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. 


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


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


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


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:


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.

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