Well the US certainly knows how to make it exciting. Knowing they needed a 3-0 win vs lowly Nicaugua in their final group stage game in Cleveland on Sat evening to win the group – the US blew 2 penalty kicks and missed tons of opportunities in front of net before finally netting the third and decisive goal on a set piece header by Miazga in the 81st minute off a nice serve from Zusi. I was in the stands as the American Outlaws tried to bring life to the 30K or so on hand in downtown Cleveland and while their were some good moments – this team still needs to find some finishers. I guess that’s why Bruce is bringing in the big guns for the Quarterfinal matchup with El Salvadore on Wednesday night at 9 pm on Fox Sports 1. Bradley, Altidore, Dempsey and Darlington Nagbe will join the squad as Bedoya (off to see his 2nd child be born this week), Dom Dwyer, Kellyn Rowe,
I have to say I am surprised and a little disappointed Bruce is bringing in Dempsey and Altidore especially. Bradley is the Captain and pairing him up with Kellyn Acosta or Nagbe to see if we can solidify that #6 & #8 defensive mid spot is fine with me. But I would have loved seeing Morris and Dwyer and Juan Aguadelo put in hard work up top to see who might be worth the seat to Russia next summer. I loved Dwyer’s tenacity and Morris’ pace and guile in front of net. Kelyn Rowe has been a revelation and I really would love to see him under more pressure in the knockouts rounds. I certainly think Rowe has raised some eyebrows as have the 2 center forwards thus far. Either way we are still desperately seeking a left back – I do not know why he won’t give Eric Leijia a run on the left instead of the right – the right back side is covered with Yedlin but the left is still seeking a decent starter and while its not his most natural position Leija has played that role for Notinghams Forest in England before. The Center back pairings should also be interesting moving forward will it be Gonzales, Miazga, Beesler or Hedges? I think former Carmel Dad’s Club and Carmel High MLS all star Matt Hedges took a step back and I am hopeful now that he wasn’t sent home that he might get a chance to redeem himself.
The (ICC) International Champions Cup is underway with Roma vs PSG Wed Night at 9 pm on ESPN 2, Man U vs Man City Thurs at 9:30 pm on ESPN, Juventus vs Barcelona at 6 pm on ESPN 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 finished the Spring Season on a roll with 4 wins and a tie including the 2-0 blanking of Jax last Sat. They return for the fall season with a game next Sat, Aug 5th at 7:30 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.
CARMEL FC GOALIE TRAINING STARTS TUES -AUG 8th at Shelbourne. U11-U13 6-7, U14-above 7:15-8:15
GAMES ON TV
Wed, July 19
7:30 am ESPN 3/Des Bayern Munich vs Arsenal ICC
6 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal – Panama vs Costa Rica
9 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal Philly (US vs El Salvador)
9 pm ESPN2 Roma vs PSG ICC
Thur, July 20
7:30 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal Jamaica vs Canada
10 pm ESPN Man U vs Man City ICC
10:30pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup Quarterfinal Mexico vs Honduras
Fri, July 21
7 pm ESPN Orlando City vs Atlanta United
Sat, July 22
5:30 am ESPN 2 +Des Bayern Munich vs Milan ICC
6 pm ESPN Juve vs Barcelona ICC
4 pm ESPN Minn United vs NY RB MLS
8 pm ESPN 2 PSG vs Tottenham ICC
10 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup SEMI FINAL Dallas US vs Costa Rica?
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 MLS
9 pm Fox Sport 1 Gold Cup SEMI FINAL 2 Mexico vs Canada??
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
CARMEL FC GOALIE TRAINING STARTS TUES -AUG 8th at Shelbourne. U11-U13 6-7, U14-above 7:15-8:15
Arena won’t learn more about U.S. player pool by calling in reinforcements
HILADELPHIA — From the outset of this Gold Cup, it was the plan of U.S men’s national team manager Bruce Arena to add six players to his roster at the conclusion of the group stage. The tournament rules allow it, and Arena took full advantage.All of which seems kind of a shame.The U.S. manager has brought in the Toronto FC duo of Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore. He’s also added Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard and FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez. The infusion of experience is considerable. Out of those six, four of them — Bradley, Altidore, Dempsey and Howard — have more than 100 caps apiece. Nagbe has been a steady presence for the U.S. throughout 2017. Only Gonzalez, who just recently had his one-time switch of affiliation from Mexico to the U.S. approved by FIFA, can be considered a prospect.The unlucky six who were sent back to their clubs were really an unlucky three. Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya and his wife Beatrice are expecting their second child this week, so his departure was long planned. It was also understood that goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson would be sent back to Atlanta United and New York City FC, respectively. That left Kelyn Rowe, Cristian Roldan and Dom Dwyer to be sent home.It’s peculiar in that Rowe and Dwyer have shown well over the course of the past three weeks, with each player scoring a goal and contributing to the attack in other ways. Roldan’s situation is easier to understand, as he had his moments of struggle against Martinique, though he did take good care of the ball. But for these three players, it’s clear that their playing time would have been severely limited going forward, considering who was called up. That is true especially for Dwyer given that Dempsey and Altidore will chew up the bulk of the forward minutes, while Juan Agudelo and Jordan Morris have the ability to play out wide if needed.”All of [the decisions] are difficult because all of the players did well,” Arena told reporters. “I thought Dom, Cristian and Kelyn did very well, and I told them that. They’re players that we’re obviously going to continue to keep an eye on, and continue to obviously have them in the program.” He added, “It’s a difficult tournament, and when you play so many less experienced and younger players together, it’s difficult. It’s not easy. Probably the perfect way to do that is to mix in more veteran players. But we wanted to give everyone an opportunity, and that’s the way we decided to do it, and I think they came through with passing grades, all of them.”It’s an odd rule to be sure, one that I can’t recall being replicated anywhere else in the world. Given how crowded the international calendar tends to get in the summer, as well as the fact that MLS shuts down for only the group stage, it’s understandable that CONCACAF would want to allow some flexibility to teams in order to get the best players on display. But at the same time, it seems to undermine the integrity of the competition by allowing such drastic changes.To be clear, the U.S. isn’t doing anything wrong here, but it still seems unfortunate, in a way, for Arena to bring in reinforcements, and not just for the players sent home. With essentially five starters added, it’s almost as if a different team will take the field for Wednesday’s quarterfinal, and playing time will be much harder to come by for those group-stage players who remain.Without question, the U.S. looked far from convincing during the group stage. It played poorly in a 1-1 draw with Panama and was given a fright by unheralded Martinique in a 3-2 win, before looking more like its old self in a 3-0 victory over Nicaragua.But the whole point of this tournament, for the U.S. at any rate, was to give some playing time to some heretofore bit-part — and, in some cases, no-part — players. During the group stage, Arena did that and then some, giving starts to 22 out of the 23 players on the roster. So why not let them finish the job? Why not see how these players can do in a knockout game possessing a very different kind of pressure from the group stage?Granted, the winner of this Gold Cup gets one foot in the door toward qualifying for the Confederations Cup, but that assumes there will be a Confederations Cup in four years’ time. Considering Qatar is hosting the 2022 World Cup in the winter, holding the tournament in December 2021 is a no-go with the game’s power brokers in Europe. Ditto for holding it in the searing summer heat. There is talk of using the 2021 Club World Cup as a dry run for the World Cup instead.So what does the U.S. really gain by bringing in five new starters? Arena highlighted the quintet’s experience, and it obviously gives the U.S. a much better chance of winning the tournament. The competition for places will certainly heat up. But it also seems unlikely that Arena will acquire more data about his player pool as opposed to if he had kept his roster the same.That is precisely the approach Mexico has taken. Certainly, it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison given that El Tri‘s participation in this year’s Confederations Cup added an extra competition to their calendar. But manager Juan Carlos Osorio is giving his inexperienced side — which had a stumble of its own in tying Jamaica 0-0 — the chance to win the tournament, as opposed to making changes.”I think this group deserves the opportunity to continue [in the Gold Cup] and experience this tournament and the great responsibility that representing Mexico is,” said Osorio.He added, “[I feel] happy, very optimistic about the group. We’re continuing to consolidate a very good group of talented, young players that are the future of Mexican football. That factor, for me personally, is the most gratifying and what I enjoy most in life.”As it stands now, a hypothetical U.S. lineup for Wednesday’s quarterfinal could consist entirely of players who were on the roster for the World Cup qualifiers last June. So it looks like for Arena, the search for that kind of gratification Osorio referred to has been put on hold.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
W2W4: U.S. and Mexico to advance from Gold Cup quarterfinals
The Gold Cup’s 12-team field has been cut down to the quarterfinals; it is now the win-or-go-home thrills of the knockout stage.But which teams will take the next step toward the July 26 final in Santa Clara, California? Here’s what to watch for.
Costa Rica vs. Panama, Wednesday (6 p.m. ET — Philadelphia)
We start with the most intriguing match. Both have played reasonably well — each can feel aggrieved to have drawn the other so early in the knockout rounds — but karma may be paying Costa Rica back for its easy group. Outside of the hot-tempered opener against Honduras, Costa Rica hardly had to break a sweat on its way to a first-place finish in Group A.Like the U.S. and Mexico, Costa Rica left some of its biggest stars off the roster (like Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas), but unlike those other regional heavyweights, Los Ticos haven’t looked any worse for their high-profile absences. Being able to bring a red-hot Rodney Wallace off your B-team bench speaks well to one’s depth.Panama, meanwhile, was just minutes away from topping Group B before American defender Matt Miazga scored late against Nicaragua. Los Canaleros haven’t been perfect, but as the U.S. learned in the group-stage opener, this is a resilient squad and a tough out.Prediction: Costa Rica 1-0 Panama
United States vs. El Salvador, Wednesday (9 p.m. ET — Philadelphia)
Despite an underwhelming performance to this point, the United States has been rewarded with perhaps the tamest opponent left. The Americans needed to scramble to avoid embarrassment against Martinique — which will be missed — and labored much more than anticipated to score the three goals necessary vs. Nicaragua to win Group B.Yet reinforcements like veterans Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard and Michael Bradley are on the way. And even the JV squad would have fancied its chances against the Salvadorans.El Salvador has just about played to type by sneaking into the quarterfinals. It lost to Mexico, beat Curacao and fought Jamaica to a draw. With backs against the wall headed into the Jamaica match, this solid, unspectacular crew at least proved that it isn’t a pushover. Still, there’s a reason El Salvador is currently 103rd in the FIFA rankings. Barring a disaster, the U.S. should move on comfortably.Prediction: United States 3-1 El Salvador
Based on recent history, this should be an easy one to call. The Reggae Boyz reached the Gold Cup final the last time around, while Canada hasn’t advanced past this point in a decade.Dig a little deeper, however, and the more this looks like a golden opportunity for the Canadians. Jamaica is vulnerable. It was disciplined and organized in holding Mexico to a dour scoreless draw but otherwise hasn’t shown much. The team has been on a gradual slide for a while now, no longer possessing the spark of the group that so memorably stunned the U.S. in the 2015 semis.For Canada, meanwhile, the future is as bright as it’s been in a long time. Their 16-year-old sensation Alphonso Davies has risen to the occasion in his first big international tournament and is currently tied for the Golden Boot with three goals; Cyle Larin, who was called up for the knockout rounds ahead of Thursday’s match, is another sturdy young building block.Canada betrayed some nerves in the group-stage finale against Honduras, but it earned its quarterfinal place. This squad has genuine promise and is playing well.Prediction: Canada 2-1 Jamaica (extra time)
Mexico vs. Honduras, Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET — Glendale, Ariz.)
Has there ever been a quarterfinalist in any tournament that has done less to earn its place than these Hondurans?To say Honduras has underwhelmed would be an understatement. Tabbed by many as the potential sleeper in this field, Los Catrachos have yet to score a goal in 270 minutes of action. Their vaunted counterattack has faltered.Yet thanks to French Guiana’s willfully accepting a forfeit in exchange for starting ineligible attacker Florent Malouda in their second group-stage match, Honduras advanced on the back of its “3-0 win” that was actually a scoreless draw. Take that away and Honduras picked up just two points from three games.Mexico has looked much like you’d expect from a team that left most of its best players at home to enjoy their summer vacations. With the possible exception of the 3-1 win against El Salvador, El Tri has neither impressed nor especially underwhelmed. But it should have more than enough to overcome a Honduras team still trying to convert its legitimate attacking talent into a more formidable foe. Prediction: Mexico 2-0 Honduras
Bruce Arena makes six changes as USA bolsters squad for Gold Cup playoffs
BRIAN STRAUSSunday July 16th, 2017 SI
Bruce Arena is going for gold. The U.S. national team coach was afforded the opportunity to swap up to six players on his CONCACAF Gold Cup roster following the first round, which ended Saturday evening. Not only is he using all six slots—he’s enlisting the help of at least five World Cup-quality starters who should help transform the USA from a team that strained to top an underwhelming group to a team that should be considered the Gold Cup favorite. Mexico, for example, intends to keep its current roster intact. Meanwhile, captain Michael Bradley, forwards Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, midfielder Darlington Nagbe and goalkeepers Tim Howard and Jesse Gonzalez are in for the USA. They’ll join Arena’s squad ahead of Wednesday’s quarterfinal in Philadelphia against either Honduras or El Salvador (the matchup will be determined Sunday evening when group play concludes). Heading home are goalies Brad Guzan and Sean Johnson, midfielders Alejandro Bedoya, Cristian Roldan and Kelyn Rowe, and forward Dom Dwyer.Arena had always intended to mix, match, overhaul and experiment during the group stage, with an eye on getting a close look at players beyond the national team core. It was a chance to see who might help during four critical World Cup qualifiers later this year and perhaps further down the road. In that sense, this Gold Cup group stage was a success.Each of the 20 field players got a look and the last one to do so, defender Matt Miazga, was the one who scored the 88th-minute goal against Nicaragua that clinched first place. But the fact the Americans (2-0-1) needed that late header to overhaul Panama (2-0-1) on the goals-scored tiebreaker is indicative of how hard results were to come by. The U.S. looked second best during significant stretches of a 1-1 tournament-opening draw with Panama. Arena’s team then blew a two-goal, second-half lead against Martinique (1-2-0) before bouncing back with Jordan Morris’s game-winner. In Saturday’s finale, the Americans struggled to impose themselves and missed two penalty kicks against overmatched Nicaragua (0-3-0).”We have added some experienced players to the roster that can help us in the knockout round of the Gold Cup. The players leaving all made a good impression, and I’m optimistic for their future with the national team program,” Arena said on Sunday. Here’s a look at the changes and at where Arena’s 23-man now roster stands as the USA reinforces itself for a run at a sixth Gold Cup crown.
Jesse Gonzalez (FC Dallas), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids)
In: Jesse Gonzalez, Tim Howard
Out: Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson
Gonzalez’s decision to file for a one-time international eligibility switch from his parents’ native Mexico to the USA was big news prior to the tournament and certainly could be a boon to the program from 2019 onward. But the next couple weeks and the next 12 months are still about Guzan and Howard. The former, minus one mistake against Martinique, looked very good during the Gold Cup’s first two games. The latter now will take over as the knockout rounds beckon.Guzan will depart to get started at his new club, Atlanta United, while Johnson will head back to New York City FC. Hamid, who played Saturday night, remains, and if healthy would seem to have the inside track at a No. 3 role behind the two entrenched veterans.
Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Matt Miazga (Chelsea), Justin Morrow (Toronto FC), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
Arena had the option to add Steve Birnbaum, Greg Garza, Matt Polster and/or Jonathan Spector but opted to stick with what he had. The USA yielded three goals across its three group-stage games.
Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Chris Pontius (Philadelphia Union), Gyasi Zardes (LA Galaxy) (Leaving Kelyn Rowe NE Rev MF, Cristian Roldan Seattle MF)
In: Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe
Out: Alejandro Bedoya, Cristian Roldan, Kelyn Rowe
Bedoya was one of Arena’s more valuable players during the group stage, whether it was for his work rate against Panama or his attacking contributions the past two games. But his second child is due, and the Union veteran is heading home to be with his wife and family. Nagbe is the obvious replacement. Meanwhile, Bradley’s arrival knocks Roldan from the depth chart in the middle. He’ll return to Seattle and warrants a more extended look at the next January camp.
Rowe showed a couple of intriguing flashes during the group stage, most notably when he set up Dom Dwyer’s goal against Panama with a beautiful settle and sombrero in the left corner. Rowe also scored against Nicaragua. But with Nagbe and Dempsey—two creative players who enjoy finding pockets between the opposition midfield and back four—coming in, it appears the New England Revolution catalyst was squeezed out. But Arena’s decision to send Rowe back to Boston and keep both Joe Corona and Chris Pontius may raise some eyebrows.
Juan Agudelo (New England Revolution), Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders)
In: Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey
Out: Dom Dwyer
Dwyer’s departure will disappoint some. He was a great story—his career hung by a thread when he arrived in the USA from his native England to play junior college soccer in Texas. He went on to win USL, US Open Cup and MLS Cup titles. He married a US women’s star, earned his American citizenship and scored on his international debut last month against Ghana. But with Altidore and Dempsey waiting in the wings, the bar was going to be a lot higher for Dwyer than anyone else on the roster. Both Altidore and Dempsey do most of their attacking from the middle or the channels, and so does Dwyer. Unfortunately, it was a numbers game for the Sporting striker. With Besler and Zusi remaining with the national team, at least Kansas City fans will be glad to have Dwyer back. Morris’s impressive performance against Martinique, and the versatility he brings as a player who can stretch a back four and attack from deeper or wider spots, keeps him in camp. Agudelo offers similar attributes.
3 things we can learn from Arena’s roster changes
Arena clearly strengthened his side, but also kept some under-performing players. So what gives?
e all, somehow, survived the Gold Cup group stage. The United States squeaked by to win Group B with a squad that could charitably be described as somewhere between a B and a C team. It was ugly and at times painful to watch, but it’s over and the team avoids Costa Rica in the quarterfinals. Along with that, there’s a crop of new players added to the fray specifically to raise the attacking level of this team. However, along with these veteran players, Bruce Arena has made…interesting choices of which players should be replaced. So, what do the changes tell us about the team and Arena’s coaching philosophy in regards to this Gold Cup?
Arena Wants to Win
You don’t call in Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard if you’re using this tournament purely as a proving ground for players. Jesse Gonzalez? Sure. Darlington Nagbe? Maybe so. I can even see calling in Michael Bradley as another means of testing how the younger players on this Gold Cup squad react to playing with another starter from the first team. But Dempsey and Howard have a combined age of 72. They’re the only two current players that Arena also coached in his first tenure as USMNT head coach. There’s no reason to send them out to the Gold Cup to “see what they’ve got.” Both of these guys have proven that they still have more to give to the national team, and if anyone knows exactly what they bring to the team, it’s Bruce.
Alongside that fact, however, is that Bruce has continually preached rest for the both of them. Dempsey in particular has seemed unhappy when Bruce has erred on the side of giving his legs a break, but both players are at an age where recovery time takes longer. Taking them away from their clubs to jet around the country and potentially play 3 games in 8 days is not something that Arena will do flippantly, and signals real intent. This isn’t just some no-reason tournament. If it was, you keep Dom Dwyer and Kelyn Rowe and bring in younger, lesser players. Bruce wants to win the whole thing.
Don’t Look Back in Anger
Just because people like Dom Dwyer and Kelyn Rowe are leaving camp does not mean they didn’t impress or that Arena thinks other players he’s keeping were better than them. The people who have left camp have pretty specific replacements coming in for them, and many questions seem to have been answered about them. We know Dom Dwyer is a strong, goal-scoring forward that will work relentlessly and can play the lone-forward position. He also played a lot of minutes in the group stage, and with Dempsey and Jozy Altidore coming in, Bruce can afford to give him a rest. Same applies to Kelyn Rowe. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks Paul Arriola or Chris Pontius outplayed Rowe in the group stage. But Rowe also played more minutes than the other two, and Nagbe is a more than competent replacement. Cristian Roldangot his 90 minutes, but makes way for the Captain, and two keepers are replaced by another two keepers.
I don’t claim to agree with the philosophy at work here (what does Chris Pontius bring to the national team besides Google searches that come up with a member of Jackass? Not a rhetorical question), but it at least makes a bit of sense. The players kept were, by and large, people that Arena has worked with on the national team before this Gold Cup, players that didn’t get as many minutes in the group stage, and still have question marks lingering around them. So sure, I would rather have Rowe and Dwyer with the team the rest of the way. But I don’t think for a second that this tournament was a failure for them, either.
The flip-side of this is equally important. Arena was surprisingly gentle with people like Arriola, Pontius, and even Joe Corona and Gyasi Zardes, who started this camp slowly but seemed to have grown more into the tournament as games have gone on. To say Arriola in particular has been a disappointment so far this tournament would be a massive understatement, as the positive play and dependable crossing he provided in his cameos with the first team over the last year or so have dried up with bad giveaways and a lack of composure on the ball. All of these players still have much more to prove in order to gain a spot with the USMNT A team. They’ll need to take advantage of Arena’s grace in order to win them.
One area of concern where no help will be arriving is the U.S. defense, and that was probably the biggest problem in the group stage. If the defense looked weak against nama, it looked like a wet paper towel against Martinique. The game against Nicaragua offered a little reprieve thanks to Nicaragua fielding the tried-and-true parked bus formation, but with no new defenders called in, just who is Arena’s back four? We’ve seen Jorge Villafaña, Justin Morrow, Matt Besler, Matt Hedges, Omar Gonzalez, Eric Lichaj, Graham Zusi, and Matt Miazga start at some point in the group stage, Arena’s full complement of defenders. It seems like he’s most comfortable moving forward with Villafaña and Zusi on the wings, and Matt Besler looks like he probably has the left centerback spot to himself, but who partners with him? Omar Gonzalez has the experience, Matt Hedges has the MLS pedigree that Arena likes, and Miazga has youth and promise, but all three have made their share of missteps.
This is a similar question to the one dogging the USMNT in the spring, when an injury bug forced Arena to play a back four of Villafaña, Tim Ream, Gonzalez, and Zusi in Panama. The absences of John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, and DeAndre Yedlin are huge, and there seems to be a steep drop-off in talent past the few first-choice players in defense. If any player can step up during the knockout round games, they have a good chance at riding that wave all the way to a potential World Cup roster spot. If not, Arena will be left to answer for the defenders he did bring along, and how they got it so wrong.
Three things: USMNT beats Nicaragua 3-0, wins Group B
The following lessons were bestowed upon us during the U.S. national team’s 3-0 victory over Nicaragua on Saturday…
The left back search continues
This was Jorge Villafaña’s chance; it was to be his Gold Cup; it was supposed to be his coming-out party; it was his audition for next summer’s World Cup — the one where he needed to step up and say, “I am the left back,” thus solving the USMNT’s biggest, longest-running problem. After starting the first and the third games of the group, we’re no closer to having found a full-time starter. It would have been nice, but at this point, we all knew better.Villafaña’s weaknesses are, simply put, 1) he’s wasteful and unimaginative when overlapping on the attacking, and 2) he’s a second- (or third-) best in every two-man foot race. In the modern game, especially with two eyes focused on the World Cup 11 months from now, those are fatal flaws in considering the world-class talent he’d be up against in Russia.At this point, either Greg Garza fills the superhero cape Villafaña so admirably tried, but failed, to fill, or DaMarcus Beasley is heading to his fifth World Cup.
Joe Corona… not a no. 10
Here’s what I wrote about Corona in my player ratings: “Scored a goal, missed a penalty, killed the majority of attacking movements during which he touched the ball. Business as usual.” Those are very bad qualities for a player deployed, on multiple occasions, as a no. 10. Do you know who’s proven quite effective in that de facto role, and is on this same roster?
Best-case scenario: Kelyn Rowe is a no. 10. Worst-case scenario: he’s a better no. 10 than Corona, even if still slightly miscast. He’s not a brilliant chance creator, like a traditional no. 10, but he’s an effective circulator of the ball, something he does with good tempo and security. Unfortunately, he’ll either be released from camp this week, or find himself buried on the depth chart once the first-teamers make their way aboard for the knockout rounds.
The wings are, uh, also a problem
This isn’t a lesson from Saturday, per se — more so of the last few months — but other than left back, the player pool is most shallow on the wings.If Christian Pulisic’s ultimate home is as a no. 10 for the USMNT (many, including myself, think it is), we’re picking two from the following group of non-winger wingers: Fabian Johnson (true position unknown), Darlington Nagbe (central midfielder), Bobby Wood (center forward) and Jordan Morris (center forward).Watching Chris Pontius on Saturday, following wide shifts from Paul Arriola and Gyasi Zardes over the last two weeks, I suddenly feel very unwell when faced with the prospects of attempting to score goals next summer.
USMNT: Winners and Losers of Group Stage
Let’s look at who improved/hurt their stock for the World Cup Squad during the Gold Cup group stage
by seancurtis Jul 17, 2017, 6:00am PDT
The first three games of the Gold Cup campaign for the United States have come and gone, with the team managing to squeak out as Group B winners. They started with a disappointing draw against Panama, followed by a disappointing 3-2 win over Martinique. Finally, a late goal gave them a 3-0 victory over Nicaragua, the exact win they needed to win the group. Six players have been added to the USMNT squad to help them through the knockout rounds, and six (somewhat surprising) players have been sent home. Before we move on to Wednesday’s game, let’s look at the three players who most improved their stock to make the 2018 World Cup roster and the three who hurt their stock the most.
Probably the biggest surprise of the tournament has been Kelyn Rowe. Before the game against Ghana, he had never even stepped onto the field in a USA jersey, but he quickly became a focal point of the team. He played in three games (Ghana, Panama, and Nicaragua), and he was one of the most dangerous players in all three. The pressure of the Gold Cup and the attention suddenly falling on him never even made him flinch, and he even scored his first goal against Nicaragua. This writer doesn’t really understand why he got sent home, but he goes home with a raised stock and the approval of many fans.
His “eh” outing against Nicaragua has tempered some of the praise coming his direction, but there is no denying he helped his stock over the last few weeks. He scored against Ghana and Panama, and he showed his hustle and work rate in all of his games. He had an opportunity to raise his stock even higher, but he took a relatively poor penalty against Nicaragua that got saved. In the end, he came into July with a lot of fans wondering where he fit into the depth chart, and he at least asserted himself into the mix with players like Jordan Morris for the fourth forward spot behind Wood, Altidore, and Dempsey.
Coming into this tournament, many fans thought that we would begin to see Alejandro Bedoya fade out of the national team. He isn’t lightning fast or super flashy, but he is a great utility. He captained the team, showed his hustle, and made a number of key passes throughout the group stage (like hitting Eric Lichaj against Martinique and assisting two goals against Nicaragua). He also played wide and centrally throughout the group. Is he a starter for the World Cup? No. However, he did assert himself back into the fold as a good utility bench player.
Matt Hedges was one of the names we were all excited to see when the roster came out. Unfortunately, he had a little bit of a rough game against Martinique, and that was the only real chance he got during the group. On top of that the USA has a number of fairly established CBs in John Brooks, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler, and *cough* Omar Gonzalez *cough*. To make things worse, Matt Miazga seems to have done a better job taking his chance so far, so Hedges is going to have to have a great knockout stage to really battle for a World Cup spot.
Coming into the tournament, there were not a lot of fans very high on the experiment of Graham Zusi as a right back. Unfortunately, I don’t feel much better about it after the group stage. He struggled heavily against Panama, and his defense wasn’t great against Nicaragua. One thing he did fairly well was get forward and hit some decent crosses, including the assist on the Miazga goal, but I don’t think that does enough to cover for the liability he seems to be at right back. He is still clearly behind DeAndre Yedlin and Timmy Chandler, and he didn’t do anything to argue that he is above Eric Lichaj or some of the other reserve options the USA has.
Cristian Roldan was another name people really wanted to see on the Gold Cup roster, but he also let us down. He only managed to get onto the field in one game, and that game was a struggle. He should have been head-and-shoulders above Martinique in talent, but he did not do much to stand out. With Michael Bradley coming in, he falls even further down the Gold Cup depth chart, so he may not see the field again this tournament. It appears that he is squarely behind Kellyn Acosta and Dax McCarty in addition to the A-squad members, so the World Cup seems like a long shot at the moment.
Bedoya stands out as U.S. gets 3-0 win vs. Nicaragua to top Gold Cup Group B
It took a little longer than expected, but the United States did what it had to do to win Gold Cup Group B with a 3-0 victory over Nicaragua on Saturday evening at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Out of the three group-stage matches, this was the best performance from the U.S., which really isn’t saying that much. Yet there were some positives, namely Alejandro Bedoya and Kelyn Rowe in midfield. Matt Miazga and Matt Besler also worked well as the two center backs and could be the pair that lines up in Wednesday’s quarterfinal.
Two missed penalties will not make coach Bruce Arena happy at all, especially with the knockout round looming. The U.S. team’s disconcerting trend of letting the tempo drop after a bright first 10-15 minutes will also agitate.
Manager rating out of 10
6 — Arena elected to field a completely new squad from the 11 that started against Martinique and had a chance to evaluate all his field players. He faces some big decisions ahead of the quarterfinal.
Player ratings (1-10, with 10 the best — players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Bill Hamid, 7 — Comfortably dealt with any potential danger. Was really pressed into making a save only once in each half. Seemed to communicate well with his center backs.
DF Jorge Villafana, 6 — Probably not as clean as Arena would like. Gave away a couple of cheap balls early but improved in the second half.
DF Matt Besler, 7 — The Sporting Kansas City man had the look of a leader on a back line that has been much-maligned in this tournament. Read the game well and had good chemistry with center-back partner Miazga.
DF Matt Miazga, 7.5 — A well-taken goal when the U.S. needed a third. Outside of one instance in which he was beaten by Juan Barrera, Miazga answered the call. His composure belied his lack of international experience.
DF Graham Zusi, 5.5 — Too many giveaways to make him an automatic selection for the quarterfinal. Had a dangerous clearance in front of goal and also an ill-advised header that gifted Nicaragua a chance. Lofted a beautiful ball in for Miazga to head home for the third.
MF Dax McCarty, 6.5 — Better than his initial outing against Panama. There was a lapse in the first half when he was dispossessed too easily deep in the U.S. half but recovered nicely and put forth a workmanlike performance.
MF Chris Pontius, 6.5 — Erred on a headed clearance in the second half but did a nice job overall down the right flank. Attempted a bold overhead kick to try to lift the U.S. from its early lull. Good pass into Dwyer that earned a penalty. Also worked hard defensively, constantly battling for possession.
MF Alejandro Bedoya, 8 — Built off his good substitute performance in the Martinique game. Bedoya was in the middle of most of the U.S. chances, including the Rowe goal when he set the table for the New England Revolution man. Made the run that earned the U.S. its second penalty. His run and cutback pass also led to the Corona opener.
MF Kelyn Rowe, 7.5 — Rowe’s clever finish was a fine reward for his performance. Made a smart run to receive the pass from Bedoya and finished it off with aplomb. Played some nice early balls and did good work in traffic. There was a wasted chance on a counter to Dwyer, but that is nitpicking. A very good 60-minute shift.
MF Joe Corona, 5.5 — Had a roller coaster of a game. Lady Luck was on his side in scoring the first U.S. goal, but a weak penalty that was easily saved by Nicaraguan goalkeeper Justo Lorente drops his rating. A little too heavy with touches, but still much better in midfield than he was during the Panama game.
FW Dom Dwyer, 5 — Like Corona, did not distinguish himself with his penalty as his spot kick was also saved by Lorente. Also mistimed several runs and was flagged for offside. A frustrating night.
MF Paul Arriola, 6.5 — On for Rowe and injected some energy into the U.S. attack against a tired Nicaragua defense.
FW Jordan Morris, 6.5 — Came on for Corona in the 66th minute as the U.S. searched for a third goal. Never had a good look at goal but was a constant threat.
FW Juan Agudelo, NR — Replaced Dwyer in the 73rd minute. Earned a late free kick for the U.S. in a dangerous position.
Player ratings from USMNT’s 3-0 win over Nicaragua
The U.S. national team is through to the quarterfinals of the 2017 Gold Cup as Group B winners following Saturday’s 3-0 victory over Nicaragua.Wh stood out for all the right — and wrong — reasons, as Bruce Arena prepares to make as many as six changes to the USMNT roster before the knockout rounds begin on Wednesday?
GK — Bill Hamid: 6 — Challenged just twice all night, Hamid made both saves asked of him, though he did spill a long-range effort late in the second half which nearly turned into a disastrous moment.
LB — Jorge Villafaña: 5 — Villafaña struggles with two facets of playing left back at the international level: 1) he’s pretty poor attacker when he gets forward, and 2) he’s left for dead against pacy wingers. Neither of those bode well 11 months before the start of the World Cup.
CB — Matt Besler: 6 — It’s not often that a center back is completely uninvolved in everything that happens in the game, but that was the case for Besler in this one. It’s impossible to “hurt” your stock in such an event, but there’s no helping either.
CB — Matt Miazga: 7 — Again, the center backs were largely untested over the 90 minutes, but Miazga did score the late winner, albeit while completely unmarked, on a set piece.
RB — Graham Zusi: 5.5 — He’s not an international right back. What I mean by that is: he’s great at the position for Sporting Kansas City, because the entirety of the attacking and defensive systems are tailored to his strengths, and away from his weaknesses. That’s impossible to replicate during an international camp, and it’s actively hurting the USMNT.
CM — Dax McCarty: 6 — The majority of the game was played in the final third for the USMNT, and out on the wings for Nicaragua — both of which are to say, McCarty, like the center backs directly behind him, saw very little action.
CM — Alejandro Bedoya: 8 — Man of the Match, probably. Furthermore, I’ll own this: I was wrong. I thought Bedoya should be deployed as a winger and/or wide midfielder, but he’s so clearly a two-way central midfielder, and with a responsible, dominant partner like McCarty, a really good one.
CM — Joe Corona: 6 — Scored a goal, missed a penalty, killed the majority of attacking movements during which he touched the ball. Business as usual.
LW — Kelyn Rowe: 8 — Best attacker during the group stage, hands down. Another strong showing, while played out of position, and a goal to show for his efforts.
CF — Dom Dwyer: 5 — Like Corona, Dwyer missed a penalty and served as the end of the road for a number of promising attacking sequences. His hold-up play isn’t strong enough to play as a target; his movement isn’t tricky, nor his finishing clinical, enough to be a poacher. It’s tough to see where/how he fits in going forward.
RW — Chris Pontius: 5 — Wings are the most wide open positions in the player pool, so it’s worth it to give anyone and everyone a look, especially during the group stage, but Pontius is neither explosive now a visionary. One or the other, please.
Sub — Paul Arriola: 5 — Unable to find time on the ball, or space, to create. He’s a worker, to be certain, but offers very little in terms of chance creation. As established above, a common theme.
Sub — Jordan Morris: 5 — Let’s pick a position for Morris, and let him live there. Is he a forward? Is he an cutting-in winger? He took a knock on the hip not long after coming on, and look hindered the rest of the way. There’s a time and a place for a player with his speed, but a game where you’ve already got a 2-0 lead might not be it.
Sub — Juan Agudelo: 6 — The smallest sample size — just 16 minutes — but every time he hits the field, Agudelo gets on the ball and his first instinct is to run at defenders. It was his dribble through midfield which won the free kick that resulted in Miazga’s winner. Things happen when Agudelo is on the field. He should have started the first and the third games, with Dwyer taking the middle of the three.
CLEVELAND — As Alejandro Bedoya slowly walked toward the team bus, it was evident that his day’s work had come at a physical cost. “I got whacked on that first assist, so my ankle is feeling it,” he said.But there was a payoff, too. Bedoya, operating as the U.S. team’s box-to-box midfielder, set up goals for Joe Corona and Kelyn Rowe, plays that proved critical in the Americans’ 3-0 win over Nicaragua on Saturday night. The result enabled the U.S. to finish the first round of the Gold Cup atop Group B, edging out Panama, which defeated Martinique 3-0 earlier in the day, on the goals-scored tiebreaker.”It was alright,” Bedoya said in assessing his own play. “I tried to find spaces in that position, that No. 8 role. I enjoy it when I try to get free in between the lines and cause their back line trouble. I’m always going to be the second runner to try to break them down, and I think I was able to do that at times. And I got two assists, so not bad.” Bedoya won’t get a chance to build on his performance in next week’s quarterfinal, which will take place in his current home city of Philadelphia. He and his wife, Beatrice, are expecting their second child, so he’s being released from the Gold Cup squad.”As much as I would have loved to have stayed, I’m welcoming my new love to this world,” he said. “I’m looking forward to that.”Bedoya is a player who has long divided opinion. He has always been a conscientious, two-way player, but some fans and pundits have made it clear they prefer a more dynamic attacking presence on the field. Competing against the likes of Darlington Nagbe and Fabian Johnson, it can be hard to argue.And so far during Bruce Arena’s second stint in charge, Bedoya has found minutes tough to come by. While he has appeared nine times since Arena took over, six of those have been as a substitute, and Saturday’s match marked the first time he had played the full 90 minutes.Bedoya has long taken such criticism in stride and remains as confident as ever in his play. Is he a starter when the full team gets together? At this stage, probably not. But his experience, defense and versatility still make him a valuable presence on the squad.”I’ve been a national teamer under three different coaches. I must be doing something right,” he said. “Everybody has got their cup of tea, and whatever. Whenever I step between those white lines, I always do my best for the team. I know I’ve got the attributes and the ability. My game speaks for itself. Some don’t like it, some do.”Among those who do is Arena, who said those calling for Bedoya to be dropped are “pretty stupid.” Teammate Dax McCarty showed his appreciation as well.”[Bedoya is] a glue guy, he’s a guy that you want on the field, he’s a guy that you want in your team because he does all the little things that make your team better,” McCarty said. “He wins second balls, he’s really clever with his movement, he’s really clever with his passing. He makes the right runs. And defensively, he’s really solid.” Bedoya provided some valuable leadership as well. McCarty said before the match he felt that there was some tension within the side as players pondered what might be their last shot at breaking into the national team during this World Cup cycle. Bedoya said he felt that vibe as well, and did what he could to settle his teammates’ nerves.”I think throughout the games, I’ve sensed a little bit some anxiety from some of the guys, the new guys,” he said. “It’s a tournament, you know? As a captain, I’m not the most vocal guy, but I try to get in there and just try to calm them down and let them enjoy themselves. It was better knowing before what the score needed to be. It gives us some sense of urgency, to put them under pressure early and try to be aggressive at them.”On this day, the U.S. looked like it coped with the game’s pressure a bit better than in its previous two group matches. Defensively, the team was more solid and did a better job of applying pressure in the opposition half. Had the U.S. not squandered a pair of penalties — both were saved by Nicaragua keeper Justo Lorente — they wouldn’t have needed Matt Miazga’s late tally with two minutes left to clinch their status as Group B winners.To be clear, not only was it helpful to know what score was needed to finish out the group stage in first place, but playing the weakest team in the group didn’t hurt, either. The U.S. cause was also aided by a red card to Nicaragua defender Luis Copete with five minutes to go and a late injury to Luis Galeano that left Los Pinoleros short-handed when Miazga nodded home Graham Zusi’s free kick.But after struggling for much of the first two games, this group will take whatever steps forward it can muster, no matter how slight. And it can’t be forgotten that the Americans ultimately accomplished their mission on the day. Granted, it’s not like a switch is flipped and all of a sudden players become immune from pressure. It’s something players become more adept at dealing with over time. That process now seems to be moving in more of a positive direction.”We put a lot of pressure on them, got two penalties that we deserved,” McCarty said. “When you don’t convert those, it can lead to a little bit of frustration. It can be a punch to the gut. But we just stayed positive. That’s what we told the guys. ‘Keep going.’ And at the end of it all, we got the win that we needed.”And a result that the Americans deserved. The question now is whether they can continue on this path in quarters. With six players being added to the roster, it will almost be a brand-new team that will take the field. But for those that remain, a boost in confidence has been generated. And as Bedoya exits the tournament, he can feel secure in the knowledge that he did his part.Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
Three Things – #INDvJAX
Goals, saves, and the fall season – our takeaways from the Spring Season finale
Published Jul 17, 2017
After every game in 2017, IndyEleven.com’s Trey Higdon will give his three takeaways from the performance of the “Boys in Blue.” This week’s edition comes after Indiana’s Team down Jacksonville Armada FC 2-0 in the club’s Spring finale.
TALLY ONE FOR VUKOVIC AND HENDERSON
“Indiana’s Team” finished the 2017 Spring season strong with a 2-0 shutout against Jacksonville Armada FC in front of a crowd of 8,735 fans. Goals from “Boys in Blue” defender Nemanja Vukovic and midfielder Craig Henderson secured Indy’s 4th victory out of the last five matches. In addition, Indy has collected 13 points in their last five matches; more than any other NASL side in the last five contests.
After several back-and-forth chances in the first 45 minutes, Vukovic opened the scoring for Indy early into the start of the second half. In the 48th minute, Eleven midfielder Brad Ring sent the ball soaring from the left side of the field to a patiently waiting Vukovic at the right edge of the Jacksonville 18-yard box. From there, the Montenegrin defender danced the ball around Armada midfielder Jemal Johnson before beaming the ball at distance beyond Armada ‘keeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell into the upper left corner of the goal. The goal was the first time Vukovic had scored for Indy XI in 2017 and his fourth overall goal for his team. Vukovic last scored on August 3, 2016, in Indy’s 5-2 stunner against Jacksonville at “The Mike”.Indy’s next goal and the nail in Jacksonville’s coffin came in the 68th minute by the way of New Zealand national Henderson. “Boys in Blue” midfielder Don Smart made an attempt at goal from just inside the right edge of Armada’s 18-yard box, but the run ended wide of his target. However, XI striker Eamon Zayed kept the attack alive when he met Smart’s cross with a quick pass to Henderson in the center of Patterson-Sewell’s box. With a quick stop and turn, Henderson chipped the ball around Armada defender Aaron Pitchkolan into the top corner of Armada’s goal.
SUPERHERO-LIKE SAVES for BUSCH
Indy Eleven goalkeeper Jon Busch chalked up another spectacular performance after keeping a hotly contested clean sheet to close out the Spring season. After collecting 5 saves on the evening, “Buschy” walked away with another brick in his hands and three points for “Indiana’s Team”.
The first of Busch’s five saves came in the 44th minute when Armada forward Derek Gebhard charged past Indy’s defense into the 18-yard box before making his shot just outside the right corner of the goal. However, Gebhard’s shot met Busch’s legs, deflecting back out to Eleven midfielder Don Smart to restart Indy’s attack. Following halftime, in the 46th minute, Armada midfielder Jack Blake looked to make his mark on the match. Fortunately, Blake’s shot from the right of the box found Busch’s hands in the center of the goal. Minutes later, in the 53rd minute, Armada midfielder Jemal Johnson rocketed the ball towards Indy’s goal from outside the 18-yard box, but a quick dive to the left corner saw Busch collect his third save. Immediately following his third save, Busch collected his fourth in the 55th minute when Jacksonville’s Blake sent a ball from the outside of the box to the top left corner. But once again, the ball met with Busch’s glove and the match continued. Fast forward to the dying minutes of the match, a bouncing cross met with Armada midfielder J.C. Banks’ head in front of the goal. Yet, Banks’ header was no match for Busch’s cat-like reflexes as he deflected the ball out of danger for the final time.
Busch brought an end to the Spring season with a 4th his shutout for 2017 and a total of 52 saves to his name, 28 of which came from the last five matches. Additionally, the 40-year-old goaltender ends the Spring season with the second most saves across the NASL, falling just behind North Carolina FC’s ‘keeper Bryan Sylvestre’s 66 saves.
ONWARD TO FALL
Despite an impressive 5-game undefeated streak going into the two-week break, Indy Eleven ended the Spring season in 6thplace. Luckily, it’s not all doom and gloom in the overall standings. With 20-points, Indy remains just four points off from a potential 3rd place position on the table and six points off of 2nd place. Moreover, Indy remains seven points clear of falling to 7thplace. Regaining fitness and finding form have been crucial to returning to winning ways once again. Now, it’s become a matter of retaining that momentum after the two-week break. Position aside, it’s still very much a battle for a playoff spot with 16 matches awaiting the “Boys in Blue” in the fall. Don’t miss your chance to see all the action firsthand when the “Boys in Blue” return home August 5th.
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