(Note USA game on FXX Sat Night – not Fox Sport 1 – we are in Cleveland and planning to go tonite!)
So the US is 2 games into the Gold Cup with a tie and a win – but it hasn’t been pretty. The tie with Panama was one thing, now the 3-2 win last night over Martinique who had only 2 professional players is another. This was not a good show for the US – yes I know it’s the B team – but we should be able to send the Indy 11 out there and win a game vs Martinique for heavens sakes. I thought Jordan Morris looked good with his 2 goals and some timely runs and good passing – (I would love to see him on the field with our goalscorer last game Dom Dwyer in our next match to see how that looks). The US will look to win the group by facing winless Nicaragua on Sat night at 7 pm in Cleveland on Fox Sports 1. (see the full tourney schedule below). Moving down the roster – Guzan let a bad one by last night, and the defense was shaky in the 2nd half giving up 2 goals. I thought Leeija was our best defender on the right showing his time with Notinghams Forest in England has gone him good. (I would love to see him get a shot at the left side) as Justin Morrow was just decent on the left last night. Gonzales was OK and he scored on a header but his fellow central back former Carmel Dad’s Club and Carmel High defender Matt Hedges really struggled. I thought he had a very good 1st half, but in the 2nd he allowed the turn and run on the first goal and later lost some important headers that fortunately missed the mark. Hopefully Matt gets another chance on Sat, he was the defender of the year in MLS for Dallas last season, but he really struggled last night. The midfield was again iffy last night as Acosta looks lost without Bradley there to direct him, Arriola was ok, but really they didn’t settle in until Bedoya came in at the 60 minute mark and settled things down. The US needs a win in the next game now and will need to put a few goals in Cleveland.
The (ICC) International Champions Cup kicks off its 2 weeks of games on ESPN this Sat with LA Galaxy vs Man United on ESPN 2 at 10 pm, other big games include Man U vs Man City next Thurs at 9:30 pm on ESPN, Juventus vs Barcelona at 4 pm on ESPN next Sat and El Classico in Miami as Barca faces 2 time defending Champions League winners Real Madrid on Sat, July 29 at 7:30 pm on ESPN (see full schedule in Games on TV below)
The Indy 11 coming off 3 Wins and a tie will host Jacksonville this Sat July 15 at 6:30 pm at the Mike. Getting some injured players back and the home stand have helped the 11 move out of the cellar and into 6th place in the NASL. Huge props to FC Cincy for their huge home win over the Chicago Fire at home on ESPN on June 28th – I am afraid the dream is over now as they must travel to Miami FC tonight (honestly they should have weighted the ping pong balls for 1 more home stand for this squad vs an MLS team) – oh well – would have been fun to go.
BEST FAMILY GOALIE TRAINING – if anyone is interested in Goalie Training this summer – let me know. My 18 year old goalie Tyler and I are offering some evening training on Wednesdays in July. RE: with interest.
GAMES ON TV
Thur, July 12
7:30 pm Fox Sport 1 El Salvador vs Curucao– Gold Cup
10 pm FS1 Mexico vs Jamaica– Gold Cup
Fri, July 13
7:30 pm Fox Sport 1 Costa Rica vs French Gaina– Gold Cup
10 pm FS1 Canada vs Honduras– Gold Cup
Sat July 15
3:30 pm Lifetime Portland Thorns vs NC (Womens NWSL)
4:30 pm Fox Sport 2 Panama vs Martinque– Gold Cup
7 pm FS1? Nicaragua vs USA – Gold Cup (Cleveland)
6:30 pm MyIndy TV/ESPN3 Indy 11 vs Jacksonville
10 pm ESPN 2 LA Galaxy vs Man United – International Champions Cup
Sun, July 15
6 pm Fox Sport 2 Jamaica vs El Salvador– Gold Cup
8 pm Fox Sport 1 Cacacua vs Mexico – Gold Cup
Mon, July 17
7:30 am ESPN 2 Real Salt Lake vs Man United ICC
Wed, July 19
7:30 am ESPN 3/Des Bayern Munich vs Arsenal ICC
6 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal Philly (US probably)
9 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal
9 pm ESPN2 Roma vs PSG ICC
Thur, July 20
7:30 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal
10 pm ESPN Man U vs Man City ICC
10:30pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal
Sat, July 22
5:30 am EPSN 3+Des Bayern Munich vs Milan ICC
4 pm ESPN Juve vs Barcelona ICC
10 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup SEMI FINAL Dallas US?
Sun, July 23
5:30 am EPSN 3+Des Bayern Munich vs Milan ICC
5 pm ESPN ? Real Madrid vs Man United ICC
6:30 pm Fox Sport1 Vancuouver vs Portland
9 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup SEMI FINAL 2
Mon, July 24
8 am ESPN 3+Des Inter vs Lyon ICC
Tues, July 25
8 am ESPN 3+Des Chelsea vs Bayern Munich
8 pm EsPN Tottenham vs Roma ICC
Wed, July 26
7:30 am ESPN Barcelona vs Man United ICC
8 pm EsPN 2 Juve vs PSG ICC
9 pm Fox Sp 1 Gold Cup Final
Sat, July 29
7:30 am ESPN desp Chelsea vs Inter ICC
6 pm EsPN 2 Man City vs Tottenham ICC
7:30 pm ESPN Real Madrid vs Barcelona ICC
Sun, July 30
4 pm ESPN Roma vs Juventus ICC
Wed, Aug 2
9 pm Fox Sport 1 MLS Allstars vs Real Madrid
International Champions Cup July Games in Nashville and Detroit
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
Gold Cup + ICC + Women’s Euros
U.S. narrowly wins, shows worrying flaws in Gold Cup scare vs. Martinique
Given the B-list nature of the U.S. roster, this Gold Cup was bound to possess some good, some bad, and some downright ugliness for the Americans. But Wednesday’s 3-2 win over Martinique came dangerously close to humiliation.It took a 76th-minute winner from Jordan Morris, his second goal of the night, to finally see off a game opponent. As such, the victory should provide little comfort to manager Bruce Arena and his players, who will be left red-faced from a match that should never have been so close.Yes, soccer’s low-scoring nature makes it ripe for upsets and the potential for giant-killings is part of its appeal. Further, it can also make the expectation of a blowout a tad unrealistic.But none of that can be used as an excuse for this U.S. performance. We’re talking about a team of full-time professionals going up against a group of semi-pros.Does Martinique deserve some credit? Absolutely. It played with spirit and organization. But the Americans had the game seemingly under control, taking a 2-0 lead in the 64th minute when Morris scored his first. At which point, Arena’s side showed a complete inability to manage the game. For whatever reason, maintaining tempo — especially when leading — has been a problem from the Ghana friendly on July 1 to Panama last Saturday all the way to Wednesday.Granted. goalkeeper Brad Guzan should have saved the first of Kevin Parsemain’s two goals, but there were warning signs even before that, with Martinique hitting the post in the first half. And how is it that the U.S. coughs up an equalizer that started with a three-on-three counter-attack?
Sure, the U.S. roster is lacking some experience at international level, but it also has logged plenty of domestic matches. Arena’s understandable squad rotation — there were eight changes from the Panama game — could also be a factor. However, regardless of who is on the field, the U.S. ought to know how to manage a result against such a lowly opponent.So two games into this tournament, the U.S. hasn’t done much to distinguish itself. It has shown little consistency, both on a team and individual level. In fact, the performances of most players have alternated between frigid and scalding, oftentimes in the same game.A case in point is Gyasi Zardes. The LA Galaxy midfielder did well in setting up Morris’ winner with a smart cutback and, overall, was better in the second half. But Zardes also had his share of suspect touches and poor passes.Meanwhile, Matt Hedges, for all of his ability with the ball, struggled with his defending both in the air and on the ground, and was beaten in the run-up to Martinique’s equalizer.Even Eric Lichaj, who did his future prospects no harm, wasn’t completely immune. He assisted on Morris’ first goal thanks to a darting run, but was also guilty of a first-half giveaway that forced a sharp save from Guzan.The group that has acquitted itself the best so far in the tournament are the forwards. Dom Dwyer, who was given the night off, has two goals this month while Juan Agudelo, who did start vs. Martinique, had the misfortune of being at his best when those around him were at their worst. Otherwise, he might have had more reward for his hard work and clever touches.But this night belonged to Morris. It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for him — his two goals equaled his 2017 total for the Seattle Sounders — and this match did reveal that his decision-making on the ball needs some work. But his pace makes him a valued part of this U.S. side and his runs in the box made him too much to handle for Martinique.So is it time to panic? Far from it. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be disappointment with the way this U.S. has performed so far.Prior to the tournament there was genuine excitement about what this team could do, and which players could emerge to take on bigger roles. For now, that has been replaced by skepticism over just how many players will be able to help out when World Cup qualifying resumes in September.The U.S. sits on top of its group after two games, thanks to the goals scored tiebreaker, but it will need more of the good in its game to emerge in order to achieve the goal of winning the Gold Cup.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC.
With eight changes from its opening group-stage match, the United States overcame a terrible first half performance, a goalkeeping gaffe and a defensive lapse to beat Martinique 3-2 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Considering how poor the first half was, the second half response could be called a “positive.” At least on the attacking end the Americans showed a bit more energy and sharpness, which led to three goals and the eventual win. The substitute performance of Alejandro Bedoya lifted the team too, while Jordan Morris’ brace could help pull the forward out of poor run of form for club and country.
Too many to name. Going into halftime tied 0-0 represented a failure, especially since Martinique was actually unfortunate not to have the lead. Defensively, the Americans were slow, disorganized and too reactive. Brad Guzan’s second-half display will fill no one with confidence that there is a clear No. 2 for the USMNT behind Tim Howard.
Manager rating out of 10
4.5 — Against a team such as Martinique, tactics shouldn’t really be the issue. Still, Arena failed to provide his team a creative option in the midfield, a situation that led to a lack of connectivity through the spine of the team. The U.S. head coach wanted to see a different set of players, and he overhauled the team. That might have been a factor in the disjointed nature of the performance, though Arena might be willing to live with it for evaluation purposes.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best — players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Brad Guzan, 4 — Made a strong save in the first half but will be rightly criticized for allowing Martinique’s first goal on a shot to his left inside the near post. Looked hesitant with decision-making for the rest of the match.
DF Eric Lichaj, 6.5 — Tidy on the ball for most of the night, with the exception of a turnover or two. Pushed higher in the second half, directly leading to an assist for the second U.S. goal.
DF Matt Hedges, 4 — Beaten too easily in the second half, directly leading to Martinique’s comeback on two different occasions. Poor decision-making and weak in the air.
DF Omar Gonzalez, 4.5 — Scored, which helped salvage his night. Alongside Hedges, he was too slow to react and lost his way tracking Martinique attackers.
DF Justin Morrow, 6 — Competent overall. Heeded the need for extra bodies in the final third of the second half by getting forward more often.
MF Paul Arriola, 6 — Killed a counterattacking chance in the first half with a poor pass. Improved in the second half, and hit the shot that ended up as the first U.S. goal.
MF Kellyn Acosta, 5.5 — Anonymous at times and lacked the level of sharpness required. With a chance to stamp his leadership on an inexperienced team, he came up short.
MF Cristian Roldan, 6 — Started brightly before falling off the pace of the game a bit over the next hour. Collected a handful of important recoveries.
MF Gyasi Zardes, 6 — Provided some much-needed width for the U.S. all night. Maddeningly inconsistent with his touches, but played several good crosses and set up the winner for Morris.
FW Jordan Morris, 7.5 — Saved the Americans with his two goals. Quiet in the opening half, but used his speed to stretch the defense in the second half.
FW Juan Agudelo, 6.5 — Lively and mobile, especially in the first half when his work was wasted by teammates. Pushed too hard for a goal in the second half, failing to spot better options.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, NR — Made an impact off the bench with some smart, late runs. Missed an excellent chance to score.
MF Chris Pontius, NR — Added energy up the flank, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
MF Dax McCarty, NR — Helped settle the game and see it out for the Americans after coming on with just a handful of minutes to go.Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer
USMNT Player Ratings: Morris, Gyasi stand out vs. MTQ while others…do not
July 13, 20171:00AM EDTGreg SeltzerContributor
The US national team made things a bit more exciting than they needed to be, but prevailed late in a 3-2 win over CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B visitors Martinique on Wednesday night.Working with a highly experimental lineup, the Nats were patient before intermission and persistent in being decisive after it. Thanks to a Jordan Morris brace, they were able to come out with the points despite blowing a two-goal lead.
Brad Guzan (5.5) – The US netminder made a few strong saves, but boy, he should have stopped the shot on Martinique’s opener.
Eric Lichaj (7) – Aside from a bad first-half giveaway that led to long-range shot, Nottingham Forest’s Player of the Year put in a professional shift in his first international start in over six years. Lichaj didn’t burst forward often, but did notch a nice assist on the US second.
Omar Gonzalez (7) – The Pachuca center back (#3 above) did take a quick nap on one Martinique rush, but was otherwise solid at the back. Gonzo also moved the ball safely and alertly tucked home a rebound to get his side on the board.
Matt Hedges (3.5) – It was a rough night for the FC Dallas defender, who was beaten in several different ways. Most notably, Hedges was caught out by a lunging missed tackle, lost an aerial duel directly in front of the US goal despite having early position and was burned for pace on the buildup for Martinique’s second.
Justin Morrow (6) – The Toronto FC left back was decent in his return to USMNT action after four-and-a-half years. He deftly aided the team’s possession and some rushes up his flank. Though Morrow only served one dangerous cross on the night, he did split three defenders with a pass to initiate the winning goal play.
Cristian Roldan (6) – The midfield debutant was a defensive force in the opening half-hour, but somewhat faded in this regard after that. In particular, Roldan failed to mind the gate to the back line a couple times. However, his work on the ball was steady.
Kellyn Acosta (5.5) – While the FCD midfield ace improved on his Panama showing, he fell well short of shining. Acosta landed his first several restart serves in dangerous spots, but his last few went awry.
Paul Arriola (6) – It was a mixed bag for the Tijuana youngster, who was guilty of some sloppy play in the first half and lax on tracking back to disrupt the shooter on Martinique’s first. However, he was often quicker than the rest in chasing down loose balls in the attacking third, which caused havoc for the visitors’ defense. On one such occasion, Arriola’s seeing-eye drive from a busted corner kick forced the rebound for Gonzalez’s goal.
Gyasi Zardes (7.5) – More than any other US player, Zardes consistently harassed the away defense. While his touch can be inelegant at times, it was also good enough to break free down the left flank to kick-start several rushes. His cutback on Morris’ winner was a thing of beauty.
Juan Agudelo (5) – There were times when Agudelo’s (above) movement unnerved the Martinique back line, but he was inefficient on the ball and too often forced individual play.
Jordan Morris (8) – The Seattle speedster logged his first two-goal game in a US shirt, and it was well deserved. His hold-up play surprisingly provided a fulcrum for the hosts in the first half and his more characteristic runs caused other problems for Martinique. Morris both started and finished the final approach on the winner, which surely induced a widespread sigh of relief.
Coach Bruce Arena (5.5) – Is it fair to be rough on the coach for fielding a line-up that required a lot of introductions? Or is that precisely the reason we shouldn’t be so hard on Arena for what was essentially a middling display? I’m slightly leaning toward the latter because, well… Martinique. Some of those players should have reasonably been expected to perform better. In the end, though, the team got the win and grabbed first place in Group B. Call it mission barely accomplished, and hope for something more emphatic against Nicaragua on Saturday (7 pm ET | Univision, UDN, FXX in US, TSN GO in Canada).
Alejandro Bedoya (6) – The veteran looked lively in his 28 minutes, and it his through ball released Lichaj to cross for Morris’ first goal. Bedoya’s grade was dragged back to average when he was not tuned in enough to close down Johan Audel, whose shot caromed in off a teammate to tie the game.
Chris Pontius (5) – The most notable event of his 17 minutes came when he neglected to track his opposite, who fired the shot that deflected in to momentarily level matters.
Player ratings from the USMNT’s 3-2 win over Martinique
It wasn’t decisive and nearly fell apart, but the United States men’s national team emerged with all three points from its second match of the 2017 Gold Cup.Bruce Arena changed eight of his 11 starters for the match. Some thrived, some middled, and some struggled.
Brad Guzan — 6 — Strong first half, but needs to stop the first Martinique goal. He’s being measured against his predecessors.
Justin Morrow — 5 — Would like to see him again with the nerves out of system.
Omar Gonzalez — 7 — One of his better nights in a U.S. kit. Scored the opener in a gritty and instinctive way, and did not misplay any of his 23 passes.
Matt Hedges — 5 — Outran and out-of-position in the buildup to Martinique’s equalizer. Otherwise, just fine.
Eric Lichaj — 7 — Deserves to be in the discussion for Russia 2018, should they qualify, and proved it on Wednesday.
Cristian Roldan — 6 — A bit out of position but not overwhelmed on his debut. Composure wasn’t a problem, but performance was.
Kellyn Acosta (Off 62′) — 6 — He remains a big part of the USMNT’s future, but it’s hard to say he’s built on a strong performance against Ghana.
Paul Arriola (Off 73′) — 7 — Was missing the requisite finish but has made a definite argument to get more looks from Arena.
Gyasi Zardes — 5 — Gets credit for an assist on Morris’s second, but his industry was betrayed by his touch more often than not.
Juan Agudelo (Off 86′) — 6 — Brighter than his compatriots in the first half, his work out left in the second was significant.
Jordan Morris — 8 — His dogged work was rewarded with a pair of goals in a performance which will hopefully snap him out of a long funk for club and country.
Alejandro Bedoya (On 62′) — 6 — Helped set up second goal.
Chris Pontius (On 73′) — 6 — Not a bad shift.
Dax McCarty (On 86′) — N/A
Three thoughts from the United States’ nervy 3-2 win over Martinique in Gold Cup Group B:
- U.S. flounders in narrow win
While Wednesday’s victory is enough to send the U.S. to the top of Group B, this was a floundering performance from a side that nearly did the unthinkable and play to a draw after having a two-goal lead in the second half against an inferior opponent.
The best friend that the U.S. could have had on Wednesday was an early goal, but by the 20th minute it was evident that it was going to be another difficult night for the U.S., in front of a large crowd at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw for the U.S. against Panama could be understood based on the recent contests between the two squads, but Wednesday’s performance is alarming for several reasons. First, the U.S. was plagued by mistakes on defense, allowing Martinique to come back from a 2-0 second-half deficit to pull level and nearly slip in a third. Second, these was no urgency shown in the first half, essentially 45 minutes wasted.But for the U.S., there is enough individual quality in Bruce Arena’s squad to be able to avoid a disastrous result. Jordan Morris took both his goals quite well, powering strong finishes into the back of the net after Omar Gonzalez’s fortuitous opener.Yet there was plenty of bad decision-making from the U.S. all over the field. Whether it was an ill-advised shot, a heavy touch, a lightly hit ball or a failure to play a simple pass, there were too many lapses and miscues. In attack, these issues were best summed up by a late first-half break when Paul Arriola looked to play wide to Gyasi Zardes, instead of continuing his dribble into the Martinique area. Kevin Parsemaine’s shot off the post was a harbinger of the defensive issues to come.Still, the U.S. has a very good shot to finish atop the group, but a quick glance at its potential quarterfinal opponents — Canada, for example — means that improvement against Nicaragua is imperative. After this performance, any thought that Saturday’s group stage final in Cleveland is going to be a walk in the park would be mistaken.
- More U.S. defensive headaches
It was another shaky performance from the U.S. at the back, allowing a pair of Martinique goals that nearly earned the islanders a stunning draw.
Things weren’t busy at the back for the first half-hour, but as Martinique grew into the match and became more comfortable, the U.S. looked more unsteady. Parsemain was a thorn in the U.S.’s side and should have scored after a dreadful giveaway from Eric Lichaj in the first half.
FC Dallas center-back Matt Hedges also struggled. He was beaten by Yoann Arquin on a header that forced Brad Guzan into a reaction save and then allowed Steeven Langil to blaze past him in the run-up to the second Martinique goal.
It seems like a broken record at this point after two Gold Cup matches, but it’s clear that this U.S. defense is out of sorts. Very clearly, it misses the presence of a veteran such as Geoff Cameron to shepherd the back line.
- Eight changes do little to convince
Head coach Bruce Arena made a whopping eight changes with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, center-back Gonzalez and midfielder Kellyn Acosta the lone holdovers from Saturday. All in all, this was a fairly inexperienced starting XI, and no player showed that more than Cristian Roldan, who made his debut on Wednesday and started brightly by cutting down passes and taking Martinique attackers off the ball before settling into an average performance.
While Morris did have two of the U.S. goals, he was way too anonymous for nearly a half-hour stretch in the first half. Against an opponent such as Martinique, the U.S. can get away with that, but it simply cannot happen in the knockout stages. Furthermore, Morris’ attack partner Juan Agudelo did have some good, creative moments, but there seemed to be a lack of connection between him and the U.S. midfield.At this point, assuming the U.S. reaches the quarterfinals, Arena will have to think very hard about bringing in his A-team stars, including Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. If he persists with this group, he might run the risk of a humiliating early exit.Arch Bell covers CONCACAF for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @ArchBell .
Jordan Morris breaks through with needed Gold Cup goals for USA vs. Martinique
BRIAN STRAUSThursday July 13th, 2017
In the midst of a difficult sophomore MLS season, Jordan Morris has kept the faith. And he came to life just in time Wednesday night, scoring two second-half goals and saving a disjointed U.S. national team from what could’ve been a historically humiliating result against tiny Martinique. Instead, the 3-2 win at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa leaves the Americans (1-0-1) in good position to move on to the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals as expected.Not much else is certain, however, as coach Bruce Arena’s makeshift squad still hasn’t found its footing.Here are three thoughts from a strange night:
USA in first as expected–but after a bizarre evening
The path was unpredictable, surreal and far rockier than it needed to be, but at the end, Arena and his team are where they expected to be after two games—atop Group B. But they’re there by a sliver, leading Panama (1-0-1) on the second tiebreaker (goals scored) heading into Saturday’s finale. Finishing first matters. The group winner meets a third-place qualifier in next week’s quarterfinals. The runner-up likey will be facing Costa Rica.Considering the stakes, it’s alarming that the USA was unable to put together a side after two weeks of training that could take the game to semi-pros representing a country that’s not even a FIFA member. This was a game the hosts easily could have lost. A tentative opening 45 minutes—during which the U.S. attack was static and predictable—gave way to a wild, entertaining and infuriating second half.Both teams squandered open looks before defender Omar Gonzalez lifted the USA into a 53rd-minute lead. Morris doubled the advantage 10 minutes later. Then the Americans collapsed. Maintaining momentum following a goal or scoring chance was an issue in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Panama, and it bit the USA again on Wednesday.Martinique forward Kevin Parsemain was the best player on the field for either team, and the former (very briefly) Seattle Sounder took advantage of goalkeeper Brad Guzan’s late reaction in the 66th and then a fortunate deflection in the 74th. Just when it was setting in that the five-time CONCACAF champs had blown a two-goal lead to a country of fewer than 400,000 people, Gyasi Zardes and Morris combined to score the game-winner.Typically, teams adopt a survive-and-advance mantra during tournament, and the USA has done that. But it’s been far more tense than it should’ve been, and there’s nothing to suggest the U.S. won’t be hanging onto first place for dear life when it plays Nicaragua on Saturday. Arena and his players promised a better showing following the Panama game. They delivered the win, but failed to make a statement.“I think we made it really tough on ourselves. We could’ve done much better. That’s the disappointing part, the fact that we let up two goals,” Gonzalez said following the game. “Moving forward, there’s a lot to learn from this, and I’m happy that we never gave up. But there’s definitely things we could improve on.”
Morris sticks with it
Morris has only two goals this season for the Sounders, but his glorious 2016 rookie campaign, obvious potential and Arena’s decision to leave his top strikers at home meant the second-year pro would get his Gold Cup shot. During Wednesday’s first half, it appeared Morris was going to waste it.But good strikers stick with it even when shots aren’t falling, and Morris’s game-winning brace was as much about relentlessness and maturity as it was about speed or skill. Both goals came thanks to his willingness to run hard, keep things smple and trust his teammates—all things that can be difficult for a scorer in a slump.In the 64th, Morris recognized a smart run by right back Eric Lichaj and was there in a sliver of space between a Martinique defender and goalie Kevin Olimpa for the near-post finish. In the 76th, two minutes after the visitors leveled terms, Morris fed Zardes through the left channel then maintained his run into the penalty area. Zardes cut a good cross back toward the center and Morris was there for a composed and accurate first-time finish into the roof of the net.Strikers have to be right in the feet and in the head. Morris made the difference his team needed on Wednesday because he maintained the latter until the former caught up. Now we’ll see if Arena will pair Morris with Dom Dwyer, his other Gold Cup scorer.
Arena left with some difficult decisions
The forward pairing is just once choice Arena faces during what might be a fitful few days for the USA manager. He surely hoped that his group-stage squad rotation would result in several players rising to the fore and claiming knockout-round spots. But that hasn’t happened. He’ll feel good about Morris’s second half, but should be concerned about Zardes’s often wasteful touches in the attacking third and Paul Arriola’s odd decision making.Juan Agudelo worked hard but lacked solutions and faded. Kellyn Acosta improved from his performance against Panama, but he was unable to impose himself or consistently orchestrate the buildup. To be fair, Arena asked more of him Wednesday than FC Dallas typically does.Morris and Lichaj, who was playing in his first competitive international (and fourth U.S. match overall) in six years, were the only American men who seemed to raise their level as the game became tougher. Guzan had been the Gold Cup MVP before his second-half mistake. Matt Hedges struggled to stay with Martinique’s quick forwards, and it took left back Justin Morrow way too long to find the right moments to jump into the attack. Against a team like Martinique, those solutions should be easy to spot and implement. When the hosts did finally create the occasional attacking overload, they seemed so surprised by the fortunate turn of events that they lost their composure.That can’t continue to happen if the USA has a shot at winning this Gold Cup. After two games, it appears Arena will have to start making some phone calls to the eligible veterans on his 40-man preliminary roster. It’s tough to imagine Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore making a game like Wednesday night’s game so difficult.
Jordan Morris takes aim at World Cup spot with selfless outing for US
July 13, 20171:29AM EDTNeil Blackmon
TAMPA, Fla. – Jordan Morris knows he can’t control whether he’s on the plane to Russia for the World Cup next summer.But he’ll do everything in his power to put himself in position. Wednesday night on a wet track in Tampa, that meant making the often-unheralded near-post run.“I can’t worry about making the World Cup team or my roster spot or things beyond my control,” Morris said after bagging the first brace of his international career in the US national team’s 3-2 victory over Martinique. “What I can do is make the runs coach stresses, do what’s best for the team, and play hard, impact winning.”After a first half where Arena said his team “wasn’t sharp” in the final third, Morris said Arena went back to a common point of emphasis: having one forward sacrifice himself by surging towards the near post to create space around him.“Bruce stresses that he wants a forward to make a near post run and sacrifice to make space,” Morris said of his opening goal. “I did that, and then [Eric] Lichaj played a great ball.”It’s a run Cristian Roldan has seen his Seattle Sounders teammate make time and time again, playing off Clint Dempsey for the defending MLS Cup champions.“Every coach wants a forward to attack the near post, but sometimes that’s just a space-creating run,” Roldan said. “Jordan does that all the time and it was good to see him get the goal, especially on a play that started from the left side and was just good ball movement. We rotated it all the way out right and Eric played a beautiful ball.”Morris also delivered when the team needed him most, and again because he finished a run.Following a stunning Martinique equalizer on a rebound from Johan Audel, the US appeared on the verge of another disappointing draw. But Morris took a ball in the center of the park and played it on the ground through to Gyasi Zardes. Sensing space in the box, he shouted and waved for Zardes to play the ball back to him.“Gyasi made a great run and I saw space at the PK spot and attacked the space. [Zardes] made a great pass and we got a big goal.”While Morris is right that he can’t control whether he makes a World Cup roster, his performance garnered praise from the one man who can: Arena.“Jordan runs very well in the penalty area,” said the USMNT coach. “We told the guys at halftime we needed to attack the near post and he responded. Then he finished another run for a second goal. He had an overall good game tonight with Juan [Agudelo]. It definitely made a good impression.”
Midfield’s ‘crap performance’ a worry in United States’ Gold Cup opener
.You know it wasn’t a good performance when a team’s best player is its goalkeeper. That was the case for the United States in its 1-1 tie with Panama on Saturday in Nashville.Had Los Canaleros been able to find the target with more regularity on the clear chances they created, we might very well be talking about the Americans’ second-ever defeat in the group stage of a Gold Cup. Soccer justice might very well have been served if that had been the case. Brad Guzan had a lot to do with preserving the tie, making several key saves, while defender Omar Gonzalez got a key touch when it looked as though Ismael Diaz was poised to poke in a rebound from all of two yards away. There will be a temptation to blame this lackluster result on the back line, and to be sure this was not the group’s best day. Graham Zusi struggled with his one-on-one defending, as did Jorge Villafaña. Matt Besler switched off a few times and wasn’t as precise with his passing as he normally is.But the source of the Americans’ struggles was actually further up field. Kellyn Acosta had what was likely his worst performance in a U.S. uniform, losing out on some key individual battles — including the run-up to Miguel Camargo’s equalizer — misplaying passes and getting caught in possession. Acosta himself used stronger words to assess the match: Acosta’s central cohorts Joe Corona and Dax McCarty, who performed so well against Ghana, also suffered through subpar days. Granted, the match against the Black Stars was a friendly, not a tournament match like this one, but the dropoff in performance was still striking.Corona was adept at finding room between the lines against Ghana, but the Club Tijuana man was deathly quiet against Panama’s central tandem of Anibal Godoy and Gabriel Gomez. Credit the Panama duo, as well as outside midfielders Camargo and Joel Barcenas, who pitched in defensively. They effectively took away the spaces where Corona thrives, leaving the midfielder with an imperfect choice of supporting lone striker Dom Dwyer or retreating deep into midfield to get the ball. As a result, the U.S. attack looked disjointed and had the effect of stranding Dwyer for long stretches.As for McCarty, the ball wasn’t his friend to the degree that it was against Ghana (81 percent versus 95.3 percent, according to ESPN Stats & Information), and found himself coming out second-best in terms of physical duels.Even Kelyn Rowe — the field player who besides Dwyer arguably helped himself the most on the day thanks to his superb effort in setting up the lone U.S. goal — had his rough moments. His decision to go to ground in an effort to tackle the ball away from Barcenas saw the Panama midfielder skip past him and create the goalmouth melee that resulted in Camargo’s score.But even more worrying than the individual performances was the collective effort on both sides of the ball. The U.S. was in prime position to seize control after Dwyer put the Americans ahead in the 50th minute, a significant advantage on a scorching-hot day that saw game-time temperatures hit 87 degrees. But instead of keeping the ball and controlling the tempo, a track meet ensued that benefited the visitors far more than the U.S. Defensively, the U.S. seemed incapable of closing down opposition midfielders, allowing the likes of Gomez and Godoy to pick the Americans apart, be it in transition or when the U.S. was defending in a low block.The benefit of the match is that it stressed a lineup bereft of first-team players. Performers such as McCarty and Acosta gained valuable experience, and will no doubt be better able to deal with difficult moments later in the tournament. The downside is that the next two group-stage games for the U.S., against Martinique and Nicaragua, will provide little insight into a player’s ability at the international level. With a schedule that sees the U.S. play its three group-stage games in eight days, coach Bruce Arena is expected to utilize his depth in a big way. Depending on how the group finishes up, Arena’s preferred starting XI might not be tested again until the semifinals.That, of course, is something neither Arena nor the players have any control over. But this Gold Cup is about taking advantage of opportunities. There are still more data points to gather, yet for the Americans to prevail in this tournament, the U.S. midfield will need to raise its game.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team
Orlando City playmaker Kaka says his MLS All-Star side can face Champions League holders Real Madrid as “equals” when they meet in Chicago on Aug. 2.Kaka is to line up alongside Chicago Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, reigning Major League Soccer MVP David Villa of New York City FC, Michael Bradley of Toronto FC and Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard in the showpiece game against Zinedine Zidane’s men at Soldier Field.Zidane’s side are expected to be almost at full strength for the encounter, which comes after their International Champions Cup meetings with Manchester United, Manchester City and Barcelona, with players including Gareth Bale, Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos set to feature.Speaking to U.S. Spanish-language newspaper Hoy, former Madrid midfielder Kaka said he did not think the All-Star side drawn from around MLS would have trouble gelling together, and predicted they would give Madrid a good contest.”We do not know how the game will go,” Kaka said. “But we have the players to take on Real Madrid as equals. We have a great team. The truth is it will be a very good and attractive game as our team have great players. Although we do not play together [with clubs], I don’t believe it will be difficult to understand each other.”Kaka, 35, scored 29 goals in 130 games as a Madrid player between 2009 and 2013, although injuries contributed to the former Brazil international not having the impact expected when he moved from AC Milan for a fee of €65 million.”I have good memories of Real Madrid,” he said. “Professionally it was a difficult period, but my experience there was very good in all senses as I grew a lot, learned many things, and lived with great champions.”They were four years where we won La Liga, Copa del Rey, the Spanish Supercopa, and I scored goals. Although I expected more, my time at Real Madrid was very good. To be able to say I played four seasons there is a great pleasure.”Kaka said that coming up against old teammates including Ramos, Benzema, Marcelo, Luka Modric and Raphael Varane will make it an emotional occasion.”To take on Madrid is a very good experience,” he said. “When I was there I played once against Milan, and now with the All-Stars team I will play against Real Madrid. It is something very emotional. To take on staff at the club and ex-teammates of Real Madrid will be a very different experience for me.”
Three Things – #INDvNYC
Three points from, well, three points against the Cosmos
Published Jul 11, 2017
NO BETTER TIME FOR A FIRST GOAL
Indy original and former “super sub” Don Smart made his 2017 scoring debut in spectacular fashion on Saturday against the New York Cosmos. “Indiana’s Team” were granted a penalty kick in the 15th minute after “Boys in Blue” forward Justin Braun was caught out in an aerial battle with Cosmos’ defenders Ryan Richter and David Ochieng within New York’s penalty area. The Kingston, Jamaica-born midfielder stepped up to the spot and graced the scoreboard in the 17th minute when Smart’s shot skid past Cosmos ‘keeper Jimmy Maurer’s left dive into the lower right corner of the goal. For Smart, it was close to being his second goal for the evening. In the 13th minute, Indy XI forward Eamon Zayed battled for possession along the right wing with a Cosmos’ defender. In an attempted to save a potentially dying play, Zayed sent the ball sky high and into the edge of the outer box where Maurer met it with a header. Fortunately, Maurer’s headed ball soared to the feet of Smart just outside the box, who then sent it right back towards the Cosmos’ goal. Unfortunately, Smart’s chance was cut short when Maurer’s dead sprint back to the goal ended with a dive that forced the ball back into Cosmos possession.
Smart’s goal on Saturday marks his ninth in 85 appearances for the club since his signing in 2013. Smart netted his first goal against North Carolina FC in the club’s first recorded win and away win on July 12, 2014. Saturday’s goal marks Smart’s first goal since the Eleven’s 2-1 home win over Miami on September 17, 2016. For those who love stats, Smart holds a 5W-2D-2L record in matches in which he has scored, averaging 2.25 goals per season.
BRAUN’S MOVING UP THE LIST
Another night, another goal for “Boys in Blue” striker Justin Braun has he headed home the game winner late in the evening. In the 74th minute, Cosmos’ David Ochieng conceded a corner kick by sending the ball flying past their goal into the East End to avoid giving possession to a charging Eamon Zayed. Thereafter, in the 75th minute, Indy Eleven’s crossing extraordinaire Nemanja Vukovic sent the ball from the corner flying over the Cosmos defense. From there, Braun slipped away from his marker to meet the ball with his head, darting it over Maurer’s left shoulder to net what would be the game-winner. So far, Braun has netted seven goals for “Indiana’s Team” as the league enters the final week of the Spring season. Taking a glimpse across the NASL, Braun sits in second place of the most goals scored this thus far in 2017. Just ahead on the list are Miami FC’s Stefano Pinho and Vincenzo Rennella tied for 1st place with eight goals to each player. Earlier this season, Braun overtook former Eleven star Dylan Mares for the second most all-time goals among Indy players with 11 goals. Since then, Braun has collected another four goals, giving the Salt Lake City native a total of 15 all-time goals in 40 appearances Indy Eleven. Furthermore, Braun’s 15 goals leave him nipping at the heels of striking partner Zayed, who sits atop Indy’s top scoring list with 18 goals in 45 appearances.
WHAT’S NEXT…? Indy Eleven remains in 6th places after collecting another 3-points on a beautiful evening in front of a crowd of 8,748 fans at “The Mike”. Unfortunately, the Eleven can no longer advance into a Top 4 position given last week’s results in New York. Looking forward, there’s still a chance to advance into 5th place pending our results against Jacksonville Armada FC, North Carolina FC’s match-up against Puerto Rico FC and New York Cosmos’ fixture against FC Edmonton. While 5th place isn’t entirely ideal, a move to 5th still puts Indy XI a step closer to an NASL playoff position with just a few points separating the gap to a T4 spot—should the Spring results end favorably for the “Boys in Blue”.
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