifth choice is Michael Orozco, who has been a starter in Liga MX for the better part of a decade, and over the past several years has done so for/with a very good Tijuana side. They’re currently fourth in the Clausura, and they finished top of the Apertura, and Orozco was a part of that. Granted, he’s playing in either a back three or a back five, but he’s played RB in a back four plenty of times in his career. He is not a stranger to the spot, nor is Geoff Cameron, and nor is Graham Zusi (who’s played every minute for an MLS defense that’s conceded once in three games this season). This is unprecedented depth for the US. Let’s take a step back and draw some deep breaths, ok?  Back up top, Wood is out but Jozy Altidore is 100% fit, and has two goals and an assist in his last two games. He’s doing it against CONCACAF defenders:  That’s Costa Rica’s Kendall Waston – who manhandled the US in November – that Jozy spun like a top. Clint Dempsey is back and healthy and playing 90 for Seattle. Altidore is the all-time leading scorer for the US in qualifiers, with 16 goals. Dempsey is third all-time with 13. This is fine. This also makes Jordan Morris the third forward, and while he’s not as polished or proven as Wood, this is also fine. He stretches the field, has a developing chemistry with Dempsey, and does not play scared in big moments. Maybe he starts and Dempsey comes off the bench. Clint Dempsey, super-sub!  The US, for the first time in the history of the program, has the depth to weather this kind of roster crisis.  I wish we still had Wood. But even without him, and without Johnson, Yedlin and Lichaj, and with Chandler and Jermaine Jones suspended against Honduras, and Brad Guzan awaiting the birth of his second child, this US team should still absolutely be expected to take at least four points from the next two games. There can be no excuses. Just look at this XI and calm yourself:

GK: Tim Howard
RB: Michael Orozco
CB: Geoff Cameron
CB: John Brooks
LB: Jorge Villafaña
RM: Christian Pulisic
CM: Alejandro Bedoya
DM: Michael Bradley
LM: Darlington Nagbe
ST: Clint Dempsey
FW: Jozy Altidore

Move Cameron to right back and bring Omar Gonzalez – who marshals the best defense in Liga MX – into the XI if you want. Sit Nagbe, shift Bedoya to the right and bring in Dax McCarty for more defensive bite in central midfield if you’re feeling conservative. Or Sacha Kljestan if you’re feeling aggressive. Or Kellyn Acosta if your metric is “form matters above all else!”  Go to a 4-2-3-1 with Kljestan as the No. 10 underneath Altidore, or a 4-3-3 with Pulisic on the right and Morris on the left. Go to a 5-3-2 with Zusi as one wingback and Villafaña as the other (actually please don’t do that), and it’s an absolutely plausible and balanced lineup to throw out there. Stick with the 4-4-2. Make it a 4-1-3-2, or a 4-3-1-2 with Pulisic sitting behind two forwards. It all works if there’s clarity of roles, because the talent in this group is undeniable. The US has the depth to weather this, to come out on the other side with the required results to get back onto the path toward World Cup qualification. It would’ve been easier with Wood and Johnson and Yedlin, but those are the breaks and that’s the reality of qualifying. You don’t get to the World Cup with 11 guys, or 18 or 23, You really need about 30, and despite the injuries and absences the US have the numbers and quality to get it done over the next 180 minutes.  If they don’t? That’s when you can go ahead and panic. I’ll be right there with you.

Cameron eager for USMNT return in World Cup qualifiers

Leave a commentBy Joe Prince-WrightMar 21, 2017, 12:59 PM EDT

MANCHESTER, England — Geoff Cameron was missing for the U.S. national team in their opening 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica back in November.  he USMNT lost both after shaky defensive displays and a lot has changed since the last time he suited up for the Stars and Stripes. [ MORE: Cameron talks injury, Stoke 

Jurgen Klinsmann was fired and Bruce Arena has come in and now all the focus for the U.S. is on the next two World Cup qualifiers against Honduras this Friday in San Jose, Calif. and then next Tuesday against Panama in Panama City.Speaking exclusively to Pro Soccer Talk from his home in Manchester, England before he flew out to link up with the national team — in-between Cameron was named as Stoke’s man of the match in their narrow 2-1 defeat to Premier League leaders Chelsea on Saturday — Cameron knows all of the pressure is on the USMNT in the next seven days with the U.S. sitting bottom of the Hex.

“I think the pressure is on us. It is a must win situation,” Cameron said. “Going down to Panama, it’s a tough place to play. The environment, everything is against us when we go down there. They are good players. They are savvy and they have technical ability, good on and off the ball. They are creative, quick on the ball and fast and they are slick in certain ways. They have an understanding on how to take advantage of certain situations.

“We need to be more aware of that and have an understanding of that going into these games because we know it’s going to be difficult at home with Honduras coming in and they’re going to try and make it difficult for us to play the game how we want to play. Also going down to Panama, we know it’s going to be tough to play down there. We might have to sit back and defend a little bit, weather the storm and then hit them on the counter. We have to be strategically aware of all these situations teams are going to be throwing at us.”

Cameron, 31, missed four months through injury this season after injuring his MCL in an innocuous challenge at the end of Stoke’s victory at Hull City back in October, 2016.After playing the full 90 minutes in central midfield in each of Stoke’s last three Premier League games, the versatile defender/midfielder is now back fit and ready to lead the U.S. defense after watching on helplessly as the team succumbed to defeats to Mexico and Costa Rica back.  The nature of those defeats ultimately cost Klinsmann his job.“It was so frustrating to watch because as a team we didn’t play well and as individuals and as a team we weren’t up to par,” Cameron said, grimacing. “Sitting down and watching the game, it was so frustrating because I knew I was a player who could help and being that player that I thought they needed whether it be a physical attribute or the mental attitude or that toughness and bite we seemed to be missing in those two games. It was difficult. Obviously you have those ups and downs in your career and that was kind of the down point. I’m excited to get back and happy I’m fit now.“We have two massive qualifiers we need to take care of business. We are in a bit of a tough spot right now. In the qualifying we always seem to have these ups and downs and that’s part of it. We know these two games here are key with Honduras at home and Panama away, we know we need to get six points, minimum four. That’s our goal.”That will be a tough goal to achieve, especially with Bobby Wood, Fabian Johnson and DeAndre Yedlin all out of the squad through injury as Arena will have to shuffle his defense for two crucial games.Cameron could well line up at right back with Yedlin and Johnson out. Wherever he plays, he’s confident he can help the USMNT achieve their goal of getting their World Cup qualifying campaign back on track.“This is like the number one question I’m asked,” Cameron laughs as we discuss his best position. “I will continue to say I feel like my best position is either center half or defensive central midfield. Those are the positions I’ve thrived in when I’ve played there in the Premier League for Stoke. I can play right back, no problem, and I’ve got a bunch of games under my belt and I’ve proved to myself that I can play in a number of positions. I don’t think that a lot of players who can play these positions at a high level and do it as consistently or well as I can, especially going from one position to another and being able to change and understand the roles.“I still say my best strengths are either for defensive center mid or center half. I love playing center half and partnering up with Brooksy [John Brooks] in Copa America, our back four were solid and we just had a really good partnership and understanding. Also, this season and throughout my career I’ve found myself playing in defensive midfield and sitting in the hole to protect the back four. I know I can do that and I’ve shown that I can do that with Stoke City, especially playing against some of the best players in the world. I’m confident in my ability and I can play in those positions but like I said all along, it is whatever position the coach needs me in and I am willing to play and help out the team. It’s not about me. It’s about the team and putting the team first and doing whatever I can to help the team be successful.”There are now plenty of players back in the fold who have tasted success in qualifying and at tournaments with the U.S. over the last decade.With Cameron back fit, plus Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard also returning to full fitness, Arena will have plenty of experience to call on for these key qualifiers.

“My first experience when I was first coming through, when we were in a tough spot, we would look to guys like Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra,” Cameron explained. “Those were guys you looked up to, captains and experienced guys who had been through the ups and downs of qualifiers. Going through all this before, I have that experience of ‘these are the moments where everybody needs to step up.’

“In the beginning of qualifying this time around, when we needed to beat Guatemala at home and it was a must-win game, everybody showed up together and we got the result and made it to the next round. It is one of those moments where everybody needs to be on the same page and working for one another. I think the veterans, the guys who are experienced, myself, [Alejandro] Bedoya, Tim [Howard], Jermaine [Jones] and all of these guys who have experience of going through the qualifiers, knowing what to expect and what we need to do.”

Cameron was around the USMNT’s January camp for a few days as he received treatment on his MCL injury and said he felt a “positive vibe” from the players on the training ground, with Arena and his staff giving fresh chances to players to impress and competition for places high.That said, whoever is the manager of the U.S. Cameron knows the buck still stops with the players.“Overall, it just comes down to us. We, as players, need to perform better than we did in the last couple of qualifiers,” Cameron said. “We need to bring that team chemistry and get that team atmosphere back. It seems that the fighting mentality was what we missed in the last few games because I didn’t see it when we were playing. We need to get that back.”If Cameron plays against either Honduras or Panama in the next seven days, he will hit 50 caps for the U.S. national team.48 of his caps have come in the past five years, showcasing his importance to the team over the Klinsmann era.What will it mean for him to reach 50 caps in these upcoming qualifiers?

“It has always been a dream of mine, to play and represent my country. It’s a special thing. I don’t think people really understand it until they are actually put into the position where they are able to represent their country,” Cameron said, smiling. “You are representing your country, your national team, people that have fought for you and died for you to give you a chance to represent the United States, playing soccer. It is pretty special. Not everyone gets this opportunity and that’s why you never know when it’s going to be your last.

“Thinking back to when we played Cuba [in a friendly last October in Havana], it’s like ‘am I going to be out for another year with injury?’ I was so happy and excited that it would possibly be an opportunity to get my 50th cap against Mexico in the World Cup qualifier and I could’ve already been on 50 caps had it not been for certain games missed through injury or suspensions, then we wouldn’t be talking about it. It is definitely special. It honestly is a proud moment but every game is as special because you never know when it will be your last. That’s why you always try to take in the moment and when you put your hand on your heart and you are representing and putting on that national team jersey, you are representing everybody in your country. We are all American. We come together and we play for our country. That’s special in itself.”

 

Bobby Wood out of U.S. squad with back injury as Kljestan, Besler called in

U.S. Soccer has removed injured striker Bobby Wood from its squad for a key set of World Cup qualifiers and added midfielder Sacha Kljestan and defender Matt Besler.Wood played into second-half stoppage time of Hamburg’s draw on Saturday, after which the German club wished him well on his travels, but U.S. Soccer said he has a back injury.The U.S. opens camp in San Jose, California, on Monday. The team plays its first qualifier since rehiring Bruce Arena as coach against Honduras in San Jose on Friday, then travels to Panama for another game four days later.Wood, 24, was likely in line to start for the U.S. alongside Jozy Altidore as the U.S. looks to overcome November’s two opening defeats in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.The addition of the New York Red Bulls’ Kljestan — who became the second player in MLS history to record 20 assists in a season last year — rather than another striker suggests the injury to Wood may have altered Arena’s formation plans.Sporting Kansas City’s Besler will bolster a back line that is already without the injured DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj.Last week, midfielder Fabian Johnson had to pull out of the squad and was replaced by Graham Zusi, while goalkeeper David Bingham is in for Brad Guzan.

 

Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic has no limits – Andreas Herzog

United States international Christian Pulisic’s career has no limits, according to Andreas Herzog.In his first full pro season, the 18-year-old has already become one of the key players in Borussia Dortmund’s squad. He has played in 21 of BVB’s 25 league games, and featured in every Champions League match, starting six of them including the most recent 4-0 win against Benfica.”He’s already reached a significant level at 18,” Former U.S. assistant coach and current U.S. Under-23 coach Herzog told kicker. “He now needs to raise that level year after year, which is not easy.”Pulisic has scored five goals and set up a further nine, drawing widespread praise, first in the United States and in recent weeks also in Germany, where he has been compared to both Henrikh Mkhitaryan and the young Mario Gotze during Gotze’s breakthrough years at the Westfalenstadion.Although Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel last week played down the hype and urged Pulisic to keep his head down, Herzog has now told kicker that there are “no limits” for the winger.”He’s got an exemplary character, and in this sense good qualifications,” Herzog said. “I dare him to do it, I don’t see any limits.”Herzog said that it’s now up to Pulisic’s coaches to continue his development.”Dortmund can consider themselves lucky to have two attacking grenades like him and [Ousmane] Dembele.”Herzog, who has closely followed Pulisic’s progress over the last few years, added: “The development he’s taken is no coincidence. The lad’s got an unbelievable talent and potential. Jurgen Klinsmann and I realised that soon enough.”Also speaking to kicker, former Pulisic youth coach Hannes Wolf, who moved on from BVB’s academy to second-tier club VfB Stuttgart during the season, said that the winger is at the right club right now.”The responsibility is not pressed on his shoulders at BVB,” Wolf said about Pulisic, who is under contract at Dortmund until 2020, and had been linked with a move to Liverpool prior to putting pen to paper on his new deal earlier this year.

 

Clint Dempsey on fitness: I’m not at 100 percent but I’m getting close

SEATTLE — Clint Dempsey said Friday he’s open to whatever role Bruce Arena sees fit for him as he rejoins the U.S. national team for upcoming World Cup qualifying matches.Dempsey said ahead of the Seattle Sounders’ home opener that he’s probably not back to the level of fitness needed to play a full 90 minutes in a World Cup qualifying match. But he expects to have conversations with Arena when he joins the national team camp in Northern California next week about how he may best be used.”Do I think I’m able to go out there and do 90 minutes in World Cup qualifiers? I don’t know if I’m there yet. I’m not at 100 percent I would say but I’m getting close,” Dempsey said after training at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders will face the New York Red Bulls on Sunday. “Every 90 minutes I get under my belt here I’m feeling more comfortable.”Dempsey missed the final four months of the 2016 MLS season after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Dempsey returned to training when the Sounders opened camped in January and has played 90 minutes in each of Seattle’s first two regular-season games.Arena had indicated during the January national team camp that he didn’t believe Dempsey would be ready for this month’s critical qualifiers at home against Honduras and at Panama. But Dempsey’s recovery has appeared to be ahead of schedule all along.”He’s been in contact with me ever since last November and then he gave me a call last week and we had a good talk and feel comfortable about moving forward and being involved in the games,” Dempsey said.Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said the Sounders have been sharing data with the U.S. national team on where Dempsey is in his return.”He’s in a pretty good place,” Schmetzer said. “He’s in a good spot. He knows he needs to do a little bit more to get back where he was.”Dempsey has appeared in 130 matches all time for the U.S. and scored 52 goals. His last appearance came in the Copa America last June when the U.S. reached the semifinals before being eliminated by Argentina. Dempsey rejoined the Sounders after the tournament but was sidelined in late August for the remainder of the season by his heart condition.”I feel like I can make a difference and it’s kind of do or die in the World Cup qualifying situation that we’re in,” Dempsey said.

 

U.S. Soccer to end youth residency program in Florida

The U.S. Soccer Federation will end its residency program in Bradenton, Florida, for players under 17 years old this spring after 18 years.Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley were among 33 players at the program who went on to play for the senior national team.The program was designed to expose 20 top prospects each semester to high-level training at the IMG Academy.”One of our main hopes when establishing the U.S. Soccer Residency Program was that at some point advancements in youth player development would make its existence no longer necessary — we believe that point has been reached,” USSF president Sunil Gulati said in a statement on Friday.”Not only did the program develop a number of key players for our national teams, it served as a model for academies across the country to follow. With the U.S. Development Academy having achieved high standards in preparing our young athletes, we are now able to impact future American professionals on a much larger scale.”The U.S. Soccer Development Academy, now in its 10th season, has increased from 63 clubs across the nation to 150, with more than 10,000 registered players. In addition, since 2007 every Major League Soccer team has been required to have a youth academy.U.S. youth technical director Tab Ramos said both programs serve the same purpose for which the residency program was designed.”When the residency program started, there was no development academy, there were no MLS teams investing in youth development and there was no particular training direction,” he told U.S. Soccer’s website.”Most youth players at all levels were training twice per week and playing anywhere from one to five games on the weekends. Now we live in a completely different landscape.”The DA has now been around for 10 years and players are taught to play, hold the ball and be creative. There is a clear ‘training over games’ mentality of learning the game properly, and more importantly clubs all over the country are investing millions in youth development led by teams in MLS.”Ramos also said the under-17 team will now be managed more like the under-20 team that he coaches, with “five or six camps per year.””It’s a bittersweet moment because the program has been invaluable for almost two decades as a critical piece of the development process for U.S. Soccer,” under-17 coach John Hackworth said. “The end of the residency program signals the next step in the evolution of player development in this country.”

 

Chicago Fire Soccer Club Acquires World Champion Bastian Schweinsteiger as Designated Player

March 21, 20177:50AM CDTChicago Fire Communications

CHICAGO (March 21, 2017) – The Chicago Fire Soccer Club today announced the acquisition of German midfielder and international soccer star Bastian Schweinsteiger from Manchester United. Schweinsteiger has won more championships than any player to have ever signed to play in Major League Soccer, and is a reigning World Cup champion as a member of Germany in 2014.“Bastian Schweinsteiger is one of our sport’s greatest champions,” said Fire owner and chairman Andrew Hauptman. “We are excited for soccer fans everywhere to have the opportunity to watch the most decorated player in the league during the Fire’s 20th season.”Throughout my career, I’ve always sought opportunities where I hoped to make a positive impact and to help make something great. My move to Chicago Fire is no different,” Schweinsteiger said. “Through my conversations with Nelson and Pauno, I’m convinced by the club’s vision and philosophy and I want to help them with this project.”chweinsteiger, 32, signed a one-year deal and will occupy a Designated Player spot on the club’s roster. Schweinsteiger will officially be added to the roster and available for selection upon passing a team physical, and pending receipt of his ITC and P1 Visa.

READ: 10 Things to Know About Bastian Schweinsteiger 

“This is a historic moment for our club,” Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez said. “We have added one of the greatest champions in all of sports. Bastian’s talents, attitude, and character will be a perfect complement to our squad as we continue building a championship program.”Schweinsteiger’s German debut came on June 6, 2004 against Hungary, launching a national team career that would lead to appearances in three World Cups (2006, 2010, 2014) and four UEFA European Championships (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016). He holds the German record for most UEFA European Championship appearances with 18, a mark he achieved last summer as captain of Die Mannschaft. His career also includes a World Cup title in 2014. He has retired from international competition, and played his final match for Germany on Sept. 1, 2016. Internationally, he boasts 24 goals in 121 appearances for Germany.As a club player, Schweinsteiger helped Bayern Munich to the UEFA Champions League crown in 2012-13, a year in which he also earned Bundesliga Player of the Year honors. Schweinsteiger won eight Bundesliga titles during his time with Bayern Munich, and also has seven DFB-Pokal (German Cup) championships. In all, the German international has been a part of 23 major domestic and international cups during his playing career, more than any previous player entering their first season in MLS.“Having the strongest possible midfield is essential for how we want to play,” said Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic. “We see Bastian helping our organization of the attack, and impacting the final third build-up with his vision and creativity to produce the final pass, as well as his capacity to score goals. His versatility on the field, and his immense experience at the highest levels of this sport will be a great benefit to our team.”During his 15-year club career, Schweinsteiger has amassed 70 goals and 103 assists in 535 first team games. He signed his first professional contract in December of 2002, joining Bayern Munich after four years in their youth system. Schweinsteiger remained with the Bavarian side for 13 years before his move to Manchester United in July of 2015.Season, single-game and group tickets for the 2017 Chicago Fire season are on sale now at Chicago-Fire.com/tickets. Fans can guarantee their seat at Bastian Schweinsteiger’s home debut by securing a 2017 Chicago Fire Season Ticket and enjoy all the benefits of joining the club, including: complimentary parking, 20 percent off of concessions and merchandise, 10 percent off at Heineken Pub97, pre-sale access to the 2017 Target MLS All-Star Game at Soldier Field, and exclusive access to Meet The Team events and Season Ticket Holder tailgates.For more information on becoming a Chicago Fire Season Ticket Holder, please call or text 888-MLS-FIRE or visit Chicago-Fire.com/STH.

Transaction: Chicago Fire acquires MF Bastian Schweinsteiger as Designated Player from Manchester United. Schweinsteiger will officially be added to the Fire’s roster and available for selection upon passing a team physical, and pending receipt of his ITC and P1 Visa.

Full Name: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Jersey Number: 31
Position: Midfielder
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 175 lbs.
Born: Aug. 1, 1984 in Kolbermoor, Germany
Hometown:  Rosenheim, Germany
Last Club: Manchester United (EPL)

Career Highlights:
• 2014 World Cup winner with Germany
• UEFA Champions League crown in 2012-13
• UEFA Super Cup winner in 2013
• FIFA Club World Cup winner in 2013
• FIFA World Cup “Dream Team” Selection in 2010
• Eight-time Bundesliga winner with Bayern Munich
• Seven-time DFB-Pokal (German Cup) winner with Bayern Munich
• Bundesliga Player of the Year honors in 2013
• 23 domestic and international cups during his career, more than any previous player entering their first season in MLS.

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

 

3/17/17 Champ League Elite 8, USA Men Next Fri, Indy 11 start next Weekend,

3/17/17 Champ League Elite 8, USA Men Next Fri, Indy 11 start next Weekend,

Wow – so why do we love Champions League – seriously – France’s little club Monaco rolls a 3-1 win on mighty Manchester City and all everything manager Pep – to win on away goals (6-6 aggregate) after Man City took a 5-3 lead to France.   Incredible last 10 minute goal after Man City had scored to take the lead in the 2nd half – and now only little Leicester City carries the EPL hopes into the Final 8 of Champions League.  And what about Leicester City – huge goal and the 1-0 win on the road sends last season’s Cinderalla story into the Quarter Finals of the biggest soccer tournament in the World.  Wow.  My daughter Courtney got a chance to see her 1st Champions League game at Atletico Madrid and she saw a goalkeeper battle royal as Atletico’s Oblak GK was spectacular (see these saves).

So after a fabulous Champions League game where Pulisic scored the go ahead goal and had an assist – the Dortmund coach decided he should rest the 18 year old US sensation and didn’t bring him on until the 76th minute.  Seriously – it helped lead to a 2-1 loss to US defender John Brooks and Hertha Berlin – clueless Dortmund coach Tuchel sometimes.

Not a ton of good games this weekend internationally Man City does host Liverpool on Sunday at 8:30 am on NBCSN and Saturday Stoke City and US Defender Geoff Cameron host league leaders Chelsea at 11 am on NBCSN.

Only 1 good game in MLS on TV this week Sunday Seattle hosts the NY Redbulls 7 pm on Fox Sport 1.  Of course next Friday the US hosts Honduras at 10:30 pm on Fox Sport 1 in a must win game, right after Mexico hosts Costa Rica at 8:30 on FS1 as the International Break extends from Thurs thru Wed.  New US Coach Bruce Arena announced an interesting roster with a ton of experience.  Our Indy 11 kick off the season on the road next weekend before returning for the home opener vs Puerto Rico on Sat night, April 1 at 3 pm.

GAMES ON TV  

Fri, Mar 17

3:30 pm fox Sport 2                         Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Ingolstadt

Sat,  Mar 18

8:30 am NBCSN            West Brom vs Arsenal

11 am NBCSN                 Stoke City (US Cameron) vs Chelsea

10:30 am Fox Sport 1 Hoffenhiem vs Bayer Leverkusen

10:30 am Fox Soccer Werder Bremen (US Woods) vs Redbull Leipzig

10 am NBCSN                Everton vs West Brom

Sun,  Mar 19

8:30 am NBCSN            Mddlesborough vs Man United

10:30 am NBCSB         Tottenham vs Southhampton

12:30 pm                         NBCSN?      Man City vs Liverpool 

7 pm  fox sport 1        Seattle vs NY Redbulls

Fri, Mar 24

3:45 pm Fox Sport2  Italy vs Albania

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1                         Mexico vs Costa Rica

10:30 pm fox Sport 1 USA vs Hondoras

Sun,  Mar 25

8:30 am NBCSN            England vs Lithuania

Tues Mar 28 –WCQ

5 pm FoxSport1         Panama vs USA

USA

US Roster – Questions Still Arise?

What to Cheer and Boo on the US Roster – Stars and Stripes

3 on the Back Line?

Where does 18 YO Christian Pulisic fit best for the US? – Planet Futball Grant Wahl – SI

Brad Guzan to miss Qualifiers to Have 2nd Child

Fabian Johnson leaves Gladbach game with leg injury

Yedlin Out Injured till April

Christian Pulisic Embodies Dortmunds New Spirit

American Forward Bobby Wood scores winner for Hamburg in Relagation Battle

Hamburg wants to keep Bobby Wood amid EPL Interest

Christian Pulisic scores in German Cup

ICC announces El Classico in Miami Tix on sale this weekend

Champions League

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid (first leg April 12 in Munich; second leg April 18 in Madrid)

Juventus vs. Barcelona (first leg April 11 in Turin; second leg April 19 in Barcelona)

Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City (first leg April 12 in Madrid; second leg April 18 in Leicester)

Borussia Dortmund vs. Monaco (first leg April 11 in Dortmund; second leg April 19 in Monaco)

Quarter Final – Elite 8 Match-ups – Who’s going Thru?  ESPNFC

Elite 8 #s

Oblaks Saves keep in Atletico alive

Oblak on his Saves

Pep to Face Critisism on Man City Exit

Here Leicester Goes Again! – SI Jonathan Wilson

Leicester Keeps the upsets coming

Simieone keeps Atletico on top

Juve Defense is the Key

Europa Results – Man U advances

Europa Draw Announced Man U vs Anderlecht

EUROPA – Ties to be played April 6 and 13:

Anderlecht vs. Manchester United
Celta Vigo vs. Genk
Ajax vs. Schalke
Lyon vs. Besiktas

Indy 11 and MLS

What to Watch for This Weekend

ESPN raises game on MLS Coverage this Year

Europe

Liverpool vs Man City Top 4 on the Line

Armchair Analyst: Dempsey & Howard return, but questions still for US

March 15, 20173:31PM EDTMatthew DoyleSenior WriterFor the last five years the USMNT was largely defined by their inability to string together coherent attacking sequences, and thus an inability to consistently create danger from the central midfield. It was frustrating because 1) who wants to watch soccer like that?, and 2) in Sacha KljestanBenny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen, the US player pool included three “in-their-prime” playmaker types who were all doing the job to one extent or another.When Bruce Arena took over for Jurgen Klinsmann in late autumn, one of the first things he said was that the US needs more passing in midfield. I took that – I think most of the fanbase took that – as evidence that at least one of those guys would get their shot, and to Bruce’s credit he called in both Kljestan and Feilhaber for this winter’s two friendlies, with each getting a start. Feilhaber was instrumental in the only goal the US scored in those two games when he set up Jordan Morris against Jamaica.Neither guy is on the US roster for the upcoming qualifiers against Honduras at home and then on the road at Panama, the first of which I’d call a “must-win” and the second a “must-result.” I am frustrated by this, though I will admit there are a few things about how this roster is constructed that suggest a true No. 10 wasn’t going to see the field much regardless.

  1. Clint Dempsey‘s back,and won’t be playing as a lone target forward

Deuce isn’t a No. 10, but he’s the most creative forward and best finisher in the pool, and now suddenly the US are deep at forward. Dempsey, Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood are all proven quantities in CONCACAF, and Jordan Morris is getting there.That means the US will be playing something with two forwards – we all know it’s going to be a 4-4-2, right? You can fudge it and say “oh it’s a 4-4-1-1” or “it’s a 4-2-3-1” with Dempsey in the middle of the “3” line, but at this point in his career he’s a second forward. He does second forward things like dropping into midfield to help in possession, but when he does so he doesn’t do playmaker things like cracking open the defense with a through-ball or a long-ball to the back-post winger, etc etc etc. He helps you combine, gets himself into the box to score. He’s a forward.And it’s hard to play a 4-4-2 with a true, central playmaker in the modern game. Doing so risks stranding the one defensive midfielder, or asking the wide midfielders to pinch in tight and cede the wings.That’s not a smart play against Honduras especially. And while Panama’s not quite at that level, they will still exploit isolation opportunities for all they’re worth.

  1. TheNo. 8s on this particular rosterare creative

Kellyn Acosta already has three goals for FC Dallas this year, and Sebastian Lletget was a two-way central midfield force for the Galaxy last year (please move him back to that spot full-time, guys). Alejandro Bedoya has never produced a ton of box-score stats, but he played a good chunk of his career as a No. 10 in France and here in MLS, and has a knack for being part of long build-ups.One of those three guys is likely to start alongside Michael Bradley, who will almost certainly be deployed as a true d-mid for these games. This will provide some extra defensive steel in the most crucial part of the field without giving up the ghost in the way of creativity.Rather, it just shifts the creative burden to Dempsey (who will try $&!% in combination with his forward partner, likely Wood) and to the wingers. Which is where this roster gets interesting…

  1. Is Christian Pulisic made forthe empty bucket?

Pulisic has been devastating over the last six weeks for Borussia Dortmund, particularly when he cuts inside from the wing in transition. I think it’s his best spot, and his ability to eviscerate defenders 1v1 opens up the field for the rest of the attack. Putting him on one side offers the type of individual flair and penetration, both on-the-ball and off-the-ball, the US has largely lacked in recent years.

He’s also no stranger to playing as a No. 10, and has been doing it a lot lately:

I will say this: Pulisic is not a two-way No. 10. If he’s going to be used as a central playmaker it means the US will be playing a 4-2-3-1, and I don’t think Pulisic’s finishing is yet good enough to justify such a big switch. The 4-4-2 with him on one wing makes more sense because it keeps two of Dempsey, Wood and Altidore on the field in their best spots.Either way, though, it feels like the keys are being handed to Pulisic at least a little bit. There’s not much of a Plan B in terms of offering creative verticality.

  1. Wing and right back are riddles

The other wing is more of a mystery. If Arena had his full complement of players I think the job would go to Fabian Johnson. But “DeAndre Yedlin and Eric Lichaj are both injured – otherwise they were slated to be on the roster” throws a wrench into the works. And neither Graham Zusi nor Timmy Chandler (who’s suspended for the Honduras game anyway) were called in, and now suddenly we’re looking at a squad where there’s really only three guys we can be comfortable with at right back

  • Geoff Cameron, who was an integral part of the US’s central defense at last summer’s Copa América
  • Michael Orozco, who is doing a nice job on the right side in a 3-man look for Xolos but has had his, um, ups and downs for the US
  • Johnson, who played right back at the most recent World Cup

I’m more comfortable with Johnson at that spot for the obvious reason, but also because I don’t want to break up the Cameron/John Brooks pairing in central defense.The other reason I’m more comfortable with Johnson is Darlington Nagbe, who is apparently a full-time left midfielder/winger for club and country. The great weakness of the 4-4-2 is that you’re playing numbers down by default in central midfield, and that means one of the wide players has to pinch in to help in possession and at times defensively.agbe does that naturally. It’s always his inclination to come inside and try to combine, and with Pulisic playing direct-to-goal on the other wing, it would offer the US structure a good balance.

  1. DaMarcus BeasleyForever

There are three guys on this roster who can play left back, and it wouldn’t shock me if Jorge Villafaña got the first crack at it. Down in Panama, though? Beas.

So in general I’m not in love with this roster but at least I get it. There is some pattern to divine, and the only really new additions (Lletget, Villfaña, Walker Zimmerman, and Dax McCarty, who is clearly the backup d-mid) fill obvious needs. Each pick makes sense in a vacuum and in the overall structure of the thing.Let’s hope that “the overall structure of the thing” makes as much sense when the US take the field against the Catrachos in nine days. At this point, there’s no room for do-overs.

There’s plenty to cheer and boo in Bruce Arena’s first Hexagonal roster

Quite a few popular faces were selected by Arena, as well as a couple that seemed to be off the radar completely.Adam Whittaker Snavely@Snaves  Mar 16, 2017, 7:00am PDT

Speculation over who Bruce Arena did or did not trust was calmed a bit on Wednesday as his 24-player roster for games against Honduras and Panama were released. The familiar faces are all here, and some popular dark horses made it into the roster as well. Unfortunately for many, there are still a few head-scratchers that made the roster, and a few that were left out. Here are some quick thoughts on the roster in general.

The Good

  • Our Defensive Third Is (Mostly) Healthy: With the potential to miss out on three probable starters for the U.S. in the back, it’s a relief that, barring last-second injury, both Tim Howard and Geoff Cameron will be healthy and ready to play in the Hex. Cameron’s partnership with John Anthony Brooks coalesced into the strongest center back pairing the U.S. has had in years, at least since Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu manned the center of the defense. His return will bring stability and utility to the back line. Meanwhile, the U.S. almost always has an embarrassment of riches in goal, but Tim Howard came out of the gates strong against New York in his first action since November’s Mexico game, and he figures to start as well. DeAndre Yedlin will miss out, unfortunately, but 2 out of 3 isn’t bad, all things considered.
  • Dallas Represents:Walker Zimmerman impressed in his time in January Camp and Kellyn Acosta has played outside of his skull to start the MLS and CONCACAF Champions League campaigns. I didn’t know if Arena would call them in, considering there are many other options with more experience, but he pulled the trigger on both. Even more excitingly, Arena made it clear in a Facebook Q&A that he sees Acosta primarily as a midfielder, and not an outside back. Thank god.
  • The Forwards Are Hungry: This forward pool is deep. Like, Olympic diving pool deep. Jozy Altidore remains the only real hold-up target forward in the pool, and when he’s on, he is on (when he’s off, he’s off, but there’s enough depth here to compensate for that as well). Bobby Wood is playing well and getting goals for one of the worst teams in Germany, and is showing he knows how to play through adversity. Meanwhile, Jordan Morris still possesses game-breaking speed, and the second all-time leading scorer for the U.S. is back on the field and in the goals for the Seattle Sounders. I saw a few people questioning Clint’s inclusion in this team, but here’s the long and short of it: Clint missed half of the U.S. games last year, mostly due to injury, and still ended up tied for second-most goals. Even if you’re just bringing him off the bench, he’s someone you still want in your deck.
  • Christian Pulisic: He’s here. Bruce is planning around him. Enough said.

The Bad

  • Left Back Still Looks Shaky: Jorge Villafaña was a big winner from January Camp, but he hasn’t been getting game time with Santos Laguna. Damarcus Beasley is still getting called in, and Tim Ream also can provide cover at the left back spot. I assume Villafaña is the most likely starter in this bunch, but with Fabian Johnson presumably pushed up to the midfield, can whoever is covering the U.S. left flank stand up to Hex play?
  • 10 Is the Loneliest Number: Neither Sacha Kljestan nor Benny Feilhaber were included in this roster, which was a little bit of a shock to me. I thought at least one and possibly both would be here. That could be Arena telegraphing his moves a little bit: he hinted at a 4-4-2 or 4-1-3-2 set-up in his Facebook Q&A, which would call for a center midfielder that could take on more evenly-spaced duties between offense and defense. When asked if Pulisic could play in the middle, Arena agreed that he could, but also name-checked Sebastian Lletget, Darlington Nagbe, and Alejandro Bedoya as people who could play a #10. None of these guys really play #10 as an attacking midfielder though, and play more box-to-box roles in their teams than Kljestan and Feilhaber. Arena could be planning on unleashing Pulisic as a #10, but if he runs a two-striker set, Kljestan and Feilhaber might be tactically superfluous anyway, explaining their absence.

The Ugly

  • Michael Orozco Is the Ultimate Undead Zombie: The guy just won’t go away. I’m not sure how he manages to cling to every U.S. coach that comes along, but even if he’s defensive depth I would have rather seen…well, anyone, frankly. Maybe this roster looks different if guys like Yedlin or Eric Lichaj were fully fit and available for these matches, but here we are.

Not great, Bob.All in all, I’m optimistic about this roster and its chances of grabbing points against Honduras and Panama next week. There’ll be plenty to plan, discuss, and dissect when thinking about how Arena might line these guys up, but for now we’re left with our options wide open to us. I’m still confident this group can get the job done.

Arena says three-defender formation a possibility for USA vs. Honduras

March 16, 20176:51PM EDTAlicia RodriguezContributorThe target has not changed for US national team head coach Bruce Arena in the upcoming CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers against Honduras and Panama.During a Facebook Live Q&A after revealing his roster for the qualifiers on Wednesday, Arena said the target for the two matches was six points, but short of that, a home win against Honduras at Avaya Stadium on Mar. 24 (10:30 pm ET | FS1) was absolutely essential, alongside a point on the road against Panama on Mar. 28 (10 pm ET | beIN Sports).The US currently sit in last place in the Hexagonal round of qualifying, two games into the phase. In order to maintain the USMNT’s World Cup qualification streak intact (they have qualified for the last seven tournaments), they will need to pick up points, and quickly, in the final eight games of the round.One of the questions Arena was asked concerned the formation for the upcoming games. The coach indicated a two-striker formation was quite possible, and also spoke about options in defense, with a three-man backline recently becoming a fashionable formation around the world.”Certainly there’s a variety of ways of playing,” he said. “I said with this roster we can play anywhere with three, four, five in the back. Clearly, I favor four in the back, but three is an option.”Among the MLS players who have gotten a chance in the second Arena era are midfielders Sebastian Lletget and Dax McCarty.Arena, who knows Lletget well from his tenure with the LA Galaxy, praised the player as one of a number of younger players providing speed and new energy to the group.McCarty, who received his first US cap in 2009 but was not selected by former coach Jurgen Klinsmann, provides the Americans with experience, skill – and a vocal presence.”I’ve known Dax for a number of years, I think he’s a very good player. I saw him up close in our camp in January. He played well, he’s experienced, he communicates well, he fits in well with the group. And watching him play his first two games with Chicago convinced me that he can be an important part of our squad.”Given the stakes of the upcoming qualifiers, Arena discussed the strategies he’ll use to balance the pressure of the moment with making sure the team stay relaxed for the task at hand.”I think the week of training [ahead of the game] is important. We’ve done a lot of legwork before we even entered this camp, and have talked with the players. I think they’re going to be confident, they’re going to be aggressive, and they’re going to be as relaxed as you can be in games like this which are crucial.”This is a very important game for the US team, we need to win the game,” he continued. “There’s certainly going to be some tension and pressure, but that’s all part of it. We have elite athletes and they’re acc

ustomed to playing in games like this, so I’m confident they’ll show up and be in the right frame of mind to be ready to play and perform well.”

 

Atletico, Monaco, Bayern Munich, Juventus expected to advance in UCL

With the draw for the Champions League quarterfinals made, here’s a look at how the matches could go. Apologies, Leicester fans, but the dream may end here.

 

Atletico Madrid vs. Leicester City

Of all the clubs Leicester could have met in the quarterfinals, they were drawn against the only one they had faced before. Admittedly, much has changed since Martin O’Neill’s Foxes lost 4-1 on aggregate to Atletico in a UEFA Cup first-round tie in 1997, with Ian Marshall earning a place in the history books by scoring at Vicente Calderon. Atletico also beat Leicester 3-1 over two legs in the 1961-62 Cup Winners’ Cup and, up until this season, had been their opponents in half of the European fixtures they had ever played.In the here and now, Leicester can have mixed feelings about this draw — that is, if they were minded to feel at all choosy. On the one hand, Atletico do not quite have the individual stardust many of the other contenders possess, and they have not been consistently at their uncompromising best this season. On the other, Diego Simeone’s team know better than anybody how to win a game at this level through sheer guts and, like Leicester, are happy to cede possession in order to do so.It may be that Craig Shakespeare’s side have met their match — an opponent that can do the dirty, unfussy work that brought them success against Sevilla but have that extra bit of quality where it matters. Atletico have done this all before; they can win a tie in many different ways and Leicester will have their work cut out. Only a fool would rule the Foxes out now, though.

Prediction: Atletico will go toe-to-toe with Leicester in the physical battle and have too much in the opposition box. Simeone’s side reach the semis.

 

Borussia Dortmund vs. Monaco

In some ways, this clash of the great entertainers looks like the tie of the round. Both of them swashbuckled their way into the last eight, and there is little chance of their letting up now. Dortmund’s style is a little sleeker than Monaco’s high-octane, lightning-fast approach, but the emphasis on attack is similar; neither Thomas Tuchel nor Leonardo Jardim will be naïve enough to neglect their defences with so much at stake, but this should still be a shoot-out between Europe’s two brightest young teams.You would certainly pay to watch a race between Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe, both of whom have been elevated to “potential matchwinner” status on a higher level than they might have expected at this stage of their careers. Monaco will be hit by the absence of suspended midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko — who scored the winner against Manchester City shortly after picking up the booking that ruled him out — for the first leg, but their biggest threat comes down the flanks. And if attacking full-backs Djibril Sidibe and Benjamin Mendy are given space in the first leg, they may score a healthy number of away goals.  Dortmund will need to force them back and hope that Marco Reus, due back in early April after a hamstring injury, is fit to return by then. If not, there is always the thrilling promise of U.S. starlet Christian Pulisic, who deputised for him in the round-of-16 second leg against Benfica and duly scored. In a tie set up for the next generation to make their marks on the present, you wouldn’t bet against him repeating the feat.

Prediction: Monaco are on a roll and will sneak a predictably see-sawing battle.

Bayern Munich vs. Real Madrid

It was a tie that seemed written in the stars. Three years ago, with a realistic chance of reaching the final after losing 1-0 at the Bernabeu in their semifinal first leg, Bayern Munich were destroyed 4-0 on their home turf by a Carlo Ancelotti-managed Real in a one-sided encounter that few saw coming. Ancelotti went on to lead his team to La Decima; now he finds himself on the other side, and the 23rd and 24th meetings between these teams will surely be closer. Confidence will certainly not be lacking after they scored 16 goals between them in the round of 16.Both teams lead their domestic leagues, Bayern by a familiar-looking 10-point margin after RB Leipzig’s early challenge faded. They have won 16 of their last 18 games in all competitions, drawing the other two, and have regained some of the fluency that was lacking in the early stages of Ancelotti’s time in Bavaria. Real’s form has not been much worse, and perhaps this tie will be decided by clever management of resources. Both teams will enter the first leg on the back of big domestic games against Borussia Dortmund and Atletico Madrid, respectively. Whoever is fresher at the Allianz Arena a few days later may be able to wrest an advantage that they don’t give up.Prediction: Ancelotti’s knowledge of the Real squad to give him the edge; Bayern win.

 

Juventus vs. Barcelona

Juventus came through the round of 16 virtually unnoticed, profiting from early Porto red cards in both legs to progress with a minimum of drama. For Barcelona, it was the opposite and, in this rerun of the 2015 final, the first leg, in Turin, will be instructive in discovering just how much they have learned from the tie against Paris Saint-Germain.In Paris, and to a lesser extent in the group stage defeat at Manchester City, they were blown away and looked every inch a team in terminal decline. The comeback three weeks later was all the more shocking for that but, remarkable though it was, owed more to a concentrated burst of unusual events than sustained excellence from Luis Enrique’s side. Massimiliano Allegri will have taken note, and if they can produce a high-octane performance at Juventus Stadium, the Serie A leaders may fancy their chances.The flip side is that Juve are yet to face a top-quality test in Europe this season. Lyon, Dinamo Zagreb, Sevilla and Porto have not been the most inspiring opposition, while Manchester City and PSG have been genuine tests for Barcelona that have threatened to throw them off course. If Neymar, Lionel Messi and company felt that, after all that, nothing could stop them, then it would be difficult to argue. Prediction: Unlike PSG, Juventus have the experience and backbone to expose Barcelona’s frailties definitively. The Italians to go through.Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter:

 

 

Spain dominance, Leicester fairytale: UCL quarterfinalists in numbers

A number of familiar clubs, plus one notable English newcomer, will take part in the quarterfinal round of the UEFA Champions League beginning with first-leg matches on April 10.Bayern Munich have made the most quarterfinal appearances in Champions League history, followed closely by Barcelona and Real Madrid, and all three have advanced to that stage of the competition again this season. Those three clubs have combined for 46 quarterfinal appearances, while the other five have combined for 26:

UCL Quarterfinal Appearances
Bayern Munich 16
Barcelona 15
Real Madrid 15
Juventus 10
Borussia Dortmund 6
Atletico Madrid 5
Monaco 4
Leicester City 1
>> Includes this season

With Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and Real Madrid qualifying, Spain has three teams in the UCL quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive season — the longest such run in the competition’s history. Spanish clubs have won the last three Champions League titles:

UCL Quarterfinalists By Country
Spain 3
Germany 2
England 1
France 1
Italy 1

Barcelona advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals for the 10th consecutive year, which is the longest such run in the competition’s history:

Most Consecutive UCL Quarterfinals
Barcelona 10 2008-Present
Real Madrid 7 1998-2004
Manchester United 7 1997-2003
Real Madrid 7 2011-Present

Barcelona advanced following a four-goal comeback against PSG, winning 6-1 in the second leg. Barcelona became the first team to overcome a four-goal first-leg deficit to advance in Champions League history:

Largest First-Leg Deficits Overcome
4 goals 1 team
3 goals 1 team
2 goals 8 teams
1 goals 28 teams

Bayern Munich advanced to the quarterfinals for the 16th time with a 10-2 aggregate win over Arsenal.With an eight-goal difference, it is the second-largest aggregate goal difference in Champions League history:

Largest Margin of Victory in Knockout-Round Matchup
Stage Winner Loser Diff.
2008-09 Round of 16 Bayern Munich Sporting 11
2016-17 Round of 16 Bayern Munich Arsenal 8
2004-05 Round of 16 Lyon Werder Bremen 8
2011-12 Round of 16 Barcelona Bayer Leverkusen 8

With Monaco and Manchester City combining for 12 goals — including a record eight goals in the first leg — as well as Bayern Munich and Arsenal combining for 12 goals and Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain combining for 11, more goals were scored in the round of 16 than in any such previous stage in Champions League history:

Most Goals in UCL Round of 16
2016-17 62
2011-12 56
2013-14 51

Leicester City qualified for their first Champions League campaign and have advanced to the quarterfinals. However, Leicester is England’s only representative in the quarterfinals, which has been the trend lately:

UCL Quarterfinalists By Country, Last Five Seasons
Spain 15
Germany 9
France 6
England 4
Italy 3
Portugal 2
Turkey 1
>> Spain has won last 3 titles

The draw for the quarterfinals will take place on Friday. Unlike the round of 16, there are no restrictions on which teams can meet. In the round of 16, teams from the same group or same country would not be allowed to play against each other.

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

ATP_Gen_350x250

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

 

 

3/9/17 Champ League to Elite 8 Tues/Wed, 18 YO American Pulisic Scores for Dortmund, MLS Week 2, USA Ladies Lose

Wow Champions League !!  So Barcelona does it – down 4-0 after a 1st leg slacking at PSG – Barca did the unthinkable and broke the record for biggest comeback ever!!  They scored 3 goals in the last 7 minutes to dramatically down PSG – 6-1 – (6-5 on aggregate)  The final goal on a free kick tap in with less than 30 seconds to play – yes Terstagen the Barca Goalie was in the box and almost headed it as well.  Drama!!

Meanwhile American teen-age sensation #22 Christian Pulisic was the best player on the field in the 1st half as Dortmund scored a 4-1 victory at home to advance to the Elite 8 round.  I complained just 2 weeks ago in this space that if Dortmund had given Pulisic more than 10 minutes of sub time where he almost scored a screecher of a shot from the top of the box and almost had an assist that if he had more time he would have had an impact.  Well the American did not disappoint –  starting for the injured Marco Rues – Pulisic followed his 1 goal/1 assist performance as a sub in Sunday’s league match vs Leverkusen with a 1 goal (the go ahead goal) and 1 assist (the tying goal) on a beautiful header to a teammate on the back post off a corner.  Seriously he was darn near the player of the game at just 18 years old and became the youngest ever player to score in Champions League for Dortmund and certainly the youngest American to ever score in Champs League.  Amazing.

Now back to Tues – First off Arsenal were well Arsenal.  Arsenal Manger Arsene Wenger continues to get pounded in the press and I wonder now if he will make it thru the season.  Losing to Bayern Munich who very much look poised to make a run to the Semi-Finals if not further is not the embarrassment – but 10-2 on aggregate?  5-1 loss at home after a 5-1 on the road.  Too bad as Arsenal were actually dominating the game in the 1st half and should have had a 2 or 3 goal lead until Koscielny was sent off in the 54th minute for a questionable red card push in the box – they really took the game to the german side.  However once again as soon as their French Center back was missing – the Gunners just folded.  Much like the first loss to the Bavarians when he left the match injured – I really think it was the loss of Koscielny more than going down to 10 men that opened up the flood gates.  The questions continue to surround Wenger – who I am not sure will make it thru the season at this point.  Too bad 15 years in the top 4 in the EPL should get him enough respect to at least let him finish out the year in my mind.  Real Madrid looked like the Defending Champs – or the Holders as they refer to them in European Soccer speak – while Renaldo was just ok, perhaps the best Center Back in the world right now – Sergio Ramos saved the day again with 2 header goals to help secure advancement in the 3-1 victory at Napoli (6-2 on Aggregate).  So the first 4 of the ELITE 8 are set with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Dortmund – next week Tues/Wed brings some interesting matchups as Leicester City host Sevilla down just (1-2) on aggregate on Fox Sports 1 Tues 2:45 pm while Juve play home to Porto us 2-0.  Wednesday Man City carries a 5-3 lead to Monaco on 2:45 pm FS1, while Atletico hosts Bayern Leverkusen up 4-2 on FS2 (with my daughter Courtney in Attendance!!)  This weekend the German Bundesliga will feature Americans facing off as Sat has 18 year old Champions League scoring Christian Pulisic #22 and Dortmund hosting Hertha Berlin and US Defender John Brooks at 9:30 am on Fox Sport 2, while Sunday Hamburger (US Forward Bobby Woods) host Bourussia MGladbach (Jermain Johnson) at 12:30 on Fox sport2.  MLS has the LA Galaxy hosting Portland Sun at 7 pm on Fox Sport1.

Carmel FC and Carmel Dad’s Club Readers – Don’t forget This Sat/Sun March 11-12 is CDC Sports Day at Dick’s Sporting Goods at Clay Terrace – 20% savings on everything – check your email from CDC for the coupon. 

GAMES ON TV  

Fri, Mar 10

2:45 pm beIN sport   Juventus vs Milan

Sat,  Mar 11

7:15 am Foxsport 1   Middlesborough vs Man City – FA

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Hertha BSC (US John Brooks)

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN                Everton vs West Brom

Sun, Mar 5

10 am Fox Sport 1      Tottenham vs Millwall

12 NBCSN                     Liverpool vs Burnley

12:30 Fox Sport2        Hamburger (US Woods) vs Bourussia Mgladbach (US Johnson)

5 pm ESPN                       Minn United vs Atlanta United

7 pm Fox Sport1          LA Galaxy vs Portland 

Mon, Mar 13

3 pm Fox Sport 1        Chelsea vs Man United FA Cup

Tues Mar 14 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Leicester City vs Sevilla (1-2)

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Juventus vs Porto (2-0)   

Weds Mar 15 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1     Atletico vs Bayern Leverkusen (4-2) My kiddo Courtney will be there!

2:45 pm FoxSport2     Monaco vs Man City (3-5)

Thurs Mar 16 –Europa League 

4 pm Fox Sport 1        Man United vs Rostov

4 pm Fox Sport 2        Borussia MGladbach (US Johnson) vs Schlake 04

 Fri, Mar 17

3:30 pm fox Sport 2                         Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Ingolstadt

Sat,  Mar 18

8:30 am NBCSN            West Brom vs Arsenal

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Hertha BSC (US John Brooks)

11 am NBCSN                 Stoke City (US Cameron) vs Chelsea

10:30 am Fox Sport 1 Hoffenhiem vs Bayer Leverkusen

10 am NBCSN                Everton vs West Brom

Sun,  Mar 19

8:30 am NBCSN            Mddlesborough vs Man United

12:30 pm                         NBCSN?      Man City vs Liverpool

7 pm  fox sport 1        Seattle vs NY Redbulls

Fri, Mar 24

3:45 pm Fox Sport2  Italy vs Albania

8:30 pm Fox Sport 1  Mexico vs Costa Rica

10:30 pm fox Sport 1 USA vs Hondoras

Sun,  Mar 25

8:30 am NBCSN            England vs Lithuania

 Tues Mar 28 –WCQ

5 pm FoxSport1         Panama vs USA

 Champions League

Pulisic becomes youngest ever American Goal Scorer in UCL

American Pulisic helps Send Dortmund Thru to the Elite 8 SI

Barcelona’s Win will Never be Forgotten ESPNFC

Barca Captilise on PSG Panic

Reactions Around the World

Raul Loves Pulisic’s Game

3 things We learned – on Real Madrid comeback 3-1 win over Napoli

3 Things We Learned in Bayern’s 5-1 Slamming of Arsenal

Arsenal should be Better than this

Italy Defender Fabio Cannavaro –from Ball Boy to BallonOr

MLS

Atlanta Home Debut in front of 55K proves Atlanta a Soccer City

Expansion in NASL, MLS and USL Midfield Press

MLS Players Confidential Player Poll

USA

US Ladies Lose 3-0 to France with 3 back System-finish 4th in Home Tourney

Former US Captain Christine Rampone Retires from US National Team

US Ladies battle cold and England to a 1-0 loss at home

US National Team players Pulisic and Johnson score 3 goals in German Bundesliga games

US U20s win the CONCACAF Championship advance to World Cup in late May

US Soccer Bans Anthem Protests

US soccer Banning Protests wrong – SBNation

Doyle Predicting the US Mens Roster for Qualifyers

Europe

Juve vs Milan Preview

Power Rankings Top Clubs in World

American Christian Pulisic becomes Dortmund’s youngest UCL goalscorer

Christian Pulisic became Borussia Dortmund’s youngest goalscorer in the Champions League with his strike in his side’s 4-0 round-of-16 defeat of Benfica on Wednesday.Pulisic — at 18 years, 5 months, 18 days old — scored Dortmund’s second against the the Portuguese side with a fine chip over goalkeeper Ederson in the 59th minute.The United States international has set a number of records while with the Bundesliga club, including being the youngest ever non-German to score a Bundesliga goal as well as becoming the youngest player in league history to score two league goals.Pulisic, who recently extended his contract at Borussia Dortmund until 2020, joined the club in early 2015 and made his first-team debut a year later.He has scored four goals and provided a further nine assists in all competitions this season.

Barcelona make impossible possible with historic UCL comeback over PSG

BARCELONA, Spain — Here are three thoughts from Barcelona’s 6-1 victory over Paris-Saint Germain at the Camp Nou, which sees the La Liga giants advance to the quarterfinals 6-5 on aggregate in the biggest Champions League comeback ever.

  1. Barcelona pull off greatest Champions League comeback ever

Barcelona made the impossible possible, as they recorded the greatest comeback in Champions League history by hammering Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 at Camp Nou on Wednesday to reach the quarterfinals. A Sergi Roberto winner deep into stoppage time completed what not only looked unlikely before the match but also looked off the cards when Edinson Cavani’s second-half strike gave PSG a precious away goal.Goals from Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi and a Layvin Kurzawa own goal had manoeuvred Barca into a three-goal lead. Cavani’s effort, though, looked to burst their balloon. There were no signs of life with three minutes left, either, with three goals still needed. Then Neymar came to life. First, he scored a stunning free kick, then he added his second of the night from the penalty spot before sending in the cross that Roberto flicked home. Incredible.Ten minutes after the final whistle, Camp Nou was still full, with the fans not quite sure if they had really witnessed what had taken place on the pitch below them. The club’s anthem rang out on the speakers as the players, joined by the coaching staff, celebrated on the pitch. The dream had become a reality.Barca become the first team in the combined history of the Champions League and the European Cup to overturn a four-goal deficit. What makes it all the more remarkable is that Luis Enrique said in the buildup to the game that he was “convinced” that his team would get back in the tie. He didn’t stop there, either. “If a team can score four against us, we can score six,” he said in his pregame news conference. He wasn’t wrong.And so they avoid exiting the Champions League before the quarterfinals for the first time since 2007. PSG, meanwhile, see their run of four consecutive last-eight appearances come to an end. How will they bounce back from this?Suarez had called for patience Tuesday, requesting that neither Barca’s players nor supporters go crazy in the opening exchanges of the window. That request, though, went out the window when he headed in the opening goal of the game with less than 180 seconds on the clock. No visiting defenders took charge of a bouncing ball in the area, and the Uruguay international flicked a header over Kevin Trapp.Rarely has Camp Nou been so loud. The belief from everyone and anyone associated with the club that a comeback was possible had reached a frenzied state by Wednesday morning in the Catalan capital, with banners draped around the city. Suarez’s goal was celebrated as evidence that the comeback was maybe meant to be. Not since the semifinal win over Bayern Munich in 2015 had there been so much excitement filling Barca’s old stadium.There was an intensity about the game as it then developed, played largely in PSG’s half. Messi, Neymar and Iniesta all came close — but from distance. With temperatures running high, there were also five bookings in the first half. There would be eight by full-time.The belief that was so present before the game then increased, with two goals either side of half-time. Kurzawa, in a panic, turned an Andres Iniesta back-heeled cross into his own net before Thomas Meunier brought Neymar down in the area. After discussing the decision with his assistant, the referee gave the penalty. Messi dispatched it.Cavani then struck the post, and you began to wonder if history were being written. But before you had a chance to answer the question, the Uruguay striker was rifling into the roof of Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s net. The thousands of travelling fans erupted as their heroes bundled on top of each other in an eerily quiet corner of the Camp Nou pitch.Barca continued to look for more goals, but you sensed the zip was gone. Three goals in 30 minutes were too much to ask for. Even for this side. Or so it seemed.Then came the finale. A finale that defied words. Neymar led the charge with two of the three goals that fell in the final two minutes plus stoppage time, but this was a team effort. As the final whistle went, this time it was Barca’s turn for bundles on the pitch. Luis Enrique was in the mix of it. He announced last week that he will leave in the summer. After this result — if there was any doubt — he has ensured that he will never be forgotten.

  1. Bold Barca make the impossible possible

As Cavani scored, Luis Enrique might have been regretting the delay in his decision to switch to a 3-4-3. Barca were still en route to four straight wins since the change, though 3-1 was not enough to take them through to the quarterfinals. The Barca coach must have been wondering what would have happened if the change had been made before the trip to Parc des Princes instead of after it.He doesn’t have to wonder any more. Barcelona’s late show provided a moment that will never be forgotten in the club’s history. Routine wins against PSG would have been nice, but this was really special.Barca took risks from the beginning here. Their execution wasn’t always perfect, but there was no doubting their commitment or belief in turning things around. Javier Mascherano and Ivan Rakitic were brilliant in that regard. With Messi, Neymar and Suarez up front, it’s little wonder they were daring to dream.Dreaming comes with risks, though, and the Catalans’ three-man defence and high line meant they were often exposed. They were more brave than brilliant, if anything, with Neymar’s quality in the closing stages perhaps his best moment in a Blaugrana shirt to date.”You’ll be pissed off if you miss the comeback,” Pique had warned the club’s supporters before the match.They’d taken his advice on board. Coupled with Suarez and Luis Enrique’s rallying calls Tuesday, there was complete belief around the club that the comeback was on. The fans believed too. They were loud from the first minute to the last and will no doubt continue making noise into the early hours of Thursday.

  1. PSG buckle under Camp Nou pressure

PSG were completely unrecognisable from the side that tore through Luis Enrique’s team in Paris like no other have done in the coach’s Camp Nou era. Instead, they looked like scared rabbits in the headlights, waiting for the inevitable goals to tumble. And tumble they did.What will no doubt annoy Unai Emery is the helping hand his players gave the Blaugrana. No one took charge in the area when Suarez headed in the opener. Kurzawa’s own goal, while perhaps unfortunate, was avoidable. They gave away a free kick and two penalties before leaving Roberto unmarked for what proved to be the winning goal.Lucas Moura, in for the half-fit Angel Di Maria, who dominated the first leg, was poor. But it would be harsh to focus on one man. This whole PSG side will have to take responsibility for what will be remembered in the French capital for all the wrong reasons. They simply froze.Emery, who has won the past three Europa Leagues with Sevilla, was brought in for his success in Europe. The 4-0 win looked to have verified his appointment. This defeat, instead, means his future is likely to come under the spotlight once again. The Champions League, evidently, is a different beast than the Europa League.Trailing Monaco at the top of the league, the title is now non-negotiable.Samuel Marsden covers Barcelona for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @SamuelMarsden.

Champs League next Week –

14 March 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2
Juventus v Porto (2-0)
Times: 339
Home side in second leg through: 330 (97.3%)
Away side in second leg through: 9 (2.7%)

Leicester City v Sevilla (1-2)
Times: 587
Home side in second leg through: 287 (48.9%)
Away side in second leg through: 300 (51.1%)

15 March 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2
Atlético Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen (4-2)
Times: 29
Home side in second leg through: 28 (96.6%)
Away side in second leg through: 1 (3.4%)

  • The only side to fail to successfully defend a 4-2 lead at home were Barcelona, after a 4-1 loss against Metz in the 1984/85 European Cup Winners’ Cup first round.

Monaco 3-5 Manchester City
Times: 10
Home side in second leg through: 4 (40%)
Away side in second leg through: 6 (60%)

Bonus UEFA Champions League round of 16 stat …

How many seeds (home in second leg) have gone through
8: 2013/14
7: 2005/06, 2010/11
6: 2006/07, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16
5: 2003/04, 2004/05, 2008/09
4: 2009/10
3: 2007/08

France defeats USA Ladies 3-0 in a major failure of three back system

The US went down early and never found their feet against an overwhelming French side

by Jessica Fletcher  Mar 7, 2017, 6:28pm PST

Starting XI: Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Casey Short, Rose Lavelle, Samantha Mewis, Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Carli Lloyd, Lynn Williams, Christen Press

In the final match of the SheBelieves Cup, the United States looked to rebound from a late 1-0 loss to England with a win against France. A win in this match would secure a second straight SheBelieves Cup for the United States, a draw or a loss would give the title to France. Fox billed the SheBelieves Cup as a tournament that transcended rivalry and results. The United States took the latter to heart as they eventually fell to France 3-0.France put the United States on the back foot from the opening whistle, pressing high into the offensive third and causing an early scramble in the box. While the ball was eventually cleared, this set the tone for the rest of the match. In the 7’, Camille Abily split the United States three back with a slipped ball to Eugenie Le Sommer. Le Sommer’s run off of Allie Long’s shoulder forced Alyssa Naeher hard off of her line and lead Naeher to give up a penalty kick on a foul in the box. Abily converted the penalty for the first French goal of the match.The United States looked stunned and disorganized by this turn of events, their first real test of the tournament. Though they’d lost 1-0 to England, that was on a late goal and this was the first chance to see what the United States could do when they trailed in a match. The answer? Concede another goal within three minutes of the first concession. However, this was not the first time that the United States had fallen down two goals quickly to France. The last time was notably in the opening group match of the 2012 London Olympics. In that game, the United States caught fire after a slow start to eventually win the match 4-2. But, alas, that wasn’t a part of this particular process.If a process exists in a manager’s mind but no spectator can see it, does the process really exist at all? To let no player off of the hook, this was not a good performance all around. Though more so than that, this loss was the first major failing of Ellis’ experimental three back system.To put it simply, French manager Olivier Echouafai drew up a simple but deadly gameplan to decimate this nascent United States system. By using width and speed, the French were able to expose the relative lack of pace of the Long, Sauerbrunn, and Short three back. On paper it looked as though France only had one forward, Le Sommer, up top. But one of the keys to playing a good three back system is the ability to recreate the width that is lost without fullbacks. Neither Lavelle nor Heath did a particularly good job of this and a rotating complement of Sandi Toletti, Elodie Thomis, Amel Majri, and Camille Abily overloaded the United States flanks.This isn’t to say that the United States looked like they had given up at any point in this match. In the first half, there were a couple of set piece opportunities that didn’t come off exactly the way they’d been drawn up on the training ground. From the 33’ to the end of the first half, there was a distinct feeling like maybe the United States would be able to pull one goal back and make this a game.A similar feeling occurred at the beginning of the second half with the substitutions of Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh for Rose Lavelle and Christen Press. Up until Abily scored the third French goal in the 63’, the brightness of Pugh and Dunn made it seem more likely that the United States would score the next goal. After the third French goal, it seemed like the United States saw the writing on the wall and that’s when the frustration that had been building throughout the tournament really seemed to set in.In the 70’, Ellis made a line change: Alex Morgan for Lynn Williams, Julie Johnston for Morgan Brian, and Lindsay Horan for Samantha Mewis. She shifted Long into the midfield and put Johnston into the back three. It wasn’t verbal confirmation that Ellis was starting to question her process but those actions spoke louder than words. By taking Long out of the back three, Ellis waved a tiny white flag – at least for the duration of the match.The United States forced Gerard to make a few difficult saves but Naeher was, by far, the busier goalkeeper on the night. In the end, you’d have to say that France walk away the largely deserved winners of the 2017 SheBelieves Cup, while the United States will finish fourth out of four teams.It would be easy to scapegoat particular players, just as it would be easy to scapegoat the system and scrap it for good. This was not the finest hour of the three back system, nor was it the finest hour in the history of the United States program as they lost their first back-to-back matches on home soil since August 1992. The interesting thing will be how much this team, and Jill Ellis, has actually learned from this experience. Only then will it be possible to judge this tournament result in context. If this SheBelieves Cup was all about the process, the next few friendly matches need to be about the progress.

After clinching World Cup spot, USA U-20 team wins first CONCACAF Championship

A Honduras-born U.S. player scored the winning penalty kick to clinch the title

The U.S. under-20 men’s national team captured its first CONCACAF championship on Sunday. The red, white and blue topped Honduras 5-4 in penalty kicks after a scoreless match in regulation to win the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

It was 19-year-old Danny Acosta’s penalty kick that won it after Honduras sent its final shot sailing into the stands. Acosta plays for Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake. Check out the winning goal below:

After clinching a spot in this year’s U-20 World Cup earlier in the week, Tab Ramos’ youth squad came out on top in an intense penalty kick shootout, but the winning kick for Acosta against had to be a little bittersweet.

Acosta’s birthplace? San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The United States will play in the U-20 World Cup, which starts at the end of May.

 

Armchair Analyst: Atlanta get an expansion lesson & more in Week 1

March 6, 201712:28AM ESTMatthew DoyleSenior Writer

Early season soccer, no matter the league, is almost always choppy and low-scoring. We saw some of that this past weekend as the 22nd edition of MLS kicked off with a few scoreless draws, a number of bad penalties, and not-a-whole-lot of sustained or sustainable build-up play (though I’m tipping my hat to NYCFC and Columbus for at least tilting in the direction of “possession over all” at least a little bit).   Early season soccer is also usually very, very slow and methodical, but that was clearly less so in 2017. Even a sock could see as much:

This was probably inevitable as we’re now well into the era of full-field pressure and the high press itself as a default tactical/strategic choice. Lots of teams just want to crank it up to 11, and the numbers bear that out – there were 815.2 passes per game in 2016’s opening weekend, and 850.1 per game in 2017. That’s an increase something short of game-breaking but well into the realm of “noticeable.”Compared to three years ago, it’s almost 100 more passes per game. In other words the pace of MLS has picked up over 10 percent in the last 36 months.This is not inherently a good thing (I know an anonymous person who we’ll call “My Boss Greg Lalas” to protect his identity who prefers the long ball to lots of possession), but it is a tactical trend worth noting, and I suspect it’s something that may even be worth disrupting. Tactics in soccer tend to be cyclical, and the one team that figures out how to zig when everybody else is zagging could have a built-in advantage for however long it takes the rest of the league to catch up.

Onto the Week 1 games:

ATLiens

Don’t let this article distract you from the fact that Atlanta United lost 2-1 to the New York Red Bulls by conceding a pair of late goals and utterly failing to adjust to Jesse Marsch’s subs or the tactical shift of the visitors (RBNY played what I’d call a 4-1-4-1 for the last 20 minutes). Atlanta were fast and fun and relentless and very promising, if predictably expansion-y in their debut. “We talked about it at halftime just giving a little bit more, being a little bit clearer tactically, making a couple adjustments but being a little bit sharper physically, putting more into the game and now taking the crowd out play by play,” is what Marsch said afterward, and none of that sounds wrong to me. “I thought for the most part, in the second half the effort was really good, obviously, a great comeback and a lot of spirit within the team.”The fast, fun and relentless part for Atlanta was putting New York in that position in the first place. Their flock of fleet-footed attackers who always threatened to get past RBNY’s defense, and often managed the it outright. Atlanta had an identity from the first whistle: They’re a high-pressure, mid-level pressing team who wanted to coax RBNY into turnovers up the gut and then hit into space behind the back line. This was a modern-looking team embracing the most modern of philosophies, that games are won and/or lost in transition, and for a group that’d never played together before they made real headway in convincing neutrals (including me) that they’d be, at the very least, “adequate” at applying this approach.

This is lovely, and is exactly how you want to punish a team that’s playing too narrow:

The “expansion-y” aspect is what led to the loss, though, and it did so in predictable ways. One was lack of backline depth, as sub Anton Walkes was victimized on the game-winner. The other was the more ambiguous and harder-to-pin-down concept of “fit” – as in, there were at least a few players on that field asking to fill roles they’re maybe not 100 percent meant to.First and foremost on the list, by my reckoning, is Paraguayan DP Miguel Almiron. He had moments when he was electric, including a second-half breakaway that was just missing the final touch. But that lack of a final touch is why I remain dubious as to Almiron’s ability to be a high-level playmaker in MLS. His best years in Argentina were on the wing, and his best moments for Paraguay have come on the wing, and his vision when he’s played centrally just hasn’t looked to be game-breaking.Which will allow me to circle back to my original thought, that Atlanta are, as constructed, a “modern” team built upon forcing transitions. Teams like that tend to live by the axiom that the press is the best playmaker, and in that situation field coverage is arguably more important than raw creativity.What Almiron lacks in the second category he more than makes up for in the first, and there remains a very decent chance that Tata Martino will be able to fully weaponize both his speed and workrate as the days, weeks and months go along. Transitions are already very clearly important to Atlanta, and in the near future they could well become decisive.Not so, however, in Week 1. Atlanta’s debut was promising but predictably painful, and the weeks to come will demand more work and constant reassessment.

Two Dope Boyz

It’s probably fair to say that nobody in the league needs a hot start more than the San Jose Earthquakes. I’m not willing to call a 1-0 home win over the Impact “hot” necessarily, but it was very clearly a step in the right direction and an upgrade over the Quakes of 2016.Anibal Godoy deserves the most praise – he’s not quite my Player of the Week, but it’s close. Defensively he was a noose around Montreal’s midfield and it was his work that led to the game’s only goal (which he finished with a perfect chip after a nice lay-off from Chris Wondolowski). Godoy and Fatai Alashe lack a bit of elegance in the middle of the pitch, but they’ve had a natural partnership since they set foot in central midfield two summers ago and it’s smart of Dom Kinnear to keep them together.

The same should, I think, be said of Homegrowns Tommy Thompson and Nick Lima. Thompson had his finest two-way game in MLS on Saturday:

Here’s the thing: Breaking up that attack would have been a nice job, and of course having skill is a wonderful thing. What Thompson did there, though, was use his primary skill – quick feet, balance, comfort on the ball – to turn a routine track back into a recovery and chance to break in the other direction. It didn’t happen in that moment as the Quakes were playing a bit conservatively by the hour mark, but there’s a real difference between beating the attacker to the corner and booting the ball into touch vs. beating the attacker into the corner and then playing it calmly upfield.

Thompson has made his skill (never in doubt) fully functional (in doubt from Day 1, as it should be for any young player). You could see it in heady plays like that or in perfect crosses that, in a just world, would’ve resulted in goals.As for Lima, he was handed just about the hardest job a rookie can get in his pro debut: Stop Ignacio Piatti.

He managed it. Here’s Piatti’s chalkboard from Saturday:

Green arrows are complete passes, and red are incomplete. Yellow arrows are “key passes” – passes that lead to a shot – but as you can see, Piatti didn’t have any of those. The second- or third-best player in the league last year just maybe doesn’t have his sea legs under him yet, but even so, Quakes fans were justifiably singing Lima’s praises loudly and proudly.That certainly does make this feel like a new era for San Jose, doesn’t it? The 4-4-2 was still there, but this team put a pair of Homegrowns out there for 160 minutes, and they pretty thoroughly outplayed their opposite numbers in Piatti and Cameroon international Ambroise Oyongo.  It’s not perfect, and things can go very wrong after Week 1. But the strength of this San Jose team is suddenly in its 21-through-27-year-old cohort, and inertia has been replaced with momentum. It’s a good start.

A few more things to ponder…

  1. I’d argue that nobody had a better result in Week 1than the Chicago Fire, who went to Columbus and got pounded for a half, then regrouped, reorganized, andrebounded for a 1-1 draw on Saturday afternoon. A point on the road under any circumstance is wonderful, but when it comes from behind against a conference foe? That’s golden.

As for Columbus, it was a replay of 2016’s nightmare as shoddy finishing and a late concession made for two dropped points right out of the gate. Newcomer Mohammed Abu was particularly culpable thanks to his wayward passing.

  1. I wrote aboutMinnesota’s 5-1 loss to Portlandon Friday, and focused on the Loons. Like Atlanta they have lots of work and reassessment in front of them.

Portland have a lot of goals in front of them, and I thought Fanendo Adi was the Player of the Week. I also thought Adrian Heath gave us the Face of the Week at poor Diego Valeri’s expense:

  1. If Kellyn Acostais really as good as he’s lookedthrough Dallas’s first three games he’ll be starting for the USMNT soon enough. His goal was the highlight of FC Dallas’s 2-1 win at the LA Galaxy.

I’ll wait at least a week before I decide how much doom that portends for LA, but I’m already thoroughly convinced Dallas are going to have a monster season even without Mauro Diaz.

  1. Cyle Larin‘s towering header was the differencein Orlando City’s 1-0 win over visiting NYCFC on Sunday afternoon to open brand new Orlando City Stadium. Bad news out of central Florida, though, as it sounds like Kaká‘s injury (he came up lame early in the first half) is serious.
  2. I keep doubting the Rapids and they keepmaking me look foolish. That’s what happened in Saturday’s 1-0 win over visiting New England, as Colorado simply found a way to get another one-goal result. It’s uncanny, and it feels unsustainable, but who am I to argue with what works?
  3. A scoreless draw was what we got from Vancouverlate on Sunday night, as both the Union and ‘Caps failed to find their way to paydirt. I’d still like to seeMarco Bustos get a shot at the No. 10 job for the ‘Caps, and I’d definitely like to see Kekuta Manneh back out on the wing:
  4. A hearty “welcome back” toClint Dempsey,who scored in his return to action but saw his Sounders fall 2-1 to a quick, organized and opportunistic Houston team.
  5. D.C. will have a new penalty taker, I assume,after Saturday’s scoreless draw against Sporting KCMarcelo Sarvasis now 1-for-3 in his career, and it’s time he hands those duties off to someone else.

In general, though, this game was played with something approaching a playoff pace. Both Sporting and D.C. were going in for the full 90.

  1. And finally,Kyle Beckermanstill has his moments. This one came in RSL’s scoreless home draw against Toronto FC, and it’s our Pass of the Week:

Eras and tactics and styles and formations may change, but that kind of vision will never stop being beautiful.

Barcelona climb the charts; Juventus, Bayern and Madrid still lead the way

The top three remain the same in Shaka Hislop’s Power Rankings but look who is making a move just behind them…

  1. Juventus(no change)

The leaders maintain their No. 1 position but theirs was not a straightforward week, given they had to come from behind to draw at Udinese. Despite that, though, Juve extended their lead in Serie A to eight points, courtesy of Roma’s defeat to Napoli.

  1. Bayern Munich(no change)

After cruising to a 3-0 win at Cologne, the Bundesliga leaders then brought the pain vs. Arsenal for a second time. Bayern fell behind but, after the Gunners were reduced to 10 men, scored five unanswered goals to claim a 10-2 aggregate win.

  1. Real Madrid(no change)

A pair of tricky-looking away games were negotiated successfully by the European champions. First, Madrid won 4-1 at Eibar, despite being without Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, before Sergio Ramos inspired a comeback victory at Napoli.

  1. Barcelona(+4)

Maybe Luis Enrique should have announced he was leaving earlier! Barca thrashed Celta Vigo 5-0 before pulling off one of the most remarkable comebacks of all-time to beat Paris Saint-Germain 6-1 and claim a Champions League quarterfinal place.

  1. Chelsea(-1)

Antonio Conte’s men took another step toward the Premier League title with a win at West Ham that was more comfortable than the 2-1 scoreline suggested. Chelsea were in control throughout and retain their 10-point lead.

  1. Borussia Dortmund(new)

Scoring 10 goals in two games will get you plenty of attention… and a place in my rankings! Dortmund thrashed Leverkusen 6-2 in the Bundesliga and then struck four times to sweep past Benfica and into the Champions League quarterfinals.

  1. Monaco(no change)

A 4-0 win against Nantes took Monaco past the 80-goals mark in Ligue 1 this season and, more importantly, saw the French leaders maintain their three-point lead over PSG. Kylian Mbappe scored twice, as speculation about his future continues.

  1. Tottenham(new)

Another edition of the Harry Kane-Dele Alli show saw Mauricio Pochettino’s men beat Everton 3-2 to claim their ninth win in their last 12 league games. Kane scored twice to take his season tally to 24 goals in all competitions.

  1. Benfica(no change)

They are still top in Portugal, one point clear of Porto, but Benfica’s Champions League run ground to a sudden halt at the hands of Dortmund. Rui Vitoria’s side took a 1-0 lead into the second leg but simply had no answer to the Germany side.

  1. Sevilla(no change)

They are still just four points off top spot in La Liga but Monday’s 1-1 draw at Alaves, in which they took the lead only to concede a late equaliser, was a setback. Leganes are next for Sevilla, who the visit Leicester in the Champions League.

Dropping out: Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City.

3/2/17 MLS Kicks off Season Fri Night, US Ladies Play England Sat 5 pm on Fox, Champ League Tues/Wed

 

I watched a little of the US Ladies vs Germany game Wed Night – first Germany in Green and the US in all Red looked like Ireland vs Portugal – kind of weird.  Overall a whole lot of new faces on the US team – new goalkeeper (thank goodness), new players all over – still it was the old guard Tobin Heath, Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd and Christian Press doing a lot  of the heavy lifting before newcomer Lynn Williams knocked in the only goal off a rebound.  The US faces England Sat at 5 pm on Fox before wrapping up the tourney vs France on Tues night at 7 pm on Fox Sports 1.

So after 2 of my favorite teams got to the MLS finals last year with my longtime favorite Seattle Sounders winning it all – we are ready for a new season of MLS – with 2 new teams on board in Atlanta United and Minn United.  MLS kicks off Friday night with Portland hosting new club Minnesota United at 9:30 pm on Fox Sports 1, while the other new team Atlanta United will host NY Red Bulls on Sunday on FS1 at 7:30 right after Orlando City opens its new stadium with NY City FC on ESPN at 5 pm.  (See full season previews and predictions below).

So leg two of the Sweet 16 Rounds of Champions League returns next Tues/Wed.with Arsenal hosting Bayern Munich and needing a downright miracle to comeback out of a 1-5 hole.  Defending champs Real Madrid travel to Napoli on FS2 down 2-1.  Wednesday Barca will try to swim out of the 4-0 hole with PSG at home on Fox Sport 1 at 2:45 while Dortmund will hopefully start or at least play American Christian Pulisic earlier in their home matchup with Benefica with a 4-2 lead.

This weekend the big game has Arsenal traveling to a reeling Liverpool Sat at 12:30 pm on NBCSN as the battle for top 4 continues, while Pulisic and Dortmund face Chicarito and Bayern Leverkusen at 9:30 on FS2 right after Man U host Bournemouth at 7:30 on NBCSN.

BIG GAMES ON TV THIS WEEK

Fri, Mar 3

9:30 pm Fox Sports1                        Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United

Sat,  Mar 4

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Bournemouth

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Bayern Leverkusen

12:30 NBCSN                 Liverpool vs Arsenal

5 pm Fox                      US Women vs England (She Believe’s Cup)

Sun, Mar 5

8:30 am   NBCSN         Tottenham (US Vickers) vs Everton

11:30 Fox Soccer        Hamburger (US Woods) vs Hertha (US John Brooks)

5 pm ESPN                       Orlando City vs NYCFC (MLS new stadium)

7:30 pm Fox Sport1  Atlanta United vs New York Red Bulls (new MLS team)

Tues Mar 7 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Arsenal vs Bayern Munich (1-5)

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Napoli vs Real Madrid (1-2?)

7 pm  Fox Sports1      US Women vs France

Weds Mar 8 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1      Barcelona vs PSG (0-4)

2:45 pm FoxSport2      Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Benefica (4-2)

Fri, Mar 10

2:45 pm beIN sport   Juventus vs Milan

US

Retooled US Ladies Win 1-0 over #2 Germany

US 1-0 Win Over Germany in She Believe’s Cup

She Believes Cup a Litmus Test for US Team in Transition  SI.com

Unrecognizable USWNT prepares for Future with She Believes Cup

US Women’s Coach Jill Ellis Talks Keepers, 3-5-2 and more – Philly.com

Fox’s coverage of She Believes Cup – includes live Streaming of non US Games

Tobino –

US U20s beat Mexico 1-0 Hi-lites

US U20s beat Mexico story face El Salvador Friday 6:30 on Facebook live

Pulisic turned down Liverpool this summer

Trump Travel ban could hamper US bid for World Cup

MLS

MLS Predictions – Who will win MLS Cup, Supporters Shield?  ESPNFC

MLS predictions – SI

MLS Power Rankings – Seattle on top ESPNFC Video

SI MLS Power Rankings Preseason – SI.com

Biggest Question Facing all 22 MLS teams ahead of 2017 Season – ESPNFC

MLS Making Strides but has a way to Go still – Doug McIntyre ESPNFC

Eastern Conference Preview – Team by Team – NBCSN

Western Conference Preview Team by Team – NBCsports

West vs East – Has Power Shifted?

Columbus Crew Announce New Jersey Sponsor –soctake.com

Sneak Peak at Orlando City’s New Soccer Stadium – soctake.com

All 22 MLS Stadiums

Full MLS Schedule

Champions League – 3/7+8, 3/14+15

Odds of Advancing after the 2nd legs

Dortmund hope home record advances

Barca have 4-0 Mountain to Climb at home vs PSG

Leicester needs help at home down 2-1 to Sevilla

Monaco eye another Englash Scalp as Man City Visits up 5-3

Juventus holds aces on home soil vs Porto up 2-0.

Atletico on top 4-2 as Leverkusen visit againand my Daughter Courtney will be at the game – yea! 

 WORLD SOCCER

Power Rankings have Juve on Top

Weekend action in the EPL will Arsenal or Liverpool Recover this weekend?

Barca Coach Enrique to leave after season

Big Stories in Europe Include Man U Cup Win and More – SI

Man City Wins FA Cup Replay vs Huddersfield

Zlatan helps Man U win EFL Cup

Atletico’s Torres Ok After Scary Head Bash in Game

 Indy 11 + NASL

If its not Broke – don’t fix it – Indy 11  – Aaron Gunyon SocTakes.com

Former Butler Forward Goldsmith on Trial with the 11 – Kevin Johnson Soctakes.com

Indy 11 Win 1st Pre-season game vs Butler 1-0

New Signings Settling In

Defender and Capt Colin Falvey has minor surgery to miss PreSeason

Single Game Tickets on Sale Now

John Harkes out as Coach at Cinncinati – SocTakes.com

 GAMES ON TV  

Fri, Mar 3

6:30 pm CONCACAF Facebook   US U20s vs El Salvador WCQ – also Univision

9:30 pm Fox Sports1                        Portland Timbers vs Minnesota United

Sat,  Mar 4

7:30 am NBCSN            Man United vs Bournemouth

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Bayern Leverkusen

9:30 am Fox Soccer Koln vs Bayern Munich

10 am NBCSN                Leceister vs Hull City

10 am CNBC                    West Brom vs Crystal Palace

10:15 am beIN sport                        Eibar vs Real Madrid

12:30 NBCSN                 Liverpool vs Arsenal

4 pm Univision             LA Galaxy vs Dallas (Carmel’s Matt Hedges)

5 pm Fox                      US Women vs England (She Believe’s Cup)

Sun, Mar 5

8:30 am   NBCSN         Tottenham (US Vickers) vs Everton

9 am beIn Sport          Udenes vs Juve ITALY

11 am   NBCSN             Sunderland vs Man City

11:30 Fox Soccer        Hamburger (US Woods) vs Hertha

5 pm ESPN                       Orlando City vs NYCFC (MLS new stadium)

7:30 pm Fox Sport1  Atlanta United vs New York Red Bulls (new MLS team)

Mon, Mar 6

3 pm NBCSN                   West Ham vs Chelsea

Tues Mar 7 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1    Arsenal vs Bayern Munich (1-5)

2:45 pm FoxSport2    Napoli vs Real Madrid (1-2?)

7 pm  Fox Sports1      US Women vs France

Weds Mar 8 –Champions League 

2:45 pm FoxSport1      Barcelona vs PSG (0-4)

2:45 pm FoxSport2      Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Benefica (4-2)

Fri, Mar 10

2:45 pm beIN sport   Juventus vs Milan

Sat,  Mar 11

7:15 am Foxsport 1   Middlesborough vs Man City – FA

9:30 am Fox Sport2   Dortmund (US Pulisic) vs Hertha BSC (US John Brooks)

9:30 am Fox Sport 1 Bayern Munich vs Frankfurt

10 am NBCSN                Everton vs West Brom

Sun, Mar 5

10 am Fox Sport 1      Tottenham vs Millwall

12 NBCSN                                                 Liverpool vs Burnley

12:30 Fox Sport2        Hamburger (US Woods) vs Bourussia Mgladbach (US Johnson)

5 pm ESPN                       Minn United vs Atlanta United

7 pm Fox Sport1          LA Galaxy vs Portland  

Mon, Mar 13

3 pm Fox Sport 1        Chelsea vs Man United FA Cup

Retooled U.S. women open SheBelieves Cup with 1-0 win over Germany

By Graham Hays | Mar 1, 2017espnW.com

CHESTER, Pa. — The United States hoped to play this game in Rio de Janeiro. It hoped the backdrop would be the sun setting over the Maracana. It hoped it would represent the final step in a march to history, the first team to win World Cup and Olympic titles in successive years.The Americans instead had to settle for a smaller setting Wednesday on the banks of the Delaware River, the threat of thunderstorms standing in for any South American sun. There was no history on the line, just another in the many and very early steps toward greater aspirations.It still feels good to beat Germany, of course. It always feels good to beat Germany.What mattered more Wednesday was how the U.S. women played in a 1-0 win against the team one spot behind them atop the FIFA world rankings. And there is no better place to start than a goal that was the product of everything the team has talked about being in this post-Olympics reset.

Playing a game of this magnitude for the first time, 23-year-old Lynn Williams scored the winner in the 56th minute. The player who made such a splash last fall by scoring the fastest debut goal in U.S. history, even if the record lasted only a few days, made her second goal a memorable one.But the other part of the story is how the ball arrived at her feet, a play set up by a tackle at midfield from someone who has scored 41 goals in 81 appearances for the national team. A tackle from a player who sees herself as no less a part of the answer than the newcomers.U.S. coach Jill Ellis wants her team to press, wanted it against the team that won Olympic gold and wants it as a general principle.Who better to do so than Christen Press?While the United States outplayed Germany almost from the outset, not by a mile but by enough to notice, the game hit a lull in the early minutes of the second half. American pressure that had put Germany on its heels early waned and a stalemate loomed. Then Press closed quickly on German defender Isabel Kerschowski near the sideline. Press won the ball, took off down the right side, cut inside with a soft touch and fired a shot that smacked off the goal frame.The rebound off the frame fell to Tobin Heath, whose own shot was blocked by a defender in front of goal — but only as far as the feet of Williams, who one-touched the ball into the net.Official assist or not, it still came about because of Press. A veteran who took a circuitous route to the national team in the first place, Press has both always been a willing servant and needed to be when asked to play a variety of roles by multiple coaches. But when she and Ellis spoke recently about her role in this new look, she took on a new challenge willingly.”Playing her in the pure No. 9 is probably her most natural position,” Ellis said. “But just her commitment in terms of pressing the ball and physically challenging to the ball, we can use her. We wanted to press, so we needed a forward that makes sure they can physically commit to the game, obviously both sides of the ball. Christen committed to that. And I think her work rate has been tremendous. Now couple that with I think she’s a natural goal scorer. She’s always looking to get in behind, she’s always off shoulder.”She’s done well in training and you’ve got to reward that.”

More from espnW.com

U.S. women debut with win over Germany

SheBelieves Cup is next test for U.S. women

Rapinoe left off roster for SheBelieves Cup

U.S. Soccer’s Lloyd seals Manchester City move

Spirit announce Dunn’s departure for Chelsea

Foudy: USWNT union changes are step in the right direction

Rampone retires from U.S. Soccer at age 41

This was not a safe lineup for the United States. Keeping the three-back that she turned to with regularity last fall, Ellis started Crystal Dunn and Mallory Pugh as the wide players on either side of those three defenders (the coach rejected the idea that Dunn and Pugh were traditional wingbacks who were expected to drop in and defend alongside the center backs, saying she wanted them on the front foot at all times). To that end, Germany coach Steffi Jones noted after the game how little time her team had to play out of the back. Playing that aggressively doesn’t work if people don’t buy in to the philosophy, whether or not they find themselves playing their preferred position or role.That’s true of Dunn when she plays wider and deeper than she might like. It’s true for Pugh, who came on in a similar role. It’s true for Casey Short, a natural outside back playing farther inside. And it’s certainly true for Press, closing down the ball on the sideline.”It was about prepping for 2019 and where she wants me to be there and kind of dreaming big and trying to expand my capacity a little bit,” Press said of what she and Ellis talked about. “So that when we’re in this year that seems like an off year, it’s actually the most important time to grow. So we talked about the areas she wants to see me develop, which is being a better physical presence holding up the ball and being more aggressive and confident in my play.”

Whatever vision Ellis has works only if both old and new mesh. The new faces like Williams draw much of the focus for now because they’re new. The unknown is more compelling than the known. But those who were here before are needed just as much, whether closing in on 100 caps, like Press, or 20 caps, like Samantha Mewis.”I think that in the last year, and especially in the last couple of months, it’s definitely more open for competition,” Press offered in a concurring opinion. “I think Jill has been bringing in players who are playing excellently in the league, and that pushes the players that have been around and also gives hope to all the players in the NWSL.”That the product looked promising is what matters. Although beating Germany is nice.The opening act offered its own drama, as third-ranked France beat fifth-ranked England 2-1. A Jordan Nobbs goal put England up 1-0 in the first half, but two familiar faces rescued France late. Marie-Laure Delie tied the score with an 80th-minute header off a cross from Elodie Thomis. Then with what proved the final kick of the game, and after a quick counter started by French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi, Wendie Renard headed home Amel Majri’s corner kick for the winner.France went winless and goalless in the first edition of the tournament. It will face Germany on Saturday in Harrison, New Jersey, while England will play the United States later the same day. (See more Stories at Bottom)

Tobin Heath: U.S. win over Germany ‘the best place we could be’

Updated: MARCH 2, 2017 — 12:29 PM EST

by Jonathan Tannenwald , STAFF WRITER  @jtannenwald |  jtannenwald@phillynews.com

After the U.S. women’s soccer team beat Germany, 1-0, at Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday night, I got an exclusive interview with star midfielder Tobin Heath.

Your thoughts on the win?

I thought it was fantastic. It was our first game back since November, so obviously, playing a quality opponent like Germany and getting the result we did – and I think the way that we played, we were always on our front foot during the game. I thought that was great. Obviously, there were a lot of things that we need to clean up and make a little bit better, but to start the tournament like this, I think it’s the best place we could be.

How is the transition to playing a 3-5-2 formation going?

It’s going well. I mean, this is the first time we’ve actually played it against a good opponent, so I think for us, we just need to keep playing it and keep challenging ourselves in the formation, and be in uncomfortable situations. Because it’s one of those formations where in most situations, you’ve got to give up some territory. Knowing [how to] be positionally accurate in order to solve those. And just playing with the new players, and stuff like that. It’s important to get those connections going in order to make the formation buzz in the way we want it to.

And for you in particular, as one of the outside players – I know you’ve played some outside back in a four-back formation at times in the past – but what’s this like?

It’s different. I would say it’s a lot of work, but I think it can be rewarding at times. I think it’s one of those positions where you have to always kind of expect to either transition out of it and be a great option [in attack], or put in that last-ditch run back. So in that way, I think you have to be focused and tuned in.

For us, it’s me, Crystal [Dunn] and Mal [Pugh] who played out there today. I think it’s a little bit different for us, because we basically have the whole sideline to deal with. In that way, it puts us in situations that are a little unique for us in this formation. I think we’re learning, and I think we’re growing. So it’s good.

This is a heck of a way to do it, to jump into a tournament with Germany, England and France. And on top of that, as you said, the U.S. team hadn’t played a game for a few months. So what’s it like for you all to be thrown right into the deep end?

That’s exactly what we need. Especially in this time in the cycle. We need these games. We need this flexibility in order to play a system like this with the new players that we have.

Because we don’t have anything to lose. Although this is a great tournament with great opponents, at the end of the day, we’re just trying to grow and find out things about the team that we need to know. The only way we’re going to find out is against these teams. So in that way, it’s a good time to try things.

Last question. When the tournament ends, you go back to Portland to join the Thorns as they prepare for the start of the National Women’s Soccer League season. How big a year is this going to be for the Thorns and the NWSL?

I’m so stoked to get back to Portland and start the NWSL [season]. I love playing there. I love being there. I love playing for [head coach] Mark Parsons. I think we’ve got a great team. It’s the first time we’ve gotten kind of a consistent team from last year to this year, so in that way, I’m excited to get back on the pitch – and go for another championship, hopefully.

SheBelieves Cup provides a litmus test for a USWNT in transition

QUICKLY -Over the next week, the U.S. women’s national team will go up against England, Germany and France–three of the top five teams in the world.AVI CREDITOR3 hours ago

Saturday, March 4 at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

2:15 p.m.: Germany vs. France (FoxSportsGo.com)
5:00 p.m.: United States vs. England (Fox)

Tuesday, March 7 at RFK Stadiu, Washington, D.C.

4:00 p.m.: England vs. Germany (FoxSportsGo.com)
7:00 p.m.: United States vs. France (Fox Sports 1)

Coming off the low of an Olympic failure, the U.S. women’s national team was confronted with another harsh reality. Meaningful games will be few and far in between for about two years, and the opportunity to pick itself back up and prove itself as a world champion again won’t come around that often.Well, one of those such opportunities kicks off Wednesday night in the SheBelieves Cup, when the top-ranked (according to FIFA) U.S. hosts Olympic gold medalist and second-ranked Germany at Talen Energy Stadium in Pennsylvania. The tournament also pits the U.S. against fifth-ranked England (March 4 at Red Bull Arena) and third-ranked France (March 7 at RFK Stadium), with four of the world’s five highest-ranked teams going against one another in a high-profile, quick-hitting round robin. What the week-long exercise provides is a true litmus test for a U.S. team in a transition phase and trying to figure out its way going forward.Hope Solo hasn’t been the goalkeeper since the Olympics and it doesn’t appear she will be anytime soon, if at all. Manager Jill Ellis has left behind the Meg(h)ans Klingenberg and Rapinoe, and is also taking a look at 16-year-old midfielder Brianna Pinto. Plenty of the core U.S. players remain in place, but with time comes change, and competition for places should ramp up with the amount of relative newcomers Ellis has at her disposal. There is no surefire U.S. XI right now, and that’s entirely to be expected in the middle of dormant period in the international women’s soccer cycle.So while standing atop the winner’s podium for a second straight year in this nascent competition is of utmost importance to the U.S., figuring out who belongs in the mix for the run up to the 2019 Women’s World Cup is the other high-priority item on the to-do list.”We’ve now had two camps together this year and I’ve seen some good things across the board,” Ellis said. “Now we’re looking to translate that into three games against fantastic opponents. We will be greatly tested, and these are the moments where you learn the most about yourself, which is exactly what we need right now.”The transition with the U.S. women (who still don’t have a new CBA amid the ongoing equal pay fight) extends a bit to the club level, as well. While the NWSL schedule came out on Wednesday, at least the opening half of it won’t pertain to Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd, and it won’t at all to Crystal Dunn, the three U.S. stars (in addition to retired national team midfielder Heather O’Reilly) who have taken their games overseas. Their moves won’t alter their standing with the U.S., but they do provide a new logistical hurdle for Ellis, who is used to having a full squad of domestic-based talent. “In my tenure, I haven’t dealt with international players joining us purely at FIFA windows so it’s a slightly different experience for me personally but obviously we’ve kept in contact with them, both visually in terms of watching their games, and obviously through constant communication,” Ellis said. “We’re excited to have them join us in camp and ready for them to help us be successful.”In all, change is in the wind for the U.S. women. After their subpar showing in Rio, there is plenty they can learn from this competition, and there’s plenty we’ll learn about the U.S. in the process. Here’s the U.S. squad for the competition:

GOALKEEPERS: Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride), Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

DEFENDERS: Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars), Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC)

MIDFIELDERS: Morgan Brian (Houston Dash), Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), Carli Lloyd (Manchester City), Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), Brianna Pinto (CASL)

FORWARDS: Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC), Jessica McDonald (NC Courage), Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais), Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), Mallory Pugh (UCLA), Lynn Williams (NC Courage)

An unrecognizable USWNT will prepare for the future at 2017 SheBelieves Cup

You may not fully recognize the United States women’s national team when it kicks off the second edition of the SheBelieves Cup in Chester, Pa., on Wednesday. And that’s entirely by design.There is no Hope Solo, of course, long since ostracized for her multi-page rap sheet – and injured, to boot. Out, too, are the retired Christie Rampone, Heather O’Reilly, Abby Wambach and Lauren Holiday. Meanwhile, Megan Rapinoe isn’t yet fit after a long-term injury. Meghan Klingenberg is also on her way back, while Amy Rodriguez has just been off for a year while she had her second son.[ SheBelieves Cup: Live match updates | Harris’ personal triumph | Solo’s long road ]

The defending Women’s World Cup champions are very much in transition as a new cycle begins in earnest following last year’s debacle at the Rio Olympics – the quarterfinals elimination to Sweden on penalties was the worst American finish at a major tournament ever.Now begins the slow rebuilding process towards the 2019 Women’s World Cup – and the qualifying tournament in late 2018 or early 2019 – in the first major test since Brazil. The SheBelieves Cup has come to replace the Portuguese Algarve Cup as the U.S. women’s national team’s annual Spring proving ground. And the quality of opposition has been highThis year, like last year, Germany, France and England will participate. Which means four of the top-five teams in the world will play a round-robin over three days outside Philadelphia, in New Jersey and in Washington, D.C., on March, 1, 4 and 7.These will be tough tests. Last year, the Americans went 3-0-0 but won by scores of 1-0, 1-0 and 2-1, respectively. That’s quite a difference with the typical friendly blowouts they tend to register against anybody but the world’s elite. After the Olympics, the U.S. won the remainder of its 2016 games by scores of 9-0, 3-1, 4-0, 5-1, 8-1 and 5-0.Head coach Jill Ellis wants to expose new players to these types of challenges. That’s why 18-year-old wunderkind Mallory Pugh is back in the team after some time off. And it’s why Ellis called in 16-year-old Brianna Pinto – who was born in 2000, potentially making her the national team’s first post-Millennial.“In this phase we’re in, it’s about taking players who are ready or needing to gain experience. The reality is if a player is not ready right now, we have a big window in which to continue their evaluation and assessment,” Ellis explained in a Q&A on USSoccer.com. “I think with Brianna, part of it is that you have to make sure that a player can help immediately, but also ask yourself, what do you see potentially in this player? And what I see in her is someone that already from a January camp until now is getting more comfortable, is answering questions in meetings and asking questions on the field. Giving her the exposure and experience of being in SheBelieves, which is a big tournament, is a massive investment.”This tournament, then, will be much less about the established stars in their own right as Ellis figuring out where they still fit in – if anywhere. The English-born head coach with the recognizable hybrid accent is a perpetual builder with a long-running project of modernizing a national team shackled to the same style and players for so many years.

As such, her leaving certain established players home hardly means they’re out of the picture for the 2019 Women’s World Cup in France. She has said that she only wanted players who were fully fit or very close to it for this SheBelieves Cup, so as not to waste the opportunity of really seeing where players stand against the preciously rare quality opposition. With more than two years remaining to piece together the puzzle, other chances will be plentiful.So the thing to watch is not how the team copes without the players not there, but how the battles and chemistry among those present shapes up. Who will seize the starting job in goal in this post-Solo era? Alyssa Naeher or the fascinating Ashlyn Harris?Who sticks out in the ever-crowdedfight among the forwards? And between Alex Morgan, Christen Press, Crystal Dunn, Pugh, Lynn Williams and Jessica McDonald, who forms the best pairing? Or trident?What midfield configuration will yield the ideal balance between freeing up creative talents like Tobin Heath – or a healthy Rapinoe – and shielding the defense?There are many questions and three quality games to seek answers. A sea of time sprawls out between now and the next major women’s tournament, but the preparatory process has already begun.

Meet the U.S. WOMEN’S NATIONAL TEAM ROSTER FOR 2017 SHEBELIEVES CUP:

GOALKEEPERS (3): No. 18-Jane Campbell (Houston Dash), 1-Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars), 24-Ashlyn Harris (Orlando Pride).

DEFENDERS (6): 8-Julie Johnston (Chicago Red Stars), 11-Ali Krieger (Orlando Pride), 5-Kelley O’Hara (Sky Blue FC), 4-Becky Sauerbrunn (FC Kansas City), 7-Casey Short (Chicago Red Stars); 15-Emily Sonnett (Portland Thorns FC).

MIDFIELDERS (8): 6-Morgan Brian (Houston Dash, 17-Tobin Heath (Portland Thorns FC), 9-Lindsey Horan (Portland Thorns FC), 16-Rose Lavelle (Boston Breakers), 10-Carli Lloyd (Houston Dash), 20-Allie Long (Portland Thorns FC), 3-Samantha Mewis (NC Courage), 22-Brianna Pinto (CASL).

FORWARDS (6): 19-Crystal Dunn (Chelsea Ladies FC), 14-Jessica McDonald (NC Courage), 13-Alex Morgan (Olympique Lyonnais), 23-Christen Press (Chicago Red Stars), 2-Mallory Pugh (UCLA), 12-Lynn Williams (NC Courage).

Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

USWNT coach Jill Ellis on goalkeepers, Alex Morgan on Lyon, Ali Krieger on playing 3-5-2

Updated: MARCH 1, 2017 — 9:23 AM ESTU.S. women’s soccer team striker Alex Morgan chatted with reporters at Talen Energy Stadium ahead of the Americans’ game against Germany.by Jonathan Tannenwald , STAFF WRITER  @jtannenwald |  jtannenwald@phillynews.com

Here are some highlights from the U.S. women’s soccer team’s pregame conversations with the media on Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday’s SheBelieves Cup game against Germany at Talen Energy Stadium (7 p.m., Fox Sports 1).U.S. coach Jill Ellis spoke from the podium at a press conference, striker Alex Morgan spoke to a gaggle of reporters outside the locker room, and defender Ali Krieger spoke exclusively to me a few minutes later.By the way, if you’re on the fence aboug going to Chester on Wednesday, U.S. Soccer said that as of Tuesday evening, around 1,000 tickets remained for sale.

Jill Ellis

On Alex Morgan, Crystal Dunn and Carli Lloyd deciding to play abroad for a while:

These players want to explore other environments. In 2015 and ’16, we’ve been heavy with our programming. This year, the commitment to the NWSL is when they’re in that league, we’re playing FIFA dates. So that obviously puts everybody in the same category, whether you’re playing domestically or overseas.

I think for them, it’s an opportunity to see something different and experience something different. All three of them have never been overseas. I think for them, it’s a great opportunity for them to experience high-level teams, or slightly different things. Every environment you can go to that you can take away something [from] I think is going to benefit us in the long run.

On the contest between Alyssa Naeher and Ashlyn Harris to be the top goalkeeper on the depth chart:

That’s part of this. What I committed to after the Olympics was giving them games. Well, in truth, this is the biggest game for Ash and Alyssa. These are the biggest games right now, because when you’re suddenly competing to get on a podium, it puts a whole other emphasis on the importance – or the stress, really.

So I think for both of them, these games are big tests. Listen, is one game going to determine it? No. You have to look at consistency in a player. So what I’m committed to there is to get them games. I know [Harris] has done very well in the league, but again, it’s a different level.

And it’s not just seeing them one-off, or in a couple of games, or a game against a lesser opponent. It’s seeing them against these big opponents, to see how they manage the stress, the pressure, and obviously the action, because they can get a lot of it.

On her expectations for 16-year-old midfielder Brianna Pinto, and what fans should expect:

Having her in here, she’s gaining so much just being in and around it, training with these players every day. Pinto is a player – and I’ve said this before – it’s a position, the No. 6 [defensive midfielder], with [Andi] Sullivan getting hurt, I think we still need to deepen that spot.

She’s done well. She’s, of course, young. And what I’m trying to look at is, okay, where is she now and where could she be in two years with investment with us in here. That’s really why I’m looking at her. Will she play in this tournament? I don’t know. To be determined. But getting this major tournament under her belt at 16 years old, I think is going to benefit us.

Alex Morgan

On what it’s been like in Lyon so far:

It’s definitely been challenging a lot of times. It’s been fun and exciting to get to know my new teammates, to get to know the club a little bit better. But it’s not always easy.

There’s difficult moments, and the last two weeks have been pretty difficult with the illness [she’s had the flu] that I had, and then having a little knock to my ankle as well. So it’s been a tough couple of weeks, but I’m happy to be back in the U.S. and representing my country.

On how her time in France has changed how she plays:

I think I have gained a different style. Learning to play a different way. With Lyon, it’s more of the technical side and coming back for the ball, and making your runs more sophisticated. A lot of teams that we play against kind of sit a little deeper because they don’t want to get beat. So for me it’s trying to still contribute and open up space for myself even though that space is limited.

Then, at the same time, bringing my best to training every day, because we have a lot of the best players in the world on that team, as you saw from the FIFPro (Women’s Team of the Year) nominees. I think there were 50 nominees and 11 of those were on Lyon.

[It was 55 total, not 50, but Morgan was right that Lyon had 11.]

It’s amazing to see, it’s really challenging every day, and I feel like we’re able to challenge ourselves and create a competitive environment every day. So it’s fun to be a part of that.

Ali Krieger

How big do you think this tournament is?

Huge. This week is going to be incredible. This week is what we all dream of being a part of. At the highest level, you’re playing against the best teams in the world. We’re all in the top five teams int he world. So I think this is an awesome experience for all of us.

This is who we want to play all the time. These are the opponents that we dream of playing against, not only in big tournaments but during the year. It makes us better, it challenges us, we grow from it, and it gives us more experience. It’s nice to just have a small, intimate tournament domestically for us to really build the game.

At the same time that this tournament is happening, Orlando City is opening the fancy new stadium that you’ll be playing in with the Orlando Pride. How good a place is it?

What a dream. I can’t say that I’ve been because we’ve been so busy with training and things like that. I haven’t yet gone to the stadium tour, but I hope to do that right when I get back.

It is incredible. They’ve thought about every single last detail, and I can’t wait to see it, to be a part of it, to open up the stadium for the inaugural season coming up. It’s soccer-specific, the atmosphere is going to be amazing. It’s a dream that we as women footballers get to play in the same stadium as the men.

How much of the stadium really belongs to the Pride specifically?

It’s half and half. We share it completely with the men. And they understand that too. We’re a family, we’re a community, and I feel just as much a big part of that, even though I haven’t even been there yet – really involved with the team. I really feel a huge part of it. We share it 100 percent with the men, and that’s something that you feel like you’re rewarded in that way from the organization.

Alex Morgan is at Lyon, Crystal Dunn is at Chelsea, and Carli Lloyd is headed to Manchester City after the SheBelieves Cup ends. How much of a different element does it bring to the national team when top players are playing abroad?

It allows players to kind of step up, and it allows players to go and achieve their individual goals that they want to do. I had the whole European experience, and I would tell every single one of my teammates that they should go and experience it as well if you’re able to. I think these two off years [2017 and 2018] are really a good time for them to do that.

To have that experience, check it off their lists, and to fight for a Champions League title – that’s something I already have in my back pocket, and I’ve experienced, and I’ve grown so much as a person. I don’t think I would be where I am on this national team if I hadn’t gone.

So for them, it broadens the game and opens up, maybe, doors for other players to feel the same. I think it’s an awesome experience, and I’m really happy they’re doing that.

Jill Ellis is trying to get this team to play a 3-5-2 formation. What has that transition been like for you?

It’s amazing, because I think it fits my style a lot better than a four-back [formation]. So I’m really excited about that. I can just defend, I can focus on winning the ball back and giving it to the front six players who can do their magic.

I love playing in a three-back [formation]. I really enjoy it, because of the speed of play and the opportunities to get the ball and play it into the front six. I think it’s nice to have a variety of lineups and formations to use against different opponents, depending on what they bring.

2017 MLS predictions: Who will win MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, MVP?

With the 2017 MLS season just about to kick off, ESPN FC asked its writers and analysts to make predictions for who will win the MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, Golden Boot and MVP.

Who will win MLS Cup in 2017?

Vancouver Whitecaps: Is it crazy to think that a team that two years ago was in contention for the Supporters’ Shield without a goalscorer find themselves with one of the most exciting goalscorers MLS has ever had, and not be in the mix? I’m all in on a Cascadia Treble. — Herculez Gomez (@herculezg)

I’m going to go for Vancouver Whitecaps, though that may be as much about the way that the season and playoffs offer the kind of twists and turns that see solid-but-unspectacular teams find a way through by the time early December rolls around. The Whitecaps were derailed by injuries last season, but were better than their final position suggested. A lot depends on whether Yordy Reyna returns from injury in the summer like a new signing, or whether he ends up as a cap writeoff for the year, but let’s guess that he helps Cascadia keep its winning sequence running into a third surprise year. — Graham Parker (@KidWeil)

Also picking Vancouver is Steve Nicol (@SteveNicol61)

FC Dallas: Even with Mauro Diaz likely to miss half the season due to the Achilles injury he sustained last year, Dallas looks to be the most complete team. Javier Morales has been brought in to fill the attacking void, but more importantly, Dallas’ core that includes Kellyn Acosta, Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman is a year older and wiser. If Cristian Colman provides the goals from the forward position, look out. — Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle)

Last season’s Supporters’ Shield winner take it a step further and validate regular season dominance with a successful MLS Cup run. — Alejandro Moreno (@AleMorenoESPN)

It’s their time. FC Dallas has all the tools to take home the crown in 2017: A strong defense, speed on the wings, a creative midfield and now a striker to finish chances. Once Mauro Diaz returns from injury in June, they will be unstoppable. — Arch Bell (@ArchBell)

Maybe I’m swayed by their CONCACAF Champions League demolition of Arabe Unido, but Dallas just seems poised to hang banners in 2017. Kellyn Acosta is so good and they’ve got — arguably with Seattle — the best center-back pairing in MLS. Oscar Pareja has really built a powerhouse. — Sebastian Salazar (@SebiSalazarFUT)

Also picking Dallas is Paul Mariner (@Paul_Mariner)

Toronto FC: Were the most dynamic team down the stretch run of last season and have kept all their major pieces intact. Unlike Columbus the year before, I believe they will use losing MLS Cup at home as the fuel to fire a return a year later and will go one better. — Adrian Healey (@AdrianHealey)

The Reds came oh-so-close to hoisting the hardware last season, losing a final they dominated on penalties. That experience pushes them over the edge this year. — Doug McIntyre (@DougMacESPN)

Toronto FC is my pick to win MLS Cup, reaching the goal they nearly accomplished last season. A host of big changes and new signings across the league make this as unpredictable a season as there’s been in recent memory, but TFC stands out thanks to their proven core of MLS elite talent and a handful of strong additions. — Jason Davis (@davisjsn)

 Who will win the Supporters’ Shield in 2017?

FC Dallas: So consistent during regular season play, these kids know how to handle the grind of a long MLS season. Look for a repeat of the Supporters’ Shield. — Herculez Gomez

FCD won the Shield last year, and look plenty capable of delivering a different kind of double this season. — Jeff Carlisle

Also picking Dallas is Alejandro Moreno.

Hard to look past Dallas again, as they’re strengthening at all levels of experience and have a formidable pipeline of youth talent compared to other clubs. Still need to work on concentration coming through knockout rounds, but in the regular season, any club that beats them probably has to do better than last year’s points total. — Graham Parker

The CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal win over Arabe Unido showed that FC Dallas are still plenty dangerous even without Diaz in the fold. There will be plenty of challenges in coming out of the West — Seattle, Los Angeles — but Oscar Pareja’s group should ride to a second straight Supporters’ Shield. — Arch Bell

 

Toronto FC: The Double hasn’t happened too often recently, but Toronto are primed for it this year. They will have the advantage of playing a regular schedule rather than the first eight games on the road as they did last year. Dallas, Sporting Kansas City and even Columbus could push them close, though. — Adrian Healey

After MLS Cup heartbreak, I bet TFC comes out hot to start the season. Toronto managed to keep its team together, and the intriguing addition of Victor Vazquez — who was player of the year in Belgium two seasons ago — could further spark an already combustible attack. — Sebastian Salazar

Seattle Sounders: Boosted by their championship swagger and the return of Clint Dempsey, the Sounders will become the first MLS Cup holder to win the Shield since Columbus did it eight years ago. — Doug McIntyre

The Sounders’ 2016 championship means they had an extremely short offseason. That could mean a slow start, but with Brian Schmetzer settling further into the job and Clint Dempsey back on the field, Seattle should still be among the best teams in the league. After last year’s aberrant regular season, I’m picking the champs to bounce back with a points title. — Jason Davis

Sporting Kansas City: Lots of firepower up front, creative in midfield and young improving defenders at the back. — Paul Mariner

Vancouver Whitecaps: — Steve Nicol

Who will win the Golden Boot in 2017?

Sebastian Giovinco: Do I really need to explain myself? Just look at his numbers over the past two years. — Herculez Gomez

Fueled by his MVP snub in 2016, when the little Italian wasn’t a finalist despite leading the league in combined goals and assists, I see Giovinco outscoring everyone this year. — Doug McIntyre

Also picking Giovinco is Steve Nicol.

Fanendo Adi: Adi tied for fifth last year with 16 goals, but with Sebastian Blanco brought in to provide another supply line alongside Diego Valeri and Darlington Nagbe, Adi should not only exceed that total this year, but lead the league. — Jeff Carlisle

A striker who has it all, who Portland have done amazingly well to hang on to. Has got better every year in MLS and this is the year he puts it all together and tops 20 goals for the first time. — Adrian Healey

 

David Villa is the safe bet here, because he’ll net a big chunk of NYCFC’s likely 60-plus goals. But Adi has scored at a great clip since entering league in 2014, and with Diego Valeri, Darlington Nagbe and now Sebastian Blanco creating danger, the Nigerian international will get plenty of chances. — Sebastian Salazar

David Villa: Going to suggest David Villa squeaks this one with the strengthening New York has done in the attacking midfield positions around him; less work as a creator and more as an opportunistic finisher may give him the edge over the usual contenders. — Graham Parker

New York City FC’s high-flying attack won’t miss a beat with Maxi Moralez slotting into the midfield along with Andrea Pirlo, thus setting up David Villa with plenty of scoring chances. Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls will provide stiff competition, but this year it’s the Spanish striker taking home scoring honors. — Arch Bell

Also choosing Villa is Alejandro Moreno.

Bradley Wright-Phillips: Chances created, chances finished, stays fit, plays most games and his conversion rate has improved over the years. — Paul Mariner

Who will win MVP in 2017?

Sebastian Giovinco: Are we still doing this? He was snubbed last year. Wasn’t even top three! Insane. Shame on you. — Herculez Gomez

Sebastian Giovinco should have won it last year, only to be completely snubbed. No matter. This season he’ll reclaim the trophy he won in 2015. — Jeff Carlisle

Since Giovinco won it two seasons ago, and should have won it last season, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t have yet another outstanding season. — Alejandro Moreno

Missing out last year really seemed to stick in Sebastian Giovinco’s craw. Assuming he stays happy in Toronto and also stays injury free, then he should be the one to beat again. — Graham Parker

After not even being named an MVP finalist in 2016, Giovinco should pick up his second MVP trophy (2015) in what stands to be another fantastic season for the Italian in Toronto. With Jozy Altidore healthy, Giovinco’s numbers (17 goals and 15 assists in 2016) will only improve. — Arch Bell

He’s the best player in MLS, and maybe the best in league history. The fact that Giovinco wasn’t even an MVP finalist last year still gets on my nerves. Hope the voters get it right in 2017. — Sebastian Salazar

 

Benny Feilhaber: In similar fashion to the production of Sacha Klejstan last year, Feilhaber has the potential to do the same this year with the added motivation of getting back in the national team picture. Sporting are going to make their presence felt in the West, and Feilhaber will be the fulcrum for everything they do. — Adrian Healey

Nicolas Lodeiro: The Uruguayan World Cup vet was so good in 2016 he had an argument for the award even though he didn’t arrive until late July. In his first full season, the league’s most complete player will just edge out Giovonvo as MLS’s best. — Doug McIntyre

We got a taste of what the Uruguayan could do when he arrived in Seattle in midseason and subsequently pushed his new team all the way to an MLS Cup title. A full season of Lodeiro, augmented by the return of Clint Dempsey, should be extremely productive. A 15-goal, 15-assist season isn’t out of the question. — Jason Davis

 

Mauro Diaz: Best No. 10 in the league, a creator, can finish chances and is magic on restarts. — Paul Mariner

Fredy Montero: — Steve Nicol   Follow @ESPNFC on Twitter to keep up with the latest football updates.

SI’s expert 2017 MLS season predictions

SI’s expert panel makes picks for the 2017 season, including MLS Cup, Supporters’ Shield, Golden Boot and much more.SHARESI.COM STAFFan

The 2017 MLS season is nearly upon us, with the Portland Timbers and expansion club Minnesota United pulling back the curtain on the new campaign Friday night at Providence Park. It’s been a few months since the Timbers’ rival, the Seattle Sounders, captured their first MLS Cup title in Toronto. Since then, two new full rosters have been built (Minnesota and fellow expansion club Atlanta United); big-name, big-money stars have moved on (farewell to the likes of Robbie Keane, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Steven Gerrard); a new cast and breed of talent has joined the fold (hello to Miguel Almiron, Josef Martinez, Sebastian Blanco, Alberth Elis, Romain Alessandrini and Albert Rusnak, among others); and future league expansion remains on the horizon. With a nine-month road ahead, you have a couple of options: watch it play out, or have it all spoiled for you with our fearless and peerless, never-wrong season predictions. So with that, take a look below as SI’s experts Grant Wahl, Brian Straus and Alexander Abnos make select picks for how the league’s 22nd season will play out:

Who will win MLS Cup?

WAHL: Toronto FC. Somehow, TFC failed to win the MLS Cup final in December despite being on its home field and despite outplaying Seattle before falling on penalties. That will be plenty of motivation to get back to the final—and win it this time.

STRAUS: FC Dallas. Last year’s treble dreams were shattered along with Mauro Díaz’s Achilles tendon. But instead of feeling sorry for itself, FC Dallas went out and got better. Javier Morales was acquired as a replacement playmaker, striker Cristian Colmán arrived from Paraguay and Belgian winger Roland Lamah was signed to fill the hole left by Fabián Castillo. Defenders Matt Hedges and Walker Zimmerman are evolving into national team candidates while FCD’s academy gold mine has produced Paxton Pomykal, Jesus Ferreira and Reggie Cannon.

FCD’s trophy drought ended with last year’s Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield. Now it can focus on MLS Cup. Coach Oscar Pareja will be more patient in pacing his team, Díaz will return in the fall and Dallas will hit the playoffs focused and in form. It’s their time.

ABNOS: FC Dallas. Morales was an inspired pickup, and his veteran presence will not only help a very young team in the absence of Diaz, but also in the period after Diaz comes back. Pareja always has his team playing without fear, and that should serve them well come playoff time.

Who will win the Supporters’ Shield?

WAHL: Dallas. Even without the injured Mauro Díaz for most of the season, Dallas has a good short-term replacement (Javier Morales) and a cast of terrific veterans and emerging youngsters.

STRAUS: There will be no hangover in Toronto, despite the short offseason. The pain of that agonizing MLS Cup final loss will fuel the Reds through the spring and summer, while a tactical and personnel changes by the New York Red Bulls and Dallas’s shifting priorities remove the past two Shield winners from the equation. Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco are unstoppable and Spanish playmaker Víctor Vázquez will help TFC diversify its attack. Toronto finished seven points behind FCD last year after spending the season’s first two months on the road. With a more normal slate at BMO Field in 2017, Toronto will make up those points and more.

ABNOS: Toronto FC. Greg Vanney’s side is just stacked from top to bottom, so they stand a good chance of picking up points even when one or all of Altidore, Michael Bradley or Giovinco are unavailable. Plus, don’t discount the motivating factor of losing last year’s MLS Cup final. That team will be doing everything it can to get that taste out of their mouths as quickly as possible.

Who will win the Golden Boot?

WAHL: Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto. The most dangerous scorer in the league, period.

STRAUS: David Villa is 35, but until he stops being awesome he’s going to get the benefit of the doubt. NYCFC plays a wide-open game and it attacks with flair through the Spanish veteran. Villa, who finished one goal off the golden boot pace last season, won’t split the scoring load like Giovinco will in Toronto. That’ll make the difference for the 2016 league MVP.

ABNOS: Fanendo Adi. He’s scored 16 goals in each of the last two seasons and has the fearsome trio of Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri and newly arrived DP Sebastian Blanco behind him in Portland.

Who will be the highest-scoring American in the league?

WAHL: Jordan Morris, Seattle. Kind of crazy that the highest-scoring American in MLS last year was (wait for it) Chris Pontius. Morris is emerging as a star, and I think he’ll be the guy this year.

STRAUS: Altidore appears to have overcome his hamstring issues. He’s found his comfort zone for both club and country and has a powerful team behind him in Toronto. Even though Giovinco will score plenty, a full season at his full potential will be enough to lift Altidore to the top of the American scoring chart.

ABNOS: Altidore. When healthy, Altidore is as hard-working a forward as there is in the league, and he proved at the end of last season that he can be a volume scorer as well (15 goals in his last 21 games with Toronto in 2016, including playoffs).

Which 10 teams will miss the playoffs?

WAHL: East: Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact, New England Revolution, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union; West: Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United, San Jose Earthquakes, Vancouver Whitecaps

STRAUS: East: Atlanta United, Chicago Fire, New England Revolution, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union; West: Colorado Rapids, Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United, San Jose Earthquakes, Vancouver Whitecaps.

ABNOS: East: Atlanta United, Chicago Fire, Montreal Impact, Orlando City, Philadelphia Union, Orlando City; West: San Jose Earthquakes, Houston Dynamo, Minnesota United, LA Galaxy, Vancouver Whitecaps.

Who is your sleeper, under-the-radar team due for a bounce back?

WAHL: Columbus. Last season was a strange one for Gregg Berhalter’s team, and with greater stability this season I suspect 2016 will end up being viewed as an anomaly.

STRAUS: Agree with Grant here. Last year was an everything-that-can-go-wrong-will-go-wrong stumble for Columbus. But the yellow kits are back and the Crew’s 2015 mojo will return as well. Ola Kamara will continue to score, and coach Gregg Berhalter addressed the issues in defense with the signing of DP center back Jonathan Mensah and left back Jukka Raitala. Columbus has depth and talent in center midfield and if Federico Higuaín can stay healthy, the Crew should have no issue returning to the postseason.

ABNOS: New England Revolution. The Revs really found a groove toward the end of 2016 and you know Jay Heaps has spent all off-season thinking of a way to get all the talent in their front six to play well together. They’ve improved just enough on the defensive side of the ball that I think they’ll bounce back in a big way in 2017.

Which off-season acquisition will look like an act of genius?

WAHL: Javier Morales, Dallas. Mauro Díaz left big shoes to fill while he’s out. It says here that Morales has one more season in him in that spot.

STRAUS: Chicago’s turnaround will get a jumpstart from striker Nemanja Nikolić. He scores goals at a robust rate and will remind us of the days when a vigorous Eastern European influence helped carry the Fire to trophies. Nikolić was born in Serbia, plays for Hungary but broke through in Poland, where he tallied 55 goals in 86 games across 1.5 seasons at Legia Warsaw. He struck six times in 11 Champions League matches last season. He’s a pure finisher, and with Michael de Leeuw and David Accam providing service and Dax McCarty and Juninho locking things down in midfield, Nikolić will get his chances.

ABNOS: McCarty to the Chicago Fire. “Act of genius” may be a little strong for this one, actually. It’s more like “Act of spellbinding obviousness.” The Fire clearly had developed a losing culture at the club, and McCarty proved in his time with the Red Bulls that he brings the exact opposite. Together with some of the Fire’s other moves, McCarty will make a noticeable difference in Chicago. I’d be shocked if they finish near the bottom of the table again this season.

Who are your breakout player candidates?

WAHL: D.C. United’s Ian Harkes is my pick for Rookie of the Year; FC Dallas’s Kellyn Acosta is on the brink of stardom; NYCFC’s Tommy McNamara won’t be just a cult hero anymore in 2017.

STRAUS: Kellyn Acosta, FC Dallas; Luciano Acosta, D.C. United; Jordan Allen, Real Salt Lake; Fabian Herbers, Philadelphia Union; Cristian Roldan, Seattle Sounders

ABNOS: Sporting Kansas City’s Jimmy Medranda is a spark plug of a player that seemed to get better and better as last year went on. If he can cement a permanent spot in the SKC lineup, look out; FC Dallas did damage last year without a go-to center forward, so the addition of the 23-year-old Cristian Colman could elevate an already-good team to another level. He’s been in good form in preseason. Real Salt Lake homegrown player Jordan Allen performed well when called upon last season and should have an even bigger role this time around for a more balanced RSL team than we’ve seen.

How will Atlanta United and Minnesota United fare in their respective Year 1 campaigns?

WAHL: Atlanta will make playoffs after finishing sixth in the East. Minnesota will finish last in the West.

STRAUS: There’s a reason the Sounders are the only first-year club to make the playoffs since MLS’s initial expansion in 1998—it’s hard to build a cohesive side in a few months. So while both Atlanta and Minnesota will be fun to watch, it’s a tall order to expect either to play in November. Atlanta is stocked with young talent and has enormous potential. But relying on 22- and 23 year-olds with no MLS experience will pose challenges, and by the time this team gels and gets comfortable, it’ll be too late. But watch out in 2018. Minnesota will score goals thanks to Christian Ramirez, Johan Venegas and Kevin Molino, but United will be far too busy in back to contend this year.

ABNOS: Atlanta will be inconsistent but occasionally very, very good. However, it’s tough to expect an expansion team starting from scratch to make the playoffs. Minnesota, on the other hand, will struggle.

Which cities will be given MLS expansion teams by year’s end (including Miami)?

WAHL: Miami, Sacramento, St. Louis. Sacto and STL are the favorites, and David Beckham’s group will finally get their act together in Miami.

STRAUS: Miami will figure it out and finally nail things down. St. Louis and Sacramento were the heavy favorites entering 2017. But a couple of political hurdles remain for the former, while the latter stumbled last month thanks to some internal ownership intrigue. Don Garber has made no secret of his interest in San Diego, and an impressive plan there (plus the Chargers’ departure) could see it spring a surprise.

ABNOS: Sacramento, St. Louis, and Cincinnati. Miami would be a good addition to MLS but that bid only ever seems to lose momentum despite having one of the sport’s biggest celebrities behind it.

Dempsey, champs Seattle Sounders top preseason MLS Power Rankings

The first ESPN FC Major League Soccer Power Rankings of the new season are here. With no official match action outside of preseason to go on, we took into account last year’s finishes and each team’s offseason acquisitions in an attempt to figure out who is primed for success in 2017.It seems only right that the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders get the top spot and the league’s two expansion sides bring up the rear as the season gets underway. With the season set to kick off on Friday, here’s where the other 19 teams in the league stack up in between.

  1. Seattle Sounders
    The champs get the top spot to start the season because, well, they’re the champs. It also doesn’t hurt that Clint Dempsey is ready to return, the core of the team is intact and preseason returns are looking good so far.
  2. FC Dallas
    No Mauro Diaz, no problem. If FC Dallas’ 4-0 CONCACAF Champions League thrashing of Arabe Unidois anything to go by, Oscar Pareja’s team looks like an MLS Cup contender even without its injured Argentine playmaker.
  3. Toronto FC
    The defending Eastern Conference winner returns all of the core pieces that pushed it to the MLS Cup final in 2016, and the team has added a potential solution to its creative problems in midfielder Victor Vazquez.
  4. Colorado Rapids
    The Rapids are essentially the same group that finished second in the West in 2016. We are giving them the benefit of the doubt for now, but with so few goals available, Colorado could slip if Tim Howard and the defense aren’t as good as they were last season.
  5. Montreal Impact
    Didier Drogba is gone, but Montreal managed to hold on to its most important player: Ignacio Piatti. His decision to stay in Quebec is a huge boost for Mauro Biello’s men.
  6. New York Red Bulls
    Questions at Red Bull Arena swirl mostly around the midfield after the departure of Dax McCarty and a tweak in formation executed by head coach Jesse Marsch. There’s been enough change to warrant some caution over expectations for the Eastern Conference winners in 2016.
  7. New York City FC
    The boys in blue went in a different direction with the signing of Maxi Moralez as a designated player this winter, but what the new addition lacks in name recognition, he could make up for in impact on a team that manager Patrick Vieira promises will be even better than expected.
  8. D.C. United
    United didn’t dive into the transfer waters as heavily as most this offseason, putting continuity at the top of the club’s lists of strengths heading into the new year. Keep an eye on Patrick Mullins, who won the starting striker job at the end of 2016.
  9. Portland Timbers
    The Timbers expect to bounce back in 2017 with a reshaped back line, Darlington Nagbe settled on the left side of midfield and Sebastian Blanco on the right.
  10. Sporting Kansas City
    Benny Feilhaber is back to feed Dom Dwyer, but will that be enough to make Sporting an MLS Cup contender? The team stayed the same through the middle but added players at wing positions this offseason.
  11. LA Galaxy
    Gyasi Zardes is set to miss the start of the season, and now the back line has been hit by an injury to Ashley Cole. With so much change in L.A. — manager Bruce Arena is gone, as is veteran Robbie Keane — there’s potentially reason for concern.
  12. Real Salt Lake
    RSL said goodbye to a legendary No. 10 with midfielder Javier Morales’ departure. Albert Rusnak will be the man who will try to fill those extremely large shoes.
  13. Philadelphia Union
    As always, the Union will have to avoid injuries to have a chance in the East this year. An offseason marked by cautious spending means it’s another season of fine lines in Chester. But there are players in place — Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies, to name a couple — to help Jim Curtin’s team reach the postseason again.
  14. Orlando City SC
    After a year marked by a midseason transition on the sideline with Adrian Heath’s departure, Orlando City enters the season full of confidence with Jason Kreis settled in as head coach. Can Kaka and Cyle Larin help the team reach the playoffs for the first time in the club’s short history?
  15. New England Revolution
    If it wasn’t for Crew SC and the Timbers, the Revs might have been 2016’s biggest disappointment. With so much attacking talent available in players like Kei Kamara and Lee Nguyen, how does Jay Heaps juggle them in 2017?
  16. Columbus Crew SC
    A revamp of the defense and a reinforced midfield aim to fix what ailed Columbus in 2016. Spending DP money on center back Jonathan Mensah sends a message that the Crew won’t be the goal-leaking sieves they were last year.
  17. San Jose Earthquakes
    With a Dominic Kinnear-coached team, there are rarely any surprises with regard to style or personnel. But with a host of young talent on his roster this season, the old dog might throw caution to the wind.
  18. Houston Dynamo
    Wilmer Cabrera inherits a team that did very little right last year, but new signings have fans hopeful in the Bayou City. Is this the year Erick “Cubo” Torres regains his scoring touch?
  19. Vancouver Whitecaps
    The Caps got their season off to a decent start with a draw at Red Bull Arena in the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday, but the loss of Yordy Reyna to foot surgery is a definite setback. Fellow new arrival Fredy Montero will now be asked to carry the scoring load up top.
  20. Chicago Fire
    The league’s worst team in 2016 made a host of changes, but none of them bigger than acquiring a new duo to man the midfield. As Dax McCarty and Juninho go, so will the Fire in 2017.

21A. Atlanta United
The plight of an expansion team: You’ve got to prove it before you get out of the bottom of the Power Rankings. That said, expectations are very, very high in the ATL with an experienced manager in Gerardo Martino and veteran players like Greg Garza and Michael Parkhurst on board.

21B. Minnesota United
See above, with a slight difference: Minnesota United’s cautious building process and late roster additions mean they might sneak up on teams in the West. Jason Davis coves Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.

MLS Preseason Power Rankings: How do new clubs Atlanta, Minnesota fit in?

QUICKLYWhere do all 22 teams rank entering MLS’s 22nd season? Plus, a key question for each club ahead of the new campaign.ALEXANDER ABNOSTuesday February 28th, 2017

Preseason is over. All the drafts are done. Thanks to the CONCACAF Champions League’s continually-weird scheduling, some teams have already played official games. The 2017 MLS season is upon us, which means it’s time for the first edition of MLS Power Rankings.The league has added two new teams in Atlanta United and Minnesota United, and that combined with the fact that no teams have played a league game yet will make this edition of the Power Rankings different from those that will follow.These one emphasize off-season moves and improvements to last year’s rosters (or the crafting of new ones), as well as gauging the general sense of momentum surrounding each team as it heads into the season. That’s why, for example, Atlanta United is ranked so high despite never having played an official game, and also why the Red Bulls are ranked in the middle of the league despite being of of MLS’s strongest teams last year (unexpectedly trading your club captain will tend to have that effect).Feat your eyes on this now, because this is MLS, and this list will be constantly in flux throughout the season. But for now, here’s where the league’s 22 teams stand entering its 22nd season:

2017 MLS Preseason Power Rankings

  • 1TORONTO FC

LAST SEASON: 14–9–11, 3RD IN EASTERN CONFERENCE, 5TH OVERALL; MLS CUP RUNNER-UP

The Big Question: Can the Reds recover? Toronto FC followed a solid season and a brilliant playoff run with a loss at home in the MLS Cup final that could hardly have been more heartbreaking. TFC returns just about everyone from the team that got them to that point–and added a vital piece in attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez–and Sebastian Giovinco looks poised to continue his reign as the league’s best player. The biggest challenge for this team may be to simply put last year’s final loss behind them and maintain focus throughout a long regular season.

Advanced Prostate Cancer

ProstateCancerTherapy4Patients.com

Download Patient Resources For A

Prostate Cancer Treatment Option.

  • 2FC DALLAS

LAST SEASON: 17–8–9; 1ST IN WESTERN CONFERENCE, SUPPORTERS’ SHIELD; ELIMINATED IN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

The Big Question: Can Javier Morales impersonate Mauro Diaz? FCD’s 2016 regular season could hardly have been better, and a big reason for that was the playmaking ability of Mauro Diaz. However, Diaz’s late-season Achilles injury disrupted the club’s playoff run and will keep him out of the club’s plans for this season until summer. Enter Javier Morales, who played a Diaz-like role with Real Salt Lake for nearly a decade before he was abruptly let go this offseason. Morales is 37, but the rest of Dallas’s roster remains as young, dynamic, and exciting as it was last season, with no other major pieces gone. If Morales can fill in capably until Diaz returns, chances are Dallas will once again be favorites for the Shield and MLS Cup in 2017.

  • 3SEATTLE SOUNDERS

LAST SEASON: 14–14–6, 4TH IN WESTERN CONFERENCE, 7TH OVERALL; MLS CUP CHAMPIONS

The Big Question: Can they repeat? In every other season they’ve been in MLS, the Sounders have done well in the regular season only to flop in the playoffs. Last season, it was entirely the opposite–they floundered through much of the regular season before turning it on around playoff time and winning MLS Cup despite several key absences. The most key of those absences, Clint Dempsey, is back after dealing with a heart condition, and Jordan Morris has one amazing rookie season under his belt. This team is deeper than last year’s and looks on paper to be better in every way. However, if this is a team that needs to suffer before success, maybe that’s not a good thing.

  • 4NEW YORK CITY FC

LAST SEASON: 15–10–9, 2ND IN EASTERN CONFERENCE, 4TH OVERALL; ELIMINATED IN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

The Big Question: Will the defense improve? NYCFC made huge strides in 2016, playing some really stylish soccer under coach Patrick Vieira and developing Jack Harrison, Khiry Shelton, and Tommy McNamara into solid contributors even while DPs David Villa, Frank Lampard, and Andrea Pirlo each enjoyed fine seasons. NYCFC swapped the retired Lampard for Argentine attacker Maxi Moralez, so chances are this team will continue to score tons of goals. That puts the onus on the back line to improve, and with a new goalkeeper (Sean Johnson), defensive midfielder (Fininish international Alexander Ring), and center back (Peru international Alexander Callens), they have an excellent chance to do so.

  • 5SPORTING KANSAS CITY

LAST SEASON: 13–13–8, 5TH IN WESTERN CONFERENCE, 8TH OVERALL; ELIMINATED IN KNOCKOUT ROUND

The Big Question: Who will score (other than Dom Dwyer)? Sporting Kansas City was solid enough last season but continually struggled with a one-dimensional attack. Put simply: if things weren’t going through Dom Dwyer or Benny Feilhaber, they generally weren’t going anywhere. The team’s attempt to fix this comes in the form of Guinea-Bissau DP winger Gerso Fernandes, as well as Latif Blessing, the player of the season in Ghana’s Premier League. If either of those two can take the load off Dwyer, that will make all the difference for a team that is otherwise solidly constructed from the top down.

  • 6ATLANTA UNITED

N/A

The Big Question: Can the coaching staff and players adjust quickly to MLS? Atlanta United has done just about everything so far–it hired a top-class coach with an international profile never seen in the league before, unveiled a sharp (if not totally original) inaugural look, secured an impressive home field and stocked its roster with gobs of young skillful talent (I’m particularly excited to see if 22-year-old Argentine Yamil Asad can do things like this regularly). Problem is, none of that will mean much if Atlanta suffers a rocky first season. To justify all this hype, Tata Martino will need to get this brand new team rolling like one that’s been around for years. Luckily, he has all the tools to do so.

  • 7COLORADO RAPIDS

LAST SEASON: 15–6–13; 2ND IN WESTERN CONFERENCE, 2ND OVERALL; ELIMINATED IN CONFERENCE FINALS

The Big Question: Was last year a fluke? The Rapids were MLS’s ultimate surprise package in 2016, challenging for the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup in a year when many predicted them to be hovering around the bottom of the table. They did this thanks to its absurdly stingy defense, which conceded just 32 goals in 34 games last season and returns the entire starting back four, the defensive midfield and goalkeeper Tim Howard from that squad (though Howard will be injured to start the year). Still, the likelihood of repeating a defensive season like that is fairly low, so the Rapids need to improve on last season’s dismal 39-goal output (tied for second-worst in the league). Forward Alan Gordon, a free agent acquisition, could hardly be a better fit for the team’s style.

  • 8MONTREAL IMPACT

LAST SEASON: 11–11–12, 5TH IN EASTERN CONFERENCE, 11TH OVERALL; ELIMINATED IN CONFERENCE FINALS

The Big Question: Will more of the same be good enough? The Impact stayed remarkably quiet throughout the offseason, with their biggest move letting Didier Drogba go (which is just fine, as Matteo Mancosu outplayed Drogba toward the end of last season). That may seem fine for a team that made a run to the conference final, but just like last season, the aggregate age of this team may be a factor–every member of the team’s front six is over 30. The season may come down to how effectively the team’s depth is able to step in and get the job done.

  • 9NEW YORK RED BULLS

LAST SEASON: 16–9–9, 1ST IN EASTERN CONFERENCE, 3RD OVERALL; ELIMINATED IN CONFERENCE SEMIFINALS

The Big Question: Will off-field drama carry over? The Red Bulls enjoyed two of their most successful years ever with Ali Curtis as sporting director, Jesse Marsch as head coach and Dax McCarty as captain. Two of those characters are now gone, with McCarty traded to Chicago and Curtis relieved of his duties after a curious off-season saga. Why the Red Bulls would make either move with things going so well begs a bevy of questions, especially with the opaque and sometimes contentious way both departures were handled. The team still has plenty to like on the field–Sean Davis performed well in McCarty’s absence through injury last season–but there’s a danger that the good vibes that permeated the last two seasons may have gone.

 MLS making strides toward becoming destination league, but has a way to go

As Major League Soccer prepares for the start of its 22nd season on Friday, there is much for the league to celebrate. After not increasing its footprint in 2016, the arrival of two new teams, Atlanta United and Minnesota United, swells its ranks to 22 clubs with at least one more newcomer, Los Angeles FC, slated to arrive next year.A dozen other markets are clamoring for four more coveted spots, all of them prepared to pay a $150 million expansion fee for the privilege. Attendance and fan engagement are at all-time highs. There is labor peace, at least for now. Even the TV numbers are up significantly. By any measure, these are good times for a circuit that came perilously close to extinction just 15 short years ago.During his annual State of the League address before MLS Cup in December, longtime MLS commissioner Don Garber once again reiterated the league’s desire to become one of the top soccer circuits in the world. Nothing new there. Garber has been beating that drum for four years now, and why wouldn’t he?MLS has become one of the great success stories in sports since Garber became commissioner in 1999, in large part because of the New Yorker’s savvy. He helped the league survive its brush with death in 2001, when two of its 12 teams folded, by creating a profitable marketing arm to help underwrite its clubs’ losses. He recruited a stable of new investors, more than doubling MLS size and putting it on the stable ground — quite literally, as most teams now play in custom-built stadiums — that’s the foundation of the league today.Yet it was notable that Garber didn’t mention exactly when MLS would stand toe-to-toe with global juggernauts like the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga and Spain’s La Liga during those remarks in Toronto. In the past, there was an oft-quoted end goal of 2022. Now that aim seems a bit more opened ended, with a growing recognition among MLS insiders that the league must first catch up to its southern neighbor before truly beginning to compete with Europe’s elite.”The Mexican league has a really good standard. For me, Liga MX is one of the top 10 leagues in the world,” Seattle Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey told ESPN FC in a phone interview.  “If you can beat those teams regularly in the [CONCACAF] Champions League, which we haven’t been able to do so far, then we’re on our way to becoming one of the best leagues in the world. Hopefully we’re able to achieve that at some point.”Mexican teams have utterly dominated the region for the past two decades. MLS teams have made the final just twice since the current format was introduced nine years ago. The last to claim a title was the LA Galaxy in 2001.The main reason is, not surprisingly, money. Not only do Mexican teams spend more on player salaries than their MLS counterparts, they distribute those funds more evenly across their rosters, resulting in substantially greater depth.MLS has tried to narrow the gap in recent years by investing more in their squads. It’s working.”Two years ago, when teams put out their reserves during preseason, some guys shouldn’t even have been on the field,” said Philadelphia Union Coach Jim Curtin. “Now you have some really experienced players out there.”Still, you can be sure that whoever wins the Tigres-Pumas CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal will be favored against either the New York Red Bulls or Vancouver Whitecaps when the semis kick off next month.During the past decade, Garber often compared MLS to a teenager still finding their way in the world, while correctly pointing out that the European and Mexican top flights have been around for a century and the other North American sports leagues for almost as long. He correctly reminded anyone who would listen that the league, for all its successes, couldn’t catch up overnight.But back in December Garber again called his league “young”. He wasn’t wrong. But if MLS was an adolescent a decade ago, it’s now more like a college grad who moved back in with the parents before really making a go of life alone. A few years from now, it might be harder to invoke youth when explaining why other leagues boast more talent.”Player investment is the single biggest driver [of success],” Lagerwey said. “It’s not the only driver by any means, but it’s the single biggest one.”Development is included in that, and MLS academies — which got a later start than the league as a whole — are only now beginning to make a real contribution to first-team rosters. Eventually that will help close the gap, too.And MLS does have some built-in advantages when it comes to luring top foreign players, such as more favorable tax laws and the relative anonymity that comes with being a professional soccer player living in the United States and Canada.But the truth is that MLS, a league that is thriving thanks to its insistence on financial responsibility, won’t be one of the top leagues in the world until it can afford to spend like one. And on that front at least, MLS still has a way to go yet.Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

Indy Eleven 2017: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Why Indy should and probably will do exactly what we saw last year. February 17, 2017by Aaron Gunyon http://www.soctakes.com

INDIANAPOLIS — There are no surprises here.  The Indy Eleven have retained a core group of players from last season.  A season which included record goal scoring and a championship run.  Indy Eleven’s head coach Tim Hankinson is a seasoned leader and he is pragmatic with his approach.  There is a home unbeaten streak to protect.  There is hardware to win in 2017.  Fans of the NASL have seen firsthand just how important stability and chemistry can be in such a volatile league.  It takes a while for systems and players to grow together into a cohesive unit.  The Indy Eleven’s top brass hope that there will be less need for a discovery period this time around and that is evidenced by their recent roster activity. In last night’s Season ticket holder meeting, Coach Hankinson suggested that he would start next season with a playing style similar to last season’s.

Indy Eleven have announced a total of 13 (at the time of publication) players that will return from last season’s squad.  Most of which are starters or of starting quality in the NASL.  I find that comforting.  One of the leagues top defenses returns almost entirely intact.  Greg Janicki has retired, but a back line with Colin Falvey, Marco Franco, Nemanja Vukovic and Lovel Palmer can be seen as a stable building block.  Those four combined for 99 appearances and their abilities are well proven on this stage.  It would take a monumental swing in opinion for Colin Falvey, last years captain, to lose his place as the field general and the organizer from the back.  Falvey will be sidelined for the entirety of preseason due to an offseason surgery for a sports hernia, but he is expected to return in six weeks.

Kwame Watson-Siriboe is a central defender with MLS experience.  He was recently signed to add depth and perhaps test a starting role, but he will get a good look in the next few weeks leading up to the regular season.  Interestingly though, at 30, Watson-Siriboe would be the second youngest member of the defensive unit behind the baby face of 26 year old Marco Franco.  Perhaps that youthful infusion will be a departure for Hankinson’s veteran approach, but really, it looks like more of the same.There was a touch of a positional battlle for the right back spot between Palmer and Franco in which the latter won out in the end last year.  Palmer is a valuable and versatile asset for Hankinson and it’s not yet known where the Jamaican veteran will slot in, but coach has alluded to Palmer’s abilities to fill in at center back if needed.  Look for that in preseason along with a healthy Cory Miller who has surfaced on Palmer’s social media account.  The two could be seen lacing up in the locker room and obviously in the early stages of training camp.  There has been no official announcement from the team regarding Miller’s return, but it worth noting he has apparently worked his back to strength after last year’s season ending injury.  Hands clapping emoji.  Both Miller and Franco have been around since late in the 2014 season and players like that are becoming a rarity on this squad.

I asked coach Hankinson about some of his philosophy and if he considered himself to be a pragmatist.  I said I wanted to put him in a box and categorize him.  I used the phrase ¨If it ain´t broke…¨

¨THAT´S FAIR. I TAKE THINGS AS THEY COME.  THERE WERE SOME PLAYERS THAT WE WANTED THAT WERE FREE AGENTS THAT WONT BE WITH US THIS YEAR.  WE WILL HAVE TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS, BUT I DON´T BELIEVE IN CHANGE JUST FOR CHANGE.  IT´S ALL ABOUT CONTINUITY.¨ -INDY ELEVEN HEAD COACH TIM HANKINSON

Continuity is key in the defensive third and that is why Jon Busch and Keith Cardona will return as shot stoppers for Indy.  Busch is transitioning to another phase of his career, but the 40 year old showed no real signs of aging with 29 starts and 11 clean sheets during his most recent campaign.  Cardona is is the heir apparent and he will be back for his third season in the circle city.  The only question here involves just when the passing of the torch will occur.  Busch maintains dual duty as Indy’s goalkeeper coach but his sole pupil hasn’t been allowed to spread his wings completely.  It’s not much for drama, but it’s about all we’ve got in Indy so far.  Cardona was spotted on a trial with the Philadelphia Union in MLS just a few weeks ago, but no announcements have been made by either club regarding his departure from Indy. Certainly, at last night’s ticket holder meeting, Cardona looked relaxed and ready to take on the next season.Both of Indy’s star forwards will also be back.  Justin Braun and Eamon Zayed formed a notable partnership on the pitch.  The two combined for 23 goals and 11 assists as they were the preferred tandem up top.  The scouting reports for Indy’s opposition will detail how to address these threats first.  That does not mean that they are unstoppable, but it means that sleeping on this duo is not a winning strategy.  Coach Hankinson fondly refers to Zayed as El Raton (The Rat who finds his cheese) and Braun is said to run like the legendary Steve Prefontaine.There were no challengers in the striker position that were worthy of taking time away from either attacker.  Zayed’s 2,686 minutes and 31 appearances were second only to Nemanja Vukovic who was the team’s Ironman.  Braun logged just over 2,000 minutes, but his mileage could not be topped.  Hankinson has suggested that he would like more options going forward but it is hard to imagine intentionally disrupting this pair without cause.

The name Dino Williams has been reintroduced into the conversation regarding attacking reinforcements.  Williams had been loaned to Indy last season, but an injury forced the Eleven to reconsider and to pick up Omar Gordon instead.  Both Williams and Gordon had been teammates under Hankinson at Montego Bay United just before Hankinson departed for the Midwest in December of 2015.  Both Williams and Gordon were league leaders in goals scored while in the Red Stripe Premiere League, but Gordon found little success translating the Jamaican league in America.  Gordon is not returning, but subbing one Jamaican golden boot for another is not exactly reinventing the wheel.  There are no official reports of Williams’ return…yet. Based on Coach Hankinson’s comments last night, it’s likely that Williams would be a loan, rather than a permanent, signing for Indy XI.

The midfield is messier and a lot less clear how things will shake out.  Don Smart, however,  is bae. The 29 year old will return to Indiana’s team as one of only two players to have been to all four preseason camps.  Brad Ring is the other.  And assuming he continues to impress the coach, Smart will be Indy’s first player to 100 appearances.  My count puts him at 76 so it is within reason for a 32 game season.   Even though Smart is committed to the club, there are questions about whether the club values him highly; it is understood that Smart’s contract – the same he signed with the club 3 years ago – has him at a markedly low base salary.

Gerardo Torrado is back.Brad Ring is back. #Legend returns after his own lengthened contract negotiation.  Taking nothing away from the others mentioned, Ring is one of the most familiar faces on the team.  Hoosiers have adopted him as one of their own because of his work ethic and his celebrations with the Brickyard Battalion.  Ring is a bulldog in the middle that doesn’t shy away from challenges.  His 34 tackles won and 106 duels won were second only to midfielder Dylan Mares whose departure leaves the biggest hole in the Indy Eleven lineup.Hankinson revealed to me, in an interview, that Miami FC signed Mares to a new contract that would have made him the highest played player in Indianapolis.  With his age, his attacking prowess, and his defensive stats; it wouldn’t be too hard to make that case for value.Duke Lacroix has (at this time) moved on as well.  The 23 year old is a speedy Ivy League product, but he was not retained by his first pro team.  It is not for a lack of trying although it may be due to a lack of money.  Lacroix is currently shopping around and had been seen on trial with MLS side Minnesota United.  That didn’t pan out.  It is unknown where Lacroix is attempting to find work, but Hankinson mentioned that he continued to reach out to the young up-and-comer. There haven’t been very many new faces in the locker room and Indy has announced only three names in addition to the 13 that have worn checkers before.  All of those players are in positions that have notable departures.  One central defender and two midfielders leads me to believe that Hankinson is only addressing the cracks caused by normal roster movement.  It is safe to say that Hankinson seems very comfortable in who he is bringing back and what they can do.  There are no upgrades addressing current players who aren´t quite up to snuff.

Ben Speas will be a replacement for Dylan Mares and Craig Henderson has international experience.  Indy Eleven fans are in for a treat with Speas.  Soc Takes’ own Kevin Johnston recently analyzed his role on the team in an interview with Hankinson.

At this time last year, there were many more unknowns.  A bevy of new players had been introduced, to the fortunate remnants of unsuccessful seasons past.  The team stumbled and slogged through preseason as they attempted to gel into a cohesive unit.  By the end of the 2016, all who witnessed were believers.  The second best offense and the second best defense went on the road for the championship only to remain second best.  They were tested and came up short even though it was only just.  Penalties can be a cruel mistress. Now is not the time to begin anew and this team doesn’t have to.  This team is ready to go as is.  Training camp is now three days old.  Indy Eleven will welcome talent and reinforcements into the fold, but get ready for a lot of what we saw last year.  The Eleven will be stingy on defense and the boys in blue will be relentless in attack.  The fire fueled by defeat is going to be a powerful driving force as well as a continual theme throughout 2017.

Former Butler standout David Goldsmith trialing with Indy Eleven

If he makes the Eleven roster, Goldsmith will likely back up Justin Braun in the second forward role.

February 25, 2017by Kevin Johnston

INDIANAPOLIS — David Goldsmith must’ve felt like he was wearing the wrong kit. Well, it would’ve been blue or white either way.

Just months removed from his decorated senior season at Butler, Goldsmith lined up on the other side of the field Friday night at the Butler Bowl, and might be on the verge of signing his first professional contract. The 5-9 forward — though he is from Bristol, England — won’t have to travel far from his adopted home to do so if he puts ink to paper.The Indy Eleven have invited Goldsmith in as a trialist for the preseason.The 23-year-old played in the second half of Indy’s 1-0 scrimmage win against his former teammates and looked quite impressive. He nearly had an assist when he rolled a perfect pass into the box from the right wing, but Butler goalkeeper Eric Dick made a stellar save on the ensuing effort on frame.“He’s doing really well so far,” Eleven assistant coach Tim Regan told 1070 The Fan’s Greg Rakestraw on Soccer Saturday. “(He) set up a really good chance in the second half.”

One of 15 semifinalists for the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy awarded each year to the top college soccer player, Goldsmith produced 12 goals and four assists in leading the Bulldogs to the 2016 Big East title. He was named Co-Offensive Player of the Year in the conference.

If he makes the Eleven roster, Goldsmith will likely back up Justin Braun in the second forward role, playing underneath a strike partner. At Butler, Goldsmith often featured as the lone striker in coach Paul Snape’s preferred 4-5-1 setup, but in the pros he projects as more of a withdrawn forward who can drift from touchline to touchline in the attack.His hold-up play is better than one would expect from an undersized striker, and he possesses a savvy goal scorer’s instinct. He’s also capable of setting up his teammates, as he showed last night.After being snubbed by Major League Soccer in the 2017 SuperDraft, Goldsmith appears to have a good shot at winning a job with the “Boys in Blue,” especially considering Indy’s current lack of depth at the forward position. The Eleven would be wise to give him a long look. He’s already extremely talented and will only get better as he faces professional competition day in and day out in training.

What are Champ League team’s chances of going through?

Wednesday 1 March 2017 by Paul Saffer & Rob Esteva

Can Barcelona do something unprecedented? Who has the statistical edge between Leicester and Sevilla? We look at each team’s chances of going through from their current position.

  • The eight UEFA Champions League round of 16 first legs produced eight different scorelines, with six of the initially home teams having leads to defend away from home and two needing to overturn deficits.Scores ranged from 1-0 and 2-1 to an unusual 5-3, and convincing 5-1 and 4-0 victories. But who does history say will go through?We looked at every past first leg in the European Cup/UEFA Champions League, UEFA Cup/UEFA Europa League and European/UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup with an identical scoreline to the current round of 16 ties and noted which teams went though.So while the precedents say Leicester and Sevilla are virtually level, Arsenal and Bayer Leverkusen must both attempt to do things that only one club has managed in the past, and in Barcelona’s case something that has never been achieved. Oh, and if all six ‘unseeded’ sides hold on and go through, that too will make history …Two-legged heroics Great UEFA Champions League comebacks

 7 March  2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2
Napoli v Real Madrid (1-3)
Times first-leg scoreline has happened in UEFA men’s club competition: 329
Home side in second leg through: 75 (22.8%)
Away side in second leg through: 254 (77.2%)

Arsenal v Bayern München (1-5) 
Times: 80
Home side in second leg through: 1 (1.2%)
Away side in second leg through: 79 (98.8%)

  • The only team to recover from a 5-1 defeat were Real Madrid, who beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 4-0 in the 1985/86 UEFA Cup third round to progress on away goals.

8 March 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2
Borussia Dortmund v Benfica (0-1)
Times: 990
Home side in second leg through: 402 (40.6%)
Away side in second leg through: 588 (59.4%)

Barcelona v Paris Saint-Germain (0-4)
Times: 58
Home side in second leg through: 0 (0%)
Away side in second leg through: 58 (100%)

14 March 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2
Juventus v Porto (2-0)
Times: 339
Home side in second leg through: 330 (97.3%)
Away side in second leg through: 9 (2.7%)

Leicester City v Sevilla (1-2)
Times: 587
Home side in second leg through: 287 (48.9%)
Away side in second leg through: 300 (51.1%)

15 March 2:45 pm on Fox Sports 1 & 2
Atlético Madrid v Bayer Leverkusen (4-2)
Times: 29
Home side in second leg through: 28 (96.6%)
Away side in second leg through: 1 (3.4%)

  • The only side to fail to successfully defend a 4-2 lead at home were Barcelona, after a 4-1 loss against Metz in the 1984/85 European Cup Winners’ Cup first round.

Monaco 3-5 Manchester City
Times: 10
Home side in second leg through: 4 (40%)
Away side in second leg through: 6 (60%)

Bonus UEFA Champions League round of 16 stat …

How many seeds (home in second leg) have gone through
8: 2013/14
7: 2005/06, 2010/11
6: 2006/07, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2014/15, 2015/16
5: 2003/04, 2004/05, 2008/09
4: 2009/10
3: 2007/08

U-20 MNT DEFEATS MEXICO 1-0 WCQ

CAPTAIN ERIK PALMER-BROWN’S 29TH MINUTE HEADER LIFTS USA PAST EL TRÍ; USA CAN GUARANTEE FIFA U-20 WORLD CUP BERTH WITH WIN OR DRAW AGAINST EL SALVADOR ON FRIDAY

U-20 MNT Feb 27, 2017

TIBÁS, Costa Rica (Feb. 27, 2017) – The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team rode a 29th minute header from captain Erik Palmer-Brown and a solid defensive effort to shut out Mexico 1-0 in the opening match of the Classification Stage at the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship. The win broke Mexico’s 20-match unbeaten streak at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship, a run that dates back to the 2009 edition of the tournament.pplying high pressure throughout the match, the U.S. frustrated Mexico from the first whistle and went ahead just before the half-hour mark when Brooks Lennon’s corner kick from the left found Palmer-Brown for his first goal of the competition. The goal was also the first conceded by El Trí in its four tournament matches.ater chances from Lennon, Jeremy Ebobisse, Justen Glad, Coy Craft and Jonathan Lewis were denied by Mexico goalkeeper Jose Hernández, while a swarming U.S. midfield and suffocating play from the back line limited El Trí to just three shots, none of which were on target. With the victory, the U.S. can advance to the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Korea Republic should Mexico either draw or lose against El Salvador on Wednesday. If Mexico wins, the U-20 MNT can punch their ticket to both the World Cup and Sunday’s CONCACAF U-20 Championship match with a draw or win against El Salvador when the two sides meet in the Group D Classification Stage finale on Friday (6:30 p.m. ET; UDN, Facebook Live).Up Next: The U-20 MNT closes out the Classification Stage of the 2017 CONCACAF U-20 Championship on Friday, March 3 against El Salvador. Kickoff from Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica in San Jose is set for 6:30 p.m. ET and the match can be seen live on Univision Deportes Network and the CONCACAF Facebook Page.

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