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.
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
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)
EUROPA – Ties to be played April 6 and 13:
Indy 11 and MLS
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 Kljestan, Benny 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.y 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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|
|>> 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|
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 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|
|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|
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 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.
Check out The Ole Ballcoach online www.theoleballcoach.com –