So let me start with I had the great honor to visit both the Bernabau (Real Madrid) and the Calderon (Atletico’s Stadium) on our trip to Spain to visit my daughter at Spring Break. And I was not at all surprised to see the sheer madness that was taking place in the first 25 minutes at the magical Calderon as Atletico scored 2 goals to cut the aggregate to 2-3. Just 1 more goal would have raised the decibel levels above Cameron Indoor, Boston Garden or the Swamp in the US. But Real showed their resolve in scoring the backbraking away goal just before break and with GK Navas saving ball after ball in the 2nd – Real tamed the Calderon and her loyal patrons. It sets up a marvelous final of defending champs Real Madrid with all their stars including Renaldo and perhaps Wales (where the final will be played) favorite son Bale against the Old Lady Juventus and their magnificent defense led by All World 39 year old Goalkeeper Gigi Buffon looking for his first Champ League trophy. The Game will be on Fox Saturday, May 27th at 2:45 pm. In Europa Man U somehow advances to the finals vs Ajax with a 1-1 tie at home.
As the season’s wrap up overseas voting for team of the year has opened in Germany with 2 US Players – Both John Anthony Brooks and Christian Pulisic up for selection. When you vote you have three choices for every position. If you want to vote for both men, click right here and go vote! Both players have been solid with their respective clubs, though Brooks did pick up an injury early on. Pulisic has been a (semi) regular choice of Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund. When he’s not starting he’s coming off the by ench and making an impact as a super sub. So I urge you to go vote and get two Americans on the Bundesliga Team Of The Season. The voting is open for another 10 days. Huge game on Sunday as the top 2 teams in Germany square off RB Leipzig host Bayern Munich 9:30 am on Fox, while Dortmund and US Pulisic host Ausburg at 9:30 on FS1. In the EPL while Chelsea will probably clinch the title today the race for top 4 and relegation continues. Man City hosts Leicester City at 7:30 am Sat AM on NBCSN, while Arsenal continues its quest for Top 4 at Stoke City and US Defender Geoff Cameron at 12:30 on NBCSN. Sunday has Liverpool traveling to West Ham in a must win game at 9:15 am on NBCSN to stay in the top 4, while Tottenham closes out White Hart Lane at 11 on NBCSN. MLS offers a rising Chicago team vs Seattle on Sat night 9 pm on ESPN, along with a triple header on Sunday featuring Portland and Atlanta United at 4 pm on ESPN, NY RB hosting LA at 6 pm on FS1, and a battle of top 2 teams in Dallas and former Carmel High defender Matt Hedges vs David Villa and NYCFC at 8 pm on FS1. Oh and the Indy 11 will travel to Miami Saturday at 7:30 pm on MyIndy Channel looking for their first win of the season, before returning home for Indy Motor Speedway night on May 20th at the Mike. Indy 11 Discount Ticket Link here.
GAMES ON TV
Friday, May 12
3 pm NBCSN West Brom vs Chelsea
Sat, May 13
7:30 am NBCSN Man City vs Leicester City
9:30 am FOX RB Leipzig vs Bayern Munich
9:30 am Fox Sport1 Dortmund vs Ausburg
10 am NBC live Sunderland vs Swansea (relegation)
12:30 pm NBCSN Stoke City vs Arsenal (US Cameron)
7:30 pm Myindy TV Miami vs Indy 11
9 pm ESPN Chicago vs Seattle Sounders
Sun, May 14
9:15 am NBCSN West Ham vs Liverpool
11 am NBCSN Tottenham vs Man United
2 pm beIN Sport Las Palmas vs Barcelona
4 pm ESPN Portland Timbers vs Atlanta United
6 pm Fox sport 1 NY Red Bulls vs LA Galaxy
8 pm Fox Sport 1 Dallas vs NYCFC
Monday, May 15
3 pm NBCSN Chelsea vs Watford
Tues, May 16
3 pm NBCSN Man City vs West Brom
2:45 pm NBC live Arsenal vs Sunderland
Thursday, May 18
2:45 pm NBCSN Leicester City vs Tottenham
Sat, May 27 Champions League Final
2:30 pm FOX Juventus vs Real Madrid
SUMMER TIME SOCCER CAMPS
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Indy 11 Youth Soccer Camp at Carmel Dad’s Club June 19-22 9 to 12 noon (ages 5-14) $135
Carmel High School Soccer Camps – July 17-20
(called Hounds Soccer Technical/Skills Camp and Hounds Soccer Tactical/Scrimmage Camp) and they are being held at Murray Stadium the week of July 17-20. The format will be where the morning session will run 10:00-12:00. This is the technical skills training – session runs 10 am till 12 pm and it will cost $85. The afternoon session is the tactical/scrimmage session and will run 1:00-3:00 at Murray Stadium. Boys and Girls – 8-14 Cost: $85/per camper per session.
Real Madrid ride out Atletico storm to reach another Champions League final
MADRID — Three quick thoughts from Atletico Madrid’s 2-1 Champions League semifinal second-leg win over Real Madrid on Wednesday at the Vicente Calderon, which sees Los Blancos move on to the final by an aggregate score of 4-2.
- Madrid ride out storm to make another final
It has been a year of unbelievable comebacks in the Champions League, and Atletico Madrid came close to pulling off the most amazing of all at a rocking Vicente Calderon on Wednesday, but defending champions Real Madrid rode out the storm to progress to their third Champions League final in four years.Diego Simeone’s home side were incredible during an emotion-packed opening quarter-hour, and they steamrolled a dazed-looking Madrid team who began the game with what had seemed an unassailable 3-0 advantage from the first leg last week.Antoine Griezmann and Koke had already worried visiting goalkeeper Keylor Navas before the latter’s pinpoint corner was bullet-headed to the net by Saul Niguez on 12 minutes. Almost immediately, Fernando Torres was felled in the penalty area by Raphael Varane, and Griezmann’s spot kick made it past Navas even though the Frenchman slipped as he made contact.Down 2-0 on the night, Madrid were really in trouble, although Atletico had to pause for a breather after what had been an incredible opening. The game next entered a niggly phase with two players from each side booked as referee Cuneyt Cakir struggled to maintain control.Los Blancos emerged from the struggle with their composure once more, and they soon got a crucial away goal. Karim Benzema wriggled away from three Atletico defenders along the end line, and pulled back for Toni Kroos, whose shot was saved by Jan Oblak, but Isco was on the spot to scoop in the rebound with 42 minutes played.Atletico came out in the second half having to do it all again. They almost had a third when Yannick Carrasco easily beat Danilo to a long ball, but Navas saved the shot, then made a miraculous stop from substitute Kevin Gameiro’s follow-up header.At the other end, Cristiano Ronaldo saw a goal ruled out for offside, and Benzema had a decent penalty claim, but still Atletico kept pushing, and Gameiro really should have added another after some super work from fellow replacement Angel Correa.That was that, though, and Madrid are into the June 3 decider against Juventus in Cardiff. They remain on course to be the first team to defend the Champions League trophy in its modern format. But they got a huge scare on their last ever visit to the Calderon.
- Isco, Benzema provide quality when needed
Madrid were reeling midway through the first half on Wednesday. Stand-in right-back Danilo had already been booked for a needless foul, Casemiro was a shaky presence in deep midfield and talisman Ronaldo was only noticed when he was elbowed in the back of the head by Diego Godin.Amid the chaos there were Blancos players who kept their heads. Luka Modric was a calming presence on the ball in the centre. Both Benzema and Isco had also shown some nice touches, dropping deeper to link the play and try to hold possession, before they were both involved in the night’s crucial moment.The Frenchman’s composure and ability were fantastic as he squeezed his way along the end line, and he also had the vision to see the pass to Kroos, with Isco then exactly in the right spot to cleverly finish the rebound. Madrid have now scored in 61 consecutive games, a testament to their squad’s sheer depth of attacking solutions.Isco might not have started on the night had Gareth Bale not been injured (again), but his worth was huge. Tactically manager Zinedine Zidane gets another player in the centre of the pitch, and the 25-year-old’s skill and touch in tight areas helped avoid the Atletico press and keep the ball moving. The little Andalusian also got involved physically to help his side when the game was at its most intense.The next few weeks are sure to see a lot of talk about Bale racing back to fitness for the final in his home city of Cardiff, but it is difficult to see how Zidane can find a place in this XI for the Welshman.
- Atletico salvage some pride
This was the last European night at the old Vicente Calderon, and even though Atletico ended it out of the Champions League, their performance made sure the game will be remembered with pride long after the stadium is gone.The Rojiblanco family had been building a mood of defiance ever since last Tuesday’s first leg at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu, with some fans claiming offence at a pregame banner shown by Madrid fans asking “How did it feel?” to have lost the 2014 and 2016 Champions League finals to their neighbours. The Calderon faithful shot back on Wednesday with “Proud to not be like you” written across one side of the old concrete bowl.Amid the incredible noise, Diego Simeone’s men showed an almost demonic energy from the off. The roars were even louder when veteran Torres beat Madrid captain Sergio Ramos to the first header, although the referee called play back for a foul. Atletico players seemed to be everywhere, and within the first five minutes they had showed more fight and spirit than in the entire 90 last week.But it was impossible to keep up such intensity for the entire game, even with Simeone regularly jumping off the bench and pumping his arms in the air to rouse the crowd. And when it went into a lull before half-time, Madrid were able to take advantage and get the crucial away goal.”Atletico until death,” sang the stadium through the second half, even when the heavens opened late on, and the home fans could not be but proud of the effort their team put in right until the end. Four straight years of losing to the same opposition in this competition would be tough for anyone to take, never mind when it’s against your closest neighbours and fiercest rivals. But the nature of Wednesday’s performance means that this exit should not be as painful as those that came before.Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer
The Calderon’s irrepressible European farewell marks end of an Atletico era
MADRID — Diego Simeone was soaked through, but just as immersed in the moment as ever. As the rain hammered down upon Estadio Vicente Calderon, and as supporters reluctantly began to run for shelter, some cowering toward the back of the stands, the Atletico Madrid manager decided to galvanise his public one more time. A matter of minutes remained; Atletico were about to lose a Champions League semifinal to their most bitter rivals, he knew that, but Simeone turned to the masses behind his technical area, clapped his hands high, and the volume reached a crescendo again.Atletico defeated Real Madrid 2-1 in their second leg Wednesday, but Real won the UCL semifinal 4-2 on aggregate. Fifteen minutes after the final whistle, when Atletico’s players came back out, thousands remained in the stadium to show one last gesture of appreciation. Even more would have stayed in their seats if the heavens hadn’t opened, but this was not quite a night for storybook finishes.For the half-hour between the headed opening goal by Atletico’s Saul Niguez and the close-range stab by Real’s Isco that rendered the second half virtually unnecessary, Atletico had fed upon the awesome din inside their home and threatened a night to top any in its 51-year history. Eventually, they were well-beaten. But they still ensured that these walls, reverberating to the tension of one last derby match, will have one last tale to tell before they are rendered into rubble — Vicente Calderon will give way to Atletico’s new home next season — and the next phase of Atletico’s history begins.They had seen defiance — embodied by the prematch tifo that read, “We’re proud not to be like you” — turn into hope and then, when Atletico’s Antoine Griezmann beat keeper Keylor Navas with an element of fortune from the spot, transform into genuine belief. Atletico had begun thrillingly, ripping into Real Madrid and appearing, for a brief time, to have their opponents by the throat. The Calderon was throbbing; the noise was enough to make the most seasoned observers glance at one another with a puff of the cheeks.It was not to last. Instead, this second leg became the kind of rough-edged occasion that perhaps befits the image of this old stadium and its inhabitants; one that brought bundles of pride, but in the end saw Atletico outstripped by their neighbours. Simeone was smiling as he walked into his postmatch news conference. He had dried off and taken a few breaths to recover from 90 minutes of perpetual motion. He had been beaten, but he knew what he had seen: a team that, after being so puzzlingly flat in the first leg, had risen to the occasion this time and shown the best of itself.”I am happy, proud; we competed as we have shown over these five-and-a-half years, battling in the best places,” he said. “We believed we could do it, and people thought it was mind games, but games can be marvellous. The first 20 or 30 minutes will stay in the minds of everyone. There was disorder in our defence and they scored their goal, but the moments in this magic night at the Calderon will be remembered forever.”He was not wrong. It was some European sign-off, and that is why most of those present were keen to drink it in that little bit longer and rise above what might, in other circumstances, have been the kind of outcome from which you slink off home. And perhaps it might have meant something more. The Calderon will host no more games at this level, but it does not take a huge leap of the imagination to see Griezmann playing his next Champions League football in another team’s colours, and the future of Simeone, too, seems far from cut-and-dried. This could have been the end of an era in more ways than one.”I am not thinking about that at this moment, I try and be spontaneous,” Simeone said when asked about his future plans. “We still need to keep improving. The next step is not small, it is very big, but if we can improve then there is a future.”Reading between the lines, the suggestion is that Atletico’s move to the new Wanda Metropolitano stadium needs to bring about a shift in the club’s image. Atletico are a marvellous side but have given the impression of having to strain every sinew to reach their current level. They have battled tremendously, but when faced with Real in four separate Champions League ties across as many seasons, Atletico have fallen just short on each occasion.Real were deserving winners of the semifinal, eventually managing a situation that had threatened to overwhelm them. After getting sucked into Atletico’s early pace, Real eventually came to play around it, drawing niggly fouls and dictating the tempo.Real ‘s Luka Modric and Toni Kroos were near impeccable on the ball; Isco’s dribbling helped displace Atletico’s central midfielders; and then there was the performance of Karim Benzema, who had already threatened a couple of times before the display of power, balance and close control that led to Isco’s goal. Atletico’s centre-backs will not look forward to a second viewing, but it was just reward for the way Real played.”I did not think he [Benzema] could do that,” Zinedine Zidane smiled afterward. “We were talking after the game and I asked how he got out of [the tight space].” Zidane said he knew his team would have to “suffer,” but was correct to say the game “changed completely” after the 25-minute mark.It means he is a game away from winning successive Champions League titles in his first season and a half as a manager; that would be a remarkable feat, particularly noteworthy given that Real’s opponents in the final will be his former club Juventus, and over these two legs he has seen plenty to encourage him. If Real had some luck in the quarterfinal against Bayern Munich, they did not need any here; they look like a juggernaut, and next month’s showdown in Cardiff could not appear more evenly poised.Atletico will watch and wonder whether their time will come again. For the Calderon it will certainly not, and perhaps a Rojiblancos team with a completely different image will next make inroads in Europe. As their stadium is stripped down, they will rebuild; in the meantime, they did their utmost here to put on one final night of sheer theatre. The result was an event that, whichever side you take, was worthy of those sodden celebrations.Nick Ames is a football journalist who writes for ESPN FC on a range of topics. Twitter: @NickAmes82.
Isco, Benzema inspire Real Madrid into the UCL final with street football nous
MADRID — Albeit that this Madrid derby was in the most lucrative and aristocratic tournament in the history of the club game, the 2016-17 Champions League semifinal second leg was neverthless a triumph for “street footballers” and their values.Football at its richest, won by football at its most basic. A red-carpet night, decided by skills honed on black tarmac — and all the more healthy for that.And something I’m thrilled to report to you. Not because of any preference for Madrid over Atletico, but because of a love for the kind of mentality, attitude, decisions and skills that saw the reigning European champions through to a June 3 date vs. Juventus in Cardiff, in the face of what, initially, seemed like overwhelming traffic pouring towards Keylor Navas’ goal.An alien, who just arrived on our planet, could tell you that Isco was, by light years, the best player on the pitch. Far more than his goal, it was his ebullient love of the ball that turned this match back in Madrid’s favour and ensured that the tie was won.Atletico, for all that their flame burned brilliant bright in the first quarter of an hour, didn’t have a remedy. Often, they resorted to fouling him, barging him, kicking him. But, to the great delight of purists everywhere, Isco would jink away, then twist and turn and tie his pursuers in a variety of reef, hitch, shank and double-loop knots.This was Isco’s greatest Madrid match — among an increasingly long list — and came just when, at 2-0 down, his club needed it most.With 16 minutes gone, you might have believed that anything was feasible. Atleti were reminiscent of that day, just over two years ago, when the score between these teams was a four-goal win in the red-and-white favour.Two goals down, Madrid were shaken. Atleti had scored with yet another header against them, Raphael Varane had committed an error and the pace of the game seemed beyond Zinedine Zidane’s side; just one more good shot to the ribs or the jaw and we might have seen a giant begin to stagger. Even topple.What happened next, though, was that Isco — not alone, but the lead soloist — began to dance to some internal music only he could hear. You’d be a liar if you claimed that he did anything less than repeatedly spring up in about five different positions: Left, central and right midfield, second striker and, crucially when a goal needed to be scored, centre-forward.But back to the truth about red carpets and black tarmac. At the heart of football’s soul is the kid with the ball, who wants dribble past every opponent, who makes the entry fee worthwhile and who commands that you fall in love with the sport.Zidane is — not was — a street footballer; you never lose that mentality. He’s said that everything he is now is owed to that upbringing: Learn to be first, to be tough, to own the ball, to avoid skinning your knees. And don’t let anyone bully you. Fight in a metaphorical sense, literally if it’s absolutely required.When Zidane played for Juventus, he was a vastly expensive resource for the Turin club, yet his manager Marcello Lippi had to ban his superstar from joining in games with local kids. Teammate Edgar Davids, another brilliantly-skilled street footballer, would persuade Zidane to join in — something that was expressly forbidden by both their contracts — with the words “You’ve changed!” if the Frenchman showed any hesitation about joining an informal neighbourhood kickabout.What Zidane believes — what made him great — is in front-foot, playground football: “We’ll be better than you, we’ll attack more, we’ll have more quality on the ball, we’ll score more than you.” He learned on the mean streets of northern Marseille and it conditions his thinking to this day.It explains Isco’s selection on Wednesday, when there were copious other options, and also why Zidane was instrumental in the player’s signing in 2013. President Florentino Perez said publicly that his reticence to do the deal was based on the fact that Isco would never get in the Madrid team, only for the club’s then-principal football advisor to persuade him otherwise.”All I want when I play is to be on the ball,” said Isco just before he joined Los Blancos. “As a kid in my neighborhood of Las Flores the locals knew me as ‘the kid who always has a ball at his feet.’ I learned everything I know playing street football. The local square, playing against the big lads, getting kicked, learning how to trick them and to keep possession; that was my school.”Transport all those values forward 20 years to the Estadio Vicente Calderon and you get our man of the match. The more he got on the ball, the more Atleti’s threat dampened; when Isco took possession, the temperature went down. As he dribbled past two or three, the rest of his team breathed out that sigh of: “We’re not on the back foot anymore.”Lately there are those who have argued that, because you can win without dominating possession, either a) you should abandon the idea of controlling the ball throughout the game, or b) having too much of it is actually a bad thing.(I know, they should be outlawed from football and made to play Pétanque or reenact medieval battles.)So to see Madrid wrest control of Wednesday’s game back into their own hands by dominating possession 62-38 at half-time — in enemy territory, no less — was uplifting. But Zidane’s street-footballing mentality and Isco’s “I learned on concrete” skills weren’t alone.Karim Benzema always idolized Ronaldo. No, not that one, though they get on brilliantly.It was the Brazilian Ronaldo upon whom this elegant, clever, technically exquisite footballer modelled himself. Ronaldo learned to play on rock-hard, sun-cemented earth; bumps, bangs and all. To him, without money to pay for his bus fare to go and train with Flamengo, playing on concrete or tarmac would have been a luxury.Now Benzema most certainly is not Ronaldo’s equal, but what he copied from his idol most certainly makes his games worth watching.The goal that ended this tie, that put Madrid in with a chance of their first Liga and European Cup double since 1958, that maintains their chance of being the only club to retain the Champions League title; well, it was just sublime.Benzema dragged of a gaggle of Atleti players with him as he turned and ran. The Fred Astaire-feet, which seemed to bend space and time by looping the ball past Stefan Savic without going over the white painted line for a goal kick? Genius.What Benzema produced was straight out of street football, the way that you slip and skip between parked cars, the kerb of the pavement, a big lump of an opponent, a lamp post.And who was sharp? Who was the only player, who believed Benzema would or could produce a magic trick?Isco, of course: One man with sleight of foot, recognizing another. And so the midfielder, who stepped upon every single blade of grass in the same way he used to dance across cobblestones, was the only player to make a run toward the six-yard box. When Toni Kroos’ shot was parried by goalkeeper Jan Oblak, there was the man of the moment.As for the home side, when the bulldozers and diggers and cranes and drills move in to smash the Calderon to the ground, you won’t be able to hear a decibel of the industrial noise over the primeval roar of “Atleti, Atleti, Atletico de Madrid” that will still echo around that hallowed football site.It will never go away. Nor, I hope, will those who play like Isco and Benzema or who think like Zidane.The street rules.Graham Hunter covers Spain for ESPN FC and Sky Sports
Juventus — fix it even if it ain’t broke
You have to go all the way back to Chelsea in 2012 — five years and five managers ago — to find a Champions League winner that has changed more than Juve have in the past two seasons.Well-run clubs never need to rebuild; they simply reload. It’s an old maxim and it’s generally true. If you’re a dominant side, you maintain that dominance through continuous small changes rather than periodic blow-ups. Get the small changes right and you won’t need to rebuild.But for every rule, there’s a counterargument: Juventus’ run to the Champions League final, after they dispatched a young and vibrant Monaco side in the semifinals on Tuesday, is Exhibit A. When they take the pitch in Cardiff, assuming Sami Khedira recovers from injury, it could well be that Gianluigi Buffon and Leonardo Bonucci will be the only holdovers from the side that lost the Champions League final to Barcelona two years ago.Sure, had Giorgio Chiellini not been injured for the 2015 final, it would be three out of 11, but it’s still a pretty staggering turnaround in just two seasons. Indeed, 12 of the 18 in the matchday squad that day have now left the club.Contrast this with their opponents that day, Barcelona, who have shed six. Or, for that matter, Real Madrid, who also lost six players (if you want to count Alvaro Morata, who left and came back, it’s seven) from the side who won the trophy in 2014. You have to go all the way back to Chelsea in 2012, five years and five managers ago, to find a Champions League winner that has changed more than Juve have in the past two seasons.You simply can’t weather that much change unless you’re a well-run club. And that goes beyond the manager, Massimiliano Allegri, right up to the higher reaches with sporting director Fabio Paratici and chief executive Beppe Marotta.Not only have they rebuilt on the fly, they’ve done it twice in two seasons. In the summer of 2015, they lost Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo and Arturo Vidal. Last summer, it was Paul Pogba and Morata.It’s easy to say “well, they lost good players but replaced them with good ones too in the form of Sami Khedira, Paulo Dybala, Miralem Pjanic, Alex Sandro, Dani Alves, Mario Mandzukic and Gonzalo Higuain.” That’s true, but there are two points to make there.The first is that if replacing good players with equally good ones were that easy, every rich club would be doing it successfully. Heck, Paratici and Marotta have made plenty of mistakes themselves over the years, it’s the nature of the beast. (Old-school Serie A followers may recall Marotta’s time at Atalanta when he broke the bank to sign Luca Saudati and Gianni Comandini.) But the point is they got more right than wrong, especially over the past few seasons.Secondly, quite clearly the newcomers aren’t carbon copies of the guys they replaced. Here Allegri must get a ton of credit.Dybala is unlike any player Juventus have had for a long time; Higuain was a proven commodity as a lone striker in a 4-3-3 and yet Allegri found a way for him to be equally productive with a partner up front or in a different system, without wingers. Pjanic might be a gifted passer and free kick taker like Pirlo, but the similarities end there. Allegri realized early on he couldn’t be trusted with the deep playmaking duties on his own in the same way you could trust the “Bearded One,” so he stuck Khedira there and found a different role for Pjanic.The wide men represent an even bigger change. Stephan Lichtsteiner is a reliable, gutsy, hard-working full-back, but he’s an up-and-down guy; Alves is a wholly different beast altogether; Patrice Evra may have been comparable to Alex Sandro years ago, but past his 30th birthday he was a purely defensive full-back.Then, of course, there’s Mandzukic. Allegri didn’t reinvent the wheel by putting a hulking 6-foot-3 guy out on the wing — some of us are old enough to remember Egil Olsen and Jostein Flo — and, of course, Mandzukic occasionally played there in the past, but it still takes a thorough readjustment of the system to pull it off. A guy his size, with 30-year-old legs won’t be able to chase attacking full-backs, the way a more traditional winger might, nor is he going to beat anybody and put in a cross. But what he does offer is tremendous mismatches against opposing full-backs and a continuous aerial far post threat — as he proved with his opening goal against Monaco on Tuesday night.Allegri has overseen all these changes, but he didn’t prompt them. When he took the job, he knew Pirlo and Evra were old and would be moving on, but he hoped that Pogba, Morata and Vidal might stick around. When they did not, he worked with the hand he was dealt. He may have tremendous pieces, but they are still ones that needed to be fit together. And, crucially not just fit together well enough to win Serie A, but also to go deep in the Champions League.In addition, once Allegri had a set up in place that was yielding results and cruising along nicely in Serie A and in Europe, he conjured up a Plan B, which became the Plan A we saw against Barcelona. He chose to cram Pjanic, Mandzukic, Higuain, Dybala and Juan Cuadrado into the same XI at the same time. Thus was born the “5-star” option.He could have played it safe and relied on the tried-and-tested formula that got Juve where they were. A stout midfield, blue-collar wide men, Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci and Chiellini locking the door at the back, and somebody to nick a goal at the other end. But he explained that he was no longer convinced this was the best way to win, not against big European sides. You had to take the game to them; you had to go toe-to-toe and dominate the pitch, playing in their half. Tight defending and counterattacking were too reliant on chance and probability to succeed.It’s one thing to make sweeping changes when things aren’t going right — after all, the definition of insanity is making the same decisions again and again while expecting different outcomes — but it’s a totally different matter to take something which “ain’t broke” and “fixing it” to make it better. All the while knowing full well that your “fixes” might actually make it worse.And that’s what sets Allegri, and the guys above him who supported him, apart from the pack this season. Before he was reloading/retrenching/readjusting by necessity. Now, it’s by choice. And it’s working.
Dani Alves simply superlative as Juventus move past Monaco
Defensively strong and offensively brilliant, Juventus played with balance and experience to defeat Monaco 2-1 to progress to the final of the Champions League.Presided over by a tactical genius, Juve’s progression wasn’t in much doubt after the victory in Monaco. With Dani Alves demonstrating his vision and Mario Mandzukic scoring in addition to mastering every role on the pitch, Juve produced the perfect team performance to secure another victory and their ninth Champions League final, keeping hopes of the treble alive.
Dani Alves must surely be considered the man of the two-legged semifinal. A veteran who boasts experience and great fight, he is relentless in his ability to deliver the perfect assist, given how he can spot the perfect pass like no other. His contribution to the team has helped Juventus grow offensively, and the team are no longer considered simply defensive but rather enthralling going forward as well.
Having conceded only two goals in the entire tournament, it was a shame that Juventus conceded their third tonight. A drop in concentration led to a Kylian Mbappe goal that should serve to remind the Italians that the fight is never over until the final whistle.
Manager rating out of 10
9 — Massimiliano Allegri must surely be considered the best tactician in the world, based on how balanced and tactically fluid his Juventus have been this season. Shackling Europe’s best offence before then allowing his side to express their full attacking potential is a feat that must be admired and studied for years to come.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Gianluigi Buffon, 6 — Struggled initially but initiated the attack that led to the first goal. Intelligent, solid and visionary. There was nothing he could do about Mbappe’s consolation strike.
DF Andrea Barzagli, 6 — Wouldn’t let Mbappe out of his sight. A good performance from the player who, alongside Dani Alves, shackled the “wonderkid” until he was taken off.
DF Leonardo Bonucci, 6 — A leader who simply read every move perfectly, he commanded the defence with authority.
DF Giorgio Chiellini, 7 — A hero when called upon, Chiellini rescued his team from Falcao just before the end of the first half. He is a reliable warrior who wins his aerial duels and tries to block everything.
DF Alex Sandro, 6 — Boasting stamina and offensive ambition, it was his run down the left wing that led to the first goal, even if he isn’t always the most secure defensively.
MF Miralem Pjanic, 6 — The Bosnian is happy to show off his strength, fighting to win possession and always on hand to get Juventus moving. He is reliable when he has the ball at his feet.
MF Sami Khedira, NR — Taken off with injury after only 10 minutes.
MF Dani Alves, 10 — The man of the tie, the creator of all things beautiful, Alves was the personification of perfection. He not only helped Barzagli defend against Mbappe but also delivered a brilliant assist before demonstrating audacious technique to score Juve’s second on the night.
MF Paulo Dybala, 6 — Worked his magic between the lines, coordinating Juve’s countless attacks in the first half. A true playmaker. He had a chance for goal, but Subasic produced the save.
MF Mario Mandzukic, 7 — On a brilliant run that led to his important opening goal, Mandzukic was everywhere, fighting for ball until the final moment. He was simply sensational to deliver a booming long pass forward for Higuain, proving he really can do it all.
FW Gonzalo Higuain, 7 — Always available for the pass, Higuain boasts such great movement, even if he couldn’t score the goal he wanted. Always on hand to help his teammates and duel with the centre-backs, he provided what should have been a great assist for Mandzukic, but it wasn’t converted.
MF Claudio Marchisio, 6 — Delivering more attacking third passes than any other Juve player, Juventus are lucky to have such a gem to call upon from the bench. Tidy and intelligent, Marchisio knows how to provide balance.
MF Juan Cuadrado, 6 — Had a good chance for goal but took too many touches. A lot of energy but little incisiveness.
DF Mehdi Benatia, NR — Not on long enough to make an impact.
Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team f
Power Rankings: UCL finalists Juventus No. 1, Real Madrid No. 2
Europe’s top clubs keep winning. As a result, Juventus remain top and there’s only one new entry in this week’s Power Rankings.
- Juventus(no change)
Max Allegri’s side dropped more Serie A points when Torino came within a whisker of winning the Turin derby, but Juve can still clinch the title this weekend. After that, focus will turn to the Champions League final, which they reached by beating Monaco 4-1 on aggregate.
- Real Madrid(no change)
Zinedine Zidane rotated heavily for the visit to Granada, but it mattered little as Madrid eased to a 4-0 win. The main men returned in the Champions League semifinals at Atletico, where plenty of experience and some Karim Benzema magic sealed a place in Cardiff next month.
- Chelsea(no change)
Relegation-threatened Middlesbrough were probably the ideal opponents to alleviate any pre-title nerves, and so it was that Chelsea swept to a 3-0 win with a minimum of fuss. It means three more points will seal the deal; they could be collected at West Brom on Friday.
- Barcelona(no change)
Since a 2-0 defeat at Malaga appeared to end Barca’s hopes of winning La Liga, Luis Enrique’s side have reeled off five straight wins, scoring 20 goals in the process. The latest, a 4-1 thrashing of Villarreal, saw Lionel Messi net his 50th and 51st goals of the season.
- Bayern Munich(no change)
The German champions coasted through a 1-0 win over Darmstadt, who were relegated as a result. The season is meandering to a close for Bayern, with Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso’s final games before retirement the only notable moments that remain.
- Monaco(no change)
Their Champions League dream came to an end against Juventus, but Monaco can console themselves with having lit up European football this season. Plus, they are on the brink of winning Ligue 1; they will clinch this weekend if results go their way.
- Atletico Madrid(no change)
It will hurt badly that they have been knocked out of the Champions League by their bitter, cross-city rivals for the fourth straight season. But at least Atletico restored some pride with a vibrant 2-1 win at the Calderon on Wednesday. Maybe next year?
Dortmund took a big step toward securing third place in the Bundesliga by beating their immediate competition, Hoffenheim, 2-1 at the weekend. Thomas Tuchel’s side have a two-point cushion with two games remaining.
- AS Roma(+1)
The Giallorossi retained their grip on second place in Serie A behind champions-elect Juventus by thrashing Milan 4-1 last weekend. Napoli are just a point back; can Luciano Spalletti & Co. hang on?
Ajax have been in superb form of late and could still sneak the Eredivisie title from Feyenoord, who have a one-point lead, in the league’s final weekend. If they fail, not to worry: Ajax secured a place in the Europa League final after overcoming Lyon 5-4 on aggregate.Dropping out: Tottenham
EPL Predictions this weekend
WEST HAM: Liverpool desperately need a win at the London Stadium to cement their Champions League aspirations and may find hosts West Ham in a relaxed mood after reaching 42 points with the win over Spurs. EastEnders love an end-of-season knees-up, though, and both teams may have to settle for a point.
Prediction: West Ham 2-2 Liverpool — Peter Thorne
LIVERPOOL: Liverpool have been quite efficient in picking up points on their travels recently, while West Ham no longer have the home advantage of Upton Park and have struggled since moving to their new stadium. The Reds will get the win they need, but it will be close.
Prediction: West Ham 1-2 Liverpool — Dave Usher
MAN CITY: Prior to last season’s 3-1 home defeat to a vigorous Leicester side that would be heralded Premier League champions, this weekend’s visitors to the Etihad had inflicted next to no damage in Manchester for three decades. With City going hard for the finishing tape and a third-place finish, expect a home win.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Leicester — Simon Curtis
LEICESTER: Leicester will be glad they are safe, since an away trip to City followed by a home fixture with Tottenham is hardly ideal at this stage of the season. The Foxes underlined their title credentials at City last term and another shock win would virtually guarantee a top-half finish. A comfortable home win is likely but perhaps Leicester can raise their game to influence the race for Champions League football.
Prediction: Manchester City 3-1 Leicester — Ben Jacobs
STOKE: Stoke will be revelling in the prospect of assuming the role of party-poopers in what could be Arsene Wenger’s final Premier League away game as Arsenal manager. The ever-industrious Mame Diouf deserves another start up top while Marc Muniesa will be lucky to escape the manager’s ire and keep his place following the horror show of his last performance.
Prediction: Stoke 2-1 Arsenal — James Whittaker
ARSENAL: Having not won at St Mary’s since 2003, Arsenal will be hoping their 2-0 over Southampton on Wednesday augurs well as they prepare for another away trip to a ground that has been difficult for them. The last time the Gunners went to Stoke and won was in 2010, so they have a similar hoodoo to break on Saturday. It’s a big test, but one they should just about be able to come through.
Prediction: Stoke 1-2 Arsenal — Tom Adams
Yanks Abroad: 10 things you need to know from this past weekend
A quick check-in with the US Internationals playing abroad.by Cody Bradley@ThatCodyTho May 8, 2017, 4:15pm PDT
She picked up two more goals in Lyon’s 9-0 victory over Soyaux. It was the 11th consecutive D1 title in France for Lyon. LINK
Yedlin helped get the scoring started for Newcastle in a 3-0 win with an assist in the 23rd minute. He is on his way back to the Prem!
Hertha Berlin had a very rough day against RB Leipzig. RBL won the match 4-1 and guaranteed themselves a UCL playoff spot. But, Brooks returned from injury and went the full 90. He obviously did not play well in the hefty defeat and earned himself a yellow card.
He was in the lineup but did not appear for Dortmund in the 2-1 win over Hoffenheim that put them back into a guaranteed Champions League group spot.
The Chelsea forward came on in the 61’ in a 4-0 win over Reading. She didn’t score but she did create the final goal for The Blues. LINK
The 21 year old made his debut in goal for Club Brugge in Belgium. His blunder led to a goal, but Brugge got all three points for his first match with a 3-1 win over Royal Chaleroi. It even looked as though he deserved an assist with a long ball in the match.
She played as both a forward and a midfielder for a double game week for Manchester City. City drew with Birmingham 1-1 and defeated Reading 3-2 on Sundat.
The struggles continued for Bobby Wood this weekend. But Hamburger SV was able to get the 0-0 draw. The only goal HSV has scored in the last three weeks was credited as an own goal. Bobby hasn’t scored in the last seven matches (but he has picked up two assists in that span). The point could prove to be HUGE for Hamburg as they fight to avoid relegation.
Timmy was named the captain of Eintracht Frankfurt for the first time in his career. Good to see him developing and getting respect. But Frankfurt lost 2-0 to Wolfsburg and sit in 11th place in the Bundesliga.
Went the full 90 for Stoke City against Bournemouth in a 2-2 draw. He had a pretty decent match, winning his aerials and duels, and he added a couple key passes on the other end as well.
USA’s U-20 World Cup roster offers several surprises
Another FIFA U-20 World Cup is upon us and for the second straight cycle Tab Ramos has the United States looking pretty good heading into the tournament. Back in March, a group full of primarily domestic-based players won their first CONCACAF Championship for the age group. On Tuesday, Ramos named an altered 21-player roster with some very interesting changes to what worked earlier this year.”We are very excited to once again provide a great competitive opportunity to our players and are looking forward to heading to Korea Republic,” Ramos said in a statement released by U.S. Soccer. “As always there were some extremely tough decisions to make. This is a talented age group.”The most notable roster decision has to be the inclusion of 17-year-old strike Josh Sargent. The St. Louis native is fresh off scoring five goals for the U.S. U-17’s at their CONCACAF Championship. They’ve decided that their striker pool isn’t adequate enough and have reached into the younger age group to pluck their star player. It could be argued that striker was the most disappointing position in March with Jeremy Ebobisse failing to offer much of a scoring threat. Sargent’s inclusion is a bold move that proves Ramos and his staff think he could really improve the team’s chances to go far.
Another interesting choice is Atlanta United academy’s Lagos Kunga a speedy winger who only received his first ever call-up to the U-20’s for the most recent training camp in England in April. It’s quite rare to see a player come around so late in the cycle and make the final roster. Either he really impressed in that one camp or he fits a certain need that the Ramos felt the team lacked.Notable absences from the squad include many high profile names playing across Europe. None of the Schalke trio of Haji Wright, Weston McKinnie, or Nick Taitague were called in. It’s quite possible that the Bundesliga club declined to release them for the tournament. Which, unfortunately is their right as it is for every club. Other omissions include Fiorentina’s Josh Perez, Villarreal’s Mukwelle Akale, Manchester United’s Matthew Olosunde, Wolfsburg’s McKinzie Gaines, and Werder Bremen’s Isiah Young.Both Gedion Zelalem and Cameron Carter-Vickers are playing in their second straight U-20 World Cup after heavily featuring in the 2015 tournament.The majority of the roster is holdover from the qualification triumph. Including Brooks Lennon who starred for the team during that tournament from his right wing spot and has gone on to earn some starting nods for Real Salt Lake in MLS.The U-20’s kickoff the World Cup in South Korea on Monday, May 22 against Ecuador at 4:00 a.m. ET.
Here’s the full roster:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.), Brady Scott (De Anza Force; Petaluma, Calif.)
DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur FC; Westcliff-on-Sea, England), Marlon Fossey (Fulham FC; Surbiton, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (University of New Mexico; Las Cruces, N.M.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee’s Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.)
MIDFIELDERS (5): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca De La Torre (Fulham FC; San Diego, Calif.), Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.), Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal FC; Bethesda, Md.)
FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Lagos Kunga (Atlanta United FC Academy; Tucker, Ga.) Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Unattached; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O’Fallen, Mo.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah)
THREE THINGS: #INDVFCE
Indy Eleven remains undefeated in 2017, gaining sixth point in sixth consecutive draw May 8, 2017
ENTER PLUMHOFF AND POLTRONIERI
New-in-Blue Jason Plumhoff and Brandon Poltronieri made their club debut on Saturday as late substitutes in the match against FC Edmonton. Plumhoff came in for Indy midfielder Sinisa Ubiparipovic in the 79thminute and Poltronieri entered for striker Eamon Zayed in stoppage time in an attempt to bring in fresh legs and find a goal. Although their time on the pitch was limited, fans had a chance to see both new signings in action for the first time while key players, such as Ben Speas, Don Smart, and Marco Franco, work towards becoming match fit in the coming weeks.Plumhoff is a youth product of German giants Bayern Munich and SpVgg Unterhaching prior to relocating to the States. After a successful collegiate career with La Salle University, Plumhoff signed his first professional contract in 2015 with USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders, scoring 10 goals in 22 appearances. The following year, the German native made the jump to the NASL, which included stints at both FC Edmonton and Jacksonville Armada FC.Poltronieri, a native of Costa Rica, began his right through the ranks with Costa Rican FPD side Brujas FC, which included on and off loans with Portuguese side Lexioes SC and Mexican side CD Barrio Mexico before eventually finding his way in the States. Eventually, Poltronieri made his way to the NASL, first joining the Atlanta Silverbacks for a short stint before linking up with Indy Eleven captain Colin Falvey in Ottawa Fury’s squad and more recently playing for USL’s Phoenix Rising FC before arriving in Indy’s lineup.
JON BUSCH, OUR GOALTENDER, AND SAVIOR
Indy Eleven ‘keeper Jon Busch continued to show off his skills after a crucial save late in the game kept the score level for the home side. In the 74th minute, the 40-year-old ‘keeper sent the ball over the crossbar after FC Edmonton’s Sabri Khattab sent a ball flying towards the back of the net from outside of the box. “Buschy” made a nearly identical save during Indy’s previous home outing against San Francisco Deltas on April 22 in the 75th minute, when visiting winger Kyle Bekker sent a ball flying towards the upper left corner of the goal before Busch punched the ball over the bar to keep the score 0-0 and Indy undefeated at home, once more. Busch’s blocked attempt puts him at nine in 2017, placing him among the top 10 ‘keepers with the most saves in the NASL this season. The 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year has kept his goals against average (GAA) below 1.00 since joining “Indiana’s Team” in 2016. Fans have the opportunity to pledge a donation for every save Busch makes in the 2017 season for his SAVES for SEALS initiative.
KELLER BUILDING MINUTES
Eleven veteran Daniel Keller found himself in the starting line-up for the second consecutive match and his fourth start in total for the 2017 campaign. In the last six matches, Keller has racked up a total of 378 minutes of play time so far this season, putting him within minutes of his total playtime during the 2016 season (402) and just over one-third of his total playtime since his first season in Indy in 2015 (1000). As his minutes on the pitch continue to rise, so does the young midfielder’s stats. In five games, Keller has put in impressive performances which have seen him win all but one of his tackles, 18 clearances, eight interceptions, and winning close to three-fourths of his duels as well as completing almost three-fourths of his passes. With a few of our defenders currently out injured, Keller has moved back in the defensive line and stepped up to the role presented to the former University of Louisville Captain.
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