So I am not sure if it was because we were there – but the Indy 11 finally got off the snide with a huge 2-0 win over North Carolina on Saturday night at the MIKE – I was impressed – the fans are still here – 4/5 stadium full and a raucous crowd as always in the Brickyard Batallion behind the goal on a beautiful Saturday night downtown. Two goals for Indy were actually called back on a bad night for the refs. Overall however a great atmosphere and a good game to watch – bringing the 11 off the bottom of the standings. We’ll see if they can get a road win at North Carolina Sat night on ESPN3 at 7:30 pm. They return home vs NY Cosmos on July 8.
The Confederations Cup in Russia is underway and started with some really good games on Sunday as Mexico and Portugal played to an exciting 2-2 tie and South American Champs Chile needed 85 minutes before they finally pulled away from Cameroon 2-0. Chile vs Germany was a delight as the two teams tied in a battle of the heavyweights. Saturday’s Mexico vs Russia matchup 11 am on Fox (Mexico must win or tie to advance), and Sunday’s Germany vs Cameron 11 am on Fox and Chile/Australia 11 am on FS1 will determine seeding for the Wed/Thurs Semi-Finals at 2 pm on FS1. I love club soccer too – but there is something about the national teams pitting country vs country that is more exciting to me. It will be fun to watch the Confed Cup this weekend and next (see schedule below), then a watered down version of the Gold Cup in July before the ICC kicks off in late July.
MLS celebrates Rivalry Week this weekend – with marquet matchups including NYCFC vs NY Red Bulls on Sat 1:30 pm on Fox, and Portland hosting Seattle on Sun 4 pm on ESPN and fans are excited. Speaking of MLS – the Allstar game vs Real Madrid is in Chicago – Soldier Field on Aug 2 a Wed night at 9 pm tickets are still available just $90 for good level 2’s behind the goals? Anyone interested in Road Tripping – let me know if so. Cincinatti FC’s US Open Cup battle with Chicago is going Primetime as ESPN 2 will air the game with an expected crowd of 30K on hand – man I wish I could go. Finally — Grand Park is hosting the US Soccer DA Playoffs on Saturday + Monday – U14-U18 teams boys and girls – click here for more info.
BEST FAMILY GOALIE TRAINING – if anyone is interested in Goalie Training this summer – let me know. My 18 year old goalie Tyler and I may offer some evening training if we get enough interest. RE: with interest.
GAMES ON TV
Sat, June 24
11 am Fox Mexico vs Russia – Confederations Cup
11 am Fox Sport 1 Portugal vs New Zealand – Confederations Cup
1:30 pm Fox NY Red Bulls vs NYCFC
3:30 pm Lifetime Orlando Pride vs Houston Dash (Womens)
7:30 pm MyIndy TV+ESPN3 North Carolina vs Indy 11
Sun, June 25
11am Fox Germany vs Cameroon – Confederations Cup
11 am Fox Sport1 Chile vs Australia – Confederations Cup
4 pm ESPN Portland vs Seattle Sounders
Wed , June 28
2 pm Fox Sport1 Confederations Cup SEMI-FINALS
8 pm ESPN2 Cincy vs Chicago – US Open Semi’s
Thurs, June 29
2 pm Fox Sport1 Confederations Cup SEMI-FINALS
Fri, june 30
9:30 pm ESPN Real Salt Lake vs Orlando City FC
Sun, July 2
8am FS1 Confederations Cup 3rd
2 pm Fox Sport1 Confederations Cup FINALS
Tues, July 4
7:30 pm beIN Sport NY Cosmos vs Indy 11
Sat, July 8
4:30 pm Fox USA vs Panama – GOLD CUP
7 pm FS2 Martinique vs Nicaragua – Gold Cup
7:30 pm MyIndy TV Indy 11 vs NY Cosmos
Sun, July 9
7 pm Fox Sport 1 Curacao vs Jamaica – Gold Cup
9:30 pm FS1 Mexico vs El Salvador – Gold Cup
Tues, July 11
7:30 pm Fox Sport 1 Costa Rica vs Canada– Gold Cup
10 pm FS1 Honduras vs French Guiana – Gold Cup
Weds, July 12
6:30 pm Fox Sport 1 Panama vs Nicaragua -Gold Cup
9 pm Fox Sport 1 USA vs Martinique – Gold Cup
International Champions Cup July Games in Nashville and Detroit
Confed Cup + World
Possible US line up for Gold Cup in July
Morrow, Matt Hedges, Miazga, Lichaj
GK Gonzalez//Ethan Horvath
Its Summer – Time to plan your Soccer Camps
BEST FAMILY GOALIE TRAINING – if anyone is interested in Goalie Training this summer – let me know. My 18 year old goalie Tyler and I may offer some evening training if we get enough interest. RE: with interest.
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 both run by Men’s Soccer Head Coach Shane Schmidt. Boys and Girls – 8-14 Cost: $85/per camper per session.
Former College Coach and Canadian National Team Goalkeeper & current Carmel FC & Carmel High Asst coach Carla Baker Provides elite-level training for youth players who want to become better technical and tactical soccer players. Our camps focus on individual technical skills and game tactics in pressure situations using advanced training techniques. Come and join our staff of former Division I college coaches, National Team players, experienced youth, high school and college players for a fun learning experience.
Cost: $195 per camper Location: Badger Fields Field Player Camp: July 24 – 27, 2017
Mexico set to eliminate host Russia, but can they handle the pressure?
KAZAN, Russia — The scenarios are simple. If Mexico wins or ties host Russia in Kazan on Saturday, El Tri will advance from Group A in the Confederations Cup. Lose and the criticism — which is already fierce — will rain down on Mexico, who will have failed to reach the expected goals in major tournaments for two consecutive summers.This match is being framed as “judgement day” for Juan Carlos Osorio and his Mexico team, however unfair that might seem.”We can’t play with the fear of losing,” said Andres Guardado, one of Mexico’s captains, at Friday’s news conference. The PSV Eindhoven midfielder spoke of understanding the pressure that accompanies his team and without losing his cool, launched a tirade against the media coverage that Mexico attracts.”Those of us who have been in the national team for some time know it’s always been like that and we are focused on playing a good game and qualifying,” continued Guardado. “Whether we play poorly or well, they always seek to criticize. We don’t have a problem with what is said.”A late Hector Moreno goal sealed an encouraging draw for Mexico in its Group A opener but there was a backlash against Osorio making eight changes to face a physical New Zealand side, which El Tri defeated 2-1 after coming from a half-time deficit.Now comes the big one. This is the type of test Osorio wants for Mexico, who plays almost all its games in the CONCACAF region and only rarely steps out of its comfort zone. Everything is against El Tri here: the domestic media is on the team’s back despite Mexico going into the game top of Group A on goal difference, the crowd will be supporting the home side and El Tri is a long way from the safe environs of North America, fighting for its survival in a major tournament.Even the temperature has dropped in Kazan, while Russian fans have been encouraged by their team’s performance against Portugal. It’s the kind of situation Osorio has stressed will be helpful to his Mexico squad and the national team in general.”I honestly think that this is a perfect scenario for Mexican football,” said Osorio, when questioned about the occasion. “We play away from home against the host team with a lot of support from their fans and fighting for qualification.”Osorio added that Mexico needs to control the game, describing it as “a unique opportunity for Mexican football” and highlighting “resilience” as a key trait in his squad.The Mexico manager vigorously defended his rotation policy on Friday, indicating that it was necessary against a direct and physical New Zealand side. The casualties of that encounter were defenders Carlos Salcedo — who requires shoulder surgery and will be out for three months — and possibly Hector Moreno, who Osorio said is in a “recovery process” and may not be fit to face Russia.After the wholesale changes against Russia, Osorio will likely revert to a starting XI similar to that which started against Portugal in the team’s opening game. Guillermo Ochoa is set to return in goal, with important figures like Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Guardado, Jonathan dos Santos and Diego Reyes all fully rested for the crunch game. That’s the flip-side to the criticism of the rotation policy.The potential absence of Moreno is a problem for Osorio, with Oswaldo Alanis the natural replacement but not with the same quality as the Roma center-back. And with Salcedo out, the right-back position may be problematic.If you were to predict the Mexico side, it’ll probably be a 4-3-3 formation with Layun at left-back, Reyes at right-back and Nestor Araujo and Alanis as the center-back partnership (if Moreno isn’t fit). In midfield, Hector Herrera has been increasingly authoritative in the holding role with the intense duo of Guardado and Jonathan dos Santos either side of him with more attacking briefs.Up front, the fact that Raul Jimenez has played both matches suggests the time could be ripe for Hirving Lozano to make his first appearance of the tournament, although Javier Aquino was outstanding against New Zealand and may have earned his spot on the left wing. Vela has become a key player for El Tri in 2017 and will surely be on the right, with Hernandez set to lead the line.Osorio was full of praise for Russia and it should be fascinating to see if the home nation, with fans behind it, tries to attack Mexico from the start. El Tri has averaged a very high 67 percent possession over its last five games, according to InStat, compared to Russia’s 42 percent, suggesting that Mexico will be the ones taking the initiative.”We’ll need to control the game and to prove to ourselves that we can compete under such difficult circumstances,” concluded Osorio. “If we can do it, we’ll be taking a step forward. We want to show that we can do it against any opponent, regardless of its style.”If Mexico can take that step forward, El Tri will be in Russia for another eight days and will most likely face Chile or Germany in the Confederations Cup semifinal. If Mexico does lose for the third time over Osorio’s 26 games in charge, however, the questions about where this national team stands will once again be heard.Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN
Amid ongoing VAR debate, Chile put aside frustration to beat Cameroon
MOSCOW — On a night that could have ended up being defined by three letters — VAR — it’s probably a good thing that ultimately it was a “V” and an “A” that made all the difference. “V” — as in Vidal (Arturo) — who kangarooed at the far post to tuck in a cross from the “A” — as in Alexis (Sanchez) — past Cameroon goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa.There were nine minutes left at the time, and the goal saw a heavily pro-Chile crowd — the total attendance was 33,492 in a stadium that holds 45,360 — erupt with relief as much as ecstasy. That’s what happens when your emotions get put through the spin cycle of a demented washing machine possessed by Nosferatu. Those present had seen Chile dominate early — Eduardo Vargas hit the post inside of a minute, and then Jose Fuenzalida, after a delicate “sombrero,” forced a fine save from Ondoa — only for Cameroon to keep them out.Supporters then groaned at two further squandered chances — Fuenzalida wasted a delightful buildup by failing to carpe his diem, and then Vargas, again, couldn’t convert from close range — in a first half that, as Cameroon boss Hugo Broos would later say, could have easily seen the Chileans 3-0 up.Then, just before half-time, Vidal’s pinpoint through ball found Vargas in mid-stride, and the striker stroked it into the back of the net. The fans roared into life; their luck had changed. Gary Medel sprinted a lung-bursting 40 yards to join his teammates in celebration.But then referee Damir Skomina signaled for the video assistant referee.”It was our first time with the VAR, and while they had explained to us how it worked before the game, the fact is that in the heat of the moment you’re so concentrated, you don’t think about it,” said Vidal. “You just wonder what’s going on.”What for Vidal was confusion was, for Broos, a glimmer of hope.”I saw the referee signaling, and I just started hoping,” he said. “They disallowed it, so happy for me.”The decision itself was close. So close that, in the pre-VAR era, we wouldn’t blame an assistant for getting it wrong. But this is a different time and the replays — with the help of horizontal lines drawn over video — showed that, yes, Vargas was offside.Just.After what felt like an eternity — it probably wasn’t — Skomina signaled the goal had been struck off, which led to incredulity among Chile’s number. Players often complain when decisions don’t go their way, but this was different: This was justice delayed, which feels like justice denied.At least, that’s the impression the Chile fans gave. And while La Roja‘s second half began with a huddle and chest-thumping from Medel in the middle of the pitch, Juan Antonio Pizzi’s crew were rather more muted after the break.”We are conditioned to having an immediate emotional reaction in football,” Pizzi said after the match. “We went from a high of having finally broken the deadlock to, 20 seconds later, going into the dressing room at 0-0. Players play on emotion, they channel it, it’s what drives them. When you have that sort of emotional comedown, it can have a major effect in the dressing room. It did for us, anyway.”That’s why, to spark things up, Pizzi threw on Sanchez for Edson Puch and, shortly thereafter, Leonardo Valencia for Fuenzalida. It took a short while, but then Cameroon began to wobble. And Vidal’s goal finally broke the ice.There was no looking back. And at the very end, Sanchez blew the chance to make it 2-0 (and become Chile’s all-time leading goal scorer as well), only for Vargas to smack home the rebound. But, as he wheeled away to celebrate, he spotted the assistant’s flag raised in the air.Vargas sprinted over wide-eyed but, in the VAR world, there’s no sense in appealing these situations. Already underway was a review of the call which apparently had to do with Sanchez’s position in the buildup. Skomina drew his imaginary TV in the air but, this time, there was less trepidation. The match was over. Chile had won and deservedly so.Still, goal difference matters and VAR had again overturned an assistant’s decision, except the second time it was to allow the goal. Vargas made history as the first player ever to have a goal taken away and a goal given in such circumstances, not that you imagine he particularly cares.Chile were impressive for most of the game — both with and without Sanchez — while Cameroon, as Broos pointed out, likely paid a price for nerves.”That, and the fact that they’re some 40 places above us in the FIFA rankings,” he said afterwards.It was left to Pizzi to get philosophical at the end.”VAR is new, this is a trial; it’s being evaluated,” he said. “Sure, we weren’t happy when the goal was disallowed, but in the end it was the right decision, however close it was. Let’s wait and see what happens; let’s let them iron out what needs to be ironed out.”Many times in the past we’ve complained because we thought there were injustices in football,” he said. “We can’t complain now if it brings us more justice, can we? Let’s find out if it can do that and then we’ll draw our conclusions.”Gabriele Marcotti is a Senior Writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @Marcotti.
U.S. coach Tony DiCicco dies at 68; won 1999 Women’s World Cup
By ESPN.com news services | Jun 21, 2017
Former United States women’s national team coach Tony DiCicco died on Monday night, his family said. He was 68.DiCicco led the U.S. from 1994 to 1999 and led the Americans to their second World Cup triumph at the 1999 World Cup. The U.S. beat China in the final after a penalty shootout at the Rose Bowl.The U.S. also won the Olympic gold medal under DiCicco’s leadership in Atlanta in 1996, the first year women’s soccer was played at the Games.”Last night, at his home, surrounded by his family, Tony DiCicco bestowed love broadly as he peaceful[ly] transformed from a mortal body to an eternal idea,” the DiCicco family said in a statement.”While the health challenges Tony faced were confronted head on and with eyes open, we never could have foreseen the beautiful journey that truly defined the magnificence of this man’s life.”As U.S. coach, DiCicco won nearly 90 percent of his matches, with 103 victories to eight draws and eight defeats. He also coached the U.S. team to the 2008 Under-20 Women’s World Cup title.ESPN’s Julie Foudy said of her former coach: “Tony was one of the finest to grace this planet. His spirit will indeed lie in us all Anthony. I smile thru the tears. His impact, immense.”U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati called DiCicco “one of the most influential coaches in U.S. Soccer history.””Tony’s passion for the game as a coach, administrator and broadcaster was always evident, and his relationships with everyone in the soccer community distinguished him as a compassionate and much-loved man,” Gulati said. “U.S. Soccer will forever be thankful to Tony for his vast contributions to the game.”Amanda Duffy, the National Women’s Soccer League managing director of operations, lauded DiCicco as a soccer pioneer.”Tony will be remembered for his immense passion, his dedication to the game and his life pursuit to inspire players and people,” she said. “A truly influential figure, no one will forget the impact he has had on so many people’s lives and his role in the tremendous growth of women’s soccer in the U.S.”He started with U.S. Soccer as a goalkeeper coach as the team won the inaugural Women’s World Cup in 1991 before taking the head job and leading the Americans to a third-place finish at the 1995 World Cup in Sweden.DiCicco went on to be the first commissioner of the Women’s United Soccer Association from 2000 to 2003, then coached the Boston Breakers of Women’s Professional Soccer from 2009 to 2011.In his playing days, DiCicco was an All-American at Springfield College before playing in the American Soccer League’s Connecticut Wildcats and the Rhode Island Oceaneers. In 1973, he toured and played for the national team.He is survived by wife Diane and four sons: Anthony, Andrew, Alex and Nicholas.
USA’s Gold Cup roster: Projecting Arena’s 23, plus knockout round swaps
QUICKLYWho will Bruce Arena turn to for the CONCACAF Gold Cup? We project his 23-man roster–and the player swaps (up to six) he can make for the knockout stage.BRIAN STRAUSTuesday June 20th, 2017
Bruce Arena is paid to coach only one team, but he’s had to build around five since taking the U.S. national team reins last November. There was the January camp group that played two friendlies (that’s usually an ad hoc roster), the short-handed team he fielded for two critical qualifiers in March and then the split squads that just faced Trinidad & Tobago and then Mexico three days apart.Now Arena has a CONCACAF Gold Cup roster to name, and that’s going to be a new team as well. The Gold Cup played the year before a World Cup—and right in the middle of the Hexagonal—often has an improvisational feel. One team, Mexico in this case, is involved in the Confederations Cup. Others are focused on qualifying or rebuilding following early elimination. The USA typically has done well under those circumstances. Two years ago, Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski each scored five goals as the Americans claimed their fifth continental crown. In 2009, a ‘B’ team featuring only five players with more than 15 caps (and seven with none) made the final. And four years earlier, Arena won his second Gold Cup.Expectations are high in July as well, despite the fact that busy summers this year and next (presumably) have pushed Arena to leave his European stars behind. They’re taking a break before resuming preseason training. Instead, the manager will rely on a domestic talent pool that’s probably deeper than ever, along with a player or two based abroad he hasn’t had a chance to see.But the conflicting club schedule isn’t the only wrinkle. Once again, CONCACAF will allow Gold Cup teams to swap out up to six players following the group stage with replacements named on a preliminary, 40-man roster. It’s tough on smaller nations that lack genuine depth, but it gives Arena some enticing options as the tournament’s roster deadline approaches. He’ll reveal his team on Sunday.A less challenging group-stage schedule that features Panama (July 8), Martinique (July 12) and Nicaragua (July 15) gives Arena the chance to hand the keys over to some younger/less internationally experienced players who can begin making their case for World Cup inclusion. Then once the Gold Cup’s knockout rounds begin, he can call in some big-name reinforcements for a run at redemption following a fourth-place finish in 2015.“I think we will have a good group of players coming in with a nice blend of some experienced players and some less experienced,” Arena said in a recent U.S. Soccer Q&A. “They’re going to have an opportunity to show what they’re about, and I think that part is exciting. Anytime you’re in the midst of World Cup qualifying and very close to not only qualifying, but being at a World Cup a year later, you have to have a competitive environment, and these players will push to positions themselves to be a big part of things moving forward.”Here’s a look at the 40-man preliminary roster, along with who’s likely to make the 23-man team announced Sunday and who might be called up following the group stage.
Joe Bendik (Orlando City), Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Brad Guzan (Atlanta United), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Sean Johnson (New York City FC).
Gold Cup: Gonzalez, Guzan, Hamid.
Potential swaps: None, barring a fiasco.
There still is no successor to Howard and Guzan and although that’s not likely going to be a problem Arena has to solve—the coach’s contract expires after the World Cup—it’s an increasingly relevant issue in American soccer. This summer represents a nice opportunity to try out a couple new faces in net.Arena has nothing to gain by overworking Howard. He’s the current No. 1 and a known quantity. Guzan, meanwhile, is in an interesting situation. July will mark the start of his eligibility to play for Atlanta, and although it might make sense to give him a seamless start with his new club, Arena also may not want to leave his No. 2 out of international action for too long. He told SI.com recently that he anticipates bringing in Guzan. He’ll almost certainly start, and he’ll be available to mentor a pair of less experienced teammates.One should be Hamid, who’s the most spectacular goalkeeper in MLS and deserves a good chunk of the credit for D.C. United’s run of three straight playoff appearances. The 26-year-old also prone to the rare howler and has had brutal luck with a few injuries that have prevented him from accepting past call-ups. It’s time to see if he can perform in the tournament crucible.More eyes, however, may be on Gonzalez. The 22-year-old FC Dallas goalie has played for Mexico—his parents’ homeland—at the junior level. But his decision to request a switch to the USA, which would bind him for the rest of his career, gave Arena the option to add him to the 40-man team. The paperwork has been filed with FIFA and if it’s approved in time, Gonzalez should get his shot.
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), Greg Garza (Atlanta United), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Matt Polster (Chicago Fire), Jonathan Spector (Orlando City), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City).
Gold Cup: Besler, Birnbaum, Garza, Hedges, Lichaj, Miazga, Morrow, Spector.
Potential swaps: Gonzalez, Zusi (for Miazga, Lichaj).
Miazga and Lichaj play in Europe, but this represents the first real chance Arena will have to look at either. Miazga is a young center back with potential and Lichaj is a veteran right back who deserves another international invitation after a strong season at Forest.The USA has considerable depth at center back. Hedges may make a run at a World Cup spot and might do well paired with the veteran Besler. Birnbaum is a potent weapon on set pieces and is due for another look, although maybe D.C. coach Ben Olsen can convince his former manager not to take both Hamid and a starting central defender. Either way, Gonzalez could use a break with Pachuca’s preseason fast approaching. He then could enter service if a stronger, more seasoned spine is required in the quarterfinals and beyond. Liga MX teams will be dealing with plenty of Gold Cup absences after El Tri took most of its European players to the Confederations Cup.Morrow has done well in TFC’s 3-5-2 and is a player worth looking at if Arena continues to work on variations of the formation he used in Mexico City. Spector and Garza are veteran outside backs more than capable of getting the job done against CONCACAF opposition, and Zusi would be an experienced and versatile addition for the knockouts.
Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Tommy McNamara (New York City FC), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders), Kelyn Rowe (New England Revolution), Kenny Saief (KAA Gent), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy).
Gold Cup: Acosta, Arriola, Bedoya, Corona, McCarty, Nagbe, Roldan, Zardes.
Potential swaps: Bradley (for McCarty).
As much fun as it might be to watch Pulisic tear up Martinique, his time is best spent on a break before returning to Dortmund. Instead, Arena has the chance to take a long look at the future of the American midfield during the group stage. It’ll be fascinating to see Acosta, Nagbe and Arriola run the show, with the likes of Zardes or Corona providing an attacking spark if needed.Roldan has proven himself with the MLS champion Sounders and is ready for a national team chance, while McCarty continues to impress in Chicago and warrants more time in a U.S. jersey. Either can shore up central midfield if Acosta or Nagbe plays higher. Bedoya will serve as a veteran leader and linchpin.Saief was born in Florida but grew up in Israel, which he’s represented multiple times at the junior level. His effort to switch to the USA is underway, however, although he’s probably not as far along in the process as Gonzalez. If it does come through in time, however, he may get called in over Corona.It makes sense for Bradley to stay with Toronto through the Canadian Championship final and then join the national team in time for the quarters.
Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Dom Dwyer (Sporting Kansas City), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders), C.J. Sapong (Philadelphia Union), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes).
Gold Cup: Agudelo, Dwyer, Morris, Wondolowski.
Potential swaps: Altidore, Dempsey (for Agudelo, Wondolowski).
Morris has hit a bit of a sophomore slump—he has only two MLS goals this year—and might get himself back on track with a vote of confidence from Arena and a brief change of scenery. Dwyer is eligible now that he’s secured American citizenship. He’s 26, so the Gold Cup probably is his best chance to establish himself as a national team option before the World Cup.Agudelo has quietly scored seven goals this season for the Revs—that ties his career high—and continues to tantalize with his skill. Wondolowski is a worthwhile presence to have around a younger team and should have little trouble sniffing out chances against the Americans’ group-stage opponents.When the big games come around, Arena can bring in the big guns. The national team scoring record and another Gold Cup title are up for grabs.
Bobby Warshaw: US national team matches are fun to watch again
June 12, 201712:30PM EDTBobby WarshawContributor
I don’t know about you, but I’m walking around with a little swag in my step today. I feel good.Sports can be many things. Inspirational. Unifying. Character building. And, sometimes, in rare glimpses, sports can be fun. Too often they aren’t, because our teams lose and/or athletes can get salty. But it’s a real treat when they are. Right now, the US Men’s National Team is fun.It’s easy to overanalyze the USMNT. Of course they could always attack more. They could have prevented Mexico’s goal on Sunday with some minor adjustments. But sometimes it’s important to step back and think about just the way we feel. Sometimes you need to ask Maximus’ age-old question: are you not entertained? And right now, yes, yes we are. And it feels good.
Giving us all the feels
Head coach Bruce Arena told the media after the 1-1 draw at the Estadio Azteca, “I haven’t spent a whole lot of time examining what happened in the past. In a lot of ways, it’s not my business.”Well, I have, Bruce. It’s kept me up at night. I didn’t like my emotional relationship with my country’s team, the way the whole thing made me feel. So I’m very aware of the differences.On Sunday, the American soccer public spent 12 hours discussing the potential formation. And we didn’t do it in the self-hating way we did it 12 months ago. We did it with general interest. We were intrigued. We felt nervous and excited and a bunch of nice bubbly sensations in our stomachs. Then Bruce went on camera and gave everyone a tease. He didn’t need to. It didn’t help him to tell the world – and Mexico – he planned to change most of his starting lineup. But screw it, he did it anyway. He went for it. We all talked about it. And it was fun.Then the team took the field. They could have – and hell, probably should have – been scared and hesitant. They could have sat back at their own 18-yard box and knocked long balls forward. But they looked anything but scared.They looked energetic and excited and downright happy and privileged to be out on the field. They didn’t carry a burden with them between the lines, but a genuine opportunity. I asked 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta after the game if he felt nervous at the opening whistle. He looked at me like I was crazy.
Plenty to look forward to
It feels like the sky is the limit for some of the guys. I’m always a curmudgeon about young players. Way too often, we hype players beyond logic and set them up for failure. But, heck, it doesn’t keep my mind from wandering, too. It’s fun to think about what could be.In his first start in a World Cup Qualifier, Acosta looked perfectly at home in a difficult midfield. New high school graduate Christian Pulisic continued to be a potential game changer. It feels, for the first time in a couple years, like tomorrow can be even better than today.More than anything, the team’s style feels like a breath of fresh air. No doubt it would been awesome to see them possess the ball more. There’s always more I’d like to see them do. But the core is back. They are currently a team I can identify with and believe in.They value hard work and camaraderie. Veteran central defender Geoff Cameron said the team can feel it on the field: “The group has been great, definitely a change in atmosphere for sure. It’s just positive; guys are clicking right now, and it’s a good thing.”They seem to like each other and enjoy fighting for one another. They seem to be proud to be on the field in our nation’s colors. They appear to grasp the responsibility of representing the country and holding the heart of its people in their hands.Captain Michael Bradley explained it nicely after the game: “A big part of that is the idea of the team, of mentality, of balls. And understanding that we have good players, we have a good team, but we’re not good enough to just step on the field and think things are going to take care of themselves.”I don’t think we should stop asking for more. We should hope and expect Arena to continue to push an attacking, proactive philosophy. But in the moment, we shouldn’t lose sight of what we have. I’m not going to argue it’s brilliant soccer or breathtaking play, but it’s fun. The whole thing is just fun.I went to Mexico, more than to cover the team, to have a good time; to get a unique, unforgettable experience. The 250 American supporters who traveled to Mexico wanted to enjoy themselves. It seems safe to say we got what we went for. A friend of mine in the American Outlaws texted me at 3 a.m.: “It was *^#+=\ crazy! Never again will I experience something like that.”We all enjoyed watching the game. When I talked soccer with the American fans around me, we didn’t use the old self-loathing tone that had become too familiar over the last few years. We were just excited.Sports have put me through the wringer over the years. It hasn’t always been that exciting or enjoyable to be a USMNT fan. Even when they’ve been playing well, it wasn’t necessarily entertaining. So in these fleeting moments when they are just fun, you’ll have to excuse me for soaking it up a little bit.
US Player Ratings: Bradley, Cameron, Arena lead the way for brave Yanks
June 12, 201712:09AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor
The US national team put on a collectively solid, practical display in earning a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw against archrivals Mexico at the vaunted Azteca on Sunday night.USA took a shock early lead on Michael Bradley‘s wonder goal, and then spent most of the next 84 minutes effectively soaking up pressure. On a night when their organization was largely on point, the visitors were fatally stretched on one El Tri counter that forced them to “settle” for a point they’ll happily take home.
Brad Guzan (6) – The US netminder didn’t have much of a chance to get to Carlos Vela’s strike. Though he was saved by the bar on Hector Herrera’s free kick, he also was at the mercy of that near-perfect laser. Guzan did well to come up with a couple of nervy cross claims.
DeAndre Yedlin (6.5) – The Newcastle defender struggled to deal with crossers in his corner during the opening frame, but rallied big-time to shut them down after the break. Yedlin also relieved pressure with a couple of gallops into attack during the second half. He was, however, guilty of keeping Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez onside for a dangerous chance.
Omar Gonzalez (6.5) – The right center back logged seven area clearances, including a few important ones. At the other end, Gonzalez had a golden chance to play hero on two first-half restarts, only to misfire his headers.
Geoff Cameron (7) – It was a flawed first half from the Stoke City man, who unnecessarily ceded a few dangerous free kicks. Cameron also failed to recognize that his spot was covered on the Mexico goal, passing up the chance to help Beasley close down Vela. However, he was outstanding after intermission, making several key interventions among 12 defensive stops in the US end.
Tim Ream (7) – The Fulham defender was the definition of solid in defense. Ream also set up a good chance from a broken corner kick. Surprisingly, he offered little with his typically strong passing game out of the back.
DaMarcus Beasley (6.5) – The veteran was knocked around pretty good in the opening stages of the game, but hung tough to put in a decent shift. Beasley was much busier at the back in the second half, when he pitched in with a few strong tackles.
Michael Bradley (7.5) – The US captain opened the scoring early, picking off a loose El Tri touch to exquisitely chip their ‘keeper from 40 yards. It was a goal that will be remembered for a long time, and he nearly added another with a long range bomb that rang the post. Bradley did commit one bad turnover, but he made up for it by repeatedly slowing Mexico moves up the middle.
Kellyn Acosta (6.5) – The FC Dallas youngster certainly did not look awed in his first big World Cup qualifying derby. Acosta positioned himself well throughout and made some important defensive plays. He also provided some pressure-valve work, but did squander a chance to slow Mexico’s break near midfield on their goal play.
Paul Arriola (5) – Far too often, Arriola neglected to give Yedlin help tracking flank runners. Aside from one fine cross into the box, he didn’t do much going forward.
Christian Pulisic (6.5) – For much of the night, the teen Borussia Dortmund ace was the only US player capable of beating Mexico defenders on the dribble. Pulisic could have done a little more defensively, but his runs into the attacking half unsettled the hosts. Unfortunately for him, he fired wide on his late chance.
Bobby Wood (4.5) – Playing as a lone striker, Wood had a tough night with his hold-up touches, was unable to win battles on long balls and did not complete a single positive pass. When his lone chance came at close range with Mexico scrambling, he whiffed on it.
Coach Bruce Arena (8) – From a game plan standpoint, Da Bruce basically nailed it. He took smart risks with the lineup and formation, and the team could have stolen away with all three points if one of a number of things had gone right on the Mexico goal sequence or on the US restart chance that preceded it.
That said, Arena could have used his bench earlier and one must question the wisdom of sending all three center backs forward on corners when the team habitually passed up serves into the box for short takes. That definitely came back to bite.
Jozy Altidore (6) – The Toronto FC star’s first involvement saw him put a bad touch on an outlet pass meant for a teammate, and it momentarily put the defense in hot water. Altidore also set up Pulisic’s chance at the other end, so we’ll call it even.
Graham Zusi (-) – Barely enough time to say hi.
The Great American Soccer Hope Is Here (For Real, This Time)
By Michael Caley June 8th —
There have been roughly 100 million males born in America in the past 50 years. Among that total, there appears to finally be one who can safely be called a legitimate international soccer star.Eighteen-year-old Christian Pulisic of the U.S. men’s national team scored twice on Thursday night in Colorado, lifting the USMNT to a critical World Cup qualifying win over Trinidad and Tobago. With the game tied 0-0 in the 52nd minute, Pulisic’s smart run and cool finish put the U.S. up a goal, and 10 minutes later the teenager slipped in behind the defense to double the lead. This has become typical for the Americans. Against Panama, Pulisic held off two defenders in the box to get free and feed Clint Dempsey for the USMNT’s lone goal. He scored one and assisted two in the 6-0 romp over Honduras. All told, over its crucial last three competitive matches, the U.S. has scored nine goals and Pulisic has scored or assisted six of them.1
Evidence of Pulisic’s quality is not limited to matches against Caribbean nations and middling Central American challengers. He has proved himself for German power Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. This past season, Pulisic scored four goals and assisted eight in the Bundesliga and Champions League. And there’s good reason to believe these numbers were no fluke or merely a function of a hot finishing run. By expected goals, a statistical estimate of the quality of scoring chances, Pulisic’s shots and passes created chances with an estimated value of roughly five expected goals (xG) and seven expected assists (xA). Among nonstrikers with at least 1,500 minutes played, Pulisic was eighth in the Bundesliga in xG + xA per 90 minutes, slightly behind Bayern Munich’s Douglas Costa.
|EXPECTED PER 90 MINS|
|PLAYER||CLUB||GOALS||ASSISTS||GOALS + ASSISTS|
|1||Arjen Robben||Bayern Munich||0.39||0.36||0.75|
|2||Ousmane Dembele||Borussia Dortmund||0.26||0.47||0.72|
|3||Shinji Kagawa||Borussia Dortmund||0.29||0.41||0.70|
|4||Franck Ribery||Bayern Munich||0.26||0.37||0.63|
|5||Emil Forsberg||RB Leipzig||0.18||0.43||0.61|
|7||Douglas Costa||Bayern Munich||0.19||0.34||0.53|
|8||Christian Pulisic||Borussia Dortmund||0.22||0.30||0.52|
|9||Marco Fabian||Eintracht Frankfurt||0.31||0.13||0.43|
|11||Salomon Kalou||Hertha BSC||0.21||0.19||0.40|
|12||Joshua Kimmich||Bayern Munich||0.31||0.09||0.40|
|14||Raphael Guerreiro||Borussia Dortmund||0.24||0.15||0.39|
|15||Thiago Alcantara||Bayern Munich||0.21||0.16||0.37|
|Pulisic was one of the most dangerous players in Germany|
Statistics for the 2016-17 season.
The more advanced numbers show that the young American is not limited to shooting, either. For the Panama goal, Pulisic had to beat two defenders in close quarters. His ability to break a defense by winning one-on-ones helps his team create chances even when Pulisic doesn’t get the goal himself. With 72 successful take-ons (beating a defender in an open-field contest), Pulisic was fifth among Bundesliga players in take-ons per 90 minutes, just ahead of Bayern Munich’s world-class veteran wingers Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
And last night against Trinidad and Tobago, Pulisic scored twice after runs off the ball into dangerous areas. His ability to read space and slip unmarked into the penalty box is already elite. Thirty-six times in the last season Pulisic made a run to receive an entry pass into the penalty area, and 16 times he dribbled by a defender to get into the penalty area. In this statistic, Pulisic led all Bundesliga players. He outpaced even Bayern’s Thomas Muller, the 2014 World Cup hero for Germany who had made his name ghosting into scoring positions without alerting the defense.
Just this level of production would be enough to make Sam’s Army salivate. But at 18, Pulisic is hardly a finished product and has room to get even better. If you compare his production to players under 20 years of age in the top leagues in Europe, he stands out all the more.
|YEAR||PLAYER||CLUB||EXP. GOALS AND ASSISTS PER 90 MINS|
|1||2016-17||Ousmane Dembele||Borussia Dortmund||0.72|
|3||2015-16||Dele Alli||Tottenham Hotspur||0.58|
|7||2016-17||Christian Pulisic||Borussia Dortmund||0.52|
|8||2015-16||Kingsley Coman||Bayern Munich||0.51|
|10||2015-16||Julian Brandt||Bayer Leverkusen||0.47|
|Pulisic has been one of the best teenagers in Europe since 2010-11|
Includes players age 18-19 with highest goals and assists per 90 minutes SOURCE: OPTA
Pulisic’s 0.52 expected goals+assists per 90 minutes is the best mark by any 18-year-old nonstriker in the top five leagues since 2010-11. Among under-20s, Pulisic is seventh and surrounded by high-priced stars such as Leroy Sane of Manchester City and Real Madrid’s Marco Asencio. In terms of receiving or dribbling the ball into the penalty area, he ranks only behind Manchester United’s young star Marcus Rashford and Kylian Mbappe, whose market value is reportedly north of $130 million. Right now Pulisic is not considered to be on the market, but high eight-figure fees are common for players at his level and age.
Chicago Fire extend their unbeaten streak, eye top Power Rankings spot
The Chicago Fire continue their climb up Jason Davis’s MLS Power Rankings. Who else were big movers after the weekend’s action?
- Toronto FC(no change)
TFC’s 2-0 win over D.C. United wasn’t much of a surprise considering recent form, but getting all three DPs back on the field together was good.
- Chicago Fire(+2)
A 2-1 win in New England extended the Fire’s unbeaten run to eight and further established their credentials as a contender in the East.
- Sporting Kansas City(no change)
Sporting were held without a goal despite dominating proceedings in Saturday’s draw at San Jose, a bad habit they need to break.
- FC Dallas(-2)
FCD were on their way to a road win in Vancouver when Cristian Techera struck with a well-taken free kick. They’ll take the point while feeling like they could have had more.
- New York City FC(+2)
David Villa’s milestone 50th MLS goal helped his team to a 2-1 win over Seattle in driving rain in New York.
- Atlanta United(no change)
All three DPs scored in the 3-1 win over Columbus, including striker Josef Martinez, who is back from a long injury break. It was his first goal since March 18.
- Houston Dynamo(+2)
In a moment bound to spark conversations about looming VAR, Houston lost out on its first road win of the year thanks to a late LA goal that forced a 2-2 draw.
- Orlando City SC(no change)
An emotional week was capped with an emotional 3-3 draw. Orlando held two leads but needed a goal at the very end to get a point.
- Columbus Crew SC(-4)
Crew SC’s defense was more than a step slow in their 3-1 road loss to Atlanta, a problem that has prevailed all year.
- New York Red Bulls(+2)
Yes, the Red Bulls needed a man advantage to get full points in a 2-0 win on the road, but they won’t care.
- Portland Timbers(+3)
The Timbers controlled the game and created the chances in the first half against Colorado but couldn’t get a crucial second in a 2-1 loss.
- LA Galaxy(-2)
LA pulled out a 2-2 draw at home against Houston on a controversial late goal. What happened to the Galaxy’s home dominance?
- San Jose Earthquakes(-2)
Give the Quakes credit for a gutsy draw against SKC, minus several key figures. Winning at home is better, but getting anything out of that match will do.
- Seattle Sounders(+1)
It might be harsh to hold a cross-country performance on a waterlogged field against them, but the Sounders’ 2-1 loss to NYCFC won’t do a lot to improve confidence.
- Vancouver Whitecaps(+1)
Vancouver’s 1-1 draw at home against FC Dallas showed some promising signs. Alphonso Davies made a difference off the bench, as did Bernie Ibini-Isei in his debut.
Courtesy of the Blank family
Family affair: The father-son bond that brought Atlanta United into being
June 18, 20172:30PM EDTCharles BoehmContributor
His new team is the toast of MLS, but Arthur Blank’s first experience with soccer was not particularly fruitful.Atlanta United’s owner was first introduced to the sport while living in California in the 1970s, as an activity for his oldest son Kenny, a grade-schooler at the time. Kenny wasn’t taken with the beautiful game, though, electing to lie down on the field and take a rest during the action.“I still remember his mom and I trying to encourage him to play,” Blank recalls with a chuckle in a recent conversation with MLSsoccer.com. “We just couldn’t get him going.”Kenny found his passions elsewhere, as an Emmy-winning journalist and patron of the arts. His younger siblings gave soccer a shot, however, and his half-brother Josh fell deeply in love from an early age, rising through the sprawling Atlanta youth scene with leading club Concorde Fire and eventually competing in the country’s top league, the U.S. Soccer Development Academy. Last year Josh moved on to the squad at NCAA Division I program Elon University, and will begin his second season with the Phoenix in the fall.Along the way, he led his father on a journey of discovery that greatly influenced the birth of Atlanta United – and continues today. In fact, it’s quite possible that without Josh’s influence, this year’s biggest expansion story might never have even happened.
* * *
The co-founder of The Home Depot and owner of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons along with a suite of other sports properties, Blank says he and MLS Commissioner Don Garber first discussed the idea of a team for Atlanta more than a decade ago.The economics didn’t quite line up at that juncture. But the seed of an idea was planted, and it would germinate as Blank roamed the sidelines of Josh’s youth games over the years.“Joshua, he was always very athletic,” remembers his father. “He loved football, was a huge baseball fan, played a little bit of basketball, but he seemed to have an affinity for soccer.“He used to go out and practice til whatever time, and then he’d come back in the house, take the cars out of the garage and just hit soccer balls against the wall for an hour, an hour and a half, until he was dripping wet, sopping wet. But that was the way he practiced. I knew then that he was committed to the sport.”Josh noticed that as his own soccer sophistication grew, his father followed.“From coming to a lot of my games, he started picking up on how the game was played and would ask me questions,” Josh told MLSsoccer.com this week. “And he always loves watching the US national team play too, so we always watch those games together and I would kind of be his teacher in terms of how everything works.”The elder Blank picked up a soccer photography habit, snapping action shots of Josh and his teammates in action. It gave him a glimpse of the dramatic demographic changes taking place across greater Atlanta and the nation as a whole, with soccer playing a unifying role among the dizzyingly diverse communities. And when the chance to invest in the sport returned, he was ready.“Basically we were told by existing [MLS] owners that this is a long-haul building franchise, and you have to get into the sport because you love it, and you have to have patience to build a franchise,” says Blank.“We certainly love the sport and not only the playing of it – the part I was very attracted to was, how the game in Atlanta, with over 35,000 young folks playing club soccer … was key to the diversity of Atlanta – the diversity of America, for that matter. How it was all changing. And to see these young folks who had come, in many cases, from all over the world, bringing their sport here, was really wonderful for me.”And from that came a serious interest in creating a top-flight professional team in the city.”[My dad] just said that I know soccer is something you’re really interested in, and the South and Atlanta specifically is a city that deserves soccer, but I don’t know if right now is the time,” Josh explained. “He always thought that at some point, getting a team to Atlanta would be the right decision, because Atlanta and Georgia in general is one of the biggest youth soccer markets in the United States. So there was definitely that culture here, but it was a matter of when was the right time to have it.”
* * *
Soccer took on an even more personal place in Blank’s world five years ago, when it brought love into his life.Angela Macuga, the mother of Josh’s Concorde teammate Drew, caught Arthur’s eye as one of the team’s most dedicated and spirited supporters. Her daughter Emily (pictured below) was also a high-level youth player who will begin her second season at Wofford College later this year.“She’s a very competitive woman, doesn’t like to lose at anything and she was a great soccer mom,” says Blank of Macuga. “She wouldn’t miss a practice or a game for either her son or her daughter. So I got to know her through that and we went to some American football games as a family, and we enjoyed that and after that we started to date.”The two got married last year, and today they are an inseparable pair at every ATL UTD home game, and most of the away games, too.“She wouldn’t miss one. She’s just like I am. She loves it. She knows a lot about the sport, though she didn’t play it,” says Blank. “If you look in the dictionary under ‘soccer mom,’ you’ll see a picture of my wife Angie. We go to all the home games, some of the away games depending on where they are and what’s going on with the other children. But it’s an incredible family sport.“When I go to our home games now, to see 45-50,000 people – including kids – standing up, rooting as hard as they can, away from their electronics and focused on the field and the celebration. It’s just wonderful. It’s a great sense of community – it’s a great sense of family, it really is.”That sense extends to the Atlanta United front office. Drew works in the club’s marketing department, while Josh is gaining experience under technical director Carlos Bocanegra, head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino and the rest of the technical and academy staff as an operations assistant, with an eye towards gaining his college degree in sports management and business.“The guys on the team are great to be around, and everyone that works for Atlanta United has a ton of passion,” says Josh. “When you work for a team, you have such a strong connection to the team. You feel even more pride when you see 45,000 people at the games or see the team doing well.”Arthur clearly feels the same way. He readily reels off ATL UTD’s dazzling attendance and merchandising statistics, both of which are at or near the top of the MLS charts, and sounds a note of cautious optimism about the team’s mid-table position in the Eastern Conference standings.“I think that we touched all the right nerves here,” he says. “It’s meeting fans of soccer where they are. It’s been incredible.“And for me personally as a father, to see Joshua and Drew so heavily involved in the sport and involved in the team, to see them putting in the time and the hours and the effort they are, to see the smiles on their faces, it’s wonderful. It’s great.”
* * *
His father emphasizes that he’s always sought to give his six children and three stepchildren space to decide on their own life and career paths. Yet he sees a focus and commitment to Josh’s work in soccer that hints at a bright future in the game.“There’s nothing more important than hands-on experience, particularly if it’s close to the right people,” says Blank. “Given the quality of the organization that we’ve built, the opportunity to be trained and mentored and spend time with folks that he is – not his father, necessarily, but these folks that really know the game! – is something that you can’t replace. So I hope that he has an interest long-term; I And in the meantime, father continues to lean on son for understanding of the sport’s finer points.“He’s very knowledgeable,” says Arthur of Josh. “I enjoy watching a match with him and getting his analysis about our matches. I don’t bug him a lot, because I know he’s making notes and doing his evaluations, etc. But post-match, he gives me a good explanation of what happened and what didn’t happen. So it’s neat for me as a father to be learning from my son.”That feeling is mutual.“It’s something that, from when the club was announced, that we’ve kind of shared together and it was a bond that we had when I was a kid,” he says. “That was the sport I loved to play and he grew up watching me play, and that was the team that we both had a passion for … and I love answering his questions, because I’m furthering his knowledge and sharing my own.“I remember I was actually sitting next to him when Yamil [Asad] scored the [club’s inaugural MLS goal] goal against the Red Bulls, and that was one of the coolest moments of my life that’s happened so far, for sure. I love sharing those moments with him.”
PREVIEW | #NCFCVIND
Indiana’s Team flies to face North Carolina FC for second straight meeting Jun 23, 2017
Indy Eleven Gameday & Match Preview
Indy Eleven at North Carolina FC – #NCFCvIND
Saturday, June 24, 2017 – 7:30 P.M. EST
Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park – Cary, North Carolina
- Local/National TV: MyINDY TV-23
- Streaming Video: ESPN3
This Saturday is the second leg of back-to-back matches for Indy Eleven and North Carolina FC. The first leg in the two round bout resulted in the “Boys in Blue” collecting their first three points of 2017 and NCFC stagnate in fifth place on the NASL table. Indy’s record against North Carolina improved to 5W-2D-3L in all competitions, giving them the best record against any team in the current NASL lineup with 17 points. Indy’s most notable win, dubbed the “Miracle at ‘The Mike’” occurred against NCFC at the end of the 2016 Spring season. A hat trick from Indy’s star forward Eamon Zayed and a goal from striking partner Justin Braun sealed Indy’s first NASL Spring Championship title after overtaking New York Cosmos on goal differential.Indy Eleven’s “Fight for Three” finally paid off with the clubs first win in 2017 last Saturday. With a 1W-7D-4L record, Indy has ascended from the bottom of the table into 6th place. “Indiana’s Team’s” win also means that they are no longer the only team in the NASL without a win to their name in the Spring season. Last Saturday, the “Boys in Blue” walked away victorious after a 2-0 shutout against the visiting former Railhawks. After several close calls in the first half, neither team capitalize on any opportunity. Fortunately, Indy’s time to shine came in the 60th minute when forward Justin Braun opened the scoring after a poor clearance from an NCFC defender defected off Braun’s knee directly in front of the goal line. After more chances from both sides, and many magical saves from Eleven goaltender Jon Busch, it was Speas who rose to the occasion. In the 84th minute, Speas rocketed the ball into the right corner after a masterful cross from Goldsmith met the midfielder in the far left corner of the opposition’s box.After six days with no matches, a rested NCFC will be ready to greet Indy at WakeMed Park. Only collecting one point in their last two NASL matches and being knocked out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup last week, the hosts will be looking to find winning ways once more. Although, North Carolina will remain in 5th place on the Spring table no matter the outcome of Saturday’s contest, a win for will put them within a point of overtaking Jacksonville Armada FC for 4th place. In contrast, a loss to Indy will see the “Boys in Blue” within wo points of replacing the rebranded club’s fifth place position.
WHO TO WATCH INDY ELEVEN EDITION: MF BEN SPEAS
In a display of tact and determination, Eleven midfielder Ben Speas returned to scoring glory last Saturday against North Carolina FC. Looking to further Indy’s 1-0 lead, Speas sent a ball flying pass NCFC goal tender Brian Sylvestre that would be the nail in the coffin for the visiting side. His goal that signaled the first win in Indy’s “Fight for Three” was also the first goal the former Columbus Crew midfielder has scored since his return from injury. Furthermore, Speas’ goal also marked his first against NCFC during his time in the NASL. During his stint with Minnesota United FC, Speas saw a 160 minutes in two matches against the former Railhawks, both of which ended in losses for his former club.Prior to his injury, the NASL veteran opened his scoring account in his second appearance. On April 1st, in the ninth minute, Speas bested Puerto Rico FC keeper Trevor Spangenberg with chip high over the visitor’s head. Unfortunately, the NASL Play of the Week goal from the newcomer wasn’t enough to seal Indy’s first three points early in the season.
WHO TO WATCH NORTH CAROLINA FC EDITION: MF LANCE LAING
No stranger to the league, NCFC’s Lance Laing joins his new club for his 7th consecutive NASL season. Laing’s previous stints include time at former-NASL Minnesota United FC, FC Edmonton and now defunct Fort Lauderdale Strikers. Furthermore, the Jamaican international represented his country on multiple occasions. Laing’s made his youth international debut between 2004 and 2005. Three years later, Laing made his Jamaican first team debut in a friendly 0-0 draw against El Salvador. In 2012, Laing earned a recall to the first team once again to help Jamaica prepare for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.Working to repeat his prior NASL successes, Laing has hit the ground running in 2017. The veteran midfielder has racked up five goals so far. However, the once top 2017 goal scorer has slipped into second place behind Indy Eleven alumni Zach Steinberger’s single goal lead. In addition to his goal scoring, Laing is headlining the assist chart with three assists alongside six other playmakers across the NASL, including our own Justin Braun. Laing’s ability to find the back of the net, as well teammates, makes him a priority target to shut down before getting nto threatening territory.
MATCH-UP TO MARK: GK JON BUSCH VS. FW MATTHEW FONDY
An unmovable object meeting an unstoppable force; these are words that most accurately describe the upcoming contest between Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch and NCFC’s Matthew Fondy.Busch joins Indy for his second season after making the move to “Indiana’s Team” in 2016. Last time out, “Buschy” flaunted his skills once more after six saves in Indy’s 2-0 shutout against North Carolina FC. Moreover, Busch’s six saves moved him into a tie for the #3 spot of NASL goalkeepers with the most saves so far in 2017 with 29 saves.The 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year made it look easy last season after making 70 saves and keeping 11 clean sheets throughout the 2016 regular season competition. Before joining Indy, Busch was with MLS side Chicago Fire SC for a second stint in his career where he made 12 appearances for the “Men in Red”.Much like Indy’s Busch, NCFC’s Matthew Fondy made his NASL debut in 2016 after successful stints in various divisions. Picking up from last season, Fondy has continued his scoring regiment by netting three so far and collecting points for NCFC in each contest he has scored in. Moreover, Fondy’s scoring can be tied to his tenacity to getting in front of the goal. Whether it’s weaving through defenders or finding the ball from teammates, Fondy’s ability to get shots off adds a hard pressing element to NCFC’s strategy. With the second most shots in the NASL to his name (25), it’s only a matter of time before Fondy adds another goal to his stats sheet.
ESPN2 to broadcast Chicago Fire-FC Cincinnati US Open Cup match
June 23, 201711:52AM EDTSam StejskalContributor
There will be a few extra eyeballs on the Chicago Fire’s US Open Cup round-of-16 contest at MLS hopefuls FC Cincinnati next Wednesday.It was announced on Friday that ESPN2 will broadcast the match live, with Adrian Healey, Taylor Twellman and Julie Stewart-Binks providing the coverage from Nippert Stadium. The match will mark the first broadcast on ESPN networks of a Round-of-16 Open Cup match. Cincinnati set an Open Cup record for a non-final match by drawing 30,160 fans to Nippert Stadium for their fourth-round win against Columbus Crew SC on June 14. The club announced on Friday that they’ve already sold over 18,000 tickets for next Wednesday’s game, which is scheduled to kick off at 8 pm ET.FC Cincinnati were one of 12 groups to submit an expansion application to MLS in January. The club recently unveiled renderings of a proposed soccer-specific stadium, and are currently looking for a site on which to build the venue. MLS will eventually award four expansion teams from the group of 12 applicants, with the league set to announce the first two new clubs by the end of the year. Prior to taking on Cincinnati next week, Chicago will host Orlando in MLS action on Saturday (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE).